I've been following some (often less than civil) conversations about the character of pastors lately in which how morally upstanding a church leader should be expected to be is questioned. At several points, the interpretation of various Biblical sources was called into question -- something to the effect of "if this is to be interpreted literally it would disqualify lots of pastors. Obviously that wouldn't be God's intent, so we just re-examine our interpretation." Right off the bat, the hermeneutical principles I bring to the table call that nonsense -- instead it is the Biblical text itself that informs us of what outcome God would or would not have wanted. This leads me to believe that, given the premise of that statement, indeed many church leaders should be disqualified.

My question is what happens when we apply various standards to the first apostles? I know it is generally understood in most Christian circles that while 12 were originally called, it was understood that one was destined to play the traitor, leaving 11 apostles after Christ left. Among themselves they appointed a new 12th. We also know that at least some of them came from sketchy backgrounds where a few broken families and certainly some shady business practices are assumed. Tax collectors anybody?

So what do we know about the moral character of the apostles after Christ's ascension? As they went out into ministry, did they evidence the kind of upstanding moral character we might expect? Does scripture or history record of lieing/cheating/stealing in their "born again" lives? How about divorce? Did any of them go on to marry and then be unfaithful?

If the Scriptural record and history don't afford any concrete examples of unfaithfulness, what dirt did folks try to throw on them?

  • 1
    I would suggest dropping the first paragraph. It distracts from the main question here and makes argumentative answers more likely.
    – hammar
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 13:09
  • 3
    Why the downvotes? I think its a very reasonable question and the first paragraph provides insight into why the question is asked. I am interested in the answer too.
    – user1160
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 18:36
  • 2
    You may want to check out John Mcarthur's book Twelve Ordinary Men. From the description of the book, Mcarthur is pointing out the weaknesses of each disciple, and drawing a lesson from them. I haven't read it myself. Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 0:33
  • I read the 12 ordinary men, it was a good read. Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 3:05

1 Answer 1


I am no expert in the apostles' lives, but here are some thoughts.

It has been said that God provides His truth in earthenware vessels. That is, they are never of impeccable moral character. Judas is an obvious example, but Peter, too, sinned against Jesus in the course of His passion (by denying him three times). The difference between the two is that Peter did not run or hide from Jesus when he saw him again and received his forgiveness. But Judas could not forgive himself nor did he seek Jesus' forgiveness.

John 21:17 NAS

He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Tend My sheep."

As a result, Peter remained as head of the disciples, but we all know what happened to Judas.

Also, later on, we hear of Paul rebuking Peter, apparently over his recalcitrance to eat with Gentiles. So there is still fraternal correction going on even among the apostles.

Galatians 2:11-14 NAS

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?

We know that the apostles all, except John, died a martyr's death spreading the kingdom. So whatever other faults they may have had, they were at least loyal.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .