Paul was the senior Apostle to the Gentiles, but not the only one. There are other men identified in Scripture as apostles who were not part of the 12 Apostles to the Jews. Who were they and what did they do?
It’s clear from Matthew 1 thru Acts 11 that every usage of the words “apostle” or “apostles” was for the 12 Apostles to the Jews. However, usage after that is more than likely describing the Apostles to the Gentiles.
“But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles.” Acts 14:4
We have to look at the context to identify the apostles in Acts 14. It’s important to remember that Luke did not write Acts with chapter and verse divisions. Acts is one continuous account of what God did through both the Apostles to the Jews and the Apostles to the Gentiles. The context of Acts 14 is about what God did through the Apostles to the Gentiles. The Jewish apostles are nowhere to be found in this context. Here’s what happened that led to what we just read in Acts 14.
“On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’ Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
Paul and Barnabas told the Gentiles and Jews at Antioch in Pisidia that the Lord had commanded them to be a light to the Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas left Antioch and traveled to Iconium where they preached the Gospel to Gentiles and Jews (“a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed.” Acts 14:1). It was a difficult ministry for Paul and Barnabas. Unbelieving Jews stirred up many Gentiles and “and poisoned their minds against the brethren” (Acts 14:2). Paul and Barnabas remained in Iconium for a long time speaking boldly in the Lord, Who “was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands” (Acts 14:3).
The next verse is the first time we see anyone other than the 12 Jewish apostles called apostles – “But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles.” It is clear from the context that the “apostles” mentioned here were Paul and Barnabas, not the Twelve from Judea. That is one of those important “flag” words we look for in Scripture. God inserted Himself into the process He started with apostleship many years earlier and made a big change. He would have apostles who would preach to the Jews in Judea and apostles who would preach to Jews and Gentiles outside of Judea.
Some of the unbelieving Gentiles and Jews in Iconium, with their rulers, attempted to abuse and stone Paul and Barnabas. They became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, where they preached the Gospel. (Acts 14:5-7) Paul was preaching in Lystra one day when he saw a cripple who was observing him intently. Paul knew the man had faith to be healed, so he said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” The man leaped to his feet and walked. (Acts 14:8-10) What did the people do when they witnessed this miracle? They raised their voices in the Lycaonian language and said, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” (Acts 14:11) They called Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus brought oxen and garlands to the gates of the city “intending to sacrifice with the multitudes” (Acts 14:13). The next verse gives us absolute confirmation that Barnabas was called to be an “apostle.”
“But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out and saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.’ And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them.” Acts 14:14-18
It’s interesting to see that Barnabas’ name is mentioned first here as an “apostle.” Remember that Barnabas was a follower of Christ long before Paul (Acts 4:36-37). Barnabas was the man God used to introduce Paul to the 12 Apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 9:27) and to bring Paul many years later to the church in Antioch at Syria to minister to the Gentiles and Jews who worshiped together there (Acts 11:25-26). What we read in Acts 14:14 may be God’s way of reminding us of the special ministry He had given to Barnabas. What a special brother Barnabas is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We know little about what happened to Barnabas after he and Paul went in different directions. The Book of Acts is silent about Barnabas’ ministry after that. Paul mentioned Barnabas in three of his Epistles: 1 Corinthians, Galatians, and Colossians. The only negative thing he mentioned about Barnabas was in Galatians 2 where he wrote that Barnabas was carried away with the hypocrisy that followed the visit of the Jews from Jerusalem to the church in Antioch, Syria. Church tradition has included many stories about Barnabas, including his founding of the Cypriot Orthodox Church and writing the Book of Hebrews and the Epistle of Barnabas. What we know for sure from Scripture is that Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus (Acts 15:39) for the purpose of ministry.
The 12 Apostles are mentioned again in Acts 15 and 16 as part of the important council at Jerusalem where they agreed that God had called them to preach the Gospel to the circumcision and God had called Paul and Barnabas to preach the Gospel to the uncircumcision. It’s important to observe in all but one of the verses in Acts 15 and 16 that the 12 Apostles are identified as being with “the elders.” The term “elders” was used at that time to speak of the Jewish leaders who served with the 12 Apostles in the ministry to the circumcision in Jerusalem and Judea. The 12 Apostles were tied directly to what God was doing in Jerusalem and Judea through the offer of the Messiah returning to rule and reign on the throne of David. Israel rejected Christ’s offer and God set them aside to reach the Gentile world through a plan He revealed to the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 3).
The next mention of “apostles” in Scripture is in Romans 16.
“Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” Romans 16:7
The question for counting Andronicus and Junia among the apostles is whether the phrase “who are of note among the apostles” means that Andronicus and Junia were “among the apostles” or were “of note” among the apostles. We look to language, usage and intent to determine the correct meaning. Here’s the language – oitines eisin episemoi en tois apostolois. The word episemoi – “of note” – means “stamped, marked, bearing a mark, of note, illustrious, thought well of, distinguished, eminent.” The word is used only in Romans 16:7 (used in the positive sense – “notable”) and Matthew 27:16 (used in the negative sense – “notorious”). The words en tois apostolois – “among the apostles” – mean they were “notable, well-thought of, distinguished,” in the sphere of the apostles. Usage of en tois can mean they were notable as apostles or notable in the circle of apostles.
Andronicus and Junia are each mentioned only one time in Scripture–here in Romans 16–so we’re not able to learn more about them from another portion of Scripture. The name Andronicus is masculine. The name Junia (Iounian – also translated Junias) is feminine. It could be that Andronicus and Junia were married and ministering together – thus the idea of their having a good reputation with the apostles. Others argue that the name Junias can also be used for a man and may identify both Andronicus and Junias as men who shared in the calling of apostleship with Paul and Barnabas. Paul pointed to their being his “countrymen” and “fellow prisoners,” which might point to both being men. They both were Jewish and may have been members of the Tribe of Benjamin, as was Paul. They apparently served time in prison, which is where Paul may have met them. Paul said they were “in Christ” before him, which indicates they became followers of Jesus Christ prior to Paul’s salvation.
Silas (Latin – Silvanus) was most likely an apostle to the Gentiles. After having sharp words with Barnabas about John Mark, Paul chose Silas to travel with him on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:40). Silas was a prophet from Jerusalem (Acts 15:27, 32) and preached alongside of Paul for a long time. Paul included Silas in the introduction to 1 Thessalonians (verse 1) and most likely included him as an “apostle” in 2:6:
“But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.” 1 Thessalonians 2:4-9
The last mention of Silas in Acts is in the 18th chapter: “When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 18:5) We are not told what happened to Silas after that. Paul finished his second missionary journey with Priscilla and Aquila, leaving them at Ephesus (Acts 18:18-19). He then traveled to Caesarea and Antioch at Syria and spent time with his friends there. Paul began his third missionary journey after that, but Silas is not mentioned as traveling with him. We do know that Silas was a friend of the Apostle Peter and served as his scribe (1 Peter 5:12).
We know from Scripture that Silas was a strong believer with special gifts for the ministries God gave him. In Acts 15:22, Silas is called one of the “leading men among the brethren.” We know from Acts 15:32 that Silas was a prophet and “exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.” We know from Acts 16 that Silas was a man of faith and not afraid to face danger and prison for doing the Lord’s work. In 2 Corinthians 1:18-20 we see Silas (Silvanus) preaching that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. We know from 1 Peter 5:12 that the Apostle Peter considered Silas a “faithful brother.” Silas is a special brother in Christ who we will meet one day in Heaven.
Timothy traveled with Paul and Silas during Paul’s second missionary journey and was also with him during Paul’s third missionary journey. Timothy was included in the introduction to 1 Thessalonians and mention as “apostles of Christ.” Paul also called Timothy – “my fellow worker” (Romans 16:21), “my beloved and faithful son in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:17), “he does the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 16:10), “our brother” (2 Corinthians 1:1), “bondservants of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:1), “For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state” (Philippians 2:20), “our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ” (1 Thessalonians 3:2), “a true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2), “a beloved son” (2 Timothy 1:2). High praise indeed from such a one as the Apostle Paul.
We know from Scripture that Timothy spent time teaching and guiding local churches. In 1 Corinthians 4:17 we see that Paul sent Timothy to the church in Corinth to remind them of Paul’s “ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.” We know from Philippians 2:19 that Paul intended to send Timothy to the church in Philippi so that he (Paul) “may be encouraged when I know your state.” We know from 1 Thessalonians 3:1-7 that Paul sent Timothy to the church in Thessalonica to “establish” and “encourage” the believers in their faith and that Timothy brought Paul good news about their faith and love. We know from 1 Timothy 1 that Paul urged Timothy to remain in Ephesus, “that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.” (1 Timothy 1:3-4) Paul mentioned in 1 Timothy 4 that Timothy was still a young minister at the time (“Let no one despise your youth”). Paul encouraged Timothy to be an example to believers in word, conduct, love, spirit, faith, and purity. Paul told Timothy to give attention to reading, exhortation and doctrine, and not neglect the gift he had from a prophetic laying on of hands by the eldership. Paul told Timothy to meditate on those things, give himself entirely to them, take heed to himself and to the doctrine, and continue in them. Timothy was a young bishop of the church in Ephesus and from what we read about him in Scripture, Timothy was a good pastor to his flock. Timothy had a sensitive heart spiritually, knew God’s Word well, and knew how to use it to comfort and encourage people. To Paul, the most important thing Timothy could do was protect what God had given him and stand his ground for truth. “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge— by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.” (1 Timothy 6:20-21)
It is believed that Paul’s last written communication was to Timothy. Paul probably wrote 2 Timothy shortly before he was martyred in Rome. In the letter, we see how deeply Paul cared for Timothy and the church he pastored–a church that Paul started. I highly recommend 2 Timothy to all Christians to read. It’s an amazing insight into the heart and mind of a man called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ.
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8
In the next part of our study in Romans we will learn how Satan used the “gift” of apostleship against the Church.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”