WHATEVER HAPPENED TO APOSTOLIC
AUTHORITY - Parts One to Seven
By John Aldworth
Published January 9, 2014
Believers who zealously assert the truth of scripture in the face of church tradition are often asked by what or whose authority they do so? And adherents of organised churches will often ask such free fellowshipping Bible believers who do they think they are and, what authority are they under?
Obviously, it is important to have the right answers, for exactly the same challenges were thrown at Jesus and his apostles (see Matt. 21:23-24 and Acts 4:7). What’s more, the Lord and those faithful to Him were labeled as “divisive”, just as those who in our time have come to trust in the “the latest apostolic word” from the Lord are accused of the same.
Yet it is laughable to even speak of divisiveness in the face of the hopelessly split, highly fragmented Christendom of today, where there are at least as many different “authorities” as there are days in the year.
Half a century ago the popular Presbyterian author William Barclay published a book entitled, By What Authority? It was a good question then and it’s a good question now. “Authority” is a highly charged issue today for religionists and true believers alike.
You see Jesus died to save us from sin and to “deliver us from this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4), including its religious system and hierarchical church “authority”. Our Lord told his Jewish hearers that the truth would set them free. Yet today most saved believers willingly forgo that freedom to come under the “authority” of autocratic church leadership in one form or another.
In fact in tens of thousands of churches worldwide millions of saved sinners are repeatedly told that to be a good Christian they must bow to ecclesiastical authority, be it in the form of pope, a bishop, priest, pastor, or so called “prophet”, and submit to the doctrines, rules and creeds of the churches themselves .
I wish I had a dollar for each occasion I have heard Pentecostal preachers tell their hearers that they, like the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant, must be “under authority”, meaning the authority of the pastor or “prophet”, of course.
Let’s nail it to the wall. There is no authority among men today that can save your soul or be responsible for it. There is no church you can attend which will get you into heaven. If you have sinned there is no minister, priest, pope, or pastor whose prayers can get you right with God. You have to talk to Him yourself. Yet many so-called Christians believe ministers can do it for them and thus deny the truth of 1 Tim. 2:5 that “There is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.”
Note that it was the Apostle Paul who wrote that. And today his statement still stands as the incontrovertible, inspired and infallible word of the Lord through his apostle that it is. Note too that it was the Apostle Peter who said of his master the Lord Jesus Christ that:
Neither is there salvation in any other: For there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
No mention of popes, priests, pastors, churches or creeds in either 1 Tim. 2:5 or Acts 4:12, is there? But all too often “Christians” are bludgeoned into thinking there is scriptural sanction for such self-appointed mediators” to define doctrine and issue commandments in place of, and often in defiance of, the apostles. Actually all that is necessary is to do two things: 1) believe what the apostles said in the Bible and 2) go to God direct through Jesus with your prayers and requests.
Our Lord said after his resurrection that “all power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18). And power to witness of his resurrection with signs and wonders was given to his apostles (Acts 1:8 and 4:33) and by them to deacons such as Stephen (Acts 6:8). However all such delegated power to work miracles ceased within the apostles’ lifetime.
Today, however, the pope insists he has the power of Christ even though he can’t produce a single healing or miracle to prove it. But it seems power to rule he has. That is why in 2004, Catholic Bishop Patrick Dunn of Auckland said: “It seems that Pope John Paul II now presides over the universal Church from his place upon Christ's cross”.
And in the official Vatican publication, the Gloss of Extravagantes of Pope John XXII, it is said:
“But to believe that our Lord God the Pope, the establisher of said decretal, and of this, could not decree, as he did decree, should be accounted heretical (emphasis added)”.
Well “extravagant” doesn’t really cut it, does it? Our Lord God the pope indeed! What could be more blasphemous, apostate, or heretical than that statement? As if Pope John never sinned, or passed wind when he shouldn’t have. What a sick joke to call him "Lord God". Yet just look at the respect, the awe, with which the world at large still treats the pope and his apostate church today.
Catholicism claims to be the only true church and states that only those in it can be truly saved. Its dogma teaches that its authority as “the universal church” derives from the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:19) that Christ gave to the Apostle Peter which, it is falsely claimed, were passed in succession to the long line of Roman Catholic popes.
The sad truth, however, is that neither the pope, the Catholic Church, nor other humanly organised churches, are subject to true apostolic authority. Nor are most of the millions worldwide who call themselves Christians. In fact I dare to assert that no one under the authority of a man made and man led church with its humanly appointed officers, pastors, priests or leaders is under true apostolic authority.
How can you say that, you ask? Answer: because the Bible teaches that it is so. Many passages support this conclusion but we will start with 3 John 9-10 (the Apostle John writing):
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore if I come I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
This, John’s last letter, was written in the latter part of the 1st century AD. According to the church historian Adolf von Harnack, Diotrephes was “the first monarchical bishop of whom we have the name”. By all accounts he was a bishop ruling like a king, lording it over believers like a tyrant. He rejected the word of John, the Apostle of Love and the “beloved disciple”, whose own humility is such that he refers to himself only as the “elder”. Fact is Diotrophes defied and spurned John’s apostolic authority
Mark well that as an apostle John himself did not seek the “preeminence” as Diotrephes clearly did. John loved the Lord, and as a minister of the circumcision, would certainly have agreed with the Apostle Paul when he wrote in Col. 1:18 that: “in all things He (Christ) might have the preeminence”.
No, John describes himself only as an elder, and as such, voices his concern to the believer Gaius that the church he writes to now has a self-appointed ruler with a self appointed agenda.
Actually Diotrephes is only the first in a long line of church rulers not called, chosen or appointed by the Lord but who nevertheless came to exert power over the saints. He had the temerity to reject both a letter and messengers from the Apostle John, John who had personally “seen … and looked upon … and handled of the Word of Life” (1 John 1:1). What’s more he prevented others from receiving them because, like the pope, he felt he had to have the preeminence.
Many Bible passages also trace the upsurge in rebellion against the apostles’ word and the rise to power of usurpers seizing their authority. Among them is 2 Tim. 1:15 where Paul writes, “This thou knowest; all they that be in Asia be turned away from me” and Phil. 3:17-18 where he urges believers to “follow me and mark them which walk … for many walk (who are) enemies of the cross of Christ … whose end is destruction”.
Such scriptures, and there are others, clearly show that apostolic authority was being despised, eschewed and openly rebelled against well within the apostles’ lifetime.
I would contend that beginning with the antichrists Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9-24) and his counterpart, the false prophet Elymas Bar-Jesus (Acts 13:6) and continuing with Diotrophes and the resurrection-denying apostates, Hymaenus and Philetus (2 Tim. 2:17) and the “much evil” done by Alexander the coppersmith ( 2 Tim. 4:14), there has been a long line of self-serving church leaders forcibly usurping the apostles’ authority and God-given role. What’s more in every denomination they continue to do so to this day.
In every case, as it was for John and the church he wrote to in the 1st century AD, the issue has been one of authority. The big question was: In the absence of the Lord from earth after his ascension who had rightful authority in the church, the body of believers left behind on earth? The Bible’s answer is clear: It is the apostles. After all they and they alone were chosen by the Lord Himself and commissioned by Him to witness to his resurrection and to teach and preach doctrine.
When their authority was respected and obeyed great blessing ensued. For example, in Acts 2:41-42 we see the then “church of God” (Acts 20:28) experiencing wonderful unity because they “gladly received” the Apostle Peter’s command to repent and be baptised and “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine”. Thousands of believers became a united body and potent force for the risen Christ in Jerusalem precisely because they recognised and obeyed apostolic authority.
Some 30 years later the Apostle Paul writes to members of a different and Gentile church, the “church which is his body” (Eph. 1:22-23), to announce the new order of things that will now apply in the new dispensation of the grace of God given to him for us Gentiles. In doing so he stresses the uniqueness of his own role in ushering in this whole new way God now brings to bear in his dealings with mankind. As he says in Eph. 3:3:
How that by revelation He (God) made known unto me the mystery.
Has any church leader, pope, priest or pastor ever by the word of his own authority brought in such a huge new chapter in the revelation of God’s grace and his power to save? No, they have not. But Paul has. Consequently any pretence of their part to have delegated authority that in any way at all approaches that of the apostles is a cynical pretence.
To be continued
© copyright John Aldworth
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO
By John Aldworth
Published January 19, 2013
In Ephesians chapter three it is the Apostle Paul, and he alone, who the Lord uses to first announce and bring into being the dispensation of grace with its mystery, new gospel and different church. Fact is only Paul had God’s authority to do so.
And, mark well, it is only after the Apostle Paul has spoken into being this mystery of grace that he received from God, that he tells us that we Gentiles ….
… when ye read … may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel (Eph. 3:4-5).
Importantly, the words “when ye read” are the vital key to understanding how believers today are to obey apostolic authority in this new dispensation of the grace of God and the mystery. Let us read Eph. 3:3-4 again carefully.
How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery (as I wrote afore in few words). Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the in the mystery of Christ (emphasis added).
Paul is telling us that it is as we read his words to us Gentiles written in his epistles and believe them that we will understand his knowledge in the mystery of Christ. Note that it is the Apostle Paul’s knowledge, imparted to him by God Himself, which we are to read, not that of some preacher, teacher, pope’s idea of what it might mean in the light of their theological system.
When we read and believe the words of the Apostle Paul as God has seen fit to record and preserve them in English in his holy word, the King James Bible then we truly come under apostolic authority. And when we do every word he has spoken, since it is the “…word of God ... effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thess. 2:13).
To understand where and how the Apostle Paul “wrote afore in few words” about how God made known unto him the mystery see the study on this website entitled “As I wrote afore in few words”.
Let me make it plain. If we believe what the Apostle Paul has just said in Eph. 3:3-4 then understanding of what God has revealed to him comes to us when we read and believe the apostle’s written words in scripture, not when we let some minister, preacher, pope or pastor tell us what they mean.
No interpretation, systematic theology, church creed, confession of faith or scheme of bible understanding, can substitute for the direct apprehension of God’s important truth for us that can be ours as we read Paul’s words and fully recognise his unique authority to state them.
Apostolic authority today then resides in the apostles’ divinely inspired and infallibly enunciated written words, not in the humanly contrived interpretations of scripture advanced by academics and intellectual theologians.
In Ephesians chapter four the Apostle Paul addresses the need for unity among believers and by his own apostolic authority lays down the seven essential doctrines to be believed to achieve it (Eph. 4:4-6).
This then is the only true creed for believers in this new dispensation of the grace of God and the mystery. Revealed to the Apostle Paul by God and written down in scripture by him for us it is the only true ‘Apostles’ Creed’ for any believer that respects God’s word and Paul’s God-given apostolic authority.
But the stunning fact is that not a single major church or denomination has made this their creed or single statement of faith. Instead the Catholic and Anglican churches recite their own humanly concocted creeds. Among other things these require belief in the utterly pagan and unbiblical concept of communion with dead saints when such necromancy is prohibited by God in Deut. 18:11 and Isa. 8:19.
They also require belief in “one holy, catholic and apostolic church” in defiance of the clear scriptural and apostolic teaching that God calls his people into different churches or “called out assemblies” at different times. Thus there is the “church in the wilderness” which is Israel, the primarily Jewish “church of God” in the Acts period (Acts 20:28) and the predominantly Gentile “church which is his body” (Eph. 1:22-23) in the current dispensation of grace.
And if God has different churches at different times what is man that he should contrive the contrary concept of “one holy catholic and apostolic church”?
In Ephesians chapter four the Apostle Paul explains that keeping unity in the Spirit in the bond of peace” (vs. 3) depends not only on believing the “Apostle Paul’s creed” (vss.4-6) but also owes its very origin to the Lord’s act in appointing apostles. He clearly states that the Lord …
…gave some apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists ; and some pastors and teachers … for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ … till we all come in the unity of the faith…
Yet despite this stunning display of the extent of his apostolic authority , the Apostle Paul, like the Apostle John claims no “preeminence”; rather he says that his ministry and that of others is given “till we all come in the unity of the faith” (Eph. 4:13).
However, he does make plain over and again the authority from God with which he speaks. In Eph. 1:1, for example, he introduces himself as “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God”. In 4:17 he declares:
This I say therefore and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind…
In Eph. 3:1-2 he declares that the dispensation of the grace of God “is given me to you-ward”. In verse seven he states that he was “made a minister” of this gospel (i.e. that of the grace of God). In verse eight he says:
Unto me who am less than the least of all the saints is this grace given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.
In 1 Tim. 2:5-7 Paul emphatically declares that he himself is ordained the apostle of the one mediator, Christ:
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus: Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ and lie not,), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity”.
In 2 Tim. 1:10-11 he speaks of the Lord’s appearing in a new and different gospel in which death has been abolished and life and immortality brought to light and states:
…Whereunto I am appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher of the Gentiles.
Clearly then, if you are a Gentile, Paul is the apostle for you. God’s word repeatedly states that it is to us Gentiles that God through Paul gave the mystery, the dispensation of God, the gospel of grace and the promise of the Day of Christ to come (Titus 2:13).
Should you be Jewish then Paul is still the apostle for you. This is because Acts 28 makes clear that God has set Israel aside as his ministering agent in the world in proclaiming through the Apostle Paul that “salvation is sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it”.
That of course is an apostolic pronouncement, as is the fall of Israel proclaimed by Paul in Rom. 11:11-12. Both are to be obeyed without question, but sadly in today’s apostate Christianity “few there be that believe it”.
To be continued
© copyright John Aldworth
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO
- Part Three
Published January 26, 2013
By John Aldworth
We’re talking about the need to obey apostolic authority. So, may I ask: Why is it that no church creed I know of states as a matter of faith that apostles should be believed and obeyed? The Roman Catholic creed, for example, requires belief in the one holy catholic and apostolic church and submission to the pope but does not require obedience to the apostolic commandments clearly set out in scripture.
However the Apostle Peter, who is falsely supposed to have founded the Catholic Church, does require it. For example, in 2 Peter 3:1-2 he says:
This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance. That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoke before by the holy prophets and of the commandments of us, the apostles of the Lord and Saviour
And in Jude 17 saved, sanctified believers are told to:
Remember ye the words which were spoken of before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.
According to the Apostle Peter’s infallible apostolic pronouncement of God’s inerrant, inspired word, as recorded in scripture, right now the Lord’s return to earth is on hold. This, he says, is because Jesus Christ is He…
“Whom heaven must receive until the times of the restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began”.-(Acts 3:21).
And, since the earth clearly still awaits restoration to its pre-flood order and beauty, then clearly the Apostle’s absolutely infallible pronouncement of the Lord’s absence is still fully in force. The question then, given the Lord’s continuance in heaven, is who has authority now in his absence from earth?
The right scriptural answer is: Only his chosen apostles. But Christendom does not agree. Its claims to authority are many and varied but not truly apostolic. For example, the pope claims to be Christ’s vicar on earth and in doing so usurps the rightful authority of the apostles.
And rather than obey the written commands of apostles in the Bible myriads of believers instead yield to the “authority” of their church’s creed or statement of faith. In fact they would rather trust the church, the pope, their pastor or priest to be their interpreters of scripture, rather than the apostles.
Loosely speaking, of course, all churches and ministry organisations would claim to be “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20). But it is not for nothing that the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 3:10-14 advised “let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon”. He warned that “the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”
One such test of fire is whether today’s church builders and believers believe and obey the “wise master-builder” the Apostle Paul ”(1 Cor. 3:10), when in Eph. 2:21-3:1-4 he says he has added a new storey to the building that he earlier founded, and which he here defines as “an habitation of God through the Spirit”.
Yes, in Eph. 3:1-10 Paul adds a whole new floor and a higher elevation to the “temple of God” built of course on the only foundation which can be laid “which is Jesus Christ”. This foundation is the one that he, as the “apostle to the Gentiles”, laid in 1 Cor. 3:10-14.
It is vital today, if you are to keep up with God’s progressive revelation of truth, to see that the latest dimension added to this growing building is “the dispensation of the grace God” and “the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God” (Eph. 3:9).
How strange then that almost without exception church denominations today ignore, shun and reject this glorious extension to the “household of God” added with authority by the Apostle Paul.
Could it be that they do so because right from the very start the humanly organised, not God called out, church has had a deep rooted problem with obeying the commandments and instructions of the apostles. In turn could this be because to obey the apostles would deny their own usurped and self abrogated authority?
To be continued.
© copyright John Aldworth
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO
The lost key to true bible understanding
Once I used any bible I liked. Then I became a King James Bible believer and stuck with the trusted and true. The sacred book opened up even more when I grasped right division and learned dispensational truth. Then the Lord added icing on the cake when He revealed the importance of the coming Day of Christ and his own Appearing, both referenced in Paul’s prison epistles.
I thought that was as good as it could get. Now I learn there is another big leap forward yet to be made in studying the Bible and understanding scriptural truth. What’s more God is showing it right now to those who seek to know more of Him through his word. However, to appreciate its full significance we should go back to the start of the bible truth discovery trail. So let’s start again at the beginning.
Now it’s easy for any so-called “Christian” to say they believe the Bible is the Word of God. Most everybody does. Trouble is they believe the truly infallible Word of God only exists in the now long lost original manuscripts. Thus it is held that copies, translations and versions of the scriptures available today are flawed. At best they are man’s interpretation of what God once said. Thus for many there is no infallible written word of God today and consequently no absolute truth either. Instead there is a slew of differing modern bible versions and a morass of conflicting views and increasingly apostate theologies based upon them.
By contrast, as a King James Bible believer, I hold that God meant what he said, had it written down word for word in the originals and then infallibly preserved these words in the 1611 Authorised Version, the greatest book ever written in English. In Psalm 12:6 he said that He would preserve his words forever. I hold that He has indeed done so in the end time universal language, English, in the King James Bible.
To me it’s an obvious that if you love his word then you will insist on having God’s word, the King James Bible. I have learned that God does not show me truth at all except from the Authorised Version 1611, his faithfully preserved word in English. As my friend Tom Ballinger, of the Plainer Words website, recently said of the KJB translators: “It is not for us to sit in judgement on the men God chose to translate his word into English”. Indeed not.
Fact is, with a King James Bible in your hand, truth opens up to you like a flower when you study it as God’s infallible preserved Word and pray for the “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Eph. 1:17) to show you what it means.
But with deeper truths come greater questions. Soon you are asking: If all of the Bible is for me, which parts are written specially to me? Or, do the words of Jesus take precedence over the words of the Apostle Paul? And, I see Peter and Paul speak to different audiences (one to Jews, the other to Gentiles). Which one do I follow?
Seeking the right priority in such matters will bring you to the next step of bible discovery, that of “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). You now begin to learn the dispensational approach to scripture; realising, for example, that God has spoken to different peoples in different ways at different times and that He also dispenses his salvation and truth in different periods or ages that He calls “dispensations” (Eph. 3:1-4).
“Right division” is a huge advance in grasping the Bible’s “big picture” and where you fit into it. It’s a big stride away from the biblical confusion rife in most churches, including so-called “Bible believing” ones. This confusion results from the refusal of all denominations to recognise vital dispensational differences and distinctions. Instead they hold that what God said to different peoples long ago is still what He is doing and saying to believers today, despite the many scriptures stating the contrary.
For example, if you take what God’s word says seriously, in Col. 1:24-26 you will learn that Paul, not Peter, or John, is the only Apostle suffering…
…for his body’s sake which is the church, whereof I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God which is given me for you, to fulfil the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.
And only Paul is made minister of this new church (called out company) of the mystery which has been hid from past generations but now is made manifest to his saints to fulfil (fill up and complete) the word of God. All this is according to a new “dispensation” which is given the Apostle Paul “for you”, meaning that it is for Gentiles, as stated in vs. 27:
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you the hope of glory.
Sadly such wonderful truth remains a closed book to most of Christendom because they won’t study the right bible in the first place nor learn to rightly divide it (2 Tim. 2:15).
However, there are those that do. Small in number, scattered far and wide, with no visible, organised form of fellowship on earth there are, thanks be to God, thousands of believers around the world to whom God is revealing exciting dispensational truth.
Often the revelation of such truth concerns progression in what scripture says about a subject. For example there is the issue of how believers become acceptable to God, an important matter to all who believe. In 2 Cor. 5:9 the Apostle Paul explains how this was to be achieved in the Acts period “church of God” (Acts 20:28), that is during the “Pentecostal” dispensation:
Wherefore we labour that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him.
Compare this with the later truth of the grace dispensation found in Eph. 1:6:
To the praise of the glory of his grace wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved
Do you see the difference? In the Acts all had to labour to be accepted. By contrast, in the “dispensation of the grace of God” brought in by the Lord through the Apostle Paul (Eph. 3:1-5) such labour is unnecessary because God Himself has made us accepted. All we have to do is to believe it.
Not only is any labour on our part to make ourselves acceptable to God superfluous; in grace it is clearly forbidden. Thus we are told:
Eph. 2:8-9: For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast.
Today then in this new dispensation hard labour is not needed to make oneself fit to meet the Lord because the Father has already made us fully acceptable by incorporating us into his Son who is “the Beloved”. However, if, you also want to “shew yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, then bible study applying the principle of “rightly dividing the word of truth” is strongly recommended by the apostle (2 Tim. 2:15):”
But the ascent into God’s highest truth does not stop there. I have found that even if you are a staunch King James Bible believer and one who has climbed high in dispensational understanding you still have much to learn.
For example, very few have come to understand the thrilling truth of God’s next new dispensation, the Day of Christ (see this website’s studies on this subject) and nearly all of professing Christendom has yet to learn what is plainly taught in scripture, that it is the Lord’s appearing in glory (Titus 2:13, 2 Tim. 4:8) that is the next great event on God’s calendar, not the rapture or the second coming.
Beyond these thrilling subjects there is still more to discover. For example, I believe that right now the Lord is revealing to those willing to heed Him a further approach to “rightly divided” Bible study that will cut through the Gordian knot of theological confusion, both dispensational and otherwise, like a hot knife through butter.
Like all good things revealed by God to those who love Him it’s plain as the nose on your face once He has led you to see it, though you are blind to it until he does. Actually it is a simple directive that God all along intended as the touchstone of truth for true believers from Paul’s day until now. And the key to it is found in the pages of your King James Bible over and over again.
Indeed it is such an easy way to determine all truth from scripture, and set it in the priority in which you should understand and believe it, that once shown it you will kick yourself for not having grasped it before.
You see at one fell swoop it resolves all major theological questions, removes all doubts, explains the scriptural past and accurately foretells the future. Forgive the pun but if right division is correctly slicing up the loaf of God’s Word, then truly this new approach is the “best thing since sliced bread”.
I realise this build-up has long kept you in suspense waiting to learn what this new approach to Bible understanding actually is. But I make no apology for that. It was necessary to lay this ground work so that you would realise the importance of God’s progressive revelation of truth both dispensationally and in the personal life of each believer seeking to be taught more by Jesus.
Fear not, all will be unveiled soon. Meantime please realise that this simple method of Bible learning is itself progressive in that it conveniently packages teachings you need to know under subject headings you can easily follow as you grow in truth and Christian experience.
What’s more it issues in bite-sized chunks the instructions you need to walk daily in obedience to the Lord. Read, understood, acknowledged, believed and obeyed, it comprises a user friendly manual of easy to climb steps on the stairway to heaven.
Most important of all it gives the believer willing to obey it, full assurance of the absolute certainty of biblical truth, particularly in terms of the direct “marching orders” the Lord would now have you obey (see Col. 2:2). In fact it is more truly than you ever realised was possible the Lord’s direct word to you.
But, I hear you ask, if this Bible study approach is so simple and good why hasn’t it been taught in churches all along from Christ’s time on earth until now? The answer in short is that professing church leadership thought they knew better how to interpret, explain and teach scripture than God who wrote it. And they still do so today.
Thankfully this further approach to scriptural understanding lays an axe to the root of such self-proclaimed religious authority. In fact, if obeyed to the letter it leaves corrupters of God’s word no ground whatever on which to stand.
What is this great study principle? Simply this:
To obey absolutely in all matters of bible understanding, truth, doctrine, conduct and authority the Lord’s appointed Apostle, Minister and Teacher for this present dispensation of the grace of God, the Apostle Paul.
To be continued
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO APOSTOLIC
AUTHORITY? - Part Five
by John Aldworth
Infallible pronouncements by the Apostle Paul:
Romans 11:13: For I speak to you Gentiles inasmuch as I am the Apostle of the Gentiles I magnify mine office.
Acts 28:28: Be it known unto you therefore that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles and that they will hear it.
Acts 13:11: And now behold the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness, and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.
Titus 2:11: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men.
1 Tim. 6:14-15: … keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in his times He shall shew, who is the only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords…
Infallible pronouncements by the Apostle Peter:
Acts 2:38: Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Acts 3: 20:21: And He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you, whom heaven must received until the times of the restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of his holy prophets since the world began
Acts 5: 4-5 (to Ananias): Thou hast not lied unto men but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these words.
2 Peter 3:10: But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens will pass away and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Fallible, false and unscriptural pronouncements by popes:
The ‘immaculate conception’:
We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful —Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854..
The ‘assumption of Mary’:
By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory - Pius XII, 1950.
We teach and define that it is a dogma Divinely revealed that the Roman pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable - Vatican Council, 1870, Sess. IV, Const. de Ecclesiâ Christi, c. iv.
Consider the huge difference outlined above between the words spoken by the Lord’s apostles in the verses quoted above and the weak pretences of popes to define doctrine in which follow them in this study.
Ask yourself, did a pope’s pronouncement ever have the power to cause a liar to drop dead on hearing it as Peter’s did? Did a Catholic Church papal bull ever supernaturally strike blind an enemy of the gospel as Paul’s word did?
Come to that has any pope, cardinal or priest ever demonstrated the power to heal the paralysed and raise the dead that the Apostles Peter and Paul clearly did in the Book of Acts? The answer is a resounding ‘No’.
The signs of an apostle (Acts 2:22, 43, 5:12, 2 Cor. 12:12 and Rom. 15:18-19) include healing all the sick brought to them “and they were healed every one” (Acts 5:16) and raising the dead (Acts 9:40 and Acts 20:9-10). These signs were fully performed by both Peter and Paul.
The truth is that no pope, priest, Pentecostal ‘healer’ or evangelist has performed them since. That is, no one in the last nearly 2,000 years has fully healed all the sick among a multitude that had gathered for weeks on end for that purpose, nor have they raised anyone from the dead. But Peter and Paul did. We conclude therefore, despite all false claims to the contrary, that no apostle with the power to speak new truth on God’s behalf, pronounce doctrine, or define the meaning of scripture - a key apostolic function – has arisen since their day
That being so we must closely question and critically examine every pronouncement, preaching, article of faith and scheme of understanding scripture, whether by a pope, priest, pastor teacher, theologian, self-proclaimed church or layman. We must ask firstly, whether such self-styled preachers of God’s truth are themselves in complete agreement with, and in absolute obedience to, every word spoken by the Apostles, particularly those of Peter and Paul as recorded in the King James Bible.
And here is the shocking truth. Judged on that scriptural basis there is not a single organised church or denomination, not an ordained, pastor priest or pope, not a creed, statement of faith or a theology, still less a humanly derived scheme of understanding the Bible, that measures up.
Without exception every denomination, every school of thought, every scheme of scriptural determination, fails to believe and obey all that the apostles have said. None have made it their business to ensure their doctrines are defined and bound by not only the words of Jesus but also those of his apostles He appointed to speak on his behalf. Indeed every church, every preacher, every scheme of theological understanding I know denies at least one if not many pronouncements of truth by Peter and Paul.
For example, in Acts 3: 20:21 the Apostle Peter pronounces two truths of cosmic importance and of huge consequence for all mankind. Certainly they are essential truth for all believers in that they unfold vital information about the present and the future as determined by God’s plans and purposes. This is what Peter said:
And He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you, Whom heaven must received until the times of the restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of his holy prophets since the world began.
What a wonderful pledge the Father makes here to sinning, rebelling and Christ-rejecting Israel. One day He will send back to them the very Messiah that they crucified, the one “which before was preached unto you”.
Meantime, however, Peter states that heaven must receive Jesus Christ “until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began”. Heaven had received Jesus when the Apostle Peter said that in 33AD and heaven is still in receipt of Jesus today nearly 2,000 years later.
So what does that mean? In short it means that almost every major teaching about the Lord’s return I’ve heard of has got it wrong. Not one states that heaven must retain the Lord until all spoken of by all the prophets has been “restituted”. As able Bible teacher Tom Ballinger has pointed out “restitution of all things” means the earth must be returned to a pristine, pre-flood state and that humanity must be returned to awareness of God’s glory and be given a desire to hear and obey Him. Otherwise the prophets’ words are not fulfilled.
Importantly, this huge “renovation” – the word means to make as good as new – takes place while the Lord is retained in heaven, not when He returns to earth.The restitution of all things then is the product of his ruling in his heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:18).Thus it takes place in the “day of Christ” mentioned seven times in Paul’s epistles as the next and most eagerly awaited event on God’s calendar.
Yet most eschatological teaching has it that the restitution only occurs at Christ’s second coming to earth and in the resultant millennial age (for example, see Vine p. 949 on Matt. 19:28 under “regeneration”). Of course, this erroneous view completely ignores the important doctrine of “His appearing” (see Titus 2:11-13). It also defies and disobeys the Apostle Paul’s clear command – yes, apostles do command and we disobey them at our peril – to “look for his appearing” (Titus 2:13).
Such disobedience has led to dangerously strange thinking. For example, Calvinist “Christian reconstructionist” theology as asserted by Rousas J. Rushdoony and Gary North teaches on the basis of Acts 3:20-21 that believers must put themselves and the whole world right by obeying fully the Mosaic law before Christ can return, with the implication that if they do not succeed He may not come back at all!
More popular is the view that teaches the “rapture” will be God’s next major intervention in the world (it isn’t, the rapture comes just before the second coming and that’s far off in the future). Also held by many is the prevailing Pentecostal doctrine that a last days outpouring of the Spirit will bring in a great end-time harvest of saved souls and usher in a new world.
Both these views miss the mark by a country mile by wilfully ignoring both the Apostle Paul’s teaching about the Day of Christ coming next (see 1 Cor. 1:18, 5:5, 2 Cor. 1:14, 2 Thess. 2:2, Phil. 1:6, 1;10, 2:16) and the Apostle Peter’s clear statements in Acts 3:20-21 that Christ will still remain in heaven even when it does.
To recap, the Apostle Peter states unequivocally that:
- Jesus Christ will be sent back to Israel by the Father when the “times of refreshing”, i.e. for Israel, shall come.
- He must be retained in heaven until the restitution of all things (both earth and all that live on it). Clearly this means Christ will stay in heaven until such restitution is complete.
Please realise that Acts 3:20-21 is the very truth of God straight from the mouth of a chosen apostle. It is the word of the Lord and you are counted righteous when you believe it (Rom. 4: 3, Gen. 15:6). It’s not a matter of choice whether you choose to believe it or not. If you don’t believe it you are rejecting the God who inspired it.
Notice that Peter’s proclamation is brought into immediate, forceful spiritual effect the moment he speaks it. Thus we are told about 5,000 men believed it (Acts 4:4). Thus when an apostle speaks it is a word of immediate power that he declares on God’s behalf and at the behest of God. Now of course God has also spoken through all his prophets “since the world began” up to the giving of the dispensation of the grace of God to the Apostle Paul when such prophecy ceased. Such prophecy was the very word of God evn thought often the prophet himself did not understand what was said. Nor did the prophet’s word usually take immediate effect. Mostly it was to be fulfilled later on.
By contrast when God speaks through his chosen apostle it is a proclamation that has immediate and long lasting effect. It brings into being new truth. For example, who beforehand knew that Christ would be retained in heaven during the “restitution of all things”? The Apostle Paul, as we shall see later in detail, in fact spoke into being a whole new dispensation of God’s dealings with mankind, one that still operates in full force today, nearly 2,000 years later.
Yet the church at large still treats the divinely inspired pronouncements enunciated by the apostles as less than divine solemn edicts that they are. Certainly they do not recognise them as being as world shaping and irrevocable in effect as the Ten Commandments, for example. Why so? Because false apostles and false prophets have abounded from Peter and Paul’s time until now, the popes being prominent among them.
Consider the irony of a Catholic pope infallibly “declaring, pronouncing and defining” the dogma that Jesus’s mother Mary was immaculately conceived without sin when the Apostle Paul (personally chosen and called by the Lord Jesus Christ, which no pope ever was) and with far greater authority from God than any pope has, declares in Rom. 3:23 that “…all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. That “all” includes Mary.
This is what Pope Pius IX said in 1854 when he promulgated the papal bull Ineffabilis Deus (Latin for "Ineffable God"), which defined ex cathedra (i.e. “infallibly) the dogma of the Immaculate Conception:
“We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful.”
Papal "bull" is right. It is absolute brass-faced cheek and brazen rebellion for a pope or anyone else to claim to infallibly define and declare anything when it defies and contradicts the God-given words of a holy apostle. Yes, the Bible does call apostles holy (Eph. 3:5) but deems popes men of sin. Now to say that this dogma, a required belief for the Catholic faithful, was “revealed by God” as Pius claimed, is a lie, since it is not found in scripture which alone is the benchmark for truth.
Know also that papal dogmas are said to be “irreformable”, meaning they cannot be changed or put right. That is also true of the Catholic Church itself. It too is irreformable"; it cannot be put right. As the accursed “Babylon” of the Bible (Rev. chapters 17 and 18) it is unredeemable and doomed to destruction. And who wrote that with infallible authority from God Himself? Why the Apostle John!
What should be clear from all this is that an apostle’s word, especially when recorded in scripture, is the final word on a matter. It is irrevocably true; it is God’s absolute truth now and will be for all eternity. It cannot be broken. It must be received, believed and obeyed by any that would seek to please God.
To be continued.
NEW POSTING: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO
APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY - PART SIX
The acid test of obedience
Posted May 30, 2014
By John Aldworth
Matt. 6:24: No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Phil. 2:12: Wherefore my beloved as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings.
Obedience for the true believer is where the rubber meets the road. It is not enough to give mental assent, or even heart-felt approval, of the truth of God’s word unless we also obey it. The two verses quoted above make clear that obedience is a must. But two questions arise: Who is to be obeyed? And, how should they be obeyed?
As to the first, our Lord has stated that “no man can serve two masters.” In the context of Matt. 6 it is the Father who should be obeyed but since the Father has given all authority to the Son, we find that it is the Lord we must obey. But then again when the Lord left this earth to be seated at the right hand of the Father in heavenly places He gave power and authority to act in his name, first to the 12 apostles, then later to the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul. As stated earlier in this series only apostles have the authority to infallibly declare, define and pronounce God’s word in the Lord’s absence. Therefore it should be clear that in Phil. 2:12-14 it is the Apostle Paul’s word in writing that should be obeyed, since “the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). Importantly, Paul is the Apostle of grace in the dispensation of the grace of God (Eph. 3:1-4) and the Apostle to the Gentiles (1 Tim. 2:7) with a message for “all men” (Titus 2:11)
That our obedience by faith should be to the Apostle Paul’s writings preserved in the Bible is confirmed by the fact that Paul speaks of obedience “in his absence”. Paul, I believe, understood that his absence from the Philippian believers was necessary in order for them to trust his God-given word now put in writing for them, rather than his personal presence. Fact is that from the end of Acts onwards Paul the prisoner neither started new churches nor visited those he had already founded. He only wrote letters to them. Today we know nothing of what Paul may have said or taught orally other than the quotations from his speeches found in Acts. However, like the believers of his day we have his epistles. Today these letters comprise God’s latest word to us through the pen of the Apostle Paul. Today then, the “master” we must obey, in the sense of Matt. 6:24, is the written word of the Apostle Paul to “all men”.
This written word is described as “the scriptures of the prophets” in Rom. 16:25-26. This phrase, in Greek graphe profetikos, does not mean the words of Old Testament prophets as some think, but rather the God-inspired scripture written by Paul. This must be so since it is Paul’s “my gospel” and “the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery”, which was given to him by the Lord (see Eph. 3:14), that is “made manifest” in the context.
It is important to note that the truth of salvation for Gentiles through Paul’s gospel and the preaching of Christ as revealed in the mystery is “made known to all nations according to the commandment of the everlasting God”, that is the Father. While the Ten Commandments were written by God in stone; this commandment in Rom. 16:26 and all the other commandments the Lord has issued through the Apostle Paul were and are written or printed in ink. For nearly 2,000 years they have been faithfully translated and preserved by God Himself. It is my belief that today they are infallibly declared in the English 1611 Authorised Version.
Keep in mind that that the Apostle Paul wrote, and the prophetic scriptures record, that “the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). Which brings to us to the second question: How should such commandments be obeyed? Are we to rely on our own will power to obey commandments such as those found in Eph. 4:22-32 (please read them), for example, or do we do it through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? If the latter is the right and only course, as I believe, then the following verses describe how the process works:
Eph. 4:20-21: But ye have not so learned Christ, if so be that ye have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus.
Phil. 2:12-13: …work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God which worketh in you both to do and to will of his good pleasure
Now if Christ is our teacher (through the Apostle Paul) and the Father Himself works within us to cause us to will and do of his good pleasure then all we have to do is to believe in and submit ourselves to the process. After all is said and done, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph. 2:10).
But there is more. Our obedience, as referenced in Phil. 2:12, is actually the obedience of faith. That is, it is by believing God’s word through the Apostle Paul that we are graced to obey it. This clearly set in Rom. 16:26: where we are told that the “mystery, which was kept secret since the world began:
… is now made manifest and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made to all nations for the obedience of faith.
To further see this let’s study that hallmark passage of the grace dispensation, Eph. 2:8-10:
For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
The only way you and I as believers can be holy is because God makes us so through his grace. In our own fallen nature we can produce nothing but sin even when we are trying our hardest to be good. Actually, to be fully and finally saved is to be “presented holy, unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (Col. 1:22). And that is only achieved through the grace of Jesus Christ shed upon us by the Father (Titus 3:5-6).
For centuries Eph. 2:8-9 has been the subject of dispute between self-styled Calvinists and Armenians, the latter maintaining that it is our own human faith in God’s grace that saves us and the former that the only faith that works is that given by God. Calvinists hold that we can believe nothing of our own human will until saved. This because, they say, we are “dead” and dead people don’t have faith. In support of this they cite Eccl. 9:5 “The dead know not anything” and 1 Cor. 4:7 “For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” Ignoring the fact that the context of 1 Cor. 4:7 is about the ministry of Peter, Apollos and Paul to the Corinthians and does not refer at all to having faith for salvation, Calvinists assert that on the basis of these two verses that God must impart faith before any sinner can be saved. This is in defiance of at least two scriptures which say, “Whosever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”.
However, the word “are” in “by grace are ye saved through faith” clearly implies that salvation is an ongoing process and that faith is the means by which it is accomplished. Granted, the Calvinists have a point when they say that saving faith is the gift of God. By contrast, however, conversion is sudden and takes place where there is a cry from the heart of the sinner to be saved (see Acts 16:30).
Be that as it may the supposed “faith gift” dispute is easily resolved if, instead of asserting the unscriptural doctrine of ‘total depravity’ we look rather at how God gives faith. Scripture clearly teaches that “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). This is how God gives faith, not through some mythical impartation of faith by “sovereign grace”, a phrase not found in the Bible, but by the preaching of the word. This important truth is right there in the preceding context in Rom. 10:14:
How then shall they call on Him whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
This raises the questions: what is preaching? And what is a preacher? According to Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words preaching (Gk. kerugma) means “a proclamation by a herald” and can also mean the substance of what is preached.(see 2 Tim. 4:17 and Tit. 1:3). A preacher (Gk. kerux) in the context therefore means one who makes a proclamation. And in the Pauline epistles only one man is named as such: the Apostle Paul. Thus in 1 Tim. 2:7 and then 2 Tim. 1:10-11 the Apostle states:
Whereunto I am ordained a preacher and an apostle … a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.
The appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ who hath abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, whereunto I am appointed a preacher and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
Importantly, no one else is named as such an apostle in Paul’s prison epistles. While some consider Timothy to be Paul’s ordained successor it should be noted that actually Timothy is commissioned only to repeat the words of Paul (2 Tim. 1:13) when he preaches – proclaims – the word “in season and out of season” in 2 Tim. 4:2.
Fact is no new truth was given either Timothy or Titus to preach but a whole dispensation of it (Eph. 3:1-4) and a new and different gospel for Gentiles (Col. 1: 27) was committed by the risen Lord to the Apostle Paul to be passed on to others. Hence the importance of practicing obedience by faith to all the commandments the Apostle Paul has written.
If you really are a Christian such belief and obedience is mandatory. This is because verses nine through 11, which in Philippians 2 precede the Apostle Paul’s commandment to obey in verse 13, state that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father”.
And Paul directly links the commandments to bow to and confess the Lord by prefacing verse 13 with the word “Therefore”. Therefore, as faithful believers, let us do what we are told.
To be continued.
© copyright John Aldworth
NEW: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO
APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY - Part Seven
The truth about apostolic succession
By John Aldworth
Phil. 2:15-16: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation among ye shine as lights in the world. Holding forth the word of life that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain, nor labored in vain.
There are billions in Christendom who subscribe to it, but is the doctrine of apostolic succession biblical and believable today? And, if it is not, who or what remains to carry on the 1st century AD ministry of apostles today? Those are the questions addressed in this study.
So first up, is apostolic succession real? Many believe it is. For example, I was told firsthand by an Anglican priest that when his bishop laid hands on him at his ordination into the priesthood a new spirit came upon him
“I knew it was an ancient power and authority passed on by priests and bishops down the centuries that we believe originally came from the hands of St Peter himself,” he explained. “Certainly I knew was a different man from that time forward. I could pronounce the forgiveness of sins with effect and bring about the manifestation of the ‘real presence’ in communion.”
But could he really perform such feats? Was such power really his? The Bible says that only God can forgive sin and that we are to let the word of Christ dwell within us so that “Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith”, not be brought to us by a priest-blessed biscuit.
Defying what scripture says to the contrary, “laying on of hands” to confer supposed power to minister is the common ordination practice not only in the Anglican and Roman Catholic Church but also among Pentecostals, charismatics and a wide range of other churches. Anglican and Catholics believe that the authority to forgive sins, to lay down doctrine and pronounce God’s blessing on others is passed on by such means. Catholics also hold that only a priest thus ordained can so consecrate bread and wine that it becomes the flesh and blood of Christ Himself. The latter, of course, is based on a dreadful misunderstanding of John chapter six.
What’s more Pentecostals and charismatics maintain that laying on of hands today can confer the power to heal, raise the dead, perform miracles and cast out devils that Christ gave his apostles when He was on earth. Power to supernaturally discern spirits, prophesy and supernaturally know things beyond both scripture and ordinary human understanding are also said to be imparted by the laying on of hands.
Now it should admitted that some scriptural support can be found for these claims, inasmuch as they were practiced with effect in the Acts period. The question is whether such powers truly continue in our time in a different dispensation and nearly 2000 years later? If we will believe the word of God we find that the Pentecostal dispensation closed in Acts 28:27-28 with the setting aside of Israel. Tongues, miracles, resurrections, prophesies along with humanly conferred power to forgive sins also ended with this sending of salvation away from Israel to the Gentiles.
The Apostle Paul had earlier warned the Corinthian believers (in 1 Cor. 13) that such supernatural gifts would shortly cease (meaning within his lifetime). Such manifestations would end when that “that which is perfect is come”, he said. And that which is perfect, which is the “one new man” of Eph.2: 15, did indeed come in the apostle’s lifetime.
Fact is that even when such powers were present in the Acts period they were confined to the apostles themselves and a small handful of specially commissioned witnesses, such as Philip, Stephen and Ananias, for example. There is no account in the book of Acts of disciples in the mass healing, performing miracles, prophesying and raising folk from the dead. So claims such power was widely passed on through the laying on of hands is scripturally untrue. Furthermore in 1 Corinthians Paul said such signs and wonders would cease, and cease they did.
To my shame I was once a Pentecostal pastor and engaged in the deceit of believing such Acts period apostolic powers still obtain today. They don’t, and it is a lie of the devil to maintain they do. So-called miracle workers such as Benny Hinn and New Zealand’s Bill Subritsky certainly produce manifestations of devils in people at public meetings but, ask yourself, do we really need more devils to deal with than we have already got?
Whether people are truly delivered on such occasions is very questionable. Devils, it seems, enjoy putting on a floor show, and, in my former experience, turned up again and again in the person supposedly already delivered of them. Many thus affected can be found later seeking further “deliverance”.
But one thing’s for sure. Those who claim to have a deliverance ministry don’t visit psychiatric units to free the “bedeviled” there. Nor do today’s so-caller healers visit morgues or funeral parlours to raise the dead. Neither do they hold healing meetings in hospices to restore life to the dying. They don’t even tour hospital wards to heal the sick. But Jesus and his apostles did.
Today the efforts of ministers who claim apostolic powers to perform healings, resurrections and deliverance “in Jesus’ name” fall pitifully short of the real miracles Christ and his apostles performed in the gospels and Acts periods. Scripture deems them false apostles because, indisputably such pretenders “desire occasion wherein they glory” (2 Cor. 11:12) by advertising and staging mass meetings. Listen to what the Apostle Paul says of such Elmer Gantrys and decide for yourself whether they merit his description of them in 2 Cor. 11:13-15:
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel: for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works.
In 2 Cor. 12:12 Paul wrote of his ministry to the Corinthians saying that:
Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
Yet no one who claims apostolic succession today is capable of doing what he did. Paul raised the dead (Acts 20:10); God worked “special miracles” through his hands by way of handkerchiefs (Acts 19:11). He cast out devils and healed the sick. Popes, priests and Pentecostals all fail miserably when they try to do the same.
So who or what succeeds the apostles?
Now to the second question: Who or what is the true successor to the apostles’ ministry? Note first that there is no scriptural record of Peter, James, John or other of the Lord’s 12 apostles laying on hands to commission any successor. True, Matthias was chosen by lot to replace the fallen Judas but he was chosen by God and straightway “numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:21-26), not by laying on of hands
If there was to be an apostolic succession after the apostles’ lifetime then surely the Bible would record the Lord’s apostles as enacting it. But the pages of scripture are silent on the matter and here’s the reason why. In Matt. 19:28 the Lord clearly stated that how and when the twelve’s ministry to Israel would continue. And in doing so He made no mention of any successors. This is what He said:
Verily I say into you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye shall also sit upon twelve throne, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Clearly then when the Son of Man shall sit upon the throne of his earthly glory in time to come the 12 earthly apostles will be resurrected to reign and judge with Him over Israel.
But what of the Apostle Paul with his entirely different ministry to Gentiles? Since he was not one of the twelve, and is, or was, the apostle to the Gentiles, would it not be necessary for a successor to be appointed for him? Many indeed think so, claiming that Paul laid hands on Timothy to be his replacement. But again what does the scripture say?
Certainly 1 Tim. 4:14 says that Timothy received a gifting by prophecy “through the laying on of hands of the presbytery (i.e. elders)”. And in 2 Tim. 1:6 the Apostle Paul urges Timothy - “my dearly beloved son” - to “…stir up the gift that is in thee by the putting on of my hands”. The first of these two verses undoubtedly relates to the time when Paul encountered the young disciple and believer Timothy at Lystra. Acts 16:1-3 says:
Him would Paul have go forth with him and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters for they all knew his father was a Greek.
Paul took Timothy as his “son in the faith” despite the fact he was Greek. That is, though born of a Jewess his father was Greek. To make him acceptable to Jews (both those who believed in Jesus as Messiah and those who did not) Paul had him circumcised. What’s more hands were laid on Timothy by the presbytery – that is the “elders” appointed by Paul and Silas in Iconium, Derbe and Lystra (Acts 14:20-23) – to further confirm his acceptance.
It is important to understand that such laying on of hands was an entirely Jewish practice common to all synagogues and as such implemented by the Acts period Jewish-led “Church of God” believers. The New Bible Dictionary (p. 1027) states:
“Presbytery”, the word used to describe the body of elders that ordained Timothy, is employed in Acts 22:5 and Luke 22:66 to describe the Jewish Sanhedrin.
Such recognition was necessary for Timothy to minister to the largely Jewish Acts period. Prophecy was then still in force, which is why, in 1 Tim. 1:18, Paul commits a charge unto Timothy “…according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightiest wage a good warfare”.
However, all this changes once salvation is sent to the Gentiles in Acts 28:28. Accordingly, one it is a very different charge and one entirely fitting a ministry among Gentiles that the apostle now lays on the Timothy in 2 Tim. 1: 6-7, 13 and 4:1-2:
Stir up the gift of God that is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, power and of a sound mind. Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
I charge thee therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing that: Preach the word, be instant in season and of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and authority.
Here in this last epistle written by Paul, there is no word of any prophecy, no talk of warfare conducted by prophecy, still less any mention of signs and wonders. Nowhere here is Timothy told to, or apparently expected to, cast out devils, heal the sick or raise the dead. Rather the emphasis is on preaching the word before the time comes when they will not endure sound doctrine”.
Clearly then there was no transfer of apostolic power to do miracles to Timothy by the laying on of hands of Paul. In fact Timothy’s commission as a minister was effectively no greater and no less than that which Paul laid on believers at large in Phil. 4:9:
Those things which ye have both learned and received and heard and seen in me do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
Compare this with 2 Tim. 3:10, 14:
But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long suffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions which came unto me … But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.
Yes, Timothy was to continue in the things he had learned of Paul, holding fast to the very form of the apostle’s words and to the scriptures which, when “rightly divided” (2 Tim. 2:15) would make him “wise unto salvation”. And so are all believers, for they, like Timothy, in Eph. 4:12 are also commissioned to be ministers. This because it is by the “effectual working in the measure of every part that the “whole body” edifieth itself in love.
But nowhere is Timothy ordained an apostle; nor is it stated that he has been appointed a pastor, evangelist or teacher with special powers. Neither in the Bible is anyone else after Acts 28. In other words, there is now no apostolic succession in terms of supernatural apostolic powers passed on to others.
However, like Timothy, all grace-saved believers who have been taught by Jesus through Paul (Eph. 5:21) are charged with continuing the effectiveness of the apostle’s ministry in just the same way that Paul instructed Timothy to do in 2 Tim. 2:2:
And the things thou hast heard of among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
Today then in this Gentiles dispensation of the grace of God and the mystery outlined in Paul’s prison epistles, Ephesians to Philemon, the true apostolic succession is that of ordinary believers obeying the apostle’s instruction to be “holding forth the word of Life (Phil. 2:16). May we all be found doing so.
© copyright John Aldworth
© copyright John Aldworth
© copyright John Aldworth