DID THE 12 APOSTLES EVER JOIN THE CHURCH THE BODY OF CHRIST?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Brethren, the answer is a resounding NO! There was absolutely no reason for them to do so.
Unfortunately, Acts is the most misunderstood Books of the Bible. Dispensationalists—especially we Pauline dispensationalists—should be the most skillful in this regard. If anyone should be capable of shedding light on the subject, it should be we ourselves. Alas, we are often just additional contributors to the preexisting confusion. It is not God’s fault! In this our special-edition Bible Q&A article #800, we can delineate at least 10 problems that arise if we incorporate the 12 Apostles into the Body of Christ.
1. OBSCURING THE DISTINCTIONS IN SCRIPTURE
Let us begin with this. To assert the 12 Apostles joined the Body of Christ is to do nothing but blur the distinctions between it and the Little Flock. Anyone who mixes, or appears to combine, the Messianic Church (Israel’s Little Flock) with the Mystery Church (Body of Christ) should be watched with a great deal of suspicion. Whether a subtle blending (“some of the Little Flock became members of the Body of Christ”) or a full-blown grouping (“there has always been and will always be only one church in the Bible”), heresy and apostasy are nigh. Eliminating such differences is a sure way to wind up on a slippery slope, bound for the chasm of unanswerable confusion. We had better be on guard and promptly flee upon discovering the error!
2. TALLYING IS AMBIGUOUS
If we add the 12 Apostles to the Body of Christ, when do we stop taking from the Little Flock? Since the leaders of the Little Flock join the Body of Christ, why not have the entire Little Flock join the Body of Christ? What is good for the teachers is good for their disciples, right? If the most important members of the Little Flock—that is, the 12 Apostles—migrated into the Body of Christ, why did all members of the Little Flock not transfer to the Body of Christ? Or, again, maybe they all did! When is enough, enough? How do we reckon what percentage of the Little Flock moved into the Body of Christ? Will we ever answer it with certainty? It just results in more questions.
A similar argument can be made against the Apocrypha, the so-called “missing books” or “banned books” from the Bible. If the 66 Protestant Books are not enough in the canon of Scripture, how many are? Why stop at 73 or 80 like the Roman Catholics? We could add many more Books than the Roman Church if we wanted, right? Again, we are just blurring the distinctions between the Little Flock and the Body of Christ. Leave the 12 Apostles in the Little Flock, and we will avoid a lot of complications.
3. RE-JUSTIFYING THE 12 APOSTLES
The only reason someone is placed into the Church the Body of Christ is to be moved from being “in Adam” (lost, no fellowship with God, dead in trespasses and sins) to being “in Christ” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17). Requiring the 12 Apostles to move from the Little Flock to the Body of Christ implies their “re-justification”—as in, the 12 Apostles had no right standing before God until they joined the Body of Christ. To say they were not justified until the Body of Christ began is to then claim they were lost and dead in trespasses and sins throughout Matthew through John, and even into early Acts!
We know the 12 Apostles had already believed the Gospel of the Kingdom—that Jesus was Christ, Messiah, King of Israel (Matthew 16:13-19)—and were justified before God then. They had believed John the Baptist’s message (cf. John 1:35-50). In order to join the Body of Christ, they would have to “come to Christ by faith” a second time, believing Paul’s Gospel or the Gospel of Grace (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This would be totally unnecessary. We have no reason to believe they lacked any right standing before God after believing the Gospel of the Kingdom, for they were members of the Little Flock and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. Someone cannot be forgiven of their sins twice, cannot move into God’s family twice, cannot be justified twice, et cetera. It makes no sense, and it causes us to question whether or not the Little Flock was ever a valid part of God’s family.
4. IGNORING THE CIRCUMCISION/UNCIRCUMCISION DIVISION
In the Church the Body of Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Romans 3:22; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 3:6). Of course, God’s purpose in forming the nation Israel was to make a Jewish body of believers. The only group of believers prior to the Body of Christ is the Little Flock (Israel’s believing remnant). As we noted in #3, Israel’s 12 Apostles believed the Gospel of the Kingdom during Christ’s earthly ministry.
Later, in the Book of Acts (chapter 9, specifically), the middle wall of partition—the distinction between Jew and Gentile—is broken down (see Ephesians 2:11-18). This was done in order to make Paul himself qualified to join as the first member of the Body of Christ. In Paul’s ministry, in the Church the Body of Christ, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. All who join the Body of Christ come by faith in Paul’s Gospel, lose their Jewish or Gentile identity. God sees no racial or national distinction in the Body of Christ. Therefore, would the 12 Apostles (if they join the Body of Christ) retain or lose their Jewish standing before God? It is not only unnecessary but also impossible for them to be both saved before the middle wall of partition and then saved again after its abolishment. Again, the suggestion is rubbish. The 12 Apostles were not incorporated into the Body of Christ!
5. REPLACING ISRAEL WITH THE BODY OF CHRIST
If the 12 Apostles joined the Body of Christ, that would necessarily mean they could not remain in the nation Israel. What exactly happened to Israel then? Did it just disappear into thin air? If they were once part of Israel, but now part of the Body of Christ, we are left to wonder if the Body of Christ absorbed the Little Flock simply because the Body of Christ replaced Israel. Let us take it a step further. If the 12 Apostles were heirs of Israel’s covenants, and they joined the Body of Christ, would that not then make the Body of Christ—or, at least a portion of it—recipient of Israel’s covenants? Once we make the 12 Apostles members of the Body of Christ, it will not take too much to then convince us the whole Body of Christ replaced Israel. We wind up on more unstable theological ground.
Additionally, since Matthew 19:27-29 has the 12 Apostles inheriting material possessions and goods, will they receive these or not? “Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”
Nothing in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, ever suggests the Church the Body of Christ is promised material possessions or earthly blessings. Therefore, how can the 12 Apostles be recipients of earthly blessings in the Body of Christ? That would conflict with Pauline doctrine, for the Body of Christ does not inherit earthly blessings. If the 12 Apostles do not inherit earthly blessing, then God broke His promise to them. Even in the future (Millennium), there is an incongruity. The 12 Apostles cannot be both heirs of something on Earth and not be heirs of something on Earth. It is either one or the other.
6. COMBINING GOVERNMENTAL ROLES
As we noted in #5, Scripture is clear that, in the ages to come (Millennial Kingdom), the 12 Apostles will sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel. Look again at Matthew 19:27-28: “Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Now, if the 12 Apostles are part of the Body of Christ, then that means a portion of the Body of Christ rules over Israel. But, are not Israel and the Body of Christ two equal entities, the former exalted in the Earth and the latter exalted in the Heavenly Places? Ephesians 1:8-10: “ Wherein he [Father God] hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;  Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:  That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:….”
Also, Colossians 1:16-20: “ For by him [God the Son, Jesus Christ] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.  And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.  For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;  And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
Making the 12 Apostles join the Body of Christ confuses the matter. Israel really does not have supremacy in the Earth then, for the Body of Christ would be the governmental authority in Heaven and Earth. Now, we have Heaven and Earth scrambled, with part of the Body of Christ (the 12 Apostles) in Heaven… but, if the Apostles moved into the Body of Christ, they have lost their position on Earth? Who then reigns over Israel on the Earth, if not the 12 Apostles? Will Israel be governed from Heaven? We have part of the heavenly government reigning over the earthly realm… or part of the earthly government reigning over the heavenly realm? Which is it?! Do you see the unfathomable complexity and perplexity?
7. INSERTING THE APOSTLES WHERE THEY DO NOT BELONG
Nothing in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, indicates the 12 Apostles ever became part of the Body of Christ. None of the Books of Hebrews through Revelation—writings of Apostles James, Peter, Jude, and John—ever suggest they joined the Body of Christ. Here is the evidence.
The Apostle Peter appears by that name in Paul’s epistles five times, and “Cephas” five times. He is confined to Galatians and 1 Corinthians. See for yourself:
- Galatians 1:18: “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.”
- Galatians 2:7: “But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;….”
- Galatians 2:8: “(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles: )….”
- Galatians 2:11: “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.”
- Galatians 2:14: “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”
- 1 Corinthians 1:12: “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.”
- 1 Corinthians 3:22: “Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;….”
- 1 Corinthians 9:5: “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?”
- 1 Corinthians 15:5: “And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:….”
- Galatians 2:9: “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.”
(JOHN AND JAMES)
As for the Apostle John, he is found only once in Paul’s epistles. That is in Galatians 2:9, where the Apostle James also appears. See our last verse quoted. The Apostle James is found two other times in Paul’s writings. Like Cephas/Peter, he too is restricted to 1 Corinthians and Galatians.
- 1 Corinthians 15:7: “After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.”
- Galatians 2:12: “For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.”
Now, let us examine it from another angle. Instead of looking for James, Peter, and John in Paul’s epistles; let us see if we can find Paul in their writings. As it turns out, Paul appears only once in the Circumcision or Jewish Epistles. Read 2 Peter 3:15-16: “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”
Second Peter was Peter’s final epistle. In it, the Holy Spirit directs Peter’s readers to consider the Divine revelation given to Paul. Peter confessed he himself did not have that insight, for the revelation of the mystery was not his ministry (it was Paul’s—cf. Colossians 1:23-29). How could Peter be a member of the Body of Christ and yet be so unable to adequately communicate truths associated with it? Evidently, Peter assumed the Body of Christ was something totally unrelated to his ministry or what God was doing in and through him. Remember, this is Peter at the end of his life. He would gain no further revelation, which is why he urges his audience to consult Paul’s epistles for more information.
We will yet take it a step further. If we search the Scriptures for the term “body of Christ,” or “the church which is his body,” we will discover one plain and simple fact. It is exclusive to Paul’s ministry and writings. Look at the references yourself, brethren. Read Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 10:17; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14,27; Ephesians 1:23; Ephesians 2:16; Ephesians 3:6; Ephesians 4:4,12,16; Ephesians 5:23,30; Colossians 1:18,24; Colossians 2:19; and Colossians 3:15.
Contrariwise, there is absolutely nothing about the Church the Body of Christ in the Books of Hebrews through Revelation. If you doubt this, take a concordance and look up the term “body” in Hebrews through Revelation. You will find not so much as one verse about the Church the Body of Christ. Peter, James, and John do not write about it. Would they have not done so, had they been part of it? Now, search for the word “church” in Hebrews through Revelation. It always appears in conjunction with the Messianic Church (Israel’s believing remnant), for the word “body” is never attached to it. “Church” in the Hebrew Epistles is strictly Israel’s Little Flock, the group of Jewish believers God calls out of the apostate nation to form His kingdom of priests. Again, take a concordance and see for yourself. Do not take anyone’s word for it—including mine!
8. IGNORING THE ACTS 15 & GALATIANS 2 BIBLE CONFERENCE
Had the 12 Apostles joined the Church the Body of Christ, the Bible conference of Galatians chapter 2 and Acts chapter 15 would not have ended in the fashion it did. Paul and Barnabas would not have parted from James, Peter, and John. We remind ourselves of Galatians 2:9 once more: “And when James, Cephas [Peter], and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.”
They would have all been part of one Body of Christ, preaching the same Gospel of the Grace of God. Yet, we can see their mutual promise to remain separate and distinct groups. Paul and Barnabas would preach and minister to the heathen (all lost people, whether Jew or Gentile); whereas James, Peter, and John would preach and minister to the circumcision (Israel’s Little Flock). Obviously, the Church the Body of Christ and Israel’s believing remnant remained apart. The leadership of the Little Flock (James, Peter, and John) would in no way join Paul and Barnabas because the leadership of the Little Flock knew the division was there. It was a joint agreement, and the rest of the Book of Acts bears that out. Paul visits synagogues (lost Jews), pagan Gentiles, and so on. There is no record in latter Acts or Paul’s epistles that James, Peter, or John ever taught Paul’s converts or evangelized synagogue worshippers. From Acts 15 / Galatians 2 onward, the lost were given over to Paul’s ministry.
9. OVERLOOKING THE LAW/GRACE DIVISION
The 12 Apostles were told to preach the Law in Matthew 5:17-18: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Yet, the Church the Body of Christ is under Grace and not Law. Romans chapter 6, verses 14 and 15: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”
So, are the 12 Apostles under the Law, or under Grace? If they are under the Law, they cannot be part of the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is under Grace. However, if the 12 Apostles are under Grace, then they are least in God’s earthly kingdom. Continue reading in Matthew chapter 5, verses 17-20: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” How could we make the leaders of God’s earthly kingdom least in that kingdom at the same time?
As an extra sidenote, many years (a decade?) after the Acts 15 / Galatians 2 Bible conference, we read chapter 21 of Acts: “ And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.  And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.  And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:  And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.”
We will notice the Apostle James—the same one of Acts chapter 15 and Galatians chapter 2—is still associated with Jews “which believe… [who] are all zealous of the law” (verse 20). If James is under Grace and not Law, what is he doing here? Should he not be discouraging these Jews, members of the Little Flock, from being under the Law? Maybe he is following his promise in Acts and Galatians? Perhaps he is restricting his doctrine to match the group of people to whom he is ministering? Of course he is!
10. CAUSING CONFUSION ABOUT APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY
With the 12 Apostles being incorporated into the Body of Christ, what happens to their apostolic authority? Do they retain it, or lose it? If they retain it, why? They can in no way function in the Body of Christ as apostles, for the only apostles in the Body of Christ were given their offices after Christ’s ascension (Ephesians 4:8-11)! If they lose it, then that means Israel herself is without 12 Apostles now. Consequently, once the Body of Christ began in the Book of Acts (chapter 9 with Saul’s salvation), Israel’s believing remnant had no Apostles leading it. All Apostles would be in the Body of Christ now. Preposterous!
The idea that “the 12 Apostles joined the Body of Christ” breaks down into nothing but hopeless confusion. It is simply denominationally-minded Christians, or even lost people, not making the distinctions in Scripture that they should. Since they have not fully broken from religious tradition, their thinking is clouded. It is natural-man wisdom, an attempt to harmonize differences in the Bible, and it does nothing more than complicate Scripture. Such people need to grow in God’s Word rightly divided before they attempt to teach it. Dear brethren, if you make the 12 Apostles part of the Church the Body of Christ, the best of luck to you in reducing that chaos to order! (You will need it.)
» Can you explain Peter and the 11’s ministry from Acts chapters 7 through 15?
» Can you explain Paul’s ministry during Acts?
» Why does the Book of Acts end so abruptly?
» What is Acts 9/28 Hybrid Theology?
» When did the Church the Body of Christ begin?
» Is Hebrews 13:3 a reference to the Body of Christ?
» Did the Church the Body of Christ begin in Acts 2?