Bible Q&A – Disciples and Apostles

Here’s a brand-new question from the question box!  Let’s get straight to it!

What is the difference between a disciple and an apostle?—Anonymous

That’s a question that I’m sure lots of people have.  Thanks for asking it!

A disciple is someone who learns from someone else and studies under them.  They follow that person’s teachings.  When Jesus was on earth, He had lots of disciples.  People followed Him around everywhere, wanting to learn from Him.  Of course, some of the ones following Jesus were just in it for the free food.  Those weren’t really disciples.  Those were moochers.

However, there were several people who were dedicated to studying under Jesus’ teaching.  They wanted to know everything they could from this great Master Teacher.  These were the disciples of Jesus.

One evening, Jesus spent all night on a mountain praying.  The next morning, He met with His disciples.  From among those many disciples, Jesus chose twelve men to be His primary messengers (Luke 6:12-13).  These men were named Peter, Andrew, James (the son of Zebedee), John, Philip, Thomas, Matthew, Bartholemew, James (the son of Alphaeus), Simon, Thaddeaus, and Judas.  These are the men who Jesus called the apostles.

So, a disciple is a follower, or a learner of someone else (John the baptizer had disciples, too—John 3:25).  The apostles were a special selected group of Jesus’ disciples.  All of the apostles were disciples of Jesus.  But not all of the disciples of Jesus got to be apostles.

But what is an apostle?

The word apostle means “one who is sent out on a mission.”  Jesus was called an apostle because He was sent by God with a mission (Hebrews 3:1).  Paul and Barnabas were called apostles because they were sent by the church in Antioch (Acts 14:14, see also Acts 13:1-3).  The twelve men that Jesus selected to be apostles were men who He was sending out on a mission.  That mission was to spread the gospel to the whole world, starting in Jerusalem (Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:47).  All of Jesus’ apostles were given special abilities—miracles—so that they could prove that what they were saying was true (Mark 16:20, Acts 1:26-2:4).

An apostle of Jesus Christ was a special disciple, selected by Jesus and sent on a special mission.  Today, we can be disciples of Jesus Christ, learning from Him through His word, but no one today can be an apostle.

–Bradley Cobb

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