What’s the difference between Apostles and Disciples?

As Catholics, we are often asked to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and his apostles. But what exactly is the difference between an apostle and a disciple? And why does it matter? Read on to find out!

The difference between apostle and disciple can be understood when you know what the two terms mean individually. 

The difference between apostle and disciple can be understood when you know what the two terms mean individually. 

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The words apostle and disciple are often found in Bible study. Many treat apostles and disciples as equals and often use these words interchangeably. However, it is wrong and needs to be cleared up. 

The twelve disciples listed in the Scriptures are Simon, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, Lebeus, James, Simon, and Judas Iscariot. These themselves became the original twelve apostles.

All apostles are disciples, but not all disciples are apostles.

You must know the difference between an apostle and a disciple to have a clearer understanding of the concepts. Therefore, in this article, we will discuss what each term means so that you understand the difference between apostles and disciples.

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Who is a Disciple?

The Oxford English Dictionary writes a disciple is “a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher.” So, a disciple is understood to be a pupil or a student. 

It originated from and was usually referred to as the followers of Jesus. Some famous and early followers of Jesus were John the Baptist and Saint Peter who is considered important in the Christian society.

In his time, Jesus accepted everyone as his disciples, and this huge population was made up of sinners and women and that angered the purists. The word disciple comes from the Latin word discipulus, which means an apprentice who learns from his teacher.

In simple terms, it is a term used to refer to an individual who follows a doctrine or a teacher. That is, for a disciple to exist, there must be a teacher or leader who instills in the disciple a doctrine, an artistic style, or a line of thought to guide him in his growth.

In the case of Christianity, the disciples of Jesus Christ were the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus himself to learn from him and help him preach his word and spread his religious ideas.

If you study the Bible, you will come to know that the disciples were followers or students of Jesus Christ. From among his many followers, Jesus chose twelve to travel and learn from him. Of course, these 12 were also originally the Disciples of Christ. These were the men who were later sent to distant lands to act as messengers, and these 12 men became the first apostles.

When Jesus died, the disciples formed a group of followers to spread what they had learned. They lived together and were known as the “First Christian Community“. From this, a community emerged, the future disciples, convinced of the value and truth of the proposals they defended.

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Who is an Apostle?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the general meaning of the term apostle is “a vigorous and pioneering advocate or supporter of a particular policy, idea, or cause.”

This is apart from its use for the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ. In that sense, they were twelve disciples or students, who later became messengers of the religion by supporting the religious belief of Jesus.

While in Christianity, apostles were the men chosen by Jesus to act as “fishers of men“, that is, to multiply his presence and teach his message.

The apostles had as a goal to convert into disciples of Christianity everyone who believed in Jesus and followed his teachings, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, the apostles were also disciples, but the word apostle cannot be used when referring to someone who has simply been a follower or disciple of Christ. So not all disciples were apostles, although all apostles were disciples.

The original apostles were the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus, who was later joined by Matthias and Paul of Tarsus.

An apostle was, in addition to a follower of Jesus, a special apprentice who would later be sent as a messenger to preach Christianity. 

Interestingly, among the 12 men Jesus chose as disples, there was Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ and later committed suicide. Matthias replaced Judas and joined the rest of the group in becoming an apostle.

The original 12 apostles were Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James (the younger), Judas (or Thaddaeus), Simon, and Matthias.

Although Judas was just a disciple and never an apostle, based on the fact he betrayed Jesus and wasn’t sent out as a messenger, nor did he witness the ascension of Jesus.

What is the difference between Apostles and Disciples?

Apart from the word disciple, the word apostles are also mentioned in the Bible and people think that these two are the same, which is not true.

  • When you look at the Greek roots of the words apostle and disciple, the distinction between the two becomes clear. The Greek word for disciple translates to “student,” whereas the Greek word for apostle translates to “messenger or envoy.”
  • While it is true that Jesus chose 12 of his disciples to serve as messengers, later on, not all disciples can be referred to as apostles.
  • All apostles must first be disciples. To be sent as messengers, they must first have been students. However, not all the followers of Jesus were apostles since He did not send as a preacher everyone who believed in his teachings.

FAQ the Difference between Apostles and Disciples

What is the difference between Apostles and Disciples?

The 12 disciples were the original apostles. An apostle is someone who is sent out to do a specific mission, whereas a disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the 12 disciples went out and preached the gospel to all nations.

Are Apostles and Disciples the same thing?

Apostle is a title that can be given to any messenger of the gospel, while disciple refers to one who follows Jesus Christ specifically
So in a strict sense, they are not exactly the same thing, but they are related. A disciple is someone who becomes an apostle after being personally called by Jesus Christ.

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Then Finally

We pray and believe in Christ as our Lord.

Jesus Christ, in the way of referring to the twelve as a disciple, advised them to remain in the truth to be true disciples and John 8:31 sustains it:

“Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him: If you continue in my word you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”.

As apostles, He charged them with making disciples all over the world, passing on what they had learned while with him. According to Matthew 28: 19-10,

“then go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, until the end of the world. Amen.”

FAQs

Are disciples and apostles the same?

There’s a common misconception that disciples and apostles are the same thing. But they’re actually quite different. Disciples are adherents or followers of someone, while apostles are sent out on behalf of someone.
So in Christianity, for example, the Twelve Apostles were sent out by Jesus Christ to spread his message. But all Christians could be considered disciples of Christ.
The word “apostle” comes from the Greek word for “messenger.” So in essence, an apostle is a messenger of their chosen figurehead. And since they’ve been chosen by this person, they tend to have a certain level of authority.
To sum it up: all apostles are disciples, but not all disciples are apostles.

How many disciples did Jesus have?

How many disciples did Jesus have? Well, that’s a tough question to answer. Discipleship is not an exact science, and there is no definitive answer. But we can make an educated guess based on various factors.
For starters, Jesus was a rabbi in first-century Palestine, which typically had around 70 disciples. But of course, not all of Jesus’ disciples would have been members of his formal rabbinic school. Some may have been lay followers who simply admired him and wanted to learn from him.
Estimates suggest that Jesus may have had as many as 200 disciples during his lifetime. But again, this is just an estimate. The actual number could be higher or lower.

What are the names of the 12 disciples of Jesus?

The 12 disciples of Jesus were: Simon Peter, Andrew, James son of Zebedee, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus. Judas Iscariot. Matthias was later chosen to replace him.

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