By Charles H. Welch
The word is taken from the Greek
apostolos which occurs in
the New Testament 81 times, and is translated
apostle 78, He that is sent once and messenger twice. The word is derived
‘I send’. This word is found both in the Greek version of the Old Testament, and
in classical or common Greek used outside the Scriptures.
In classical Greek
apostolos meant ‘a
messenger, ambassador or envoy’, and, in later usage, ‘the commander of a naval
force’. This rather limited meaning of the word is further seen in the use of
‘a fleet ready for sea, a naval squadron or expedition’. In the LXX
occurs in 1 Kings 14:6 in the phrase, ‘I am sent to thee with heavy
tidings’, where ‘sent’ translates the Hebrew
shalach, which immediately connects with such missions as that of Joseph
(Gen. 37:13), Moses (Exod. 3:14), and Isaiah (Isa. 6:8) and, generally, with the
bearing of ‘tidings’, whether of deliverance or judgment. The composition of the
word is simple. Apo
is a preposition, and, like nearly all prepositions, carries with it a sense of
motion, direction or rest. In this case the translation ‘from’ indicates origin,
motion and direction.
Stello is the verb ‘to send’, and so
an apostle is one ‘sent from another’.
is used of the ‘sending forth’ of the twelve (Matt. 10:5), of John the Baptist
(Mark 1:2; John 1:6), of preachers generally (Rom. 10:15), of angels (Heb.
1:14), and of Paul (Acts 26:17). There is, however, one other occasion where
apostolos are used, that gives all subsequent apostles and
messengers their true and only authority. Both words are used of the Lord Jesus
Christ. He is pre-eminently ‘The Sent one’ (1 John 4:9,10,14); He is
pre-eminently ‘The Apostle’.
‘Consider the APOSTLE
and High Priest of our profession, Christ
Jesus’ (Heb. 3:1).
Here, therefore, is revealed the character of the solemn office denoted by
the title ‘apostle’. Here Paul’s insistence on the use of the word ‘me’ in 2
Timothy 2:2, is carried back to another and higher use of the pronoun, ‘He that
receiveth you, receiveth ME’ (Matt. 10:40)
and, through Him, to the ultimate source of all authority, God Himself.
Having therefore considered the meaning of the term apostle, we must now take
the subject a stage further and inquire into the apostleship of Paul. First we
must observe any difference there may be revealed between ‘The Twelve’ and Paul,
and then collect all references that throw light upon the claim of the apostle
to his office.
First we will see how Paul’s apostleship differs from that of the twelve in
one great particular. The twelve were appointed early in the Lord’s public
ministry (Matt. 10) before His Death, Resurrection or Ascension, whereas Paul’s
apostleship is referred to the time when Christ ‘ascended up far above all
heavens’ whence, as the ascended One, He ‘gave gifts unto men ... and He gave
some apostles’ (Eph. 4:8-11). Here is indicated a most decided difference
between the calling of these two orders of the apostles. The difference is
recognized in 1 Corinthians 15, where the apostle gives successive witnesses to
the Resurrection of Christ, among whom he numbers ‘The twelve’, but from which
company he distinguishes his own calling by adding ‘and last of all he was seen
by me ... for I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an
apostle, because I persecuted the church of God’ (1 Cor. 15: 5-9). This intense
humility and sense of undeservedness but heightens the fact that, in spite of
all such limitations, Paul had a distinct apostleship which even humility could
There is another witness to Paul’s distinct apostleship which should weigh
with us all, especially with any who deny or object to emphasis upon his
distinctive calling: it is the testimony of Peter, James and John, recorded in
‘When they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision
was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (for
He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision,
the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) and when James, Cephas, and
John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me,
they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go
unto the heathen (Gentiles), and they unto the circumcision’ (Gal. 2:7-9).
The apostleship of Paul is a distinct order, and must not be confused with
‘the twelve’. One outstanding difference is that already cited from Galatians 2,
another is made evident in Ephesians 4:
‘And He has given some, apostles; and some, prophets;
and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the readjustment of
the saints, with a view to (the) work of ministry, with a view to the building
up of the body of Christ’ (11,12).
These are the gifts and their purpose. In 1 Corinthians 12, where the gifts
are set out in detail, there is an inspired enumeration; firstly, secondly,
thirdly. This order must be so placed for a purpose. To discount it is to
despise the inspired Word; to add to it is to take unwarranted liberty. Before
Acts 28 this is the God-given order:
After that, miracles.
Then, gifts of healings, helps,
governments, diversities of tongues (1 Cor. 12:28).
This order is repeated in the verse that follows.
The order in Ephesians 4 however is:
(1) Apostles. (3) Evangelists.
(2) Prophets. (4) Pastors and Teachers.
The third one here is the evangelist whilst the teacher joined with the
pastor is fourth. No other gifts follow, as they do in 1 Corinthians 12:28; we
are evidently dealing with a different ministry.
These were given after He had ‘ascended up on high’. Which of the apostles were
thus given? In Matthew 10:2-4 we read:
‘Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is
called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his
brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the
son of Alph -us, and Leb -us, whose surname was Thadd -us, Simon the
Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him’.
Before the Lord
ascended He was seen ‘of the twelve’ (1
Cor. 15:5). This therefore includes Matthias, for Judas never saw the risen
Lord, and Matthias was a ‘witness of His resurrection’, and was ‘numbered with
the eleven’ (Acts 1:15-26).
In any attempt to demonstrate the unique apostleship of Paul the case of
Matthias is sure to intrude, and his place among the apostles must be settled
before the way is clear to consider more intimately Paul’s own claims. We turn
to Acts 1:15 to 2:13, which is the section containing the appointment of
Matthias, and note first of all the structure:
a In those days.
b The 120.
c Together (epi
d The Holy
Ghost (to pneuma to hagion).
e Spake by
mouth of David.
f Dwellers at Jerusalem (katoikeo).
g In their
proper tongue (te idia dialekto auton).
C 1:20-26. The appointment of
The 12 Apostles.
a The day of Pentecost.
b All (i.e., the 12).
c In one place (epi
d Holy Ghost (pneuma
e Began to
f Dwellers at Jerusalem (katoikeo).
g In his own
language (te idia dialekto auton).
C 2:9-13. The representative
The 12 Countries.
Apostleship, Gospel and Authority
It is clear that the appointment of Matthias is most intimately related to
the making up of ‘the twelve’.
While we may give assent to the evidence of our eyes and agree that there is
a verbal connection between the passages, it may not be very evident wherein the
deeper connection thus indicated consists. Let us therefore look further. It is
very evident that the apostle Peter and those who gathered with him realized
that the gap in the number of the apostles occasioned by the fall of Judas was a
matter for immediate concern. Of all things that it might have been expected
would claim consideration and prayer consequent upon the Ascension of the Lord,
the last to enter our unassisted minds would have been the matter of Judas and
his successor. Not so the apostles. They were to tarry at Jerusalem and once
more preach the kingdom. Should Israel repent and the kingdom be set up, the
Lord would fulfil His promise that the twelve apostles should sit on twelve
thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. While, however, the number of the
apostles was incomplete it could not be said, ‘all things are ready’ (Matt.
22:4), therefore we can appreciate the fact that the apostles were rightly
concerned about this matter.
The Jews gathered at Jerusalem to keep the feast were not, so far as is
revealed, representative of the complete twelve tribes: all that is said is that
they were gathered from the surrounding nations, and an examination reveals that
the number of the nations was twelve. That is sufficient for the purpose: the
link between Acts 1 and 2 is made evident, and the theme of this section, the
restoration of Israel, is advanced. Whether Israel would repent and the kingdom
be set up at that time, none of the apostles knew. It was not for them to know
times and seasons. They were witnesses, and fully equipped for their work.
But in spite of the evident fitness of these two sections, there are those
who maintain that Matthias was not appointed by God but by man, and that Peter
and the rest were prompted by a zeal that was not according to knowledge. The
matter is of great importance and must therefore be considered. Let us give heed
to the word as we examine the matter. First of all, can we be certain that Peter
was right when he said that the Psalms he quoted referred to Judas? We believe
we can. But a few days before the Lord Himself had said:
‘I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen:
but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me, hath
lifted up his heel against Me. Now I tell you before it come, that when it is
come to pass, ye may believe that I am He’ (John 13:18,19).
Here the Lord not only quoted the Psalm as of Judas, but emphasized the point
that He was informing them before it came to pass in order that their faith
might be strengthened at the accomplishment of the event. Now it had come to
pass, and they believed.
In addition to this we have recorded in Luke 24:44-48 the fact that the Lord
not only passed in review the Old Testament Scriptures, including the Psalms,
and dealt with those passages that spoke of Himself, but that He also ‘opened
their understanding, that they might understand
the Scriptures’. When therefore Peter said, ‘This Scripture must needs have been
fulfilled’, he was but repeating the lesson of Luke 24:26 and 46, for the
self-same words there, ‘ought’ and ‘behoved,’ are translated ‘must needs be’ in
Even though it may be agreed that Peter’s quotation of the Psalm was
appropriate, it is possible that some may entertain the suspicion that in
selecting but two men the apostles were limiting the Lord. We shall, however,
find, upon examination, that there was an important reason for this limitation.
Referring once more to our Lord’s own instructions, we read:
‘But when the Comforter is come, Whom I will send
unto you from the Father ... He shall testify of Me: and ye also shall bear
witness, because YE HAVE BEEN WITH ME FROM THE
BEGINNING’ (John 15:26,27).
The apostles were evidently acting with this qualification in mind, for Acts
‘Wherefore of these men which have companied with us
ALL THE TIME
that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
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’.
It was therefore not a matter of piety, learning, or fitness of character;
what was essential was capacity to bear personal testimony.
It is generally taught that the words ‘that he might go to his own place’
(Acts 1:25), mean that Judas had been consigned to hell or perdition, but the
passage bears another sense and should read:
‘... show whether of these two Thou hast chosen, 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 he was numbered
with the eleven’.
The fact the Holy Spirit made no difference between Matthias and the rest of
the apostles should silence all objection. That Paul himself speaks of ‘the
twelve’ as separate from himself is eloquent testimony to the accuracy of the
inclusion of Matthias among the twelve (1 Cor. 15:5). In face of these facts we
believe that the appointment of Matthias was in complete harmony with the will
of God, and that of necessity, therefore, Paul was an apostle of an entirely
distinct and independent order.
The structure of Galatians 1 is a testimony to the independent apostleship of
Paul, which we will now exhibit.
Paul’s Apostleship, Gospel and Authority
Key words ‘Not’, ‘Neither’, ‘But’.
A 1:1-5. Independent APOSTLESHIP.
Not of men.
Neither by man.
But by Jesus Christ.
B 1:6-10.‘Ye received’.
A 1:11,12. Independent GOSPEL.
Not after man.
Neither received nor taught.
But by revelation.
B 1:13,14. ‘Ye heard’.
A 1:15-17. Independent AUTHORITY.
Not flesh and blood.
But unto Arabia.
B 1:18-24. ‘They had
There is a remarkable parallel between Galatians and 2 Corinthians where the
issue once again is the validity of Paul’s apostleship
‘Seemed to be somewhat’ (2:6).
‘The extra super apostles’ (11:5).
‘Another gospel’ (1:6-9).
‘If he that cometh preacheth another
Jesus ... another spirit ...
another gospel’ (11:4).
‘False brethren’ (2:4).
‘False brethren’ (11:26).
‘He Who wrought effectually in Peter ... the same was mighty in me’ (2:8).
‘For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles’ (11:5).
‘I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain ... I
desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in
doubt of you’ (4:11,20).
‘For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would’
‘I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise
‘I rejoice therefore that I have confidence in you in all things’ (7:16).
‘From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of
the Lord Jesus’ (6:17).
‘Forty stripes save one, five times: thrice beaten with rods: once stoned:
thrice ship wrecked’ (11:24,25).
‘Behold, before God, I lie not’ (1:20).
‘The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for
evermore, knoweth that I lie not’ (11:31).
‘If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one
of another’ (5:15).
‘If a man devour you ... backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults’
‘As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach ... ‘ (1:9).
‘I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second
‘Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?’ (3:3).
‘That as He had begun, so He would also finish (perfect) in you the same
grace also’ (8:6).
‘For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor
uncircumcision, but a new creature’ (6:15).
‘Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature’ (5:17).
The departure from the truth both doctrinally and practically in both churches
is closely connected with doubting and denying the apostleship of Paul and the
truth of his gospel. The self-same departure can be unhesitatingly deduced from
the same cause today.
While a more complete list of parallels would be helpful, our immediate
concern is with the revived controversy regarding the apostle Paul. In 1
Corinthians we realize that the elements of division are present; parties rally
round the names of Paul, Apollos, Cephas, and even Christ. It is evident that
the apostleship of Paul had been seriously questioned at Corinth, as Chapter 9
makes most manifest:
‘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? 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. Mine answer to them that do
examine me is this: Have we not power (a right) to eat and to drink?
Have we not power (a right) to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other
apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? Or I only and Barnabas,
have not we power (the right) to forbear working? ... If others be partakers
of this power (right) over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not
used this power (right); but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the
gospel of Christ ... when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ
without charge, that I abuse not my power (do not use to the full my right) in
the gospel. For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant
(enslaved) unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as
a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under
the law ... to them that are without law, as without law ... To the weak
became I as weak ... I am made all things to all men, that I might by all
means save some’ (1 Cor. 9:1-22).
This utter abandonment of self for the good of others was used against the
apostle by the Judaizing party. In 2 Corinthians 12:12 he tells them that all
the signs of an apostle were wrought among them, except this one thing, that the
apostle abstained from his right of being supported by them. ‘Forgive me this
wrong’, he says, ‘I will very gladly spend and be spent for you, though the more
abundantly I love you, the less I be loved’. There a heavy heart is manifested
for all the brave exterior. Quoting from the slanders in circulation about him,
he repeats, ‘But be it so, I did not burden you; nevertheless, being crafty, I
caught you with guile’ (verse 16). Hardly are the words penned than the
apostle’s whole being revolts against the charge. Away with the thought. ‘Did I
make gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you? I desired Titus, and with
him I sent a brother; did Titus make gain of you?’ (verses 17 and 18).
2 Corinthians 11 and 12 are occupied much in the same way as
Galatians 1 and 2. The apostle, with much diffidence, calling his defence
‘folly’ and ‘foolish boasting’, is again plunged into the defence of his
ministry, and the unchivalrous contention with Peter and others. The literary
structure will again simplify the subject and keep us to the chief point:
2 Corinthians 11 and
A 11:1-4. The real deceiver. The
Serpent; ‘subtility’ (panourgia).
KNOWLEDGE. ‘Not one whit behind the extra super apostles’.
SELF-ABASEMENT. Ministers of Satan.
EQUALITY. As to advantages of birth and
SUPERIORITY. As to labour and sufferings.
REVELATIONS. A messenger of Satan.
SIGNS. ‘Not one whit behind the extra super apostles’.
A 12:13-18. The false charge. ‘Being
While, therefore, the false teachers were saying of Paul that being crafty he
caught them with guile, Paul exposes the real deceiver in the Serpent. And his
servants - ministers of Satan, false apostles on the one hand and a stake in the
flesh, a messenger of Satan, on the other hand, intensified the sufferings both
mental and physical of the apostle to the Gentiles. The necessity of saving the
Corinthians from the bondage of the Judaizers was urgent. Once more the apostle
lays bare that which modesty would for ever have covered.
His equality with the apostles of the circumcision.
‘Are they Hebrews? So am I
Are they Israelites? So am I
Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I’
His superiority as to labours and sufferings.
‘Are they ministers of Christ I am
In labours MORE abundant
In stripes ABOVE measure
In prisons MORE frequent
In deaths OFT
Of the Jews FIVE times received I forty
stripes save one,
THRICE was I beaten with
ONCE was I stoned,
THRICE I suffered
A DAY AND A NIGHT have I been in the deep;
In journeyings OFTEN,
In perils of waters, robbers, mine own countrymen,
heathen, city, wilderness, sea, and false brethren;
in weariness and painfulness, in watchings OFTEN;
in hunger and thirst, in faintings OFTEN,
in cold and nakedness;
besides those things which are without,
that which cometh upon me daily,
THE CARE OF ALL THE CHURCHES.
Who is weak, and I am not weak?
Who is offended, and I burn not?’
Twice does the apostle use a term that is reminiscent of Galatians 2, ‘the
very chiefest apostles’ - ‘extra super’ as one has well rendered it - and he
follows the line of Galatians 2 where he not only establishes
equality with Peter, James, and John, but
in the case of Peter, shows that he had to withstand him to the face. But in 2
Corinthians the apostle not only says ‘so am I’, but also ‘I more’.
It was for the establishing for all time of the personal integrity and the
absolute apostleship of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, that the Acts of the
Apostles was written: and in humbler form, and in faulty fashion, but with the
same end in view, this Analysis is
largely penned. To rehabilitate Paul as the minister of the risen and ascended
Christ to the Gentiles would of itself revolutionize Christianity today. We
entertain no vain hopes, however. A little company has always guarded the sacred
deposit, and will do so until the dispensation closes, but the generality of
Christians care for none of these things.
On occasions Paul makes the specific claim that he was the apostle of the
‘I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I
magnify mine office’ (Rom. 11:13).
‘I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and
lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity (truth)’ (1 Tim. 2:7).
‘I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles’ (2
Paul clearly recognized two things. He knew and taught that there was but one
Lord, one Mediator, one Head, one Offering, one Saviour, Jesus Christ, and that
he was but an earthen vessel, a planter, and in comparison ‘nothing’ (1 Cor.
3:7). On the other hand, he knew and taught that he was a chosen vessel, that
neither Peter, James nor John had received the commission that he had received,
and while he could not and would not magnify himself, he could and did magnify
his office, for as one that had been chosen, separated and sent to the Gentiles
he had no option but to faithfully discharge so solemn a trust.