Truth #1: The apostolic office ceased with the death of the last apostle in the first century.
Slide 8 of 11
Scripture teaches that there are at least three qualifications necessary to be an apostle. First, an apostle had to be an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22; 10:39-41; 1 Corinthians 9:1, 15:7-8). Second, an apostle had to be directly appointed by Jesus Christ (Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13; Acts 1:2, 24; 10:41; Galatians 1:1). Finally, an apostle had to confirm his message and ministry with miraculous apostolic gifts (Matthew 10:1-2; Acts 1:5-8; 2:43; 4:33; 5:12; 8:14; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4). No one beyond the first century is able to meet these qualifications.
Additionally, the apostles were used to complete the canon of Scripture. Endowed as Christ’s messengers, they were uniquely tasked to speak with the authority of Christ. Much of the apostolic instruction then became the 27 books of the New Testament. Therefore, if there are apostles today, then the canon needs to be reopened and continued. But, there are not. With the cessation of the apostles came the cessation of the canon.
The purpose of the apostles was to serve as the foundation-laying process of the New Testament Church in the first century (Ephesians 2:20). Once the foundation was laid, no additional foundation was needed. Consequently, there have been no apostles since the death of the last apostle (likely John) in the first century. The church is now overseen by pastors (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, 1 Peter 5:1-3).
Finally, early church leaders did not view themselves as apostles, notwithstanding their proximity to the first century. Individuals such as Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Justin Martyr saw themselves as disciples of Christ and church leaders, but not apostles. Wayne Grudem writes, “It is noteworthy that no major leader in the history of the church – not Athanasius or Augustine, not Luther or Calvin, not Wesley or Whitefield – has taken to himself the title of ‘apostle’ or let himself be called an apostle” (Systematic Theology, p. 911). Therefore, a system may claim the term “apostle” to its leadership, but it could not be said that they were apostles in the biblical sense, from God.
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