Tag Archives: Apostles

The Non-Apostle Apostles: Barnabas (Part 3)

Apostle of the Church—in front of the Apostles

Barnabas did not shy away from debate. There were men who came from Judea to Antioch claiming that unless these Gentile converts were circumcised and kept the Law of Moses, they couldn’t be saved.[1] It was Barnabas, as well as Paul, who stood up to them: Luke doesn’t mention anyone else. This was something that shook the church at Antioch greatly, something which Barnabas and Paul could not sit idly by and allow to happen. Barnabas stood up, as did Paul, and there was a very heated argument and debate over the matter. It is most likely that this debate took place in the assembly of the saints on the Lord’s Day, since “the brethren” were present when it happened.

These troubling teachers from Judea suggested that the matter could be solved by going to Jerusalem and letting the apostles and elders make the determination.[2] To this, Barnabas and Paul agreed, and the church at Antioch sent them to Jerusalem.[3] Barnabas was again an apostle of the church at Antioch, as was Paul. On their way to Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul took their time and stopped at several cities, proclaiming the salvation of the Gentiles—the same thing they were going to Jerusalem to prove—and caused happiness to flow throughout the church in those places.[4]

Arriving in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed back with open arms. Barnabas was well-known and well-loved by the apostles, and was remembered fondly by the members in that city for his good deeds and work for the Lord. It was here in Jerusalem that Barnabas brought money from the sale of his land to aid hungry Christians. It was here in Jerusalem that Barnabas proclaimed their biggest persecutor had been converted. It was here in Jerusalem that Barnabas brought a sizable gift from the church in Antioch to aid with the famine relief. When Barnabas came, it always seemed to be an uplifting event—and this time was no different.

Speaking before the whole church in Jerusalem, along with the apostles and elders, Barnabas and Paul both rehearsed all the things that God had done with them, sending them on a missionary journey, blessing their efforts to bring the Gentiles to Christ, and confirming their message with miracles. Some of the Pharisees among the church opposed them, and there was much debate again. At that point, Peter stood up and reminded them of his experience with Cornelius, how that Gentile man received the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit. The not-so-subtle message was, “If you condemn Barnabas and Paul for not circumcising Gentiles who become Christians, then you’re also condemning me, and condemning God for accepting the Gentiles.”

This statement of Peter silenced the crowd, and they all began to listen to Barnabas and Paul. Barnabas is listed first in Acts 15:12 because he had a much greater reputation and influence with the Christians in Jerusalem; he probably did most of the talking as well. He commanded the attention of the multitude, and told them how God Himself verified that He accepted their ministry to the Gentiles—without circumcision—permitting them to perform miracles and wonders.[5]

After hearing their testimony, James (the brother of the Lord) stated they were going to write a letter expressing the Holy Spirit’s decision (Acts 15:28), and send it with Barnabas and Paul. But they also were going to send two of their own with them, Judas Barsabas, and Silas[6] as representatives of their congregation. The letter, given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, places Barnabas’s name first. Even at this point in time, after their first missionary journey, Barnabas was still more influential and well-known throughout the churches than Paul was. It was at this time that James, Peter, and John publicly gave Barnabas and Paul the “right hands of fellowship,”[7] ending the debate on whether Gentiles could be accepted into the church as Gentiles.

Barnabas and Paul, along with Silas and Judas, went to Antioch, called the whole church together and presented the letter to them. Everyone was very pleased and comforted by it. So for a long time, Barnabas and Paul worked with the church in Antioch.

-Bradley S. Cobb

[1] Acts 15:1

[2] One has to wonder if Paul considered himself one of the official “apostles” at this point, because if he did, he could easily have stated, “I am an apostle,” and settled the matter right then and there. It is possible that Paul recognized his reputation as a turncoat from Judaism, and decided it would be more judicious to allow the other apostles to speak on the matter—even though they would say the same thing that he did.

[3] Acts 15:3. The KJV says “brought on their way by the church,” which seems to indicate that the church in Antioch took care of their travel expenses to Jerusalem.

[4] Acts 15:3.

[5] When God permitted someone to perform miracles, it was a confirmation of the message that was being preached. Since Barnabas and Paul were able to perform miracles, it showed that God approved of their message. See Mark 16:20. For more information on this subject, see this author’s book, The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts.

[6] These two men will be discussed in more detail later in this book.

[7] Galatians 2:9. There is some debate among commentators about the timeline and where this passage fits in, but there shouldn’t be. This harmonizes perfectly with what was taking place in Acts 15.

The Non-Apostle Apostles: Barnabas (Part 2)

Apostle of the Holy Spirit

In Antioch, a group of prophets (including Barnabas) were serving God and fasting, the Holy Spirit called Barnabas (and Saul) for a specific work, to act as a missionary throughout Asia Minor. Barnabas, along with Saul, brought his nephew John Mark along on the journey. Barnabas had gone from being an apostle of the church at Jerusalem and of the church at Antioch to being an apostle of the Holy Spirit.[1] Their first stop of note was when Barnabas (and Saul) were called by Sergius Paulus, desiring to hear the word of God. It is here that Barnabas shows another trait: humility. A sorcerer named Elymas tried to keep Sergius Paulus from obeying the gospel. Barnabas could have taken the lead and put him in his place, but he didn’t, because Saul (now going by the name of Paul) took care of it.[2] Barnabas had the background—loved and respected by the apostles. Barnabas had the prominence—an apostle of two different congregations, and listed first among the prophets in Antioch. But he knew that Paul was destined for great things in the work of the church. He had told this to the apostles in Jerusalem, and he didn’t stand in Paul’s way. Instead, Barnabas humbly let Paul take the spotlight. By the end of this event, it was no longer “Barnabas and Saul,” but “Paul and his company.”[3] John Mark, for some unknown reason, went home at this point.

Barnabas continued to be an encourager, certainly to Paul, but also to the people they met on their journey. Acts 13:43 shows Barnabas and Paul encouraging Jews and religious proselytes to follow the grace of God. But at the same time, Barnabas also stood up to those who would hinder others from obeying the gospel. When the Jews stirred up people and spoke against the message of Christ, Barnabas, along with Paul, expressed the rejection of the Jews and the acceptance of the Gentiles. The persecution continued, however, and Barnabas and Paul were thrown out of the city.

In Iconium, Barnabas preached the gospel, and the Jews were divided. Some of them tried to stone Barnabas, but he was able to escape the city with Paul.[4] The pair went to Lystra, where Barnabas and Paul both preached. After Paul healed a man, the people all began to cry out that Barnabas and Paul were gods coming to earth in the form of men.[5] It’s interesting that they called Barnabas “Zeus,”[6] since Zeus is the most powerful Greek god. In carvings and reliefs, Zeus is always pictured as being very muscular and tall. It is possible that Barnabas was an imposing figure,[7] while Paul wasn’t as much. Paul was the main speaker, and so they called him “Hermes.”[8]

The priest of Zeus tried to offer a sacrifice to them, and the people were joining in, but Barnabas (along with Paul) ran back and forth telling them to stop. He tore his clothes, pleading with the people, “Why are you doing these things? We are men, just like you!” And he pleaded with them to turn away from the worship of false gods and to turn to the one true God of heaven. It took all that Barnabas and Paul had to keep them from offering that sacrifice. And once that catastrophe was averted, other Jews came in and stoned Paul, dragging him outside of the city, and leaving him for dead. But the next day, Barnabas and his beaten and bloodied friend went to Derbe and preached.[9]

From that point, Barnabas and Paul made their way back to Antioch, stopping at the churches they planted and encouraging the members. When they made it to Antioch, their mission was “fulfilled” (Acts 14:26) and they reported to the whole church all the things that had happened.

-Bradley S. Cobb

[1] The message given directly by the Holy Spirit originated with Jesus Christ (John 16:12-15), and thus it is also accurate to say that during this missionary journey, Barnabas was an apostle of Jesus Christ. That does not mean that he was one of the twelve apostles, or that he was able to pass on miraculous gifts; it simply means that he was one sent on a mission by Jesus Christ Himself.

[2] Acts 13:6-13

[3] Acts 13:13

[4] Acts 14:1-6

[5] “The Roman poet Ovid (43 B.C. AD 17) (Metamorphoses VIII, 626ff) records the ancient myth concerning a visit of Zeus and Hermes to the neighboring region of Phrygia, disguised as mortals. All turned them away except one old couple, Philemon and Baucis, on the Lycanonian border. Later a flood came in judgment and drowned all except this couple” (Kent, pp. 116-117, cited by Mark Dunagan in his notes on Acts 14:12).

[6] KJV renders it “Jupiter,” but the Greek word is Zeus.

[7] If this is the case, it could show why the church in Antioch was confident that Barnabas could get the money they collected safely to Jerusalem—no one would mess with Barnabas.

[8] Hermes, or “Mercury” (KJV) was the messenger of the gods.

[9] These events are recorded in Acts 14:11-20

The Non-Apostle Apostles: Barnabas (part 1)

Encourager and Apostle of the Church

Joses is a unique individual. This Levite is the first Christian outside of the twelve apostles to be named in the book of Acts (4:36).[1] [2] He was so well-known and well-loved by the twelve that they gave him the nickname “Barnabas,” which means “son of exhortation.”[3] This nickname stuck, and it is the only name by which he is mentioned throughout the rest of the Bible.

Barnabas sold some land to make sure that the poor Christians in Jerusalem had enough to eat, and he placed it in the care of the apostles. Other people did similar things, but Barnabas is the one who is singled out in the history of the early church, because he plays a much bigger role later on. But from this, we can see that Barnabas truly cared for his brethren in Christ. He wasn’t concerned about building wealth for himself, nor was he worried about owning a lot of land. He was more interested in “how can I help others.” He was a helper and an encourager. This made him stand out in the eyes of the apostles.

Barnabas next appears some years later,[4] and still showing these same qualities. Saul of Tarsus, the former Christian-killer, had seen the light and obeyed Christ, but he had a very difficult time convincing the church of that. In fact, the Christians in Jerusalem wanted nothing to do with him—they thought he was lying, attempting to trick them so that he could drag them all into prison (Acts 9:26). But while the whole church at Jerusalem rejected Saul, Barnabas stood up for him. Barnabas met with Saul and heard his side of the story. Then he arranged a meeting with the apostles, where he—Barnabas—told them that Saul had seen Jesus in the road, and that the Lord had spoken to him, and that he had preached boldly in Damascus. Barnabas didn’t just arrange this meeting, he put his entire reputation on the line by standing up for Saul of Tarsus. And it was because of the support of Barnabas that Saul became a welcome member there (Acts 9:27-28).

Some time soon thereafter, Saul’s life was threatened, so the brethren sent him back to his home of Tarsus. But then came momentous news, that the Gentiles were now being accepted by God into His church! Cornelius and his family had been converted, and then several Christians in Antioch began converting large numbers of Gentiles. It is here that Barnabas again appears.

The church in Jerusalem heard this wonderful news and sent Barnabas to Antioch. The Greek word used in Acts 11:22 for “sent forth” is the verb form of “apostle.” Barnabas was, at this point, an apostle of the church in Jerusalem, sent to see what was happening in Antioch. When he arrived, he was overjoyed and served as an encourager to them, bringing many people to the Lord. But Barnabas had other plans as well. He remembered a young man named Saul who was a bold preacher, and who had to be sent back home to Tarsus to keep him safe. Barnabas went to Tarsus and found his friend. Saul had not lost his zeal for the Lord and they both returned to Antioch, where they worshiped with the church for a whole year (Acts 11:23-26).

Around that time, a prophet came to Antioch, telling them about a great famine that was going to come upon Judea. The Christians in Antioch all pitched in to aid their brethren, and when it came time to choose two men that they trusted enough to send to Jerusalem with all that money, it was Barnabas and Saul. The word “sent” in Acts 11:30 is the verb form of “apostle.” Barnabas went from being an apostle of the church in Jerusalem—sent to Antioch—to being an apostle of the church in Antioch—sent to Jerusalem. And when their mission was completed, they went back to Antioch (Acts 12:25-13:1). Barnabas was a man who made sure he saw his mission through to the end, and didn’t shirk in the face of difficulty.

-Bradley S. Cobb

[1] The church did not come into existence until the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. There were disciples of Jesus mentioned by name in Acts 1, but at that point, there was no church to be a part of.

[2] A very few ancient Greek manuscripts have “Joses Barnabas” instead of “Joseph Barsabas” in Acts 1:23, and from that, some have suggested that Barnabas was one of the two men considered to take Judas’ place as an apostle. The evidence is against this. First, the significant majority of manuscripts do not say “Joses Barnabas.” Second, the man in Acts 1:23 is called “Justus,” and that name is never used to describe the man we know as Barnabas. Third, when Barnabas appears on the scene in Acts 4:36, Luke introduces him as someone that has not yet appeared in the book (giving name, surname, birthplace, Jewish ancestry, etc…). These considerations eliminate the idea that Barnabas was the one who wasn’t chosen to replace Judas Iscariot.

[3] KJV says “son of consolation,” Acts 4:36.

[4] Estimates range from just a few months to nearly 10 years, depending on which commentary you read.

The Non-Apostle Apostles: The Companions of Titus

When discussing the issue of collecting funds for the poor saints in Jerusalem, the apostle Paul mentions three men. One of them is Titus, who the Corinthians were already familiar with. The other two are praised, but they are not named.

Thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more determined, of his own accord he went to you. And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches. And not that only, but who was also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this grace … And we have sent with them our brother, whom we have many times proven diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, on the great confidence which he has in you. Whether any inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellow-helper concerning you. Or if any inquire of our brethren they are the apostles of the churches, the glory of Christ. (2 Corinthians 8:16-19, 22-23).

First, since Paul doesn’t mention the names of either of the two men who went with Titus, it is impossible to know with absolute certainty who is under consideration. Having said that, there are some intriguing possibilities. The two brethren are called “messengers of the churches” (KJV) or “ambassadors of the congregations” (MLV). The Greek word is apostelloi, which means “apostles.”

The first brother is one who was very well-known. In fact, Paul says that this brother had praise in the gospel throughout all the churches. The most likely candidate is Luke, the beloved physician, who had written his gospel account, which had spread throughout all the congregations of the Lord’s church.[1] According to Coffman, “some of the oldest traditions affirm” that Luke is this first brother.

But the gospel written by Luke was not what caused him to be called an “apostle.” It was the fact that he was “chosen by the churches” to accompany Paul on this mission of collecting funds for the poor saints in Jerusalem. The original language indicates that the congregations gave a show of hands or raised their voices in support of sending Luke (or whoever it might have been)[2] with Paul. This shows that (1) he was respected, (2) he was trusted, and (3) that the churches thought the mission was a worthy one. Luke didn’t just have the support of one congregation, but all the congregations in that area chose him to go. He was a representative on a mission for the churches of an entire area. That speaks volumes about who he was and about the unity that the churches had with each other.

The second brother that Paul calls an “apostle” of the churches is unknown to us, though some have suggested different names from among Paul’s letters. What is known about him, though, is that he had proven himself to be faithful and dependable time and time again in everything that the churches (and Paul) had asked of him. He was diligent, he kept working, and now he’s even more diligent because of the mission that is set before him and his confidence in its successful completion. Is it any wonder that the congregations chose this man to accompany Titus and Luke?[3]

These men are called “apostles of the churches,” but then Paul adds the words “the glory of Christ.” It could be that Paul is saying that those who do the work of the Lord are bringing glory to Christ. How much of a greater commendation could there be? Imagine that on the day that you are judged, you hear the words “You brought glory to me.” These apostles of the churches brought glory to Jesus Christ, as should we.

-Bradley S. Cobb

[1] This suggestion is given by Patterson (I and II Corinthians, pages 56-57), Barnes, Clarke, Coffman, Coke, Henry, Lipscomb, McGarvey, Robertson, and others. Henry Samuel Baynes in his Horae Lucanae: A Biography of Saint Luke (pages 197-212) presents a very compelling case that Luke is the first brother mentioned in 2 Corinthians 8.

[2] In favor of Luke as this first brother, it should be noted that he joined Paul in Macedonia (where Philippi is located), and then when they arrived back at Philippi later on, he stayed there. He again joins with Paul the next time he passes through Philippi, on his way to Jerusalem. Notice the change in pronouns from “they” to “we” throughout the book of Acts (see especially Acts 16:12, 20:6).

[3] Acts 20:4 mentions several traveling companions of Paul, some of whom were from the Macedonian region. It may be that the brother mentioned in 2 Corinthians 8:22 is one of these men. If this is the case, Aristarchus seems the most likely, as he is mentioned by Paul in Colossians and Philemon. Others have suggested Barnabas or John Mark, though there’s no evidence that either of these men were ever members of Macedonian churches (and thus couldn’t be sent out by them).

The Non-Apostle Apostles: Epaphroditus

Epaphroditus

This man is mentioned only in the book of Philippians, but great things are said about him. The apostle Paul was in Rome, awaiting his trial before Caesar, but was concerned about the spiritual welfare of the church in Philippi (Philippians 2:19). He wanted to come himself, but that wasn’t possible. So, in his place, he sent Epaphroditus.[1]

Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labor, and fellow-soldier, but your apostle, and he that ministered to my wants. For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because you have heard that he had been sick. For indeed, he was sick—near to death—but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me as well, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore, I sent him eagerly, that when you see him again, you might rejoice, and I might be griefless. Therefore, receive him in the Lord with all gladness; and hold him in honor: because he was near to death for the work of Christ, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me. (Philippians 2:25-30).

Paul calls this man “my brother” showing the affection that he had for him. He was a brother in the Lord, but Paul makes it more personal by saying “my brother.” He had a closeness, a fondness for this brother in Christ.   Epaphroditus was a friend, someone who could be counted on to listen, and who could empathize with the beleaguered apostle Paul. He helped take care of Paul’s needs, and did it in a way that showed he had the heart of a servant. Epaphroditus was not a blood-relative of Paul.[2]

He was a co-laborer with Paul in the gospel. He not only spent time with Paul as a friend and brother, but he was also a servant laboring for His master. Since the Bible is inspired by God, this is actually God’s commendation of Epaphroditus as a laborer for Christ. Paul worked to spread the gospel, even when he was under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:16-31), and Epaphroditus may have been one of the ones who helped organize the meetings in Paul’s rented house.

He was a fellow-soldier with Paul. A soldier is involved in the battle, and Epaphroditus was no different. He fought side-by-side with the apostle, using the sword of the Spirit to convince both Jew and Gentile alike that Jesus is the Christ. Picture him there at the house of the apostle Paul, answering questions from the Jews that came to hear about Jesus, and showing them from the Scripture that He is the Messiah.

He was the Philippian church’s apostle, in that they sent him to assist Paul. Paul calls him “your messenger” (KJV), or more literally, “your apostle.” The church in Philippi had heard about the arrest of Paul and his journey to Rome to await trial. How they heard about it isn’t revealed, but their response is: they sent Epaphroditus. Given what is said about this man by Paul, it’s not a stretch to imagine Epaphroditus volunteering for this mission of mercy. He was loved by the congregation there in Philippi (his return would cause them to rejoice), and he served as a very faithful representative for them, supplying service to Paul in their name.

He was a minister. That is, he was a willing servant.[3] He cared for Paul’s needs. That could include such menial things as acquiring groceries, but it could also include caring for Paul if he got sick. Some Greek manuscripts of the letter to the Philippians ends with the words “written from Rome by Epaphroditus.” Quite possibly, Epaphroditus was one of the men who took dictation from Paul so that his letters could be written and sent out to the churches.

He cared for his family and friends. While he was in Rome, working side-by-side with Paul, helping him with his needs and teaching the gospel to others with him, Epaphroditus was homesick. Paul says that Epaphroditus “longed” for his brethren back home. He missed them greatly, but it didn’t stop him from doing the work of the Lord there in Rome. If Paul was concerned about the spiritual welfare of the Philippian church, how much more was Epaphroditus, since those people were his friends and family!

He was “full of heaviness.” He was deeply distressed, knowing that the Philippians were worried about him. Word about his sickness had made it to Philippi, and they were all very anxious over his welfare. And why wouldn’t they be? He was loved by them and highly thought of. But now, Epaphroditus was extremely sorrowful because of their anxiety. The phrase “full of heaviness” is a Greek word that only appears three times in the Bible. The other two times describe Christ on the night in which He was betrayed (Matthew 26:37, Mark 14:33).

He was sick—near to death—because of the work of Christ. This man was praised because his own welfare was unimportant to him. He worked with Paul so much and so hard that he got very sick—but it didn’t matter to Epaphroditus, because he knew he was serving Jesus Christ. It’s possible that this sickness was extreme exhaustion, leaving him susceptible to catching a virus or some kind of disease, and too weak to effectively fight it off. Paul said that Epaphroditus didn’t regard his own life, but kept trying to make up for the lack of aid. This kind of gives the impression that Epaphroditus may have been working various jobs, trying to make sure that there was enough money to pay for Paul’s rented house and supply the necessary food and supplies needed. If that is the case, then it’s no wonder he ended up working himself sick. But he didn’t care about himself—he was sent as an apostle by the church in Philippi to care for Paul’s needs. And he was going to accomplish his mission, even if it killed him!

He was a man who fulfilled his mission. At the close of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he says these words:

But I have all [I need], and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, a fragrance of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God. (Philippians 4:18).

Epaphroditus,[4] whose name means “delightful,”[5] had been sent by the church to take care of the apostle Paul. He worked hard, both in physical and spiritual labor, almost dying as a result, but he made sure that he finished his mission. It wasn’t until his mission was completed that he went back home to his friends and family.[6]

One day, we will be able to meet this wonderful servant of God in heaven!

-Bradley S. Cobb

[1] The word “send” in Philippians 2:25 is not a form of the word “apostle.”

[2] Paul was from a very strict Jewish family. The name Epaphroditus is taken from the name of the Greek goddess, Aphrodite. It is very unlikely that a strict Jewish family would name their child after a pagan Greek goddess.

[3] The Greek word (leitourgos) describes someone whose love for someone or someplace causes them to undertake expensive care and duties at their own expense. Barclay says “They loved their city so much, [they] at their own expense undertook certain great civic duties. It might be to defray the expenses of an embassy, or the cost of putting on one of the dramas of the great poets, or of training the athletes who would represent the city in the games, or of fitting out a warship and paying a crew to serve in the navy of the state. These men were the supreme benefactors of the states and they were known as leitourgoi.” (Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, revised edition, The Daily Study Bible Series, page 49).

[4] Some Bible students have attempted to identify Epaphroditus with Epaphras (Colossians 1:7, 4:12, Philemon 23), but this cannot be the case. Epaphroditus is from Philippi, sent by the church there, and who longed to return there. Epaphras is a minister from Colossae (see verses mentioned previously).

[5] Some have suggested the name means “handsome.”

[6] David Lipscomb, as well as others, suggested that Epaphroditus was mentioned in Philippians 4:2-3 as the “true yokefellow” who was given the commission to stop the fighting between the women Euodius and Syntyche.

What is an Apostle?

Our current writing project is a book entitled “Who Were the Apostles?”  This is also the study that we are engaging in on Wednesday evening Bible class.  Different than what we’ve done before, we’re going to post this book section-by-section for you to read while it’s being written!

We hope that you find it worthwhile, and that you don’t mind the large amount of footnotes that come with it.  🙂

What is an Apostle?

The word “apostle” comes from the Greek word apostolos, which means someone who is sent with a mission. It has inherent in its meaning the idea of being answerable to someone else, being sent by that person or group. The New Testament writers used this word and various forms of it over 100 times in their writings. It is used to describe the following people:

  • The 12 men chosen by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry (Luke 6:13-16).
  • Matthias, the man chosen by God to replace Judas Iscariot as an apostle of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:24-26).
  • Saul of Tarsus, later known as Paul, who Christ chose to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21[1], Romans 1:1, 11:13).
  • Barnabas, a man sent out by the church at Jerusalem (Acts 11:22)[2], who later served as a missionary from the church in Antioch (Acts 13:1-2, 14:14).
  • James, the brother of the Lord (Galatians 1:19).[3]
  • Jesus Christ (Hebrews 3:1).
  • The Old Testament prophets (Matthew 23:37).[4]
  • Epaphroditus, a man sent out to help Paul by the church in Philippi (Philippians 2:25).[5]
  • Men from various congregations who accompanied Titus to collect funds for the poor saints in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:23).[6]
  • Angels (Hebrews 1:14).[7]
  • Moses (Exodus 3:10, Acts 7:34).[8]

If we were to include all the Old Testament uses of this word from the Septuagint,[9] this study would swell in size and become very tedious.

As you can see from the examples given above, the word “apostle” has a broader meaning than simply “the twelve men chosen by Jesus Christ.” It means someone who was sent with a specific mission. The word usually is used to describe the relationship with the sender, as opposed to the one(s) to whom the person is sent.[10] For example, Paul frequently calls himself “an apostle of Jesus Christ.”[11] He uses the word “apostle” to describe the relationship to Jesus Christ—the one who sent (or “apostled”) him.

[1] The Greek word translated “send” in this verse is exapostello, which is a verb form of “apostle.”

[2] The Greek word translated “send forth” (KJV) in this verse is exapostello, which is a verb form of “apostle.” We could say Barnabas was “apostled” by the church in Jerusalem.

[3] There is some dispute about how this verse should be translated, considering there is no other evidence that James, the brother of the Lord, was ever chosen to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. The majority of translations render it similar to, “I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.” Hugo McCord, however, chose to translate it as “I saw no other apostle, but I did see James, the Lord’s brother.”

[4] “them which are sent” is from the Greek word apostello, the main verb form of “apostle.” The word in this verse is in the perfect tense in Greek, which means something that took place in the past, and continues to have effect up to the present. Thus, Jesus is speaking about men who tried to call the people back to repentance under the Old Testament.

[5] The word “messenger” (KJV) or “ambassador” (MLV) is the same word that is translated “apostle” elsewhere in the New Testament.

[6] The word “messenger” (KJV) or “ambassador” (MLV) is the same word that is translated “apostle” elsewhere in the New Testament.

[7] The phrase “sent forth” is a verb form of the word “apostle.” The angels were sent by God with a mission.

[8] The Septuagint, which was referenced by Stephen in Acts, uses the Greek word apostello, the main verb form of apostle.

[9] This is the Greek translation of the Old Testament (abbreviated as LXX), completed at least 150 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. It seems to be the version referenced most often by the apostles. Various verb forms of the word “apostle” appear in the LXX over 700 times.

[10] Romans 11:13 is one of only a few instances in the New Testament where this isn’t the case. In that passage, Paul describes himself as an “apostle of [belonging to] the Gentiles” (KJV, ASV, NAS, MLV). Some other translations render this as “apostle to the Gentiles” (ESV, NKJV), which would put the emphasis back on Paul’s being sent by Jesus Christ, and thus conforming to the common usage of this word. However, the Greek is properly translated as “of [belonging to] the Gentiles.”

[11] See the first verse of Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus.

-Bradley Cobb