googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: The Credentials of an Apostle

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Credentials of an Apostle

As I was reading in Revelation the other day, I came across following verse:

“Thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:” Revelation 2:2

As I read it, I wondered how the Church in Ephesus might have tested these false teachers who called themselves Apostles but weren’t. Looking in Scriptures, I believe there are 3 credentials a true apostle should have: they are called by Jesus, they are given the ability to perform miracles, and they are given a message to speak by the Holy Spirit.

Firstly, an apostle is called by Jesus. Consider Luke 6:13, “And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles.” It was very clear that Jesus assigned them the office of apostle. It certainly was not a self-designation seeing how Jesus also said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit” (John 15:16).

Paul also was an Apostle chosen by Jesus. Most people are familiar with his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Afterward, in his epistles, Paul would sometimes affirm to his readers that he also was called by Jesus to be an apostle (as in Romans 1:1 and 1 Corinthians 1:1). So even though he was not a part of Jesus’ ministry during His life, he was still named an apostle by Jesus after His ascension.

Secondly, the apostles were given the ability to perform miracles. In Matthew 10:8, Jesus listed some of the types of miracles they were to perform: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils.” That’s a fairly impressive list.

The performing of miracles as a sign to speak God’s word is a practice that hearkens back to the prophets of the Old Testament. When Moses was called to deliver God’s people from Egypt, he was worried that the people would not believe God had sent him. God gave Moses certain miracles to perform as evidence of his calling (Exodus 4:1-8). When Jesus cast out the money changers from the temple, the Pharisees demanded a sign from Him as proof of His authority to do this. He promised the sign of His resurrection. (John 2:18-21).

We see that Jesus’ word was fulfilled in the apostles. Read Mark 16:20: “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.”

Finally, the apostles were given the words to speak by the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that the Comforter would teach them all things and remind them of everything He had said to them (John 14:26). When He commissioned the twelve and first sent them out, He warned them that they would be persecuted for their message and brought before rulers and princes. When that happened, He said to them, “take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10:19-20).

Since the early, New Testament church did not have the benefit of the New Testament Scriptures, God gave His word to the apostles to be preached and written down. As such, I believe the apostles spoke with absolute authority from God and were not able to speak in error. Anyone who claims to be an apostle should not have a gospel different than the revelation we already have in the Old and New Testaments.

There are probably a few other criteria that an apostle should possess but I believe these three items are absolutely essential. I would be suspicious of anyone today claiming to be an apostle. Ask yourselves these questions about such a person: Was he specifically chosen by Jesus Himself to be an apostle? Does he perform miracles – such as raising the dead? Does his preaching in any way contradict Scripture? I doubt there is anyone alive today who would fit the bill.

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