Apostle of Jesus Christ
1 Peter 1:1
1 Peter Lesson #007
March 12, 2015
Before we get started we’ll have a few minutes of silent prayer so we can make sure that we’re spiritually prepared to study the Word this evening. To make sure we’re walking by the Spirit and in right relationship with God. So let’s bow our heads together, and after a few moments I will open in prayer.
“Father, we’re very thankful we can come together this evening to reflect upon Your Word and to think through what You’ve taught us, and come to understand your Word a little more clearly and precisely. Father, we pray that You will help us to understand the things that we’re studying this evening. Father, we continue to thank You for this church and we thank You for the ministry and the benefits of this ministry to go out to the world and we pray that You will continue to provide for the needs that we have that that may continue. Father, we pray for guidance and direction for the leadership. We pray for wisdom as we plan the future and Father, we pray for us tonight that we might just focus on You and Your Word as all-sufficient for us in every area of life. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
While you’re turning in your Bibles to 1 Peter 1, one other announcement I have. This specifically applied to those who are going on the Grand Canyon trip at the end of May. This is that raft trip. Some of you probably forgot about it. I announced it, and it filled up almost immediately last year at the Chafer Conference. We have approximately twenty-two or twenty-three people going. This trip is full but for those of you, including those who are listening and going on the trip, there are several DVDs and books available through Answers in Genesis, and for those who have not a great background in geology or science, there is a video in a kid’s series, called Awesome Science, that Answers in Genesis have put together. This is a series of DVDs dealing with different issues related to creation. One of them is on the Grand Canyon. I always find it helpful sometimes, when I’m getting into an area that I don’t know a whole lot about, is to get a kid’s book or a kid’s DVD and watch that. Then it’s basic enough for me to grasp it. This was a pretty interesting DVD and it’s really targeted to older kids and teens.
Okay, we’re in 1 Peter 1:1. [Slide 3] The first verse reads very simply, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” So far what I’ve done is to just look at Peter. We took three lessons, after the overview, to review who Peter was. That forms a lot of background for us in understanding this next phrase, “an apostle of Jesus Christ”. This is an appositional phrase defining who Peter is, but the critical issue is why does he state this?
The fact that he or the author of an epistle is an apostle is not always emphasized. Paul did not emphasize that in either his address to the Thessalonians or in either 1 or 2 Thessalonians. So when it’s mentioned [because we believe every word of Scripture is breathed out by God, known as plenary inspiration. Plenary means full or whole. Verbal means the words emphasizing the words while plenary means the whole or all the words are breathed out by God are inspired], that it’s not a dictation theory, but is simply the authorship of God.
When we look at anything, we need to look at why it’s there. The author of divine Scripture does not waste His words. He’s not loquacious. He is very precise in His use of vocabulary. So when we have something mentioned, we should look to see why it is mentioned. When we ask this question of why Peter says this at the beginning, it’s funny how many times we’ll see commentaries talk about these opening greetings and say this was just a common way a letter would be addressed, a common salutation where the author reveals himself in the first sentence, identifies himself and then he says “grace and peace to you” because these were common greetings at the time. CHARIS was a common greeting and shalom or peace was a common Hebrew greeting so they combine these. But that is just an extremely superficial look at what is going on.
Why in the world are these phrases used; and why in the world did God the Holy Spirit inspire this particular verbiage in this particular letter? We can look, and we can find an answer to that. When Peter or Paul emphasized their apostleship, they’re primarily emphasizing their authority, their right to address individual believers or local church in terms of belief and behavior. It’s in terms of what they believe: first and foremost is the doctrine, and then the behavior that grows out of that.
The critical issue here becomes authority. [Slide 4] The word here for apostle is APOSTOLOS. The grammar here is interesting because it doesn’t have an article with it in the Greek. The lack of an article doesn’t mean it’s not definite. It doesn’t mean Peter isn’t saying “an apostle of Jesus Christ” as it is translated in the New Kings James. It’s probably emphasizing the quality of the noun. It’s neither indefinite nor definite. In fact, you’ll hear some people talking about Greek because they’re familiar with the English. We have a definite article and we have indefinite article. The definite article is “the”. The indefinite article is “a” or “an”. In Greek there’s no indefinite article, so it’s really improper to speak about the definite article. It’s just the article. Its presence or lack of presence does not necessarily mean that the noun is definite or indefinite.
The classic example in which some of you are aware of this is in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In that last phrase where John writes, “The Word was God” he uses the word THEOS for God without the article. Now if you get a knock on the door and your friendly Jehovah’s Witnesses are cruising through your neighborhood on a Saturday morning… (I saw some the other day when I was out running. I chose not to stop and converse with them), they will knock on your door and say, “See your Bible says that Jesus was ‘a god’.” They will base that on their understanding that because there’s no article in front of God in the Greek then it’s automatically indefinite.
That’s not correct. It may be, but often when the article isn’t present, it’s simply emphasizing the quality of the noun and emphasizing the essence of the noun. So that’s probably how Peter is using it here, and that would go to the emphasis on his unique position as an apostle, his unique authority as an apostle, to address issues of belief first, and then behavior which flows out from that. As such, he has authority.
It seems to me, without knowing a whole lot about the recipients of this epistle other than that they are Jewish background believers which we get from the two terms that are used in the address here, “to the pilgrims or resident aliens” which is PAREDIDEMOS which refers to Jews as scattered aliens and the second term, DIASPORA which refers to the dispersion or diaspora of the Jews, that this emphasizes a Jewish audience primarily. So Peter is emphasizing his position of authority, and that he’s been commissioned, which is the basic idea as you’ll see near the bottom of the box [Slide 4]. The meaning of the word apostle is someone who has been commissioned to perform a task, someone who is sent on a mission.
Sometimes it’s applied to a military or political envoy or even an ambassador. The idea as we’re going to see, and I’ll state this several times as we go through this, is that the word has a general and a technical aspect to it. It’s important to look at the context when you see the noun apostle. Who is doing the commissioning? What are they commissioned to do? To whom are they going? That tells you whether it’s a specific term related to the apostles or whether it is a general term related to a missionary that is sent out by a church. So there is a sense in which the Bible uses the word APOSTOLOS in a non-technical way.
I find that very confusing today. Some of you have probably had similar situations. I was sitting at a dinner not too long away with a number of Christian leaders. One person on one side of the table was telling the story about another pastor at the other end of the table and referred to his “apostolic anointing”. I’ve learned to play poker in circumstances like that and just let it go. But see, there are a lot of people today who believe that these gifts have continued, and either they believe they have the same kind of authority as the apostles in the 1st century, or there are some within evangelicalism who try to make apostle just a synonym for missionary.
I don’t have a problem with that other than that most people don’t understand it that way. There is a way in which the Bible uses that. We’ll see that referring to Barnabas as an apostle because he’s commissioned by the church in Antioch, and he was sent out with the Apostle Paul on a mission to take the gospel to Cyprus. That is a legitimate Biblical use of the term, but that’s not how most people hear and understand the term. It just leads to a lot of confusion.
What you’ll run into now and then is apostolic churches. You’ll go past some church and the pastor is apostle so-and so. I think when we were in Washington, D.C. last week as we were walking from the Washington Convention Center to our hotel, there were about seven churches along the way and one of them advertised that their pastor was apostle somebody-or-other. This is the kind of thing that is becoming more and more normal in evangelical Christianity today because people are taught less and less, and there’s less and less in-depth study and teaching. When people aren’t precise in their thinking, they just accept all kinds of general kinds of statement without analyzing them. We need to analyze this term just a little bit.
As I’ve said, the reason Peter is using this is because he’s emphasizing his authority and it seems, from a perusal of this epistle, that the folks he’s writing to had a problem with authority. Just look at some of these things he says. [Slide 5] In 1 Peter 1:2 as he talks about three things qualifying their terms as elect or select or choice ones, he says first of all according to the foreknowledge of God the father, second the sanctification of the Spirit and third, it’s for obedience.
There’s several other times he mentions obedience. In 1 Peter 2:13, he says to his readers, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.” When we come to 1 Peter 2:17 he says, “Honor the king”. In 1 Peter 2:18 he addresses servants and says, “Be submissive to your masters with all fear.” [Slide 6] In 1 Peter 3:1 he says, “Wives, likewise be submissive to your husbands.” [Slide 7] In 1 Peter 3:5, he says that wives in “former times were submissive to their own husbands.” He uses Sarah as an example in 1 Peter 3:6. Then in 1 Peter 4:17 he says, “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be then of those who do not obey the gospel?” So obedience seems to be a major issue in this epistle related to his recipients.
I want to take some time just to look at the doctrine of apostleship [Slide 8] and review that for us and go over some material that I haven’t included in this in the past. [Slide 9] First of all, we’re just looking at the term apostle. It comes as a noun and the verb is APOSTELO which we’ll look at later, but the noun for the office is APOSTELOS. In classical Greek this referred to the commander of a military of naval operation. In one example it refers to the governor of a Greek colony.
Originally the word was used as an adjective which described the message that was sent usually by way of the sea. A message would be given to a ship commander to take somewhere and deliver it. By application the word would be transferred eventually from the message that was being sent to the messenger who was carrying the message. In classical and Hellenistic Greek it just had a general sense to refer to either a dispatch or someone who was sent to carry the dispatch.
In the Old Testament, the Septuagint, the word is only used one time, and that’s used to refer to the prophet Ahijah in 1 Kings 14:6. It’s only used one time in literature, and that was during the New Testament period, the 1st century, by Josephus in sending envoys or messengers to Rome.
What we see in the New Testament though is a very distinct usage that the term apostle, for the most part, referred to a man in the New Testament officially commissioned by an authorizing agent and given the authority to perform a task. This is significant. He’s commissioned by someone or some organization in authority. He receives a commission to carry out a task and the authority that goes with carrying out that task. Frankly, if you’re not given authority to carry out a task, you can’t carry out the task. Authority always goes hand-in-hand with leadership. It’s given in this sense, and it’s applied in both a general as well as a specific sense.
In the Hebrew there’s a word that’s used: sheliach. That’s someone who is sent on a mission, sent on a task as a representative of someone else. There’s a lot of discussion among scholars whether that’s the background for the concept of apostleship in the New Testament, but evidence for that is extremely lacking. We don’t know what the background was, other than perhaps just verbal similarity.
[Slide 10] The first use of the verb “to send” by Jesus in terms of the gospels is found in Mark 3:14. The first use of the noun, interestingly enough, is in Matthew 10:2 and a parallel passage in Luke 6:13. We have seen this recently in our Sunday morning study in Matthew 10:2, so let’s just look at each of these verses here and make some observation. [Slide 11] In each of these passages we’re studying what books? We’re in the gospels. The gospels are in which dispensation? They are in the Age of Israel, the Dispensation of the Messiah, during those three years of Christ’s ministry. That’s a hinge dispensation. A lot of dispensationalists put that within the dispensation of the Law but I believe those last three years are distinct enough to be a hinge dispensation.
It’s not the Church Age. The Holy Spirit hasn’t come. The Church hasn’t even been announced yet. Jesus doesn’t announce the Church until sometime later. When the word APOSTOLOS or its verb form APOSTELO is found here it’s not talking about what we get after the Day of Pentecost. The Day of Pentecost is really your huge division between Old Testament patterns and what is distinct to the Church Age.
In Mark 3:14 we have the verb, and we have the noun in a variant. The verse reads, “Then he appointed twelve that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach.” You’ll find that if you’re looking at a New King James version. If you’ve got some other versions, but not all because this is one of those passages where there’s a textual variant, it’s different. In the New King James version there’s a footnote of explanation down at the bottom of the column. It will say something like the NU text adds “and called them apostles”. What they mean by the NU text, the N stands for the Nestle-Aland text and the U stands for the UBS text. Those are the two critical versions of the so-called critical texts of the Greek New Testament. NU is an acronym that spells new, and that text form is usually contrasted to the majority text which says that the form that’s found in the majority of texts, so it’s the correct reading. The NU text takes a view that if it’s found in one or two of the oldest manuscripts, then that seals the deal. This isn’t even found in one or two older texts, so even the Critical text has varied over the years. Some years it has included this; some years it has not. In my UBS text, it even puts it in brackets, so they’re not even sure. The Majority text of course omits that phrase “and called them apostles”. That’s probably not in the original text. If it were, it would be the first use of the noun form.
The first use of the verb is here, “that He might send them [APOSTELO] out to preach”. Who’s commissioning them? Jesus. What’s He commissioning them to do? To take the gospel of the Kingdom to the House of Israel and the House of Judah. That’s not the mission that they’re given when they become apostles in Acts 2. This is still under an Old Testament Age of Israel economy. It is pre-Church.
When we get into Matthew 10:2, there’s a parallel. It lists the names of the twelve and identifies them as the twelve apostles. That’s still not apostles in the Church Age sense of the term because they’re sent to the House of Israel and the House of Judah. They’re not sent out to the Gentiles with the message of the Church Age gospel yet. Luke 6:13 says the same things. “When it was day He called the disciples unto Himself and then He chose twelve whom He also named apostles.” This is not the New Testament apostolic gift yet.
[Slide 12] Another interesting use of the term APOSTELO is in Hebrews 3:1. The writer of Hebrews says, “Therefore, holy brethren…” Who is the writer of Hebrews addressing? Jews. Again, like Peter, he’s addressing a Jewish background audience. As we went through our lengthy study of Hebrews a few years ago we studied this. The writer says, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling [indicating they are truly believers], consider and reflect upon the apostle and high priest of our confession, Jesus Christ.” The term confession here has the sense of a body of doctrine: that is, what we confessed to believe. It relates to the basics of our Biblical faith. So the term here as it is used is describing something about Jesus.
What’s interesting is that the term apostle is only applied to Jesus in this particular verse. It’s used in a distinct grammatical sense. It’s used in relationship to the word High Priest. This doesn’t come across real well in the English. It does a little bit. In English you do have the definite article here in front of apostle. It reflects the Greek. [You’re getting a lot of grammar tonight. Some of you are about to fall asleep.] There’s no definite article in front of High Priest which reflects the Greek. This would indicate that these two come together in what is called a hendiadys. This isn’t a Granville Sharp rule because it uses specific terms. It’s what is called a hendiadys.
In the Old Testament the high priest was considered to be sent from God. In fact, Moses was called that. The Greek word APOSTELOS is used in the Septuagint of Exodus 3:10 when God said to Moses, “I will send you to Pharaoh.” Here we have these two nouns connected by one conjunction and only one article at the beginning. In a hendiadys construction, the first noun is viewed as an adjective to the second noun. So that would be translated “the sent” high priest. It emphasizes something about the second noun. That first noun is used in an adjectival sense to the second noun.
That’s the same kind of thing we have with pastor-teacher over in Ephesians 4:11. The pastor-teacher there is an hendiadys construction, and it would be translated the pastoring teacher, emphasizing that the primary mission of the pastor is to teach. The concept of pastor emphasizes his leadership ability in how he feeds. We saw that in our study in Peter a couple of lessons back in the John 31 passage when Jesus was telling Peter, “If you love me you will feed my sheep.” That’s the mission of both an apostle as well as a pastor-teacher. What we have here is a reference to Jesus, not as an apostle, but as a sent High Priest which fits about everything that is said about Jesus’ High Priesthood within the epistle of Hebrews.
Next we come to the New Testament and we look at the words. One of the important ways we understand what a word means is not by looking it up in the dictionary. That’s the shortcut most of us take. The way in which a lexicographer and a good exegete analyzes a word is not to look first at the dictionary, but to look at how a word is used. That’s why every year we have new words added to the dictionary and some words are taken out of the dictionary. It has to do with the ways in which words are used. New meanings are added every year because language is fluid. You have words that are used in a literal sense for a while. Then they become used in figurative senses and in slang senses and in senses that maybe when we were younger we were told were not correct uses of the term; but because of the way in which words and usage is accepted, it becomes normative, and then that word picks up those new meanings. A classic example is if you read in your King James Version, 1 Corinthians 13, it talks about charity. If you look at it in a more modern translation, it uses the word love, which for modern English is a more accurate understanding or word for translating the word AGAPE. In 1611, the English word charity was a more accurate expression of the Greek word AGAPE. The word charity has changed its meaning over the last four hundred years. Words are not absolutely fixed in their meaning. We have to look at how words are used.
You can do a word study and see how a word was used as I did at the beginning with APOSTELOS. I talked about how it was used in classical Greek, but that was some 500 years before Jesus and before the New Testament. In those 500 years the word changed its meaning. It came to be used and applied in different ways. In the New Testament it has a very distinct sense of meaning. The way in which we analyze a word is to go to its usage. [Slide 13] In the New Testament, the noun is used 79 times. Sixty-six of those 79 times are found in Acts and the epistles. Three times it’s used in Revelation and the rest of the times, about 10 times, it’s used in the gospels.
This is a term that is primarily focused on what happens during the Church Age between Acts 2 and the end of Jude. The verb is used 130 times. Most of the times this is a general usage of the term, such as “so-and-so was sent to do something”. It doesn’t take on a technical aspect. It’s not necessarily related to the mission of the apostles. One example of that is found in comparing Mark 6 with Mark 3 which I mentioned earlier. In that chapter Jesus commissioned the twelve. He sends them to the House of Israel and the House of Judah. Then in Mark 6 they return, and when they return, it says these were the ones who were sent. It’s that generic use. It’s not necessarily referring to a spiritual gift.
[Slide 14] The fifth point, the key issue we have to determine when we find the word apostle, is to ask these three questions: Who is doing the sending? Is it a church? Is it an individual? Is it Jesus? Is it God? Who is doing the sending? God sent Jesus. In that sense you have something different from the use of the word apostle as we normally think of it in terms of the twelve. What’s the mission? What are they sent to do? Who’s doing the sending and what is the mission? Third, when does the sending occur? Does it occur during the gospels or does it occur in the Church Age? So those are the basic issues to determine during context.
When we get into an examination of the usage of a word in Acts and the epistles, we see that there are two categories of apostles [Slide 15]. The first category refers to those to whom this unique spiritual gift was given. This group identified as the twelve. First they lacked Judas. They picked up Matthais. Then we don’t hear anything more about Matthais. Revelation 21:14 says that the twelve apostles are the foundation in the New Jerusalem. That always raises the question of which twelve, because Paul is an apostle too. It’s an interesting conundrum, and I’m not going to get into it.
There’s always talk about the twelve tribes of Israel, yet how many tribes are there? Thirteen. There’s talk about twelve apostles. Yet, how many were there if we count Matthais? Thirteen. It’s called Bible math. I’m no good with numbers. I’m just pointing these things out. It’s going to be someone more intelligent than I to figure these things out. Those are the issues, and I think it’s interesting how we see that comparison.
The twelve were chosen originally in relation to the twelve tribes of Israel. They were sent to the twelve tribes of Israel. There was a necessary and specific connection there. While Luke never condemns Peter for his choice of Matthais, it’s also interesting that we must note that Apostleship in the New Testament is clearly stated to be a spiritual gift. Spiritual gifts come by the Holy Spirit who is not given until Acts 2. The Holy Spirit gives those and distributes those spiritual gifts. They’re not of men or a group of men as Paul states in Galatians 1:1. Matthais is always included within the twelve when we read through Acts. Those are the issues to work through.
What do we know about the twelve? They’re personally commissioned by the resurrected Lord Jesus. This is seen in what Peter says in Acts 2. They’re commissioned by the risen Lord Jesus. They’ve seen the Lord Jesus. This means that the apostles that we’re talking about in the Church Age aren’t related to a commission given prior to the resurrection of Christ or the Day of Pentecost.
They’re given the authority to communicate the gospel and Church Age doctrine throughout the world. They’re given the authority to lead the incipient Church; and they’re given the authority to write the books of the New Testament, although not all of them wrote. In fact, the only writers are Peter, Paul, and John. Jude and James were not Apostles. They are the half-brothers of our Lord Jesus Christ and early leaders in the Church who were associated with the apostles. It’s the same with Luke.
They’re given the authority to write the canonical books, and they were temporarily empowered to perform miracles and healings to authenticate their mission, as Paul states in 2 Corinthians 12:12, “Performing the signs and wonders of an apostle.” This is a temporary spiritual gift which vanished with the death of John in A.D. 96. That’s important to note because when people make a claim today that they’re an apostle, the Biblical Apostle [capital A] had to be a witness of the resurrection and also appointed by Jesus Christ. That’s impossible for anyone today.
[Slide 16] A second way in which the word is used in the New Testament is as a pioneer missionary commissioned by a local church in the 1st century, who did not possess the spiritual gift of apostle but was sent out under the authority of those with the gift of Apostleship. Now where you get into a big debate from the charismatic side is that that’s why they believe these gifts continue. They believe the gift of apostle continues, the gift of tongues continue, all of these things. When we carefully analyze what 1 Corinthians 13 says, it states that there are gifts that clearly cease, and they ceased at the end of the Apostolic Era, the gift of knowledge and the gift of wisdom. Then there are clearly gifts that were designed to temporarily lead the Church before the canon was completed. So the gift of Apostle, the gift of prophet, the gift of the word of knowledge, and the word of wisdom were temporary gifts because the Church did not have a completed canon of Scripture yet.
The first meaning of the word refers to those of the Twelve, and the second refers to pioneer missionaries that were commissioned by a local church for a specific limited mission. [Slide 17] Some of the ways where we see this is in Acts 14:14 where the apostles Barnabas and Paul [now that’s not putting Paul and Barnabas in the same category, but they] are both commissioned by the church in Antioch to take the gospel out on the first missionary journey.
In Romans 16:7 Paul says, “Greet Andronicus and Junius, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles who also were in Christ before me.” There’s a couple of ways this “of note among the apostles” are handled, more likely it means they had a positive reputation among the apostles. But it is possible that it is simply referring to them as part of a group of missionaries who were traveling with Paul and others spreading the gospel in the 1st century. This does not mean that the group of capital “A” Apostles was larger than the twelve. We have to distinguish these different understandings, different meanings, and different uses of the word “apostle”.
The next point is that in the Church Age, apostle was a spiritual gift. [Slide 18] As a spiritual gift it’s not something that can be bestowed by some human being. It can’t be given by another apostle. It can’t be given by a human being. It can’t be given by a local church board. It’s not something that comes with ordination. It was a specific spiritual gift that was bestowed at the moment of salvation by God the Holy Spirit. We see this in a couple of key passages which are the central passages for spiritual gifts. [Slide 19]
In 1 Cor. 12:28, Paul writes, “And God has appointed in the Church first apostles, second, prophets, third, teachers.” Now he has an order there indicating priority and significance or the order of merit among spiritual gifts. This is reflected also in Ephesians 4:11–12. It connects over to Ephesians 4:20 which states, “The prophets and apostles were the foundation of the Church.” So prophets and apostles are foundational. Teachers were, along with evangelists, given for the equipping of the saints. We have the apostle listed as a spiritual gift which is important. It’s not just an office. It’s also a spiritual gift.
[Slide 20] Ephesians 4:11 is another important passage. Paul writes, “He Himself [Jesus Christ] gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastor-teachers.” This is the passage that lays the foundation and gives the basic Biblical job description of these leaders. Apostles and prophets were foundational. They were limited in the early church. Evangelists and pastor-teachers continue, and their purpose is to equip the saints for the work of ministry.
We often think of the evangelist as someone who goes out and does evangelism, which he will do. But his job description within the local church, his ministry, which all spiritual gifts have their primary focus as a ministry to the local church, is to equip and train other believers to do evangelism. Just because you don’t have the gift of evangelism doesn’t mean you can’t be trained to evangelize and to witness. Just because you don’t have the gift of teaching doesn’t mean you can’t teach. Everybody has certain responsibilities to teach, if you’re a mother, a father, a grandmother, or a grandfather, you have that responsibility. If you have the time and you can teach in prep school, and we do need some new people to volunteer to help in prep school, you can do that, and you can be trained to do it and to do it well. What’s required is just someone who is willing to do it.
One of the best Sunday School teachers I ever had and one of the writers of the curriculum that I grew up under was a woman named Ursula Kemp who was Jewish. She escaped the Holocaust and came to Houston, trusted the Lord, and about a year after she was saved, she was asked if she would teach first grade Sunday School. She hadn’t been saved but a year. She said, “No, but I’m willing to learn.” I know a lot of believers who’ve been saved for thirty years, and they don’t think they know enough to teach first grade Sunday School. That’s just an excuse to not do what God would like for you to do. We’re all to be involved in the work of ministry to edify the body of Christ.
Here we see in these two passages, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, that the role of the Apostle was to equip the saints. This was a spiritual gift that was a leadership gift as well as a communications gift in the early church. Now Apostles had certain qualifications. It’s important to understand these qualifications because when Paul deals with them in some passages where he’s dealing with false teachers and false apostles, he makes a point that there are those coming along claiming to be apostles when they were not. There are certain qualifications that were laid down for apostles.
First of all, they had to have been given the gift by the Holy Spirit. They were appointed to apostleship by the Holy Spirit which we’ve seen in the passages we’ve just looked at. 1 Corinthians 12:8–11 and Ephesians 4, say that God the Holy Spirit is the One who distributes the spiritual gifts. [Slide 21] A second thing is that they had to have been a witness of Christ’s resurrection [Acts 1:22]. Peter lays this down when he’s looking for someone to replace Judas Iscariot. He says, “One of these should become a witness with us of His resurrection.” So they were witnesses of His resurrection so they could be a witness to His resurrection.
In 1 Corinthians 15:8, as Paul is talking about the significance of the resurrection he said, “Then last of all, He was seen by me also.” He’s establishing his credentials as an Apostle that He saw the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, Who had commissioned him. In 1 Corinthians 15:8 he states that he was the last one seen as “one born out of time because I am the least of the Apostles who am not worthy to be called an Apostle because I persecuted the Church of Christ.” It doesn’t mean he’s not an Apostle. It just means he recognizes the grace of God in providing for him and calling him even though he was a murderer of early Christians.
Another sign or indication of the credentials of an Apostle was that they had the ability to perform miracles. [Slide 22] Miracles were delegated to them, and that authenticated the gift. In 1 Corinthians 12:12, we read, “That the signs of a true Apostle were performed among you with all perseverance by signs and wonders and miracles.” So signs and wonders were something that gave credibility to the message. But they’re not going to convince people.
Jesus performed a lot of miracles and didn’t convince people that He was the Messiah. The Apostles performed a lot of miracles, but it didn’t convince everyone of the truth of the message. It just established their credentials. This was seen from the very first day of the Church Age on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:43, “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe and many wonders and signs were taking place through the Apostles.” In Acts 5:12, we read, “At the hands of the Apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people and they were all with one accord inside Solomon’s portico.” This emphasis from the beginning establishes their credentials.
[Slide 23] In Acts 16:16–18 we have the description of this slave girl who is demon possessed who was used to tell fortunes. The girl was following Paul making these proclamations. This was the demon speaking. In verse 17, “These men are the servants of the Most High God.” Then Paul turned and cast the demon out of her in Acts 16:18. That’s a sign of one of the miracles he performed. [Slide 24] Acts 19:11–12 talks about how even handkerchiefs were brought from Paul’s body, things that he had worn, to those who were sick, and they would be healed; and evil spirits were also cast out on that basis. Those are the authentications.
[Slide 25] What we see here under point nine is that Apostleship came only after the Day of Pentecost. That is just an important point. I want to reiterate that. I read through a lot of new articles this time in different Bible dictionaries and theologies on Apostleship, and no one seems to make this distinction. They think apostleship began with Matthew 10 and Mark 3, but they don’t make this important distinction that it’s a spiritual gift. And spiritual gifts didn’t come until Acts 2. You can’t have the Church Age spiritual gift of Apostle until the Day of Pentecost.
Matthew 16:18 is the first time Jesus talks about the Church. We studied this when He talks to Peter. He says, “On this rock I will build [future tense] my church.” The church wasn’t even started yet in the gospels. [Slide 26] On the tenth point, the Apostles were recipients of direct revelation from God and were the only authorized source for revelation. This is a really important point. They received direct revelation and were the only authorized source for revelation, either the apostles or their companions. Mark wrote the gospel of Mark. It is generally understood that that is what he wrote from Peter. Luke was Paul’s companion. James and Jude were associated with the Apostles and were leaders in the church in Jerusalem. The Apostles were recipients of direct revelation and were the only authorized source for revelation. Once the last Apostle disappeared, so did revelation. That’s really important to think this through.
A couple of years ago I read through a book that is supposed to teach people to think critically. These books are called the three, four, or five views of this topic or that, such as The Five Views of the Rapture and the Four Views of that and these kinds of things. They’re helpful because they’ll take a proponent of one view and he’ll argue his view. Then he is responded to by the other positions. You get to see the different arguments and strengths and weaknesses of the different views. It helps to develop critical thinking skills.
I read a book several years ago on Four Views on the Miraculous Gifts. I didn’t necessarily agree with all of the views of the man who argued for the cessation of the sign gifts and the cessation of tongues. He never talked about 1 Corinthians 13. He argued exclusively on the fact that if there were new revelation, it would require an authoritative body to judge whether or not that revelation was inspired or not. Since you only lay a foundation once when you construct a building, it’s obvious that the Apostles and Prophets were a temporary gift in the early Church. Once they were gone there was no longer an authoritative group that could judge whether or not someone’s claim to have received revelation from God was true or not.
I thought that was an important argument. I hadn’t ever heard it put quite that way, and he did an excellent job arguing for it. I don’t think that’s the strongest argument, but I do think it made an excellent point: that in the early Church when God was still giving revelation, there was a body, an authoritative group of Apostles and prophets, who you could appeal to and ask if it was true or not or if it was Biblical or not. 'Is this the Word of God or not?', and they would authenticate this. Once the last Apostle was gone, you no longer have a divinely authorized inspired group that can do that. That authority is significant, and that is one of the reasons the Apostles and prophets are the foundation of the Church. It is from them that we learn what Christianity holds to, what is true, and what is not.
[Slide 27] The eleventh point I want to make is that Paul was called the Apostle to the uncircumcision, or the Gentiles; and Peter was specifically identified as the Apostle to the circumcised. In Galatians 2:7 we read, “On the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me as the gospel for the circumcised was for Peter for he who worked effectively in Peter [the Holy Spirit] for the Apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles.” There was clearly this much of a division of labor among the Apostles. Paul was specifically given the responsibility to take the gospel to the Gentiles. That didn’t mean he didn’t give it to Jews. It just meant his primary field of operation was to be the Gentiles. It doesn’t mean Peter didn’t take the gospel to the Gentiles. He was the one who opened the door to the Gentiles in Acts 10 when he took the gospel to Cornelius. It just meant that his primary area of operation was to the Jewish community.
[Slide 28] The last point is to address this issue of apostolic succession. In the Roman Catholic Church as theology developed in the early Church, the idea came along that authority was passed on from one generation to another. The reality is that in the early Church there was a doctrine of apostolic succession, but it was the succession of truth. It was the succession of content. Apostolic teaching was what passed from one generation to the next, not apostolic authority. It didn’t go from man to man. It was the content that was important. As I pointed out when talking about Peter, the first Bishop of Rome who tried to claim primacy or significance for the Bishop of Rome was Stephen the First, who was considered to be a pope from AD 252 to 257. This is two hundred years after the death of Peter. He was martyred. He was the first to make that claim, but it really didn’t go anywhere.
Sometime later, Pope Damasus the First about a hundred years after that, was the first pope to claim that the primacy of Rome rested on Peter alone. This is three hundred years later. We have no record of Peter being involved with a local church in Rome. He didn’t get there until late. When Paul wrote Romans, he gives a shout-out to all of his friends in Rome, and he never mentions Peter. They were on close terms. There’s no indication that Peter was there. Peter had his ministry primarily in the east, to the Jewish communities in Babylon, as well as in the area we know of as Turkey or Asia Minor. Then the last bit that really consolidated Roman authority was under Pope Leo the First, and he consolidated that authority around AD 594 or 595. That’s the development of this doctrine of Apostolic succession and Apostolic authority in Roman Catholic theology.
We come to 1 Peter, and Peter says, “Peter, an Apostle.” He’s emphasizing his distinct role as an Apostle. He’s in a place of authority to tell his audience what they should believe and how it should impact their behavior and their life. We’ll come back and look at the rest of the salutation next week.
“Father, thank you for this time to come together to reflect on what Your Word teaches about the Apostles and their authority. We pray that You would help us to understand the significance for us is that this makes what Peter says to us binding upon us. This is Your Word to us. It is the inspired and infallible authoritative Word to us through Peter, and that we are to respond in belief and obedience to what he says in this epistle. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”