APOSTLES – TWELVE AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST
“Paul, an apostle (not sent through men, nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead),”
(Gal 1:1 NASB)
The office of the twelve apostles was so unique that Messiah chose the word “apostoi” when He called them into this office – a word seldom used in Classic Greek. Christ used this specific and unique word to indicate the distinctive relationship He had with the twelve whom He chose to be His ambassadors and eyewitnesses before the world. The word also designated the AUTHORITY which those called to this office possessed. In fact, just as the Father called His Son to be an Apostle sent to earth as His heavenly Ambassador (Heb 3:1), so Christ sent out twelve chosen men to be His ambassadors among the early church, (John 17:18).
The author of Hebrews called Jesus ‘the Apostle and High Priest of our confession,’ (Heb 3:1). But what did he mean by this very distinct statement? If Christ was an Ambassador, who sent Him, and what was He to represent? The apostle John clarified Christ’s Apostleship, stating, ‘No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him,’ (John 1:18).
Jesus Christ was the Ambassador whom the Father sent forth to explain His attributes and the essence of His being, (John 3:11). No human being has ever seen the Father, and no one can enter into the presence of Him who lives in unapproachable light, ( Ex 33:20; John 6:46; 1 Tim 6:15-16). None other could ever fulfil this mission and calling except Christ, for no one has seen the Father and lived. In the very same and unique fashion, Messiah chose, out of countless disciples, twelve men whom He would send out to the early church (Body) to be His eyewitnesses. Twelve men who would testify to those who would follow in faith – who Christ was and what He taught.
Being an eyewitness of Messiah and His teachings was a key attribute and qualification of a true apostle. John explained this very distinct attribute in his epistle, namely, ‘What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have held and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life – and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us – WHAT WE HAVE SEEN AND HEARD WE PROCLAIM TO YOU ALSO, that you also may have fellowship with us, and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ,’ (1 John 1:1-3). [Emphasis capitalized by the author.]
Why would Almighty God render such a distinct calling to twelve ordinary men? First of all, the ministry and teachings of our Lord, Jesus Christ, stretched over a very short period of more or less three-and-a-half years. Secondly, only the writings of Moses (Pentateuch), the scrolls containing the Wisdom Writings, and the scrolls of the Hebrew prophets excited. A great responsibility was entrusted to these twelve men, for they were called and sent out to bear an ‘exact testimony’ of what they witnessed in person, not only of the life of Jesus, but also of every word He spoke. What the apostles taught and wrote were first hand truths entrusted to them by their Teacher and Lord.
It is on account of their testimony and writings that we have the privilege to read the Gospels and epistles today. Indeed, we are indebted to them for the foundation of the New Testament writings. Listen to the apostle Paul in his epistle to the church in Corinth, ‘According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ,’ (1 Cor 3:10-11). He continues to explain that whatever men build on this foundation as teaching will be tested by fire, and that which is not according to truth will be destroyed, (1 Cor 3:12-15). To the Ephesians, Paul clearly stated that God’s Household (the administration of His Kingdom) is founded or built upon “the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” and that Jesus Christ Himself is the corner stone of this House(-hold), (Eph 2:19-22).
With this evidence at hand, we can emphatically state that the calling and ministry of the twelve Apostles as ambassadors of Christ Jesus Himself was unique and irreplaceable. There might be many in the Body who are called to represent our Messiah in countless unique missions to further the work of the Kingdom until He returns. Yet, the distinct authority of the apostles to establish the foundation of the New Testament doctrines will forever remain the task appointed to these twelve men who lived as His close companions during His earthly ministry. This must be why the twelve foundation stones of the future New Jerusalem will bear the names of the chosen Twelve, (Rev 21:14).