Boyd Matheson: The Apostles — ordinary men, extraordinary calling

Apr 7, 2024, 11:45 AM

Editor’s note: This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

Regardless of one’s personal religious belief, non-belief or affiliation the influence of a group of ordinary men, from in and around Galilee, living in the Meridian of Time, is undeniable. The Apostles’ witnesses of the Living Christ have reverberated around the world and down through the ages.

Apostles of Jesus Christ

These followers and disciples of Jesus Christ, unlearned and unremarkable in so many ways, have transformed lives and literally altered the course of human history for over 2,000 years. There simply is no plausible human explanation to adequately express the outsized global impact of the Apostles of Jesus Christ.

The New Testament record of Luke says, that Jesus “went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles.”


This kind of all-night prayer from Jesus was not an exercise in mindful meditation or a performative, repetitive recitation of requests. It can best be understood as an exhausting wrestle of intercession for those who would bear witness to the world of the Savior’s divinity. Christ knew the will of the Father and it is unlikely He was trying to sort out who should be called, but petitioning God to strengthen those who had been chosen.

Knowing their individual strengths and weaknesses along with the tests, trials and temptations that awaited them, Jesus pled with His Father, through the night, in a precision prayer on behalf of each of those who would minister to the people of the world and administer the affairs of God’s Kingdom on earth. When Jesus said to his disciples, “I have prayed for you,” He had, in a most meaningful, precise and personal way.

The apostles were called from ordinary paths and pursuits including a number of fishermen, a tax collector and a political zealot. Each ordinary man possessed a unique perspective, a set of experiences, latent personal gifts and a desire to become a dynamic disciple of Jesus Christ.

The title of Apostle was neither small nor insignificant.  John MacArthur observed that the definition of apostle actually transcends the typically referenced meaning derived from the Greek noun Apostolos, which means “one who is sent.” He asserts that the English word apostle is a transliteration, rather than a translation of the Greek word.

MacArthur writes, “The apostles were ‘sent ones’, But they were not mere messengers. The Greek word for ‘messenger’ was angelos, from which we get our word angel. An Apostolos was something much more significant than a courier or a herald: Apostolos conveyed the idea of an ambassador, a delegate, an official representative.”

MacArthur further noted that the word apostle has an exact parallel in Aramaic — Shaliah. Aramaic was the language of Jesus. A Shaliah exercised the full rights and carried the absolute authority of the ruling council of Israel they represented. 

The Apostles were not mere messengers — they carried a certain witness to the living reality of the living Christ and possessed the full rights, authority and priesthood keys to declare His divinity as His chosen delegates, proclaim His gospel as acknowledged ambassadors and build His kingdom as His official representatives.

The original twelve apostles — Peter, James, John, Andrew, Phillip, Nathaniel (Bartholomew), Thomas, Matthew, James, Judas (Thaddeus), Simon, Judas Iscariot (and Mathias who replaced Judas) were indeed ordinary men. Yet, they possessed the keys and authority and right to continue to teach the gospel of Christ Jesus and strengthen the Church following the Savior’s death, resurrection and ascension.

The Apostles traveled the ancient world proclaiming the good news of the gospel while attempting to keep the little band of Christians together. Eventually, they all were slain for their testimonies of the resurrected Christ. The Apostles preached, and were imprisoned for, the witnessing words they taught. They suffered death for the authority they professed and the testimony of Christ they bore. Ultimately with the loss of the Apostles the keys, rights and authority were also lost.

Apostles of Latter-day Saints

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that those keys and associated priesthood power, along with the rights and authority of the Holy Apostleship, were restored to the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith between 1830 and 1844 and continue today.

The “latter-day” Apostles called of God through Joseph Smith, were similarly ordinary men — craftsmen, farmers, merchants and teachers. The world would not have expected or predicted that the leadership of such a group of ordinary men in the 1800s in America would propel a movement that today includes over 17 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ in 180 countries.

Like their ancient counterparts, the apostles living in 2024 are ordinary men from a wide array of backgrounds including doctors, lawyers, businessmen, a pilot, educators and a communications professional.

Like their colleagues from the original twelve apostles and their brethren from the 1800s, these ordinary men are carrying out a global ministry as apostles to bless, lift, teach and compassionately care for all of God’s children.

Boyd Matheson is the host of Inside Sources on KSL NewsRadio. Follow him on X and LinkedIn. 

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Boyd Matheson: The Apostles — ordinary men, extraordinary calling