Paul’s apostleship was a matter of some debate because he did not meet all of the requirements for apostleship set forth in Acts. The criteria for apostleship included being: (1) a disciple of Jesus during His earthly ministry, (2) an eyewitness of the Resurrection, and (3) called and commissioned directly by Christ. Paul was not a former disciple, and his vision of the resurrected Christ occurred after Jesus’ ascension. Paul was not an eyewitness of the Resurrection in the same way the other Apostles were. Nevertheless, Paul was directly called to the office by Christ.
Since twelve of those who were disciples of Christ later became His Apostles, the two terms disciple and apostle are often confused. Although the terms are used interchangeably, they are not exact synonyms. A disciple is defined in the Bible as a “learner,” one who entered into the fellowship of Jesus’ rabbinic instruction. Though the Apostles were disciples, not all disciples became apostles.
An Apostle enjoyed a special office in the New Testament church. The term apostle means “one who is sent.” Technically, however, an apostle was more than a messenger. He was commissioned with the authority to speak for and represent the One who sent him. The chief apostle in the New Testament is Jesus Himself. He was sent by the Father and spoke with the authority invested in Him by the Father. To reject Jesus was to reject the Father, who sent Him.
Likewise, the Apostles were called and commissioned directly by Christ and spoke with His authority.