Matthias: the First Serious Error of the Apostles

The NT Office of Apostle: Rebuttal of Dr.Wayne Grudem's Defense of the Legitimacy of the Selection of Matthias

This chapter is necessarily a lengthy one, but I encourage the reader to stay with it (because the error it exposes is pervasive). The proper handling of Scripture is vital, and just as vital is the calling out of those who treat it poorly, as does Dr. Grudem on the topic of the Office of the Apostle.

A few years ago I was stunned when I first read Dr. Grudem’s chapter on the office of Apostle. I seem to remember thinking “How could he get this so wrong!?!?”

The answer to that question is found in the following contradiction maintained by Dr. Grudem. While the Bible tells us unambiguously that:

Rev 21.14
And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Dr. Grudem, on the other hand, tells us:

pg. 908
Who Were the Apostles? The initial group of apostles numbered twelve—the eleven original disciples who remained after Judas died, plus Matthias, who replaced Judas …

We might at first think that such a group could never be expanded, that no one could be added to it. But then Paul clearly claims that he, also, is an apostle. And Acts 14:14 calls both Barnabas and Paul apostles

Then James the brother of Jesus … seems to be called an apostle in Galatians 1:19 …

That would bring the number to fifteen ‘apostles of Jesus Christ’ (the twelve plus Paul, Barnabas, and James).” [emphasis mine]

pg. 909
“Others, of course, had seen Jesus after his resurrection … From this group it is possible that Christ appointed some others as apostles—but it is also very possible that he did not. The evidence is not sufficient to decide this issue. [emphasis mine]

pg. 911
“There was a limited number of apostles, perhaps fifteen or sixteen or a few more—the New Testament is not explicit on the number.” [emphasis mine]

No, Dr. Grudem: the New Testament is explicit: the number of Apostles is exactly 12—not 15, 16, or some other unknown number. Have you never read—and obeyed—Rev 21.14? Or, perhaps, you believe that the Revelation text is somehow irrelevant?

Your error is rooted in unbelief and disobedience to clear Scripture: Rev 21.14 tells us the precise number, yet you foolishly attempt to show that when the Holy Spirit inspired John to write “twelve” (Rev 21.14) He didn’t really mean “twelve”.

You tell us (pg. 908) that the original twelve were the “charter members” of that select group of men:

pg. 908
“Who Were the Apostles? The initial group of apostles numbered twelve—the eleven original disciples who remained after Judas died, plus Matthias, who replaced Judas … So important was this original group of twelve apostles, the ‘charter members’ of the office of apostle, that we read that the names are inscribed on the foundations of the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem …”


So, “twelve” in Rev 21.14, according to your theological “sleight of hand”, really means “beginning with the twelve”, or “the original twelve”, or some such semantic rabbit trail. Your contemptible handling of the Scripture put you deep into the weeds of biblical error. Like the tempter of old before Eve, you said, essentially, “Indeed, has God said …?”

Here's a thought: let's look at the surrounding context of the text in Rev 21.14 for other references to "twelve":

Rev 21.12
It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.

If we apply Dr. Grudem's "exposition" consistently, then the New Jerusalem might have 15, 16, or more gates. Moreover, the twelve tribes of Israel were the "charter members" of Jacob's children, subject to later and unauthorized additions after the birth of Benjamin by the early leaders of the Jewish nation.

If Dr. Grudem is allowed to make his irresponsible claim that the original twelve were "charter members", then there is no reason why the twelve tribes of the ancient nation of the Jews should not also be "charter members".

Dr. Grudem, how could you be so careless with the Scripture and still pretend to present its beauty, truth and authority as a faithful theologian of the Word of God?

The question I just asked is rhetorical: I believe that I already know the answer.

In short, I believe that Dr. Grudem noted something that appears to be a contradiction in Scripture, which he unsuccessfully—and contrary to clear Scripture—tried to explain away:

  • Rev 21.14 tells us there are exactly 12 apostles; but
  • other passages in the NT tell us with certainty that Paul was an apostle.
    [I’m deliberately ignoring at this point Barnabas, James and any others who may be referred to as “apostles” for simplicity’s sake. But, to do so would only amplify my point...]

That would unambiguously put the number of Apostles to at least 13: we therefore have a contradiction in Scripture!

I examine this issue in depth below in point #2 below.

The bulk of Dr. Grudem’s exposition on the office of the Apostle is hopelessly illogical, distorted, weak, and irresponsible. And, you may be sure that treating the Lord’s Word with such contempt produces only evil.

[I fear to think how many immature and/or careless Christians read Dr. Grudem’s “theological exposition” and came away with the belief that Matthias was the legitimate replacement for Judas. While their immaturity and/or carelessness doesn’t excuse them—because the Bible is clear—Dr. Grudem nonetheless is partially culpable for their mindless adherence to his assertions simply because he is well-known.]

So, my rebuttal begins where it should and must begin: with the clear, direct and simple declaration that, according to inspired Scripture in Rev 21.14, there are exactly 12 apostles—no more or less.

Rev 21.14
And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Unless we assume that this verse, and its companion declaration that there are twelve tribes in Israel, is symbolic, we are obliged to say that “it means what it says and says what it means”: there are exactly 12 Apostles. If Rev 21.14 is “symbolic”, then words cease to have meaning and any “theologian” would be able to assert pretty much anything with impunity, with the result that the Word of God would rightly be viewed as utterly useless.

Dr. Grudem: do you really think that it is good to impugn the veracity of Scripture to maintain your own careless narrative?


The rebuttal is organized into the following 11 categories (in no particular order):

  1. The NT use of the term “apostle”. [A full enumeration of the words was done in a preceding chapter; the summary and comments are handled in this chapter.]
  2. Grudem’s ambiguity on the meaning of the noun ἀπόστολος.
  3. Grudem’s unwarranted and destructive speculations on the actual number of that office of “Apostle of Jesus Christ”.
  4. Grudem’s failure to recognize or comment upon the Lord’s apparent irresponsibility of not selecting a replacement while He was among the early believers for 40 days and then leaving them no instructions regarding how the vacancy was to be filled—or even that they should fill the vacancy at all!
  5. Grudem’s apparent ignorance of the proper use of historical texts in contrast to “didactic” texts.
  6. Grudem’s inconsistent handling of Peter’s “requirements for apostles”.
  7. Grudem’s inconsistency in the handling of the texts that use the noun ἀπόστολος.
  8. Grudem’s failure to call out Peter’s silly and out-of-context use of a pair of texts from the Psalms.
  9. Grudem’s failure to note how Peter could/should appoint Matthias only, since both Matthias and Barsabbas met the requirements.
  10. Grudem’s bizarre, inconsistent and non-sensical argument implying a requirement of being an apostle in order to author inspired Scripture.
  11. Grudem’s illogic on how it is that the Lord was really behind the eleven’s selection of Matthias, yet bypassed them completely with the appointment of Saul of Tarsus to become the “Apostle of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles”.


1. The NT use of the term “apostle”.

In a previous chapter, I documented every use of the verb ἀποστέλλω and the nouns ἀπόστολος and ἀποστολή in the NT. The verb, especially, is a very general-purpose word which means simply “to send”, “to send away”, “to send out”, including the original twelve Apostles. It doesn’t take on a special or “spiritual” meaning simply because it was used in the context of sending out the original twelve. Rather, it was the natural verb to use for such a commission.

In terms of semantics, the use of the two nouns is similar to the verb: the Bible student can’t infer a special meaning of the nouns ἀπόστολος and ἀποστολή simply because they were used in the context of the original twelve Apostles. As the enumeration of that chapter shows, ἀπόστολος was widely used as a general-purpose noun to mean simply “one sent out”, “delegate”, “envoy” or “messenger”.

I can’t stress this point enough: the verb ἀποστέλλω and noun ἀπόστολος are not endowed with a special, spiritual meaning! They are very generic words in wide use in NT times. They were well-suited to their use relative to the Apostles because the Apostles were men "sent out".

The uniqueness of the use of ἀπόστολος relative to the “Apostles of Jesus Christ” lies strictly in what the Lord Christ signified when He chose the original twelve, not in the root meaning of the noun.

Dr. Grudem’s attempts to define the office of Apostle, using only the root meaning of the noun, are hopelessly flawed and lead inevitably to the simplistic conclusion that if someone was called an “apostle” in the NT, then that “probably” meant he was an “apostle”. Since—to continue this destructively simplistic reasoning—the same term is used for the original twelve, then the use of the term to designate others must automatically mean that those persons were ("probably") added to the ranks of the original twelve.

This gives the appearance of following the Scripture while actually denying it! But, this technique can’t make Rev 21.14 magically disappear! (Of course, you can push it into the background by conveniently declaring the original twelve were the “charter members” (pg. 908): problem solved! Not!)

Dr. Grudem: the Lord will not overlook by your re-definition of the true content/meaning of Rev 21.14.

Again, the solution to the majority of the uses of ἀπόστολος in the NT is to recognize that the definition and significance of the Office of Apostle does not rest in the root meaning of the noun. The significance of the office rests solely in the direct commission of the Lord Christ of a select group of exactly twelve men!

Stated another way, every person in the NT who is called an apostle, is one: that is, “one sent out”, “delegate”, “envoy”, “messenger” of the Lord Christ and His gospel. But, there were exactly thirteen men who were explicitly designated as “Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ” in the NT by the Lord Christ Himself, whose commission is permanent and unchanging:

  • Simon Peter
  • Andrew
  • James and John (the sons of Zebedee)
  • Philip
  • Bartholomew
  • Matthew
  • Thomas
  • James (the son of Alpheus)
  • Simon (the Zealot)
  • Judas (the son of James)/Thaddeus
  • Judas Iscariot
  • Saul of Tarsus/Paul

With the betrayal (something foreknown by the Lord Christ!) and death of Judas Iscariot, and consistent with Rev 21.14, there are twelve “Apostles of Jesus Christ” for all time.

Moreover, this select group can never be expanded because they are represented by the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem. When the Lord amends the count of foundation stones or designs a new New Jerusalem then we are free to recognize a different count, but not until that time.


2. Dr. Grudem’s ambiguity on the meaning of the noun “apostle”.

As my chapter on the words used for apostle shows, the noun apostle is generic. Dr. Grudem noted the same principle—“sort of”.

pg. 906
“Who were the apostles? …

At the outset it must be made clear that the answers to [this question depends on] what one means by the word apostle. …

The New Testament itself has three verses in which the word apostle (Gk. apostolos) is used in a broad sense, not to refer to any specific church office, but simply to mean ‘messenger.’ [citations here of Phi 2.25, 2 Cor 8.23 and Joh 13.16]

But there is another sense for the word apostle. Much more frequently in the New Testament the word refers to a special office, ‘apostle of Jesus Christ.’ In this narrow sense of the term, there are no more apostles today, and we are to expect no more. This is because of what the New Testament says about the qualifications for being an apostle and about who the apostles were.”

The major problem that Dr. Grudem creates—and then conveniently ignores—is why Epaphroditus (cited in Phi 2.25) and an unnamed group of people (cited in 2 Cor 8.23 are not apostles while several others mentioned in the NT as apostles are to be regarded as the “special” class of apostle.

You’ll note that it is at this point that Dr. Grudem transitions clumsily into his poorly-conceived and inconsistently-implemented-and-proved-from Scripture “Qualifications of an Apostle” (handled in point 6 below).


3. Dr. Grudem’s unjustifiable and destructive speculations on the actual number of “Apostles of Jesus Christ”.

Above, I mentioned that Dr. Grudem noted that Rev 21.14 teaches us that there are exactly twelve Apostles, a fact which he tries desperately to side-step. How? He obfuscated the “clear”, then speculated:

  • “Twelve” in Rev 21.14 doesn’t really mean “twelve”; it means “charter members”.
  • Many/most of those mentioned in the NT as Apostles “probably” were “special” apostles.
    Did you notice his equivocation:
    “… seems to be called an apostle …”
    “… it is possible …”
    “… The evidence is not sufficient …”
    “… perhaps fifteen or sixteen or a few more …”
    “… the New Testament is not explicit …”

What he should have done is to handle all the texts carefully and consistently; if he had done so, he would have found no contradiction.

He ignored (my courteous, euphemistic phrasing: he distorted, actually) the clear in order to replace it with humanistic speculation to "justify his narrative"! That technique is used by the Lord’s enemies and false religions all the time, throughout time.

[I’ve studied enough of the Watchtower’s stunning errors over many years to recognize this technique of distortion.]

If this assessment seems harsh, it isn’t; please stay with me while I demonstrate just how careless Dr. Grudem's treatment of Scripture is.

I present below four excerpts in three groups from Dr. Grudem’s Systematic Theology that show that he violated his own hermeneutic when dealing with the NT’s teaching on the Office of Apostle.

pg. 81, Chapter 4, The Authority of Scripture
B. Therefore to Disbelieve or Disobey Any Word of Scripture Is to Disbelieve or Disobey God. The preceding section has argued that all the words in Scripture are God’s words. Consequently, to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God himself.

Throughout the history of the church the greatest preachers have been those who have recognized that they have no authority in themselves and have seen their task as being to explain the words of Scripture and apply them clearly to the lives of their hearers. Their preaching has drawn its power not from the proclamation of their own Christian experience or the experiences of others, nor from their opinions, creative ideas, or rhetorical skills, but from God’s power words. Essentially they stood in the pulpit, pointed to the biblical text, and said in effect to the congregation, ‘This is what this verse means. Do you see that meaning here as well? Then you must believe it and obey it will all your heart, for God himself, you Creator and Lord, is saying this to you today!’ Only the written words of Scripture can give this kind of authority to preaching.” [emphasis mine]

This is a vital principal and one with which I heartily agree! The problem is that Dr. Grudem disbelieves the clear text of Rev 21.14, adding the destructively-creative (but wrong!) description of “charter members” (pg. 908) to describe the count.

pg. 98, Chapter 5, The Inerrancy of Scripture

Dr. Grudem responds to those who take issue with the concept of biblical inerrancy with the following defense, an excerpt from his point 6:

6. There are Some Clear Errors in the Bible. This final objection, that there are clear errors in the Bible, is either stated or implied by most of those who deny inerrancy, and for many of them the conviction that there are actual errors in Scripture is a major factor in persuading them to challenge the doctrine of inerrancy.

In every case, the first answer that should be made to this objection is to ask where such errors are. …

In other cases, however, people will mention one or more specific passages where, they claim, there is a false statement in Scripture. In these cases, it is important that we look at the biblical text itself, and look at it very closely. If we believe that the Bible is indeed inerrant, we should be eager and certainly not afraid to inspect these texts in minute detail. In fact, our expectation will be that close inspection will show there to be no error at all. [emphasis mine]

Once again, this is good advice!

However, his absence of “minute [examination]” of this text (Rev 21.14), and the addition of the gross “charter members” comment (pg. 908) shows clearly that Dr. Grudem forgot this important principle. It is ironic, is it not, that Dr. Grudem failed (avoided?) to apply it to Rev 21.14?

 pg. 106: Chapter 6, The Clarity of Scripture
“In a day when it is common for people to tell us how hard it is to interpret Scripture rightly, we would do well to remember that not once in the Gospels do we ever hear Jesus saying anything like this: ‘I see how your problem arose—the Scriptures are not very clear on that subject’. Instead, whether he is speaking to scholars or untrained common people, his responses always assume that the blame for misunderstanding any teaching of Scripture is not to be placed on the Scriptures themselves, but on those who misunderstand or fail to accept what is written. …” [emphasis mine]

pg. 109: Chapter 6, The Clarity of Scripture
“The existence of many disagreements about the meaning of Scripture throughout history reminds us that the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture does not imply or suggest that all believers will agree on all the teachings of Scripture. Nevertheless, it does tell us something very important-that the problem always lies not with the Scripture but with ourselves.
[emphasis mine]

Consider Dr. Grudem’s hollow assertions above on the clarity of Scripture as you scan these excerpts found later in that same Systematic Theology:

  • pg. 908: “James … seems to be called an apostle …”
  • pg. 908: “Were there more than these fifteen? There may possibly have been a few more, though we know little if anything about them, and it is not certain that there were any more.”
  • pg. 909: “Others, of course, had seen Jesus after his resurrection … . From this large group it is possible that Christ appointed some others as apostles—but is also possible that he did not.”
  • pg. 909: “Romans 16:7 says ‘Greet Andronicus and Junias … ; they are men of note among the apostles …’ … The verse has too little information to allow us to draw a conclusion.
  • pg. 909: “Others have been suggested as apostles. Silas (Silvanus) and sometimes Timothy are mentioned …”
  • pg. 910: “So it is just possible that Silas was himself an Apostle, and that 1 Thessalonians 2:6 hint at that.”
  • pg. 910: “This gives us a limited but somewhat imprecisely numbered group who had the office ‘apostle of Jesus Christ.’ There seem to have been at least fifteen, and perhaps sixteen of even a few more who are not recorded in the New Testament.”

I challenge anyone to defend the nonsense above as examples “clarity of Scripture”! Instead, Dr. Grudem’s speculations above are powerful examples of how to demean Scripture as they simultaneously provide ammunition to those who hate the Scripture!

They are anything but an adherence to “clarity of Scripture”!

is clear:

Rev 21.14
And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The excerpts above, culled from his closing thoughts on apostleship in chapter 47, show that Dr. Grudem asserts an entirely unique, destructive, and self-contradictory notion of “clarity”.

Dr. Grudem's implementation of “clarity” would embarrass even a politician (well, maybe not...).

It does not befit someone claiming (Preface to Systematic Theology, pg. 15) “Because I believe that theology should be based on the teachings of Scripture, in each chapter I have attempted to show where the Bible gives support for the doctrines under consideration.”

Yeah, right…  Where was this lofty ideal when you wrote your nonsense about the Office of Apostle?

Chapter 47, as it deals with the office of the Apostle, is an epic fail: it denies the clear text of Rev 21.14, then asserts numerous times the “possibility” that the count of Apostles was not twelve.

Where, Dr. Grudem, is the truth of your claim that “theology should be based on the teachings of Scripture” when you deny a very clear Scripture and favor your own utterly useless and inconsistent speculations in its place?


4. Dr. Grudem’s failure to recognize or comment upon the Lord’s apparent irresponsibility of not selecting a replacement while He was among the early believers for 40 days, then left them with no instructions or guidance!

This is an argument from logic—and it is a very important one! Somehow, we are to overlook the fact that the Lord Christ was with those first disciples for nearly 6 weeks, but not once did he say “It’s time to replace Judas.” or “I’ll be leaving soon, but here’s what I want you to do once I’ve gone…”

For anyone who holds to the farce that Matthias was a legitimate replacement for Judas Iscariot, he/she must simultaneously impugn the wisdom of the Lord Christ by asserting something which can only be a monumental oversight on His part!

For this nonsense to be true (that is, that Matthias is a legitimate replacement for Judas), then in the light of the following pivotal text we have a serious inconsistency:

Luk 6.12-13
It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles …

The original twelve were chosen after a full night of prayer by the Lord Christ before the Father; Matthias was selected after a 30-word prayer (in the Greek) by the disciples, and ultimately by the casting of a lot because it wasn't clear which of two presumably equally qualified candidates should be chosen!

Really!?!?! We select parents to lead the PTA with more care and oversight than that demonstrated by the eleven.

Consider the contrast! How could we not regard Matthias as a “second-class Apostle”? How could the Lord Christ have been

  • so careless and unconcerned about Matthias when
  • He had shown such care and faithfulness in prayer for the original twelve?

What kind of fool would the Lord Christ need to be for an oversight of this magnitude—especially given that the Lord Christ would know (because He is LORD!) that the twelve apostles would be represented by the permanent, twelve foundation stones of the New Jerusalem?

Sure, Matthias was an “apostle”: an “apostle-of-the-other-eleven-apostles” rather than an “Apostle of Jesus Christ”! Matthias was commissioned by the eleven, not by the Lord Christ! Only in this sense was Matthias an “Apostle”.

Dr. Grudem seems to recognize this problem, but “handles” it with the astonishingly vapid argument:

pg. 907
“Similarly, Jesus commissions his apostles in a special sense to be his ‘witnesses … to the end of the earth’ (Act 1:8). And, in choosing another apostle to replace Judas, the eleven apostles did not take the responsibility on themselves, but prayed and asked the ascended Christ to make the appointment:” [emphasis mine]

This reasoning is worse than chaotic!

Again, consider the carefulness (Luk 6.12-13) with which the Lord Christ chose the original twelve juxtaposed with this “proxy appointment” by the eleven.

Dr. Grudem’s assertion (that the selection was really by the Lord Christ Himself) is absurd in the extreme! He should be embarrassed for even thinking such a thing, much less memorializing it in printed form in a widely-distributed “theology”.

[My copy indicates 300,000 in print!]

5. Dr. Grudem’s apparent ignorance of the proper use of historical texts in contrast to “didactic” texts.

The Bible accurately records, for our instruction, the deeds of both the Lord’s own people as well as His enemies, deeds good and evil. As the Apostle tells us here:

1 Cor 10.11
Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

The book of the Acts is the inspired record of the activities and events of the early church; in short, it is inspired history. And like any historical account, it may or may not be what others, in other times and places, should or should not do.

Ancient King David committed adultery, then murdered Uriah and his fellow soldiers to hide his sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11); this is unchangeable history of the man “after God’s own heart”. After the death of the child conceived in that sin with Bathsheba, David repented and the Lord forgave him. But, would any Christian be so irresponsible to then conclude “I guess its OK to commit adultery and murder, because that’s what David did, because he was a ‘man after God’s own heart’—and the Lord forgave him.”

Of course not!

Yet, Dr.  Grudem ignores the clear text of Rev 21.14, and proceeds to systematically dismantle it (albeit carelessly and inconsistently) based on what eleven, relatively inexperienced Christian leaders did—and that completely without any instruction from the Lord Christ!

In doing so, Dr. Grudem gives us a clear example of what not to do with Scripture: ignore a clear text (Rev 21.14), then substitute the actions of a small group of (at that time) relatively immature leaders with no divine mandate as what was supposed to be done!

I could not even sarcastically refer to this as "bible exposition”.

Yes, the apparent contradiction between the unambiguous “twelve” of Rev 21.14 juxtaposed with the equally inspired history throughout the book of Acts, in which others are called “Apostles”, must be reconciled! But mishandling a clear text (especially in its context!) to favor speculations is the wrong solution.

[Remember Dr. Grudem’s assertions: “probably”, “it is possible”, “evidence is not sufficient”, “perhaps”, “not explicit”, "seems”, etc.]

The proper solution is to take both texts—Rev 21.14 and the history of the book of Acts—for exactly what they teach. When this is done responsibly, it will be seen that all are reconciled as they must, in fact, be (as shown in full in this series).


6. Dr. Grudem’s inconsistent handling of Peter’s “requirements for apostles”.

As I showed in point 5 above, Dr. Grudem’s failure to recognize the difference between history and didactic texts appears to be the primary reason for his epic fail on the Office of Apostle.

[This interpretative rule is taught at the freshman level in pretty much any reasonable Bible school in the country. It is astonishing that a seasoned, experienced theologian should fall into this trap.]

But, let us assume for a moment that Peter’s actions in Act 1 were valid and the “qualifications” that Peter posited were biblical and binding.

Dr. Grudem asserts:

pg. 906-907
Qualifications of an Apostle: The two qualifications for being an apostle were (1) having seen Jesus after his resurrection with one’s own eyes (thus, being an ‘eyewitness of the resurrection’), and (2) having been specifically commissioned by Christ as his apostle.

The fact that an apostle had to have seen the risen Lord with his own eyes is indicated by Acts 1:22, where Peter said that the person to replace Judas ‘must become with us a witness to his resurrection.’ Moreover, it was ‘to the apostles whom he had chosen’ that ‘he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days’ (Act 1:2-3; cf. 4:33).” [emphasis mine]

Of the two “qualifications”, only the second is biblically valid: immediate, direct, personal commission as an Apostle by the Lord Christ Himself. In this point, Dr. Grudem is correct; it is sad that he fails to apply it consistently.

But, what did Peter really say?

Act 1.22-23
Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us—beginning with the baptism of the Lord Christ until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.

If one bothers to read the account, Peter put forth exactly one “qualification” which had two components:

  1. the candidate must have been with the Lord as a disciple from the point in time of the baptism of the Lord Christ, and
  2. must be an eye-witness of the resurrection.

Why does Dr. Grudem conveniently ignore the first half of that “requirement” (to be present from the baptism of the Lord Christ) and concentrate only on the second half (seeing the resurrected Lord)?

Could it be because to maintain Peter’s actual qualification would disallow (or make it impossible to maintain, at the very least) some of the “apostles” which Dr. Grudem places into the “special” group?

As I mentioned above, Dr. Grudem at least properly recognizes that an “Apostle of Jesus Christ” is one who was specifically commissioned to that office by the Lord Himself. But note: Peter said nothing of this qualification—and small wonder, because to do so would mean that he (Peter) would be ignoring his own qualification—the Lord Christ was not there to “specifically commission” Matthias!

By the way, Dr. Grudem tries to explain away this glaring inconsistency. His logic is vacuous:

pg. 907
“Similarly, Jesus commissions his apostles in a special sense to be his ‘witnesses … to the end of the earth’ (Act 1:8). And, in choosing another apostle to replace Judas, the eleven apostles did not take the responsibility on themselves, but prayed and asked the ascended Christ to make the appointment:” [emphasis mine]

This is an example of some of the poorest, most irresponsible reasoning I’ve ever observed in a “theologian”. See above for additional comments.


7. Dr. Grudem’s inconsistency in the handling of the texts that use the noun ἀπόστολος.

As I showed in this chapter, the noun ἀπόστολος is generic. However, Dr. Grudem nonetheless attempts to show that about 4 additional “apostles” should be added to the “special group” of the original-eleven-plus-Matthias group of apostles (and by “special group” I’m using Dr. Grudem’s expression for those who are to be regarded as “Apostles of Jesus Christ” and not merely “messengers”).

I’ll discuss each of those purported to be “special apostles” by Dr. Grudem, beginning with Saul of Tarsus.

Saul of Tarsus/Paul the Apostle
To review, on page 907, Dr. Grudem asserts that there are two requirements for one to become a “special apostle”:

  • observe first-hand the resurrected Lord Christ, and
  • be specifically commissioned as an apostle by the Lord Christ.

On the same page, Dr. Grudem proves the second of his list for Paul the Apostle: one definitely and specifically commissioned by the Lord Christ. Of course, Dr. Grudem ignores the fact that Paul doesn’t meet the first half of Peter's qualification, namely one who had been with the original group from the baptism of the Lord Christ. Dr. Grudem appears unconcerned regarding this glaring logical hole.

So, Dr. Grudem: does the "apostle-candidate" need to meet Peter's qualification or not? You can't have it both ways!


On page 908, Dr. Grudem asserts that Barnabas was one of that select group of “special apostles”. Barnabas doesn’t appear in the history of the Acts until Act 4.36. The context favors the speculation that Barnabas was one of the early converts to Christianity in the region of Jerusalem. If this is the case, then there is no record of Barnabas meeting either requirement: he could not have been with the disciples from the baptism of the Lord Christ and there is no account of his being commissioned by the Lord Christ.

Stated another way: according to Dr. Grudem, Barnabas is an apostle merely because he is referred to as such. It appears to matter little to Dr. Grudem, that “apostle” is a very generic noun meaning “messenger”. His placement in the “special group” is entirely arbitrary because it can’t be shown that Barnabas met either “qualification”.


James the brother of the Lord
On page 908, Dr. Grudem presents a paper-thin “case” that James the brother of the Lord was “commissioned by Christ as an Apostle”. But, let’s consider whether this is a valid assertion:

  1. There is no biblical evidence that the Lord Christ “commissioned” James.
  2. There is biblical evidence that James did not associate with the early disciples.

To demonstrate the second point, carefully consider this text:

Joh 7.3-5
Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” For not even His brothers were believing in Him.

If you examine the context, you’ll note that at the beginning of the Lord's ministry the other children of Mary (the Lord’s half-siblings, obviously including James) did not only not believe in the Lord Christ, they were actively hostile toward Him. This means that they could never meet Peter’s first requirement, namely, to have been part of the select group from the baptism of the Lord Christ. 

This fact unconditionally disallows James the brother of the Lord from being an Apostle, according to Peter's definition.

Dr. Grudem, did you somehow miss this? Is this, perhaps, why you tend to ignore the first half of Peter's condition?


Andronicus, Junias, Silas, Timothy
On pages 909 to 910, Dr. Grudem speculates on several other men; predictably, he offers no proof of his speculations that any of those “possible” apostles had met either of the qualifications. He continues in the same error of inconsistently regarding as “special apostles” those who are merely designated as such by the use of a very common noun in the NT.


This is not Bible exposition!

One troubling element is that Dr. Grudem acknowledges the generic meaning of “apostle” (pg. 906), but then selects a few of the occurrences and then (apparently arbitrarily) designates them “special apostles”. As I show in this chapter, the use of the verb and noun forms is far too generic to make any such distinction based solely on the definitions of those words.

The second troubling element is that Dr. Grudem acknowledges the fact that a “special apostle” must be specifically commissioned by the Lord Christ. But, having held that, he then launches off into completely unwarranted speculation about other “possible” “special apostles” in defiance of this truth. It is a spectacular example of holding to a legitimate biblical truth, then denying it with foolish speculation; not only is it wrong, it is just silly and amateurish.


8. Dr. Grudem’s failure to call out Peter’s out-of-context use of a pair of texts from the Psalms.

Context, context, context!

How often this vital rule of handling the Bible is ignored! I’d like to say that this is primarily a modern problem, but as we’ll see, this is an ancient problem into whose trap even Peter the Apostle fell.

As the eleven Apostles considered how to fill the vacancy left by Judas Iscariot, Peter quotes from two Psalms:

Act 1.20
For it is written in the book of Psalms,
‘Let his homestead be made desolate, and let no one dwell in it’;
‘Let another man take his office.’

The first quote comes from Psalm 69.25 and the second from Psalm 109.8. Both are shown below with attendant context:

Psa 69.22-26
May their table before them become a snare; and when they are in peace, may it become a trap.
May their eyes grow dim so that they cannot see, and make their loins shake continually.
Pour out Your indignation on them, and may Your burning anger overtake them.
May their camp be desolate; may none dwell in their tents.
For they have persecuted him whom You Yourself have smitten, and they tell of the pain of those whom You have wounded.

Psa 109.6-9
Appoint a wicked man over him, and let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is judged, let him come forth guilty, and let his prayer become sin.
Let his days be few; let another take his office.
Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.

Both are imprecatory Psalms written by ancient King David; both express a desire for the Lord’s vengeance against the wicked for their current, evil treatment of the righteous. [This property of "current" is very important!]

The emphasis of both Psalms is that the Lord would deal justly with the wicked as they afflict the righteous. However, Peter’s appeal to Psa 109.8 is more a convenient semantic overlap than a valid, in-context use of a powerful portion of an imprecatory Scripture.

In fact, the Lord would/did replace Judas—but it wouldn’t be by means of the action of the eleven!

The obvious reason that I maintain that Peter used these texts out of context is simple: the petitioner in the Psalms asks for justice for a current injustice. The petitioner was currently “under attack” while the Psalm was being penned.

This can’t legitimately apply to Judas Iscariot: he was already the victim of a self-inflicted, violent death more than 6 weeks prior (having experienced the temporal beginning of the Lord’s wrath). He was, at the the time the eleven were planning this careless appointment, no threat to the Lord Christ (or anyone else, for that matter!)—especially given that the Lord Christ was alive and well long after Judas’ death!

Stated another way: Peter’s use of Psa 109.8 would have been appropriate if Judas Iscariot was a current threat, still alive and not only working to afflict but actually afflicting the Lord Christ and/or His people. This, of course, was not the case.

Given the well-known and impetuous nature of Peter it is not surprising that he would lead the eleven into a course of action without the Lord’s explicit direction. That he happened to find a Scripture that provided approximately what he must have regarded as “biblical cover” is also not surprising. At that moment, the Apostle Peter was careless with Scripture because he ignored its proper context.

It was not then, and is not now, a valid use of a pair of OT Scriptures to defend the actions of the eleven.


9. Dr. Grudem’s failure to explain how Peter could/should appoint Matthias only, since both Matthias and Barsabbas met the requirements.

One of the very common problems that will be encountered when “theologians” begin to tinker with Scripture is the proliferation of contradictions and non sequitur “conclusions”.

Usually implicit in the error that Matthias was a legitimate appointee is the assumption that only a single man should be chosen to replace the single vacancy left by Judas Iscariot. Indeed, Dr. Grudem appears to operate on this assumption in pages 906-907 where he justifies the selection of Matthias. I take issue with him when he nevertheless suggests several other “special apostles” in the latter pages of the same chapter.

If Dr. Grudem is going to suggest as "special apostles" the men Barnabas, James the brother of the Lord, Andronicus, Junias, Silas and Timothy without any biblical justification that they met the two “qualifications” he (Dr. Grudem) espouses, then I have a valid question that he should consider:

Why reject “Joseph called Barsabbas”? What possible reason could be given for not declaring Barsabbas an apostle? Dr. Grudem asserts several others who, from the pages of the NT cannot be shown to meet Peter's “qualification”, but ignores Barsabbas who did!

This is an excellent example of how the mishandling of Scripture balloons into inconsistent and destructive nonsense very quickly. Again this—truly a tragedy by a professing Christian theologian—is the type of mishandling of the Scripture that I've frequently observed in the Watchtower organization.


10. Dr. Grudem’s bizarre, inconsistent and non-sensical argument implying a requirement of being an apostle in order to author inspired Scripture (as support for James the brother of the Lord being declared an Apostle).

pg. 906
“Earlier in this book, we saw that the New Testament apostles had a unique kind of authority in the early church: authority to speak and write words which were “words of God” in an absolute sense. To disbelieve or disobey them was to disbelieve or disobey God. The apostles, therefore, had the authority to write words which became words of Scripture. This fact in itself should suggest to us that there was something unique about the office of apostle …”

pg. 908
“Furthermore, when Paul is listing the resurrection appearances of Jesus he once again readily classifies James with the apostles:

Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Cor 15:7-9)

Finally, the fact that James could write the New Testament epistle which bears his name would also be entirely consistent with his having the authority which belonged to the office of apostle, the authority to write words which were the words of God. All these considerations combine to indicate that James the Lord’s brother was also commissioned by Christ as an apostle. That would bring the number to fifteen ‘apostles of Jesus Christ’ (the twelve plus Paul, Barnabas, and James).”

Dr. Grudem’s inference of “authority to speak and write words which were the ‘Words of God’ …” is not consistent. Consider the NT books for which the author is not in question and is also not an Apostle:

  • The Gospel of Luke.
  • The Book of Acts (Luke).
  • The Gospel of Mark.
  • The Epistle to the Hebrews. (The author is unknown and therefore is not a case for either “side” of this specious inference.)
  • The Epistle of Jude.
    [It is interesting to note that our Bible translations do not refer to the author’s name of this epistle as “Judas” in spite of the fact that there is only one form of the proper name in the NT: Ἰούδας.

    Verse 17 of the epistle is very interesting:
    “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,”, in which Jude/Judas appears to differentiate himself from the Apostles. This strongly implies that he is not the Thaddeus/Judas the son of James—who was an Apostle—and favors the view that he was Judas, the half-brother of the Lord and  brother of James.]

There is at least one NT book concerning which we are not certain as to its authorship:

  • The Epistle of James may be from one of the two apostles appointed by the Lord Christ, but could also be James the “brother of the Lord”.
    [I think it unlikely that the author of the Epistle of James is not one of these three, known possibilities (that is, that there is not yet another “James” who is otherwise unknown in the NT except for the epistle). I favor the view that the epistle was written by James the brother of the Lord.]

The fact is, being an apostle is not required to be one of the human authors of a book in the NT. It is also true that only a few of the apostles penned parts of the Canon. Of the original 12, only Matthew, Mark, Peter, John and possibly James authored books in the canon; of course, Paul authored many. But the remainder of its human authors were not apostles.

Dr. Grudem’s inference also runs into additional problem when we consider the myriad of the human authors of the OT. Some, to be sure, had primary places in the OT economy (Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc. whose functions were similar to the NT Apostles); other were historical figures (Job, Daniel, Solomon)—significant to be sure, but not sent by the Lord for specific ministries in ways that resemble Moses (OT) or Peter (NT), for example.


11. Dr. Grudem’s illogic on how it is that the Lord was really behind the eleven’s selection of Matthias, yet bypassed them completely with the appointment of Saul of Tarsus to become the “Apostle of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles”.

This last point of this rebuttal is to “step back and take in the big picture” of exactly what happened in Act 1.15-26 (the selection of Matthias to replace Judas) in juxtaposition with Act 9.1-16 (the divine "arrest" of Saul of Tarsus as an “Apostle of Jesus Christ” by the Lord Himself).

Two very different criteria are evident.

I demonstrated above that Dr. Grudem used only the second half of Peter’s requirement (the candidate must have been an eye witness of the risen Christ) while ignoring the first half (the candidate had to have been with the early group from a point in time of the baptism of the Lord Christ).

I suspect that Dr. Grudem did this (whether consciously or subconsciously I won’t speculate) because clearly Saul of Tarsus failed the first half of Peter’s qualification; however, no rational Bible student would ever deny that Saul of Tarsus was a Christ-called “Apostle of Jesus Christ”. Therefore, to maintain that very evident truth, it was necessary either to deny or ignore the first half of Peter’s qualification. (Or, perhaps, I should state it thus: “deny by virtue of ignoring” that first half…)

Please think about for a moment these three options for biblical criteria for the office of Apostle:

  1. Peter's approach: be a part of the early disciples from the very beginning and be an eye-witness of the risen Lord Christ.
  2. Dr. Grudem's approach: be an eye-witness of the risen Lord Christ and/or (Dr. Grudem leaves this ambiguous and logically filled with large gaps!) be called directly by the Lord Christ.
  3. The Lord Christ's approach: He calls immediately (that is, without intermediary) those who are to be His twelve Apostles for all time.

Do the first and third options even make sense? Peter doing this, the Lord Christ doing something else: what kind of capricious God would implement—or even consider!—such nonsense? (I'm deliberating ignoring Dr. Grudem's approach because it is a logical train-wreck.)

  • The Lord spent an entire night in prayer before His selection; the eleven barely prayed at all.
  • The eleven acted without direction from the Lord Christ; the Lord Christ acted after considerable time before the Father.
  • The Lord Christ did not consult the eleven/twelve when He chose Saul of Tarsus.

Do you see how different these are? Do you now understand why I maintain unequivocally that the disciples acted foolishly?

This is undoubtedly the first, serious error committed by the early church.

[In a later article, I’ll demonstrate the second serious error, also committed by the first Apostles: the Council of Jerusalem in Acts chapter 15.]

And, do you now see that only the last option, that the Lord Christ selects and commissions His own Apostles, is the only viable one that is consistent with the Bible’s accounts of the selection of the “Apostles of Jesus Christ”? It is also the simplest and most direct, and implicitly avoids the “theological land-fill” into which Dr. Grudem falls—indeed, must fall!

By maintaining Peter’s error, Dr. Grudem demonstrates abundantly the problems and inconsistencies that result. And, as this series stated in the beginning, it denies this simple, clear, truth:

Rev 21.14
And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Those twelve are

  1. Simon Peter,
  2. Andrew,
  3. James (a son of Zebedee),
  4. John (a son of Zebedee),
  5. Philip,
  6. Bartholomew,
  7. Matthew,
  8. Thomas,
  9. James (the son of Alpheus),
  10. Simon (the Zealot),
  11. Judas (the son of James)/Thaddeus,
  12. Saul of Tarsus/Paul

—no more or less. These twelve alone were called without intermediary by the Lord Christ; these twelve alone stand as the “Apostles of Jesus Christ” for all time.

To repeat an English nuance I mentioned earlier, these twelve alone are “ambassadors”; all others mentioned in the NT as "apostles" are “messengers”.