This weekend we covered Acts 1:12-26 in which Matthias is chosen to replace Judas as one of the 12 Apostles. In the sermon I mentioned the two reasons given in the text why they appointed another Apostle:
1) The significance of the number 12 – Jesus said 12 would sit on thrones in heaven and the typological comparison to the 12 tribes of Israel in the OT. (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:29)
2) The simple fact that Judas had a job to do and they needed someone to replace him in order to do the work he was doing.
After the service I was asked whether or not apostles exist today, which is a common question that is debated in the church today. I want to add a little information here that hopefully will clarify this issue.
I believe the confusion exists between the two different senses in which the term “apostle” is used. The Greek word for “apostle” is ἀποστολή and it carries the meaning “one who is sent”.
In this first sense it simply refers to anyone who is sent for a specific mission. Paul uses the term to refer to those he was sending with Titus for a specific mission in 1 Corinthians 8:23 and also of Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:25. So in this sense, anyone commissioned by the church or Jesus Christ himself for a specific task is an apostle.
The second sense is found the New Testament author’s use the term to refer to the exclusive group of 12 disciples that Jesus chose to be his closest followers – the 12 Apostles (capital “A”). This refers to the office of an apostle and carries with it certain designations:
1. Witnessing Jesus’ ministry from the time of his baptism until his resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:21-22)
2. Signs and wonders vindicate one’s true apostleship (2 Corinthians 12:12)
Despite not meeting designation #1 Paul often refers to himself as an apostle and includes himself as “one untimely born” among those to whom Jesus revealed himself (1 Corinthians 15:8). What Paul seems to be saying here is that he carries the office of an apostle even though he was not among the original 12.
So the question is whether or not the office of apostleship exists in the church today. In the sense of the original 12 Apostles who witnessed Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension – of course not. Yet, I do believe the gift of apostleship exists in the church today since it is included in the list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28. Whether we call this individual a minister, pastor, missionary, or whatever, I believe God is still gifting individuals and sending them throughout the world and local communities to minister the gospel through preaching and miracles.