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Are There More Apostles Today?

By David A. DePra

And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way. (1 Cor 12:28-31)

Unknown to many, there is an apostolic/prophetic movement underway today. Some call it, "the restoration of the five-fold ministry." As a result, there are many who are now appearing on television, and other places, claiming to be apostles and prophets. Some are saying that others ought to submit to them. A man named C. Peter Wagner is heading this movement and many churches and organizations are unwittingly joining his organizations.


There does not need to be confusion about such basic questions. The answer to the question, "Are there apostles today?" is a resounding NO. Thus, any movement or organization founded upon a YES answer to that question is in error.


Once we understand what an apostle is, and what the purpose of God was for the apostles, it becomes plain that there are no longer apostles in the church.


Twelve Apostles


One question which begins to lead us in the right direction is this one: Who gets to decide who is an apostle? Do people who think they are apostles ordain each other as apostles? Or are apostles self-appointed?


Actually, it is at this question that we come to the first indication of the fact that there are NO apostles today. The fact is, no man ever ordained an apostle – not even at God’s direction. Every apostle was directly chosen by God, without any involvement by the church, or any other person. This fact is the first indication of who are true apostles, and the first indication that there are only TWELVE of them.


So who gets to decide who is an apostle? God does. And only God:


The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: (Acts 1:1-3)

Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) (Gal 1:1)


Jesus chose the twelve apostles – by name. He did not consult with those already chosen, and He did not base it upon any sort of merit or credential. The way in which God chooses is totally different than the way men choose.


This could not be more pronounced a Truth than in the case of Paul. God never used the other apostles to appoint Paul. They didn’t even know about Paul’s calling until after it happened. And in Paul, God chose someone who, by today’s church standards, would have had a terrible resume. He was a member of a legalistic sect. He persecuted Christians. He was not ordained by the others. Who was this guy? Well, he was the person God used as much, or more, than even the original eleven.




Have you ever noticed, by the reckoning of most people, that Paul was the THIRTEENTH apostle? Or the FOURTEENTH, if you count Judas. But there is a question here that needs to be addressed. How many apostles did God choose – how many were part of the foundation of the church?


This is an important question. For if we can establish the number of apostles, and show that the number is a SET NUMBER – then we will have verification that there are no more apostles.


So how many apostles did God choose? Actually, TWELVE. That was always the number. Even once Judas left that office, God replaced him, maintaining the number of apostles at twelve.


But there did enter into this plan of God a problem. If you will remember, after Jesus ascended into heaven, the eleven faithful apostles thought to replace Judas. They cast lots between two men, and Matthias won out. (see Acts 1) But were they in God’s will when they did this?


It would seem NOT. Why? First, they replaced Judas BEFORE Pentecost – and Jesus told them to wait. It seems inconceivable that Jesus would have told them to wait, but then wanted them to make this huge decision BEFORE Pentecost came. Furthermore, notice how they made the choice: By casting lots between two men. You never see this done after Pentecost. And more importantly, is THAT how Jesus chooses apostles? By casting lots? No. In fact, later in Acts, when deacons were chosen, they fasted and prayed. If this is the case with deacons, how much more it should have been with an apostle.


But the point is moot. The apostles were never to choose another apostle – not even by seeking the Lord for direction. They were not to be involved at all. JESUS ALONE chooses who is an apostle, and no one else has anything to do with it. That is part of what makes an apostle what he is!




I originally dismissed the thought that the eleven were in error when they jumped the gun and replaced Judas until I read Revelation 21:


And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife….And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Rev 21:1-2, 9, 14)


The new Jerusalem is the bride, the Lamb’s wife. In other words, the church. But John sees the church in it’s complete and final condition – for the church is prepared as, "a bride adorned for her husband." So there is nothing to ADD to this completed work. And nothing to subtract. Yet this new Jerusalem – the church – has precisely TWELVE foundations, standing for the TWELVE apostles.


This vision of John is in perfect agreement with Paul’s statement about the church, and about the relationship of it to the apostles and prophets:


Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: (Eph 2:19-21)


Do you see what this means? It means that there are only TWELVE apostles. Not only does this prove that there are NO MORE APOSTLES, but it does seem to substantiate the claim that the other eleven were jumping the gun in casting lots for Matthias.


Incidentally, this does not mean that the Bible is in error. No. Every word is inerrant, and inspired by God. But Acts is a narrative – meaning that it simply tells us what happened, and what was said. It doesn’t always tell us whether what was being done, or said, was right. Just as other parts of the Bible record the mistakes of Godly men, that is what is happening here. The eleven made a mistake. Luke accurately records it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, howbeit without commentary.


You mean Acts records the apostles making a mistake? Sure, that’s possible. I think there are a number of mistakes the apostles made in the beginning. For instance, in Galatians, Paul records his confrontation with Peter, because Peter had been a hypocrite, and misrepresented the gospel. James was also slow to see the Truth of grace. None of this means they were not apostles, or that the Word of God is in error. No. THEY were in error a few times. As to judgment. And the Word of God tells the Truth about their mistakes by recording them.


Don’t misunderstand. This does not mean that the epistles written by the apostles contain error. No. Neither does it mean Acts contains errors. No. Again – it simply means that Acts truthfully, and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, records errors that the apostles made.


As one last indication that there are TWELVE, and only TWELVE apostles, we need only read the promise of Jesus to His apostles:


And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That you which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matt. 19:28)


It seems to be an unacceptable strain to say that Jesus really meant THIRTEEN thrones – especially since this would be incompatible with THE TWELVE tribes of Israel. (Jesus didn’t say, "thirteen tribes," in the sense of breaking up Joseph into two tribes.) See what I mean?


The only reasonable conclusion is that God always intended to replace Judas with PAUL! That maintains the number of apostles at twelve. Once we settle on Paul as the twelfth, everything, including the manner of his calling, does make sense, and harmonize with all of the scripture on this subject.


One Foundation


From all of these passages we can see that there were TWELVE, and only TWELVE apostles. Thus, there are NO MORE today. And while a number is never attached to prophets, we read above that the prophets are said to be the foundation upon which the church is built, as much as are the apostles. The logical conclusion is therefore that there are no more prophets today either.


This does not mean there is no such thing as the spiritual gift of prophecy. People can speak prophecy, but not be called to the office of prophet – just as people can teach, but not be called to the office of teacher. The point here is that there are no more apostles and prophets today – under the definition of the Bible of those offices.


The apostles and prophets are the FOUNDATION of THE church – under Christ:


Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: (Eph 2:19-21)


A foundation can be laid only once. In order to lay it again, you must tear down the whole house. This tells us that the original apostles were the only apostles, along with the prophets, because otherwise we must say that God intends to tear down the whole household of God and re-lay a foundation. This could never be so. There isn’t a hint of that possibility in scripture.


As stated earlier, we must get this distinction: It is one thing to plant A church. But the apostles and prophets were the foundation of THE church.


Once we say that the foundation is not finished, but is still being built by additional apostles and prophets, we open the door for error, heresy, and all manner of evil. Indeed, those who are promoting the apostolic movement today are, in some quarters, saying that the church is going to be dismantled, and rebuilt – with them at the helm. Think about it. A one-world church is on the way. That is where all of this eventually leads.


What is an Apostle?


The name, "apostle," means, "one sent forth." As it pertains to the twelve, Jesus Himself called them AS apostles, and sent them forth. I say this, although it is true that everyone who is a Christian is, "sent forth." Indeed, Jesus did send seventy others forth in the gospel of Luke. But over and over again in the gospels, the twelve are mentioned – are named and separated from the others. There can be no question that they had a calling which no others had. Thus, we might say that all of us are, "apostles," (lower case "a"), in the sense that we are sent forth. But that there were only twelve, "Apostles," (capital "A").


In addition, if you read the epistles, you never see instruction given as to the appointment of more apostles. Elders, yes, and even deacons. But never apostles. It is inconceivable that this would have been omitted if there were apostles to be appointed.

Of course, one would, at some point, have to ask: Why do you want to be thought of as an apostle? What does that really mean? Here’s what it meant to Paul:


For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; And labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. (1 Cor 4:9-14)


Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God……But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. } So then death works in us, but life in you. (2 Cor 4:1-2, 7-15)


To be an apostle meant to be the one whose life was taken away from him, and used to God’s glory, and for the benefit of the Body of Christ. That is what it means to be the foundation of the Church: You have to exemplify everything a bond slave of Jesus is supposed to be.


People, in their pride, think that spiritual authority is something God hands you – they call it, "an anointing." This is error. Spiritual authority is something you come under. It will cost you everything. And then, if you come under the authority of the Holy Spirit, God might use you to help others, not come under YOUR authority, but to come under HIS. But you see, this leaves no glory for man, does it? And so you will almost never hear it taught.


The Church


The apostles were those whom Jesus handpicked and chose to plant THE CHURCH – at the expense of their lives. You will note that I did not say, "plant A church." No. It is possible to do that today – and not be an apostle. The twelve apostles were chosen to plant THE church. This is how Paul described this work:


According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds thereon. But let every man take heed how he builds thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 3:10-11)


This is why the twelve apostles are part of the foundation laid – and which could only be laid ONCE: They were used of God to lay the foundation of the church on this earth. There is no way in which this could be done more than once. There is only one Jesus, and He is that foundation. The rest of us have the responsibility of building upon the foundation of Christ which they laid.


God has given many gifts to those who are in Jesus Christ. All the other gifts are possible today. But He has built the church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with His own Son as the cornerstone. God can no more lay again the foundation of apostles and prophets than He can lay again the cornerstone. There are no more apostles today. There are no more prophets today. There is the Holy Spirit working and edifying through the other gifts, building upon the foundation of Jesus which these twelve laid. *

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