C H U R C H R E F O R M S E R I E S
By Biblicism Institute
God in His wisdom has not given anyone in the Church any title whatsoever.
“But you are not to be called ‘Teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘Father,’ [like today when a catholic priest is called ‘Father’] for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called Leaders (or Masters), for you have one Leader (or Master), the Messiah.” Matthew 23:8-10
We are only servants.
“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35
As servants we have duties to perform. It’s just that we do not call a person doing his duty by the duty he does. Whatever a Christian does, he does it as an extension of Christ. Therefore, Christ is the One who needs to be recognized, not the duty.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” 2 Corinthians 5:20
God simplifies the duties thus:
“And he gave the apostles; and the prophets; and the evangelists; and the shepherds and teachers.” Ephesians 4: 11
And the reasons He did are:
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12
Let’s delve into each function or duty, and see how they all apply within the body of Christ.
There were twelve Apostles, personally chosen by Christ Himself. One of them betrayed Him, and eleven remained. Jesus then appeared personally to Paul, and chose him to replace Judas Iscariot.
But some will say that the Apostles voted to replace Judas with Matthias (Acts 1: 12-26). Yes, they did, but they shouldn’t have. At that time they still had not received the Holy Spirit. They were acting very Old-Testament-like. They cast lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. That’s how the prophet Jonah was discovered to be the one God was mad at when he hid on the ship. The lot fell on him.
Unfortunately, God no longer was working that way. The eleven had not yet figured that out. It is no wonder that after Matthias was chosen there is absolutely no mention of him again in the bible. However, Paul is a different story.
An Apostle must have seen Jesus, and Jesus must have personally chosen him.
“Am I not an Apostle?… Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” 1 Corinthians 8:9
Signs, wonders, and miracles followed an Apostle.
“I am not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am nothing. I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.” 2 Corinthians 12: 11,12
“And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people…” Acts 5: 12
However, if the Apostles had chosen certain individuals and had laid hands on them, those individuals could perform signs and wonders. But said individuals could not in turn do the same for others. The buck stopped with the Apostles.
“They chose… Stephen a man full of God’s grace and power, (who) performed great wonders and signs among the people.” Acts 6: 5, 8
Today there are no more Apostles and therefore no more signs, wonders, and supernatural miracles.
Only these signs follow all true believers:
“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall raise their voices against the serpents (or malicious ones); and if they imbibe any poison (or poisonous doctrine), it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Mark 16:17,18
We believers can pray for the sick, and with a true prayer of faith they will recover (or be healed in time) that the Son of God might be glorified. See Of Healing and Miracles.
Nonetheless, no prayer of ours will produce instantaneous miracles. The power source of supernatural wonders and miracles was reserved for Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone of the church, and for the 12 Apostles, the foundation of the Church.
“You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone…” Ephesians 2:20
“And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Revelation 21:14
“And when he had called unto [him] his twelve disciples, he gave them power [against] unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.” Matthew 10:1
Furthermore, whatever perks did apply to the Apostles don’t apply to anyone else in ministry today – perks such as concentration on prayer and ministry of the word, and preaching to believers without applying biblical gathering commands.
“It’s not appropriate for us to forsake the word of God and serve tables… we apostles will continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:1,4
“Paul spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.” Acts 20:7
The Apostles were also the only ones who could receive financial help, but the Apostle Paul chose not to use that perk because he knew no one else in ministry could. Therefore, he wanted to be an example to future servants. See Ministry Money and the Tithe Lie.
“Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tentmakers just as he was.” Acts 18:3
“…nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. This we commanded you: that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3: 8-10
In like manner, they were the only ones to whom Christ gave the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (with no successors assigned) and the only ones who could bring the dead back to life, and that if anyone were to lie to them one could end up deceased.
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16: 19
“Then Peter turned to the body of Dorcas and said, ‘Tabitha, get up!’ The woman opened her eyes…” Acts 9:40
“Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’ And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last…” Acts 5: 3-5
And finally, the Apostles were the only ones who could withhold forgiveness.
“If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:23
If anyone today calls himself an Apostle or says he is performing the duties of an Apostle, run quickly away from that person.
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:13
The Apostles were personally chosen by Jesus to change the world through the gospel and their God-given powers. And they did.
“These that have turned the world upside down…” Acts 17:6
The ministry of Prophets have a much different scope under the New Covenant than under the Old.
With the Old Covenant there were very few Prophets. The reason they were Prophets in the first place was because God would speak to them. But originally God did not want it that way. He did not want intermediaries between Him and His people. It was the Ancient Hebrews who chose it thus – they were afraid of hearing God’s voice.
“All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.’ ” Exodus 20: 18, 19
Therefore, these Old Testament prophets were singled out as being able to hear from God, and the Word they heard was either a Word of Remembrance of God’s promises and commandments from the past, a Word of Instruction or Commandment for the present, or a Word of Foresight for the future.
But with the New Covenant and the advent of the Holy Spirit who is given as a gift to all, such distinction between Prophets and believers is no more.
“And it shall come to pass afterward, [that] I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…” Joel 2: 28
Now every true Christian is a prophet because every true Christian possesses the Holy Spirit who’s constantly at work changing his life as a testimony to the glory of Jesus Christ.
“For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:10
That’s exactly what we Christians do. We testify through various spiritual gifts of the reality and of the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives.
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another mighty works, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of languages, and to still another the interpretation of languages. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” 1 Corinthians 12: 7-11
The Holy Spirit is hard at work transforming us into the perfect image of Christ. That is why the Apostle Paul said the following:
“For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.” 1 Corinthians 14:31
Therefore, it makes sense that immediately after the Apostles are mentioned, God singles out the Prophets in Ephesians 4:11. The Prophets are all of us Christians. No one else can be above us, except Christ Himself.
“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” 1 Corinthians 11:3
Even when the Apostles were alive they couldn’t lord it over their fellow Christians.
“Not that we have dominion over your faith…” 2 Corinthians 1: 24
All of us Christians are the Prophets standing on the Foundation of the Apostles and of Jesus the Cornerstone.
“But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” 2 Timothy 4: 5
Don’t you just love the way Paul phrased that? He didn’t tell Timothy to be an Evangelist. He told him to do the work of an Evangelist. He was avoiding dolling out titles as mentioned earlier.
The work of an Evangelist is to take the Gospel to the unbelievers and teach them the doctrine of Christ. Here’s how Jesus sent them out.
“…the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place…” Luke 10: 1
God is a stickler when it comes to follow procedures. No Evangelist should go out on his own.