The writer of Hebrews says: “confirmed to us by those who heard” in Hebrews 2:3-4. Do only the apostles qualify? What about other followers of Jesus - men and women who also heard? Was it only the apostles whom God validated by miracles, signs and gifts of the Holy Spirit? When the gifts or manifestations of the Holy Spirit were given to the church (1 Cor.12 and 14), didn't God also show that they spoke truth? I don't deny that heresies have come in since the early church and that we now more than ever, need greater discernment.
We often forgot the Holy Spirit has a wide variety of spiritual gifts (or charismata) that He gave to the apostles and today to all Christians.
Spiritual Gifts – 1 Corinthians 12 & 14
Romans 12:4-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:7-10, 28 provide us with a list of the spiritual gifts that He provides. Not all of these spiritual gifts are designed to communicate truth to the unbeliever. Many of these spiritual gifts are for Christians only – gifts such as giving, leading, mercy, administration, faith, identification of spirits, and wisdom. These spiritual gifts are not designed to validate the truth of the speaker but miracles, signs, wonders are. The apostles clearly possessed these gifts as did other early Christians. Not all of the early Christians had the spiritual gifts of tongues, interpretation of tongues, healings, and miracles.
Today many Christians seek the spiritual gifts of teaching, administration, miracles, and tongues. Few seem interested in the gifts of serving, giving, and mercy. This is contrary to scripture. The same Holy Spirit who gives us spiritual gifts also warns us to be content as a foot or a hand. We often forget every spiritual gift is given by the Holy Spirit. All of the gifts are miraculous gifts. All of the gifts are an evidence of the Holy Spirit operating in a believers life.
If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. (NASB) 1 Corinthians 12:15-18
All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? (NASB) 1 Corinthians 12:29-30
1 Corinthians 12:29-30 makes this point very clear. We are not all alike. What would happen if the Holy Spirit made us all teachers? Who would serve? Who would give? Who would show mercy? Only some of the spiritual gifts? Not everyone is a mouth or an eye.
Signs of an Apostle – Hebrews 2:3-4
So when we come to Hebrews 2:3-4, we must remember that every believer does not possess all of the spiritual gifts, nor is one gift or group of spiritual gifts common to all Christians. Apostleship was not common, for example, even though it is a spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12:28). It is clear from scripture this spiritual gift was given along with other spiritual gifts – probably all of them – since apostles also performed wonders, miracles, and signs. This is what scripture means by the “signs of a true apostle.”
The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. (NASB) 2 Corinthians 12:12
So how does this apply to Hebrews 2:3-4 when it says,
. . . how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. (NASB) Hebrews 2:3-4
Who are these people? Who heard the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:21-22)? Who performed miracles, signs, wonders, and possessed the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:18-19). Who qualified for both? The answer is the apostles are at least included – they qualify.
God validated the message of the apostles by miracles, signs, wonders, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:18-19; 2 Cor. 12:12). Clearly the apostles are included in the statement of Hebrews 2:3-4. Do others qualify? We know from scripture that Philip performed miracles (Acts 8:6, 13). Was he an apostle? The gospels never mentions the man Matthias as one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, yet, it is clear that he saw and heard Jesus (Acts 2:21-22). We can safely conclude that other disciples could have qualified as having heard Jesus, but did the Holy Spirit give them spiritual gifts of miracles, signs and wonders? We do not know. All that we know for sure is that Hebrews 2:3-4 includes the apostles.
We know that the apostles had to be personnel witnesses of Jesus Christ. We also know the apostles were authenticated by miracles, signs and wonders that they performed and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We should not venture beyond scripture and speculate about other persons.
Reference Links:What is the gift of exhortation?
What do we do with spiritual gifts?
Spiritual Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Warning – You Better Listen!
Proof of the Message