a person sent by another; a messenger; envoy. This word is once used as a descriptive designation of Jesus Christ, the Sent of the Father ( Hebrews 3:1 ; John 20:21 ). It is, however, generally used as designating the body of disciples to whom he intrusted the organization of his church and the dissemination of his gospel, "the twelve," as they are called ( Matthew 10:1-5 ; Mark 3:14 ; 6:7 ; Luke 6:13 ; 9:1 ). We have four lists of the apostles, one by each of the synoptic evangelists ( Matthew 10:2-4 ; Mark 3:16 ; Luke 6:14 ), and one in the ( Acts 1:13 ). No two of these lists, however, perfectly coincide.
Our Lord gave them the "keys of the kingdom," and by the gift of his Spirit fitted them to be the founders and governors of his church ( John 14:16 John 14:17 John 14:26 ; John 15:26 John 15:27 ; 16:7-15 ). To them, as representing his church, he gave the commission to "preach the gospel to every creature" ( Matthew 28:18-20 ). After his ascension he communicated to them, according to his promise, supernatural gifts to qualify them for the discharge of their duties ( Acts 2:4 ; 1 Corinthians 2:16 ; 1 Corinthians 2:7 1 Corinthians 2:10 1 Corinthians 2:13 ; 2 co 5:20 ; 1 Corinthians 11:2 ). Judas Iscariot, one of "the twelve," fell by transgression, and Matthias was substituted in his place ( Acts 1:21 ). Saul of Tarsus was afterwards added to their number ( Acts 9:3-20 ; 20:4 ; 26:15-18 ; 1 Timothy 1:12 ; 2:7 ; 2 Tim 1:11 ).
Luke has given some account of Peter, John, and the two Jameses ( Acts 12:2 Acts 12:17 ; 15:13 ; 21:18 ), but beyond this we know nothing from authentic history of the rest of the original twelve. After the martyrdom of James the Greater ( Acts 12:2 ), James the Less usually resided at Jerusalem, while Paul, "the apostle of the uncircumcision," usually travelled as a missionary among the Gentiles ( Galatians 2:8 ). It was characteristic of the apostles and necessary (1) that they should have seen the Lord, and been able to testify of him and of his resurrection from personal knowledge ( John 15:27 ; Acts 1:21 Acts 1:22 ; 1 Corinthians 9:1 ; Acts 22:14 Acts 22:15 ).
In 2 Corinthians 8:23 and Phil 2:25 the word "messenger" is the rendering of the same Greek word, elsewhere rendered "apostle."