Understanding the Distinction: Disciple vs. Apostle
In the study of Christian theology, two terms that are used extensively but are often confused are “disciple” and “apostle.” Although there is some overlap in their meaning, they are not interchangeable, and understanding the distinction between them can be enlightening.
In the most general sense, a disciple is someone who follows the teachings of another person, usually a religious leader or a philosopher. In the context of Christianity, a disciple is someone who follows Jesus Christ, learning from him and striving to live according to his teachings.
The term “disciple” comes from the Latin word discipulus, which means “learner” or “pupil.” The disciples of Jesus were men and women who chose to leave their ordinary lives behind to follow him. They believed that he was the Son of God and that his teachings would lead them to salvation.
According to the Bible, Jesus had 12 main disciples, whom he chose personally. They were Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot.
However, there were many others who followed Jesus and learned from him, including women such as Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna. These disciples were not necessarily part of the inner circle of 12, but they were no less important in their commitment to Jesus.
The role of a disciple is to listen to the teachings of their master and to try to live out those teachings in their own lives. The disciples of Jesus were not perfect, and they made mistakes along the way. However, through their faith and commitment, they grew in their understanding of Jesus and his mission.
An apostle, on the other hand, is someone who is sent out on a mission or a task. In the context of Christianity, an apostle is someone who is specifically chosen and commissioned by Jesus to carry out his work.
The term “apostle” comes from the Greek word apostolos, which means “one who is sent out.” The apostles of Jesus were chosen by him for a specific purpose – to spread the gospel message to the world.
According to the Bible, Jesus chose 12 apostles from among his disciples. They were Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot.
However, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, he appeared to other followers and commissioned them as apostles as well. These included Paul, Barnabas, Silas, and others. These apostles were not part of the original 12, but they were still chosen and commissioned by Jesus to carry out his work.
The role of an apostle is to be a messenger of Jesus, spreading his teachings and carrying out his mission. Apostles were given the authority to perform signs and wonders in order to demonstrate the power of God and to give credibility to their message.
Disciple vs. Apostle: What’s the Difference?
So, what is the difference between a disciple and an apostle? In general, disciples are learners who follow the teachings of a master, while apostles are messengers who are specifically chosen and commissioned by Jesus to carry out his work.
However, there is some overlap between the two terms. For example, all of the apostles were first disciples of Jesus. They spent time with him, learning from him, before they were commissioned as apostles. Additionally, many of the disciples of Jesus were also involved in spreading the gospel message after his death and resurrection, although they were not specifically chosen and commissioned as apostles.
Another difference between disciples and apostles is their role in the early Christian church. The apostles were leaders of the early church, guiding and instructing the new believers. They played a crucial role in the establishment and growth of the Christian church.
Disciples, on the other hand, were generally not leaders of the early church. They were followers of Jesus who sought to live out his teachings in their own lives. However, their witness and testimony were still important in spreading the gospel message to others.
In conclusion, disciples and apostles are two important terms in Christian theology. While they are related, they are not interchangeable. Disciples are learners who follow the teachings of a master, while apostles are messengers who are specifically chosen and commissioned by Jesus to carry out his work.
Understanding the distinction between these two terms can deepen our understanding of the role of Jesus’ followers in spreading the gospel message. As we seek to follow Jesus and live according to his teachings, we can take inspiration from the disciples and apostles who came before us, striving to be faithful witnesses of his love and grace.