What Good is an Apostle?

When I was a kid my grandfather took me everywhere. He often took me to the park and out to eat. He even took me to this ancient relic called “Blockbuster” But of all the places he took me, my favorite was his garage. I need to preface. I grew up in New York City where garages were far less frequent than Huntingdon County.

Now you might ask, “What was so special about this garage?” Housed inside this obscure garage was a Navy 1969 Chevy Camero. Boy, could that thing sing! Needless to say, my grandfather always was, and remains to this day, my authority on all things automotive.

Do you have a car guy? Are you the car guy? We all have specialties or know people who do. Now for all of their usefulness, these authorities at their core are still flawed men and women. The grand maxim remains, “to err is human.” We know that trusted authorities may fail us. But is this the case when we come to the Word of God contained in the Old and New Testaments?

Our church is Reformed, and stands on the confessions of faith of those who’ve come before us. And in our confession, known as the Belgic Confession of Faith we learn this, “We confess that this Word of God was not sent nor delivered by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21)…” (Article 3, The Written Word of God). The Confession tells us that when we come to Scripture we don’t come to musings or opinions of men or women. We don’t come to fallible human interpreters who are mere echo chambers of their cultures and contexts. What we find are the mysteries of God revealed to His people both for His glory and our good. We find the flawless, pure and authoritative Word of God. And God delivered this word through His prophets and apostles to build the foundation of the Church, built once for all time; hence the dissolution of their offices today.

If you are familiar with the New Testament, Paul often begins his letters by stating that he is “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (Colossians 1:1). Why does he do that? Many of us, as we mentioned earlier have authorities in various spheres of our living. Would you consider as authoritative and binding upon your soul any letter written by any Christian sent to you? Christianity has many well-meaning individuals who may have wise words for us, but certainly we would not blindly accept every Christian’s opinion without consideration. But why is it that we should not treat Paul’s writings in this way? One word: Apostle. But what is an apostle?

The word “apostle” comes to us from the Greek word “to send” and so these apostles that we find in Scripture are those, not only sent by Christ, but sent in the name and authority of Christ. Though space prevents us from elaborating the particular aspects of the apostleship, I’d like for us to consider the unique place of the Twelve Apostles and the Apostle Paul.

Today there are many who treat the Apostle Paul’s words as if they are non-authoritative or optional. But as Christians when we come to the Bible we are not given the privilege or authority to pick and choose which bits we like best. The Bible is an all or nothing affair. To be a Christian is to be a slave of Christ, bound to His service and His Word. When we come to the Bible and find sections that we are adamantly opposed to we must ask ourselves: Do we have the right to judge God’s Word? And if so, by what standard? How do we learn to identify what the Apostles got wrong? We have inherited these glorious mysteries from God, who preserved them for us in Scripture. Let us heed them. Submit to them. And repent if we assume ourselves wiser than God, for we will all be held accountable by those words alone.