Who were the 12 disciples or apostles that were with Jesus? Is Paul to be included in this list since he was called an apostle?
What the Word Apostle Means
The word apostle is from the Greek “apostlos” which means “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders” and so the apostles, formerly disciples, were sent out by God and specifically by Jesus to proclaim the gospel to the known world and told to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). The Greek word for disciples is “mathetes” and means “a learner, a pupil.” It could be said that they are disciplined to learn what is taught because the root of the word “disciple” is discipline. Anyone that claims to be an apostle today must provide evidence for this as stated in Acts 1:21-22;
“So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”
Notice the qualifications for being an apostle as laid out in Scripture and not as set by the will or beliefs of men. It is that they must have been “men who have accompanied [the disciples] during all the time that the Lord went in and out among [them]” but there is more, they must have been with Him from the beginning of “the baptism of John until the day when he (Jesus) was taken up from us – one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” You see the word “must” is a conditional statement. Any apostle must have been with the Lord from the day that Jesus was baptized until the time he was taken up (in the Ascension) and they must have also been with the disciples and had been “a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:22). That leaves out 100% of everyone today because no one is over 2,000 years old on this earth and so anyone that claims to be an apostle is lying and biblically speaking, cannot even qualify as one.
Jesus Chooses the Twelve
Matthew 10:1-4 “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”
Notice that it was Jesus that choose the twelve apostles and not the apostles that chose to be one of His; therefore it is Jesus that chooses apostles and not apostles (or men) who choose to be one. Ironically Jesus even chose one that He knew would betray Him so that “the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 13:18).
Peter, James and John
Matt 17:1-2 “Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.”
These men were in the inner circle of Jesus because He often took them aside as He did in the Transfiguration and let them see things that the others did not and told them things that He didn’t tell the others as he did in the Transfiguration.
Andrew Brings Peter
John 1:40-42 “One of the two who heard John (the Baptist) speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).”
I love Andrew because he was always bringing people to Christ. Andrew brought Peter to meet Jesus and Jesus proclaim him to be called “Cephas” or Peter which meant “the (little) rock” or stone. Many churches are called Saint Andrews because of this very fact.
Philip and Nathaniel
John 1:43-47 “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”
Once more we see that Jesus “found Philip and said to him ‘follow me.’” Jesus calls us just as He did the disciples or apostles and Philip brought Nathaniel to Jesus just as Andrew brought Peter. Philip understood the Scriptures that spoke of Jesus saying “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law (Duet 18:18) and also the prophets (Isaiah 52-53; Psalm 21-23) wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Philip saw what the religious leaders could not see, that the Scriptures clearly testified about Jesus and even though they had studied them diligently, they refused to see that it was Jesus Who fulfilled them (John 5:39).
John 20:24-25, 28 “Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe [but when Thomas saw Jesus] ”Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
I think we are too hard on Thomas because Thomas was ready to go up to Jerusalem and die with Christ (John 11:16) while the others tried to talk Jesus out of going back to Judea (John 11:8).
Matthew the Tax Collector
Matthew 9:9-10a “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house.”
Once more we see Jesus tells one of the twelve “Follow me” which again testifies to the fact that Jesus chose the disciples or apostles and not the other way around. Jesus told the disciples that “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (John 15:16). Anyone that is a believer or follower of Christ is one that Christ Himself has chosen (Eph 1, 2) for it is not we who choose Him but He has chosen us.
James, Son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot
Acts 1:12-14 “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
When Jesus returned to heaven after His resurrection in His glorified body, the disciples went into “the upper room” which by Luke, the author of Acts, giving the name specifically as “the upper room,” may have been the same upper room where the Lord’s last Passover Meal was taken with the disciples. Here we see the remaining two disciples, James the son of Alphaeus, so designated so that he may be differentiated from James the son of Zebedee, and Simon the Zealot all meeting together and “devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his four brothers (James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas).
Paul an Apostle
Mathias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus and hanged himself (Acts 1:28) “and he numbered with the eleven.” But wasn’t Paul an apostle too? That is what the Bible says and since we know that all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16), if the Bible says that Paul was an apostle then he surely must have been. Listen to the statements of Paul where he declares himself to be one, but not of his own accord but as chosen by Jesus Christ.
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.”
Colossians 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.”
First Corinthians 1:1 “Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.”
There are several other verses where Paul is designated or called to be an apostle in his own letters and by others and he is called by Jesus Who alone calls anyone that is an apostle.
If God has called you then you can know you are called if you have repented and trusted in Christ. If not, then you are not a disciple or follower of Christ and you only think you are. You may not be an apostle but all who follow Christ are His disciples and we are commanded to make disciples of all people everywhere (Matt 28:18-20) and we are given the power and authority of Christ to do so (Acts 1:8). This was not just for those in the first century but for all believers today. I hope you will be a disciple of His and if you know of anyone else that is not saved, why haven’t you proclaimed the good news to them?
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon