Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | October 22, 2006

The Apostolic Office

Today we would like to explore some of the implications in affirming Article 7 of the Belgic Confession.  One of the implications we will consider today is if the apostolic office continues or if it has ceased?  Just a point of clarification before proceeding needs to be offered.  We concede that the term apostle in Greek technically means “one who is sent or a messenger”.  This term can generically be applied to many people.  We will limit our term, however to the capital “A” apostle to refer to those who were ordained to the apostolic office.   

The capital “A” apostle was required to meet certain criteria, in order to qualify for the office.  These criteria are summarized in Acts 1:15-26 when Judas’ office is filled after his betrayal.  We read in verse 21 and 22 that the office could only be occupied by those who had been with Jesus from the beginning.  This in itself would limit the office to only those who lived during first century, inferring that this office must have ceased.  

Nonetheless, there is an exception to this general rule which would in and of itself prevent Paul from qualifying for apostolic office.  Yet, there is no doubt that this man was directly commissioned by our Lord Acts 9:15-16 to fulfill the office of an apostle.  Some have argued this was one of the main reasons for the writing of the book of Acts, which belabor the point that Paul apostleship was from the Lord more than once.  Although, he is not selected completely in accordance with the criteria outlined in Acts 1:15-26, it does not abrogate this general principle.  We do see Paul affirming that he was one “untimely born” and see himself as the “last” one called to the apostolic office (1 Cor 15:1-9).  By the way, it appears that here it is inferred that James the Lord’s brother also received a commission and may explain his elevated position in Acts 15.   

My professor in Ancient Church history shared what I thought was a perfect analogy for the apostolic office.  Essentially, he stated that the apostolic office was analogous to a power of attorney.  The power of attorney duly authorized to act on behalf of his client.  The power of attorney cannot transfer that authority to anyone else.  Only the client has the authority to empower another power of attorney.  Likewise, Christ commissioned His apostles to proclaim His special revelation granting them the authority.  This authority is unable to be transferred through apostolic succession apart from the direct empowering by Christ.  Thus, we would conclude that the office of apostle was not intended to continue throughout history just like addendums to Scripture were not intended once the New Testament canon was completed.

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Responses

  1. Nice clear reminder. I loved that class. And I love listening to Dr. Godfrey speak. That man has a silver tongue for sure.

  2. Yes, it certainly is a great analogy to express a biblical truth. I had my midterm in that class today.


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