Are there apostles today? No.
A recent interaction in social media with "Apostle so-and-so" makes one wonder, why do people want to be known as apostles, prophets, etc. and why this love of titles? Bishop, Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, and so on.
The question of apostles today is an actively debated one. The forms it takes include the papal version, where we see apostolic succession in Roman Catholic circles as an essential tenet to the papal system - in other words, the existence of a pope today requires a direct link back to the first so-called pope, the apostle Peter. If that chain be broken, no such apostolic/papal office exists today. In Charismatic groups, the assertion (and abuse) of assumed rise of latter day prophets and apostleship today is rampant. Many seem to want to be apostles or prophets.
What about the question of apostles today. Are there any? What are the scriptural references and requirements for apostles? Notice where we turn to test the question.
Definition: APOSTLE: apostolos: a messenger, one sent on a mission, someone commissioned. Greek Word: ἀπόστολος
Generally and historically, the Greek word 'apostolos' was used of a messenger, someone commissioned or "sent forth." In this general sense one may argue that all Christians are apostles, since they have a message and are messengers.
2 Corinthians 8:23 says: If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers (ie...Gk apostolos) of the churches, the glory of Christ.
But there is wisdom in not using such a term, since scripture does not emphasize its use as a title for Christians. Its use has implications that are troubling. This is due to the misuse by those that want to be titled and have power and prestige and to have their words looked upon as inspired, even "apostolic." Yet our stance is not based on the negatives of human misbehavior.
When we naturally think of apostles, we think of men like Peter or Paul, with special commissioning from God, men who gave revelatory truth and had clear Divine authority. We think of the "twelve Apostles" as per this interesting children's jingle:
This is how the apostles run, Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Matthew next and Thomas too. Phillip and Bartholemew. James the less, and Judas the greater, Simon the zealot, and Judas the traitor.
apostle vs Apostle
As mentioned above, there is the general Greek language use of the term apostle which simply means a messenger. There is the more specific ministry and office, of the Apostle. When we ponder this we think of something higher than those carrying messages from one church to another in a day before mass communication.
Here is the rub, the danger of taking a title and also the danger of thinking there are Apostles today-those with authority like Paul had, like Peter had. There are serious implications down this pathway. We would be wise to distinguish between a general "apostle" and the Apostolic office. Wisdom would not use the term Apostle of anyone at all today - unless the Apostolic office continued. But it has not.
Here are some scriptural requirements for the Apostolic office;
Physical eyewitnesses to a resurrected Christ. Ref: Acts 1:22 where the replacement of Judas among the twelve, was sought: ".....beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection. And they proposed two: Joseph... and Matthias..." (See also Acts 10:39-41 and 1 Corinthians 15:7-8)
Personal appointment by Christ. Ref: Galatians 1:1 "...Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)..." Acts 10:41 says: "....not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead...." (See also Acts 1:2,24, Mark 3:14)
Clear, unmistakable, verifiable, miracles, confirming the apostolic ministry. Ref: Hebrews 2:3-4 "...how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and distributions of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will..." (See also Acts 2;43, 5:12)
An interesting affirmation of point #3 is seen in the Roman Catholic circles. Miracles are sought & "recognized" as performed by certain "saints" and by Pope's especially. Why? The inference is that Rome too agrees in principle at least, that an apostle must perform miracles to validate their position in the papacy (the papacy assumes apostolic succession back to Peter-the whole Roman system stands or falls thus).
Charismatics, being looser and less careful in almost everything, do not seek to "tie this succession knot" but nevertheless, one will run into a host of "prophets" and "apostles" in that confused movement.
Mormons behave similarly, with their "recovered" apostolic roster, they even teach that John the Baptist is still alive on earth today (Section 7 of Doctrine and Covenants). John isn't currently an apostle in the current Mormon hierarchy/apostolic roster, an odd thing indeed since he was one of the original twelve. Where is he?
For a man (or woman) today to claim Apostleship, we should find them personally commissioned by Christ, an eyewitness of Him resurrected, and having verifiable miracles that bear such witness (as confirmed from God). One will not find these today. The age of Apostles ended with the passing of the twelve.
The dangers. The dangers of being wrong on this issue are manifold.
The pride of position is sought out. Pride, prestige, position, power. 4 P's of Sin.
The rise of false religious systems like Roman Catholicism and Mormonism.
The errant and abherrant theology of Charismatic teachers is unchecked, where discernment is lost, correction is almost unheard of and forcefully resisted.
Scripture becomes a secondary measure of truth (both Charismatics by practice- and Roman Catholics by dogma- prove this, while Mormonism adds other books to the inspired list of texts)
The confusion of truth, due to the loss of a fixed standard (scripture)
This mindest causes the elevation of individuals (priests, popes, bishops, prophets, apostles, televangelists) and the associated griefs that accompany them. "Don't touch God's annointed!"
Men are looked to, rather than Christ
The system governed by the apostle becomes the refuge, the guide, and the point of loyalty.
Are there Apostles today? No.
Ephesians 2:19-21 says: "...Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord..."
Notice, the foundation has already been laid by the apostles and prophets. We today are not re-laying the foundation.
If anything, Christians are ambassadors, yet let us not seek take up this title either. Instead let us be humble and do the work of proclaiming the need of men to be reconciled to God, and leave aside the titles and the accompanying trappings.
2 Corinthians 5:20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore on Christ’s behalf, "BE RECONCILED TO GOD!"
Click to Read also: Are there Prophets today? Read More click here