What is an Apostle?

What is an Apostle?

What is an Apostle?

What is an Apostle?

What is an apostle? This post offers and discusses several definitions. It also addresses the all-important issue of character as it relates to the gift and calling of apostolic service. By reading this you will come away with a greater understanding and appreciation of the God-given apostolic ministry.

How do we find a definition of what is an apostle? The Scriptures are the only way. With the emergence of modern day apostles there’s a lot of confusion in some peoples minds. Some well-meaning Christians don’t recognize any apostles except the twelve originals in the Bible. However, there may be as many as 25 apostles mentioned in the Bible.

What is an Apostle?

In a generic sense, an apostle is a “sent one” or “one sent on a mission.” The Greek word is apostolos. In a generic sense all Christians are “sent out on a mission”. In that sense we are all apostles!

In a technical sense the term refers to the person who functions in the five fold ministry or office of apostle. That’s what we are talking about here.

A common approach is to define apostle as “a pastor to pastors”. Since we all know what a pastor is, this simple definition is helpful. Sneak a peek at our 55 second video interview with Sonny Mizar, a modern day apostle, as he responds to the question, “What is an apostle?”

I’ve both studied the Scriptures and worked with apostles for over fifty years. Here’s my definition:

“An apostle is a Christian leader called and supernaturally gifted by God to open new spiritual or geographical territory for the gospel, lay foundations, equip believers, and serve as catalyst and coordinator for churches and ministries.”

My definition includes the phrase “open new spiritual or geographical territory.” I’m not aware of any other definition like it. I include it because I see it both in the Bible and in modern day apostles. Paul and his crew of Timothy, Silvanus, and other men were first to preach in Macedonia, Achaia (southern Greece), and beyond. Peter opened the gospel to Cornelius and through him to the all Gentiles.

I’m not saying my definition is perfect or complete. If you can improve it, go ahead. Please write out your definition of  “What is an  apostle?” and send it to me. (Maybe I can include it here.) My words are not written in marble; rather, I’m attempting to identify the essential elements of a Biblical and modern day apostle.

Must an Apostle “See the Lord?”

In times past, many have bought into the idea that one must see the Lord in order to be recognized as a genuine apostle. Is this idea valid? I maintain Paul is not an apostle because he saw the Lord, rather he saw the Lord, and he was also an apostle. Click here to find a fuller discussion of the question.

Today I found a website from Australia that teaches the same as I in regard to the question “Must an apostle see the Lord? Although I do not know John Alley, the apostle and founder of Peace Ministries, the ministry seems sound to me at this point in time.

What is an Apostle? According to Dr. C. Peter Wagner

I highly recommend Dr. C. Peter Wagner and his 2002 book Spheres of Authority: Apostles in Today’s Church. The book is well written and easy to understand. He uses plain English and eliminates technical theological jargon. You can order on Amazon.   He is certainly a forward thinker and prolific author regarding apostles. In Spheres of Authority Wagner offers the following definition:

“An apostle is a Christian leader, gifted, taught, commissioned and sent by God with the authority to establish the foundational government of the church within an assigned sphere of ministry by hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches and by setting things in order accordingly for the growth and maturity of the church.”

Wagner’s definition is thorough although somewhat cumbersome. He emphasizes “spheres of authority” (some “spheres” in the church and some in the marketplace) and is well worth listening to.

What is an Apostle? According to David Cannistraci.

David Cannistraci offers this definition in his 1996 book Apostles and the Emerging Apostolic Movement: “An apostle is one who [is] called and sent by Christ to have the spiritual authority, character, gifts and abilities to successfully reach and establish people in Kingdom truth and order, especially through founding and overseeing local churches.”

To understand “what is an apostle?” we need to differentiate between a person’s gift (or calling) and character. Both Wagner and Cannistraci make the point that in order to sustain an effective apostolic ministry a person must have extraordinary character. I heartily agree. Yet I know men who are genuinely called and gifted as apostles but have not yet developed some important character traits such as humility and patience.

These men are truly gifted by God as apostles but lack His character. These men should not be commissioned or sent out by churches, presbyteries, or peer groups until character flaws are corrected. Again, they have the gifting but not the character. It’s the same for pastors; some have the calling, yet lack certain character qualities. But that doesn’t mean they are not pastors. It only means they are not very good pastors!

Wagner writes on page 37 of Spheres of Authority, “Above all other signs, character is the sine qui non of apostolic ministry.” In the same section, Dr. Wagner asserts, “A person cannot be a true apostle without extraordinary character.”

I know a man in Africa who plants churches, coordinates ministries, opens new territory for the gospel and does all the work of an apostle. But he tends to be a dictator and lords it over co-workers. He needs to be accountable to other men in the five fold ministry to remedy his character flaw, to develop healthy churches, and to sustain a God-pleasing ministry.

What is an apostle? You can learn more by going to www.churchesandapostles.com and grabbing a copy of my book.  Here’s what others are saying about Local Churches Global Apostles: How Churches Related to Apostles in the New Testament Era and Why It Matters Now.

“Anderson connects with leaders everywhere by taking us from his personal hurt in a critical relationship to a focused and thorough search of the N.T. Good things are afoot. Anderson has put an important piece of the puzzle on the table for us. Easy to access.”

“Anderson has served the kingdom well by his remarkably thorough examination of the biblical data regarding churches and apostles.” — Jerry Daley. (Daley is a church planter who many recognize as a modern-day apostle.)

I couldn’t put the book down when I got started so stayed up late last night to finish it.   I . . . thoroughly enjoyed it. Very well researched relationships between the apostolic and the New Testament Churches.  Bernie Wing, pastor


Local Churches Global Apostles

Local Churches Global Apostles


You can also order at Amazon.com.




  1. Vern Wall says

    Ephesians 4
    11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

    12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

    It is silly to discuss whether apostles exist. If we still have teachers, we must still have apostles. If we still have pastors, we must still have apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers.

    We should also notice that these ministries were given specifically to benefit people who already believe. Some people assume that evangelists were given to preach to the unsaved, to swell church membership, but the bible does not support that concept. The bible suggests (John 1:41) that members bring in new members.

    • Matthew 28:19,20. Jesus’ commission to His followers is to “make disciples of people of all the nations” and teach them to observe all the things He commanded, not from man’s philosophy but from God’s Word. A prophet is someone that relates God’s message of things that are yet to happen, most times given as a warning. All the prophesies about our time and beyond have already been told and written in the Bible. There are no “modern-day prophets” for those gifts have been done away with from the first century (1 Corinthians 3:8) simply because there’s nothing new to tell. Logic…

      • William Bowlby says

        Wrong you got your understanding from a person named darby,,,it;s about 100 years old and its in error…you can ready he made the assumption that the gifts and calling and miracles signs and wonders ceased, and apostolic ministry’s stopped after the church was established…there is more if course he didn’t deny that the holly spirit was real but not necessary. Succession you can look out up. /Either Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever or he isn’t.
        The seventh day people leadership believe whole hardily in this assumption..


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