- Disciple is a term used to refer to someone under tutelage. Apostle suggests being a messenger.
- Becoming a disciple and apostle requires voluntary submission and yielding to a superior.
- Apostles laid the foundation for present-day Christianity. As a matter of fact, the name ‘Christians’ was a nickname given to the apostles in Antioch.
What Is The Difference Between A Disciple And An Apostle?
A disciple is better understood as a follower, learner, mentor, or student who accepts and spreads particular teaching or lifestyle. The term disciple is not pegged to any person, association or movement. It is used universally.
The word Apostle on the other hand is from the Greek word Apostolos, meaning messenger or sent on a mission. The term was originally used to refer to the early followers of Christ. In the bible, there were only 12 of them and they were always with Jesus.
Many Christians believe that all apostles were disciples but not all disciples were apostles. Apostles laid the foundation for present-day Christianity. As a matter of fact, the name ‘Christians’ was a nickname given to the apostles in Antioch. (Acts 11:26)
The General usage of Disciples and Apostles.
The term ‘Apostle’ has not featured in many religions of the world as much as it does in Christianity. ‘Disciple’ however is widely used by people, societies, and organizations. Prophet Mohammad was said to have had disciples in his time. They were often called his followers or companions.
The Hindus also have a practice of discipleship, what they refer to as guru-shishya. It’s a practice that involves a one-way flow of deeply important religious knowledge from a guru (Teacher) to a chela (disciple).
The great philosopher, Aristotle also had disciples, better known as his students. These include Theophrastus, Phanias and Alexander the great.
Becoming a Disciple or Apostle in the Bible
The basic requirement for being either a disciple or an apostle biblically is to yield. The teacher cannot force a student to learn if he is unwilling to. A clear example is when Peter and his brother Andrew were called. They were ordinary fishermen going about their everyday business when they heard “follow me”. Mathew received the same beckon when Jesus met him in his tax collector’s booth.
Becoming an Apostle must be characterized by a physical encounter with Jesus. An exception was made for Apostle Paul whose encounter with Christ was not in the flesh. He also was not part of the 12 before the crucifixion of Christ.
Another prerequisite for being a disciple or Apostle was followership. This is seen in Mathew 16:24. Learning cannot also be left out. Some key elements however still distinguish the ‘becoming’ of the two. This is mostly seen in the duties of the Apostle. An apostle must first be called by Christ himself, learn under him, and be commissioned to ensure the Savior’s ministry continues. This is not the case for being a disciple as Jesus must appear to you face to face before you can be qualified.
How the name of Disciple and Apostle has been used Interchangeably
Though it is established that there were only 12 that were referred to as Apostles, they were at other times also called disciples. For instance, in Mathew 8:25, the disciples were referred to as Apostles when they were calling on Jesus to save them from the storm.
There was no point when someone outside the 12 was regarded as an apostle except for Saul who later became Paul and Mathias who replaced Judas Iscariot.
There were exceptional instances when ‘disciple’ was applied to the followers of John in Mathew 9:14. “then John’s disciples came and asked him, how is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
Christ was once referred to as an Apostle too in Hebrews 3:1 “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and high priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.
Apostle vs Disciple! Why do some Leaders Prefer to be Called Apostles?
Both apostles and disciples are still used in today’s Christianity because of the great commission in Mathew 28:19. Jesus told the Apostles to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This is still being propagated today. Most Christians also believe that anyone that accepts Christ as his personal Lord and savior automatically become his disciple.
The fact that it was Jesus who personally called the first Apostles that are obviously long dead by now continues to raise the question as to whether or not Apostles still exist. Many modern-day Apostles have argued that Jesus appeared to them just as he did to Saul on his way to Damascus so they also have the right to be called Apostles based on their encounter.
Another argument could also be found in 1st Corinthians 12:27-31 where gifts were given to men as apostles, prophets, teachers and the list continues. This justifies the claim for most present-day Apostles.