Commissioned by Christ
Note: To properly understand the position of the writer please read the author's message "To The Reader".
Disunity In Understanding
One of the major reasons for disunity within the church today is our failure to recognize who the apostles were in relation to Christ and the mission that was given them to complete. Unless we settle this issue in our minds and hearts, we will forever be doomed to toss about with every wind of doctrine. If we can’t trust the New Testament writers and believe they fulfilled their commission to record God’s perfect word, how are we ever to agree on the accuracy and meaning of their record? How will we be able to resist the temptation to edit it, according to our own personal criteria? This would put us in the same place that the children of Israel found themselves when they had no judge to lead them. In the absence of a direct word from God through a chosen vessel, every man did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). But what about doing what’s right in God’s eyes? To a great extent today, we are doing this very thing. By not accepting the doctrines of the New Testament writers as the complete and errorless word of God, we create doubt and controversy which we ourselves attempt to explain to our own satisfaction and destruction (2 Peter 1:20-21).
When faced with a scriptural requirement which offends us or confronts our faults, one which injures our pride, we merely cast off the doctrine or conviction as the misguided opinion of an apostolic writer. Because he wrote two thirds of the New Testament, we especially like to bash the apostle Paul in this way. Other professing Christians avoid sensitive biblical issues by simply suggesting they were for a particular ethnic people or related to a custom or tradition common only to that culture or pertaining only to the people of that early biblical period. In this way, we avoid such unpleasantries as not allowing women to teach men or to become pastors, teaching them to wear head coverings when praying or prophesying or requiring them to maintain silence in the church meeting. Likewise, we can avoid washing each other’s feet, drinking from the same cup at communion or eating unleavened bread from the same loaf. We can select a more convenient means of baptizing with water than by total immersion. We can smoke or indulge in drugs without acknowledging the implied biblical condemnation of such abuses. Men don’t have to remove their hats when speaking to or for God and they don’t have to be responsible for keeping their families in all subjection or for that matter, be held responsible for providing for them. Take all this away and add countless other justifications and what’s left? What remains is a covenant (contract) full of loopholes. We lose sight of the fact that God says what He means and means what He says.
We can deceive ourselves today by telling ourselves lies; we can rewrite scripture to suit ourselves but what happens later? What happens when we stand before God, when we’re surrounded by twenty-four judgment thrones and the New Testament apostles are sitting on twelve of them? Try fixing that jury! The degree of integrity we assign to the New Testament scriptures is directly proportionate to the spiritual authority we believe God bestowed on its writers. When we question the message, doubting the reliability of the writer we also call into question the judgment of the one who selected the writer to record it. What authority picked these writers? In whose power, name and authority did they come, and who sent them? Would you want to be the one who tells the sender that His plan turned out to be less than perfect?
The apostle Paul admonished all believers to study the word of God. If Paul is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit then we must receive this instruction as coming from God (2 Timothy 2:15). Thus, God through Paul has told us that all scripture is inspired by Him and that it’s profitable for doctrine (teaching), reproof (accusation) and for correction and instruction (2 Timothy 3:16). Would it be profitable to study anything out of date, irrelevant or flawed with error? Would God address only one ethnic people, making rules that apply only to them or to those from just one specific period in church history? No, not unless He has become a respecter of persons. He says He doesn’t change so it would appear that what is set down for one church located in one location, in one period of time, applies to all (1 Corinthians 11:16, 1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Thessalonians 2:14, Colossians 4:16). However, I would agree that it’s no small accomplishment for anyone, yet abiding in the flesh, to record and reveal the character and will of God flawlessly. Some might even say impossible; after all, we are at best, imperfect vessels. I might agree, were it not for my complete trust in God’s ability to protect and preserve His word. In the face of all obstacles, the infection of error, might creep into it unnoticed but, God knows and sees all. After all, He did create this entire universe, so how tough can it be to preserve His word? Remember, things which are impossible with men are possible with God (Luke 18:27). Though we are, at present, in the flesh, we are assured we can do all things if Christ is the source of our strength (Philippians 4:13). If you can't depend on the accuracy of scripture then how do you know you're saved? How do you know salvation exists? How do you discover the sacrifice that God made for us?
If the New Testament writers had attempted to reveal the purposes of God in their own wisdom and strength, I have no doubt they would have failed miserably. Recording the New Testament scriptures was not a task they arbitrarily decided to undertake. These writers were chosen to be God’s sanctified scribes. These men were commissioned by Him to make known His will to all the future generations of His church. They could only accomplish this, divinely inspired task, in His power, under the constant inspection and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The ability to record this text without any error in doctrine can only be regarded as a miracle. The New Testament writers were no strangers to miracles. Some of them were privileged to have had the opportunity to perform them while others got to witness them up close and personal. Were these miracles flawed? Did those healed from blindness only see for a day or the lame only walk for an hour? If we credit these specially chosen men with the flawless execution of miracles, why do we doubt their ability to record His written word without error? Is this not just another miracle? Is this more difficult than raising the dead? Is there any task too difficult for God or those He empowers?
Jesus Christ was the greatest gift ever given to man and the greatest miracle ever performed was the sinless life He lived, a life ending with His selfless death and miraculous resurrection. The second greatest gift God gave to man is His written word through which, the light and knowledge of the first gift is made known, to the salvation of our souls. This gift or miracle can be identified by the flawlessness that marks it as being a miraculous gift from a loving God. If its doctrines are flawed, it would suggest a satanic victory over God’s truth; it would reveal a weakness in God’s ability to preserve His recorded word. It would suggest a critical error in God’s plan. God makes no mistakes! The inner perfectness of the scriptures is the very seal which marks it as God’s oracle. (Ephesians 2:8) We are saved by grace through faith and that not of ourselves. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:16, 17). Our faith depends and is sustained by the word of God. If the word of God is flawed, then our faith would be flawed also. Thus, both grace, which is given freely, and faith, which is the very means by which we receive God's grace, could be reduced to a mere assumption if we cannot depend upon God's ability to sustain the accuracy of His word. Any alleged error made in translation could only occur, if they exist at all, in text which in no way affects any doctrine applicable to the church, its practices or God’s message to His people. God’s third miraculous gift to His people is His church, i.e. the kingdom of God.
Some think the New Testament is not scripture at all because it was not in common use when first recorded. We would do well to remember that when the book of Numbers was written, it was most likely regarded as a journal kept by Moses; a history of God’s chosen people in the wilderness of Sinai. David’s psalms would have been received as the personal devotions of one of God’s faithful servants and “Proverbs” as personal advice from a wise king. None of these were in common use at the time of their writing.
Time and use have proved each of these to be scripture, the recorded word of God. The New Testament text has more than met all the criteria needed to place it in this same position. It is the inspired word of God and was delivered to us, by men He specifically chose to record it, in the fashion and form He desired. When an artist sits before his canvas, he has an image already in mind. Before he picks up his brush to make the first stroke of color, he can envision what he desires his finished work to be. Sometimes, he uses a model to continually remind him of the result he hopes to achieve. Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). God, our master creator, predetermined to fashion us into the image of His son (Romans 8:29). It would appear that this same principle applies to the formation and structure of His written word, He saw it as a finished work before His first words were recorded.
As an artist, He designed this work of words to conform to the image He preplanned for it. He carefully selected instruments which, like the artist’s brush, could and would accomplish His finished work in the manner He desired. Each brush, selected by its user, had a unique personality. Some offered a strong, bold stroke while others provided a more delicate and detailed line. The master knew in advance what effect each instrument would give Him, what the finished product would look like, or in the case of God’s word, what it would say and how it would say it. He knew what effect His words would have on those who read them. Make no mistake, brushes don’t speak, they don’t create anything. It’s enough for them to be held and guided by the master’s hand and the same holds true for those selected to record His written word. The New Testament writers were God’s brushes. They were held and guided by their master’s hand like the brushes of an artist, each was selected for their individual character and shape, allowing the master to complete His intended work with its varied themes in the way He planned.
What About These Men?
Were these men special? Were they supermen endowed with special powers or just normal men weakened by sin and tempted like other men? The model for all men is Jesus. Was He like other men? Was He tempted as we are? As a man, was He endowed with powers that other men don’t have or don’t have access to? The answer to all these questions is the same. It’s No! You say, “True, but He was the son of God.” He is the only begotten (birthed) of the Father but, those of us who do the will of his Father, are sons also (Matthew 12:50). “He did great miracles” you say. Yes, but He told us we would do greater ones (John 14:12). He came in the power and might of His father to do His father’s will. True, but the apostles were sent in the power and might of both father and son and are sent in the authority of both (John 17:6, John 20:21). Jesus was personally selected by the Father to rescue sinful man from certain death. The apostles were personally selected by the Father and called by Christ to establish His kingdom on earth, His church, and to point the way to everlasting life (Matthew 28:19-20).
God hand-picked these New Testament writers and equipped them uniquely with all that was necessary to complete their appointed mission. From the many things done by Christ, how could such men possibly select the things which God intended to be recorded in His word (John 21:25)? What or who would determine the things to be taught in these pages? God, through the Holy Spirit, guided and taught each what they needed to remember and record (John 14:26). Although they, like the prophets before them, were chosen to carry God’s word, they would write nothing that was open or subject to their, or our, private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20). As committed men of God, they would and did subject themselves to the very words they recorded (2 Peter 3:14-17).
Not Their Mission But His
These apostles and writers were not sent on their own mission but instead they were sent out by, and for, the Lord. They were not sent in their own strength and authority, but His. They were not to develop their own ideas about the church but rather, to carry out the plan of Christ, the plan He had given to them. Christ did not come to reveal His own will or to do His own works but rather, to carry out the will and works of His father (John 4:34). Likewise, the New Testament writers and apostles didn’t come to carry out their own plan but the plan of the one who sent them. Remember, Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, so send I you” (John 20:21).
As has previously been stated, the authority contained in the New Testament is in direct proportion to the integrity we assign its writers. If we believe these writers were influenced by their own human condition and the message they conveyed tainted by their opinion, mood or judgment, then we would be forced to discern which biblical texts were inspired by the Holy Spirit and which reflected the pollution of the writers own, well meaning imaginings. This would require a strong dose of Spirit inspired discernment on our part and we, because we yet abide in the flesh, would be at least as vulnerable to error, as the New Testament writers, even more because Christ did not appoint us this ministry.
It would indeed, be nothing short of a miracle if these writers were able to convey God’s divine message without error. Was there ever a God inspired miracle accomplished through man, that was less than perfect? Under the anointing of God, the apostles and their co-laborers were responsible for many mighty works, works beyond the scope and ability of men. The blind received sight, lepers were cleansed, the lame walked and the dead brought back to life. As Christians, we accept this, we even applaud the Lord for the mighty works He accomplished through these men. Why then, do we doubt their record? Do we think that God was not in as much control in this, as He was in other instances? By God’s healing, one man’s eyesight was restored, by His recorded word, the light of truth has been shed upon all men. Which do you think is the greater miracle? Do you think that the healing of one man’s body is greater, more important to almighty God than the eternal salvation of all who have come to believe through His recorded word? How did you, come to the knowledge of the truth if not through God's recorded message?
These writers were endowed by God with special power, power which allowed them to complete any mission assigned them by God. These apostles and prophets established the boundaries, traditions, customs, ordinances and doctrines of the church as Christ revealed it to them. These New Testament apostles had authority unique to their calling, a calling as peculiar to them as the mission of Christ was for Him. The church only needed one foundation to establish its limits, i.e. the boundaries of its form and they alone were it. The church stands on only one foundation and it has only one cornerstone. Together they share the burden of God’s entire spiritual house; Christ, His apostles and the prophets are the spiritual foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20). Those that build on it must be careful how they build (1 Corinthians 3:10-11). Those who build God’s house with physical materials which can be destroyed by fire do so, failing to realize that all such materials will, one day be destroyed (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). We are living stones, inhabited by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16) being built up into a spiritual house, not a house of gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay or stubble (cement) (1 Corinthians 3:12) but the spiritual house of God.
1 Peter 2:5
5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
While the apostolic commission extends to today’s missionaries the authority and ministry given to these first apostles, these first fruits of the church, was unparalleled and unduplicated in church history. They alone, were set aside by God and appointed to record God’s inspired written blueprint for His church. They spoke for Christ and carried His authority, just as Christ speaks for His father and carries His authority. Consider the authority of Paul when he told the church of Thessalonica to study to be quiet, do their own business and work with their hands as commanded by the apostles (1 Thessalonians 4:11). He reminds them that they knew the commandments that had been given by them in obedience to the Lord’s will (1 Thessalonians 4:2). Paul commands them to withdraw from any brother that doesn’t follow the traditions they taught ( 2 Thessalonians 3:6). In verse fourteen of this same chapter, Paul instructs this church to note any who fail to comply with his letter and not keep company with them. Some verses, reflective of their apostolic authority, may be found in 2 Thessalonians 3:4, 1 Corinthians 7:10, Acts 16:18 and many other texts.
Though Paul may be credited with recording approximately two thirds of the New Testament, we must not forget that he shared this responsibility with others like Peter and John and, like Paul, their authority is evidenced clearly in the biblical record. Peter demonstrated this by reminding the brethren to be mindful of the words given them by the prophets and commandments given the church by the apostles (2 Peter 3:2). He also commanded the newly converted gentiles who had received the gift of the Spirit, to be baptized (Acts 10:48). John, equipped with the same authority, announced that he was issuing a new commandment (1 John 2:8). The epistle of James speaks with more authority than any other epistle written. Space would not permit the listing of all the biblical evidence supporting the unique, unduplicated ministry given to these men. Through these men, God said what He meant and meant what He said. In conclusion, consider the following facts.
First, these men had been with Jesus from the beginning of His earthly ministry.
They heard His voice, and with their own eyes, saw His miracles. They physically touched the author of creation, the Lord Jesus Christ, with their own hands (1John 1:1).
They alone were hand-picked by God (John 17:6).
They alone had been privileged to observe both His private and public life.
They alone had been given the commission to establish His church (Matthew 16:18) with all its spiritual boundaries (Ephesians 2:20).
They were among those specially commissioned to record His written word under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26).
They alone were the first to be empowered to perform great miracles attesting to their delegated authority over sickness and sin (2 Corinthians 10:8, Mark 13:34, John 10:19-20).
They alone were granted license to forgive sin or cause it to remain unforgiven (John 20:23).
They alone were appointed to judge Israel (Matthew 19:28).
These twelve men alone have their names written on the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:14).
If we ever hope to grow into the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the son of God, unto a perfect (complete) man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, then we need to follow the entire apostolic record. Only by doing this, can we cease to be as children, tossed to and fro, carried about with every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:13-14). We must put to an end all doubt concerning apostolic authority. We must not excuse their words as personal opinion. We must not ignore their instructions by suggesting they only applied to a specific church, culture, sex or period in history (Colossians 4:16). If we are ever to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3), to speak the same thing without division and be completely joined together in the same mind and opinion (1 Corinthians 1:10), then we must trust the word given us by those chosen by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We’ll never be one body united in Christ until we accept the whole message He delivered to us through these precious, selfless messengers. Christ bestowed His authority on these hand-picked vessels. To deny any part of their written record is to deny the one who empowered them. If Christ trusted them, shouldn’t we?
Consider the price these writers paid to bring His word to us...If we discredit their words, we discredit their sacrifice and the one who appointed them and anointed them to flawlessly reveal His message.