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Core Christianity: Tough Questions Answered

Why Should the Apostles Be Trusted?

by Doug Powell posted February 1, 2023

During his three years of ministry, Jesus taught many people, sometimes several thousand at a time. And a number of those probably heard him more than once. But there was a group of twelve men personally selected by Jesus to be specially trained by him. They traveled together, ministered together, learned together, and did life together.

Jesus gave this small group access to him in a way that no one else had. They received intense instruction and were able to ask him for clarification about his public teaching. They watched how he interacted with all kinds of people from different social stations, and they observed him in many different situations. Some of the most powerful miracles—such as walking on water or calming the storm—were witnessed only by them. They became better acquainted with Jesus’s message and character than anyone else. In fact, after Jesus commanded the storm to calm, the twelve not only worshipped him as God, but Jesus accepted it—an acknowledgement of his deity.

At the discovery of the empty tomb, these were the people to whom the angels sent the women. And that evening, it was to this group of men that Jesus appeared. For forty days, he gave them many proofs that he was truly resurrected. But he mainly taught them truths they couldn’t have understood before the resurrection. New teaching was revealed, and the instruction they received before his death took on new meaning.

At the end of the forty days, Jesus met them on a mountain and gave them final instructions. He commissioned them to spread his teaching throughout the world to make and baptize disciples. He gave them the authority to speak in his name, and he equipped them to do it. Then, before their eyes, he ascended into heaven. Ten days later, the Holy Spirit came and empowered them to act on that commission.

The Greek word for their special office is apostle, which means messenger. Given that Jesus is God incarnate, the second person of the Trinity, being sent by him is the same thing as being sent by God. In the Old Testament, a person given a message from God is a prophet. Therefore, the apostles are the New Testament equivalent of prophets. They had the authority to teach the message of Jesus, correct those who misunderstood it, and protect it from attack. No one else was equipped and commissioned for that work in such an authoritative way. True, Judas was not a true believer and fell away. But the remaining eleven, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, replaced him with Matthias, a follower of Jesus from the beginning and witness of many of the same things.

In addition to these twelve, Jesus appeared to his brother, James, who became not only a believer, but an apostle. The only apostle to be commissioned after the forty days was Saul of Tarsus, who became known as Paul. The apostles radically reoriented their lives to focus on spreading the good news given to them by Jesus. And they were rewarded with hardship, torture, and eventually martyrdom, which indicates their conviction that what they were teaching was true. Although tradition varies about where the apostles travelled or how they were killed, only one—John—died of natural causes. All of them gave their lives for what they’d been taught and equipped for.

The earliest believers considered the teachings of these men as authoritative. They even collected their letters and writings. In some cases, the followers of the apostles—Mark and Luke—wrote down their teachings. These writings form the authority that the early church fathers appealed to as they explained and defended Christianity to a world that didn’t know anything about it. The writings of the apostles were preserved and passed down, and are still the authority for the church today: the New Testament.

This is an excerpt from our Core booklet, Tough Questions Answered. Request your free copy here.

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Doug Powell

Doug Powell holds an MA in Christian Apologetics. In addition to being a best-selling author of more than a dozen books on apologetics, he is a speaker, musician, songwriter, graphic designer, app developer, and a very amateur magician. He has performed on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and has been featured on CNN and NPR. He lives outside Nashville, Tennessee.

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