An apostle is one who is “sent” by Jesus Christ. The word is used to refer especially to the inner circle of Christ’s twelve disciples, but is also used specifically to refer to Paul, who was commissioned as an apostle by the risen Christ. The term is also applied more loosely to certain other leading Christians in the NT period.
Jesus Christ as an apostle
Heb 3:1This is the only place where the word “apostle” is used of Jesus Christ, though many passages refer to him as “sent”; Jn 20:21 Jesus Christ, as God’s “sent one”, sets the standard and pattern for all who are likewise “sent” (i.e., for all apostolic ministry). See alsoMt 10:40; Mk 9:37; Jn 5:23-24; Jn 12:44-45
His commissioning by Jesus ChristAc 26:12-18 Although not one of the Twelve, Paul saw the risen Christ and was directly commissioned by him, sent especially to the Gentiles; 1Co 15:3-10; Gal 2:8
Paul’s apostleship and the church1Co 9:1-2In Paul’s case the sense of title or office and the ministry and function virtually coincide. He is an apostle both because he has seen and been commissioned by the risen Christ and because he functioned as an apostle by founding churches.
BarnabasHere “apostles” may refer to their ministry as missionary evangelists or to their role as “sent” by the church at Antioch:Ac 14:4,14
James, the Lord’s brother1Co 15:7 The most natural meaning of the words is that James is an apostle. This interpretation is confirmed by other references to James; Gal 1:19; Gal 2:9
Dictionary of Bible Themes Scripture index copyright Martin H. Manser, 2009. As Editor, Martin Manser wishes to thank all those who compiled or edited the NIV Thematic Study Bible, on which this work is based.
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