“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.”
1 Corinthians 12:1
With God’s heart charged with a fiery zeal to rescue His sin-fallen creation, He sent Jesus Christ into this world. The cost was so great, His body a bloodied, agonizing sacrifice, that He might build His church, thus establishing His kingdom on the earth. One holy church comprised of the redeemed. One holy church replete with a divinely-called and gifted ministry to feed and govern her.
“Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” Eph. 4:8. Once captives of Satan, the redeemed now voluntarily become captives of Christ. And, to these happy love-slaves, He gives gifts, as in 1 Cor. 12 and Eph. 4:11.
The kingdom of God, as does any kingdom, requires government to properly function. The church (which is synonymous to the kingdom), with Christ as its head, is divinely built and divinely ruled–not by celestial angels, but by men and women divinely-called and divinely-gifted. These individuals have been given authority by God to govern the church.
2 Thess. 3:4, 6; Titus 1:5; Hebrews 13:17. Apostolic government in the early church is not questioned. Would it be normal for today? Should it be? Does Jesus still give the same gifts unto men or have they ceased? Are any sent in His name that have the same authority as did the ministers of the early church?
Were it not for almost two thousand years of apostasy and compromise in religion, the answer would be clear to all. But with the rise of two destructive beasts (Rev. 13:1, 11) –Popery and Protestantism– the nations have been made drunk on religious wine (Rev. 17:2). Consequently, what people are now calling “church” and “Christian” bears no semblance to the New Testament pattern. With dead religious formalism and the “reckless prophesying and tongue speaking of the Pentecostal movement,” it is not surprising that some now imagine that there has been a cessation of the gifts of the Spirit.
In the words of one cessationist: “It is neither the Spirit’s plan, nor His normal pattern to distribute miraculous spiritual gifts to Christians and churches today as He did in the times of the apostles. Those gifts ceased as normative with the apostles.”
Quite the sweeping statement! By what authority could one make such a claim? Where is but one scripture to sustain it? This conclusion can only be reached by having mainstream Christianity’s norm in view … and the gifts are not to be found there!
Were there Only 12 Apostles?
Many mistakenly believe that there were only 12 apostles in the early church and that after the death of the apostle John, the gifts ceased. But there were more than twelve in the early morning church. Here are but a few:
- Matthias was not ordained by Jesus, but was chosen by lot to be with the eleven after Judas’ transgression. He had been with them from the beginning and was witness of the resurrection–the criterion for the original twelve only.
- Paul was not of the twelve. He was converted and became an apostle a few years after the death of Jesus–obviously not witness to the resurrection.
- Barnabas (Acts 13:50; 14:4, 14)
- Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25) your messenger (GR 652 apostolos)
- Junia, a woman (Romans 16:7)
- James, the Lord’s brother (Gal. 1:18-19)
The fact that there were false apostles at the time of the early church (2 Cor. 11:13, Rev. 2:2) did not negate the office, nor does it today.
Have Apostles and Prophets Ceased?
1 Corinthians 12:28 states that God “set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets,” and so on. Ephesians 4:11 states that the following gifts have been given unto men: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” This was written around AD 64. Do any doubt there are still gifts of pastors, evangelists, teachers? I do not hear of any issue there. Perhaps pastors and teachers seem tamer to today’s sectarian than authoritative apostles and prophets. If one claims there are apostles and prophets in this time, they are labelled a cult!
Nowhere in scripture do I see the cessation of apostles or prophets. If so, such a “giftless” people will not be perfected, or brought to the unity of the faith, and will remain as children, tossed to and fro, carried about by every wind of doctrine, according to Ephesians 4:11-16.
The infallible Word of God also reveals that there are apostles and prophets in this end of time. We see the exhortation in Revelation 18:20 for them to rejoice at the fall of Babylon. But, being without the help of apostles and prophets, most do not understand these prophecies.
Is There Warrant for Apostles Today?
“The apostles were uniquely appointed for the early days of the church to establish orthodox doctrine. There is no warrant, then, for saying there are still apostles today.”
Interesting reasoning. Yes, God enabled the early apostles to establish doctrine. Thank God for the inspired Word!
Did they not also set things in order, give direction and commands to the various congregations, and spread the gospel to the nations? How strange to assume this a temporary calling, unique to the early church.
No warrant for apostles today? My friend! Today’s lack of Christian unity, the confusion of multiplied “churches” having multiplied doctrines, and a prevalance of spiritual deadness and worldliness is proof that God-appointed apostles and prophets are needed now!
Sectism, with its religious seminaries compound the problem. 1. By creating more winds of doctrine. 2. By sending out men and women who have no divine call!
Who can help the people maneuver out of the quagmire of false religion? Who can rightly divide the Word of God for a deceived and confused generation? Who can discern the times NOW?
Peter and Paul didn’t deal with technology, television, the internet, extreme transgender confusion, and much else attendant with our age. Is there not need of an authoritative “thus saith the Lord” now?
What company is without its management? Are the people to read a business manual from long ago and presume things will run smoothly without current upper management to properly apply what is written and ensure its fulfillment?
“Indeed, if anyone claims to be an apostle today we should be concerned, for such a claim opens the door to false teaching and to abuse of authority. If the gift of apostleship has ended, then other gifts may have ceased as well, since the foundation has been laid by the apostles and prophets.” An apostle today opens the door to false teaching and abuse of authority?
Quite the assumption! This world has been flooded with false doctrine for a long time. Maybe we should throw out pastors and evangelists, too. Perhaps they opened a door to false teaching and abuse.
“Our Christian faith rests on historical, objective revelation. That rules out all inspired prophecies, seers, and other forms of new revelation until God speaks again at the return of Christ.”
How dismal! We can’t expect to have God reveal anything till His return? Has He no word for this troubled time; no insights to instruct His people? Satan’s wrath is currently unleashed on the church more than any other time in history, and He is to be silent? And how can we understand the battle without apostles and prophets to unravel the prophecies specific to our day?
The early apostles were equipped by God and entrusted with His work. Let us not imbibe the spirit of unbelief that He cannot do the same today.
A Restoration Prophesied
With the world overrun with powerless religion, and many looking on in disgust, God’s own honour is at stake! That is not the church that Jesus built! He is not the authour of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33).
Isaiah 1:26 declares that God “will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city.” And, according to 1 Cor. 12, that will mean “first apostles.”
God needs men now, just as He needed a John the Baptist and a Peter to be His authoritative voice on the earth. There must be Holy Ghost LEADERSHIP.
The world is presently groaning for such leadership! And, good news to all in this end time! As prophesied in Revelation, God has raised up a people through whom He has chosen to work, replete with apostles and prophets. With the operation of these gifts, He has gathered together a holy people who are rejoicing in His presence. This He has done for His own name’s sake. And this He has done in great mercy to mankind, to prepare a people for His soon-coming.
People acknowledge the biblical fruit of this people, yet some denounce the apostleship. I marvel that this is even a point of contention. It is biblical. Yet, some prefer to continue with their spiritual deadness and unanointed preachers than to accept an apostle with God-given authority and fruit for his labours.
When John the Baptist, the apostles, and the Messiah Himself stepped into the religious status-quo of their time, they were hated, especially by the Jewish leaders. Being of the same spirit, many religious leaders today follow this same pattern, not wanting to submit to divine authority. But God gives authority to His servants and expects it to be used in love and obeyed – for the furtherance of the gospel and for His glory! Amen!