Difference Between Apostle and Disciple

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: September 12, 2023


Difference Between Apostle and Disciple

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Even though “disciple” and “apostle” are frequently used interchangeably, they have different meanings. A disciple is a person who follows another person’s teachings and propagates them; the Greek word for “disciple” means a learner. The word “disciple” describes Jesus Christ’s followers in the New Testament. When we discuss the word “apostle” as it appears in the New Testament, a specific meaning comes to mind. Let’s discuss the difference between a disciple and an apostle as mentioned in the Bible.

Disciple Vs. Apostle

The term “disciple” is used in the New Testament to describe followers of Jesus Christ, particularly the twelve disciples who supported Jesus during his public ministry. At the end of his life, Jesus gave his followers this final directive: “Go therefore 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" (Matthew 28:19–20). Everyone who trusts in Jesus is called to follow him. The Greek term for apostle translates as “one who is sent,” designating a person who is being dispatched on behalf of another with power. When discussing its use in the New Testament, the word “apostle” has a specific meaning. A person must have been with Jesus during his ministry, seen him after his resurrection, and been given the Holy Spirit’s authority to work miracles and signs to qualify as an apostle (Acts 1:21; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 9:1-5). Although some church groups may refer to specific individuals as “apostles” based on the work they are carrying out for the church, there are no apostles in the traditional sense of the word today. It’s interesting to note that all of the first apostles-except for John-were crucified. Their twelve names will be inscribed on the New Jerusalem’s twelve foundations, according to Revelation (Revelation 21:14). According to Matthew 10:1-4 and Mark 3:14–19, eleven of the early disciples of Jesus are named in the Bible as apostles: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Thaddaeus, and Simon. The Bible names Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:6), Silas (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:6), Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Apollos (1 Corinthians 4:6–9), and Barnabas as apostles.

Difference Between Disciple and Apostles in Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonApostleDisciple
MeaningA messenger and an ambassador is an apostle. One who supports a controversial reform movement, viewpoint, or cause (especially in a Christian setting).A disciple is a person who adheres to and learns from a mentor, teacher, or otherwise individual. Anyone who studies any art or science, or who merely accepts and aids in the dissemination of another’s teachings.
Origin of the WordAn apostle was originally and typically used to refer to the early disciples of Jesus who disseminated the gospel throughout the world or to a member of a Christian missionary team sent to disseminate the gospel.The word "disciple" is not exclusively linked to any one organization or person.
EtymologyOld English apostol and Old French apostle are both derivations of the Latin word apostolus, which itself is derived from the Greek word apostolos.Latin discipulus, pupil, from discern, to study; see dek- in Indo-European origins; Middle English; from Old English discipul and Old French disciple.
Terms referenced elsewhere“The Apostle” is the title of a blockbuster movie starring Robert Duvall.“The Disciple” is the title of a movie starring Race Owens.

What is an Apostle?

An apostle is an emissary in the strictest definition of the word. The word comes from Ancient Greek and means "one who is sent off" (from the verb "to send off"). The goal of such sending-off is typically to transmit a message, and as a result, "messenger" is a common alternate translation; other common translations include "ambassador" and "envoy". There are several equivalent interpretations of the phrase in Ancient Greek. The word is derived from the Greek language. In Christianity, the phrase was used in the New Testament to refer to a larger group of early Christian leaders, such as Paul, Barnabas, and Junia, as well as the Twelve Apostles of Jesus (which included Peter, James, and John). The phrase often refers to a significant Christian missionary to a region, such as the “apostle of Germany.” For analogous historical people, the name is used in certain other religions. The term, in this sense, may be symbolically employed in several contexts, but it is typically reserved for the early followers of a religious founder who had a significant role in the dissemination of their beliefs. A passionate supporter of anything is also referred to by this word. A messenger is another way that an apostle is generally defined in the UBS Greek Dictionary. The Louw-Nida Lexicon provides a fairly limited definition of a special messenger, generally limiting it to the immediate disciples of Jesus or extending it to some additional individuals, such as Paul or other early Christians active in gospel proclamation.

Apostles might be broadly defined as messengers or, specifically as early Christian figures who had a close relationship with Jesus. Missionary comes from the Latin word missi, which translates to the word's more generic meaning. The Septuagint uses the phrase just once. According to Walter Bauer's Greek-English Lexicon, the term is connected to the rabbinical concept of a Shliah, or agent: “Judaism had an office known as an apostle.” A person who is sent on a mission, a representative appointed by a congregation, a messenger for God, or a person with the specific responsibility of starting and establishing churches are all terms used in the Friberg Greek Lexicon.

Numerous well-known Christian churches assert the adjective apostolic as a persistent quality (i.e., that a particular church’s customs, practices, and doctrines derive directly from the first apostles), and as a result, it has a broader current application. The term can be found, for instance, in the “Apostolic See”, the title given to the Roman Catholic Papacy, in the apostolic succession doctrine upheld by many Christian denominations, and in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed’s Four Marks of the Church (“one, holy, catholic, and apostolic”).

Modern-day Apostle in the Apostolic Movement

According to Dr. David Cannistraci, a modern-day apostle in the tradition of the Apostolic-Prophetic movement is someone who is “called and sent by Christ to have the spiritual authority, character, gifts, and abilities to successfully reach and establish people in Kingdom truth and order, especially through founding and overseeing local churches”. A person is considered to be an “apostle” if they have been given a call to start and oversee churches, have verifiable church plantings and spiritual sons serving in the ministry, are acknowledged by other apostles, and meet all the requirements of an elder according to the Bible.

Latter Day Saint Movement

An apostle in the Latter Day Saint movement is a “special witness of the name of Jesus Christ who is sent to teach the principles of salvation to others.” An apostle is a priestly office with significant authority in the church hierarchy in many Latter-day Saint congregations. Apostles could be a part of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the church, which is common in many Latter-day Saint congregations. Apostles of today are seen as having the same position and power as the apostles of the Bible in the majority of Latter-day Saint churches. Apostles and prophets are regarded as the building blocks of the church in the Latter-day Saint tradition, with Jesus serving as its main pillar.

What is a Disciple?

A committed disciple of Jesus is referred to as such in Christianity. Only the Gospels and Acts include references to this phrase in the New Testament. A disciple was a student or adherent of a master in the ancient world. Being a disciple is different from being a pupil in contemporary meaning. In the ancient world of the Bible, a disciple zealously mimicked the master's behavior and teachings. The disciple was intentionally produced through careful apprenticeship, becoming a living replica of the master. Numerous people followed Jesus during his time, according to the New Testament. A mission was given to some of the disciples, such as the Little Commission, the commission of the seventy in Luke’s Gospel, the Great Commission following Jesus’s resurrection, or Paul’s conversion, designating them as apostles and tasked with spreading the gospel (the Good News) throughout the world. Jesus highlighted that following him would cost money. The word “disciple” is a translation of the Koine Greek word mathÄ“tḗs, which generally denotes “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice” or, in religious contexts like the Bible, “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.” The Latin word discipulus, which means a learner, is how the word “disciple” entered English. However, given its biblical roots, it should not be confused with the more prevalent English word “student.”

The word “disciple” derives most of its meaning from usage in the ancient world, not from its etymology or root meaning. Outside the realm of the Bible, there are followers. For instance, students of ancient Greek philosophers learned by recalling the teacher's spoken words and modeling their entire manner of life after them.

Discipleship Movement

In some British and American churches, the “Discipleship Movement”- also called the “Shepherding Movement”- emerged in the 1970s and early 1980s. it was a significant and divisive movement. The movement’s philosophy placed a strong emphasis on the New Testament verses that refer to “one another” and the mentorship arrangement that the Apostle Paul recommends in 2 Timothy 2:2. It was problematic because it developed a reputation for aggressive and domineering behavior and placed a strong focus on the value of obeying one's shepherd. Even if the movement still exists in some form today, several of its founders later condemned it.

Radicle Discipleship

A wish to follow the authentic message of Jesus and dissatisfaction with traditional Christianity has given rise to the trend in practical theology known as radicle discipleship. Radical Christians like Ched Myers and Lee Camp think that mainstream Christianity has strayed from its roots, specifically from the core principles and deeds of Jesus, like giving the other cheek and opposing materialism. The word “radical” comes from the Latin word “radix”, which means “root.” It also alludes to the necessity of ongoing reorientation towards the fundamental principles of Christian discipleship.

The Main Difference Between Apostle and Disciple in Points

  • An apostle is dispatched to spread those lessons to others. On the other hand, a disciple is a learner who learns from a teacher. The word "apostle" is a messenger or a sender.
  • Old English apostol and Old French apostle are both descended from the Late Latin apostolus, which itself is descended from the Greek Apostolos. Apostle is Middle English. On the other hand, the disciple is derived from the Old English discipul and Old French disciple, both from the Latin discipulus, pupil, from discern, to study; see dek- in Indo-European origins.
  • After Jesus' ascension, the term "apostolic" began to be employed. When the final apostle passed away in 100 AD, the apostolic age came to an end. Even now, there are numerous Christians who continue to disseminate the teachings of Jesus. However, the modern Christian church lacks any genuine apostles.
  • The Gospel or a spiritual doctrine is disseminated by apostles. On the other hand, the people who are there to learn and grow are called disciples.
  • Being an apostle is one of the greatest honors one can have since one serves Jesus Christ. On the other hand, following Jesus correctly, as the Disciples do, is the proper approach to learning more about him.


The Bible frequently uses the phrases “apostle” and “disciple”. These words are frequently used interchangeably. However, if we contrast the phrases “disciple” and “apostle”, we find that they differ in several ways. The primary distinction between an apostle and a disciple is that an apostle is an ambassador charged with spreading the gospel. The disciple is a disciple of Jesus and a follower of his teachings at the same time.


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"Difference Between Apostle and Disciple." Diffzy.com, 2024. Mon. 20 May. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-apostle-and-disciple>.

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