The Apostle Paul mentions “super-apostles,” so who were they? Were they really superior to other the other apostles?
In the beginning, Jesus Himself selected 12 apostles, but today, many proclaim that they are apostles of God, but what is an apostle, and can anyone claim to be one? The word apostle comes from the Greek word “apostolos” which means “a delegate, messenger,” or “one sent forth with orders.” So who selects apostles and can anyone be one today? There are qualifications for elders or pastors and deacons in the Bible, so we know there will always be men of God called to be a deacon or pastor. We know this from Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3, but there is only one place in the Bible where the qualifications for an apostle are mentioned, and it’s in Acts 1:21. Here, the Apostle Peter says the apostle to replace Judas must be someone “who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us.” This obviously rules out anyone today because there is no one still living that was around during Jesus’ earthly ministry. They must have been around “during all the time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us.” No one is that old. The New Testament also gives us qualifications for deacons and pastors, but there is no other qualification mentioned in Scripture (other than Acts 1) where someone can be qualified to be an apostle. If so, the Apostle Paul would surely have mentioned it as he did for deacons and pastors. In regards to qualifications for an apostle, Peter adds that “one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:22b).
The word “must” in Acts 1:22 means they must have been “a witness to his resurrection,” and no human alive can claim to have been there to witness Jesus’ resurrection, therefore, Scripture is clear that there can be no more apostles today. The apostles and prophets are the very foundation of the church that Jesus Christ built. It is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Eph 2:20), and it would be an unsteady, unsafe building if there was another foundation laid after 2,000 years of building. No buildings have another foundation laid on a structure that’s near or at the top. Such a structure could easily fall and be destroyed. That verse also addresses prophets. They are also the foundation of the church, and again, no other foundation can be laid upon a 2,000 year old structure (the church). And, there are no qualifications for prophets either found in the New Testament as there are for deacons and elders. If God had wanted more apostles and prophets, He surely would have given the church the qualifications for such in the Bible, but there are absolutely none, indicating that the foundation is laid and “no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 3:11). That rules every one of us out. There are no exceptions. Scripture never teaches that apostles or prophets were self-proclaimed or anointed by men. The only exceptions are false ones…and those include the so-called “super-apostles.” God always calls prophets and apostles; man never does (unless they are false ones).
Super-apostles are only mentioned twice in Scripture, and when they are mentioned, it is not very flattering. If they’re not from God, then they’re from man or Satan himself. Either way, they are not appointed or called by God. Today, there are no shortages of self-proclaimed apostles and prophets, but they have no such authority from God or Scripture to be called as such. There is not one verse in the Bible where a prophet or apostle is called by man, or is a self-proclaimed prophet or apostle. When the Apostle Paul writes about these “super-apostles,” it’s clear, they are not from God. In 2 Corinthians 11:5 he writes, “Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles.” These super-apostles proclaim “another Jesus than the one we proclaimed” (2 Cor 11:4), so not only are they false apostles, but they teach a different Jesus than the One found in Scripture. That’s dangerous because if you don’t have the right Jesus, you don’t have the true Savior! The Apostle Paul tells the church at Corinth that “I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing” (2 Cor 12:11). Notice Paul’s humility, which is sorely lacking in the super-apostles. They boast and brag on themselves while the true apostle of God, the Apostle Paul, writes in all humility. Paul says that “I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor 15:9), even saying, “I am the very least of all the saints” (Eph 3:8), and of sinners, “whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim 1:15). Most self-proclaimed super-apostles do not have that kind of humility and transparency.
There is no good in trying to state that you or someone else is an apostle or a prophet. God has already spoken through His Son and through the prophets, indicating that it’s in the past tense. God is still not speaking through new prophets today. If so, He would have said so here or elsewhere in Scripture. The author of Hebrews is crystal clear when he writes, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Heb 1:1-2). These are all past tense in the Greek: “has spoken to us” and God has already “spoken to our fathers by the prophets.” This does not mean He still speaks to us today through new prophets because the verse refers to the past…and not to some future point in time. These super-apostles were nothing less than false apostles. When you hear someone referred to as an apostle, remember that Paul said “such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Cor 11:13-15). Since they are not from God, they can only be from one other source; Satan who disguises men or women “as servants of righteousness.”
Here is some related reading for you: Is Apostolic Succession Biblical? 
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.