Was Barnabas an Apostle?

San Barnaba by Anonimo Lombardo (an anonymous Lombard) - 17th CenturyWas Barnabas an apostle? This question is important because it is related to the larger question of whether or not apostles exist today. If the NT gave a pattern of apostles being added to the original Twelve (and Paul), could there be apostles today?

I explained in previous posts that the Twelve and Paul had a unique apostleship that singled them out from others that were called apostles in Scripture. In this post (and more to come), I will examine who else was called an apostle in the NT and the meaning of the term apostle as it applied to these individuals.

In Acts 14:4, Luke refers to “the apostles” who, in context, are Paul and Barnabas (cf. Acts 13:50). Ten verses later, Luke is more explicit and refers to “the apostles Barnabas and Paul” (Acts 14:14). Barnabas was clearly an apostle. But in what sense? Was he an apostle like the Twelve? Was he an apostle to the Gentiles in the same sense as Paul? Could the term apostle mean something else in this context?

Part of the difficulty in explaining Barnabas as an apostle lies in the fact that Paul, too, is called an apostle in Acts 14:4, 14If Paul was an apostle in much the same way as the original Twelve, to call Barnabas an apostle alongside Paul seems to color Barnabas with the same apostolic hue as Paul. But this reasoning does not necessarily follow.

Luke typically describes Barnabas as an individual who was distinct from the twelve apostles (Acts 4:36; 9:27; 15:2, 22). These verses and others demonstrate that Luke consistently used the term apostle to refer to the Twelve.1 Luke’s use of the term apostle with reference to others such as Barnabas and Paul is exceptional.2 This is not to say that Paul was not an apostle, but it is to say that whether Paul, Barnabas, or anyone else, Luke did not typically call these men apostles. More likely, Luke used a more generic use of the term apostle, albeit with reference to two notable individuals. One scholar refers to Acts 14:4, 14 and explains this use of apostle as follows: “In this broad usage, then, an apostle was a first-century evangelist who bore witness to the resurrection of Christ, an itinerant missionary sent by Him to make disciples of all nations.”3 Barnabas was an apostle in the sense that he was sent to proclaim the gospel with Paul (cf. Acts 13:1–3).4

In short, Luke described Barnabas as someone distinct from the Twelve. He was sent with Paul to proclaim the gospel, and in this sense, he was an apostle. He cannot be used an example of someone who received an apostleship that was the same as the Twelve or Paul and thus be used as precedent for anyone to claim a similar apostleship today.

This article was originally posted here, another blog to which I regularly contribute.

  1. F. F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 271; John B. Polhill, Acts (NAC 26; Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1995), 312. []
  2. Bruce, The Book of the Acts, 276.Cf. A. F. Falls, “Apostle,” NBD, 123. []
  3. William C. Robinson, “Apostle,” ISBE 1:193. Cf. David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles (PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 408. []
  4. To get even more technical, Luke’s order of names in Acts 14:14 (Barnabas and Paul vs. Paul and Barnabas) could suggest the exceptional nature of this use of apostle as well. Unless referring to Paul by his Jewish surname Saul, Luke usually referred to Paul first and Barnabas second (Acts 13:43, 46, 50; 15:2, 22, 35; cf. 15:12, 25). If Luke was copying an irregular order of these two names from some external source, it could be that he also copied the term apostle along the way, explaining why Luke would have used the term with reference to someone other than the Twelve. (See Bruce, The Book of the Acts, 276.) Another suggestion for the unusual order of names is that this order corresponds to the order of the gods Zeus and Hermes mentioned in Acts 14:12. (See Andrew F. Falls, “Apostle, NBD, 123.) []

The Apostleship of the Apostle Paul: One Untimely Born

conversion-of-saulOver the last couple of weeks, I examined Acts 1:21–26 for the requirements laid out by the early church for one be an apostle (part 1part 2). The three such requirements were as follows:

1. An apostle followed Jesus during His entire earthly ministry from His baptism by John to His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:21–22a).

2. An apostle saw Jesus after His resurrection (Acts 1:22b).

3. An apostle was appointed by the Lord Jesus Himself (Acts 1:24–25).

When we look at these requirements, we wonder – how was Paul able to claim that he, too, was an apostle?  He met only the last two of these three requirements. He saw Jesus after the resurrection (Acts 9:1–9; 1 Cor 15:8), and Jesus appointed him to be apostle (Acts 26:16–18; cf. 9:15–16). However, Paul was an unbeliever who persecuted the early church (Acts 8:1–3; 9:1–2) and could obviously not have been one who followed Christ during His earthly ministry (cf. Acts 1:21–22a). Was the first requirement really not all that necessary? Could this apostolic appointment of Paul set a precedent to open the door for others to later say that they, too, had somehow seen Jesus and been appointed to be apostles as well?

The answer is no because Paul describes himself in terms that imply he was an exception to the rule. Twice in 1 Corinthians he describes his apostleship in correlation to when Jesus first appeared to him (1 Cor 9:1; 15:8–9). In the second of these descriptions, he notes that Jesus appeared to him “as to one untimely born” (1 Cor 15:8), a phrase that describes one of the primary ways in which Paul’s apostleship was distinct from the Twelve. Apart from other ways this phrase could be taken, it seems Paul used the picture of a premature birth to imply that his apostleship was something that came about rather abruptly as opposed to something that had been developed over a longer period of time.1 Teasing out the picture further, one could say that the Twelve underwent the full development of apostolic nurture in being discipled by Christ during His earthly ministry.2 In contrast, Paul’s apostleship came about rather suddenly and apart from such a process.

Putting this all together, the Twelve were the Twelve in part because they  were with Christ from His baptism by John to His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:21–22a). Christ chose Paul to be an apostle apart from such a process, but even Paul knew this type of apostleship was out of the ordinary (1 Cor 15:8). Moreover, if Paul’s apostleship was unexpected for such a reason, it seems all the more unlikely that we would see apostles today.

This article was originally posted here, another blog to which I regularly contribute.

  1. Cf. David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians (BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 690–91, and Anthony C. Thistleton, 1 Corinthians (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 1208–09. []
  2. See the previous posts about Acts 1:21–26 for an explanation as to how Matthias was able to be an apostle as well. []

What Is an Apostle? Requirements from Acts 1:21–26 (Part 2 of 2)

We saw last week from Acts 1:21–26 that the early church laid out three requirements in choosing a replacement apostle* for Judas Iscariot:

1. The candidate was required to be someone who followed Jesus during his entire earthly ministry, beginning from Jesus’ baptism by John to Jesus’ ascension into heaven (1:21–22a).

2. The candidate was required to have seen Jesus after His resurrection (1:22b).

3. The candidate needed to have been appointed by the Lord Jesus himself (1:24–25).

What I did not stress in the previous article was this: if these are some of the requirements to be an apostle, then no one is an apostle today. These requirements are historical conditions that no one can fulfill today. No one today can claim to have followed Jesus during His earthly ministry. Along with this, neither can anyone today claim to have seen Jesus after His resurrection. And, if someone has seen Jesus neither before nor after His resurrection, neither will he be able to claim that Jesus was physically present to personally appoint him to be an apostle.

But perhaps someone claims Jesus gave him a personal appointment to some type of apostolic ministry through a dream or vision.  If this is so, could a person still be an apostle? I am an unashamed cessationist who would dismiss such a claim outright, but even if someone could claim such a dream or vision, he still could not be an apostle. He did not follow Jesus during his earthly ministry from Jesus’ baptism by John to the point of His ascension into heaven.

Adding one more thought—if one cannot be apostle, neither can he enjoy what Scripture calls apostleshipIn the context of Acts 1:21–26, apostleship is a ministry that is enjoyed by only those who are apostles. The eleven prayed to the Lord Jesus and asked Him to reveal which of two men would “take the place in this ministry and apostleship [apostolē] from which Judas turned aside” (Acts 1:25). Paul used this word elsewhere with the same sense (Rom 1:5; 1 Cor 9:2; Gal 2:8).

Pulling all of the above together, Acts 1:21–26 denies the possibility of apostles today and their correlative ministry of apostleship. An apostle is someone who followed Christ during His earthly ministry, saw Him after the resurrection, and was personally appointed to the apostolate.

*Scripture uses the term apostle in a more general sense as well (cf. 2 Cor 8:23). I hope to address both  this use in the days ahead as well as the unique appointment of Paul. 

This article was originally posted here, another blog to which I regularly contribute.

What Is an Apostle? Requirements from Acts 1:21–26 (Part 1 of 2)

ma-1704087 (1)“What is an apostle?” This is an important question to answer because many people in Christendom claim that there are apostles for today or at least claim that some enjoy what is called the spiritual gift of apostleship. Over the course of my next couple posts or so, I hope to give a brief understanding of how Scripture describes and defines apostles and whether or not there is a gift called apostleship. A great place to start is Acts 1:21–26.

To give a dash of context, after the suicide of Judas Iscariot, Peter addressed the matter of finding a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:15–20). In doing so, he laid out two requirements for who this replacement apostle should be (Acts 1:21–22), and the subsequent prayer of the people (cf. Acts 1:15) revealed a third requirement as well (1:24–25).  Acts 1:21–26 begins with the words of Peter:

21 ‘So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.’ 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:21–26)

The requirements that can be gathered are as follows:

1. The candidate was required to be someone who followed Jesus during his entire earthly ministry, beginning from Jesus’ baptism by John to Jesus’ ascension into heaven (1:21–22a).

2. The candidate was required to have seen Jesus after His resurrection (1:22b).

3. The candidate needed to have been appointed by the Lord Jesus himself (1:24–25).

While the first two requirements are fairly straightforward, the third is not. Some question the wisdom of the Christians’ use of lots to decide between Justus and Matthias, but my understanding is that the Lord (i.e., the Lord Jesus; cf. Acts 1:21) providentially allowed the use of lots to appoint the replacement for Judas. The Christians were led by the eleven and prayed to the Lord Jesus that He would reveal to them the apostle He had already chosen (Acts 1:24). In this way, it could be said that, just as Jesus had personally appointed the other apostles (Mark 3:13–19), so also did He appoint Matthias through the casting of lots.

Luke’s description of Matthias’ appointment showed that the early Christians accepted this choice as the Lord’s mind on the matter: “he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26). Later reference to “the twelve” assume Matthias’s legitimacy as an apostle as well (Acts 6:2).

I’ll say more next week.

This article was originally posted here, another blog to which I regularly contribute.

Elder, Overseer, and Shepherd: One and the Same Office?

Do the titles elder, overseer, and shepherd refer to one and the same office? The answer is yes, and a brief survey of a few NT passages will provide ample evidence for such a conclusion. The basic thesis of this article is that the overlap of terminology from one title to the next in a number of texts clearly shows the offices of elder, overseer, and shepherd to be one and the same.

Elders Are Overseers

Paul clearly equates elders with overseers in Titus 1:5, 7. Paul tells Titus, “This is why I left you in Crete,” namely, to “appoint elders [presbuteros] in every town” (Titus 1:5). Immediately after telling Titus to appoint elders, Paul then gives some initial qualifications for elders (Titus 1:6) and then gives his reason for doing so: “For an overseer [episkopos], as God’s steward, must be above reproach” (Titus 1:7).

The equation of elders with overseers is seen again in Acts 20:17, 28. Luke records that Paul “sent to Ephesus and called the elders [presbuteros] of the church to come to him” (Acts 20:17). In addressing these elders, Paul stated to them that “the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [episkopos]” (Acts 20:28).

Elders Are Overseers Who Shepherd

To quote Acts 20:28 again, Paul reminded the Ephesian elders that the Holy Spirit had “made them overseers [episkopos], to care for the church of God.” The infinitive “to care” is literally rendered “to shepherd” (poimainō). Paul saw shepherding as the primary role of elders who the Spirit had appointed to be overseers. What is helpful to notice at this point is that Acts 20:17, 28 uses some form of all three terms to refer to the same office: elders were appointed overseers to shepherd.

Elders Shepherd by Exercising Oversight

Peter likewise exhorted “the elders [presbuteros] among you” (1 Peter 5:1) to “shepherd [poimainō] the flock of God” (1 Peter 5:2) and to do so by “exercising oversight.” The participle “exercising oversight” (episkopeō) is the verbal cognate of the noun “overseer” (episkopos) and is subordinate to Peter’s imperative to shepherd (“shepherd the flock of God, exercising oversight”). Though Peter does not identify elders as overseers, he does tell them to shepherd by exercising oversight. It seems fair to conclude that Peter would say that those who exercise oversight could be called overseers who, in this case, are elders. Similar to Acts 20:17, 28, Peter uses some form of all three terms to refer to the same office in 1 Peter 5:1–2: elders were to shepherd by exercising oversight.

Christ Is Both Shepherd and Overseer

Another helpful text in identifying overseers as shepherds is 1 Peter 2:25. Peter refers to Christ as “the Shepherd [poimēn] and Overseer [episkopos] of your souls.” Though Peter was not speaking of shepherds and overseers in general, the overlap in terminology with reference to Christ has bearing upon how this terminology is used for shepherds and overseers in general. If Christ is both Overseer and Shepherd, it is easy to infer that overseers and shepherds in general are one and the same as well. The overlap in terminology in Acts 20:17, 28 and 1 Peter 5:1–2 makes this conclusion all the more certain.

This article was originally posted here, another blog to which I regularly contribute.

Personal Shepherding Goals and Guidelines

I wrote this out for my church this past week. This is nothing profound but simply one man’s method of his approach to personal shepherding.

Personal Shepherding Goals and Guidelines for Pastor Huffstutler 

With my dissertation now out of the way, I can give myself to you all the more. In doing so, I thought it would be helpful to communicate my personal goals and guidelines for meeting with the folks of our church on a more regular and personal basis. In a nutshell, I plan to meet with the men regularly, families occasionally, and women as necessary.

Regular Meetings with Men

I enjoy regularly meeting with the men of our church in groups, and I am glad to meet with you individually as well. These times allow me to encourage you in your spiritual growth and even go through a specific Bible study together. By meeting with the men in our church, my goal is to reproduce my ministry by encouraging you as men to become godly examples and leaders within our church.

Occasional Visits with Families

I often think of our church in terms of our families, whether the family is a single person, a married couple, or a parent or parents with children. We have twenty-two “family units” in our church, and my goal is to meet with every family at least once every three months. I enjoy the opportunity to talk with folks in their home if possible, and I am also glad to invite folks over to our home as well. If I have met with the head of a family, I typically consider it as having met with the family as a whole even though I have not necessarily met with every single person.

Necessary Meetings with Women

Maintaining a testimony of purity requires me to have certain guidelines when it comes to meeting with women. I am glad to counsel my Christian sisters as necessary, but unless her age would allow her to be my mother or grandmother, I will not meet with her alone. I can meet with women in my office as long as there is someone else present in the church building. If the issue requires long-term counseling or could be better counseled by a woman, I will encourage you to meet with my wife or another godly lady in our church who would offer solid, biblical counsel.

Why Do You Do This?

I do not operate according to the phrase, “My door is always open to you.” When I hear this, I really hear, “See me when you really need something. Otherwise, I am going to be doing something else.” My walking through the door of your home or your walking through the door of my office or home should simply be a confirmation of the relationship that we have already have as brothers and sisters in the household of God. I will be there in times of trouble, but from my experience, I am for more able to shepherd when I meet with the flock on a regular and personal basis.