An apostle is someone sent with a special message or commission. Jesus is called the apostle and high Priest of our confession in Hebrews 3:1. The twelve apostles of Jesus were Simon Peter, Andrew, James the son of Zebedee, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot who was replaced by Mathias (Acts 1:26). Paul became an apostle after Jesus' resurrection (2 Cor. 1:1), along with Barnabas (Acts 14:14) and others.
Apostles established churches (Rom. 15:17-20), exposed error (Gal. 1:6-9), and defended the truth of the gospel (Phil. 1:7, 17). Some were empowered by the Holy Spirit to perform miracles (Matt. 10:1, 8), and they were to preach the gospel (Matt. 28:19, 20).
A quick look at how the word is used in the Bible, and there are several categories that arise:
- There are apostles who were only among the 12. They performed miracles. Some wrote Scripture. (Acts 1:21-22)
- Paul was an apostle (unique?) specifically commissioned by Christ. He performed miracles and wrote Scripture. (Acts 14:14, 1 Cor. 9:1, Gal. 1:1)
- Barnabas is an apostle. He performed no miracles and wrote no Scripture. (Acts 14:14, 8-18)
- Jesus is called an apostle. He performed miracles. (Heb. 3:1)
- There are apostles in the sense of simply being sent. They are messengers. They perform no miracles. (2 Cor. 8:23, Phil. 2:25, John 20:21)
- It could be possible that anyone who was involved in Christ's ministry before His death and saw Him after His resurrection could be referred to as apostles. (Acts 1:21-22)
- There are false apostles. (2 Cor. 11:13, Rev. 2:2)