The Ancient Faith
The word apostle (απόστολος, from άκοβτέλλω, to send forth) means simply a missionary, or one who is sent out by the authority of another. Matthew xv, 24; Mark ix, 37; John iii, 17; Acts xiv, 14; 2 Cor. viii, 23; Gal. iv, 4; Phil, ii, 25; Heb. iii, 1, etc.
There are three orders of Apostles mentioned in the New Testament:
- Apostles of God, such as Moses and Christ. Hebrews iii, 1.
- Apostles of Christ, such as Peter, James, and John. Matthew x, 2-5, and Luke vi, 13-16.
- Apostles of the Church, such as Paul and Barnabas. Acts xiv, 14, and 2 Cor. viii, 23.
For the present we will speak only of the second order, or the Apostles of Christ. Of these there were but thirteen, viz.: “ Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James, the son of Alpheus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas, the brother of James,” Matthias, who was elected in place of Judas Iscariot, and Paul, who was “as one born out of due time.” Compare Matthew x, 2-4; Mark iii, 13-19; Luke vi, 12-16; Acts i, 12, 13, 26; and Acts ix, 1-22. Some, indeed, infer from such passages as Matthew six, 28, and Rev. xxi, 14, that there were, in reality, but twelve Apostles; and hence they suppose that Matthias was not an Apostle. But such an allegation is manifestly inconsistent with the plain and unequivocal statements made in Acts i, 23; ii, 14; vi, 2, etc. And it is, therefore, more probable that Paul, being an Apostle extraordinary, is not included in the aforesaid passages; or, otherwise, that the number twelve is used, in such cases, in a technical sense, as it frequently is when applied to the Tribes of Israel. These were, in reality, thirteen, though they are commonly called the twelve Tribes.
These thirteen Apostles were Christ’s plenipotentiaries on Earth, and were invested with all the power and authority that were necessary in thorny of the order to the full establishment and proper administration of the Kingdom of Heaven. See Matthew xviii, 18; xix, 28; Luke xxii, 28-30.To them, therefore, it belonged,
- To bear testimony in behalf of Christ. Extraordinary “But ye shall receive power,” said Christ to his Apostles, “after that the Holy Spirit is office· come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the Earth.” Acts i, 8. See, also, Luke xxiv, 48; John xv, 27; Acts xxvi, 16, etc.
- To reveal to mankind the essential truths and principles of the Scheme of Redemption. “ Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will shew you things to come.” John xvi, 13. See, also, Luke xxiv, 49; John xiv, 26.
- To enact all the necessary laws, and to establish all the required ordinances of the Kingdom. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, (the Apostles,) saying, All authority is given unto me in Heaven and on Earth. Go ye, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” Matthew xxviii, 18-20. See, also, xviii, 18; xix, 28; Luke xx;i, 29, 30, etc.
- To demonstrate, by various miraculous signs and wonders, that Jesus had been exalted to be a Prince and a Savior, and that they themselves were his own chosen and appointed ambassadors to proclaim his will to every creature.“ And behold I send the promise of my Father upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high.” Luke xxii, 49. See, also, John xv, 26; Acts i, 8; iii, 1-26, etc.
I would define a miracle as an extraordinary manifestation of Divine power, operating either independently of the laws and forces of nature, as in the original creation, or in opposition to them, as in the separation of the waters of the Red Sea, or in connection and harmony with them, as in the Noachaic deluge. This, of course, implies to all cases the exercise of a power that is superior to the laws and forces of nature. And hence it follows that no creature can work a real miracle. All such pretenses are but signs, and wonders, and miracles of falsehood. 2 Thessalonians 2:9.
- To confer on others the power to work miracles. Acts viii, 14-17; xix, 6; 2 Timothy i, 6.
From this brief survey of the special duties and prerogatives of the Apostles it is obvious that they should all have the following qualifications:
- That they should have seen Jesus Christ, and been eye and ear witnesses of what they testified to the world concerning him. See John xv, 27; Acts i, 21, 22; xxii, 14, 15; xxvi, 16; 1 Cor. ix, 1; xv, 8; 1 John i, 1.
- That they should have been chosen and appointed to their office by Christ himself. Authority to choose an Apostle was never delegated to any man or body of men. Even Matthias was appointed by lot, the disposing of which is, in all cases, from the Lord. Proverbs xvi, 33. See, also, Luke vi, 13-16; Acts ix, 15; xxii, 14, etc.
- That they should have the gift of plenary inspiration. This was necessary in order to enable them to understand aright the oracles and teachings of the Old Testament, to reveal fully and infallibly the remaining mysteries of the Scheme of Redemption, and to give to the Church such a code of laws and regulations as would, in all ages and under all circumstances, be to her a perfect rule of faith and practice. That this gift was abundantly bestowed is evident from the following passages: Matthew x, 16-20; John xiv, 15-18; xvi, 12-15; Acts i,5, 8; ii, 1-4; 1 Cor. ii, 4-16; Gal. i, 11, 12.
- That they should have the gift of tongues, and the power to work divers sorts of miracles. This was one of their necessary credentials, and was largely bestowed on all the Apostles. Acts iii, 1-26; Hebrews ii, 4, etc. From these premises, then, it follows, of necessity, that the Apostles could have no successors in office. Neither the Pope of Rome nor the Archbishop of Canterbury can ever possess their qualifications, or discharge the special duties of their office. The fact is that in, and by, and through their writings they themselves still live and preside over the whole Church of God, according to the promise of Christ given to them in Matthew xix, 28, and in the same sense it is that Christ himself will be with them, even to the end of the world. Matthew xxviii, 20. And hence we conclude that the twenty-seven Canonical Books of the New Testament are the only proper successors of the Apostles of Christ now on Earth.
They and the Prophets were, indeed, for a time the only Ministers of the Church. But when the number of disciples was increased, helps became necessary. The number of Prophets was then also increased, and besides, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers were then created, and for a time supernaturally qualified by the gifts of the Spirit “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the Ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” till the Canon should be completed, and the whole Church come to the full knowledge of the truth and to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. See Ephesians iv, 11-13, and 1 Cor. xii, 28.
[This is from The Scheme of Redemption by Robert Milligan (1869). This book has many doctrinal errors. However, the above section on The Apostles is accordance with the Scriptures.]