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Disciples or Apostles?

Updated: Jul 12, 2018

July 7, 2018

"What is the difference between a disciple and an apostle?"

This is a question that I have been asked many times since I started working in churches. The phrase "12 Disciples" and "12 Apostles" seems to be used interchangeably. Are those just two different names for the 12 guys that followed Jesus around? And yet all of you have probably heard sermons about your own individual calls to be disciples, so that term can't just be limited to 12 men who lived two thousand years ago.

A disciple is someone who adheres to a particular belief structure or school of thought. Often the school of thought is associated with a particular teacher. So there were (probably still are) disciples of Plato or of Sigmund Freud. Today we would say that someone who identifies as a Christian not only adheres to a school of thought taught by Jesus of Nazareth, but they live their life differently, they change their behavior because they follow Jesus. And as Christians, we call that change in behavior "discipleship."

An apostle is someone who has been sent out on a mission, particularly someone who has been granted a particular authority. It is a term that is often applied specifically to the Twelve (and also gets applied to St. Paul whose missions throughout the Mediterranean were a huge part of the spreading of the gospel).

This Sunday's gospel reading is the story of how Jesus first sent the Twelve out on a mission. Jesus gives them a special authority over unclean spirits and then sends them out into the surrounding country with nothing but their shoes, their staff, and one shirt each. They go on to do miraculous things. In this Sunday's sermon, I'll be talking more about the nature of discipleship and the source of the apostles' authority.

See you Sunday,


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