DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: How many apostles were there? I had always heard 12, but then someone told me Paul was also an apostle, although he didn’t follow Jesus until later. I guess it doesn’t really matter, but I’ve always been curious about things in the Bible. — D.H.
DEAR D.H.: The word “apostle” literally means “one who is sent out,” and it was first applied to the band of 12 disciples who were with Jesus during his earthly ministry, and then commissioned to preach the Gospel.
After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, these apostles gave leadership to the growing community of Christians. (After Judas betrayed Jesus and committed suicide, another disciple was chosen to take his place, keeping the number at 12, thus recalling the original 12 tribes of Israel.) Later, others (such as Paul and Barnabas) were also called apostles, because they too had met Jesus and were sent out by him to preach the Gospel.
Only someone who had known Jesus personally could be called a true apostle. They not only had heard his teachings and seen his miracles, but they also had witnessed his death and resurrection. Because of this, people could trust their message about Christ, and in time their inspired writings became the books of the New Testament. Therefore, our faith is secure, “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20).
Never lose your curiosity about what the Bible says; God wants you to grow in your understanding of its truth. But don’t just be curious! It contains the answers to life’s deepest questions, because it points us to Jesus Christ. Put your faith and trust in him, and then ask God to help you grow closer to him and become more like him every day.
Write “My Answer,” Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; or go to BillyGraham.org.
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