Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 28, 1955

The Ones Sent

George P. Estes, Maplewood, Missouri

The noun "apostolos," translated in the New Testament, "one sent," "messenger," "apostle," and the verb "apestello," translated "sent" or "send" are used by the inspired writers in passages of scripture which discuss the relationship of churches, and especially those brethren who were sent with contributions and funds from one church, or churches, to the poor, famine-stricken saints in a distant country.

The Old Testament background for the meaning and usage of the word is necessary for a proper understanding of its true sense in the New Testament. The translators of the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament, consistently translated the Hebrew word "shalach" (send) by the Greek word "apestello" (send). In Isaiah 6:8, the word is used when God called and commissioned Isaiah to be a prophet; it is used for the princes whom King Jehoshaphat sent to perform a task in a distant land, where the king himself could not be. (II Chron. 17:7-9.) As the king's emissaries, they had legal authority to act in his name. The word is used to describe the servant of David who went to Abigail at Carmel and said, "David hath sent me unto thee, to take thee to him to wife." Thus David became betrothed through the word of his servants. (I Sam. 25:40-42.) Again, the word is used of the servants David sent to Hanun in the land of Ammon to pay his respects. These servants were shamefully treated, and this precipitated war between Israel and the Ammonites. In all of these references the will of the sender is emphasized.

This is also clearly seen in the apostleship or apostolic office. These men were personally called by Jesus, and trained by him (except Paul) for the work they were to do. After his resurrection the Lord appeared to them and gave them specific instructions in the Great Commission. The Holy Spirit (which Jesus had promised — John 16:7-13) came upon them, and revealed God's will to them. (Acts 2:1-4; Gal. 1:12; I Cor. 2:10-13.) They were in complete subordination to the one who sent them; to pass on to others that which they had received. The emphasis is on absolute obedience and allegiance, because "as thou didst send me into the world, even so sent (`apostello') I them into the world." (John 17:18.) Thus they were at the disposal of him who sent them.

Brethren who were chosen and sent by a church, or churches, to a distant place to fulfill a mission for that church, or churches, are called "messengers" or "apostles" of the churches. These men were commissioned by the church and entrusted with the stewardship of carrying out the decision, wish, or will of the church which sent them. They, like the apostles of Christ, were not selected to legislate, neither to use their own judgment, discretion, or wisdom, but were sent with the primary task of fulfilling the charge given them by the church. Epaphroditus was sent by the Philippian church to Paul. He brought their gift of money and came to serve him. (Phil. 4:15-17.) He is called an "apostle" or "messenger." His task was to see that the money actually did reach Paul. And there is the end of his responsibility and his authority. The Apostle Paul was to use the money according to his own discretion. Here is a scriptural example of a church sending money directly to a preacher by a messenger.

The brethren who were chosen by the churches to travel and carry the funds raised by the Apostle Paul for the poor saints in Jerusalem were called the "apostles" or "messengers" of the churches. (II Cor. 8:23.) They had only the task of carrying the collection to its destination. Neither from the word "apostle" (II Cor. 8:23), nor from its context, is it taught that these apostles or messengers were invested with authority, in any way, to dispense with the collection. On the contrary, the opposite is true. These men were "messengers" of the churches, with emphasis on the authority of the churches, not on their messengers. He who reads into the text ideas which are not there, and he who infers or implies a meaning to a word which it does not contain, perverts the scriptures.

The verb "apestello" (send) is used by Luke to describe the mission of Barnabas and Saul in carrying the relief dispatched by the brethren in Antioch to help the brethren in Judea who were suffering from the effects of a famine. (Acts 11:30.) This word (apestello) denotes that Barnabas and Saul were called, chosen by the church at Antioch, and entrusted with the relief; they were charged with a specific task or responsibility — to see that the relief reached its destination — "the brethren who dwelt in Judea." This is a clear-cut case of an incident wherein an apostle submitted himself to the authority, decision, and dictates of a church.

When the messenger, his works, or deeds, is to receive the emphasis, the Greek word translated "send" is "pempo." But when the authority, will, and purpose of the sender is to be emphasized, the verb "apestello" is the word used. This is illustrated in the following passage, thus, . . . . "but when the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send (pempsei) in my name." (John 14:26.) Here "send" (pempo) brings out the work of the Holy Spirit. In contrast to that, consider this, "that they all may be one; even as thou, Father, are in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send (apesteilas) me." (John 17:21.) Here, God, the sender, is the prominent one. He sent Jesus. This distinction must be made between "pempo" and "apestello."

If the "messengers of the churches" had been delegated with authority, a form of "pempo" would have been used; but the Holy Spirit inspired the writers to use "apostello" and its forms in the verses under study. Hence, the sender is paramount, and the ones sent are only the "messengers" of the sender.