Whenever we think of apostles, we typically think of the 12 Apostles. This list includes the 12 men who followed Jesus during his short life on earth.
However, St. Paul is also called an apostle.
Why is that?
The English word “apostle” is derived from the Greek apostello, “to send forth.” An apostle is one who is “sent” by God to preach the Gospel to the nations. For many centuries this was almost exclusively used to identify the 12 Apostles who were sent into the world by Jesus.
St. Paul did not follow Jesus before his death and resurrection, and was actually an active opponent of Christianity.
Yet, one day changed everything when the risen Christ spoke to St. Paul.
Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”Acts 9:3-6
St. Paul would later recall this episode in his letters, claiming to have received the Gospel directly from Jesus:
For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.Galatians 1:11-13
With all of this in mind, St. Paul was early on given the title of “apostle” because of the mission given to him by Jesus Christ.