Holy and Unholy Cultures?? (Part 1)

Much like there have been times in church history where people have embraced the idea of “holy language” (Hebrew, Koine Greek, Latin, Middle English) there have been periods of time and places where a similar sanctification has been placed on culture.

The Jerusalem Council struggled with this during the first century. Does a Greek have to become (culturally) a Jew to become a Christian? The decision, in the end, was NO. A Greek can remain culturally a Greek and still be Christian. This still left a lot to be determined. Is everything Greek sanctified and good? What about underlying beliefs or worldview?  It is pretty clear that some things need to radically change, but which things?

It seems to me that four places to get a bit of a grasp of this are:

  • Jerusalem Council (as recorded by Luke) and the Didache
  • Paul’s remarks of culture
  • Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus (chapter 5)

I will dig into none of these deeply.

1.  Jerusalem Council.  Here is the announcement as recorded by Luke regarding the summation of that council.

The apostles and elders, your brothers,

To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:

Greetings.

24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

Farewell.

The keyword here is Flexibility, I think. The Apostles and Elders said that they would place no burdens on the Greek Christians except minor limitations on food, and on sexual misconduct.  If you think about it, what does this mean?  Is it saying that the Council was saying that it was okay for Greek Christians to lie, to steal, to murder? Certainly this is not the case. Is it saying that virtues such as integrity, godliness, and honor are not being placed on the Greeks Christians? Again, certainly not. What does appear to be said is three things:

  • The trappings of Jewish Culture are not necessary for non-Jews.
  • The ideals and taboos of Greek culture are, for the most part, commendable. Because of this, the Greek Christians do not need to be told “do not lie” because they already know this to be virtuous even before here the gospel message.
  • Some specific areas of Greek culture may be unhealthy and set aside if one is supposed to follow Christ. (However, Jesus also challenged some aspects of Jewish culture as unhealthy as well.)

Alan Garrow has made the suggestion that the Didache was originally a longer version of the short-form of the Jerusalem Council announcement. He has suggested that the Didache is less clear on the breaking down of Jewish cultural rules. However, when I look at the Didache it seems to me to be an expansion on the Sermon on the Mount… and as such, expresses principles that are in many ways supracultural as well as principles that challenge all cultures. The principles mentioned in the Didache certain do not encourage a rejection of Greek culture but recognize that the words of Jesus challenge both Jewish and Greek cultures.

2.  Paul’s comments on Culture. I am not going to go into details in this area, but simply point people to his writings to the Churches of Corinth and Galatia.  In these it could be said that Paul took a more extreme view than the Jerusalem Council. For example, to the church of Corinth he says that it is okay to eat food sacrificed to idols, as long as people are mature enough to handle it. Since idols are nothing, and the religion of the Greeks has no power, the danger in eating food sacrificed to idols is how it affects the belief and heart of the Greek Christians. In his message to the church of Galatia, he makes a point that when Greek and Jewish Christians are together, it is better for the Jews to adapt to the Greeks rather than remain separate. I would, however, describe his view as Pragmatic. Additionally, it seems like the focus is on avoiding a ghettoization of Christianity. Jewish Christians and Greek Christians should find ways to fellowship together rather than build walls of separation. And Greek Christians should be able to interact with Greek Pagans without fear and separation. I would also suggest they were a bit ad hoc, in that his words point to how broader principles would be carried out in this specific case.

3.  Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus.  Chapter 5. This chapter can be read in another post I wrote before.  Click HERE.  When you read it, it says three things about Christians.

  • In many ways, Christians fit into the culture so well that they are indistinguishable from the culture.
  • In some ways, Christians surpass those in the culture by living up to the ideals of the culture rather than the typical reality within the culture.
  • In some other ways, Christians live counter-culturally, by rejecting some specific aspects of culture that are opposed to the teachings of Jesus.

If one looks at these references, I believe oneIdealized Culture would have to see that culture (at least within the context of Jewish and Greek cultures) is generally good or neutral. It is Neutral in that it has distinguishing characteristics that are perfectly fine for Christian and non-Christian. It is Good in that it provides ideals that are often quite commendable and worthy of seeking to live up to. At the same time, culture can be seen negatively in three major ways. First, it can be seen as failing to live up to God’s standards. But is universal for all cultures fail in this area. Second, it can be seen as failing to live up to its own standards. Most all cultures idealize certain virtues and attack certain vices or taboos— but its members rarely live up to these standards.

Third, cultures may be seen as bad based on “demonization” by outsiders. They take certain qualities and broad-brush the culture undermining virtues, and exaggerating vices.

This third area will be looked more seriously in Part II.  But for now, based on the passages above, Christians should live in a culture on three levels:

  1. Christians should live in the culture as it is lived out by its members. As such, in many key ways, Christians should be indistinguishable from others in that culture.
  2. Christians should strive to live up to the ideals of the culture, not simply the culture as it is commonly lived.
  3. Christians should also live up to, as best as possible, God’s standards, being willing to reject cultural ideals and cultural norms WHEN NECESSARY.

Where one shifts between these two, good people can disagree. Paul and Peter appeared to disagree. Mature and immature believers in Corinth disagreed.

It is Okay for good people to disagree.

(But I think Part II will cover an area that is NOT Okay)

 

 

Missionary Member Care, and the Didache

Been teaching a class on Missionary Member Care. I have enjoyed it— I make no promise that my 12 students share that opinion. After the student group presentation of Missionary Member Care in the light of the Carey Mission (especially as it relates to William Carey, John Thomas, Dorothy Carey, and Felix Carey), we had a bit of time left, so I handed out a reading from the Didache that relates to Missionary Member Care.  Here it is:didache_md2

CHAPTER 11 Travelling teachers — Apostles — Prophets

3 And concerning the Apostles and Prophets, act thus according to the ordinance of the Gospel.  4 Let every Apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord, 5 but let him not stay more than one day, or if need be a second as well; but if he stay three days, he is a false prophet. 6 And when an Apostle goes forth let him accept nothing but bread till he reach his night’s lodging; but if he ask for money, he is a false prophet.

7 Do not test or examine any prophet who is speaking in a spirit, “for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven.” 8 But not everyone who speaks in a spirit is a prophet, except he have the behaviour of the Lord. From his behaviour, then, the false prophet and the true prophet shall be known.

9 And no prophet who orders a meal in a spirit shall eat of it: otherwise he is a false prophet. 10 And every prophet who teaches the truth, if he do not what he teaches, is a false prophet.

11 But no prophet who has been tried and is genuine, though he enact a worldly mystery of the Church, if he teach not others to do what he does himself, shall be judged by you: for he has his judgment with God, for so also did the prophets of old. 12 But whosoever shall say in a spirit `Give me money, or something else,’ you shall not listen to him; but if he tell you to give on behalf of others in want, let none judge him.


CHAPTER 12 Travelling Christians

1 Let everyone who “comes in the Name of the Lord” be received; but when you have tested him you shall know him, for you shall have understanding of true and false.  2 If he who comes is a traveller, help him as much as you can, but he shall not remain with you more than two days, or, if need be, three.

3 And if he wishes to settle among you and has a craft, let him work for his bread. 4 But if he has no craft provide for him according to your understanding, so that no man shall live among you in idleness because he is a Christian. 5 But if he will not do so, he is making traffic of Christ; beware of such.


CHAPTER 13 Prophets who desire to remain — Their payment by firstfruits

1 But every true prophet who wishes to settle among you is “worthy of his food.” 2 Likewise a true teacher is himself worthy, like the workman, of his food. 3 Therefore thou shalt take the firstfruit of the produce of the winepress and of the threshing-floor and of oxen and sheep, and shalt give them as the firstfruits to the prophets, for they are your high priests.

4 But if you have not a prophet, give to the poor.

5 If thou makest bread, take the firstfruits, and give it according to the commandment. 6 Likewise when thou openest a jar of wine or oil, give the firstfruits to the prophets. 7 Of money also and clothes, and of all your possessions, take the firstfruits, as it seem best to you, and give according to the commandment.

As I have said numerous times before, the term “apostle” appears to match up best with the modern term “missionary,” both in role and etymology. And that appears to be how it is used here– especially as a missionary who plants churches. The prophets appear to be traveling preachers who go from church to church, encouraging the brethren. I might still call them missionaries…. at least to the extent that they seek to empower the pre-existent local church to know and do what it did not know and do before. Regardless, however, of how you want to define them… they were Christians who traveled as part of their ministry.

Consider how an “apostle” is to be cared for:

  • Receive him (or her since we know there were female apostles)
  • Let him stay one day only… or maybe two
  • Feed him during his stay
  • Give him food for his journey, but no money

For the “prophet”:

  • Don’t test the message of a prophet if it is “in the spirit”
  • But verify if he is a REAL prophet
  • Do not give him money for himself
  • But give money if it is for his ministry

For those traveling “in the Name of the Lord”

  • They are to be welcomed and can stay two days… or maybe thre
  • If they want to stay longer, they need to work. Help him do so if need be.

The Didache is a very old book. Some parts of it appear to predate parts of the New Testament. Some of my students were wondering if I was saying that the member care of apostles and prophets in the 1st (or maybe 2nd) century describes what we should be doing today. No… for at least two reasons. First, this was probably one church’s way of dealing with this particular challenge… or maybe a regional group of churches. There is no reason to think that it expresses any sort of universal guidance. Second, although many restorationist and revivalist denominations think of themselves as seeking to restore the 1st century church; actually, we are supposed to create the 21st century church. The 1st century (as well as the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and so on, century churches) provides us with insight as a flashlight may give guidance, not constraint like shackles might give constraint.

But in the Didache we see a church that is struggling with problems that we still see today. They want to help, but they don’t want to be taken advantage of. They want to be trained and informed by people of Godly wisdom, but not fooled by charlatans.

So there is a time of PRE-EVALUATION.

It is a bit humorous here. If the person speaks in the Spirit, the message is not supposed to be questioned, but then the rest of the section appears to be, in fact, questioning and doubting. Perhaps it is a bit like today. If a preacher preaches the word of God, we in the congregation are not to question the word of God, but we can question the preacher, and his interpretation.

There is CONTINUED MONITORING:  The individual is cared for for awhile, but there is caution that they are not demonstrating the greed of a charlatan. As such, they are fed and lodged, but not too long. If they ask for money, it should be to help another, not themselves.

There is CARE GIVEN:  They are received as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. They are fed and housed… but only for awhile. 1 day for an apostle… or maybe 2 perhaps. 2 days for a traveling Christian, or maybe 3.  When they leave, give them food to travel with, but not money.

There is the issue of SETTLING DOWN:  If a traveler wants to remain. that is okay as long as he has a craft that he can use to earn money. If he doesn’t have a craft, the church appears to be willing to help him be able to get a job… but not be a long-term burden on the church.

If a prophet wants to settle down, there is a time to verify that he is a “true” prophet. If so evaluated, he can be supported long-term by the church.

Perhaps the rules about a prophet apply to an apostle as well. (I like to think that John the Elder in Ephesus was John the Apostle after he settled down in later years.) Or perhaps the assumption is that an apostle would settle down in a church that he himself founds.

What we see is a church struggling to help without being hurt. To avoid the two failures (described by Kelly O’Donnell) of Coddling/Placating at one extreme, and Condemning/Punishing at the other. The wording of the Didache bounces back and forth between sounding a big rigid, and being a bit… wishy-washy. Perhaps, that is a good bit of guidance for us today– struggling in the tension between two unhealthy extremes.

 

 

 

 

But I’m Called!!

While this might surprise many, there are a lot of people who want to go into missions. Perhaps they want to because they want “adventure” (whatever that is). Some want to because it is an escape from the stress and drudgery of what they are presently doing (“maybe in a foreign place, people won’t know how messed up I am.”) There are many possible reasons from the commendable to the laughable. But somewhere in the conversation, one will usually say that a major reason for going into missions is that he or she is “CALLED.”

Foster Bible Pictures 0060-1 Moses Sees a Fire...
Foster Bible Pictures 0060-1 Moses Sees a Fire Burning in a Bush (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For some people, it is hard to understand. How could one be turned down for missions if he is “called?” If a minister is “called” by God to pastor a church, how could a church have the audacity to go against that?

The idea of calling has a long history. In the Bible, there are people who were unambiguously called by God. Moses was (Exodus 3;1-20). so was Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-8). Paul seems to have been called three times– two directly (Damascus and Asia Minor) and one indirectly (Antioch). Some, like Raymond Lull (1235-1315) can describe what they felt was a pretty unambiguous calling. However, for most people going into missions, what they describe as calling is more ambiguous— part feeling/burden, part affirmation by others, part circumstances/open doors. So why might a person who has been “called” to missions be rejected (and not necessarily be at war with God’s will).

1.  The theological concept of “calling” is pretty weak Biblically. I have talked about this before. Most places in the Bible, calling describes a call to follow Christ, not to seek a specific profession. The few cases (like those mentioned above) where there is a clear calling to a direct profession or vocation were clear, unambiguous, and miraculous. Should the more ambiguous burden or passion to missions be lumped together as being equivalent with the miraculous events described before? Many in the Bible appear NOT to have been called in a miraculous way. One might argue, in some cases at least, that there was a miraculous calling that was not recorded, but should that be assumed?

2.  The church is responsible to evaluate pastors and deacons and missionaries and prophets. In Revelation chapter 2, the church of Ephesus was commended for testing missionaries (“apostolos”) to see if they came from God. The Didache gave some guidelines for local churches in evaluating missionaries and prophets. Paul gave guidelines for evaluating candidates for pastors/elders and deacons. It is key to note that these tests or guidelines did not have anything to do with testing the veracity of their calling. Rather they focused on their character and faith. Paul said that desiring to be a pastor/bishop is a good thing (I Timothy 3). In my mind, if calling is a requirement, then the desire would not typically be a good thing for most… it would be presumptuous.

3.  Even if calling as it is popularly understood is correct, the church must separate between calling from God and  those who are self-called. If one watches American Idol or The Voice, it is clear that many feel destined (called) to be the winner. Yet only one wins per season. Clearly some of the callings were wrong numbers. The church can and should evaluate whether what you feel is your call to missions is valid or not.

Garry Friesen in “Decision Making and the Will of God” makes a strong case that God gives us freedom within His moral will to make decisions. Decisions (such as who to marry, where to work, etc) as long as they conform to God’s moral will, are ours to make using our own wisdom and that of those who are competent and close to us. While, maybe Friesen takes the point too far at times (I am probably not the one to judge) I think there is a lot of truth there. In other words, unless you get an unequivocal miraculous voice of God telling you to do something (and you are not insane or highly gullible) you have freedom.

But freedom is still limited by church and mission organization. They need to verify certain things:

1.  Spiritual toughness. I use this term rather than spirituality, because the term often gets linked to being mystical, ethereal, ecstatic, or cloistered. Spiritual toughness is prepared to follow God on the tough roads for the long haul. It is evidenced by durable faithfulness rather than impressive prayers, fastings, readings, preachings, or such.

2.  Self-control. Financial mismanagement, sexual infidelity, or laziness are huge problems in the mission field. If one is not self-controlled at home, one won’t be on the mission field. If they are self-controlled at home, they MIGHT be self-controlled on the mission field.

3.  Flexibility. To me, the two great characteristics of a missionary are willingness (to be sent, to follow God) and flexibility. Adapting to new cultures, people, and varied circumstances and tasks needs a person of flexible mind, body, and habit. A lot of emotionally brittle, doctrinally rigid, and/or ethnocentric people want to go into missions. They really shouldn’t… usually.

4.  Relative sanity. I suppose the classic Catch-22 applies. You need to be sane to be a missionary, but no one sane would choose to be a missionary. Maybe it would be best to say that the level of insanity should be known and evaluated. Personality Disorders are likely to cause great problems in the mission field. Inability to handle anger effectively will sabotage mission work. A high level of defendance will make things difficult as well. Problems should be known beforehand, acknowledged, and addressed. Psycho-emotional problems on the field do not go away… they often cause huge problems for the person, for the mission field, and for the work of God.

5.  Philanthropy. Okay, you don’t have to be rich and throw your money around. But the term philanthropy comes from Phileo (love) and anthropos (man or mankind). Missionaries should have genuine compassion and concern for those they work with. This love should flow naturally from the love they have for God. This love for the people they work with should be greater than their love for their own denomination. This love should be greater than the love they have for certain doctrines. This love should be greater than just for those within the walls of their church. This love should not just be limited to those who think, act, or look like themselves. Bigots/ethnocentrists (repeating myself) need not apply. Missionaries should NOT be as interested in “saving souls” as “saving lives.” Lives means saving the entire person in the now and future, rather than just getting them a golden ticket to heaven. As such, concerns should include their physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and relational well-being. They should care about issues of social justice… not in place of spiritual conversion and growth, but as a related passion for the good of those they work with.

If a mission agency will not send you… it is okay, there are other mission agencies. If no mission agency will send you… perhaps your church will send you. If your church does not think you should go… be open to the idea that you should not go. Rather than simply focusing on your own confident sense of calling, seek the wisdom of others. God is probably speaking to them just as loudly as He is talking to you. Maybe you are supposed to go on mission… but maybe it is still a time for preparation. Paul and Moses took years of preparation… so did David. The answers to the question “Is it time to go now?” are YES! NO. and SOON… When your church and your mentors believe it is time to go… be ready… the time has come.

Missionaries and Apostles? (Part 2)

(See Part 1 first)  …    A church-based model for missionaries and missions appears to avoid a lot of confusion in other ways as well. If missionaries are those who leave the local church to work outside the local church, then they are simply “apostles”… and “apostle” is simply another term for missionary. This of course is not universally accepted. C. Peter Wagner (a church-growth and missions

Painting by Rembrandt of Paul, one of the most...
Painting by Rembrandt of Paul, one of the most notable of early Christian missionaries, who called himself the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” Paul, a Hellenistic Jew, was very influential on the shift of Christianity to Gentile dominated movement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

specialist) believes that there are two different calls, an apostolic call and a missionary call. He suggests that all apostles have an apostolic call (no surprises there), but only some of them have a missionary call. Likewise, all missionaries have a missionary call, but only some have an apostolic call. There are two parts of this stance that appear to be highly questionable.

1.  An apostolic call that is not missional appears to be based more based on traditions within the modern apostolic movement than on Biblical scholarship. Wagner believes that accomplishing miracles and acting in ecclesiastical authority over the church are defining and necessary qualities of an apostle. This fits better with the theology of the modern “Apostolic Movement” than with the term as it was used in the 1st Century. This does not appear to be sound basis for saying that miraculous powers or special authority are the defining characteristics of apostles. While some did clearly utilize miraculous powers at times, there is no mention of others utilizing them, and some people who were not apostles displayed miraculous powers. Likewise, although the original apostles were told that they had authority, that authority appeared to be more spiritual than ecclesiastical in nature. They certainly did not appear to exercise authority over the church except to exhort others with God’s message. Paul exhorted but did not order. The other apostles did not exercise a high level of control over the church of Jerusalem. If anything, it is interesting to the extent that the Apostles in the New Testament did NOT exercise authority in the local churches. While the Twelve were part of the church of Jerusalem, James the half-brother Jesus served as the senior elder. Paul and John both used persuasion to get change within the local churches rather than exercising some form of “apostolic authority.”

2. The other aspect of Wagner’s view is interesting. Not only does he take the apostolic call as something different from the missionary call, but suggested that some apostles (such as Peter) did not have the missionary call. In light of the Great Commission, this, at first, appears to be ludicrous. However, it is at least understandable within the context of how some people define the term “missionary” today. It is consistent with a cross-cultural definition of missionary (described in Part 1 of this article). Since some apostles did not appear to work outside of their own culture, people who utilize a cross-cultural definition for missions are forced to separate “missionary” and “apostle” into separate categories. Unfortunately, by doing this, bad things result. Missionaries lack a good Biblical model for their role if apostles were not missionaries. (I have read blogs arguing against the role of missionary because it has no basis in the Bible… an idea that makes no sense unless one tries uses a revisionist understanding of the NT apostle.) And if apostles were not missionaries/churchplanters… what were they? This confusion has led to setting up hierarchies within the church to allow for a church leadership role for apostles.

I believe that the New Testament and the Didache show that apostles are missionaries. They plant churches but hand over power to others who will serve as pastors/presbyters and deacons within it. And if apostles and missionaries are two terms for the same position, then apostles provide a good model for the role of missionary.

(It should be noted that I am not suggesting that missionaries take on every role that every apostles does in the Bible. The original 12 had unique qualities being eyewitnesses of Christ. Their uniqueness does not result in having the designation “apostle” (others also had the same designation). Rather, one of the roles of the original 12 was apostle (going into all the world to preach the gospel). Additionally, I am not suggesting that missionaries today start using the title “apostle.” Unfortunately, the term has changed considerably over the centuries, starting in the 2nd century with it being used strictly for the original Twelve, and up into recent decades the so-called Apostolic movement. With language, it is hard to go back.)

Closing the loop, our understanding of the role of the missionary can be enhanced by understanding the role of apostles in the early church. And the role of apostles, having a role in the “universal” church and a connection with local church, while having a formal role outside of any one local church, hopefully can provide a balance for missionaries today.

Missionaries and Apostles? (Part I)

Good scholarship of the term “apostolos” shows that the term appears to best fit what we now call missionaries. It should not be thought of as strictly position of the distant past. However, it also should not be viewed as a church office in any period of time, as the term is now used in the “Apostolic Movement” . (Instead of going through that, readers are encouraged to read the article on “apostle” in the ISBE (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia). )

English: Manuscript of Didache
English: Manuscript of Didache (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

It is popular to define missionaries based on culture these days. Perspectives in the World Christian Movement describes missions and missionaries in terms of being cross-cultural. If one uses Ralph Winter’s “E” model for cultures, then missionaries are limited to working in (perhaps) E-2 and (certainly) E-3 situations. (E-0 is ministry within the local church, E-1 is ministry in the local community but outside the local church, E-2 is a similar or neighboring culture… maybe similar culture but different language, E-3 has considerable differences).

Should people be considered missionaries only if serving cross-culturally?  Consider Paul and Barnabbas, who we almost without exception consider to be early and successful missionaries. After their call to missions, Paul and Barnabbas started on what we describe as their 1st Missionary journey. Up to the time of the journey, they were serving in the church of Antioch. There they ministered within the church (E-0 evangelism) and presumably the local community (E-1). Upon leaving on their voyage, they first went to Cyprus, and began ministering to Hellenized Jews there. Since Barnabbas was a Hellenized Jew and was originally from Cyprus, this part of the journey would involve E-1 ministry. This then would not be considered missionary work by some. Then they reached out to Gentiles. These would probably be viewed as E-2, but only barely, since they shared the same language and broader culture with Barnabbas. Effectively, they were ministering from one sub-culture to another within the same culture. After this, the two apostles traveled to southern Asia Minor. This is the region that Paul was from. The same situation existed as in Cyprus, but with Paul reaching out to his own sub-culture and then to a different sub-culture within the same local culture. One could certainly argue that the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabbas was less missional than evangelistic outreaches to Cornelius, the Ethiopian eunuch, and the Samaritans described earlier in the book of Acts.

The trouble seems to be in a faulty understanding of what is a missionary.

It seems to me that the problem lies in a culture-centered definition of missions. If one moved to a church-centered understanding of missions, the problem goes away. If missions (and apostleship) describes ministry that is focused outside the church (rather than church member care or church growth ministries), it is understandable why Paul and Barnabbas were missionaries. Paul and Barnabbas ministered within the church of Antioch. Then they were called and sent out (apostolos and missio) from the church to minister to those outside of the church. This also appears to agree with the Didache (perhaps the oldest non-canonical Christian book) that describes apostles as one of four groups of ministers (bishops, deacons, prophets, and apostles). Of the four groups, two were part of the local church (bishops and deacons) while the other two were outside the local church. Of those outside, prophets appear to primarily visit different churches and encourage and strengthen them, while apostles would do their ministry outside the church.

The Didache should not be seen as providing some aberrant understanding of the term apostle that contradicts its use in the Bible. Consider the many people in the New Testament who were called apostles (apostolos).

  • -Jesus Hebrews 3:1
  • The 12 disciples Luke 6:13
  • Matthias Acts 1:24-26
  • Paul I Corinthians 9:1
  • Barnabbas (and Paul) Acts 14:3-4
  • Andronicus Romans 16:7
  • Junias Romans 16:7
  • Epaphroditus Philippians 2 :25
  • Unnamed brethren II Corinthians 8 :23-24
  • Silas and Timothy (and Paul) II Thesalonians 2:6

Clearly, others beyond the narrow understanding of apostle were called apostles. Jesus, for example, clearly did not have the formal office of apostle, but did take on the role of missionary, from the Father. This and the fact that the apostles listed in the Bible appeared to have little authority within the church once the church is established suggests more of the role of a missionary/churchplanter than an authoritative officeholder within church. (Note that Timothy was called an apostle in Thessalonians when he was still a traveling missionary. However, Paul does not use that term for him when he is acting as the spiritual leader of a church in I and II Timothy.)