Eric Douma: Who is an Apostle?


July 7, 2012

This month, due to some family medical issues that I need to attend to, there is no interview for Echo Zoe Radio. Instead, Twin City Fellowship has graciously allowed me to use a presentation given by Pastor Eric Douma in its place. In this presentation, originally given at the Adult Sunday School on April 4, 2010, Eric makes the case from scripture of the qualifications of an Apostle.

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An Outline of the Discussion

Disclaimer: Much of what is contained in the following show notes was taken verbatim from Eric's original presentation slides.

  • The question of who is an Apostle and who is not an Apostle is an important doctrine because who speaks for God and who cannot speak for God is essential to the Christian faith.
  • This presentation stems from a previous discussion that cause some controversy in the church. Some people took issue with Eric's claim that you had to be with Jesus from the beginning in order to call yourself an Apostle.  (John 14:25-26, 1 John 1:3, John 15:26-27, Hebrews 2:3, Luke 1:1-2, Acts 1:21-22)
    • “Our author, unlike Paul, does not claim any direct revelation from Christ for himself or assert his independence of the apostles; in this respect he puts himself on the same level as his fellow-Christians who heard the gospel from those “who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word (Luke 1:2)” (F.F. Bruce, NICNT).
    • “The essential qualifications of an acceptable successor to Judas are then set forth: he must have been an associate of the Lord and his apostles from the time of John the Baptist’s activity to the day of the Lord’s ascension; he must in particular be a witness to the resurrection, as the other apostles were” (F.F. Bruce, NICNT).
    • “Peter laid down the qualifications for Judas’s replacement. He had to be one who had witnessed the entire ministry of Jesus from the time of His baptism by John to the ascension” (John Polhill, NAC).
    • “With the exceptions of Luke 11:49, Acts 14:14, Luke applies apostolos expressly to the Twelve. They had been called by the historical Jesus to their office (Lk. 6:13; cf. 1:17). They had been with him throughout his ministry from the time of John’s baptism” (Colin Brown, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 1:128).
    • “In the NT the term “apostle” is used in three different ways. First, there are the Twelve that Jesus named “apostles” …This seems to refer to the office of apostle. Acts 1:21-22 indicates that to qualify as an apostle one must have been with the Lord in his earthly ministry and must have witnessed His resurrection body (…1 John 1:1). Second, there were apostles in addition to the Twelve. There were Barnabas (Acts 14:14), James, the Lord’s brother (1 Cor 15:7), and Apollos (1 Cor 4:6, 9), probably Silvanus (1 Thess 1:1; 2:6), Titus (2 Cor 8:23), Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25), and possibly Andronicus and Junias (Rom 16:7) These are most likely those who were endowed with the gift of apostleship because they did not meet the above mentioned qualifications for the office. Third, there was Paul who was an apostle (1 Cor 9:1; 15:9) and yet had not been with Jesus in His earthly ministry but did, however, see the Lord in His resurrection body. Hence, he claimed that he was born out of due season (1 Cor 15:8). Rather than trying to include him in either of the two categories above, it is best to see Paul as an exception to the rule and make a third category” (Harold Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, 134-135).
  • Why being with Christ from the beginning is an important criteria:
    1. How do we answer those who claim to have seen the resurrected Christ?
      • “and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now…then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” (i Corinthians 15:5-8)
    2. How do we answer those who claim that Paul presents a contradiction to the apostolic credentials listed in the previous passages?
    3. Not all who saw the resurrection were apostles:   (Commenting on 1 Cor 15:8) “But since others who saw the Risen Lord did not become apostles, what most likely legitimized his apostleship was the accompanying commissioning” (Fee, NICNT).
  • There are two categories of Apostle:
    1. The Office of Apostle: The Twelve + James + Paul
    2. A Spiritual gift to the body: Barnabas, Titus, Silvanus, etc. (Ephesians 4:11)
  • Paul met the same standard as the others
    • He received the Gospel from Jesus Christ (not from men) “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 through revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:11-12
    • The revelations that Paul received were plural (2 Corinthians 12:1)
    • The “revelation of Jesus” is both subjective genitive and objective genitive: …the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and a revelation in the knowledge of Him. (Ephesians 1:17) (see also Ephesians 3:5)
    • Paul got his instruction from the Lord, not the other Apostles: But when God, who had set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so 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 1:15-18)
    • The three-year ministry has good bases from both the Synoptics and the Gospel of John.” (Hoehner, Chronological Aspects Of The Life Of Christ, 60).
    • Peter refers to Paul's writings as scripture: … Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as also the rest of the Scriptures… (2 Peter 3:15-16)
Scriptures Referenced
  • John 14:25-26
  • 1 John 1:3
  • John 15:26-27
  • John 6:64
  • John 8:25
  • John 16:4
  • Hebrews 2:3
  • Luke 1:1-2
  • Acts 1:21-22
  • Acts 1:25,26
  • Ephesians 4:11
  • 2 Corinthians 12:1
  • Ephesians 1:17
  • 1 Corinthians 9:2
  • 2 Peter 3:15-16
Additional Resources
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