Apostles Vs. Disciples

By Paul King •  Updated: 10/26/23 •  13 min read

In the vast ocean of early Christianity, the apostles and disciples shine like beacons, guiding the lost souls towards salvation. Their journey, filled with miracles and teachings, has left an indelible mark on the world. Let us dive into the depths of their impact by exploring the differences between these two influential groups, their roles in early Christianity, and the historical significance they hold.

According to the Holy Bible, the term ‘apostle’ refers to a select group of individuals chosen by Jesus himself. In Matthew 10:2-4, we read about the twelve apostles: ‘These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.’ These apostles were hand-picked by Jesus to be his closest companions and to spread his teachings to the world.

On the other hand, disciples were a larger group of followers who believed in Jesus and his message. In Luke 10:1, it is written, ‘After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.’ These disciples, while not part of the inner circle of twelve apostles, played a vital role in spreading the word of God.

One of the most well-known apostles is Simon Peter, who was a fisherman before being called by Jesus. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says to Peter, ‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’ This statement by Jesus highlights the significant role of Peter in the establishment of the Christian faith.

A powerful story from the Bible that showcases the impact of the apostles and disciples is the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. In John 6:9-13, we learn that a young boy offered his five loaves of bread and two fish to Jesus. Miraculously, Jesus multiplied this small offering to feed the multitude, with twelve baskets of leftovers remaining. This event demonstrates the power and compassion of Jesus, as well as the faith and obedience of the apostles and disciples who distributed the food.

The apostles and disciples not only witnessed Jesus’ miracles but also carried his teachings forward. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commands his disciples, ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ This commission from Jesus highlights the responsibility entrusted to the apostles and disciples to spread the Gospel and make new followers.

The influence of the apostles and disciples can be seen throughout history. They laid the foundation of the early Christian Church, enduring persecution and spreading the Good News. Their teachings and writings, preserved in the New Testament, continue to guide and inspire believers today. The impact of their faith and dedication cannot be overstated.

In conclusion, the apostles and disciples of early Christianity played distinct yet interconnected roles in the establishment and spread of the Christian faith. Through their unwavering commitment, they have left an enduring legacy that continues to shape the lives of believers. As we delve into their journey, we are reminded of the transformative power of faith and the importance of carrying forward the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Key Takeaways

What Is an Apostle

An apostle is a person chosen and commissioned by Jesus Christ himself to be a leader in the early church. In Mark 3:14-15, it is written, ‘He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.’ This shows that Jesus specifically selected these individuals to spread his teachings and perform miracles.

One powerful example of an apostle’s mission is found in Acts 9:1-19, the conversion of Saul. Saul, later known as the apostle Paul, was a persecutor of early Christians. However, on his way to Damascus, he encountered a blinding light and heard the voice of Jesus. Jesus said to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ This encounter completely transformed Saul’s life, and he became a devoted follower of Christ. Through his ministry, Paul went on to write many of the letters and epistles found in the New Testament, sharing his deep understanding of theology and encouraging believers.

The apostles were not only called to preach the gospel but also to live it out in their daily lives. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul says, ‘Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.’ This shows that apostles were meant to lead by example, demonstrating the values and teachings of Jesus in their own lives.

One of the most well-known apostles is Peter, who played a crucial role in the early church. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said to Peter, ‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.’ This verse highlights Peter’s significance as a foundational figure in the establishment of the Christian faith.

The apostles were not only leaders but also mentors and teachers. They guided others in their journey of faith, just as Jesus had guided them. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul instructs Timothy, his disciple, saying, ‘And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.’ This passage emphasizes the importance of passing down the teachings of Jesus from one generation to the next.

What Is a Disciple

Generally, a disciple is understood to be a follower of a teacher, leader, or religious figure. In most religious contexts, a disciple is someone who has dedicated their life to learning, understanding, and living out the teachings of their spiritual leader. As the Bible states in Matthew 4:19, Jesus called his disciples by saying, ‘Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ This shows that being a disciple means not only following the teachings of Jesus but also actively spreading his message to others.

One example of a disciple in the Bible is Peter. Peter was a fisherman who became one of Jesus’ closest disciples. He demonstrated his commitment to Jesus by leaving his fishing nets behind and following him. In Matthew 16:16-18, Jesus asked his disciples, ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter responded, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus then declared, ‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.’ This interaction highlights Peter’s faith and his role as a foundational disciple in spreading the message of Jesus.

Disciples not only have faith in their leader but also demonstrate their faith through their actions. James 2:17 reminds us, ‘Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.’ This means that disciples are called to live out their beliefs and show their faith through their deeds. An example of this can be seen in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. In this parable, a Samaritan man demonstrates his faith by helping a stranger in need, even though others had passed him by. This story teaches us that disciples are called to love and serve others through their actions.

While faith and works are important aspects of being a disciple, it is crucial to understand that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Ephesians 2:8-9 states, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.’ This means that our actions alone cannot save us; it is through faith in Jesus that we are saved. However, true faith will always be accompanied by good works, as mentioned in James 2:26, ‘As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.’

The Difference Between Apostles and Disciples

A comparison can be made between those referred to as apostles and those referred to as disciples in the Bible. Both have leadership qualities, but apostles had a greater social impact due to their spiritual authority.

According to the Bible, in Matthew 10:1-4, Jesus chose twelve apostles among his disciples, giving them a special role and authority. Jesus said to them, ‘Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!’ (Matthew 10:7-8)

Apostles were not only chosen by Jesus himself, but they also had a direct connection to God. In Acts 1:24-25, the disciples prayed to God, seeking guidance on who should replace Judas Iscariot as one of the twelve apostles. The passage states, ‘Then they all prayed, ‘O Lord, you know every heart. Show us which of these men you have chosen as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry, for he has deserted us and gone where he belongs.’ This highlights the divine selection process and the significant role apostles played in the early church.

Furthermore, apostles were responsible for spreading the teachings of Jesus and maintaining unity and order in the early church. In Ephesians 2:20, the apostle Paul writes, ‘Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.’ This verse emphasizes the crucial role of the apostles in establishing the foundation of the church and ensuring its stability.

The differences between apostles and disciples demonstrate the importance of leadership and spiritual authority in early Christianity. While both were important to the spread of the gospel, apostles had a greater impact due to their spiritual authority and direct connection to Jesus. They were entrusted with the task of guiding and nurturing the early church, as seen in Acts 2:42, which states, ‘All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.’

One biblical story that exemplifies the leadership and spiritual authority of apostles is the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate, as described in Acts 3:1-10. Peter and John, two of the apostles, encountered a man who had been crippled since birth. In the name of Jesus, Peter commanded the man to walk, and he was miraculously healed. This miraculous event not only showcased the power of the apostles but also served as a testament to their divine authority and ability to perform miracles.

The Role That Apostles and Disciples Played in Early Christianity

The role of spiritual authority and leadership played by select individuals in early Christianity was crucial to the development and growth of the faith. The apostles and disciples were chosen by Jesus himself to assist in spreading his message and teachings (Matthew 10:1-4). They were entrusted with the responsibility of studying the Scriptures and comprehending the practices of the church.

Even after Jesus’ crucifixion, the apostles and disciples continued to guide the early Christian church, ensuring that others understood the significance of the Scriptures and providing instructions on church practices. They played a pivotal role in the expansion and dissemination of Jesus’ teachings throughout the world.

One of the notable examples of their commitment to learning and teaching the Bible is found in Acts 17:11. The apostle Paul and Silas visited the city of Berea, where the people eagerly received their message. However, instead of blindly accepting their teachings, the Bereans examined the Scriptures daily to verify the authenticity and accuracy of what Paul and Silas were proclaiming. This demonstrates the importance the apostles placed on the study and understanding of the Word of God.

The influence of the apostles and disciples was instrumental in the growth and establishment of early Christianity as a major world religion. They served as the foundation upon which the early church thrived and spread. Their dedication to sharing the teachings of Jesus paved the way for Christianity’s enduring legacy.

The impact of the apostles and disciples on early Christianity cannot be denied. Their teachings and leadership continue to shape the Christian faith today. Their example of steadfastness, commitment to the Scriptures, and willingness to spread the gospel serves as a model for believers throughout history.

Historical Impact of Apostles and Disciples

The influence of selected spiritual leaders on early Christianity has left a lasting historical impact. The apostles and disciples, as depicted in the New Testament, played a crucial role in spreading the message of Jesus Christ to the world. Their teachings and actions have had a profound effect on the growth and development of the early church, shaping the course of history.

One of the significant aspects of the apostles and disciples’ impact lies in their scriptural significance. Through their teachings and personal experiences with Jesus, they contributed to the formation of the Gospels and other writings in the New Testament. For example, the apostle Paul, in his letters to various churches, provided theological insights and guidance that continue to influence Christian doctrine to this day.

Moreover, the apostles and disciples were not only messengers of Jesus’ teachings but also conduits of divine power. They were known to perform miracles in the name of Jesus, which further reinforced the faith and attracted more believers. In the book of Acts, we read about the apostle Peter healing a paralyzed man at the temple gate, demonstrating the power of Christ working through him (Acts 3:1-10). These miracles served as powerful testimonies to the truth of Jesus’ message and contributed to the rapid spread of Christianity.

The cultural legacy of the apostles and disciples is another aspect of their impact. Their teachings and traditions have shaped the Christian faith and are still observed today. For example, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which were instituted by Jesus and practiced by the early church, continue to be essential parts of Christian worship. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, emphasizes the importance of the Lord’s Supper as a commemoration of Jesus’ sacrifice (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). These practices and beliefs have become deeply ingrained in Christian culture and continue to be passed down through generations.

Paul King

I post written versions of my powerful sermons exploring topics like prayer, praise, biblical truths, and more expressions of faith. My church has a deeply spiritual culture, which I try to convey through vivid storytelling and applications in our everyday life. I spread the Good Word with lots of conviction and passion.