My whole Christian life something has confused me… It is not a complex theory or anything that involves a large amount of faith. No, what confused me what the difference between an apostle and a disciple. Are they the same thing? What makes them different? What am I called to be? Some of you might be thinking that I am crazy for struggling with this distinction while others may be asking themselves the same questions. According to the poll I had up on Instagram the decision on if they are the same was almost a 50/50 split. A few say they are the same and a few say they are different. This lead me to dig a little deeper to see if I could gain some clarity on the answer.
The quick definition of these terms says that an apostle is each of the twelve chief disciples of Jesus Christ and a disciple is a personal follower of Jesus during his life, especially one of the twelve Apostles. These definitions in itself don’t give us much clarity since they basically overlap each other. If we want to better understand we need to turn to the source itself, Jesus and the Bible.
We find in Matthew 9 and 10 that Jesus calls out 12 of His disciples by name and gives them authority over unclean spirits and the power to cure diseases and illnesses. This mark the moment in which the apostle is set. This also gives us a hint that there were more than just 12 disciples at this time and Jesus chose these few to be something special. These few were set apart to be different that the others and to have more authority. In other words, every apostle would be considered a disciple but not every disciple is an apostle. While Jesus was with His disciples they would have been exactly that but when He went to His place in heaven they would have become apostles sharing and spreading the word of God and becoming teachers to all nations. Matthew 28: 19-20 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” We as believers are called to go out and spread the message of the Lord creating new disciples. We are disciples making disciples.
Another way to gain some clarity on this subject is to look at the original meaning of each word. The Greek word for disciple translates to student or learner; the Greek word for apostle means one who is sent. A disciple is one who receives the messages of God and studies them, but an apostle is one who receives and then in turn is called to share that knowledge with others. This would be someone who is called into the ministry and has a direct message from God that they are to go out and teach His message. Meaning they will probably have received additional teaching beyond the weekly sermons or bible studies many of us attend. This would also be someone who has given up many worldly comforts to pursue the path of God. Being an apostle calls for a great deal of sacrifice. We see this in the lives of the first apostles, They gave up their ways of life to become the followers of Jesus and continued on this path all the way to the end of their lives which was commonly painful and gruesome.
All of this brings me to my final question. Am I a disciple or an Apostle? This is a personal question that can only be determined by God Himself. Regardless if we find ourselves in the group of disciples or apostle we are given this message directly for Jesus in Matthew 10: 26-33, “Therefore, do not be afraid of them. There is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, proclaim in the daylight, and what you hear whispered, shout from the housetops. Have no fear of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them can fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even the hairs on your head have all been counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth far more than any number of sparrows. Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my heavenly Father.” This passage gives us hope in whatever path we are on that we will not and cannot be cut down by the world or the enemy. God is in control and through Him we will have all the answers we need. We have the power of God behind us as we set out on the path He has for us.
I believe that I am to so a teaching disciple of God. Meaning that I should be doing as much as I can to take in what God is giving to me and in turn sharing what I have learned and received with others drawing them closer to God.