Today I read the following on Facebook:
Apostles are those sent ones who had seen the risen Christ. If one has not seen the risen Christ they are not Apostles.
Ignoring the grammar mistakes, let me complain about a real problem in supposedly Bible-believing churches. (I say “supposedly” because I see more that’s-what-we’ve-always-believed-believing than Bible-believing going on in those churches.)
The belief in the above quote comes from Acts 1:21-22, where Peter is leading the eleven apostles in picking a successor for Judas, who, as you know, had committed suicide. Peter says that the replacement for Judas needs to be someone who had been with them the whole time they’d been with Jesus, from the baptism of John to the day he was taken up into heaven. And that person would be a witness with them of the resurrection.
So, does that mean that for anyone to be called an apostle, he must have seen the risen Christ?
If you know that Barnabas and Paul are called apostles (Acts 14:14), and are thus aware that the 12 were not the only apostles, then it only takes a moment’s thought to realize that there’s more than one interpretation of Acts 1:21-22. It might mean that anyone who is called an apostle has to have seen the risen Lord, but it also might mean that the twelve, being a special group of people, can only include people who had been with Christ from the beginning to the end.
In fact, why the focus on seeing Christ risen? Doesn’t Acts 1:21-22 give a much greater requirement than that, a requirement that even the apostle Paul does not meet? Doesn’t it say that the replacement for Judas must have been with Christ from the baptism of John to the ascension?
Nonetheless, this person on Facebook gives his opinion about apostles as though it carries some sort of divine authority.
He’s not the only one, of course. It’s my experience that most Protestants don’t believe there are apostles today, and the reason they give is that an apostle must have seen the risen Lord.
Why do they believe this?
Because that’s what they were told.
What I said above is undoubtedly true. There are at least two interpretations of Acts 1:21-22, and there is nothing to indicate the common Protestant belief is a likely interpretation.
Nonetheless, if you point that out, those Protestants who believe apostles must have seen the risen Lord will argue vehemently that they are standing on Scripture. Of course, they’re not standing on Scripture. They’re standing on tradition, and it’s not even an ancient tradition. It belongs only to the Protestants, so it’s less than 500 years old.
Roman Catholics and Orthodox would argue that the apostolic office was passed on to the bishops in the churches. Their authority went from apostle to bishop to the next bishop, etc. They call it apostolic succession.
While I believe that both the Roman Catholics and Orthodox lost their apostolic succession long ago, their argument is based on a justifiable, ancient tradition, that can honestly be argued to have come from the apostles.
The Protestant tradition is just someone’s possible, but not likely, interpretation of Scripture that’s spread around the Protestant churches by word of mouth.
I want to coin a new term: AI Wits.
That sounds like a nice name, right? AI usually stands for artificial intelligence, and wit indicates good reasoning skills.
But really, it’s short for Anything I Want Is True.
It seems to be the approach that most “Bible-believers” have to believing the Bible. If it can possibly, by any stretch of the imagination or twist of a word, be interpreted in the way I want it to be interpreted, then it must be so.
I’m not picking on a specific group of people, by the way. I’m talking about me and you. If we don’t work at learning from God, we’re going to learn from what we prefer.
By the way, when you start learning from God, expect to be grilled a lot by your peers.
It even happened to Peter (Acts 11:1ff).