As we saw in Torah Government, Yeshua’s disciples are first called apostles after Yeshua sent them out on a mission in Matthew 10.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 10:1-2
1 And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.
2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother…
Today the term apostle is often assumed to refer only to someone who is sent out to preach the Good News. However, technically it refers to anyone who is sent out to accomplish a specific task (even as a messenger).
NT:652 apostolos (ap-os’-tol-os); from NT:649; a delegate; specially, an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ [“apostle”] (with miraculous powers):
KJV – apostle, messenger, he that is sent.
This meaning is reflected in the root at Strong’s NT:649, which speaks of someone who is sent out on a mission.
NT:649 apostello (ap-os-tel’-lo); from NT:575 and NT:4724; set apart, i.e. (by implication) to send out (properly, on a mission) literally or figuratively:
KJV – put in, send (away, forth, out), set [at liberty].
Sometimes apostles with authority in the Good News are called authoritative apostles, to differentiate between them and messenger-apostles. A good example of non-authoritative messenger apostles would be the husband and wife messenger team, Andronicus and Junia.
Romim (Romans) 16:7
7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Messiah before me.
Now in Acts we see how the apostles began to form a global priesthood that would serve Yeshua’s order. First we are told that the people sold their possessions and lands, to fund the ministry work. This may have been possessions and lands in addition to their residences, as people still needed places to live. However, the point is that the people had to place the accomplishment of the mission ahead of personal possessions.
Ma’asei (Acts) 4:34-35
34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold,
35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
Funds were also to be distributed to any who had need. If we are willing to receive it, this is a Renewed Covenant manifestation of the third tithe, which was set apart for the poor, the widow, and the orphan. (For more details, see Torah Government.) However, a complaint arose from the Hellenists (i.e., the Greek Jews, similar to the Reform Jews) against the Hebrews (the religiously observant), because the Hellenic widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. The apostles said to appoint seven men to look after these matters, so they could remain focused on the ministry of the word.
Ma’asei (Acts) 6:1-6
1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.
2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of Elohim and serve tables.
3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Set-apart Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;
4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Set-apart Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,
6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.
So now that there was a ministration of the word and a ministration to the poor, the faith could expand globally. Notice, then, that in Acts 9, Shaul gets converted.
Ma’asei (Acts) 9:3-5
3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.
4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Shaul, Shaul, why are you persecuting Me?”
5 And he said, “Who are You, Adon?” Then the Master said, “I am Yeshua, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
Up through Acts 9, the Good News was being revealed only to Jews, and to proselytes to Judaism. However, in Acts 10, Yahweh showed Kepha (Peter) a vision of a great sheet descending from heaven, which was filled with unclean animals (symbolic of the gentiles).
Ma’asei (Acts) 10:9-16
9 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Kepha went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour.
10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance
11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth.
12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.
13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Kepha; kill and eat.”
14 But Kepha said, “Not so, Adon! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”
15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What Elohim has cleansed you must not call common.”
16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.
While the church uses this vision to say that the clean food laws no longer apply, Kepha tells us that the true meaning is that we are not to call any man common or unclean. [Interestingly, when Kepha said it was unlawful for a Jewish man to keep company with, or go to one of another nation, he is not speaking about the Torah of Moshe, but about the rabbinic interpretation of Torah, which is misleadingly called, “Torah Law.”]
Ma’asei (Acts) 10:28
28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But Elohim has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”
Kepha obeyed the Spirit’s command to go to Cornelius’ house, and while Kepha preached, the Spirit fell on everyone who heard.
Ma’asei (Acts) 10:44-45
44 While Kepha was still speaking these words, the Set-apart Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.
45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Kepha, because the gift of the Set-apart Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
Kepha’s traveling companions were of “the circumcision who believed” that Yeshua is the Messiah. (Today these are called Messianic Jews, and Orthodox Jews who believe.) Why were they astonished that Cornelius and his house had received the Spirit? To answer this, the Pharisees are sometimes called “the circumcision.” This is because they believe they are saved by obeying the Torah command to become physically circumcised. However, they also believe it has to be done in keeping with all of the applicable rabbinic customs and decrees (which basically means that they believe in submission to rabbinic authority). And according to the rabbinic authorities, before a Gentile convert to Judaism can be circumcised, first he must take classes, and pass tests, to show he understands the rabbinical interpretation of Scripture. That is, they believe Gentiles can only convert to Judaism by following what is called the Giur (Gentile Conversion) Process. However, Cornelius and his family were not submitted to the rabbis, nor were they following the Giur Process, yet still Yahweh chose to honor the fact that they had embraced Yeshua as the Messiah.
When Kepha returned to Jerusalem, the “circumcision who believed” (i.e., rabbinic believers in Yeshua) contended with him for witnessing to non-Jews.
Ma’asei (Acts) 11:1-3
1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of Elohim.
2 And when Kepha came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him,
3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”
Kepha explained from the beginning about how Elohim had shown him that he was not to call any man common or unclean, and how Yahweh had poured out the Spirit on Cornelius and his house, even though they were not submitted to rabbinic authority. Then the circumcision who believe realized that Elohim had decided to grant the Gentiles repentance unto life also.
Ma’asei (Acts) 11:15-18
15 “And as I began to speak, the Set-apart Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning.
16 Then I remembered the word of the Master, how He said, ‘Yochanan indeed immersed with water, but you shall be immersed with the Set-apart Spirit.’
17 If therefore Elohim gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Adon Yeshua Messiah, who was I, that I could withstand Elohim?”
18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified Elohim, saying, “Then Elohim has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life!”
While the Good News was first preached to observant Jews, and then to Hellenized Jews, now the Good News was being preached to the Gentiles. The focus was starting to go global. So when Yahweh poured out His Spirit on many Hellenized (i.e., Reform) Jews in Antioch, the apostles sent Bar Naba (Barnabas) there. When Bar Naba was sent out, this made him an authoritative apostle.
Ma’asei (Acts) 11:19-25
19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.
20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Master Yeshua.
21 And the hand of the Master was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Master.
22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the ecclesia in Jerusalem, and they sent out Bar Naba to go as far as Antioch.
23 When he came and had seen the grace of Elohim, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Master.
24 For he was a good man, full of the Set-apart Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Master.
25 Then Bar Naba departed for Tarsus to seek Shaul.
Later, in Acts chapter 13, the Spirit said that both Shaul and Bar Naba were to be sent out as (authoritative) apostles, to minister to the Gentiles.
Ma’asei (Acts) 13:1-3
1 Now in the assembly that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Bar Naba, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Shaul.
2 As they ministered to the Master and fasted, the Set-apart Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Bar Naba and Shaul for the work to which I have called them.”
3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.
While we are on this topic we should point out that some have been (incorrectly) taught that there were only ever 12 authoritative apostles (and that there can never be any more). That teaching is clearly in error, as the Spirit sent out Shaul and Bar Naba as authoritative apostles in Acts 13. Further, in 1 Thessalonians, Silvanus and Timothy are mentioned as authoritative apostles. Verse 1:1 lists them as authors of the epistle.
Thessaloniquim Aleph (1 Thessalonians) 1:1
1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the assembly of the Thessalonians in Elohim the Father and the Master Yeshua Messiah: Favor to you and peace from Elohim our Father and the Master Yeshua Messiah.
Then in 1 Thessalonians 2:6 they are identified as apostles of Messiah.
Thessaloniquim Aleph (1 Thessalonians) 2:6
6 Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Messiah.
While there will never be more than 12 pre-ascension apostles (i.e., apostles called prior to Yeshua’s ascent to heaven), we should expect to see many post-ascension apostles, because the gift of apostleship is one of the gifts that Yeshua Himself gave, so that His saints could be equipped for ministry, and unify His global kingdom. These gifts are meant to last until we all come to the unity of the faith, and to be perfect men. Since we are not yet perfect, and since our body is not yet united, these gifts are for today.
Ephesim (Ephesians) 4:11-13
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Messiah,
13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of Elohim, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah….
Further, the set-apart apostles and prophets are told to rejoice at the fall of Babylon (at trumpet 7). Since that is still a future event, we should expect to see a resurgence of the apostolic and prophetic gifts in our movement, so that this verse can be fulfilled.
Hitgalut (Revelation) 18:20
20 “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you set-apart apostles and prophets, for Elohim has avenged you on her!”
However, our goal is not to have independent apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Rather, our goal is the establishment of a correct order among them, which leads to Yeshua’s kingdom. Let us look at this order as we return to the book of Acts.
Yahweh had already shown that He did not respect the rabbinic Gentile Conversion Process in Acts 10, and Kepha had earlier explained the situation to a few of the circumcision who believed. However, the rest of the Pharisees who believed apparently did not get the message, because still other Pharisees who believed came from Judea to Antioch, telling the Hellenized Jews in Antioch that unless they obeyed rabbinic custom and doctrine regarding circumcision, they could not be saved. This rabbinic Gentile Conversion Process is here called the custom of Moshe. This is not the Torah of Moshe, but rather the custom and procedure the rabbis expect everyone to follow. Since Shaul and Bar Naba did not believe in rabbinic custom and tradition anymore, this lead to “no small dissension and dispute”, and it was decided that they should go up to Jerusalem, to see the apostles and elders, so that there could be one ruling for all the assemblies worldwide.
Ma’asei (Acts) 15:1-2
1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the [rabbinic] custom of Moshe, you cannot be saved.”
2 Therefore, when Shaul and Bar Naba had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Shaul and Bar Naba and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.
It takes a few weeks to go up from Antioch to Jerusalem on foot, and in ancient times travel could be dangerous. There were often bandits and thieves, and yet Shaul and Bar Naba obviously felt that it was worth making the trip. This is surely because they understood that there must be a single doctrine, or Yeshua’s body would become split.
Ma’asei (Acts) 15:4-5
4 And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the ecclesia and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that Elohim had done with them.
5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Torah of Moshe.”
Notice how the order suggested by the Pharisees who believed is the same as the order of the rabbinic Gentile Conversion (Giur) Process. First the converts must learn the rabbinic interpretation of Torah. Then they are to be physically circumcised (in keeping with the so-called custom of Moshe), and then they can keep the Torah (according to rabbinic interpretation).
One big problem with the Pharisaic argument is that the rabbinical order descends from the Levitical order (which Yeshua was sent to replace). So after there had been “much dispute,” Kepha rose up to say that Yahweh had chosen him to deliver the Good News to the Gentiles. He had not put any form of rabbinic authority on the new converts, and yet Yahweh gave them the Spirit, so why did the rabbis seek to put a yoke of rabbinic authority on the necks of the new believers? After all, the apostles also hoped to be saved by Yahweh’s favor (rather than obedience to rabbinic tradition).
Ma’asei (Acts) 15:6-11
6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.
7 And when there had been much dispute, Kepha rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago Elohim chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the Good News and believe.
8 So Elohim, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Set apart Spirit, just as He did to us,
9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
10 Now therefore, why do you test Elohim by putting a yoke [of rabbinic tradition] on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
11 But we believe that through the favor of the Adon Yeshua Messiah we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
Then Shaul and Bar Naba related all the miracles and wonders Elohim was doing among the gentiles (even though they were not submitted to rabbinic authority).
Ma’asei (Acts) 15:12
12 Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Bar Naba and Shaul declaring how many miracles and wonders Elohim had worked through them among the Gentiles.
Yaakov (James) then said that he judged they should not “trouble” the returning gentiles by placing a yoke of rabbinic authority on them, but that they could enter the assemblies by abstaining from four things Yahweh says will get one “cut off” from the nation (which are idolatry, sexual immorality, strangled [or unclean] meats, and blood). Yaakov judged that if the gentiles would start by abstaining from these four things, then they could enter the synagogues, where the Torah of Moshe is read aloud each week since ancient times. Thus, rather than having to start with classes, and obey rabbinic authority, the returning Jews and Ephraimites would come into compliance with Yahweh’s word more naturally, and without the need to superimpose or inject rabbinic tradition into the Melchizedekian order.
Ma’asei (Acts) 15:13-21
13 And after they had become silent, Yaakov answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me:
14 Shimon has declared how Elohim at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.
15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:
16 ‘After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up;
17 So that the rest of mankind may seek Yahweh, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says Yahweh who does all these things.’
18 “Known to Elohim from eternity are all His works.
19 Therefore I judge [i.e., rule] that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are [re]turning to Elohim,
20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.
21 For Moshe has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
Yaakov’s use of the word judge in verse 19 is important. The King James Version renders it as “sentence.” It could also be rendered as “rule.”
Ma’asei (Acts) 15:19 KJV
19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
What we need to remember is that the apostles had just come out of rabbinic Judaism (or perhaps were in the final phases of doing so). In rabbinic Judaism, matters are decided by convening a council or court, which is often called a beit din, or house of judgment. In any such council or court there must be order, and a leader. In a larger court (such as a Sanhedrin) the leader is often called the nasi (“nah-see”), which means a president, or a prince. Therefore, when Yaakov said that he judged, it meant he was delivering the ruling (or the sentence) of the council.
And what was the ruling of the Jerusalem Council? Yaakov said that the Gentiles did not need to adopt the rabbinic yoke by following the Giur Process. Rather, they simply needed to abstain from four matters which carry the death-penalty in Torah. Then they could be allowed to enter the local synagogues, where they could hear the Torah of Moshe being preached. That way they could learn to keep the Torah over time, as the Spirit led them, without having to take on the rabbinic yoke.
This ruling would last until the rabbis incorporated the Birkhat HaMinim (the curse over believers in Yeshua) into their synagogue services near the end of the first century. After that, the Nazarenes were expelled from the rabbinic synagogues, and had to establish their own houses of worship. However, the start point for entering into worship remains the same. We must abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from strangled meats, and from blood. Then we can enter the assemblies and partake of the relational fellowship.
The Jerusalem Council also served as the first instance of what Shaul calls the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Because global unity can only happen when there is doctrinal unity, this is the foundation upon which Yeshua’s global house of worship must be built.
Ephesim (Ephesians) 2:19-22
19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of Elohim,
20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Yeshua Messiah Himself being the chief cornerstone,
21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a set-apart temple in the Master,
22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of Elohim in the Spirit.
We can perhaps visualize this spiritual temple as in the image above.
In the Levitical order, the Levites and the priests all had their own specific jobs to do, and yet they had to work together, or else the temple would not function. Tithes and offerings had to be collected to a central point, and distributed fairly, so that everyone could afford to stay focused at his job. Only by working as a team under leadership were they able to create a place where the people could enter in, and worship.
Likewise, in the Melchizedekian order, all the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers each have their own specific jobs, and yet they must work together, or Yeshua’s global kingdom is not established. In the balance of this book we will see the system for tithes and offerings, so that all Yeshua’s ministers are able to stay focused at their jobs. We will also see how they are to work together as a team under leadership, so that together they can create a place where Yeshua’s people can enter in, and worship.