1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:
No voice of man appointed Paul to be an apostle; God Himself designated him an apostle. Paul did not say “the” apostle of Jesus Christ, because there were other apostles as well.
The Greek word “apostle” comes from two Greek words: to send and from. The word “apostle” then means sent one. An apostle is one who comes into a situation with credentials from a person in authority. In this case, the person with authority is Jesus Christ. Paul was an emissary of Jesus. Paul spoke for Jesus. He was no self-styled author.
“Apostle” is a nautical term. Kings sent admirals to other nations with authority of war. The admiral carried credentials from the king. The idea is to send someone from someone in authority. In this case, God sent Paul with the authority and credentials of God almighty. An apostle had the authority to write Scripture through direct revelation, and he had the right to found and rule over churches.
There are certain qualifications of an apostle. An apostle was appointed by the Holy Spirit (1 Co 12:8,11). He was an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Ac 9; 1 Co 15:8,9). The apostle was endued with powers of miracles (Ac 5:15; 16:16-18; 19:11-12). No apostle was appointed to the church until after the ascension of Christ. The twelve apostles sent to Israel were not the same as the apostles sent to the church (Mt 10). The church did not exist at that time; it was still future (Mt 16:18).
Apostles then had the authority to write Scripture and found the church. They carried the authority of having seen the resurrected Jesus with their eyes. Their teaching came from the direct authority of Christ, from His lips. They evidenced authority by miracles (2 Co 12:12).
Paul was not one of the 12 original apostles. One qualification for apostleship was seeing Jesus. Paul saw the risen Christ (1 Co 9:1; 15:8-9). God gave him miraculous powers to authenticate his apostleship (2 Co 12:12; He 2:3-4).
The word “apostle” conveys the idea of a special commission from God. This divine commission of apostleship is the highest-ranking gift in the Bible. There are no more apostles today. No one has the right to write Scripture in our day. This gift, as all gifts, can only be bestowed by the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation (1 Co 12:11,13).
Paul was the human author of Scripture, but the Holy Spirit was the divine author: “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pe 1:20). This does not mean that the human author mechanically wrote Scripture with little or no input from his person. It means that the Holy Spirit guided every word he wrote to accurately convey what God wanted to communicate to man.
The office of an “apostle” carried the highest authority in Christianity. The idea is of someone with authority sending someone else. Although there are no apostles in the official sense today, the New Testament does employ the word “apostle” in a second, non-official way (carrying the idea of one sent as a missionary, an ambassador), which is applicable in our day. However, the original sense—of one sent with the full authority as an official apostle—is the meaning in our verse. Paul was a Scripture-writing, church-founding apostle.
Paul used the term “apostle” only when necessary to affirm his credentials. He preferred the term “servant.”
God is calling ambassadors today, but not apostles.
There are spiritual leaders today who claim that they are successors to the apostles. There is no evidence for this claim in the Bible. The apostle of the first century had the right to found the church and write Scripture. This was unique to the apostles of the first century. When God finished writing the New Testament, the apostle went off the scene (the closing of the canon of Scripture). No one has the right to write Scripture today. There is no need for the founding of the church anymore.
Although there are no apostles today, there are “sent ones.” We call them missionaries or ambassadors. Every Christian is a missionary or ambassador for Christ. We represent Him here on earth in time. We invest our life under the bloodstained banner of the cross.
2 Co 5:20, Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.