I'll enumerate key points and include relevant quotes from Don Stewart's article:
- The Gift Was Foundational to the Church (Ephesians 2:19-20).
The foundation was laid long ago. Their purpose is no longer necessary.
- The Requirements Cannot Be Fulfilled by Anyone Today
- An Apostle Was an Eyewitness of Jesus’ Resurrection (1 Corinthians 9:1, 1 Corinthians 15:5-7).
- The Gift of Apostle Was Accompanied by Miraculous Signs (2 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Corinthians 2:4, 5).
- They Had Unique Authority to Receive Special Revelation (John 16:13)
- Paul Was the Last of the Apostles (1 Corinthians 15:8, 9).
- The Holy Spirit and the Word of God Lead Us Today
Today, we do not need people, such as apostles, to lead us. We find that even they failed. This is illustrated with the failing of Peter at Antioch. Paul wrote.
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned (Galatians 2:11 NRSV).
As Peter himself stated, what we need to today is the certain prophetic Word – that will never let us down. We read.
So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:19 NRSV).
Believers need to read and obey what God has already revealed – they do not need to listen to fallible human beings to get their direction.
Thus, there are obvious contrasts between the present age and the age of the apostles. While the gospel has not changed, God’s methods have changed. Consequently, the office of apostle is no longer with us.
- Response to competing views
There seems to be several reasons as to why there will be no more apostles who have similar authority as the Twelve. They include the following.
Paul Was the Last Person Jesus Appeared To
Paul clearly says that he was the last person to whom the risen Christ appeared. While the risen Christ did appear to John on the Isle of Patmos, this was not to commission him to the ministry – that had already been long since done.
Paul’s Case Was Unique
Paul’s case was unique from the other apostles. He was specially chosen to be the apostle to the Gentiles. His ministry did not have any successors.
Great Christian Leaders of the past Have Not Claimed Such a Title
It should be noted that none of the great Christian leaders in the past have claimed this title for themselves. They have acknowledged the unique ministry of the apostles.
Would Anyone Dare to Claim Such Authority?
With the sacred commissioning and responsibility that came with the office of an apostle, it is hard to imagine any person today claiming such an authoritative office. Anyone who does make a claim to have this particular office should immediately be looked upon with the greatest of suspicion.
Indeed, it seems audacious, if not almost blasphemous, for someone in our present-day to claim similar authority as the apostles of Jesus Christ. They received direct revelation from God, had seen the risen Christ, were specially commissioned by Him, and were responsible for composing the New Testament. There is nobody today who should be considered as equal with them.
The Ministry of the Missionary Is Greatly Needed Today
While the office of apostle may not be with us today, this gift of missionary work and church planting is still greatly needed. It is a difficult, but necessary, task to establish churches and then equip those to spread the good news of Jesus. While it may not be the exact same gift referred to by Paul as “apostle,” the need is there nevertheless.
Summary – Question 8
Are There Still Apostles Today?
There is a debate among Bible believers as to whether there are still apostles today. Many believe that this particular gift of office was to small select group of people living the first century. There are a number of reasons as to why this view is held.
First, the gift was foundational to the church – the church was built upon the apostles and the New Testament prophets. They were the ones whom the Lord chose to reveal His truth to the world. These men were in a position to do this because they had been with Jesus.
Second, the qualifications of an apostle were clear. Each apostle had to have been with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry as well as being an eyewitness to His resurrection appearances.
We also find that each one of these people had to be personally commissioned by Jesus. The apostles were also in a unique position to give miraculous signs to authenticate their message.
In addition, they had unique authority to write Holy Scripture. With these conditions necessary for someone to be an apostle, it is impossible for anyone today to have the gift.
Finally, the Apostle Paul seemed to make it clear that He was the last person to whom personally Jesus appeared and commissioned to be an apostle. The inference is that the apostolic authority ended with him.
These arguments have not convinced everyone. Those who claim that there are still apostles today usually argue in one of two ways. There is the distinction made between the office of apostle, which is no longer with us, and the spiritual gift of an apostle, which is still given. Some attempt to define the gift of an apostle as a missionary or a church planter. While these men and women do not have the same authority as the apostles in Jesus’ day, they have been uniquely gifted like the first apostles to plant churches and teach new believers.
There are a few people which actually claim that the office of apostle is still with us. They say that the office of apostle was not instituted until after Jesus ascended into heaven. The fact that He appeared to those whom He commissioned merely means that a personal appearance from Christ is necessary to hold that office. There are people who claim that the risen Christ has appeared to them and given them that authority.
These types of claim are audacious to say the least. Anyone who would claim a personal appearance from Jesus Christ as well as apostolic authority is bordering on blasphemy. It is not that we doubt that Jesus could appear to someone today if He so chose to do, it is that those who claim these appearances give no evidence whatsoever they we are to look to them as being authority figures in the church.
Whether modern day church planters and missionaries have the spiritual gift of “apostle” we can safely say that their ministry is absolutely crucial. This is true even if it is not the exact same New Testament gift, or office, as apostle.
In favor of modern apostles
- What is the biblical basis for the modern continuation of the office of apostle?
- Are there any denominations that believe in contemporary apostles, and if so, how is a person called to be an apostle according to them?
- How do Christians who believe in current-day Apostles, Prophets and the 5-fold ministry interpret Ephesians 2:20?
- How do believers in modern-day apostles interpret 2 Corinthians 12:11-12?
Against modern apostles
- What is the biblical basis for the belief that Paul was the last to be called to be an apostle?
- When was it claimed for the first time in Church history that the offices of apostle and prophet have ceased?