Questions From Readers
● In what sense is God “over all and through all and in all,” as Ephesians 4:6 says?—E. R., U.S.A.
By reading the context we can clearly see that the apostle Paul was writing to the Christian congregation, speaking of the unity that God had brought about among them. Paul wanted the members of the congregation to recognize and appreciate their true relationship to God and Christ. He had no reference here to the world of mankind in general.
Jehovah is the ‘one Father’ of the Christian congregation of anointed ones because he has begotten them as sons by his holy spirit. They are now spiritual “children of God,” with a hope of being heavenly joint heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ, their older ‘brother.’ God, as their Father, is clearly ‘over them all.’ (Eph. 4:6) As his children they submit wholly to his will and direction.—Rom. 8:16; Heb. 2:11; 1 John 3:1, 2.
Jehovah, the Father of this unified Christian family, is “through all”—that is, all, as making up the congregation, in this way: God has formed the congregation for his glory. (Eph. 3:21) Jehovah, in creating and directing the congregation has displayed his marvelous wisdom, even before angels. In the same letter to the Ephesians, Paul spoke of his commission to “make men see how the sacred secret is administered which has from the indefinite past been hidden in God, who created all things. This was to the end that now to the governments and the authorities in the heavenly places there might be made known through the congregation the greatly diversified wisdom of God.” The congregation has also been “a pillar and support of the truth,” a bulwark against false teaching in the world, and has been used to declare the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom. Certainly God has accomplished much through it.—Eph. 3:9, 10; 1 Tim. 3:15.
Jehovah is “in all” the Christian congregation because his spirit operates in all its members, performing its various functions. Each member, as a part of the “body,” is motivated and moved by the spirit for the benefit of the entire body, to upbuild it, for “the manifestation of the spirit is given to each one for a beneficial purpose.” (1 Cor. 12:6, 7) Furthermore, the Christian congregation is “a temple of a living God,” in which God resides, as the Ephesians were reminded: “In union with [Christ] you, too, are being built up together into a place for God to inhabit by spirit.”—2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21, 22.
In the twenty-first chapter of Revelation, the city New Jerusalem, the great heavenly temple-palace, is seen in vision. Jehovah God and Jesus Christ are shown to be dwelling in it. This heavenly temple, made up of 144,000 “living stones,” being fully, in its every part, at unity with the King of eternity and his immortal Son, will always have God ‘over, through and in them all’ as they serve as righteous kingly and priestly administrators in God’s Messianic kingdom.—Eph. 1:10; 1 Pet. 2:5; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; Rev. 20:6.
● Was the apostle Paul one of the twelve apostles?
The evidence reveals that, while Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ, he is not presented by the Bible as one of the “twelve apostles.”
The Greek word a·poʹsto·los means “one sent forth.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, under “Apostle,” remarks: “Paul, though he had seen the Lord Jesus, 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8, had not ‘companied with’ the Twelve ‘all the time’ of His earthly ministry, and hence was not eligible for a place among them, according to Peter’s description of the necessary qualifications, Acts 1:22. Paul was commissioned directly, by the Lord Himself, after His Ascension, to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles.”
Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve originally chosen by Jesus as an apostle. (Matt. 10:2-5; Luke 6:13-16) But he became a thief, then a traitor, betraying Jesus and finally killing himself, leaving eleven faithful apostles.—John 12:4-6; 18:1-5.
After Christ’s death, but prior to Pentecost, 33 C.E., the apostle Peter presented at a Christian gathering the need for a replacement for Judas, in accord with the prophetic words at Psalm 109:8. “So they [evidently the male Christians present] put up two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.” The assembled Christians prayed, asking Jehovah to designate the replacement. Then “they cast lots over them [the two], and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was reckoned along with the eleven apostles.”—Acts 1:15-26.
Just as the twelve sons of Jacob existed as the foundations of natural Israel at its beginning, so it was true to type that the twelve foundations of spiritual Israel (built upon the Chief Foundation, Jesus Christ) be present at the time of establishment of the Christian congregation, at Pentecost. When about 120 of the disciples gathered in an upper room on Pentecost day, they were in expectation of being baptized in holy spirit, because Jesus had told them at the time of his ascension ten days earlier that it would not be “many days.” (Acts 1:5, 8) There the Christian congregation began, and about 3,000 were built upon the foundation that very day. Now, no foundation is brought into a building after the erection of its superstructure has begun. So it does not seem that God would hold open Judas’ vacated place, awaiting Saul’s (Paul’s) conversion. God evidently acted then on the prayer of the assembled disciples. Accordingly the lot indicated Jehovah’s choice of Matthias.—Prov. 16:33.
Did Matthias afterward display the qualifications of an apostle? The Scripture record shows that the apostles had, among other gifts, the power to transmit the miraculous gifts of the spirit. (Acts 8:14-18; 10:44) If Matthias were not in reality God’s choice, his inability to do this would have been apparent to all. But the Bible says nothing about Matthias as being deficient in this regard.
Sometime after Pentecost, 33 C.E., but before Paul’s conversion, “the twelve” settled a matter involving food distribution, appointing a committee of seven men as administrators. “The apostles” made the appointments by laying their hands on the seven. Matthias was undoubtedly one of “the twelve,” “the apostles,” who did this.—Acts 6:1-6.
Probably about 34 or 35 C.E., Paul was converted to Christianity. At that time the resurrected Jesus declared to Paul that he was to be sent to bear Jesus’ name to the non-Jewish nations. Thus Paul was to be an “apostle [not merely of a congregation, but an apostle or ‘sent forth one’ of the Lord Jesus Christ] to the nations.” (Acts 9:15; 26:14-18; Gal. 1:15, 16; Rom. 1:5; 11:13; 1 Tim. 2:7) The apostle James was not killed by Herod until about 44 C.E., so it seems that all of the twelve were still alive when Paul received his commission. (Acts 12:1, 2) However, it should be remarked that no apostles were replaced because of death; only Judas was replaced for unfaithfulness. There are no “successors” to the twelve apostles. There is nothing in the Bible suggesting that Paul displaced Matthias or that he replaced any of the other apostles.
Though Paul acknowledged his apostleship, and had all the powers and qualifications of an apostle of Jesus Christ, being placed in this position in the Christian “body” by Jehovah, Paul never included himself among the twelve. (Gal. 1:1; 2:8; 1 Cor. 9:1, 2; 12:27, 28) Rather, when listing those to whom the resurrected Christ appeared, Paul mentioned himself separately from “all the apostles” and “the twelve.” (1 Cor. 15:5, 7, 8) At 1 Corinthians 15:5 the designation “the twelve” refers to the apostles at a time prior to Matthias’ selection, but according to Acts 1:21, 22 it would include Matthias, who was then associated with the eleven.
In the description of New Jerusalem, the heavenly city in which Jehovah and Jesus Christ are seen as dwelling, we read: “The wall of the city also had twelve foundation stones, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (Rev. 21:2, 14) The evidence just presented leads to the conclusion that the name of Matthias, not Paul, was on one of the twelve stones. Matthias was an apostle right from the foundation (Pentecost, 33 C.E.) of the spiritual nation of 144,000 making up New Jerusalem, Christ’s “bride.” (2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 21:2) True, Paul wrote many inspired letters. But the first of these came about seventeen years after the spiritual nation was founded, at a time when the nation had already grown to include thousands of persons.
Therefore, the evidence indicates that Paul was not one of the twelve apostles, the secondary foundations of New Jerusalem. However, he was the special apostle of Christ to the nations, or Gentiles, and this assignment he zealously fulfilled.—2 Tim. 4:7, 8.