Friday, November 9, 2012

1st John Chapter 4 Part 8

4:14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
We would do well to pause and consider who John is referring to when he writes the little word “we.” “We” have seen and “we” testify; who is this we John mentions? He is clearly one among this number. It is the apostles of the Lord, who were with Him during His earthly ministry and to whom He appeared after His resurrection, Acts 1:21-22; 1st Corinthians 9:5; 15:5-8.

It was to this group of men that Jesus spoke, saying “I do not pray for these alone [the apostles], but for those who will believe in Me through their word,” John 17:20. Twice in 2nd Corinthians Paul asserts that Christ gave to him authority in the church to edify, 2nd Corinthians 10:8; 13:10. Both Peter and Paul seemed well aware of the fact that their writings regarding New Testament doctrine were inspired Scripture, 2nd Peter 1:20-21; 3:15-16; Colossians 4:16. It was the apostles who were used as vessels to humanly pen the New Testament epistles, providing the details for how the church was to function and how to counteract heresy and error.

The criteria for being an apostle was outlined in Acts chapter 1, and this involved being with Jesus at the beginning of His earthly ministry, enduring to His ascension, Acts 1:21-22. This position is further secured later in Acts when we read that “they (the disciples) continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (teaching) and fellowship,” Acts 2:42. I’ve sited a score of verses for anyone who wishes to read more about the authority Jesus vested in the men who would be the human instrumentality He would use to pen the New Testament’s doctrine: Acts 2:43; 5:12; Ephesians 2:20; Romans 1:1; 1st Corinthians 1:1; 2nd Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1, etc.

Two verses deserve further attention. First we find in Acts 15:6,in regards to the matter of obeying the Law of Moses as a necessity for salvation, “Now the apostles and the elders came together to consider the matter.” The offices of apostle and elder are not the same. The body of elders governs a local church; and while an apostle may also be an elder (1st Peter 5:1; 2nd John 1:1; 3rd John 1:1) an elder (bishop, shepherd or pastor) is not considered an apostle. The Greek word for apostle is “apostolos” and literally means “one sent forth.” The Greek word for elder is “presbuteros.” To anyone who contests the usage of the various names of elder I have listed simply read 1st Peter 5:1-2. Peter uses the terms “elder,” “overseer (bishop),” and “shepherd,” interchangeably. The Greek word for “pastor” is “poimen” and literally means “shepherd.” This rendering of the Greek, used only once in Ephesians 4:11, is more clearly defined when we read Acts. We read in Acts 20:17 that Paul “called for the elders of the church.” He told them “take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among whom the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (bishops), to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood,” Acts 20:28. “Pastor” then is nothing more than another title for a shepherd, overseer, bishop, or elder: all the same office in the New Testament.

Second, let us look more closely at Ephesians 2:20. We read in this passage that our heavenly home has been built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone. It is the Spirit of Christ who is the source of prophecy and doctrine, 2nd Timothy 3:16; 2nd Peter 1:21; Revelation 19:10. The prophets of the Old Testament were inspired to write out God’s message to His people prior to the advent of His Son, 1st Peter 1:10-12; Romans 1:2. The apostles were inspired by this same Spirit to pen the doctrinal letters that would provide structure and direction for the church. This is the twin foundation our faith and the Bible has been built upon, with Christ Himself as the head; the one who supports and undergirds Scripture.

Paul writes that the Christian ought to submit to the doctrine of Jesus Christ as related through its human writers; namely the apostles, 1st Timothy 1:3-7; 6:3-5. The time of the apostles then is long since ended with the death of John at the close of the first century. This is a strong argument for the conclusion of the inspired writings after the Revelation of Jesus Christ. The last eyewitness of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension had passed away and with him the office of apostle. 

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, Ian.

    Many today want to be considered Apostles, but as you point out, they don't qualify. Disciple, elder and apostle are not interchangeable terms.

    When we understand the difference and what the terms mean, it is easy to accept that the office of apostle is no longer necessary if God was the author of the Bible.


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