Appointing Helpers:
The Spirit Upon Judges

In appointing prophets to reveal God's Word, the Bible clearly points out that God bestows His Spirit "upon" them, such as Moses in the OT and the apostles in the NT. [See previous article.]  But "Spirit Upon" prophesying includes judging.   Judging for God.

Syllogism: Both Moses and the Twelve Apostles are God's prophets. Prophets are God's Judges. Therefore, both Moses and the twelve apostles are God's judges.

Meaning of Judging.  

God is judgeH8199;G2919. Definition of “judge.” Strong's Dictionary: Hebrew, shâphaṭH8199pronounce sentence (for or against); by implication to vindicate or punish; by extension to govern"; krinōG2919 “to distinguish, that is, decide (mentally or judicially); by implication to try, condemn, punish.” God decides what's righteous and He sentences the unrighteous. However, He judges in this life through His prophets.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: ...the judgments (H4941 derivative of H8199) of the LORD are true and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:7-9).

The Prophet Moses Was God's Judge (OT)

And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening” (Exodus 18:13).

Moses had the Spirit upon him. By inspiration he “sat to judge the people” from morning to the evening (Exodus 18:13). He sit “alone, and all the people stood by him.” Moses explained to his father-in-law that he did this “because the people come to me to enquire of God; when they have a matter, they come to me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God and his laws” (Exodus 18:13-17).   Judging for God meant (1) enquiring of God for the people and (2) making known God's laws to the people.

When Moses Judged Alone

Moses initially does everything himself for the people that a prophet does. Moses had the burden of prophesying, judging and leading the new nation of Israel.

The Spirit “Upon” the Seventy

And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them...

And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of (Heb., minH4480, Grk., ApoG575: “from”) the Spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone” (Numbers 11:16, 17). The YLT translates the Spirit portion, “have kept back of the Spirit which is upon thee, and have put on them” (Numbers 11:17). The Lord takes from the Spirit that was upon Moses and applies to the seventy. They were inspired judges for they prophesied. Judgment for the people was now to be prophetically shared under Moses, who was still the Lawgiveri (Numbers 21:16-18).

Moses Places His Hands Upon Joshua.

Joshua was a special case. Moses not only needed immediate help in judging, but because of his sin, he could not complete the settling of Israel into the promised land. Consequently, God provided a replacement leader. “And the lord spoke to Moses, saying, Take to yourself Joshua son of Nun! a man who has the* spirit in him. And you shall place your hands upon him” (Numbers 27:18, ABP+). “And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient” (27:20). “...before all the congregation: ...And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses” (27:22b, 23).

Spirit in Joshua And the Laying On of Hands

Joshua was selected because of the “spirit” seen in him. It doesn't say the Holy Spirit was in him but rather “who has spirit in him.” Neither “holy” or “the” is in the Greek text. The context, two verses earlier, identifies God as the God of the spirits of all flesh.   This is not speaking of God's Spirit but man's. Both Caleb and Joshua had a different spirit than the other ten spies and both are rewarded for their faithful spirits. Numbers 14:24 (ISV) contrasts their spirit of faith with the disobedience of the other spies: “Now as to my servant Caleb, because a different spirit is within him and he has remained true to me, I'm going to bring him into the land that he explored, and his descendants are to inherit it.

That this expression is figurative for Joshua's demonstrated natural ability developed is apparent. The GNB translates Numbers 27:18, 'The LORD said to Moses, "Take Joshua son of Nun, a capable man, and place your hands on his head”.' He is selected by God on the basis of demonstrated ability of faithfulness. He had demonstrated “spirit” in his obedience to God when he was a spy with Caleb (Numbers 32:12) and in his leadership as warrior (Exodus 17:10).

And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the* spirit of wisdom; for (Gr. gar, 'because') Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses” (Deuteronomy 34:9). God fills Joshua miraculously full with wisdom by the laying on of Moses' hands. There is no contradiction. *there is no definite article in the LXX which the Holy Spirit has.

There are at least two reasons for Moses to put his hands upon Joshua before the congregation. First, Joshua is to be seen receiving “this honor” in appointment so that the people would henceforth obey Joshua as if he were Moses (Numbers 27:20). Second, the Deuteronomy text asserts that he was filled with “spirit of wisdom”ii because of the laying upon of Moses' hands. There are two types of filling of wisdom then; one is the natural acquisition and the other is the immediate miraculous imparting.   Both are from God.   Man has free will in his choices.   I point this out as a preface to the qualifications of the seven in Acts 6.

The Apostles Are Today's Judges

Jesus taught the twelve that “... in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye [apostles] also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28).

To Know The Twelve Apostles Is To Know Jesus

Those that demean the twelve apostles by saying, “Let's just hear Jesus”, perhaps ignorantly, do our Lord Jesus a disservice. It is the Lord that gave the apostles a preference over everyone in lieu of the absence of Jesus.

1. We Know Jesus Through the Apostles

First, the facts prove that without the twelve we would not know what Jesus said or taught. Jesus did not personally write down anything. "Secular writings" are silent about Jesus. Jesus commissioned certain of His disciples as His appointed apostles (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:14-20; Luke 24:44-49; John 20:21-23). Jesus gave them authority to bind and loose under Heaven's direction (Matthew 18:18). We are loosed from certain Mosaic rules by the apostles (Romans 3:21). They have bound what the apostle Paul calls “the Law of Faith” (Romans 3:27, 31).

2. Jesus Specifically Appointed the Apostles

Second, the twelve are important because Jesus specifically appointed them. It was a part of His personal ministry.   They were his constant companions and students (disciples). Why did He appoint them if He wasn't going to use them? Or, would He want us to ignore them? “And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles” (Luke 6:13; Matthew 10:2f names them).

3. The Apostles Have The Spirit Upon Them

Third, the twelve are important because they are Jesus's prophets.And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:18). “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). The Holy Spirit was poured “upon” the apostles. Joel predicted that He would do this for prophesying. Peter said this is what you see and hear. The apostles were Jesus' prophets.

4. Continuing In the Apostles' Words

Fourth, the twelve are important because “their words” are what Jesus intended to unite the church of Christ. Jesus prayed the Father, “I have given them thy word”, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth”, “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world”, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word”, and “That they all may be one” (John 17:14, 17, 18, 20, 21).

The people were not instructed directly by the Holy Spirit. They were instructed through and by the apostles. The apostles performed miracles (Acts 3:7; 4:22; 5:15,16) to prove the witness of the Spirit. What was everyone else doing? Were they not continuing stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine? The apostles oversaw the distribution of benevolence (Acts 4:34-37). What was everyone else doing? Were they not (imperfect indicative activeiii) continuing stedfastlyiv in the apostles' teaching. They would not be involved in teaching from any other source. If so, when did they stop? If cessation of one, why not stopping all: fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers?

If Jesus chose a different scenario of teaching, as some teach, would it not have made His prayer in John 17 a farce and a lie? Jesus prayed, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their [apostles'] word” (John 17:20).

5. The Apostles Are Our Judges

Fifth, the twelve are important because their assignment was to judge the church. “... in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28). “And I appoint unto you a kingdomv, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judgingvi the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:29,30). Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible (on Matthew 19:28) quotes Kypkevii, “that κρινεσθαι is to be understood in the sense of governing, presiding, holding the first or most distinguished place. Thus, Genesis 49:16, 'Dan shall judge his people', i.e. shall preside in, or rule over them; shall occupy a chief place among the tribes. It is well known that the Judges among the Jews were moderators, captains, chief, or head men.” The regeneration is the era of new creations from Pentecost and afterwards.

6. Signs Confirmed the Apostles

Sixth, the apostles are important because the proof signs wrought were from them. They were “signs of the apostle.”   “Truly the signs of the apostle were worked out among you in all patience, in miracles and in wonders, and by works of power” (2 Corinthians 12:12). 1 Corinthians 12:8 points out that these powers were distributed among the members. Paul identifies them as coming from him. They were proof of Paul being an apostle. Hence, signs came through the apostles and not directly from Heaven. In fact, the apostles laid their hands upon the recipient (Acts 8:18).

How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Hebrews 2:3,4, ESV2011).

With the death of the apostles (witnesses of Jesus) the signs ceased (1 Corinthians 13:8).


Should any of us challenge the apostles' authority or words or their work? Should anyone remove them from their authority of judging us by the Spirit of Jesus?

Development of Subordinate Helpers in NT

In order for the apostles to retain their position on thrones, any prophets and judges (Matthew 19:28) must be appointed by them and subordinate to them. The laying on of the apostles hands prove this (Acts 8:18).

Apostles As Judges Of Authority

The apostles are like Moses in that initially they do everything for the people.

There's a similarity between the beginning of the kingdom of Israel and the Christ's kingdom, the church (Colossians 1:13). We have thousands obeying the gospel. Yet, the apostles were the only ones mentioned that were judging, i.e., prophesying, teaching, doing wonders, and governing (Acts 2:43). The obedient received and continued in the apostles' teaching. The apostles perform wonders and signs, teach, and govern the distribution of benevolence to the needy among the new kingdom, the church.

Peter and John are arrested for teaching and preaching in the Temple's Solomon's Porch (Acts 3-4:3). Released the two “went to their own company” and reported the Sanhedrin's warnings, etc.; “to their own” is ιδιουςG2398 and in this case indicates a private group. “When Peter and John were released, they went to the other apostles and told them everything” (Acts 4:23, GW) seems to me the best translation. The company prays for boldness and is “filled with the Holy Spirit” and “they spake the word of God with boldness” (4:31). Only the apostles are doing the preaching boldly (4:33). They are Jesus' judges.

In addition, the contributions for those that had need was brought to the feet of the apostles (4:37). Concurrently, it is the apostles who continue to preach the resurrection (5:12); it is to the apostles that the people bring their sick to be healed (5:16); it is the apostles that the Sanhedrin (“filled with indignation) arrest for preaching (5:17,18). The apostles are doing everything just like Moses initially.

Like Moses, it is as if it is time for the apostles to receive help, particularly in benevolence. So they ask for it. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the* holy spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business” (Acts 6:2,3). The congregation is to select qualified men. This reminds us of the qualifications of Joshua and Caleb under Moses (Numbers 14:24). The language of qualifications are the same. *Like Joshua, “holy spirit” does not have “the” which identifies One of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit's miraculous power is not upon the disciples to be chosen. When Joshua was selected, it was because of his personal faithful spirit; the qualifications that are given by the twelves judges are obviously the same.

Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people” (Acts 6:6-8).

Stephen now serves not only in benevolence but in preaching and performing miracles (Acts 6:8, 10). He is full of power. Later, Philip is said to have the same power as Stephen (Acts 8). Did their work originate outside of the apostles? Or, would they, like the other disciples, have been continuing and growing spiritually in the apostles' teaching until the hands of the apostles appointed them?

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?”(1 Corinthians 12:28, 29). The apostles were “first” in both time or rank. Stephen and Philip are neither first in time or rank. Paul asks the rhetorical question, “Are all prophets?” This means that not all were prophets as some teach. That is, just as all were not apostles.


Some would teach that all on the day of Pentecost were workers of miracles and prophets. This was not true.

There is a similarity of the beginning of the kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Christ. Both are judged by “Spirit upon” men who work alone in the beginning. Then God takes of the Spirit of Moses and gives to elders initially and later Joshua with the laying on of hands. This pattern seems to be followed somewhat with the apostles.

If all the church was miraculously and directly filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom aside from the apostles, would not the twelve's instructions been superfluous? That would make 3000 judges total and make the twelve insignificant contrary to the prayer of Jesus in John 17:17-21. Of course, this is ludicrous because the Bible specifically tells us that not all were prophets, teachers or miracle workers (1 Corinthians 12).

Gaylon West


Other articles in this series, The Gift of the Holy Spirit: 

iThe “Law of the Lord” and the “Law of Moses” were two appellations of the same Law. “And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22); “And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:24).

ii Natural development: “And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office” (Exodus 28:3).

Miraculous through laying of hands “upon.” “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses” (Deuteronomy 34:9).

Messianic. “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” (Isaiah 11:2).

Natural development through prophecy (wisdom in same source as revelation). That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:17).

iii It is linear. The Imperfect tense denotes continuous, ongoing or repeated action in past. Thus the imperfect tense often "paints" a vivid picture of an action ("motion picture") as one which happens over and over. E.g., in Acts 16:7Luke uses the imperfect tense to portray Paul attempting to enter Bithynia, being hindered in some way by the Holy Spirit and yet trying again and again to enter! Interesting!

iv proskartereo  pros-kar-ter-eh'-o:  to be earnest towards, i.e. (to a thing) to persevere, be constantly diligent, or (in a place) to attend assiduously all the exercises, or (to a person) to adhere closely to (as a servitor) Lexicon

v The kingdom over which Jesus rules is the church. “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:13).

vi Thayer: krino G2919, “5) to judge: 5a) to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong; 5a1) to be judged, i.e. summoned to trial that one’s case may be examined and judgment passed upon it; 5b) to pronounce judgment, to subject to censure; 5b1) of those who act the part of judges or arbiters in matters of common life, or pass judgment on the deeds and words of others.”

vii G. D. Kypke, Observationes sacrae in Novi Foederis libros ex auctoribus potissimum Graecis et antiquitatibus. 2 vols. Wratisl. 1755.