In our previous article, we talked about the Apostles: who they are, how we identify them, and why it is so important for us as the Church of God to have them. The Early Church’s succession of the Apostles was a pattern that today’s Church has lost, yet needs to be restored as stated in the Book of Malachi:
“And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:6
Every natural thing gives us a picture of a spiritual concept. Take childbirth for example: when a child is born, that child needs to be nurtured by his/her parents because they are incapable of taking care of themselves. In the same way, the Church needs fathers and mothers of the faith (considered to be the Apostles and Prophets) to nurture the babes in Christ to a place of maturity. We need the fathers i.e. those who are mature in the faith, who know how to raise a baby into a son, and a son into a father; without them, we wouldn’t have an example to follow (ref 1 Co 11:1-2).
What are we obtaining? Why are we following the footsteps of the traditions of our Early Church Fathers?
To fulfill the command Yeshua instructed, “be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect” (ref Mat 5:48). As we covered in part 1 of this series, perfect also means to be mature, and the state of perfection is achieved only through the knowledge of God (ref Col 3:10). However, before we can fulfill this, we need to understand why this is asked of (us) the Church.
If we look at the Law of Moses, we see that it was asked of God’s people to offer up sacrifices to the Lord to atone for the sins of the people. These sacrifices could not be just any sacrifice; God had specific requirements for the sacrifices that were to be offered up to Him (ref Lev 15). No matter what type of sacrifice (lamb, ram, ox, etc), God asked that it be brought without spot, wrinkle, or blemish. It was the job of the Priest to examine the sacrifice to make sure it was without blemish. In the Book of Malachi the Church was rebuked by the Lord because they were offering up blemished sacrifices to the Lord.
So, what does this have to do with us?
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)
The Greek word for “beseech,” used here speaks of teaching and instruction according to the Thayer Bible Dictionary. Meaning Paul, as a father in the faith, was giving instructions on how we are to present ourselves as holy and acceptable to the Lord.
What was considered an acceptable sacrifice in the Old Testament?
The sacrifice that had no spot or blemish on it was acceptable, just as Jesus was our perfect lamb sacrifice (ref 1 Pe 1:19); He was our example of the expectation God has of us. Even with Jesus, we still have work to do as believers, as James said our faith without works is dead (James 2: 14-26). We are expected to present ourselves as a sacrifice and die to our own fleshly nature (ref Gal 3:3), so that we (yourself and the Church) would be found holy and acceptable to the Father. This is depicted by Apostle Paul in the Book of Ephesians and again in his letters the the Church of Corinth.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5: 25-27)
“For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” ( 2 Corinthians 11:2)
This is one of the reasons why the Early Church believed that without the Apostles there could be no Church because without a Priest, you can’t offer a sacrifice. Paul showed the attributes of a father because he was able to wash people of their sins (ignorance) through the “washing of the word” (ref Eph 5:26). We can see that the key to perfection, maturity, holiness and blamelessness is found in the Word of God, which only a true Apostle can unlock.
There are roughly 45,000 Christian denominations, all teaching something different regarding the Word. This was nothing new at the time of Paul as he addressed it in the Book of Galatians:
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” (Gal 1:6-10)
Paul is saying that we can be releasing a different Gospel, thus perverting the Gospel of Christ through different interpretations. If Jesus is the Word of God, as Scripture tells us (John 1:14), and we have denominations teaching different Words, then that must mean there are multiple Jesus’s. If that is the case, we could be worshiping the wrong (Word) Jesus. We see many Churches preaching the name of Jesus without understanding the Hebrew concept that names speak of character and function. If we preach the name of Jesus, we should be preaching His character, which is Truth, and there should be no deviation from that. This is why Apostles are needed in the Church.
The Apostles became the High Priests to the New Testament Church. In the Book of Revelation it says there will be some that call themselves Apostles and are not, but that we should know the difference between the true and the false (ref Rev 2:2). The role of a true Apostle is to teach the mysteries of Scripture. Jesus, our High Priest, taught things the people of His day didn’t know how to comprehend (ref Heb 9:11; John 6:60). Jesus (Yeshua) was always speaking in a symbolic or a parabolic language, which He said contained the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (ref Matt 13:34). He taught by comparing natural things that we can see and touch, in order for us to understand spiritual things. The parables/mysteries have been given for us (those who press in to understand it) to know (ref Mat 13:10-11).
Apostle Paul understood the mysteries to which he wrote:
“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.” (Ephesians 3:1-7)
He was given knowledge in the mystery of Christ through the process of revelation, which the people at the time of Jesus could not see or comprehend (Mat 13:13). As we read above in Ephesians, the process of seeing the depth of Scripture is revealed by the Spirit of God and given to Apostles and Prophets. A teacher, preacher or evangelist does not have the ability to teach us the mysteries of the kingdom. If we are not learning the mysteries, then our mind can not be renewed by the knowledge of God (ref Col 3:10).
Being a teacher, preacher or evangelist is not a bad thing, but we don’t want to stay there as we are called to go higher in our relationship with Christ. When there are true Apostles as the head of the Church, they can show us how to dig through the Word and learn the mysteries of God, and our old natures will be transformed, so we become the Bride without spot, wrinkle or blemish.