This refers to the twelve elevated out of the ranks of the many disciples of Jesus. Paul also claimed to be an apostle. The concept or term probably had a relationship to the Judaic practice of delegation and representation. There are several criteria that an individual must fulfil according to the New Testament in order to become an apostle. Firstly, one must have been a disciple and must have been personally called into this office by Jesus Himself; Luke 6:13 “And when it was day, He called His disciples and chose from them twelve, whom He named Apostles.” This signified an elevation of status and also of power above the generality of the disciples. They had through this been given a higher responsibility.
Also in Acts of Apostles 2:16-23 as the decision came to be made to replace Judas Iscariot by either Matthias or Barsabbas Justus we read “…concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry….’his share let another take’. So one of the men who have accompanied us, beginning from the baptism of John …one of these men must become with us a witness to His resurrection.” Later other criteria followed after the death of Jesus; for example to be appointed the individual must have been a witness to the resurrection of Jesus as the quotation above shows. One of the most important criteria was that the individual must have been sent by Jesus to proclaim the Gospel. Apart from the twelve disciples who obviously fulfilled all the criteria, Paul also did fulfil these criteria because he had seen Christ and had been called to his mission by the Lord Himself.
The apostles proclaim the Kingdom of God after receiving the Spirit which empowers and enlightens them. They are also able to transmit power in the performance of miracles and also through the Baptism. Being able to transmit power to those who are open to it is of immense importance as it provides proof of the genuine standing of the apostle. It means that the apostle himself has to be standing aright for him to be able to receive of the Spirit and transmit it to other human beings.
In fact the offices of apostle and disciple are those of mediators. They absorb the power of God as they are able to and transmit these to human beings in general. Not only do they absorb of the power but also of the knowledge of God. They are meant to mould and transform this knowledge and power according to their own natures and then pass it on to other human beings who are not in a position to absorb the Word of God directly.
In this way, it becomes easier for the ordinary human being to partake of the knowledge of God and of His Power. Today, the word Apostle has come to mean many things. It has come to refer to any high ranking ecclesiastical officer and so on. The office of Apostle has nothing to do with any Church or any earthly appointments as can already be deduced. These people can only be chosen by God Himself and the choice is entirely determined by the individuals’ inner spiritual qualities and ability to fulfil in this office which would have been seen by God. In this matter, the opinions of individuals are of no consequence whatever.