God understands that as we fulfill our (His) ministry (as evangelists – Gospel preachers) we will be unable to PERSONALLY go to the whole world (Matthew 28:18-20). He therefore has commanded us to “Entrust (the Gospel) to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). This is the purpose of all our communications in writing with you.
One goal of the evangelist (Christian) is to “Be ready always to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). As Gospel preachers, we believe what Peter, John, and Paul believed. Circumstances considered, we give inquirers the same answers that they gave. As we study and obey the word of God (2 Timothy 2:15-16), the answers we give will be free from error.
In our studies we have found an understanding of the Gospel that we would like to share with you who are faithful. Why? So you can teach others also as we spread the word of God (salvation through Jesus) to the whole world. Please study, meditate on, and teach this lesson on “The Apostles.”
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)
Loved ones, the church with which we stand identified, is Apostolic in doctrine and practice. We believe the same doctrine, wear the same “name,” practice the same things as did the church in Jerusalem, Samaria, Rome, Corinth, Antioch, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, Thessalonica, or elsewhere in Apostolic times. If we are not Apostolic we want to become so just as soon as someone can point out the way. We are anxious to be saved eternally, and error cannot save us. That is absolutely certain.
What is meant by Apostolic? Evidently it is derived from the word Apostle (for a list of these men see: Matthew 10:1-7; Acts 1:15-26; Romans 1:1). Does it embrace Moses? Not in any sense. Does it include Elijah? It certainly does not. Does it take in John the Baptist? Most emphatically no! Why not? For the simple reason that they were neither called nor sent in the Christian dispensation.
The apostles were chosen and SENT by Jesus Christ to represent Him during His absence in the Court of Heaven as the High Priest of our profession (Hebrews 7:25-8:2). For proof - read what Jesus said in prayer just before His death (John 17:6-26). That passage will give you an idea of the dignity and sweeping grandeur of the mission and authority of the apostles. Jesus invested them with the same power and dignity that He claimed from His Father. God sent Jesus; Jesus sent the apostles; Jesus came in His Father’s name (John 5:43) to reveal His Father’s glory; He sent the apostles in His name to reveal His glory.
POINT: The FULLNESS of the Gospel of Christ could not be proclaimed until after the death, burial, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus were accomplished in fact. Jesus recognized this. He therefore called and prepared His apostles, by personal instruction under the Law of Moses, to proclaim these truths after His departure from earth. That they might do it successfully, He sent back the Holy Spirit to stamp on them their commission (John 13-16; Acts 1-2).
The Bible, the word of God, is official. It proves that Jesus called the apostles to do a work for Him that had never been done by man before. There work was to be peculiar, permanent, and revolutionary (cf. Matthew 10:27; 13:16-17; Luke 8:9-10). At the mount of Transfiguration, who had the honor of seeing a revelation of Christ’s eternal and indescribable glory? Answer: Peter, James, and John – apostles (Matthew 17:1-13). Later, both Peter and John had much to say concerning this holy confidence (2 Peter 1:16-18; 1 John 1:1-3).
Jesus reposed this confidence in the apostles that through them He might help the whole race. Since Jesus explained the principles and objects of His reign to them only, we must go to their works and words for knowledge of what is demanded of us under the reign of the glorified Redeemer.
APPLICATION: We may appeal to Moses, to Elijah, to Jeremiah, to John, to Jesus as He walked and talked confiding His secrets to the apostles, to the twelve as they walked with Him in half-faith and half-unbelief, BUT the final appeal must be to the apostles at the time when they were authorized to reveal the secrets that He had confided to their keeping (see Acts 2).
Loved ones, Jesus has all authority (Matthew 28:18). He passed on His authority to the apostles (Matthew 28:20). The authority He gave them (John 17:18) and the responsibility He place upon them prove beyond a doubt that whoever refuses to hear them – the apostles of Jesus Christ – refuses to hear and receive the Father and the Son (Matthew 10:40), and does it at his peril (2 John 9-10).
EMPHASIS: Jesus sent the apostles and also gave them a definite work to do. The kingdom (or church – Matthew 16:18-19) was not yet established, but Christ made ample provision for the proclamation of its fundamental principles and the opening of its blessings and privileges to all nations. Matthew 16:19 teaches that Peter was given the keys and personally authorized to open the doors of the coming kingdom. He and all the apostles (Matthew 18:18) were authorized by the Lord to proclaim its laws, and define its limits with the undoubted assurance that their work would be ratified in the Courts of Heaven.
When answering a question from Peter, Jesus said to the apostles, "Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, 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 19:27-28). All the above passages emphasize the fact that the Apostles were called and sent as exponents and representatives of the new dispensation, and that everything said and done previous to the beginning of their work must be interpreted in the light of what the apostles “bound and loosed” in carrying out their commission.
The manner in which the apostles were prepared for their work proves that they were to inaugurate a work of momentous importance. One would think those three years, nearly, of walking and talking with Jesus would have been enough, but not so. The work was too stupendous to entrust to human hands unaided. They therefore received power when the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4). With this power they boldly preached in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus from the dead for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).
POINT: Jesus designed to commit to the apostles the responsibility of making known His will, or in other words, the conditions of pardon, and they were the only men ever entrusted with the authority to proclaim a FULL GOSPEL in His name (or in any other name). They were sent with the Gospel as sheep among wolves to every creature (Mark 16:15), and the Spirit of God was given to teach and speak in them (Matthew 10:16-20; John 14:26).
Friends, if there are conditions of pardon outside of the apostolic writings, who proclaimed them? If the Catholic pope or Mormon president (etc.) can devise the terms of pardon, by what authority do they do it? The Holy Spirit was not sent until the day the church of Christ began – the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Any church that had it’s beginning before or after that day (or in some place other than Jerusalem) is not the Apostolic church.
As many of you know, I was raised in and taught the doctrines of the Baptist faith. One carnal doctrine with them is the teaching that the church began during the days of John the baptizer (certainly before the day of Pentecost in Acts 2). The following are a few questions we would like to ask our Baptist and other Calvinistic friends:
When, where, and under what circumstances did Jesus place John’s mission and work on the same basis as His own, as He did the mission and work of the apostles? When, where, and under what circumstances did Jesus give John the keys of the kingdom, promising to ratify his work and thus make it binding on all coming generations? When, where, and under what circumstances did Jesus say that whoever received John, received Him? When, where, and under what circumstances did Jesus ever tell John that He would, at the beginning of the regeneration, place him on a throne with the authority to judge the twelve tribes of Israel? When, where, and under what circumstances did Jesus give John a world-wide commission as He did the apostles after He arose from the dead (Matthew 28:18-20)?
SUMMATION: The apostles were called, ordained, instructed, commissioned, and inspired to interpret Moses and the prophets, to reveal the secrets that Jesus had entrusted to their keeping, to bind and loose in His name, and to make known the conditions of salvation and membership in His church. By “Apostolic” is meant like the Apostles. Whosoever therefore proclaims the same message, believes the same facts, obeys the same commands, submits the same test of fellowship to others, wears the same name, maintains the same unity, does the same work, and enjoys the same hope, is “Apostolic” in doctrine and practice.