The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:11-16 that “(Jesus) gave the apostles…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
The Ministry of the Apostles is clearly defined in the New Testament for us. The definition we are supposed to look at is focused on the Greek Noun “Apostolos” and the Greek Verb “Apostello.” I have compiled a list of places in the New Testament where these terms were being used.
Note: The following are a few places where these one of these two Greek words refer to a specific person.
I. The Greek Noun “Apostolos” (Apostle)
“And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:26 ESV)
“But Peter standing with the eleven…” (Acts 2:12 ESV). The only way Peter can stand with the eleven is if we include Matthias. When the Holy Spirit was writing Scripture, he made sure to mention there were 12 Apostles present on the Day of Pentecost (see Peter AND THE ELEVEN above).
There can only be Peter and the eleven – that is, 12 Apostles – in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost if the Holy Spirit endorsed Matthias. Otherwise, Scripture would have spoken of Peter standing with the ten.
#2. Barnabas and Paul
In the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit recognized Paul and Barnabas as apostles. In Acts 14:14 (ESV) the Holy Spirit used the phrase “the apostles Barnabas and Paul.” The Holy Spirit also put Barnabas’ name first because he was the leader on Paul’s first missionary journey.
The Holy Spirit gave Paul permission to mention Titus as an apostle.
In 2 Corinthians 8:23 (ESV) we read this: “As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are “apostolos” of the churches, the glory of Christ.”
The original Greek word translated as “messenger” is the same word Paul used to introduce himself in his letters: “Paul, an apostle…” (Romans 1:1 ESV)
“I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your “apostolos” and minister to my need…” (Philippians 2:25 ESV)
The Holy Spirit allowed Paul to describe Epaphroditus with the same word he used to describe himself in each of this letters. Paul recognized the Holy Spirit was appointing Apostles within the local Church at Philippi, and he allowed them to join his traveling ministry team.
II. The Verb Apostello
#1. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy
“Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 2:6 ESV)
The first letter to the Thessalonians said “we” are apostles of Christ, and the “we” being referred to is “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy” (1 Thessalonians 1:1 ESV).
The Apostle Paul, writing under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, used a word to describe the work done by Silvanus and Timothy with the same word used in other places to describe work done by the Apostles.
When the Holy Spirit was writing Scripture, he directly choose Greek words associated with Peter and Paul to describe people like Matthias, Barnabas, Silvanus, Timothy and Epathroditus, some of who were not in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit used Greek words that would have placed these men on Paul and Peter’s level of authority and influence within the local Church in the original language.
Was the Holy Spirit confused when the writers of the New Testament used these words? Did God make a mistake in writing Scripture, or did we make a mistake by limiting the number of Apostles to Paul and the 12 disciples?