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Another Apostles Thread: Practical Responsibilities of NT Apostles


David T

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Here's another approach to the recent discussions concerning the Apostolic office.

According to what I've seen in the New Testament, the following appear to me to be the practical role of the Apostles as we see them in practice, in an early stage in the Gospels, and more thoroughly developed throughout Acts, and in the Epistles

1. Responsible for serving as a living unique and special Witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel. (In the New Testament, specifically as personal eyewitnesses of the person of Jesus of Nazareth - prior to his death and Resurrection as a witness to his teaching, ministry, and miracles - and following, as an eyewitness to his Resurrection)

2. Responsible for the Missionary effort (

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nackhadlow,

Thanks for re-posting this; sorry for missing it the first time. I follow your enumeration (below) and offer my brief comments.

1. We seem to be in agreement here, though your wording reflects the fact that as a Mormon you wish to allow for the possibility of modern apostles not being eyewitnesses of the risen Jesus.

2. Naturally, the original commission was given especially or primarily to the apostles, but they did not direct or manage all evangelistic missionary efforts. For example, Philip evangelized the Samaritans and the Ethiopian (Acts 8 ) without any central directive or commission from the apostles.

3. Again, naturally, the apostles exercised leadership with regard to proclaiming the truth and setting forth the standards for Christian doctrine, practice, and unity. However, they do not seem to have had any organizational control over what individual congregations did. Several epistles attest to the lack of any hierarchical or institutional controls over local congregations (e.g., 1 and 2 Corinthians and 3 John, as well as Revelation 2-3). The apostles could tell the congregations what they thought, and they did so with Christ's authority, but the individual congregations went whatever directions they chose to go.

4. When apostles planted new churches, naturally enough they appointed local congregational leaders. However, as the church expanded throughout the Mediterranean world and began transitioning into its second generation, this responsibility fell to others, as is attested in the Pastoral Epistles. Indeed, this is part of the picture that we find in the latest NT writings of the apostles gradually passing from the scene and exhorting local leaders and congregations to remain faithful to the apostolic message after those apostles were no longer living on the earth. in addition to the Pastorals, this transitional phase of the church's history is especially evident in 2 Peter and Jude.

The above comments are summaries of my understanding of the passages and books cited. If you like, as time permits we can discuss some of these in more fine-grained detail.

Here's another approach to the recent discussions concerning the Apostolic office.

According to what I've seen in the New Testament, the following appear to me to be the practical role of the Apostles as we see them in practice, in an early stage in the Gospels, and more thoroughly developed throughout Acts, and in the Epistles

1. Responsible for serving as a living unique and special Witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel. (In the New Testament, specifically as personal eyewitnesses of the person of Jesus of Nazareth - prior to his death and Resurrection as a witness to his teaching, ministry, and miracles - and following, as an eyewitness to his Resurrection)

2. Responsible for the Missionary effort (

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2. Naturally, the original commission was given especially or primarily to the apostles, but they did not direct or manage all evangelistic missionary efforts. For example, Philip evangelized the Samaritans and the Ethiopian (Acts :P without any central directive or commission from the apostles.

It is my understanding that Philip was numbered among the 7 assistants to the 12 (who tradition says was among the 70 Disciples commissioned by Christ, which tradition - such as that recorded by Eusebius - further states were of an administrative body subordinate to the 12) who were specifically delegated responsibility and were set apart/ordained by the laying on of hands to assist them and represent them in their work (see Acts 6).

Even after Samaria was evangelized by Philip (your acts 8 reference) , the Apostles then came to confirm the work, and see that the newly baptized Samarians received the Holy Ghost in connection with the laying on of hands by them. Something Philip did not do.

3. Again, naturally, the apostles exercised leadership with regard to proclaiming the truth and setting forth the standards for Christian doctrine, practice, and unity. However, they do not seem to have had any organizational control over what individual congregations did.

I'm not sure exactly what you mean. They were understood as authoritative, and gave authoritative direction (as well as their opinions, as Paul is careful to distinguish) concerning the local bodies of the Church. Errors in doctrine were clarified, and the local bodies were given authoritative declarations concerning separating themselves from certain rebellious congregants.

Several epistles attest to the lack of any hierarchical or institutional controls over local congregations (e.g., 1 and 2 Corinthians and 3 John, as well as Revelation 2-3). The apostles could tell the congregations what they thought, and they did so with Christ's authority, but the individual congregations went whatever directions they chose to go.

I'm unsure of what 'control' apart from making declarations could practically be done apart from declaring how things should be. We have in the next generation the writings of Early Church fathers warning the other Church branches very strongly to not put away the Bishops that were specifically set up by the Apostles and not to put up their own chosen leaders. I'm not sure what more could practically have been done. What did you have in mind?

4. When apostles planted new churches, naturally enough they appointed local congregational leaders. However, as the church expanded throughout the Mediterranean world and began transitioning into its second generation, this responsibility fell to others, as is attested in the Pastoral Epistles. Indeed, this is part of the picture that we find in the latest NT writings of the apostles gradually passing from the scene and exhorting local leaders and congregations to remain faithful to the apostolic message after those apostles were no longer living on the earth. in addition to the Pastorals, this transitional phase of the church's history is especially evident in 2 Peter and Jude.

What specifically are you referring to?

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Here's another approach to the recent discussions concerning the Apostolic office.

According to what I've seen in the New Testament, the following appear to me to be the practical role of the Apostles as we see them in practice, in an early stage in the Gospels, and more thoroughly developed throughout Acts, and in the Epistles

1. Responsible for serving as a living unique and special Witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel. (In the New Testament, specifically as personal eyewitnesses of the person of Jesus of Nazareth - prior to his death and Resurrection as a witness to his teaching, ministry, and miracles - and following, as an eyewitness to his Resurrection)

2. Responsible for the Missionary effort (

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Even after Samaria was evangelized by Philip (your acts 8 reference) , the Apostles then came to confirm the work, and see that the newly baptized Samarians received the Holy Ghost in connection with the laying on of hands by them. Something Philip did not do.

This also suggests that Philip was in contact with the apostles to report his success and the need for the apostles to come and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands.

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nackhadlow,

Hi again. You wrote:

It is my understanding that Philip was numbered among the 7 assistants to the 12 (who tradition says was among the 70 Disciples commissioned by Christ, which tradition - such as that recorded by Eusebius - further states were of an administrative body subordinate to the 12) who were specifically delegated responsibility and were set apart/ordained by the laying on of hands to assist them and represent them in their work (see Acts 6).

You seem to be saying that the seven in Acts 6 that included Philip had previously been part of the "seventy." Is that what you are saying? I know of no solid historical evidence to support that claim. Whatever information Eusebius had on the subject is not likely to have gone beyond what we find in Acts itself. According to Acts 6:2-3, the twelve directed the whole group of disciples, probably specifically the whole group of Hellenistic Jewish disciples who had lodged the complaint (v. 1), to pick seven of their own men to be given the responsibility of making sure their fellow disciples were not neglected in the distribution of food. From the names of the seven men (v. 5), it appears that in fact these seven men were all Hellenistic Jewish disciples. This makes it highly unlikely that they were members of the seventy sent out by Jesus during his Galilean ministry.

In any case, Philip went to Samaria when the disciples were scattered out from Jerusalem following the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 8:1-5). The scattering was not a planned or orchestrated dispersion but simply disciples fleeing Jerusalem to avoid persecution there. It was in that context that Philip went to Samaria and evangelized the people there. This is one reason why I say Philip was not there with some official commission to be there from the apostles. The fact that he had been authorized by the apostles to help in administering the food rations earlier (Acts 6) has no bearing on this point.

You wrote:

Even after Samaria was evangelized by Philip (your acts 8 reference) , the Apostles then came to confirm the work, and see that the newly baptized Samarians received the Holy Ghost in connection with the laying on of hands by them. Something Philip did not do.

Exactly. Philip evidently sent word to the apostles because when he baptized the Samaritans they did not receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. So Peter and John went there to complete what Philip had started to the best of his ability. The whole process reflects an ad hoc development. It is even possible -- I would say likely -- that Philip had not expected that the gift of the Spirit would be withheld from the Samaritans when he evangelized and baptized them. After all, the one recorded statement we have earlier on the issue indicates that those who repented and believed in Christ and were baptized would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). So it is likely that Philip was caught off guard when that didn't happen in Samaria. He then sent for some apostles. The Lord, it seemed, withheld the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in Samaria until the apostles could become part of the process, lest any of the Jewish disciples reject the Samaritan disciples (a serious danger considering the ethnic and religious tensions between Jews and Samaritans).

Perhaps we can hammer on this issue a bit before moving on to the others.

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I think the Master himself described the roles of the Apostles in a living parable he taught. I wrote an essay on this once but it was targeted to members and not apostles; i'll try to rewrite it and post it separately so as not to derail your thread.

OK, I have posted it here: Midrash

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