Can anyone be an apostle? Biblically, it seems that it is not ours to decide.
What then are the requirements, or the qualifications for an apostle, and how exactly does one become an apostle?
Often, without actually thinking it through, ministers have assumed that certain things make someone an apostle, but often these things are what apostles do, but not exclusively. Or apostles may have them, but not exclusively, such as:
- Signs and Wonders.
- Being Recognised by People as an Apostle.
- Being Charismatic
- Planting Churches or having extensive missionary works.
- Having an international ministry
- And, in some cases, people assume you must have seen Jesus physically to be an apostle.
All of these assumed qualifications are not exclusive to apostles, because many people have performed signs and wonders, planted churches, had international ministries, been charismatic, been called an apostle, and have seen the Lord, but not been an apostle.
None of these things are really qualifications, but may be things that apostles do, or happen to them, but without proving the calling
Is There A Biblical List of Qualifications for Apostles?
Sort of. The Bible has lists of qualifications for both elders (See Titus 1:5-9, or 1 Tim 3:1-7) and deacons, (See 1 Timothy 3:8) but there is not in one place, a single clear list for apostles. There are qualifications for apostles, but they are not contained in one place in scripture, but must be searched for, and they are primarily heart qualifications, that is relational, and to do with how one is called.
Elders, for example, 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 don’t really see that former type of eldership, although we should believe and expect for it to happen.
Likewise 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, so as a result they 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 true. 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. These are also not exclusive because other believers preach, and command demons and also spend time with Christ.
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.”
One big thing that really stands out to us at Peace Apostolic Ministries is the motivation for someone who claims to be an apostle. If someone claiming to be an apostle only cares about their own ministry, they have by very definition failed the test, of being God’s representative to his people. An apostle is a servant to all of God’s people, and even if he doesn’t actually serve everyone, because that would not be possible, he would at least have a heart for the whole.
Some people believe that an apostle must physically see Jesus. This point is discussed in the following section. Certainly this is the example of some in scripture like Paul and the twelve, and this is also the experience of John Alley, but the following post will suggest that this is not a requirement, but rather just God’s way of calling people at least some of the time.
Those who God calls, he equips. That process is not quick, it is the work of years. There may be people who feel they are apostles, but are not yet equipped. There may be people who are called, but misunderstand what they are called to. The whole area of understanding what is, and the testing of apostles, is a work in progress.