Although some Two by Twos will attempt to evade or seemingly distance themselves from the group’s longtime teaching that their workers are the modern-day embodiment of the apostles of Christ Jesus, this claim is widely known and established within the group, and has even been advertised by the workers themselves (see illustration below). Many Two by Twos hold to a theory of apostolic successionism, to one degree or another, in which a continuous thread of apostles has existed since the time of Jesus. They also posit that only their own ministry bears the marks of true apostleship, and that this is one of the primary reasons that theirs is the only true church. These are exceptional assertions that bear scrutiny and comparison with what the Bible states about apostles.
The Word “Apostle”
First of all, the Greek word “apostolos” simply means someone commissioned by another person (or entity) and sent out as a representative of that person: e.g., a delegate dispatched by a government, a plenipotentiary sent by a king to negotiate, a herald charged with making an announcement, a factotum assigned to deliver instructions to a subsidiary business, etc. The term is used 81 times in the Bible, generally plural, although also used in the singular by Peter and Paul to indicate their function as transmitters of what they saw and heard from Jesus Christ.
The word “apostolos” is directly connected to the verbs “apostello” and “exapostello” (to commission and dispatch on a mission) and to the noun “apostole” (the commission upon which basis a person is sent). The Greek uses a different term, “pempo,” when merely indicating the act of sending someone or something.
Apostles Commissioned of Jesus Christ in the Bible
The word apostle on its own signifies little more than a person who has been appointed as a delegate. It does not tell who was the authority doing the sending, and says nothing about the message or mission to be carried out. Jesus sent out groups of 12 and 70 disciples to Israel with a specific announcement, but only the 12 did he specifically name as apostles (Luke 6:13).
Later, the position which Judas Iscariot had occupied among the 12 was assigned to another, in fulfillment of prophecy. In his stead, another longtime disciple (Matthias), was appointed to be an eyewitness to the ministry and resurrection of Christ Jesus (Acts 1:16–26). Later still, Paul was appointed by Christ to bring news of salvation to the Gentiles (Romans 1:1, 11:13; 1 Corinthians 9:1–2, 15:9; Galatians 1:1; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11). Paul knew of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and was an eyewitness of the risen Christ. Apart from the direct commissioning of Paul to go to the Gentiles, we hear of no others being sent out by Jesus.
That the special position of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ was not a continuing succession is shown by their witness being spoken of in the past, rather than the present and future, tenses (e.g., 1 Corinthians 4:9; Ephesians 4:11; 2 Peter 3:2 and Jude 1:17). That their names are inscribed upon the 12 foundations of the heavenly Jerusalem mentioned in Revelation 21:14 further limits the membership to the 12. The lack of additional eyewitnesses being appointed as apostles of Jesus Christ in the Biblical account is glaring. Paul, appointed to reveal the good news to the Gentiles, stated in 1 Corinthians 15:7–9 that he was the final person to be commissioned by Jesus Christ. In addition to his work in preaching and establishing churches far and wide, Paul acted as an apostle sent by the church at Antioch, and of the 12 apostles in Jerusalem.
Others Associated with Apostleship
The Bible mentions a handful of people other than Paul and the 12 in conjunction with the word “apostolos,” and that has formed the basis for claims that others were classed as apostles of Jesus Christ. These instances bear examination:
• Some number James, the brother of Jesus, among the apostles, based upon his name appearing a couple times in close conjunction with mentions of the apostles. Some modern professors of Biblical Studies have made James into an apostolic royal figure who inherited the leadership of the early church. While it is clear that he headed the church at Jerusalem, a closer examination of the few mentions of James in the Scriptures makes it apparent that nowhere is he explicitly named as an apostle. In 1 Corinthians 15:7, he is only listed as among the over 500 people to whom Jesus appeared after the resurrection. In Galatians 1:19, it says nothing beyond that Paul may have met James, and none of the apostles.
• Barnabas is mentioned as an apostle in Acts 14:14, but this is clearly in his capacity of an emissary (i.e., an “apostle”) of the church at Antioch, so commissioned in Acts 13:3. The Bible specifically mentions the existence of “apostles of the churches” (2 Corinthians 8:23), and Acts 9:30, 11:22, 16:4, 17:14 and other passages show churches dispatching such emissaries and delegations.
• Some claim that Andronicus and Junia were apostles, based upon them being mentioned in Romans 16:7. Note, however, that this verse does not say that they were apostles, but only indicates that they were known to the apostles.
• Jesus is called “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession” in Hebrews 3:1, and is among the instances of someone other than Jesus Christ sending out an apostle. Instances in the Greek of emissaries being sent as apostles by others include Luke 20:10–11 and Acts 7:12.
Because the so-called apostles in the Two by Two Church are commissioned and sent out by the group’s hierarchy (i.e., its Overseers, or “Head Workers,” as they are called in some areas) they are by definition, apostles of the people who commissioned them, i.e., apostles of the Overseers, rather than apostles of Christ Jesus.
A delegate, ambassador, emissary, plenipotentiary, representative or apostle never legitimately commissions himself or herself to go out based on feeling moved to do so. Nor do they act as apostles or present themselves as representing someone else by unilaterally claiming that power or taking that position. Rather, persons meeting all the qualifications of such a role are vetted, then directly chosen, authorized, commissioned, credentialed and equipped by the person on whose behalf they are being sent.
In the case of the original 12 apostles of Jesus Christ, it was Jesus who personally selected and commissioned the person. The message which the apostles were to proclaim (preach) was also provided. It was Jesus who equipped his apostles with extraordinary credentials to testify both to their apostleship and to confirm the words they transmitted.
The Bible repeatedly states that the apostles of Jesus Christ possess specific credentials. They had to meet certain qualifications, which the Bible details at the elevation of Matthias in Acts 1, and in Paul’s defense against false apostles in 2 Corinthians 11 and 12. They were to be Israelites, they were to have been with Jesus starting from the baptism of John the Baptist, they were to have been among the apostles and disciples during the years of his preaching up until the crucifixion, they were to be eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Christ Jesus, they must endure persecution and they must have been commissioned by Jesus. See Acts 1:21–25; Romans 3:2; 1 Corinthians 9:1, 15:5–9; 2 Corinthians 11:12, 22–23, 12:12.
In addition, they were given certain signs of an apostle to confirm their apostleship and the message they were to transmit. These included attesting signs that were regularly employed to verify their apostleship and message. See Matthew 10:1–8; Mark 16:20; Luke 9:6, 16:16; Acts 2:22-43, 5:12, 14:3,19:11; Romans 15:19; 1 Corinthians 9:1, 15:5–8; 2 Corinthians 12:11–12; Hebrews 2:3–4.
The Two by Twos’ idea of a continuous line of apostles raised up continually since the first century may derive from ideas held by the Roman Catholic and other churches holding to apostolic succession. The Bible presents Jesus, the apostles and prophets as being the church’s foundation, and that they are a foundation already laid (Ephesians 2:20). To continually re-lay a foundation is unnecessary, and it would be a poor builder who keeps laying a foundation over and over to produce a useless building.
The apostles of Jesus Christ were directly given what message to deliver: the “gospel” (literally: good news). Before the crucifixion, this message was that the Kingdom of Heaven, the promised redemption, was at hand (Mark 1:15).
After the crucifixion, the good news was that forgiveness of sins and salvation had been accomplished, freely granted to all through the righteous life, propitiatory death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Prior to that, sacrifices and self-effort could never fully wipe away the rebellion (sin) or achieve the righteousness necessary for life and fellowship with God (see, Isaiah 1:11, 45:25; Psalm 40:6; Luke 4:18; Acts 20:24; Romans 3:20–24, 4:25, 5:16–18; Galatians 2:16; Hebrews 9:12–10:19; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 1:7). Paul, who remained a strict adherent of the Law of Moses (Acts 21:26–27; 25:8; Philippians 3:6), was dispatched to make clear that Gentile believers had free access to salvation through Jesus Christ without having to convert to Judaism or adhere to the Mosaic laws and traditions which had been covenanted with the Israelite nation alone (Acts 15:6–29; 21:25).
The good news was simple: the abolition of the barrier of rebellion (sin) to fellowship with God and life, a free and unmerited gift through the promised provision of God in reconciling mankind to Himself. It was indeed good news, and the details were comforting and joyful as provided by the apostles’ witness to the testimony and life of Jesus in fulfillment of hoped-for promises.
These bearers of the glad tidings didn’t make up the gospel as they went along, or off the cuff. They didn’t misdirect the good news into being about their own lives or sacrifices or insert requirements to be met in order to qualify for God’s free and unmerited gift. They simply delivered the message they were sent to deliver.
The word “preacher” means one who is serves as a herald, and the word “preach” literally means to proclaim as a herald. A herald never substitutes his or her own words in place of the king’s proclamation, nor does a herald add their spin to what he or she has been given to deliver. The king’s proclamation is to be clearly delivered, not sidetracked into something else or hidden and blurred in what workers have called “little stories from life.” No herald extracts a couple of out-of-context points from the proclamation and turns those into the message that is delivered.
The message sent through a herald or emissary/apostle would either be handed over as written or the herald would literally proclaim it aloud and precisely as given. Unlike the so-called “gospel message” delivered by the workers, a proclamation delivered by a true herald was never altered, twisted into allegories, tucked into a long ramble or otherwise changed in any way. A herald (preacher) or emissary would lose his head for messing up, adding to, muddying, misrepresenting or taking away from a king’s proclamation by those sorts of adulteration of his exact words. (See Hebrews 2:1–4)
Some workers have attempted to justify preaching an unbiblical “gospel” by suggesting that the words they preach are inspired (literally: breathed) by God. This is a fearsome claim, as buying into the idea that God speaks directly through the workers creates a new revelation that demeans the Bible and the gospel, as their words frequently go beyond what the Bible says, adding to and subtracting from its message (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; Galatians 3:15; Revelation 22:18).
The gospel is the confirmation of the hoped for salvation (Romans 8:24), not salvation itself, and that salvation is a gracious act of God, already provided through the sacrifice of Jesus to cover sins (reconciliation) and his righteousness being credited to our accounts (justification). It has nothing to do with a requirement to hear from, accept or bring oneself into fellowship with any pair of ministers, and it is not provided only to those people who agree to submit themselves to men or women claiming to be apostles, who strive to follow certain traditions of men, who meet only in private homes, or who follow any other of the added distortions. Salvation is through God’s gracious provision alone. It was a doctrine (literally: teaching) of the early Two by Two movement that inserted the requirement that salvation can only come by hearing and accepting a “gospel” message spoken through William Irvine’s newly minted pseudo–apostles.
The workers’ message (gospel/good news) is not that which was given through the apostles of Jesus. It is not even close in most instances, and it does not focus on faith in Jesus alone, but instead, the workers’ call to profess concludes in an appeal to “Follow Jesus in this way.” The Two by Two “way” is their version or interpretation of Jesus, plus many additional requirements and traditions that are never commanded in the Bible as necessary. It’s no longer Jesus being the door to salvation, but instead, the door has been re-framed to make salvation dependent on the Two by Two workers, traditions and requirements.
The Bible never states that one may only be saved through hearing a message from the workers – or any other minister. Instead, it says that you can have salvation simply through faith (trust) in God’s grace, whether that comes by reading the Bible (2 Timothy 3:15), by simple belief in God as He reveals Himself to you (Romans 10:11), or even through hearing through someone with bad motives (Philippians 1:15–18). Salvation is accomplished through Jesus alone–it is not accomplished by or dependent upon the message or messengers. It is provided to all and comes by faith, and even that faith is a gift of God, rather than a work we produce ourselves (Ephesians 2:5–8).
The Bible also says that all have heard (Romans 10:18), which makes the workers inessential, even were they somehow real apostles who were delivering the true gospel, and even if they somehow met the qualifications and performed the confirming signs of true apostles of Jesus Christ. Two by Twoism puts its focus on its recently invented ministry, and corrupts the real Jesus into a “pattern” worker. The Two by Two gospel isn’t even good news, but instead points to accepting a new batch of requirements, self-effort and add-on traditions that are no better or achievable than the previous system of laws, that were meant to show the need for grace, rather than save, and which the true gospel fulfilled (Romans 5:12–21).
It is only God who saves through the finished work of Jesus Christ – it is not accomplished by the messengers or the system or even by somehow achieving worthiness or righteousness through our own efforts. Two by Twoism’s twisted “good news” is like your father depositing $1 million into your savings account as an unexpected and unearned surprise gift – then having the bank manager come along to take credit for the bank balance on the basis that it was he who informed you of the deposit – and not only that, but then trying to tell you that you must work to earn the gifted sum and follow his dictates for the rest of your life in order to “maybe” get access to it (he’ll hint at your funeral whether or not you were deserving enough). That is not good news/gospel. Had he simply told you that there was now an extra $1 million in your account and left it at that, it would have been good news, but instead, the bank managers inserted themselves, added conditions, changed the focus and nullified a gift that was never theirs to give or control.
In the Bible, we read that there are other Jesuses, other gods, other gospels and other apostles. It is thus important to know what we have been asked to believe and look beyond the surface. False apostles (see 2 Corinthians 11:13, 15; Revelation 2:2) are those who usurp the position of apostles of Jesus Christ. These cannot bear direct witness of the ministry and resurrection of Christ Jesus. They were not personally commissioned by him, and they do not bear the credentials of his legitimate emissaries.
As with others who make a claim to being apostles of Jesus Christ, the workers do not satisfy the qualifications of true apostles: they are not Israelites, they do not exhibit the confirming signs of true apostles, they have not been commissioned by Jesus, they cannot bear eyewitness to the earthly sojourn and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and they do not preach (according to the Biblical definition of that word) the true gospel message.
Instead, the workers have taught that the qualifications of an apostle have been changed, thus watering them down to insignificance. They have dispensed with the qualifications and credentials, substituting a new requirement that all “true” apostles must sell all and become homeless (note that Jesus only required this of a single person, and that person was not asking to become a worker, but rather asking how he might inherit eternal life, see Matthew 19:16–22; Mark 10:17–21; Luke 18:18–22). They have dismissed the requirement for being an Israelite and the confirming credentials by teaching that these are now to be taken in a “spiritual” sense only. Thus, they claim to “spiritually” heal the sick and to be “spiritually” Israelites, which reduces these qualifications to something anyone could nebulously claim. They have also adulterated the gospel message, inserting their form of ministry and worship as being necessary components, condemning all outside their fellowship, and requiring one to establish one’s own worthiness and achieve self-justification, making null God’s gracious provision through Christ’s finished work.
One of the other things we are told about false teachers is that they forbid marriage. Despite having allowed a few married workers in the past, since the mid-20th century, Overseers have not allowed active workers to marry each other and remain in the work. (See 1 Corinthians 9:5; 1 Timothy 4:3; Hebrews 13:4).
The word “apostle” simply means “one who is sent.” It was used to denote emissaries appointed to deliver a message or act as an authorized representative, e.g., an ambassador dispatched by a king to deliver a specific message to a foreign government. The authority of the emissary derives from being directly appointed by the person who did the sending, and the fulfillment of the mission was contained in the message they were given to deliver and instructions they were to accomplish. They were not to exceed the limitations of their commission, and their authority to act on behalf of the person sending was confirmed by their credentials and by them meeting all the qualifications needed for that role. Jesus personally commissioned and named his “apostles” using that term for just those reasons.
The Bible shows the apostles of Jesus Christ as being appointed by him directly, face to face. It clearly tells us the unique credentials that apostles would bear and shows them repeatedly using those credentials to verify their authority. It would be expected of an emissary that credentials would be requested and that any emissary would be readily able to produce clear evidence of his apostleship.
The Bible tells us that there are false apostles. These were not appointed directly by Jesus Christ, do not fit the qualifications given in the Scriptures, and do not produce the credentials with which Jesus equipped his true apostles.
The Bible presents the apostles and their testimony as having happened in the past tense. They are said to be the foundation of the church, with Jesus Christ himself being its chief cornerstone. A functional building cannot be constructed if the foundation is being continually laid over and over again; else, the intended building itself would never rise above the ground. See Ephesians 2:20, Revelation 21:14.
The workers of the Two by Two Church do not fit the definition of apostles of Jesus Christ in any sense, foremost because they were not directly sent out by Jesus Christ. The workers are not apostles of Jesus Christ because one of the qualifications is that they be personally selected and appointed by Jesus, the person who did the sending. The workers are not apostles of Jesus Christ because apostles must have seen the risen Jesus, and be able to bear direct witness to his resurrection. The workers are also not apostles of Jesus Christ because they do not meet the qualification of having personally witnessed the earthly ministry of Jesus from its inception, of being Israelites, of being self-evident servants of Christ, of having endured persecution.
The workers are not apostles of Jesus Christ because they do not exhibit the credentials that bear witness to the authority that apostles of Jesus Christ bore, i.e., they have not and do not perform the attesting signs with which Jesus equipped his true apostles. The person in reality who sends out the workers within the Two by Two church are its Overseers, and the only claim to apostleship the workers can legitimately make is that they are merely apostles of their local Head Workers.
Just because someone “feels led,” has an “earnest heart for,” “gets a conviction,” has a “burning in the breast” that they’ve “been called to the ministry” or similar does not mean that they are apostles in any sense beyond being sent or compelled along by their own feelings (or by the subtle suggestions of others). These are not evidence that they have in any way been commissioned by either Jesus, the Father or the Holy Spirit. Where are their credentials?
In the first century, the apostles could point directly to their being commissioned directly by Jesus Christ, and they bore witness to those things which they personally saw and heard. Even Paul could point to his credentials (2 Corinthians 11) to refute those who falsely claimed to be apostles. Although there are instances where New Testament churches sent out their own emissaries, those “apostles” were not automatically apostles of Jesus Christ unless they had already been commissioned by Jesus Christ in person. The Bible nowhere mentions apostles being commissioned by the Holy Spirit, and only Jesus is mentioned as being sent from the Father.
Again, the Workers of the Two by Two Church are not apostles of Jesus Christ: they were not directly commissioned or sent out by Jesus, and they cannot bear direct witness to his life and resurrection. Instead, they are only “apostles of the Overseers,” who are the actual ones who commission them, send them out and direct (and sometimes terminate) their missions. It is absolutely against the Two by Two Church’s bedrock teachings and traditions to claim to be apostles or sent forth except through the church’s Overseers. They do not allow anyone else making a claim to being an apostle to preach or minister among them, and label anyone – friend or outsider – who would attempt to do so as “false.”
Uncredentialed persons presenting themselves as being an emissary sent by someone – be it from a private person, king or group – and speaking a message from, making claims for, deciding on behalf of, and/or exercising authority as if a representative of the person(s) who supposedly delegated them are committing fraud no matter how moved, led or called they may feel. There are people in many other groups who also claim to be apostles – some mistakenly or misled, but also including many who are liars and outright charlatans. The Bible repeatedly instructs us not to just swallow any and all who make claims based upon feelings, visions, suppositions and clever tales. We are instead to be on the alert, to examine, to test, and to exercise discernment.
“That we henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, or by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;” (Ephesians 4:14 KJV)
Source: Anonymous author is an ardent student of the Bible and very knowledgeable about Two by Two Church.