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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Don Stewart :: What Apostle a Spiritual Gift or an Office?

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Was Apostle a Spiritual Gift or an Office?

The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Question 1

One of the most important positions in the early church was that of an apostle. Paul wrote the following to the church in Corinth about whom God has appointed in the church.

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:28 NRSV).

Note that Paul said that the apostles were first in prominence in the leadership of the church.

The word “apostle” has the idea of one sent with a message. The Latin equivalent is missio where the English word “missionary” is derived.

The gift, or office, of an apostle is mentioned three times in the lists of spiritual gifts. We find it in Paul’s list of gifted people in Ephesians 4, as well as in 1 Corinthians 12:28, 29.

There Are a Number of Important Questions Surrounding This Gift or Office

The gift, or office, of an apostle has a number of different questions that are connected to it. They include the following.

  1. Was apostle a spiritual gift or an office?
  2. What was the ministry of an apostle?
  3. What were the signs of an apostle?
  4. Who were the Twelve Apostles? In what sense were they unique?
  5. Were others, apart from the Twelve, called apostles? In what sense were these other people apostles?
  6. Are there still apostles in the church today?

The issues that these questions raise remain a subject of debate among Bible-believing Christians. Therefore, it is crucial that we understand everything that the New Testament has to say about the apostles.

Was Apostle a Spiritual Gift or an Office?

One of the key questions surrounding the term apostle is its function in the church. Was apostle an office that people held, or was it a spiritual gift given to the church? Or was it both?

The Difference between Offices and Spiritual Gifts

An office was a public position that individuals held in the church. It was recognized by believers that the particular person held this office. A gift, however, is different than an office. For example, a person who has the gift of showing mercy does not have an office in the church of showing mercy. The gift is used without any recognition of a public office.

However, as to the question of apostle, believers are divided as to whether this was an actual office that individuals held or a spiritual gift without public recognition. We can make the following observations.

View 1: Apostle Was an Office Not a Spiritual Gift

Some people argue that apostle was not a spiritual gift but rather an office in the church. They do not classify apostle with spiritual gifts because it was a special endowment of God given to only a select few people at the beginning of the Christian era. They say that God gave the office of apostle to the church but not the spiritual gift. Therefore, it should not be classified with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

View 2: Apostle Is a Spiritual Gift

Others argue that apostle was one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Apostle is listed under the gifted individuals that God gave to the church in Ephesians 4.

Furthermore, in Paul’s discourse on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12–14 he lists apostle twice. This may indicate that he considered apostle as a gift, not an office.

In sum, there is a difference of opinion among Bible-believers as to whether “apostle” is an office which people recognized or a spiritual gift.

Summary – Question 1
Was Apostle a Spiritual Gift or an Office?

The New Testament, in the lists of spiritual gifts, has apostle placed first whenever it is listed. Thus, it is obvious that an apostle was an important person in the early church.

There is a question as to whether an apostle held an office or position in the church or that apostle was a spiritual gift.

An office refers to a recognizable public position. Those who held the “office” were known by the believers. For example, we read of the “Apostle Paul” or the “Apostle Peter.” This title was recognized by the early Christians.

On the other hand, there is the view that apostle was not an office but rather a spiritual gift. A person could have the gift of apostle without having some type of recognizable public office.

Whichever position is correct, it is clear that the apostles were the leaders in the early church. There is certainly no doubt about this.

What Abilities Has God Given to Believers? (Introduction) ← Prior Section
What Is the Exact Nature of the Ministry of an Apostle? Next Section →
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