The Apostles and the Early Church
In the Gospel of Matthew the term “apostles” is only used when introducing the list of twelve apostles commissioned to follow Christ. “Now the names of the twelve Apostles are these: the first, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alpheus, and Lebbeus, whose surname was Thaddeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him” (Matthew 10:1-4). An apostle is a person sent to accomplish a mission. An apostle represents the one sending and has authority to represent the sender in business, political, or educational situations (T. Butler). The apostle is one part of the fivefold ministry that helped shape and mold the early church noted in the book of Acts. In the book of Acts, “Apostles” is an important concept in Acts. Jesus chose the apostles through the Holy Spirit and instructed them concerning their missionary mission which the Holy Spirit would empower them to carry out (Acts 1:2-8). They had a forty-day instruction period with the risen Lord before the ascension, but still they could not know “the times or seasons” of the full restoration of the kingdom. They were eyewitnesses of the ascension and heard the angelic promise of His future return (G. Stokes). They understood the betrayal by Judas as a fulfillment of Scripture and felt the need to replace him to keep their number at twelve. Qualifications for an apostle were clear: participations in Jesus’ earthly ministry beginning with His baptism and a witness of the resurrection (E. Schell).
The apostles did signs and wonders. They preached the gospel and directed social ministry to the poor. The apostle reacted with rejoicing at the opportunity to suffer for Christ and continued to preach even in times when they were in jail (E. Renan). The twelve led in the selection of the first deacons to minister to the needy. The apostles prayed and laid their hands on these newly selected servants of the church. When the apostles laid their hands on the converts, they received the Spirit. They taught Simon, one of the Samaritans that apostolic power could not be purchased with money. Barnabas introduced Paul to the apostles in Jerusalem, thus apparently giving apostolic acceptance of Paul’s preaching ministry (F.C. Baur). In Paul’s letters, Paul opened his letters by introducing himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ (W.B. Hill). Paul’s apostleship is a calling by God’s will (1 Corinthians 1:1). Human authority had nothing to do with his apostleship, for it came through Jesus Christ and God the Father, through the “commandment of God our Savior” (1 Timothy 1:1). He was the apostle for the Gentiles with a heart for the Jews. He, along with other apostles, appeared on the scene late as poor fools for Christ to be an example over the pride of the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:9) (E. Renan). Truly, existence and ministry of the Corinthian church sealed Paul’s apostleship, showing he had done the work of an apostle; but, moreover he also qualified because he had seen the risen Christ (1 Corinthians 9:1-2) (F. W.P. Greenwood).
During the first days of the primitive church, the apostles were very much involved in teaching and fellowship. All who accepted Jesus as the Christ were baptized and such converts and brethren “continues steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship” (J.B. Ascham). They ate together, prayed together and spent time together. It was a genuine brotherhood that the witnesses and preachers of Christ offered to those who accepted him as Lord. This fellowship was expressed in a very profound sense of stewardship of their possessions. They no longer looked upon house, field or the little supply kept for the necessities of old age as their individual property (D. Bacon). He who had possessions and goods sold them and shared the money freely with...
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