Questions from Bible Study (Series): Apostles and Disciples

Jesus appears to the disciples in the Upper Room on Pentecost

Question: What is the difference between an apostle and a disciple?

This is a very common question. The terms “apostle” and “disciple” are often used interchangeably, particularly when referring to the Twelve men hand-chosen by Jesus to be His followers and spokesmen to the world.

Within Christianity a disciple is one who is a student of Christ Jesus and who strives to apply His teachings in life. The word disciple comes from a Latin word meaning pupil. Both the learning (i.e.: Bible study) and the application of Jesus’ commandments and teachings are central to discipleship. During His earthy ministry, Jesus had hundreds of disciples, followers. Mary, Martha and Lazarus and Mary Magdalene would be well known examples. The 120 gathered in the Upper Room of Pentecost were disciples and included most of the Apostles.

Since Jesus and His immediate followers were not “gainfully employed” during His period of instruction as we would define it today. They depended on followers for shelter and support. This practice was also used by Paul during many portions of his missionary journeys.

The term Apostle is generally applied to a group hand-selected by Jesus for His instruction and to establish the Universal Church following His death and resurrection. This group would include the original Twelve, Mathias (who replaced Judas Iscariot), Paul and James, brother of Jesus. Apostles were also disciples.

The word apostle is very roughly translated from an Aramaic word meaning “one who is chosen (called) by God for a particular mission or duty.” When used in this sense that all who are called today would be apostles. In the New Testament, the two terms are often used interchangeably in modern English translations. This is another example of the challenges of Biblical translation.

As a general rule, when the terms are capitalized they refer to the Apostles mentioned above. When used in lower case they have a broader meaning. See how the two terms can be so easily confused?

Jesus knew that His time on earth would be very short. He would not have enough time to instruct a huge number of people. He also understood small group dynamics. These are the primary reasons He choose the original Twelve for His intense, special instruction.

Shalom, Art

Alive in The Word

This is part of a series of blogs responding to questions that come up in Bible study classes I am either taking or facilitating. To see all of the blogs in this series, please visit: Questions from Bible Study

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About aliveintheword

Missouri, USA Married to Marty, 45 years 2 sons (with 2 daughers-in-law) and 2 granddaughters Life dedicated to serving Jesus Christ and delivering the Good News
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4 Responses to Questions from Bible Study (Series): Apostles and Disciples

  1. mtsweat says:

    Very informative Art. The leaders in the background I’m from choose to not use the term (Apostle) for disciples today, mainly to avoid confusion. But as you said, by definition, all believers could fit under its definition. Thanks friend and God bless.

  2. ptl2010 says:

    Let us keep on building on each other’s knowledge and sharing to build up the body of Christ represented here by Contributors and Clickers who read the blogs… may all glorify Him who is above all and inspires us to write to different ones at different levels of understanding. Praise God He feeds us with His Word and we help each other along as He leads us to see different perspectives like a diamond has. One whets the appetite and others move in with more facts.. never exhaustible till we see the whole when we see Him face to face. .

  3. rickroehm says:

    The word Apostle in Greek means apo-stolis or one sent from. An Apostle is one sent out by Christ. The Bible speaks of 12 Apostles who were sent out during the earthly ministry of Christ…and 12 Apostles who were sent out by a resurrected Christ in the Throneroom.

    Paul an Apostle of Christ was not sent out during the eartly ministry of Christ but was sent out by a resurrected Christ from the Throneroom according to the will of God. Much to be learned though God’s Grace and Apostleship.

    Apostleship divides the Old Testament and New Testament. Grace and Apostleship comes from a resurrected Christ. Which clearly proves Apostles like Grace still continues at this present hour.

    Romans 1:1-5…Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called [to be] an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared [to be] the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith

    Disciples means disciplined learners. Discipleship comes through hearing about Jesus and learning what the Word of God says about Him. A disciple is someone who desires to learn more about Jesus. Hearing about Jesus, hearing the Gospel message, becoming a member of Christ’s body …makes disciples. Disciples learn, hear, and are taught about Jesus. Teaching all nations is presenting the Gospel to the world. The Gospel message makes men disciples because they look to Christ and become members of his body by the operation of the Holy Spirit

    Mat. 28:19-20…And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway,

    Glory to God Almighty!

  4. ptl2010 says:

    Thank you Art. As disciple or apostle let us always bring honour and glory to Jesus.

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