Twelve Apostles of the Lamb: Mathew 10:2-5; Acts 1:15-26
“2) Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3) Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4) Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.” Matthew‬ ‭10‬:‭2‬-‭4‬
Jesus now calls His twelve Apostles by name. They represent a very important and select group. Revelation 21:14 identifies these as “the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Their office is perpetual with no succession plan. Let’s look at a few points about them.
First, they were directly called and appointed by Jesus. Second, they were eye witnesses of the public ministry of Jesus, including His death and resurrection. (See Acts 1:21-22) Third, they were part of the foundation of Christendom in laying down the doctrines of the church. (Ephesians 2:21) Fourth, they were the official source of the ministry and commandments given by Jesus Christ during His Public ministry. (2 Peter 3:2) Fifth, they were all placed in office prior to the day of Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:1-4; 15-26) Finally, this is the group Luke as an historian most likely spent time interviewing to compile the Gospel of Luke. (Luke 1:1-4)
This group of twelve are not be be confused with the spiritual gift of apostle given to some church leaders after the day of Pentecost. (Ephesians 4:11-12) The word “apostle” means “sent out.” Acts 13:1-5 records the sending out of Paul and Barnabas by the church at Antioch. Notice, the text specifically says they were “… sent out by the Holy Spirit.” Acts 14:4 and 14 calls them “apostles.”
The calling and gift of the Holy Spirit sending out apostles could be better understood as “the gift of a missionary.” They were set apart and sent out to carry the gospel to new regions and establish churches. The ten plus men named as apostles in the New Testament beyond the twelve apostles of the Lamb could be looked at as missionaries.
I find it intriguing that the modern church commissions and sends out many missionaries but the word is not found in the New Testament. However, the “sent out” ones are found in the New Testament and included in the list of leadership gifts given to the church, but they are simply called “apostles.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)
This has caused confusion in church history and in the modern church. For example, the Catholic Church believes in apostolic succession and looks at the Pope as being the successor to the Apostle Peter. That concept is nowhere taught in the Bible. The Mormon Church places the same mantle on its highest office. I underline again that Revelation 12:14 makes it clear that there are only twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The danger with Apostolic succession is that these churches give this position the authority to change church doctrine and practice. That is the exact opposite of what was intended for the twelve apostles of the Lamb. They laid down and confirmed the unchangeable doctrinal foundation of the Christian church. The tragic drift into heresy by churches that practice apostolic succession has long been documented. They have abandoned the authority of Scripture.
I have no problem with other modern churches that acknowledge and practice the five-fold spiritual gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-12. I am an advocate of multiple pastoral staff over a church as pictured in the church of Antioch in Acts 13:1-5.
However, I get a bit nervous with some groups that exalt what they consider an “apostle” to the status of Peter. I highly prefer a check and balance approach between gifted equals as pictured in Antioch. The easy fix is to simply understand this gift of the Holy Spirit as the “missionary gift.”
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global