11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
When the Lord ascended to heaven, He gave spiritual gifts to the Church. Among the gifts of God, for the people of God, are four gifts of leadership: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers.
The gift of apostleship is mentioned first because it was foundational to the Church. In Revelation 21:14 we are told that the twelve foundations of the wall of the New Jerusalem will have in them the names of the twelve apostles. It is evident that the Lord holds the apostles in the highest esteem.
The Bible tells us that Jesus called twelve men to be with Him, to be His disciples, to learn of Him, and to be sent forth on His behalf. The apostles are listed in Scripture in Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:12-16, and Acts 1:13.
Simon Peter. Peter was a fisherman by trade. He was referred to as Simon in Hebrew, but called Peter, by Jesus, from Petros, meaning, “a rock.” Here was a man who could withstand the storms of life. Though Peter denied Jesus three times at the crucifixion, he was converted, and preached on the Day of Pentecost, and three thousand souls were added to the Church (Acts 2:41).
John. Also a fisherman, John the apostle was the son of Zebedee. He happened to be a brother to James. He was believed to be the youngest disciple, and author of several books of the New Testament.
James. The Greeks call James “Andreas,” and this means “manly.” James is also the son of Zebedee, and brother to John who was a fisherman too, and an apostle of Christ.
Andrew. Andrew’s Greek name is “Iakobos” which interprets as Jacob. He was a fisherman, and he is a brother to Simon and an apostle of John the Baptist.
Philip. A native of Bethsaida, He was known as the apostle who preached the gospel in Syria, Greece, and Phrygia. According to the Gospels, it was Phillip, who asked Jesus about how they will “feed the five thousand.”
Bartholomew. Bartholomew is coined from Bartholomeus, which interprets as “the son of Talmai”. Jesus met him in Galilee. “According to church tradition, Bartholomew was a missionary to various countries, such as Armenia and India. He is reported to have preached the gospel along with Philip and Thomas. According to another tradition, he was crucified upside down after being flayed alive” (Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary).
Thomas. Thomas had his name from “Te’oma” which is twins. He is forever known as doubting Thomas, because he distrusted the initial reports of the resurrection of Jesus.
Matthew. Matthew, who was a tax collector, got his name from “Matthias”, which means “a gift of Yahweh.”
James. James was the son of Alpheus (he is not the same as “James, the son of Zebedee”). The scriptures referred to him as James the Less in Mark 15:10. That can also be translated as James the “younger,” or, James the “little.” Either James was short in stature, or he was young.
Thaddaeus. His first name was Lebbaeus, and his last name was Thaddaeus. This apostle was Judas, but not Iscariot.
Simon. This apostle was popularly known as Simon, the Zealot, Simon was a Canaanite. He may have been a political revolutionary firebrand.
Judas Iscariot. Judas lives in infamy as the man who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.
In time, the gift of apostleship was coveted by other disciples of Christ. Some men wanted to be an apostle, but were not gifted by the Lord though they pretended to be. They were liars, much like the one hundred men who claim to be Apostles in the Quorum of the Twelve of the Church of Latter-Day Saints.
In the Church of Ephesus, according to Revelation 2:2, the Lord commended the congregation because they had tested “them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.”
Not only is it proper to test the credentials of someone trying to speak with authority, it is essential.
There were, and are, several specific tests to apply to validate the ministry of a true apostle.
First, an apostle is a man who has been appointed by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
God the Son. “And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach…” (Mark 3:14). “And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught” (Mark 6:30).
God the Father. “For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men” (1 Cor. 4:9).
God the Holy Spirit. “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Cor. 12:7).
Second, an apostle is a person who has been an eye witness of the resurrection. When Paul established his right to be considered an apostle, he used this argument in 1 Corinthians 9:1 “Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are not ye my work in the Lord? 2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.”
Third, an apostle is a person who has been with Jesus, or at least has been familiar with the ministry of Christ from beginning to end.
Jesus said to the apostles, “And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:27).
In the book of Acts, when the Church prematurely tried to find a replacement for Judas, this same argument was made when considering Matthias and Joseph called Barsabas.
“And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) 16 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. 17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry…21 Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. 23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, 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. 26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles (Acts 1:15-17, 21-26).
Once a person was appointed as an apostle, that person was invested with unusual spiritual power, to the extent that he can perform miracles. “And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, 15 And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils” (Mark 3:14, 15).
In the early Church we read, “And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles” (Acts 2:43).
In addition to performing miracles, the apostles taught sound doctrine that was consistent, for truth does not change.
An apostle is one whose teachings do not contradict what has been taught by the other apostles, or by what has been written in the Scriptures, though some of the apostles are more challenging to understand than others.
“Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. 15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:14).
Any person seeking to establish spiritual authority within the church, in any age, must meet these biblical qualifications, or be branded a liar.