The Bible lists qualifications for both elders and deacons, and although the qualifications for apostles are not listed all in one place, they are still found in Scripture. There is a reason for this.
Elders were appointed by apostles. Paul wrote to Timothy telling him what requirements elders needed to have. This was part of Paul’s training of Timothy. It is also worth mentioning that the elders of the scripture are not the same thing as the elders today in any given local church. Biblical Elders were leaders over a whole ‘church’ in a city. Their appointment was more significant and it was essential for it to be done accurately. Today with many congregations in a city and multiple sets of elders, we have yet to see a return to the former type of eldership.
With deacons, these were appointed by leadership too and so Paul also wrote specifying the qualifications for that. The deacons in Jerusalem were appointed by a consensus of the community of believers, however it was under the direction of leadership that this happened, so in that context, it was still a leadership decision.
Apostles however are called by Christ, appointed by Christ and must declare themselves to be an apostle. It is after this that they should be tested to see if they really are an apostle. So the character of an apostle, the fruit of an apostle’s life and their devotion and love to Christ and the believers will testify that their call is correct. The procedure for an apostle being selected and rising up is different to that of elders and deacons.
Three Basic Qualifications
In Mark 3:14-15 it says, “He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with him, that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” This passage gives us 3 basic qualifications as a starting place for apostles. Firstly they must be people who are close to Christ, secondly they must be completely obedient and willing to be “sent ones,” and thirdly they will have authority to do Christ’s work.
The above are not the only qualifications an apostle needs. Other believers may also meet these requirements. Here are additional qualifications needed:
- Submission to Christ – not a law unto themselves. (Philippians 2:5-8)
- Willingness to suffer for Christ. (Colossians 1:24-29)
- Holiness. (2 Corinthians 1:12)
- Sincerity. (2 Corinthians 1:12)
- Grace on their lives. (2 Corinthians 1:12)
In addition, we earlier discussed the nature of the apostle, and these qualities dovetail and overlap significantly with those. Apostles should be people who love wholeheartedly, who care for the whole Body of Christ (not just their own interests), who have a heart for the poor, the widow and orphans, and who have a sacrificial life. Jesus said “You will know them by their fruit.”
Some people also add that an apostle must physically see Jesus. This point is discussed in the following section.
Those who God calls, he equips. That process is not quick, it is the work of years.