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?

the-vigil-of-the-shepherds-detailDo 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.