189. APOSTLES : ELDERS : PROPHETS.
In the Gospels the word apostolos (sing. and
pl) occurs only nine times as compared with sixty-nine in Acts and the
Epistles, and three in Revelation. In Matthew, Mark, Luke and Acts
(except 14:4, 14) the term is used of the Twelve chosen and commissioned
by the Lord (Matt. 11:1; Luke 6:13) during His earthly ministry.
From this office Judas fell, his place being filled later by Matthias (Acts
1:26). In the Epistles and Revelation the context shows where the
Twelve are meant.
The one occurrence in John's Gospel is in 13:16, where it is used in
the general sense of one sent forth (on some special message or errand).
He Who is called the Apostle (Heb. 3:1) is so constantly (presented
in that Gospel as the One sent of the Father (see notes on John 14:24;
17:3) that other messengers are lost sight of.
Besides the Twelve there were others appointed by the Lord after His
Ascension (Eph. 4:11. Cp. 1Cor. 12:28). Such were Paul and Barnabas,
first called so in Acts 14:4, 14; Andronicus and Junias (Rom. 16:7).
Paul nineteen times calls himself and apostle, and argues his claim in
1Cor. 9 and 2Cor. 12. See also 1Thess. 1:1; 2:6, where Paul associates
Silvanus and Timothy with himself. Twice the word
(besides John 13:16 referred to above) is translated "messenger", in 2Cor.
8:23. Phil. 2:25. See notes there.
"Elders" is frequently met with in the O.T. as indicating
an official position, e.g. elders of the tribes, elders of the cities,
elders of the Midian, &c. In the Gospels and Acts the term generally
refers to the Sanhedrin. The name seems to have been taken over into
the Christian Church to describe the members of the Council at Jerusalem
other than the apostles (Acts 11:30; 15:2-23), and then similar officers
were appointed in local churches (Acts 14:23; 20:17. Tit. 1:5).
That these were identical with the "overseers" of Acts 20:28 (Gr. episkopoi,
rendered "bishop" in Phil. 1:1. 1Tim. 3:2. Tit. 1:7.
1Pet. 2:25) is clear from comparison with Acts 20:17. 1Tim. 5:17.
Tit. 1:5, 7. 1Pet. 5:1, 2 (see notes). There were thus "business"
elders and "preaching" elders. Peter and John both call themselves
elders (1Pet. 5:1. 2John 1. 3John 1).
A prophet was one who spoke for God (see Ap. 49),
and this applies to those of the New Testament as well as those of the
Old. It did not necessarily mean that he foretold the future, though
sometimes that was done, as in the case of Agabus (Acts 11:28; 21:10).
Prophecy was one of the gifts of the Spirit, and its chief design was to
comfort, exhort (Acts 15:32), and testify from the Scriptures for the edification
of believers. Prophets are included in the gifts of 1Cor. 12:28.
Eph 4:11, and directions for the orderly exercise of their gifts are given
in 1Cor. 14.
Besides Acts 13:1, where it is impossible to distinguish between the
five persons mentioned as prophets and teachers (two of them being called
apostles also in the next chapter), -- Judas and Silas also are called
prophets in 15:32.
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