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What is apostolic action?

apostolic action
Question: "What is apostolic action?"

Apostolic action is a term used in Roman Catholicism. Apostolic action is seen as an intentional act motivated by a desire to influence people to and for Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. When someone gives of himself or herself with the intention of sharing Christ, that person is engaged in apostolic action.

In Roman Catholic teaching, apostolic action is the natural outgrowth of knowing Christ. It is love in action, as the Christian builds relationships with others and shares Christ with them. Apostolic action is more than just doing good works; it is an action undertaken with the specific goal of bringing someone else into a relationship with Christ. Apostolic action is seen as an essential part of genuine Christian living.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with winning people to Christ and sharing the gospel with others; it’s what Christians are supposed to be doing (Acts 1:8). It’s the term apostolic action that can be misleading, if we aren’t careful.

First, we need to understand that we can’t and won’t be apostles. Apostleship cannot be earned or attained in modern times. Paul was the last apostle, made so through a direct revelation of Jesus Christ to him on the road to Damascus. Later, Paul was taught directly by the Lord (Galatians 1:11–20). The twelve apostles in the Bible held a unique position. It was these twelve apostles who laid the foundation of the church, with Jesus being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The foundation is not still being laid.

Second, we must understand that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9). Good works, whether or not we call them “apostolic actions,” do not obtain our salvation or maintain it. We are definitely called to walk in good works; God even set them up for us (Ephesians 2:10). The Bible teaches that our good works should be the outflow of our love for God and what He did for us in salvation, not a requirement for obtaining or maintaining our salvation.

Even though the Roman Catholic Church teaches a different gospel, that doesn’t mean there aren’t true Christians there who have a proper understanding of what salvation is, despite their church’s official teaching. The motivation behind our actions—“apostolic” or otherwise— is what is most important. We should keep that in perspective and strive to be the kind of Christians the apostles were (see 1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1).

In summary, apostolic action is a Roman Catholic term that describes something that all Christians should be doing. Since Roman Catholics look at works differently than Protestants do, and since the apostolic age is over, it’s necessary to properly understand our terms and what the Bible actually teaches.

Recommended Resource: The Gospel According to Rome: Comparing Roman Catholic Tradition and The Word of God by James McCarthy

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