Listen:  122.3

In order to answer this question, it might be best to ask, “What is an apostle?” The word “apostle” means “one who is sent” and thus an apostle was one who was sent of God on a certain mission. As soon as our Lord Jesus had chosen the twelve apostles we read, in Matthew 10:5, “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” These twelve men accompanied the Lord Jesus throughout His earthly ministry and were appointed by Him to be witnesses to the nation of Israel of His teachings, works of power, and later, of His resurrection.

After the Lord’s death, resurrection and ascension to glory, the Lord gave further instruction to the apostles in Acts 1:4-5, “And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water: but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” They responded with a question to the Lord, “Wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” The Lord’s answer to them in Acts 1:7-8 was very instructive, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” So, while the Lord was alive the apostles were sent to bear witness to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” but now they were to be His witnesses to the whole world. Why the change?  Because the Lord Jesus had died for all men and thus the gospel of God’s grace was to be proclaimed to all men. The Lord Jesus confirmed this in another commandment to them that day, as we read in Mark 16:15, “And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

After the Lord ascended to heaven the apostles were led to appoint another man to take the place of Judas Iscariot and it’s important to see the reason for this appointment. As the eleven apostles prayed for the Lord to reveal the one who would complete their apostolic band, they said in Acts 1:25, “That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”  In saying “this ministry and apostleship” I believe they realized the significance of their calling. The Lord Jesus had promised them earlier in Matthew 19:28, “Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” The Lord had a special plan involving these twelve men. They would be His witnesses to Israel during His earthy ministry and His witnesses to the whole world after His death, resurrection and ascension to glory. And the Lord, in His grace, will give them a special place in His kingdom when He reigns for 1,000 years.

But one more man was to be appointed to that privileged position as an apostle. Of course I’m speaking of the Apostle Paul. On the day of his conversion the Lord Jesus told Ananias of this calling in Acts 9:15, “Go thy way, for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.” He was to be known, from that day forward, as the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul said as much in Galatians 2:8, “For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles.” And again in Romans 15:16, “That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.”

Now even though the “twelve apostles” had their own unique place and the “apostle Paul” had his, there was one area they all shared in common.  Let’s consider Ephesians 4:8,11-12: “When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men…and He gave some apostles…for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”  ALL the apostles (the twelve and the apostle Paul) were gifts from the ascended Christ to His church, for their perfecting and edification. Earlier in this same epistle we read in Ephesians 2:19-20, “Now we are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone.”  The apostles (and New Testament prophets) were raised up by God to “lay the foundation” of Christianity; to teach all the truth concerning the Person and Work of Christ. As they were inspired to write out these truths in the scriptures, they have given the church the vital foundation that we need to grow spiritually and to be a witness for Christ here on earth.

In meditating on what we’ve had before us we are ready to answer the question, “Do we still have apostles today?” We have seen that only twelve men were chosen to be the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ and that later one more man was added to this favored position. And we have just considered WHY the apostles were especially given to the church, to build the foundation upon which the church would be built (by giving us all the truth we needed to know about our blessed Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ). It seems clear then that we do NOT have apostles with us today, for the purpose for which they were given has been completed with the completion of the scriptures. The foundation has been laid!! You need only one foundation for a house and with the inspired writings of the apostles the foundation of God’s house has been laid.

In keeping with this truth, it is instructive to see how Paul exhorts (for the last time) the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:32, “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them  which are sanctified.” He does not commend them to future apostles (for there would be no more apostles raised up by God), but to the “word of His grace,” the word which Paul and the other apostles were inspired to write in order to “lay the foundation” of truth needed to build us up. And thus we can say we do not have apostles with us today, but we have something better, we have the truth they were inspired to write!  (122.3) (DO)