Apostles and Cessationism

One of the arguments used for cessationism is the presence of apostles in spiritual gifts lists in Ephesians 4:11 and I Corinthians 12:28-29.  Richard Gaffin, for example, writes: “many continuationists are in fact cessationists, in that they recognize there are no apostles today….  A flat ‘all the gifts are for today’ will not do” (Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?  Four Views, ed. by Wayne Grudem [Zondervan, 1996], 45).  This argument deserves a thoughtful response.

Its best to begin by asking, what does the Greek term apostolos mean?  This word was not invented in the New Testament.  It was used prior to the New Testament in Classical Greek to mean herald, ambassador, envoy, messenger.  I remember seeing this word when translating through Herodotus (5th century B.C.) in a college Greek class.  There’s no question that the New Testament takes this more general term and gives it a specific and technical meaning, referring to the authoritative 13 (12 disciples – Judas + Matthias + Paul), and perhaps others.

However, the older sense of apostolos is also used in the New Testament.  For example, in Philippians 2:25, Epaphroditus is called the apostolos of the Philippian church (ESV and NIV translate “messenger”).  In II Corinthians 8:23, Paul’s coworkers who are traveling with Titus are called apostoloi (ESV: “messengers;” NIV: “representatives”).  A clear example of the non-technical use is in John 13:16: “no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger (apostolos) greater than the one who sent him.”  That apostolos does not always refer exclusively to the 13 is evident from I Corinthians 15:3-8 alone, where Christ appears first to the twelve, then to the rest of the apostles, then last of all to Paul.  Barnabas (Acts 14:4, 14) and James the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19, Acts 15) would be further examples of individuals outside the 13 who are nevertheless referred to as apostles.  Finally, the reality of “false apostles” in II Corinthians 10-13 is only intelligible if the term could be used more broadly.

What is my point?  That when we come to apostolos in Ephesians 4:11 and I Corinthians 12:28 (and any other passage where it is used), we cannot simply assume that it is referring to the 13.  Rather, we must ask, in what sense is apostolos being used here?  Should we translate it as “apostle,” or should we translate it as “ambassador” or “herald” or “messenger” like we do in Philippians 2:25 and II Corinthians 8:23 and elsewhere?  The best way to proceed is to ask, what sense of apostolos best corresponds to what we know from the rest of the New Testament about spiritual gifts?  Is it even coherent to consider “apostle” in the technical sense a spiritual gift?  Here are four reasons why I think the older, more literal translation makes better sense as a spiritual gift in Ephesians 4:11 and I Corinthians 12:28-29:

1) If you compile all the lists of spiritual gifts in the New Testament, every gift listed is associated with a particular skill or ability.  Teachers teach.  Prophets prophesy.  Administrators administrate.  Leaders lead.  Showers of mercy show mercy.  Encouragers encourage.  And so forth.  What do apostles in the technical sense do?  Apostle-ize?  The 13 performed all kinds of spiritual gifts, but their apostleship itself was not a particular skill or ability, but an ecclesiastical office.  In that office they performed a wide variety of functions, but the office itself is not a skill or ability.  Conversely, apostleship in the literal sense (translated as messenger, ambassador, etc.) fits very well with other spiritual gifts.  One could see it next to, say, the gift of administration (I Corinthians 12:28) or leadership (Romans 12:8) without skipping a beat.

2) Spiritual gifts are wrought internally by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:11).  They are called “kinds of service … kinds of working” (I Corinthians 12:5-6) and even “manifestation[s] of the Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:7).  One could become a messenger or ambassador through the internal working of the Spirit, but one did not become an apostle in the technical sense by an internal working of the Spirit but rather by an encounter with the risen Christ (I Corinthians 9:1) or by having been with Christ since the beginning of his ministry and therefore publicly recognized by the whole church (Acts 1:21-22).

3) Spiritual gifts are given liberally to all Christians in the body (I Corinthians 12:7-11).  Even prophecy, for example, which Gaffin sees as an authoritative gift, Paul exhorts every Corinthian Christian to pursue no less in than 6 times in the space of one chapter (I Corinthians 14:1, 5, 12, 26, 31, 39).  Tongues, also, is commended to all (e.g., 14:5).  And so with other gifts – even one who lacks a particular gift can exercise that gift occasionally.  Non-teachers can occasionally teach.  Non-encourager can occasionally encourage.  Non-showers of mercy can (and should) occasionally show mercy.  And so with the literal sense of apostolos, but its technical sense is by its very nature restricted to particular men called of Christ.

(By the way, if Gaffin is right that the spiritual gift of prophecy functions with the authority of Scripture, then Paul is in the awkward position of encouraging every lay Corinthian Christian to pursue and exercise Scriptural authority at every church gathering [e.g., I Corinthians 14:26].)

4) Spiritual gifts like are commonly associated with the ongoing ministry of lay Christians at particular local churches.  Yes, they also accompany the apostolic spread of the gospel in Acts (Acts 2, 8, 10, 19), but they are not restricted to this.  They are also exercised among lay Christians at established churches in at least Rome (Romans 12:3-8), Corinth (I Corinthians 12-14), Galatia (Galatians 3:5), Ephesus (Ephesians 4:11-13), and Thessalonica (I Thessalonians 5:19-21).  One could likewise see messengers and ambassadors serving in local congregations, but apostleship in the technical sense is not associated with the ongoing ministry of lay Christians at local churches, but rather the unique ministry of (frequently itinerant) individuals who oversaw those churches.

To summarize: spiritual gifts are (1) abilities/skills (2) wrought by the Spirit (3) among all Christians (4) for the building up of their local churches.  Apostleship in the technical sense is an awkward candidate on all these accounts; apostleship in the literal sense is a perfect match.  All of this makes the literal sense a better candidate for translation in Ephesians 4:11 and I Corinthians 12:28-29.

So has apostleship ceased?  As an office, yes: its simply a historical fact that the 13 are dead.  But as a spiritual gift, no, not any more than the gift of administration (I Corinthians 12:28) or leadership (Romans 12:8).  God still gives administrators, leaders, and messengers/ambassadors in the church today.  But these gifts have nothing to do with the 13 and their unique, first-century authoritative office.  Nor does the death of the 13 have anything to do with the cessation of spiritual gifts.

14 Comments

  1. Gav,

    So has apostleship ceased? As an office, yes: its simply a historical fact that the 13 are dead.

    Why assume that the office of apostleship is limited to the thirteen? Paul, in Galatians 1:1, seems to imply that there are two ways in which one may be appointed to the apostleship: 1) in a manner that is purely charismatic (i.e. directly from God Himself) and 2) ‘through men’, which, I believe, is a reference to a ‘sacramental’ mediation (though no less charismatic) through the laying on of hands.

    We know that Silvanus and Timothy were called apostles by Paul (1 Thessalonians 2:6 in conjunction with 1:1), and we also know that Paul bestowed this spiritual gift of apostolic authority on Timothy through the laying on of hands (2 Timothy 1:6). It seems likely, although the text does not explicitly say as much, that Silvanus would have been appointed to the apostolic office in the same manner.

    Added to this, I think that apostleship is also a skill or ability, and not merely an external ecclesiastical office. This makes sense of Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to ‘kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands’ — a gift which he describes not as a ‘spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.’ This sort of exhortation wouldn’t make sense if apostleship were merely an office with no charismatic skills or abilities conferred.

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  2. Drew,

    lots of things to say here, but perhaps I should start by trying to understand your usage of Scripture.

    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.”

    How from this text do you get a “purely charismatic” calling or “sacramental mediation” as THE two ways of apostolic calling? Personally, I find that a stretch in multiple directions.

    II Timothy 1:6: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”

    Why do you assume the gift referred to here is the gift of apostleship?

    I think you’re seeing things in these texts that aren’t there. I also think you need to look at other other texts before summarizing a theology of apostolic calling. E.g., I Corinthians 9:1 along with Galatians 1:1, I Timothy 4:14 along with II Tim. 1:6.

    To answer your question, there may have been more than 13 in the office of apostle (as I mentioned in the last three words of my second paragraph), who would have died with the 13. Now if you want to get into apostolic succession, then that’s another, longer conversation (which I’m happy to have).

    GRO

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  3. Gav,

    Let me try to lay some groundwork here.

    I think all the evidence suggests that whenever there was mediate appointment to the apostolate, episcopate, presbyterate, or diaconate, it was normally and regularly by ordination through the laying on of hands. There is no evidence that suggests otherwise.

    In pre-Christian Judaism, we see spiritual gifts or authority being conferred through the laying on of hands (c.f. Numbers 27:15-23; Deuteronomy 34:9). In Numbers 11:16-17, we see the appointment of the seventy presbyters, which, granted, does not mention the laying on of hands, but it seems most likely that this is what occurred in light of the aforementioned Numbers 27 passage. Also, there is a story of a second century rabbi, Judah ben Baba, who, at the cost of his own life, ordained five scholars by the laying on of hands to preserve a kind of ‘tactile succession’. For these reasons it seems most plausible that pre-Christian (and even early on after the Church/Synagogue split) Judaism understood ordination to positions of spiritual authority to be through the laying on of hands.

    In Hebrews 6:1-4, the laying on of hands is mentioned as ‘foundational’ to the ‘elementary teachings about the Christ’. For this reason, I believe it to have been a part of the basic instruction of neophytes, along with what are most likely other sacraments: baptism (‘washings’ and ‘enlightened’) and the eucharist (‘tasted of the heavenly gift’). Here the laying on of hands would include all those things mediated through it: confirmation, ordination, the healing of the sick, and the blessing of individuals.

    That ordination was by the laying on of hands seems obvious. Paul (with the presbytery) ordained Timothy to his office (what exactly that office was will be discussed later) by the laying on of hands. Paul also instructs Timothy to ‘not lay hands upon anyone too hastily’, which is most likely about ordination given the context.

    Given the pre-Christian context of Judaism and the early Christian biblical passages for ordination and the mediate conferment of spiritual gifts, all the evidence points toward the laying on of hands. There is no evidence for any other visible means of conferring spiritual gifts or ordaining to positions of ecclesiastical authority.

    Given that the only two ways we have biblical evidence for in which men are given spiritual authority is through 1) direct appointment by God Himself and 2) the laying on of hands, I believe this justifies my reading of Galatians 1:1. As for 1 Corinthians 9:1, I grant that Timothy, Silvanus, Barnabas, etc. are not apostles in the strict sense, meaning they did not see the risen Lord. But my point is that there is extension of the apostolic office, in that those men who bear that office bear apostolic authority and apostolic powers. Paul states that Timothy and Silvanus had just as much a right to assert their authority as fellow apostles; in other words, their ecclesiastical authority (in terms of the maintenance of local congregations) was equal to that of Paul.

    Regarding the spiritual gift that is given to Timothy, I think it is most likely that this is his ordination to the apostolic office, and thus his position of spiritual authority, because of the reasons given above for the laying on of hands in connection with ordination. What other ecclesiastical position would he have been ordained to? The presbyterate? That doesn’t seem to make sense because the apostles certainly had spiritual authority over the presbyters, and, as stated before, Timothy was called an apostle. Thus, by extension, Timothy has authority over the presbyters (and by presbyters I mean the second tier of ministry).

    All this, of course, is dancing around the issue of apostolic succession. And you probably could have figured this out by now, but I believe this extension of the apostolate as an office is what would later be known as the monarchical bishopric. Timothy is one such biblical example of a monarchical bishop.

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  4. Drew,

    You say a couple times that “all the evidence points to the laying on of hands,” but I actually don’t see any New Testament evidence to that point. You mention verses like Hebrews 6:1-4 and II Timothy 1:6, but these verses say nothing of apostleship – you have to read it into the text. Galatians 1:1 is even further out. My summary: (1) There’s not a single example in the New Testament of apostolic appointment by the laying on of hands. (2) Every example we do have of apostolic appointment is without any mention of laying on hands – the original 12 in Mark 3:13-19, Paul in Acts 9, and Matthias in Acts 1:23-36. (3) Insofar as the laying on of hands has a purpose in the New Testament, its most commonly to heal the sick (e.g., Mark 6:4) or to the give the Spirit (Acts 8:17) or bestow a spiritual gift (II Tim. 1:6/I Tim. 4:14).

    Sorry dude – but I think we just have to agree to disagree here.

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  5. Gav,

    My point about the laying on of hands was that it is the only mediate method by which we see the conferment of spiritual gifts or authority in the Bible, whether the Old Testament or the New. I think the case is strong, both from pre-Christian Judaism and from the apostolic era of the Church, that mediate ordination to any spiritual office occurred by the laying on of hands. Most biblical scholars, even most Protestant scholars, agree that 2 Timothy 1:6 and 1 Timothy 4:14 refer to Timothy’s ordination. If you disagree, and it seems that you do, I think the burden of proof is on you to argue why these passages do not refer to Timothy’s ordination, despite the scholarly consensus. Also, most biblical scholars believe that 1 Timothy 5:22 refers to ordination.

    So if these passages do refer to ordination, what order of ministry was Timothy ordained to? As I have argued, Timothy is referred to as an apostle, and as such, he bears apostolic authority (1 Thessalonians 2:6) and apostolic powers (1 Timothy 5:22).

    (On a related note in reference to apostolic powers, I think the biblical case is also strong that not every Christian could ordain.)

    Maybe I’m beating a dead horse here, and I’ll drop it if you think we’re not getting anywhere.

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  6. Drew,

    On the issue of Timothy, I’m not convinced that there’s a scholarly consensus that II Timothy 1:6 is referring to Timothy’s ordination (the Protestant commentaries on my shelf see Timothy’s gift as “evangelism/teaching” [Mounce] and “preacher/teacher” [Fee])- or that if it is, then the ordination is to the office of apostle. Part of this is my conviction that the office of apostleship is not a spiritual gift, as I outlined in my first post, but the larger part is simply that the text makes no mention of ordination or apostleship. To read those things into “spiritual gift” (charismata) rests on assumptions I don’t share. I think I Tim 4:14 is a text for you to think more about on this issue, because on your reading you have members of the lesser office (elders) appointing Timothy to the greater office (apostle).

    But the larger issue here is whether the New Testament envisions the office of apostle as something that can be transferred from one person to another through the laying on of hands. I don’t see that in the New Testament, as I outlined in my last comment, and I don’t think examples of various kinds of appointment via the laying on of hands in the OT and pre-Christian Judaism are sufficient to prove the point, since they do not deal with the office of apostleship, and also since particular instances of an event do not make it a universal rule. I also see examples of apostolic ordination, both mediate and immediate, with no mention of the laying on of hands (e.g., Matthias in Acts 1).

    But perhaps we’re getting mired down in the specific issue of the laying on of hands. One could still hold to apostolic succession without holding to that particular means of succession. I think a more important difference between our approaches, Protestant and Orthodox, is the issue of whether apostolic authority continued beyond the first century. If you want to pursue this further, perhaps we could steer in that direction?

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  7. Gav,

    Part of this is my conviction that the office of apostleship is not a spiritual gift . . .

    What do you make of Paul’s listing of the gift of apostleship first among the other gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12? This seems to imply that the unique position of authority, the office of apostleship, is linked with the gift itself. Furthermore, in verse 23 Paul states that some members of the body have greater honor than others. This explains why Paul would list apostleship first among the gifts, in that it is connected with the twelve and those like them who had special honor and authority within the Church.

    I think I Tim 4:14 is a text for you to think more about on this issue, because on your reading you have members of the lesser office (elders) appointing Timothy to the greater office (apostle).

    This has been answered by my friend here, and I’d encourage you to go read it.

    But the larger issue here is whether the New Testament envisions the office of apostle as something that can be transferred from one person to another through the laying on of hands.

    How, then, do you interpret Galatians 1:1? Paul seems to be implying that one can be made an apostle ‘through the agency of man’. What do you think this means?

    I have some further questions for you.

    In Acts 20:28, Paul states that the elders were made overseers by the Holy Spirit. If this was not effected by ordination, how was it effected?

    The five verses preceding 1 Timothy 5:22 all have to do with elders. On what basis do you think verse 22 is not talking about ordination? What then would be the worry of laying hands too quickly on a man?

    Are there any examples from the New Testament where men are given an ecclesiastical office without the laying on of hands or a direct commissioning from Christ Himself?

    What do you make of John 20:22-23, where the spiritual gift of forgiving sins seems to be tied to apostolic authority?

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  8. Drew, thanks for your continued interest in this – I don’t have time to answer all your questions, but let me try to address a few.

    On Gal 1:1, it sounds like you’re trying to prove a positive from a negative. Paul was not called by men – but that does not entail that calling by men is how it was normally done. Paul is simply pointing to the divine origins of apostolic calling, just as he points to the divine origins of his approval (1:10) and message (1:12). The contrast is not, “I am called from God, but other apostles are called from men,” any more than Paul preached a divine message and other apostles preached a human message (1:12), or Paul sought divine approval but other apostles sought human approval (1:10). In fact, he says that if he was seeking man’s approval, he could not be an apostle (1:10).

    Let me think more about your question on I Corinthians 12:28. Everything hinges on what the basis of Paul’s ranking is (importance? sequence? randomly?). This is a verse I’ve been thinking a lot about and want to continue to reflect upon. I think you’re right to press me on it.

    On I Tim 5:22, forgive me, but I again think you are reading your assumptions into the text. 5:21 makes no mention of elders, nor does 5:22. If you want to make 5:22 about elders, why not the wine drinking in 5:23? In any case, if you see something in a verse that is not mentioned, the onus is certainly on you to prove it, not me to disprove it.

    You also ask, “Are there any examples from the New Testament where men are given an ecclesiastical office without the laying on of hands or a direct commissioning from Christ Himself?”

    I’ve mentioned Matthias a couple times now – no laying on of hands in Acts 1. Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:6 would be two other examples that come immediately to mind.

    You’re welcome to follow up on these things if you’d like, but I’d also be interested in hearing a few sentences on how exactly you understand the whole concept of apostolic succession, and when in history you see it terminating.

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  9. Gav,

    I am thoroughly enjoying this, as I hope you are as well. You too help sharpen my thinking.

    The contrast is not, “I am called from God, but other apostles are called from men,” any more than Paul preached a divine message and other apostles preached a human message (1:12)

    I think verse 12 should be read in light of verses 16-17. Paul did not immediately consult with the other apostles regarding his Gospel to see if it was truly apostolic, to see if it was in line with the Gospel the other apostles were preaching. His Gospel was revealed directly from Christ Himself, and this is how he defends his ministry. Likewise, he was commissioned as an apostle directly from Christ Himself. In light of this, I think verse 12 should be read to imply that, yes, one may be taught the Gospel, and be commissioned to preach it, from the other apostles, and as a correlate, yes, one may be appointed as an apostle from the other apostles. Both means — from God and from the other apostles — are equally legitimate. Therefore I think my reading of Galatians 1:1 still stands.

    On I Tim 5:22, forgive me, but I again think you are reading your assumptions into the text. 5:21 makes no mention of elders, nor does 5:22. If you want to make 5:22 about elders, why not the wine drinking in 5:23? In any case, if you see something in a verse that is not mentioned, the onus is certainly on you to prove it, not me to disprove it.

    There is no need to apologize.

    Let me use an analogy to try to illustrate my reading of the text. Let’s say a Brigadier General of the Marine Corps is writing to a Major of the Marine Corps regarding the commissioning of Second Lieutenants. He commands the Major to not commission the Second Lieutenants too quickly, lest they be the kind of men that would not have the moral, mental, and physical prerequisites for leading other Marines into combat. He warns the Major that if he were to commission officers who ended up not being worthy of the position, and they ended up getting Marines killed in combat due to poor decision making, the Major would be held responsible.

    That’s basically what I see in 1 Timothy 5:17-22. If Timothy were to ordain men to the ministry who ended up sinning in a grave manner, Timothy would bear responsibility.

    On your view, what exactly is the danger of laying hands too quickly on a man?

    I’ve mentioned Matthias a couple times now – no laying on of hands in Acts 1. Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:6 would be two other examples that come immediately to mind.

    Fair enough. You’re right, no laying on of hands in Acts 1. But I think this case is an anomaly. There are no other examples from the New Testament or from the history of primitive Christianity of this sort of appointment to an ecclesiastical office. And of course, Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5 do not mention how the elders were appointed, they only mention that they were appointed. Based on Acts 6 and (the disputed) 1 Timothy 5 I think it is most likely that these appointments were conducted by the laying on of hands.

    I’d also be interested in hearing a few sentences on how exactly you understand the whole concept of apostolic succession, and when in history you see it terminating.

    There are four principles upon which, I believe, apostolic succession stands: the theocratic principle, the hierarchical principle, the principle of sacramental ordination, and the principle of a restricted right and power to ordain.

    1) The theocratic principle is that anyone claiming to possess supernatural divine authority must have received such authority or power from God Himself or from one having been authorized by God to pass this authority or power on to others. This power cannot be claimed by anyone of themselves.

    2) The hierarchical principle is that the apostles could transmit their office to some in its entirety, and to others a part of that office. Those who had been transmitted the apostolic office in its entirety would be essentially of the same rank of the apostles, while those who had been transmitted only a part of it would be of an inferior rank with lesser powers.

    3) The principle of sacramental ordination is that appointment to ecclesiastical office was through the laying on of hands in conjunction with prayer, and that apostolic authority and power, whether in whole or in part, was mediated and imparted through these actions.

    4) The principle of a restricted right and power to ordain is that only those of the highest order of the ministry can ordain. Members of the second tier of ministry cannot ordain, neither can members of the first tier, and thus, obviously, the laity cannot ordain.

    These four principles may be summarized as follows: only those could ordain who had been ordained to ordain.

    In the primitive Church there was varying terminology as to the three-tiered ministry. In the New Testament, in the Didache, and in 1 Clement, we see apostles, bishops, and deacons. In Ignatian terminology (Ignatius of Antioch being a disciple of the Apostle John), which would very quickly be adopted universally by the Church, we see bishops, presbyters-priests, and deacons. The succession to the apostles was traced through the bishops.

    This doctrine was held to be essential to the very being and existence of the Church until the Reformation, when Protestant churches rejected it. It is still held to be essential by Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Anglo-Catholics.

    I hope that helps. Let it be known that I am indebted to the inestimable Felix Cirlot’s Apostolic Succession: Is It True? for the explanation given above.

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  10. Drew, perhaps you could buy me a home in California (on the beach) so that we could continue these conversations in person? You are too kind!

    Thanks for fleshing out your views on apostolic succession. My thought at the moment is, its one thing to say, the New Testament does not clearly teach apostolic succession, but I affirm it on the basis of the early church. Its another to say, what the early church practiced is clearly taught in the New Testament. If you were saying the former, I think I could understand a bit more, and our conversation would focus more on Scripture vs. Tradition issues. (That would be an interesting conversation to have.) But you seem to be saying the latter, which requires, in my opinion, your reading things into verses that are simply not there. In my assessment, each of the verses you cite does not teach apostolic succession unless you approach it with certain assumptions about this view already in place. While I certainly have no problem with the laying on hands as one valid means (though not the only) of appointment to the offices of elder and deacon, and apostles and apostolic delegates doing the appointing, I remain convinced that there is not a SINGLE example or prescript of appointment to the office of apostle through the laying on of hands in the NT.

    I find it significant that you call Matthias an “anomaly.” Given the fact that the original twelve and Paul are also “anomalies” in that they are not called through the laying on of hands, I would say there are more exceptions than rules to your understanding of apostolic appointment in the NT. In fact, every CLEAR example of apostolic appointment is an “anomaly.” So from all this (both the absence of positive evidence and the presence of counter-evidence) I say that I think your case would be better made if you simply appealed to church tradition then the NT.

    On the specific texts:

    I think your reading of Galatians 1 is very difficult. Consider verse 12 in light of verse 11: “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” In context, Paul is not advocating two equally possible means of apostolic appointment; he is clearly pointing to the divine origins of the gospel and apostolic appointment over and against human decisions. Humanly called apostles would overturn his whole case about what the gospel is here.

    On I Tim 5, it may well be referring to appointing elders (which is not the same thing as appointing apostles). But laying on of hands is used for many purposes in the NT, and it may also refer prayers for the sick (e.g., Mark 6:4, James 5) giving the Spirit (Acts 8:17, Acts 19:6) or bestowing a spiritual gift (II Tim. 1:6/I Tim. 4:14). We simply don’t have enough information to decide, especially since verses 21 and 23 are not referring to elders or their appointment, but more general aspects of Timothy’s ministry.

    Thanks again for your thoughtfulness. I don’t know many other Orthodox Christians so I am learning a lot.

    GRO

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  11. Gav,

    But you seem to be saying the latter, which requires, in my opinion, your reading things into verses that are simply not there.

    Actually, I’d say that apostolic succession is implicitly, not explicitly, taught in the New Testament. That being said, I see more biblical evidence for episcopalian polity (and with it, apostolic succession) than presbyterian polity. And I think it is even harder to argue biblically for congregational polity than presbyterian polity. If my view is correct, it makes sense that we would see episcopal polity in the sub-apostolic period. And we do. It is taught in Clement’s First Letter to the Corinthians (40:1-5), Ignatius of Antioch’s Letter to the Smyrnaeans (8:1-2), and Polycarp’s Letter to the Corinthians (opening statement). It is important to note as well that these men, monarchical bishops in succession to the apostles, wrote letters modeled after the apostolic letters of the New Testament, in very much the same vein as the apostolic letters of the New Testament. In fact, 1 Clement was included in early canonical lists of the New Testament. These monarchical bishops did this because they believed themselves to be successors to the apostles, bearing apostolic authority and apostolic powers.

    If congregational polity were correct, as you believe per your blog, we would expect the sub-apostolic period to reflect congregational polity. And it doesn’t.

    I remain convinced that there is not a SINGLE example or prescript of appointment to the office of apostle through the laying on of hands in the NT.

    My biblical case is cumulative. What needs to be established first, and what I have argued for thus far, is that there are cases where the ecclesiastical office of apostle is transmitted to other men, not of the original twelve. Silvanus, Timothy, Barnabas, and, I believe, Titus, are such examples. In 1 Thessalonians 2:6, Paul states that Silvanus and Timothy bore apostolic authority — they could have asserted their authority had they chosen to. On your view, where apostleship is a spiritual gift not connected to the ecclesiastical office consigned solely to the twelve, this verse makes no sense. You also have yet to answer to my objection to your original post regarding 1 Corinthians 12:28, and with it, Ephesians 4:11, where apostleship is listed first. If these were random listings, why would Paul list apostleship first both times, especially in light of Paul’s statements regarding honor in 1 Corinthians 12?

    Given the fact that the original twelve and Paul are also “anomalies” in that they are not called through the laying on of hands, I would say there are more exceptions than rules to your understanding of apostolic appointment in the NT.

    I said originally that there are two ways in which one could become an apostle: immediately, i.e. by direct appointment from God, and mediately, however you want to cash that out (although I believe, given that the only method by which we see ordination to ecclesiastical office in the New Testament is through the laying on of hands, that this was through the laying on of hands). The original twelve must have been appointed directly by God, because there were no other men with divine authority and power to pass on the apostolate.

    Let me backtrack on Matthias. On second thought, and I was thinking about this last night, I believe his case to be a direct appointment from God, given that the original eleven would have seen the casting of lots in his favor as the direct action of the Lord (Acts 1:24-25).

    Consider verse 12 in light of verse 11: “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.”

    This translation is an interpretive move. This is yet another reason why I do not read the NIV, which most definitely has an Evangelical Protestant slant. The same could be said for the ESV, although to a lesser extent. I read the NASB, while, although wooden at times, preserves most faithfully a literal translation.

    ‘For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.’

    This translation, which is more literal, is consistent with my view. This reading of Galatians 1 is consistent with the fact that we see other apostles besides the twelve bearing apostolic authority in the New Testament — apostles having been made such ‘through the agency of man’ and having been taught the gospel from the other apostles. I think the whole point of this passage is that Paul is having to defend his ministry precisely because he had not been commissioned as an apostle by the other apostles.

    According to your reading of 1 Timothy 5, what would be the danger of laying hands too quickly on a man?

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  12. Drew,

    I appreciate you clarifying things a bit. To clarify on my own end, I would see Silvanus, Timothy, Barnabas, and possibly Titus as bearing apostolic authority through their connection to Paul’s ministry. I’m comfortable thinking of them as holders of the apostolic office, perhaps the kinds of people in view in I Corinthians 15:7. (I shouldn’t have spoken so definitely of the “13” in my original post – I was expecting fire from the other direction!) I don’t, however, see these men as appointed through the laying on hands; still less establishing a precedent of apostolic succession for future generations. I’d just need to see some NT evidence to accept that.

    On Galatians 1, I have no idea how the different translations affect the point in question. On I Tim 5, the laying on of hands is a significant action whether its for appointing elders, empowering with the Spirit, healing, etc. – never something to be rushed into hastily.

    My friend, I think I’m about maxing out on this conversation, though I’ve enjoyed it very much. I’m not sure if we are going to make much more progress here. If there’s anything pressing you’d like me to respond to, let me know and I’ll do my best (though I’ve set tomorrow aside for study – might be able to get to it this weekend). Also, if I’ve missed something, feel free to bring it to my attention (its late and I’m sleepy so that is very possible).

    Thanks,

    GRO

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  13. Gav,

    You are very gracious, which I really appreciate. I’ve seen too many online theological conversations amongst Christians, especially when disagreement is evident, get really ugly. I am thankful that that hasn’t happened here.

    May God bless your studies.

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  14. Thanks Drew. Feel free to comment on future posts.

    I hope I see you in real life soon, too.

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