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What’s The Difference Between Apostle and Disciple?

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So what’s the difference between an apostle and a disciple (as used in the Bible)? Well, I once heard a pastor explain it this way; all of the apostles were disciples, but not all disciples are apostles.  

Let’s start with the definition of a disciple first. According to the Seventh-Day Adventist Commentary, volume 8 (Dictionary), it says that a disciple is one who, as a student or adherent, follows the teaching of another, especially of a public teacher. So by that definition, we are all disciples because we are all followers of Jesus Christ, who was a very public teacher.

Everyone is a disciple, even the 12 apostles. In Matthew 10:1 we see that the 12 apostles are referred to as disciples. It says, “And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.”

This is also the case in Matthew 11:1, which says, “Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities.”

In Luke 6:17, the term disciple is used generally to refer to all of his followers, “And He came down with them and stood on a level place with a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseases…”

It’s also used generally to refer to followers in John 3:25, which says, “Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification.” They were followers of John the Baptist, another very public teacher.

Now on to the term apostle. Again, according to volume 8 of the SDA Commentary, it says, “One sent forth, a messenger, an ambassador.” The apostles were sent forth by Jesus as his representative or as his ambassador. The term apostle in the New Testament gospels is normally used to refer to the 12, with the exception of Luke 11:49 and in the writings of Paul where he refers to himself as an apostle and to a few others as apostles.

1 Corinthians 1:1, Paul says, “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother.”

Also in 1 Corinthians 9:1, which says, “Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?” Paul makes an argument that he’s an apostle since he personally saw Jesus Christ and was sent on his mission specifically by Jesus as his ambassador.

In Luke 6:13, Jesus names his 12 apostles from his disciples. It says, “And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles…”

The twelve initially named by Jesus Christ is Simon (also named Peter), Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Simon the Zealot, Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot (Luke 6:13-15).

After Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus, the 11 cast lots to choose Matthias as his replacement to ensure that they were again 12 apostles (Acts 1:15-26) as Jesus had determined before he was crucified.

Did you know that 11 of the 12 apostles were persecuted and died a martyr’s death for Jesus Christ? Only one was persecuted, but died of old age, and that was John. He was imprisoned on the island of Patmos by Roman authorities and while imprisoned on that island he wrote the book of Revelation.

“Remember to read your BIBLE,

accept the TRUTH,

and be a LIGHT in this dark world.”

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