Are There Apostles Today?

By Mark Swarbrick

If you find this article interesting you would probably like my book, Heavenly Miracles:  True Stories of Supernatural Intervention. Available on Amazon for just five dollars – Click HERE.

Five-Fold Ministries

Some modern churches claim to have a “five-fold ministry.” They get this moniker from Ephesians 4:11 where it says:

“And He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and teachers…”

The Catholic Church maintains that their pope is an apostle. Additionally, there are a number of non-Christian cults that claim to have apostles or prophets.

These ministries claim that this one isolated passage proves that the church should have apostles today, even though the traditional interpretation of Protestant Church theologians down through the centuries has been otherwise.  The fact of the matter is that all real apostles passed away during the 1st century, as God intended.

What is an Apostle?

An apostle is someone who can give eye-witness testimony to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They have incredible power to work miracles and were commissioned to write Scripture. Our New Testament is written exclusively by apostles, or the close associate of an apostle. In Acts Chapter 10 Peter proclames the authority of the apostles to be witnesses:

“And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” (Acts 10:39-41)

The idea of being a “witness to the resurrection” meant far more than just claiming a vision of Jesus. One had to have known Jesus had lived, seen him during his earthly ministry, been aware that he was killed, and then spent time with Jesus after His resurrection and be personally called by Him to be an apostle. Obviously, one cannot give such an apostolic testimony without having been a contemporary of Jesus.

Apostles are Foundational to the Church

Apostle’s were given to the Church to establish its foundation in the 1st century. If one thinks of building a house, one lays down the foundation and then builds on top of that.  One does not keep putting down new foundations after the house is being framed.  Apostles were intended to function only at the beginning of the Church. The benefit of this foundation is available to us today through the Bible. The New Testament is our apostolic foundation. Each New Testament book was written by an apostle or the close associate of an apostle. The Old Testament is our foundation that comes down to us via the Old Testament prophets.  Prophets and apostles togther give us the entire Bible, which is foundational to the Church. All doctrine must fall in line with the teachings found in Holy Scripture.

Requirements for Apostleship

  1. A Contemporary of Jesus: An apostle must be able to give witness to Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. The apostles proclaimed: “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed…we are witnesses to these things…” (Acts 5:30-32). The apostles were eye witnesses. To be this kind of witness, one must have lived during the time of Jesus. “So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” (Acts 1:21-22) This passage sets the precedent that at the very least, one of the qualifications for being an apostle is to be a contemporary of Jesus and the other apostles.
  2. Have Seen Jesus: An apostle must have seen Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 9:1 The Apostle Paul defends his apostleship, saying, “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” (1 Corinthians 9:1). So to be able to be an apostle you must be able to testify to both Jesus’ death and to his resurrection. Since Paul lived during the time of Christ he was able to give testimony of what all those in Jerusalem were aware of – that Jesus had been crucified, and had been killed. No one can do that today because they have not lived during that time of history. Paul could testify that Jesus, whom he knew for a fact to have died, was now alive, for he not only lived during that time period, but also Jesus appeared to him and called him as an apostle.
  3. Taught by Jesus: An apostle must have been personally instructed by Jesus. The Apostle Paul wrote, “The gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatian 1:11-12)
  4. Work Miracles: An apostle works signs and wonders. In 2 Corinthians 12:12 Paul says, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.”
  5. Write Scripture: Apostles can write Scripture. The New Testament was written by apostles or close associates of an apostle. Apostles had the authority to write Scripture. Peter recognized Paul’s writings as Scripture in 2 Peter 3:15-16.

No Apostles Today

Since one must have lived in the 1st century to be able to be a witness to Christ’s death on the cross, and subsequent resurrection, it is impossible for there to be apostles today.

God gave apostles (past tense) when he founded the Church. We still have them only in the sense that their writings are Holy Scripture which still guides us. Jude 1:7 says, “Remember the words having been spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ…”  Notice that word “beforehand.” Why does it say “beforehand?” Because this was written by Jude, the half-brother of Jesus around 80 AD. Most of the real apostles had already been martyred by that time, thus we are adjured to remember what they had already taught. We are never told in Scripture to look to the words spoken by new apostles.

Scripture never tells the Church to look for new apostles, but to rely on what was “spoken beforehand.” Furthermore, Jude 1:3 says, “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”  Our faith was laid down once by the original apostles. It was “once for all delivered” and “spoken beforehand.”  It was not to be given again and again by new apostles.

While the Bible gives details of the qualifications for selecting deacons and elders, no such information is given for apostles. That is because they were not intended for today. As the years went by and some apostles were martyred, there were no accounts of replacement apostles being chosen. If there were such a thing as apostolic succession, there would be a record of this.

Ephesians 2:20 says that the Church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles…” The foundation is the first thing laid down. You don’t build a first and second floor and then put another foundation on top of that.

Many who believe in apostles for today are good Christian folks; they are simply mistaken in their theology on this point. That said, it must be pointed out that this opens the door for false teaching. If apostles are considered to be able to write Scripture and establish doctrine, recognizing someone as an apostle today gives them far more power than is biblical. Non-Christian cults such as Mormonism, 7th Day Adventism, The Perfect Church, and many others recognize apostles and prophets in their church and use this in order to prop up their false teachings. Recognizing apostles diminishes the authority of Scripture.

Recognizing apostles today also goes against the teaching of Christ that we are all brothers:

“But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.” (Matthew 23:8-10)

Calling someone “Apostle So-and-So” smacks of prideful and pompous religiousity that is the opposite of the humility we should show as Christians. It puts too much emphasis on man, which detracts from devotion to Jesus Christ.

Cult leaders often use the unbiblical façade of apostles in order to erect for themselves an apostolic platform so that they can create their own doctrines, write their own scripture, and lord it over people with false authority. Having a so-called prophet or apostle leading a church is expressly against the teaching of our Lord, who specifically taught that there should not be an ecclesiastical hierarchy within the Church. Cults have an affinity for having a prophet for one reason – control. They want people to give unquestioned obedience to their teaching and commands. Recognizing apostles tends to lead people to follow men, rather than Christ. If you find yourself in a church claiming to have a prophet or an apostle, run for the door. It is a mark of cultism.

The Bible is the Standard, Not a Prophet or Apostle

Calling someone an apostle elevates them to a level to where people may neglect to compare their teaching to the Bible.

The standard in a proper New Testament church is not, “does it agree with the prophet or apostle,” but rather, does it agree with the Bible.

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isaiah 8:20)

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. ( Romans 16:17)

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. (1 Co 14:29)

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)


Frequently Asked Questions

Question:  If apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church of Christ, how can there be a church of Christ without prophets and apostles?

The answer is that the church still has Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles. Its called the Bible. It is the foundation of our faith. The word of God, the Holy Bible, is God’s message to the world.

Question: How do you explain the calling of Paul as an apostle? Can Jesus not show himself to someone today as he did to Paul on the road to Damascus?”

This question ignores one of the other prerequisites for apostleship: One must have lived in the 1st century to be able to give witness to his life and his death on the cross, and his subsequent ressurrection. Since Paul lived during the time of Christ he was able to give testimony of what all those in Jerusalem were aware of – that Jesus had been crucified, had died, and was buried in the tomb. No one can do that today because they have not lived during that time of history. Paul could testify that Jesus, whom he knew for a fact to have been dead, was now alive, for he not only lived during that time period, but also Jesus appeared to him and called him as an apostle.

It should be pointed out that the Lord’s appearance to Paul was not some sort of made-up vision that happened in private. Those with Paul experienced the event and Ananias was later told by the Lord that He had appeared to Paul. When Ananias went to Paul, he said to him: “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me…” (Acts 9:17) My point is that there was real evidence that Jesus appeared to Saul and called him, unlike many false prophets who merely claim they have seen the Lord, in order to get a following.

The Special Case of Paul

The Apostle Paul was not one of the twelve disciples. He was called by Christ to be an apostle later. The case of Paul being called as an apostle is used by five-fold ministry people as proof that God can call apostles today, just as he did Paul. However, in 1 Corinthians Chapter 15 Paul explains that his apostleship is somewhat of an exception. He explains that he was the last person to see the resurrected Lord, for that reason Paul says he was “untimely born” as an apostle: “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles…” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9) So Paul was the last apostle to see the Lord and be called as an apostle. If Paul considered himself “untimely born” as an apostle, what does that make people two-thousand years later who claim to be apostles?

Paul’s apostleship was confirmed by the other apostles and recognized by other church leaders. For example:

In Acts 9:15, the Lord said to Ananias regarding Saul, “He is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.”

Acts 22:14-15 records that the Lord, speaking through Ananias said to Paul, “The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.”

Consider also that the other apostles recognized Paul as an apostle. In 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter refers to Paul as “our beloved brother.” He states that Paul wrote “according to the wisdom given him.” Finally, Peter refers to Paul’s letters and calls them “Scripture.” Peter categorized the writings of Paul in the same class as “the rest of the Scriptures,” thus giving a clear indication that Paul’s writings are indeed truthful and authoritative.

So, for Paul’s apostleship we have five witnesses:

1. Paul’s own apostolic testimony that he is called by Christ as a bonafide witness of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.
2. The testimony of Ananias.
3. The testimony of the Apostle Peter
4. The testimony of Scripture, which calls Paul an apostle. Most of the New Testament was written by Paul.
5. The testimony of the Holy Spirit in that God worked mighty miracles through Paul.

There are no people today who can claim all five of these testimonies. So to compare a modern day person who claims to be an apostle as somehow having the same qualifications as the Apostle Paul, is simply ludicrous. Are there any so-called apostles today who have the testimony of Scripture, and of the other apostles?  Do these modern-day “apostles” perform the kind of miracles that Paul did? Do these new apostles write Scripture, as the other apostles did? Do they have the testimony of the Bible? Does scripture endorse these people by name, certifying them as new genuine apostles?

The Last Apostle

Finally, we have the Apostle Paul’s testimony which indicates he is the last of the apostles. In 1 Corinthians 15:8 Paul declared “and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He (Christ) appeared to me also.”

Comments are welcomed. Scroll down to comment.

My book, To Mormons with Love  explores the history and false teachings of Mormonism.  Click the book image to the left for more information and to purchase from Amazon. Only $8.99 on Kindle. Click HERE to purchase.

This article is an excerpt from my book To Mormons with Love. To see a listing of books I have published, please visit my author page on Amazon by clicking the image below.




  1. Could you write a book about exposing all of the heresy and legalism within the Jehovah’s Witness cult? I talked to one of them when they were doing their door to door thing a few months ago. I asked her if its true that they don’t believe in the Trinity. She said they didn’t believe and explained their views on it. I then asked her if they also denied Jesus’s divinity and she looked at me like she didn’t like where I was going and said “Oh I wouldn’t say that.” I knew she was lying.


    1. Hi Brad, Thanks for your comment. I will try to get around to writing a book on the JWs. I am in the middle of writing a Christian novel at the moment but after that is done I will try to do as you suggest. I have often talked with JWs. Last time I did I showed them in the Greek where it says Jesus was God (their “translation” has it ‘a god’) They ran out the door in a hurry, which is what they are apparently told to do if they run into anyone who knows the Bible.

      God bless,

      Pastor Mark


      1. Interesting. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll read your novel when it comes out. I’m trying to write a novel myself it’s love story. Do you know of any kind of writing methods that’ll help me. I’m good at coming up with the characters, plot, setting, etc. but I have a hard time coming up with dialogue. How do you make up the dialogue in your characters’ conversations?


        1. Hi Brad, Writing dialogue is the hardest part, that is, until you get the hang of it. I struggled with it at first, especially with the proper punctuation for dialogue. It took me a while to get the hang of it. Here are some pointers: Develop the personalities of the characters in your mind. What is their back story? What do they care about? What are their fears and hopes? Once you begin writing and putting this down on paper, the characters become very real in your mind. Once that happens, they start speaking on their own, or at least it seems that way. You get to where you can right down what one person says to them, and you already know what they will say before you write it because you have “come to know them” so to speak.

          Three essential tools you will need: One, It will cost you a monthly fee but trust me, it will make your writing better. Two, Grammarly plugin for Word. That costs too, but it helps. Be aware Grammarly is a bit over zealous on inserting commas where they are not absolutely necessary. Three, you need an editor – someone who knows grammar and good writing. Have them read the manuscript and suggest revisions.

          One last thing: Dialogue in a novel cannot be like real life, or it would be boring. There must be some tension or some time of emotion in order to catch the reader’s interest.

          There is much more and if you can catch some writers workshops they will help you. Good luck with your writing. I wish you success!

          God bless,

          Pastor Mark


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge