Many say that Paul was the last apostle. As a proof of this, they use the saying in I Corinthians 4:9, “…God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made as spectacle unto the world, and to angles, and to men.”
When we say last, it means nothing or no one follows after it. Many believe that Paul was the last apostle but if we’re going to closely examine this verse especially if we read its context from verse 8 to 13, we may observe that the thing being referred to in this verse is not the calling for apostleship but the hardships that they have always been exposed to even to death. In other letters of Paul, he expressed that he had always been prone to death but God has been faithful in saving him from such.
Paul was talking in these verses (I Corinthians 4:8-13) about the hardships of the apostles, particularly what is expressed in verses 9 and 13, “…as it were appointed to death… Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.” The apostles are the first when it comes to struggles and persecutions. Paul didn’t mean that he was the last apostle.
Paul himself said that the gift and calling of God continues (Romans 11:29). It is not only the gift of salvation but the entirety of the gifts. Therefore, Paul’s teachings shall be contradictory if he would have said that he was the last apostle. He actually didn’t say such for he mentioned, “we were made examples” meaning not only he but all of the apostles. It is also incorrect to say that they were the last ones for the 12 apostles were first called and Paul was called when the Lord already has ascended to the heavens. But then, the 12 apostles are also referred by Paul as included in the “last”.
Apostleship is taught as one of God’s gifts in the His church. Expressed in I Corinthians 12:28, 31 –“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. But covet earnestly the best gifts…”
Paul was teaching us to desire for the greatest gifts. As long as the church lives, God’s gift continues. The apostles deliver the Word of God. They are the ones given authority to administer the disciples in the church, the children of God.