What Does the Bible Say About the Twelve Apostles?

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The word “apostle” means “sent out” and usually refers to Jesus’ twelve apostles plus Paul, but can also refer to Jesus himself or to a leadership position within the church. The office of apostle was instituted by Jesus so that, just as Jesus was sent by his Father into the world, so the apostles would be sent by the Son into the world to proclaim the Gospel to all nations. The apostles were also given a special task to lead the first Christians and to be responsible for the teaching of the New Testament. A requirement for becoming an apostle was to have walked with Jesus and to bear witness to the resurrection, which led to the traditional martyrdom of all the apostles except John.

Bible Verses

13And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15and have authority to cast out demons. 16He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.(Mk 3:13–19)

21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”(Jn 20:21)

1Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—(Ga 1:1)

1Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.(1 Co 9:1–2)

20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,(Eph 2:20)

42And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.(Ac 2:42)

9For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.(1 Co 4:9)

12The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.(2 Co 12:12)

Study Questions

  1. What does it mean to be “sent”?
  2. Was Paul a true apostle?
  3. Why did the apostles suffer so much?
  4. Are there apostles today, and if so, what is their mission?
  5. How do you know if someone is a true or false apostle?

Additional Bible Verses

Matt 10:1-4, Luke 6:12-16, Acts 1:15-26, Acts 26:12-18, Eph 3:2-6, Acts 6:2-6, 2 Tim 1:11-12, 1 Cor 4:9, Acts 8:14-18, Rom 1:5, Heb 3:1, Matt 19:28, Luke 9:1-2

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