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13 Characteristics of an Apostle

The concept of Apostleship holds a central foundational role in the narrative of the New Testament, representing a divine calling to spread the gospel and to plant churches. There is however an undeniable truth towards this concept.

For someone to be an apostle, one needs to be chosen by Christ personally. Therefore, in my point of view, no one is an apostle except for those who have been directly called by Him and walked with Him while He was still roaming amongst us. However, one can still have the apostolic gift as one of the gifts given by Christ Himself. This gift plays a specific role in the Kingdom of God.

So if you have ever wondered if you hold the means to have these genes in your spiritual DNA, then you are on the right wave to cruise on this topic with me.

13 Characteristics of an Apostle

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Apostles are entrusted with a unique responsibility and qualities. We will explore these responsibilities and qualities to uncover the thirteen characteristics of the Apostle.

1. Apostles are chosen by Jesus.

Our first stop on this journey lies at the start of all lives of the Apostles. This is one I like to call the selection process. In this, we will see the heart of Jesus as he did not choose by outward appearance, social and religious status, or someone with the best resume. He had a knack for diving into the depths of one’s persona. Reaching into those deep trenches, seeking out the hidden talents and capabilities of ordinary folks and giving them an extraordinary mission.

Three apostles that really stand out for me are Simon Peter, the fisherman; Mathew, the tax collector and Maria Magdalene, the prostitute. These were ordinary people with ordinary and sinful lives. Who He has called and glorified them to such an extent that you still mention their names today. Chosen by a divine calling for the sake and purpose of the mission recorded in the below scripture –

Mathew 10:5-28 KJV “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into a house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge. And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hidden, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

My dearest reader, can you Imagine the profound implications of being hand-picked by the Son of God? It wasn’t just a nod of approval, it was more like a rose given by “the bachelor”. An invitation to a deep and intimate relationship with Him. The chosen apostles had a front-row cinematic view of His life. All the miracles He performed and the teachings that He gave. A Life, Christians of today could only have dreamed of living. However, according to the previously mentioned scripture, it did not come without weight. It was not an opportunity to gain personal fame and glory, on the contrary, it was a commission to serve others. Mirroring the meek and sacrificial love of Jesus Himself.

In this century, the principle being chosen by God still holds truth within Christian Leadership today. In this world that is phenomenally obsessed with fame, glamor, qualifications, and outward appearances, God reminds us that He looks at the Heart.

“But the Lord said to Samuel, look not on his countenance, or the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outside appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”

As Christian leaders, we can take in a lot from this selection process. We should not “judge a book by its cover.” Respecting all ministries, all callings, and all gifts, no matter the superficial appearance. Being chosen by God implies a personal investment in others. Recognizing unique gifts, talents, and callings, nurturing them within the body of Christ, and empowering others to fulfill their God-given calling.  An invitation to lead with humility, knowing that the title means nothing and leadership is all about the service.

2. Apostles are commissioned to preach the Gospel.

A Job is a Job. But can you imagine the pressure of the Apostle, when hand-picked by God Himself and commissioned to spread the word and multiply himself in others. This is the primary job of the Apostle. This is not a cushy and comfortable lifestyle, it is one with many trials and tribulations as Christ Himself said they will be hated for His sake.

John 15:19 KJV “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”

Their days were more than just a public speech at a local congregation. No, their message hit for the roots. It changed lives, it brought healing and transformation but most of all it reconciled God and humanity.

This concept and mandate is still relevant today. As believers of this century, we inherit this mission, carrying the very same transformative message that the Apostles did all those years ago. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just a legend, but a living and breathing reality. It is a message of hope, redemption, and significance. As a carrier of this mandate, you as a believer are considered as an ambassador of reconciliation, extending an invitation to others to reconcile with God.

3. Apostles are witnesses of Jesus’ Ministry.

No one can be an apostle if they have not walked with Jesus Christ, physically, But It is that simple. How else will they be eyewitnesses to those particular events? Therefore in my strong opinion, anyone who goes by the title apostle has already proven his incompetence to be a leader. Adding a title to his name that he is not fit to carry as the bible states clearly in Acts.

Acts 1: 21-22 KJV  “Wherefore of these men which have accompanied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.”

An apostle can not preach from hearsay or theological theories but from a powerful point of having physically walked with Him.

Acts 10: 38-43 KJVHow God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”

The Apostolic gift however is not limited to the Apostolic era. This is the gift of personal testimony. Your personal walk with Him. My beloved reader, I am sure you have a story to tell. How you were stuck in a situation where you did not know if you would survive it. But through prayer and faith in that which you can not see, In God from which your help comes from. You have overcome it! This Testimony holds the power and the authority to transform many lives. This is living proof that the Gospel of Jesus is still active and alive today.

In a world that is found to be negative and filled with disbelief, this gift of personal experiences still breaches the gap between theological concepts and tangible experiences. These testimonies are direct evidence that JESUS IS ALIVE!!! Speaking louder than polished and prepared speeches or sermons.

4. Apostles have Power and Authority Given by Christ.

In the opening verse of Mathew 10 we witness the utmost high power and Authority, Jesus Christ, conferring that exact authority upon the Apostles. To heal the sick and to drive out demons. This can not be seen as a mere symbolic gesture but rather a literal and tangible transfer of spiritual authority.

The authority extended far beyond the natural healing and deliverance into the supernatural spiritual landscape. Commissioned to confront spiritual demonic forces, casting them out and healing all forms of diseases

Mathew 10:1 KJV  “And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.”

If we fast forward to Mark 16:17-18 we encounter a broad spectrum of supernatural manifestations. After His resurrection, Jesus commissions another authority to His followers. Ensuring them that signs and wonders will follow them. They will speak with new tongues. They will be able to pick up snakes and drink poison and nothing will hurt them. They will lay their hands on the sick and they will recover.

Mark 16:17 KJVAnd these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

Not only does this emphasize on the authority of the believers, but also highlights the manifestations of the supernatural power of God. It significantly portrays the supernatural partnership between humanity and God. You are no longer a passive recipient or spectator, but an active participant in the miraculous power of God.

5. Apostles have a Global Mindset.

The apostolic mission was not just about reaching the community of Israel. But the entire world. A marching order was given to all his apostles to take His gospel to every end of the earth. Completing a phrase that I like to use is “not just the Jews, but the Gentiles too”. A task that did not go without discomfort. Many were persecuted for the sake of His name. Therefore the mission took courage and bravery.

Matthew 10:19-20 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

When we look at our modern-day era, we can say they succeeded in their task. With a total of 31.1% of the world’s population being of Christian faith, according to statista.com.

Thanks to modern technology and transportation, this percentage could increase tremendously, as the world has become more reachable and smaller through social media. You, dear reader, could also be gifted with the apostolic gift and enabled to continue with this mission.

6. Apostles are the foundation layers of the church.

Apostles did not lay on their backs and expected the job to be done. The early church was embedded in the foundations they laid. They were the backbones of the early church. Can you imagine the authority and the mindset they needed for this task? When all of the world wanted to destroy them. They had to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. Their expertise laid down the groundwork that shaped the course of History.

This did not just come miraculously as they needed to be relationship builders to establish communities. Building it all from the ground up. Investing all that they are to raise a Christian generation. Having Jesus Christ as their Cornerstone.

Ephesians 2:20 KJV “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone;”

The same principles that guided the apostles are still found today. All who have the Apostolic gift are builders of the Kingdom of God. However, you should build carefully, as it is easy to make that one mistake for a whole building to collapse.

1 Corinthians 3:10 KJV “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed of how he buildeth thereupon.”

7. Apostles have endurance in trials.

Apostles have a great level of endurance, to survive all tails. But here’s the kick, they didn’t just survive, they thrived.

2 Corinthians 11:23-28 KJV “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times I received forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”

Their lives served as a roadmap for us, to obtain unwavering trust in God. Their endurance was not just focused on gritting your teeth and toughing it out. It is all about leaning on God’s grace and mercies. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Running the race with Perseverance. Knowing that with patience comes experience and experience births forth hope. Hope that leads to success.

Hebrews 12:1-2 KJV “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Romans 5: 3-5 KJV “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

Their lives remind us that we are not alone and that the struggles all lead to glory. If you face trials with the same tenacity and faith as they had, then… well… smart work pays off…

8. Apostles commit to sound doctrine.

The Apostles did not teach out of curiosity, or to waste time. They also did not Entertain the carnal and sinful nature of society. They committed themselves to ground believers in the truths of the word of God. There is no gray area in their teachings. A spade is a spade and a goat is a goat.

Acts 2:43 KJV “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

Sound doctrine is very crucial, as biblical teachings lay the foundation of our faith. It provides us with a framework for understanding God. It equips you to discern between the lies and the truth in the corrupt world of today. A lot of ministers say “Thus says the Lord” when the Lord has not said it. Sound doctrine assists you in knowing what God really does and what He doesn’t.

Ephesians 4:11-14 KJV “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”

Titus 1:9 KJV “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”

Apostles defend the truth with integrity. They hold fast to the faithful word and do not walk away from it.

9. Apostles Encourage unity.

Despite their diversity, and different backgrounds, the apostles all stood by one another, united, on one mission; To expand the Kingdom of God. They all knew that the task at hand was bigger than themselves. Their purpose in expanding the Kingdom of God required their utmost attention and strength working together as one force. A global movement fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit.

12 Corinthians 12:12-13 KJV “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”

In a world marked with division and discord, promoting unity amidst diversity becomes a powerful tool and testimony in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Apostles didn’t tolerate their differences, they celebrated them as expressions of God’s Grace and creativity. They recognized that unity was not about uniformity, but embracing God’s diverse creation. In this very similar way, you should promote unity within the body of Christ.

Ephesians 4: 1-3 KJV “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

10. Apostles have a servant’s heart in Leadership.

True Leadership is not based on domination, power, and control. It is based on a servant’s heart. A heart that is filled with humbleness and willing to serve its followers instead of controlling them.

Matthew 20:25-28 KJV “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

You need to apply this principle within your leadership. It is difficult to move your mindset from “self-promotion” to “selfless service.” It’s not about climbing the corporate ladder, it’s about serving those who push you up that ladder. If there is no one pushing you up, then you are a bit too selfish and need to tone it down a little bit. Because a true leader is only as strong as the people who made him one.

Fostering a servant’s heart requires you to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and eager to put the needs of others before your own.

Philippians 2:3-4 KJV “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his things, but every man also on the things of others.”

11. Apostles have Spiritual Discernment.

Apostles possess a massive level of Spiritual discernment. They can not be lied to at all. You can try, they will either act like they believe you and try to get you to confess, or they will call you out. If I am allowed to portray this on a junior level, I will say it’s like Spider-Man’s spider-sense tingling when he’s in danger. Accept even more intensely. Imagine having a built-in lie detector.- This is the common reality of an Apostle. Their wisdom supersedes all things, as God supersedes all things. They always know what choices to make and what road to take. They also know where the road will lead.

1 Corinthians 2:10-16 KJV “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so, the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.”

However, you as a believer should exercise growth in this department. It begins with cultivating a sensitivity to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Leaning on God and not your understanding. Obtaining all knowledge by becoming Christ-minded, If you lack wisdom, you should ask God.

James 1:5 KJV “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

12. Apostles have a committed prayer life.

Prayer plays a major part in the lives of the Apostles, as it is the basis of their decision-making, empowering their ministries and building an intimate relationship with GOD!

Acts 6:4 KJV “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”

It is exactly this example you need to follow in your own life. Setting aside dedicated time each day to commune with God.

Colossians 4:2 KJV “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;”

Prayer shouldn’t just be a religious practice a repetitive ritual or a checkbox to tick off. It should be a dynamic encounter with God.

James 5:16 KJV “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

13. Apostles suffer for the Sake of the Gospel

Apostles are always under attack, both carnally and spiritually, for the sake of the Gospel. They face many trials and tribulations. Even on to death. They held on and endured every suffering because they understood a great truth – In your weakness, God’s power is made perfect. They embrace their suffering not as a defeat, but as a badge of Honour. Knowing that through their trials the light of the Gospel shines brighter than the sun.

2 Timothy 2:1-4 “Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9  “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;  Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;”

Up until today, Pastors, even such as myself, still face great trails and tribulations for the sake of the Gospel, and the faith that we believe in. As the world continues on its course, these trials are becoming more intense and more critical. But we must hold on to the promises that He made. It is all part of His redemption plan.

In conclusion, From being chosen by Jesus himself, expanding the Kingdom of God, and devoting themselves to a life filled with an intimate relationship with God. Apostles could have their hands full. Therefore it is required to have all traits/characteristics organized to work together in unity, to fulfill all missions of the Apostle.

Jaype Bester is a renowned Pastor, author and Counsellor who lives in KrielSouth Africa. Jaype has a diploma in Psychology, a theological degree in Master of Divinity (Mh.D Divinity), and is currently serving as a Presidential Pastor at Shakeid Ministries. He is also the author of 4 published books namely: The Heart of a Psalmist: David, 365 Prophetic Bullets For Men and a few others. Jaype Bester loves empowering others with his personal coaching.