Romans 1:1; I Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; I Timothy 1:1
(see also 2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:1, Titus 1:1)
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.
Paul, called to be an apostle through the will of God.
Paul, an apostle, (not by the will of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ.
MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): When I was but a young divine, methought Paul did unwisely in glorying so oft of his calling in all his epistles; but I did not understand his purpose.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): To be an apostle means that one had been very definitely and specifically called by God Himself, by the Lord Jesus Christ in particular. If you read these various epistles of this apostle in the New Testament and watch his introductions, you will find that he―invariably almost―refers to himself as one who is called to be an apostle, which is better put like this, “a called apostle.” Now a man could not have been an apostle unless he had been called in this unique and special manner. An Apostle, in other words, is never one that is appointed by the church. No man can appoint an apostle, no man can create an apostle. An essential part of the definition of the calling of an apostle is that in a very unique and special and direct way he has been called of God.
JOHN GILL (1697-1771): This was not a mere name given him by men, and by which he was only commonly called by them, but was an office he was “called” to by Christ; he did not rush into it, or assume it of himself, but had a divine warrant for it―he did not assume that character and office without the call of Christ, and the will of God; and which he chooses to mention, in opposition to the false apostles, who had neither.*
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: He, I say, is very much concerned to emphasize this…Look at him opening his letter to the Galatians: Paul, an apostle. And then in brackets: not by the will of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. You notice how he puts it, and how important the negative is: “not of men, neither by men.” You can’t be apostle of men, or by men.
Now, he does that you see for this good reason; that there were going around in the churches in those early days, false apostles; men who went and said, “I am an apostle”…And what the apostle is always asserting is this—that they are false apostles…they were never called by God. They’ve been appointed by men, either themselves or by some other men―they’re of men, and by men, and not of Jesus Christ and of God.
JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): The apostles did not appoint themselves, but were chosen by Christ…Another inference is, that no man will be fit or qualified for so distinguished an office who has not been formed and moulded by the hand of Christ Himself.
J. N. DARBY (1800-1882): Apostolic authority flowed from the nomination of Christ Himself―personal apostolic authority, viewing the apostles as teachers authorized by the Lord.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: When God called a man to be an apostle, by His grace He equipped him to be an apostle. He gave him certain gifts. And there were certain signs and marks of an apostle always. An apostle was a man who was always given the grace and the power to work miracles and signs and wonders. A man was not an apostle unless he was able to do this. You’ll find many references to that again right through the New Testament scriptures. One of the seals, the marks, the signs of an apostle was that he had this supernatural miraculous power. And so, when you read the books of the Acts of the Apostles, you will read a phrase like this: “special miracles” were worked by the Apostle Paul, Acts 19:11. Special miracles. They were so profuse that people stood and marvelled and wondered at it.
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): He had given them full proof and evidence of his apostleship; for the signs of an apostle were wrought among them in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds, 2 Corinthians 12:12.
A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Extraordinary gifts of the Spirit were not intended to be perpetuated throughout this Christian dispensation…Their non-continuance is hinted at in Mark 16:20…So, too, by the fact that God did not give faith to His servants to count upon the same throughout the centuries: it is unthinkable that the intrepid Reformers and the godly Puritans failed to appropriate God’s promise if any had been given to that effect.
GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): I never did pretend to these extraordinary operations of working miracles or speaking with tongues.
A. W. PINK: There is now no need for such gifts as prophecy and tongues: we are “thoroughly furnished” by the now complete Canon of Scripture, 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Listen to this: I certify you brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me, is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ, Galatians 1:11,12…He appeared to me on the road to Damascus; He appeared again when I was in the temple; He appeared to me when I was in Corinth—This is what makes me an apostle, that I have received it all by this direct revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. And you notice he says the same thing about all the holy apostles and prophets. The church is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, [Ephesians 2:20; 3:3-5]—and the truth has been revealed. We don’t need revelation, it was revealed to the apostles and prophets, then they having transmitted it―having preached it―having written it―we have it!
A. W. PINK: Christians are now left with the Word alone by which to measure and try all who claim to be the mouthpiece of God.
JOHN CALVIN: All are ready to declare, that they do not speak except from God…When, therefore, false spirits pretend the name of God, we must inquire from the Scriptures whether these things are so.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Then let us learn a lesson about the nature and the character of an apostle. Have we realized that the office of an apostle is something absolutely unique? That an apostle was one who was called directly by the Lord, that he had to be a witness of the resurrection, that he was given an unique inspiration and authority, that he was given this power to attest his calling by miracles and signs and wonders? Do we see the unique character of an apostle? That an apostle belongs to the foundation of the church, and the foundation only.
J. N. DARBY: We cannot have apostolic authority: no one is an apostle in any such sense. This could not be, because we do not lay the foundation; it would be to deny that which has already been done. The foundation has been laid.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: There are no apostles now and [there] cannot be.
*Editor’s Note: The key question to ask people who call themselves apostles, or who claim to have an “apostolic” ministry is this: Who made you an apostle―God or man? If the answer is themselves, or some other people, or even the church, then they are false apostles. But if they claim that God Himself has called them to be apostles, or led them to exercise some kind of “apostolic” ministry, then these questions must be asked: How did God directly call you to this? Did Jesus Christ appear unto you? What evidence authenticates your calling? What special miracles have you performed? Do you claim that God has given you a special revelation beyond what is already written in the Bible? To the law and the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them, Isaiah 8:20.