Apostles and Prophets:
Validating Modern Claims of Leadership
An On-Line Book
|Copyright © 1985, 2003 - All rights retained by author|
|Written by: C. W. Booth|
Apostles had to have a specific mission given to them by simple definition of their title as "ones sent on a mission." Surprisingly, we tend not to recognize the basics of Christ’s commissioning of the Twelve.
The Mission of the Twelve
In Matthew 10:1-11:1 detailed for us is the original commissioning of the Twelve disciples. Verse 1 states very graphically that Christ gave the new apostles authority to perform the miracles of casting out demons and healing every kind of illness. Do not miss this point-the first authority mentioned is miracles.
"These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying, ‘Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’" (Matthew 10:5,6)
In their original appointment, they are commanded not to got to the Gentiles or to the Samaritans. This order was never rescinded during Christ’s earthly lifetime. Is it any wonder that Christ had to give His great or final commission? The apostles would never have preached to either Gentiles or Samaritans if Christ had not made it a point to appear to them after His resurrection to tell them that it was now proper and necessary for them to go to the Gentiles.
A partial outline of the apostles’ mission follows:
Vs. 7 They were sent on a preaching mission.
Vs. 8 They were sent to perform miracles.(Actually, as apostles they were commanded to perform miracles.)
Vs. 9,10 they were sent as gospel workers to earn their keep as such.
Vs. 11-14 they were sent to preach, not waste time with unreceptive people.
Vs 14,15 they were sent with awesome authority of speech.
Vs. 16-18 They were sent with a warning of persecution.Vs. 19-22 They were sent with the promise of prophetic utterance in the hour it was needed during persecution.
The list goes on, however, we will summarize here. The Twelve apostles were sent to preach, commanded to perform miracles, sent as gospel workers, with authoritative speech, with warning of persecution, and with the promise of prophetic utterance.
Also, in Mark 3:13-19 we find a further understanding of the apostolic mission:
"And He went up to the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons." (Mark 3:13-15)
These Twelve were to be constantly with Christ--a three-year hands-on seminary. Also Christ would send them to preach. And finally, Christ gave them the authority to perform miracles.
The apostolic mission was further detailed in John 14. Jesus tells the apostles (verse 19) that the world will not see Him after He rises from the dead, but as His eyewitnesses, the "sent ones" will. In verse 26 a promise of supernatural (Spirit directed) memory of Christ’s teaching will be given to the apostles. In John 15:26, 27 an obvious discussion of the purpose for the original twelve is given:
"When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of me, and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning." (John 15:26, 27)
The apostles were to bear witness of Christ, since the world would no longer see Him. And it was Christ Himself who set the standard for apostleship, "because you have been with Me from the beginning." This was the same standard that the eleven used in Acts 1 when Matthias was numbered with the Twelve.
Again in John 16:12,13 Christ says, "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come." (John 16:12,13)
The man who is appointed to the apostolic mission is guaranteed to receive Spirit directed prophetic utterance.
More than simply a preaching mission, apostleship involved training men to be the disciples of the risen Christ.
"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’" (Matthew 28:18-20)
Notice that this final commissioning does NOT say, "Go and be church planters," nor does it say, "You are personally responsible to make certain every last person on earth hears the gospel." This commissioning does say to make sure all nations have well taught disciples of Christ in them. Again, it does NOT say, "Make them YOUR disciples," rather, they were to make disciple OF CHRIST in each nation. How proud we sometimes are to call new Christians "our disciples." New Christians are disciples of Christ. Planting churches was not a part of the mission; making disciples of Christ was.
Finally, what did the apostles think their mission was? Acts 1:22,26 "…one of these should become a witness with us of His resurrection…and he was numbered with the eleven apostles." They could have given any one of the above mentioned appointments (preaching, prophecy, teaching, working miracles, etc.) as reasons to include Matthias, but they saw bearing witness of Christ’s resurrection as paramount at that time. "…And you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
"God raised Him up on the third day, and granted that He should become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us, who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead." (Peter, Acts 10:40,41)
"…The Lord stood at his [Paul’s] side and said, ‘Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.’" (Acts 23:11)
"But Peter and the apostles answered and said, "‘…And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.’" (Acts 5:29,32)
In John 21:24 John says plainly that he wrote the book that bears witness to Christ’s teachings and resurrection and all things written therein. Peter in 2 Peter 1:16 offers his eyewitness testimony of Christ. In 2 Peter 3:2 Peter commands us to remember those words spoken by the apostles because they represent Christ’s commandments. And Christ told Paul "…for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also the to the things in which I will appear to you." (Acts 26:16) and "…the Lord stood at his side and said, ‘Take courage’ for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.’" Acts 23:11
The Twelve apostles were appointed and sent to be eyewitnesses of Christ and His resurrection. Paul was sent to also be an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ. In no way, shape, or form are we, today, eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection. However, we can be certain that apostolic eyewitness testimony is true because these men were with Christ from His baptism to His resurrection.
Paul’s Apostolic Mission
Just as being an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ was a part of the appointment of the Twelve, was Paul’s commissioning the same as that given to the Twelve?
1) Was Paul sent to preach? Acts 26:19,20 Yes.
2) Was Paul sent with authority to perform miracles? "…Granting that signs and wonders be done at their hands." Acts 14:3 "in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit." Romans 15:19 "…immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened." (A miraculous earthquake). Acts 16:26 "But they were expecting that he [Paul] was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him [as a result of the viper bite], they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god." Acts 28:6 "The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles." 2 Corinthians 12:12
3) Was Paul sent as a gospel worker to earn his keep as a gospel worker? "So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel." 1 Corinthians 9:14 Of course, in the case of the Corinthians Paul decided not to be a financial burden, though it was his right as an apostle of Christ.
4) Did Paul waste time on unreceptive people? "And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.’" Acts 13:46
5) Was Paul given awesome authority of speech? "In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." 1 Corinthians 5:4,5
6) Was Paul warned about persecution? "And I saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’" Acts 22:18
7) Was Paul given prophetic utterance (speaking God’s messages through a human mouth)? "That by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief." Ephesians 3:3. Paul received revelation and spoke on the basis of that authority in the name of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:2)
8) Did Paul also receive a "Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth" commission? "But kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles…" Acts 26:20
Paul’s apostolic commissioning was just as strong, just as authentic, and of the same authoritative nature as the Twelve, even though he was not in that special and highly visible circle. But, what about the last problem--the one even Paul had to defend himself against?
9) Was Paul with Christ from His baptism to His resurrection? No. How then can Paul claim apostleship equal to the Twelve if he did not get the same three years of intensive training from Christ?
For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ…to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. (Galatians 1:11, 12, 16-18)
Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows--was caught up into Paradise, and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. …And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me--to keep me from exalting myself! (2 Corinthians 12:1-4,7)
The point is clearly stated by Paul that he was never taught any of the gospel of Jesus Christ by any man, whether in Jerusalem three years after his salvation or on the road to Damascus. Paul was taught the gospel just like all the other apostles--by Jesus Christ himself. Paul stayed in Damascus for three years receiving the gospel through prophetic revelation. His own private three year apostolic seminary with Christ as his instructor.
No, Paul was not with Christ from His baptism to His resurrection, but he had been given a ministry of revelation by Christ. It was apparently enough of a qualification for both Paul and Christ. No one today can claim to have been taught by Christ, or to claim a three year revelation by which to confirm their apostleship.
Did Paul feel he was just as much an apostle as the Twelve? Yes.
"Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me…" (Galatians 1:17)
"For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles." (2 Corinthians 11:5)
"…In no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody." (2 Corinthians 12:11)
Paul fulfilled a nearly identical list of qualifications for apostleship as the Twelve fulfilled except being with the Lord for His three years of teaching on Earth. For this qualification God provided the compensation of direct revelations of teaching from Christ to Paul for three years. Paul, like the other apostles, got his knowledge directly from Jesus Christ’s teaching ministry. No human today can hope to receive the same nine-point commission as these thirteen men.
With no doubt whatsoever, we know that the original Twelve apostles were reduced to Eleven when Judas died. Then the Eleven became Twelve again in Acts 1. Simple arithmetic gives us thirteen men who were "Apostles of Christ". Add Paul to that tiny group and we have the fourteenth apostle who was in no respect "inferior" to his co-workers.
If one had grown up believing that there were only ever Twelve Apostles, the previous paragraph has come of something of a shock. Nonetheless, the Scriptural evidence is unimpeachable, there were fourteen "Apostles of Christ", thirteen of whom lived contemporaneously.
Do the Scriptures speak of even more men who were "Apostles of Christ"? Consider the following passage:
"Now after this [having just commissioned the Twelve original apostles] the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent [apostello] them two and two ahead of him to every city and place where he Himself was going to come." (Luke 10:1)
(Note: some manuscripts cite the number seventy-two)
The verse says that Christ appointed seventy others. Did Christ appoint seventy other men, or seventy other apostles? If He was merely sending seventy other MEN, we must ask, "To what work did Christ appoint and commission (apostello) these seventy other men?"
In chapter 9 Christ calls and sends the Twelve out as apostles. If the seventy are others, it can only mean that Christ is now appointing seventy OTHER men as apostles. The context and the use of the word "apostello" all but demand such an interpretation.
What were the mission parameters given to these other apostles?
1) Who sent them? Jesus Christ.
2) What was their mission?
To be sure, the commissioning of the Twelve and Paul have all these things in common. In fact, the commission is so close and the wording so precise, that it is next to impossible to imagine these seventy as anything but apostles. Only the gift of "prophetic utterances" is not explicitly stated as having been bestowed at that time. They were not "eminent" apostles like the Twelve, but apostles of Jesus Christ nonetheless.
Who were these Seventy Other Apostles; what were their names? Were these seventy among the 120 men in the room in Acts 1 when Matthais was numbered with the Twelve? And while it is speculation, would it not be interesting to know if the names of the more famous Christian men mentioned in the New Testament letters were among the Seventy sent out as apostles by Christ; such men as Matthias, Barnabas, Silas, Andronincus, and Junias?
The number of men directly appointed by the Lord as His apostles now stands at eighty-four.
Paul, the Twelve, and the Seventy had unique appointments as apostles. However, were other men appointed by Christ? If so, were their missions similar to Paul’s, the seventy, and to the Twelve?
"Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands. But the multitude of the city was divided; and some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles [Paul and Barnabas]." (Acts 14:3,4)
"But when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of it [the impending sacrifice], they tore their robes and rushed into the crowd, crying out" (Acts 14:14)
The first difficulty we encounter is that this is the only chapter in all of the New Testament that refers to Barnabas as an apostle. What is worse, we do not have an apostolic commissioning of Barnabas by Christ recorded in Scripture. Acts 11:30 of course tells us that he was sent by the Antioch church on the mission of carrying money. But that did not qualify him as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Especially since Acts 12:25 records the mission's end long before Acts 14.
Remember, to be an apostle of Christ you had to be with Him from His baptism to His resurrection and you had to be sent by Him on a mission involving witnessing His resurrection, preaching, etc. Acts 13:2 opens up the possible answer.
"And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." (Acts 13:2)
Was the Holy Spirit saying that He called Paul and Barnabas for the work of apostleship? If so, then this verse directly contradicts Galatians 1:1, Galatians 1:12, Acts 22:21, and Acts 26:17. Fortunately the Scriptures contain the answer again:
"But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever he hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine, and will disclose it to you." (John 16:13-15)
There is little question now that the Spirit was only repeating the words of Christ in Acts 13:2. The Spirit did not "speak on His own initiative" but repeated whatever He heard, disclosing it to the church at Antioch. What words of Christ did the Spirit disclose to the church? That they were to set apart Paul and Barnabas for Christ for the work to which Christ had previously called them.
As we discussed earlier, according to Kent (p. 56) the phrase "I have called them" indicates a past tense or previous appointment. In other words Christ was informing the church at Antioch through the Spirit that Paul and Barnabas had already been called or commissioned for their life’s work by Christ at an earlier date, but now it is time for them to go away from Antioch to a new location. In Paul’s case that apostolic calling was many years earlier at his conversion.
But what about Barnabas? When did the Lord give him his previous calling? Unfortunately Scripture is completely silent on this matter of when. All we really know for certain is that Barnabas is already a saint of high repute, well known and loved by the Twelve apostles at the beginning of the Jerusalem church. We also see that he is a Levite born in Cyprus but relocated and living in and owning land in Jerusalem (Acts 4:36).
Given this historical data it seems possible and even probable that Barnabas became a disciple and follower of Christ during His earthly ministry. It is also possible that Barnabas was one of the seventy sent out by Christ. Granted, this is now speculation, but the point is that there was ample opportunity for Christ to appoint Barnabas to apostleship personally, just as with the Twelve, just as Christ indicates He had already done in Acts 13:2.
But if Barnabas was already an apostle, a sent one by Jesus Christ, why does it say in Acts 4:37 that Barnabas laid money at the "apostles’" feet, not the "other" apostles’ feet? For the same reason Luke chooses to say that Paul and Barnabas went up to the "apostles" in Acts 15, instead of the "other" apostles. For some reason Luke so revered the standing or office of the Twelve that he mentions that Paul and Barnabas were also apostles only in Acts 14, then never again. Luke was, however, very much aware that Paul was indeed an apostle, because Luke traveled with him.
So far we see that Barnabas was called by Christ at some earlier date, as was Paul. But what mission was Barnabas sent on? It is far more difficult to ascertain this without having any part of the original calling recorded in Scripture. There is, however, the evidence of what he did upon which to build a theory. To be a credible candidate for "apostleship of Jesus Christ" his mission should be at least comparable to Paul’s and to the Twelve’s.
1) Was Barnabas sent to preach? Yes, according to Acts 13:5.
2) Was Barnabas sent with authority to perform miracles? Yes, according to Acts 14:3 and Acts 15:12.
3) Was Barnabas sent as a gospel worker to earn his keep as such? Yes. Paul defends his and Barnabas’ right to earn their keep from the gospel in 1 Corinthians 9:6-14, although they may not have used this right while in Corinth.
4) Did Barnabas waste time on unreceptive people? No. Acts 13:46,47,51.
5) Was Barnabas sent with authority of speech? Yes, Acts 13:46.
6) Was Barnabas in danger of persecution? Yes. Acts 14:5-7.
7) Was Barnabas given prophecy? Yes, Acts 13:2.
8) Did Barnabas receive a Jerusalem to the ends of the earth type commission? Yes, refer to Acts 13:46,47.
9) Was Barnabas with Christ from His baptism to His resurrection? It is impossible to say. Some have even questioned whether Barnabas saw the Lord at all. As we discovered earlier, Acts 13:2 indicates that the Lord had called Barnabas personally, in the same way He called Paul.
"Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? …My defense [of our liberties as apostles] is this: Do we not have a right to eat and drink? Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the REST OF THE APOSTLES, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas [Peter’s Aramaic name]? Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working?" (1 Corinthians 9:1, 3-5)
While it would be impossible to be dogmatic, it would seem a little hypocritical of Paul to be basing his defense for monetary support of himself and Barnabas on phrases such as "Am I not an apostle?" "Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? " "Even as the rest of the apostles" if Barnabas had indeed not seen the Lord or indeed was not even an apostle?
Also, if Barnabas was a true apostle then 1 Corinthians 15:7 most certainly applies: "Then He [Christ] appeared to James, then to all the apostles."
"All the apostles" must, by definition, include the Twelve mentioned in verse 5 plus any other man Paul knew to be an apostle at the time he wrote this letter, including the seventy. Thus, according to this letter, every last apostle on earth had seen the resurrected Christ, including Barnabas.
As we have seen, Paul and Barnabas were essentially equal apostles (Acts 14:14). While little is known of Barnabas’ conversion or apostolic appointment, Paul and he were apparently both called by Christ Himself, led by the Spirit through prophecy, preached, performed miracles, and took literally the command to take "salvation to the ends of the earth."
If we are to include Barnabas as one of those who were with Christ from His baptism to His resurrection and had been appointed by Him to be an apostle, then the number of men who were apostles of Jesus Christ now stands at eighty-five.
Still Other Apostles
James and Jude
The argument has been made that there were still other apostles. One of the strongest cases made is for James and Jude, the Lord’s brothers. The evidence on which to support or deny this claim is very sparse. Indeed, it should be obvious that with as little evidence as we will present no dogmatic conclusions may be drawn, and no doctrines of apostleship can be based on James or his brother.
Let us recall that in order to be an apostle of Christ you must be sent out (apostello) by Him on some mission involving witnessing His resurrection, preaching, etc, and you must have been with Him during His three years of teaching ministry, being instructed by the Lord Himself. Unfortunately, with the Lord’s brothers we are left totally without such a supporting commissioning being recorded in Scripture. At best we know that James and Jude wrote some Scripture demonstrating their preaching, teaching, and prophetic ministries for Jesus Christ, but no commission is even alluded to in Scripture. Indeed, James and Jude do not even call themselves apostles in the letters that they wrote.
What slight Scriptural evidence there is follows:
"But I [Paul] did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother." (Galatians 1:19)
"These [the eleven] all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers." (Acts 1:14)
"Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles." (1 Corinthians 15:7)
"Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?" (1 Corinthians 9:5)
If we assume that James and Jude were apostles, we must ask who appointed them and for what mission? Since the strongest verse is Galatians 1:19 and it links James with at least the Twelve in Jerusalem we might assume a similar commissioning and mission being given to them by Christ Himself. All we can do is assume this, however, since we have no verses which would describe how they were appointed, or what specific mission they had.
Indeed as R.A. Cole, p. 56 of his commentary on Galatians, points out, the word "except" in Galatians 1:19 may also read "only." That is, it may be acceptable to say, "But I did not see any other of the apostles, only James, the Lord’s brother." This would mean that James was not necessarily an apostle.
If we are honest, the most we can dogmatically conclude is that James was an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ. If both James and Jude, the brothers of the Lord, were actually apostles then they too were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Lord--"then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles." (1 Corinthians 15:7) No living man can claim to be an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ.
Silas and Timothy
A few Christians believe that both Silas and Timothy were apostles based on merging two verses in 1 Thessalonians. A better case for Silas exists than for Timothy. Even so, considering either one, the evidence is both subjective, weak, and sparse.
A quick note on names needs to be inserted here--Paul is the Greek name for Saul. Saul is a Hebrew name. Silvanus is the Latin form of the name for Silas, Silas is an Aramaic form of the name. Cephas is the Aramaic equivalent for Peter, meaning "stone." In short, Paul is Saul, Silas is Silvanus, and Cephas is Peter.
"Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians…" (1 Thessalonians 1:1)
"…as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority." (1 Thessalonians 2:6)
Unquestionably the "apostles of Christ" means just that, men sent out by Jesus Christ on a mission. The main question is which of the men from verse 1 are a part of the "we" in 2:6? There are three possibilities:
1) It is an editorial or formal first person "we," Paul referring to himself only.
2) Paul and Silas only.
3) Paul, Silas, and Timothy all together, the writers of the letter according to verse 1.
The evidence for a first person "we," meaning Paul alone, is found in the context of 3:1, "Therefore when WE could endure it no longer, WE thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone; and WE sent Timothy…For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith…" (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5)
It seems very likely that "we" here can only mean Paul alone. If this is true then the "we apostles" is very likely Paul alone as well.
"But now that Timothy has come to US from you." (1 Thessalonians 3:6, note: Paul says "us" even though he was "alone" in Athens)
"And then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there. Now those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed. Now while PAUL WAS WAITING FOR THEM…" (Acts 17:14-16)
"But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia…" (Acts 18:5)
Notice that Paul was alone, waiting for both Timothy and Silas to return to him. When they did he says "Timothy has come to US from you," meaning, "Timothy has come to ME (Paul) from you." Paul again uses the plural when he could only be referring to himself alone.
Also, he says that "WE thought it best to be left at Athens alone." Who is WE? Since both Silas and Timothy were already far behind, it was not they. "We thought" may have been the brethren who escorted Paul, however, as we see in Acts 17:15, "they departed," leaving Paul alone. So who was left behind with Paul? Only Paul himself. Therefore, when Paul says " we thought it best to be left at Athens alone," it is only possible to interpret it to mean that Paul himself decided it was best to be left alone. Again, "we" only refers to Paul. Paul is well known for his editorial, first-person plurals. In 1 Thessalonians 3:1, Paul writes "we", but really means "I, Paul."
On the forceful strength of the context, it is very likely that Paul is the only apostle referred to in 1 Thessalonians 2:6. "We apostles" is very probably Paul’s formal way of saying: "…as an apostle of Christ I might have asserted my authority." Paul is well known for using such literary techniques.
The evidence for both Silas and Paul being the "we" in 1 Thessalonians 2:6 is "but after WE had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi…" (1 Thessalonians 2:2)
"…they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities…and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods…inflicted many blows…threw them into prison…Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns…" (Excerpts from Acts 16:19-25)
Only Paul and Silas had been mistreated at Philippi--not Timothy. If the "we" who were mistreated can only refer to Paul and Silas, then the "we" as apostles can only refer to Paul and Silas at most.
Perhaps the most convincing case for Paul and Silas being the "we" is found in Acts 17:1-10. "…they came to Thessalonica…according to Paul’s custom, he went to them…explaining and giving evidence…and some of them were persuaded and joined PAUL AND SILAS…but the Jews, becoming jealous…formed a mob…began dragging Jason…received a pledge from Jason…and the brethren immediately sent PAUL AND SILAS away by night to Berea…" (Excerpts from Acts 17:1-10)
During the Thessalonican stay, as recorded in Acts, Paul was the most outstanding spokesman. However, the mob did apparently target both Silas and Paul. The point is this: only Paul and Silas were known as the vocal troublemakers in Thessalonica. Acts says that the Thessalonican brethren were concerned about getting only Paul and Silas out safely, not Timothy. If Timothy had been doing any apostolic work at all (preaching, performing miracles and healings, prophesying), surely the Thessalonians would have insisted that Timothy be sent away by night too. Probably Timothy was with them, but not really performing any type of visible ministry to the Thessalonians. Why would Paul refer to Timothy as an apostle if he were so invisible to the Thessalonian brethren? When Paul says "we" acted this way and taught you that way, he certainly meant no more than Silas and himself at most, the only two even mentioned in Acts as taking any active part in the ministry at that time.
What other Scriptural evidence is there for Silas being an apostle of Jesus Christ? First, we have no record of any commissioning by Christ. We do see, however, that
Finally, if Silas was more than a prophet, and was an apostle of Jesus Christ, being Paul’s companion, then he most definitely saw the resurrected Lord, and Paul knew it: "then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles." (1 Corinthians 15:7). That is about all we can dogmatically say about Silas, if he was included as a part of the "we apostles," then he was an eyewitness of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
What evidence do we have of Timothy being an apostle? Virtually none. There is no support at all for Timothy being one of the "we apostles" in 1 Thessalonians 2:6. He was not one of the original spokesmen at Thessalonica, he did not go through the suffering, mistreatment, and opposition at Philippi that he had seen Paul and Silas go through. Finally, Timothy could not have been in the "we" that sent him back to Thessalonica, nor could Timothy have been a part of the "us" to whom he himself returned and reported. In context, there is no real possibility of Timothy being one of the "we apostles."
What other evidence might three be for Timothy if not 1 Thessalonians 2:6? Such ancillary evidences are even more sparse. To start with, Timothy was not from Jerusalem, which would reduce his chances to almost zero of actually having seen Christ. Also, due to his young age, it is unlikely that he had seen Christ or His resurrection. It is virtually certain that Timothy had not been with Christ for His three years on Earth, from His baptism to His resurrection. That being the case, the verse that says Christ appeared to all the apostles would not support any modern claim to include Timothy as an apostle. The only way to rectify that would have been for Christ to give Timothy a revelation of Himself, and that for three years like He did for Paul; however, Paul says that he was the last man to whom Christ showed Himself and the last man made an apostle (1 Corinthians 15:8).
Other evidences show no one at the time seemed to consider Timothy to be an apostle of Jesus Christ.
"Paul, and apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope; to Timothy, my true child in the faith:""(1 Timothy 1:1, 2a)
Here Paul goes into this discourse on himself--he is an apostle of Christ Jesus--then he describes how he became one, according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus. Finally he mentions Timothy, but instead of calling him fellow apostle, Paul calls Timothy his true child. There is virtually no recognition of Timothy’s alleged apostleship--only recognition that Timothy was Paul’s child in the faith.
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my beloved son:" (2 Timothy 1:1,2a)
This is Paul’s last letter to Timothy. Paul is about to die. Does Paul recognize Timothy’s apostleship while declaring and substantiating his own? No. All Timothy is to the apostle Paul is a beloved son. No recognition of apostleship at all.
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. (2 Timothy 4:1-6)
Of first importance we must understand that Paul is about to die. This is his final letter of instruction to Timothy. Paul levels an awesome charge at Timothy: "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus…" What is Timothy to do? Is it to announce his apostleship to the world? Is Paul about to announce an army of new apostles to replace him when he dies? No. "preach…be ready…reprove, rebuke, exhort…" Why? Because "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine." So what should Timothy do about it? Should he become an apostle in order to stamp out these heretics that will come? Should he become super-influential and drown out these perverters of the Word? No. "But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." Paul does not say to Timothy "Do the work of an apostle, fulfill your ministry," but "do the work of an evangelist".
In this, Paul’s final written charge to Timothy, never is it mentioned that Timothy was sent as an apostle. No indication is given that Timothy holds that office or was given that mission. There is no Scriptural statement that identifies Timothy as an apostle. Paul goes out of his way, even in 1 Timothy 2:7 and 2 Timothy 1:11 to assert his own true apostleship, but completely fails to acknowledge or in any way confirm any such appointment for Timothy. What if Paul thought it was unnecessary to verify Timothy’s apostleship? If it was unnecessary for Paul to verify Timothy’s office, it would have been far less necessary for Paul to verify, even assert, his own apostleship to Timothy, and yet Paul does it four times (1 Timothy 1:1, 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:1, 1:11).
Timothy was not an apostle, for not even Paul recognized him as one. No Scripture lends itself at all to the Timothy theory. As we have seen, Scripture actually tends to confirm Paul’s apostleship while denying that Timothy was one. Perhaps our best clue as to Timothy’s actual gift is in 2 Timothy 4:5, "do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."
A very strong case for the first person editorial use of "we" in 1 Thessalonians 2:6 exists. This would eliminate any speculations concerning Silas or Timothy because Paul alone would be the apostle and no other verses even imply that Silas or Timothy were apostles. A second good case can be made for Silas’s inclusion in the "we" based on the account in Acts. This would limit apostleship to Paul and Silas. If Silas was an apostle it can be demonstrated that he had witnessed the resurrected Lord, preached, prophesied, etc. Finally in the context of the passages in 1 Thessalonians 3 and Acts 17 it is almost impossible to include Timothy in the apostolic "we," thus, no evidence exists to support the whimsical theory that Timothy was an apostle.
Andronicus and Junias
Some people feel that Romans 16:7 is a proof text for establishing Andronicus and Junias as apostles: "Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me." (Romans 16:7)
Key to determining if these two saints were "apostles of Jesus Christ" or not is the phrase, "outstanding among the apostles". There are two possibilities we will consider.
1) they were outstanding apostles.
2) they were outstanding men of the church in the opinion of the apostles, in other words, men who were well respected by the apostles.
It would be imprudent to be completely dogmatic about which possibility is correct. The only thing this verse "proves" is that we really do not know much about these two men, except the rather scanty information provided by the passage.
According to Bruce pg. 271, Andronicus and Junias were Jews, just as Paul was, which is demonstrated by the use of the word "kinsmen" in the passage. Also, their names indicate that they were probably Hellenistic (Greek-speaking) Jews, such as those described in Acts 6. They were also followers of Christ for some time before Paul’s conversion. They had also been held in jail, probably along with Paul, during one of his imprisonments.
If Andronicus and Junias were famous or outstanding apostles it would seem strange that they are never mentioned in the book of Acts. If they were famous apostles, they are certainly obscure to us today. Indeed, according to the Ryrie Study Bible notes on this verse, the best translation of the phrase "outstanding among the apostles" would be "well-known to the apostles."
Regardless of whether Andronicus and Junias were well known to the apostles, or were famous apostles, it is easy to see that no apostleship doctrines may be constructed or established on this verse alone. We have no statement of where they were commissioned, by whom, or for what mission, if there ever was one. Being Hellenistic Jews, it is very likely that they were involved with the early Jerusalem church. Otherwise, how would they have become so well known to the apostles in Jerusalem? They would have had every possibility to have been a part of the seventy commissioned by Christ, or of the 500 witnesses, or a part of the apostolic group mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:7. As a matter of fact, if they were outstanding apostles, even before Paul was saved, they most certainly saw Christ according to 1 Corinthians 15:7.Select this line to continue to the next chapter of Apostles and Prophets.