The Book Of Acts
The Twelve Apostles
With some difficulty, I exist in a world of traditional Independent Baptistisms. I trusted in Christ at twenty-nine years old, and for the most part, I did not attend church from birth to the time of my salvation. When attending church, I typically went to some form of Baptist Church. I came into the Christian world with little traditional indoctrination. This compounded when I joined the Bible Baptist Church of Deland, Florida. My home church stands apart from the typical Baptist Church in many ways but embodies Bible Believing Christianity. My Pastor encouraged me to study the scriptures and think in depth. Context and relevant cross-references facilitate understanding. Furthermore, he taught me to discern the context and remain consistent thereto when making explanations or applications.
My lack of traditional preconceived notions, coupled with this rule of contextualization, set me free from the potential error of tradition. The Bible clarifies the proper use of tradition; we honor tradition until it causes one to violate God’s word (Matthew 15:3, 2 Thessalonian 3:6). Also, I am an Independent Baptist, a reality for which I make no apology. But as an outsider coming late to the discipline of Bible Study, I am often bewildered by suggestions made from tradition. Rather than allow the word of God to speak plainly, traditional teaching adopted large scale from the words of popular preachers or commentaries overshadow scriptural adherence.
This leads to the premise of this essay, identifying the twelfth Apostle among the twelve. The traditional answer points to the Apostle Paul. But, my curiosity comes into play here; I struggle to understand how that can be the dominant teaching. Therefore, I aim to respectfully create a scriptural thought process that assists in answering this question from my perspective. But first, I would like to tell the reader what I tell my Bible School students: if I teach something different and it causes division, then it’s all wrong. Or the recipient used it the wrong way. Truth can divide, but I have no divisive desires, only a hunger for truthful adherence.
I first go to the Apostle Peter in Acts Chapter 1 to answer this question. Peter refers to several Old Testament passages to illustrate his point: Judas was numbered among us; he killed himself and needs to be replaced. “For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.” (Acts 1:17). From the last few chapters of the Four Gospels, we learn that the twelve became the eleven. Judas was an apostle according to the testimonies of Jesus Christ and the Apostle Peter. Notably, one of the Twelve, specially chosen, to lay the foundation of New Testament Christianity. Judas betrayed the Lord, and he hung himself. Thus Peter stood in the midst and began the process of replacing Judas.
Peter continues: “For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.” (Acts 1:20). I fail to see how we can disconnect this from the twelve? They search not for an irrelevant low-level Apostle; but for a direct replacement making the eleven, twelve again.
“Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:21-26). Peter identified two men who met the qualifications; they cast lots and chose Matthias. Matthias now participates in the ministry and apostleship designated for the twelve Apostles. Matthias replaces Judas, making him the twelfth Apostle.
We can demonstrate this in Acts 6: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.” (Acts 6:1-2). The Twelve resolved the disturbance in Acts 6 amongst the Grecian widows. This points us back to Acts 1 when the eleven added Matthias to their number. At this point, we have no introduction to the Apostle Paul. By Acts 6, we have the Twelve; in Acts 7, Saul consents to the death of Stephen, and in Acts 9, the Apostle Paul meets the Lord. Therefore, the issue of the twelve gets settled in Acts 1 and verified in Acts 6.
But we also have the testimony of the Apostle Paul to assist us. In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul gives us the most precise presentation of the gospel one could desire. But, he follows the resurrection of Christ with the Lord seen by many witnesses. “And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:5-9). Peter saw the Lord first, then Peter and the remaining eleven, often called “The Twelve,” saw the Lord together. Paul excludes himself from this group. We know this because his testimony continues, And last of all he was seen of me also. By his admittance, the Apostle Paul separates himself from The Twelve as an Apostle born out of due time.
As far as Apostles go, we have The Twelve, All The Apostles, and finally, Paul, an apostle born out of due time. The Apostle Paul’s unique situation separates him from the circumstances prepared for the Twelve. This idea does not cause doctrinal devastation but illustrates how tradition can overshadow the simplest truths. The Bible reveals some fourteen Apostles in the book of Acts, and the Lord used them for a time and for a particular purpose. The Four Gospels and the Book of Acts do not fit neatly into doctrinal boxes, but when the Lord provides the details, it behooves us to recognize them. Once recognized, they provide the necessary contextual limitations on our explanation and application of scripture.
In the end, I pray this helps.
Books To Read:
Acts 13-28 for You: Mapping the Explosive Multiplication of the Church (God’s Word for You) By Albert Mohler
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