Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God


ἀπόστολος means “apostle; envoy, messenger.”

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an ἀπόστολος” (Romans 1:1).

“The servant is not greater than the master, nor is the ἀπόστολος greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:16).

Mounce's Expository Dictionary (abridged): 

Noun: ἀπόστολος (apostolos), GK G693 (S G652), 80x. apostolos broadly refers to a “messenger, delegate,” or “sent one.” In classical Greek, apostolos referred to a person of merit sent as an envoy or on behalf of a master in an administrative role. John uses the term in a similar way, applying it to any messenger without the specific idea of an office with special status (Jn. 13:16). In contrast, in Luke apostolos is used almost solely as a designation for the Twelve. Matthew and Mark use apostolos rather sparingly when referring to the Twelve (Mt. 10:2; Mk. 3:14; 6:30). Paul uses apostolos to refer more generally to a group of believers with special status as God’s messengers or envoys. (a) The call to apostleship is not initiated by the human agent but by God in Jesus Christ alone (Gal. 1:1) and comes about through meeting the risen Lord (1 Cor. 9:1; 15:7; Gal. 1:16). (b) Suffering is a mark of apostleship (1 Cor. 4:9–13; 2 Cor. 4:7–12; 11:23–29). (c) Apostles have special insight into the mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1). (d) Apostolic authority is not the result of inherent quality in the office holder but is a function of the gospel’s own power to convict and communicate truth (Rom. 15:18; 2 Cor. 4:2).