The twelve apostles and Paul uniquely represent Jesus Christ because he uniquely appointed them and uniquely sent them as his personal representatives, his direct personal representatives with authority to speak on his behalf. Thank you for joining us on the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. And today, Don continues in his ministry of teaching God's people God's Word.
Hello again, I'm Bill Wright. Today our teacher concludes a message titled, The Finality of the Apostles. We're moving further into our series, The Holy Spirit Today. Last time, Don reviewed the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and the church as a whole. He also began a look at why the finality of the apostles is such an important tenet of our faith.
On today's broadcast, Don will offer his concluding thoughts on the subject. So friend, have your Bible handy as we join our teacher now in the Truth Pulpit. We're pulling together different strands of biblical thought in order to make this one great point about the finality of the apostles. Paul speaks in verse 19 and says, So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and are of God's household.
Jews and Gentiles alike, he says, you all belong to this single household of God. Verse 20, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone. What is the nature, I ask you, beloved, what is the nature of a foundation of a building?
You pour it once and then you build on top of it. You don't keep building new foundations for the same building. You build on the one single foundation. It is fixed, it is final, and everything is built on top of that.
A building only has one foundation. It is final, it is unique, and the ministry of the apostles is compared to a foundation upon which everything else rests. Now, the Apostle Paul asserts this idea of finality in a different way. Go back to 1 Corinthians chapter 15. 1 Corinthians chapter 15. As Paul is talking about the appearances of Christ after his resurrection.
The appearances of Christ after his resurrection. And he says in verse 5, speaking of Christ, he says that Christ appeared to Cephas, that is, Peter, and then to the twelve as a group. After that he appeared to more than 500 brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep, meaning that they were alive at the time that Paul was writing to the Corinthian church here. Then, verse 7, he appeared to James, then to all the apostles as he made different appearances at different times.
And then he says this, and this is the point here for verse 8, and last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared to me also. He says Jesus appeared to me last of all. On the road to Damascus, you saw Christ appearing to Paul, and Paul says I was the last one that he appeared to in this way.
I was the last one to see him in his resurrected body. I was the final one. Paul was final. There are no more. And so if Paul was not the last one, if there was the idea that there were going to be continuing visions of Christ in his resurrected form that would form the basis of future apostleships, he never could have said that he was the last. The reason that he was last was because the apostles are final. Their office is over.
There are no more. As you go to the end of the book of Revelation, you find this emphasized as well, the simple mathematics of it. In Revelation chapter 21, verse 14, as the apostle John is given a vision of the future New Jerusalem, in chapter 21, verse 10, he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.
Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal clear jasper. It had a great and high wall with 12 gates, and at the gates, 12 angels, and names were written on them, which are the names of the 12 tribes of the son of Israel. Verse 13, three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, three gates on the west.
Here we go in verse 14. You see the emphasis on numbers here? You know, if you're going to read Scripture at all with any kind of sense of grammatical historical interpretation, numbers mean something.
Three means three, and 12 means 12. Verse 14, and the wall of the city had 12 foundation stones, and on them were the 12 names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb. A foundation made of 12 stones, one foundation, 12 stones to the earth.
What was on the stones of those foundation stones? 12 names, one each, corresponding to the 12 apostles of the Lamb. There's not room for other apostles. The apostolic office is over, and you see this emphasized also in a different way. Turn to the next chapter, Revelation 22, verse 18. At the end of the apostolic era, Revelation was final.
It was fixed. There would be no more, neither to public so-called apostles or to people in private revelations. In Revelation 22, verse 18, I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book, if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book. We don't add to the completed revelation. Verse 19, if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, you don't remove from them either, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city which are written in this book.
Beloved, hear me carefully, hear me carefully in what I'm about to say. I think this helps summarize and crystallize everything that we are trying to say. Instead of apostolic men in the church today, we have apostolic writings. Rather than the men themselves, we have the writings which they produced, which they authorized, which they affirmed in their circle. We have the New Testament, and it is a complete and final revelation of Christ. Look over at Hebrews chapter 1 as you see another element of this sense of finality being laid out for us. Hebrews chapter 1, you see this summarized. Hebrews chapter 1, picking up, summarizing our message from last week, God, after he spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways.
Many prophets, many spokesmen of God over the course of the prophetic Old Testament. And God communicated in many different ways, something has changed now. Verse 2, in these last days has spoken to us in his son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the world.
There's a finality to it. He has spoken in his son, he has spoken in the word. The word of God incarnate revealed in the word of God written. Verse 3, he is the radiance of his glory, the exact representation of his nature, upholds all things by the word of his power. When he had made purifications of sins, he sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high. He sat down because things were finished, his work was over, redemption had been accomplished.
And now with the completed canon, the word which bears witness to that finished work is also finished and accomplished. Now, instead of apostolic men, I said, we have apostolic writings. In 2 Timothy 3, I know we go here a lot, I don't apologize for that. 2 Timothy chapter 3 verse 15. 2 Timothy chapter 3 verse 15. Paul tells Timothy that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
We do not need any more revelation because we already have in scripture that which is sufficient to prepare us for everything in life, that is sufficient for everything that is necessary to believe savingly in Christ and to obey Him acceptably when we have come to Him by faith. Scripture is sufficient. I did a message, Sola Scriptura, you can look for that which explains this doctrine in greater detail. Scripture is sufficient. God's Word is perfect, Psalm 19 says.
Psalm 19 7, the law of the Lord is perfect. You see here in 2 Timothy, the Word equips you for every good work. Beloved, the implication of that is that there cannot be anything added to it or new revelation would deny everything that written revelation of God says. If we needed new revelation, then the written scriptures would not be adequate.
They would not equip us for every good work. Eventually, this lust for new revelation inevitably leads men, if they follow their thinking all the way through to its logical conclusion, it leads to a denial of the sufficiency of scripture. It leads to an opening up of a spiritual free-for-all where anybody can claim that God has spoken to him and we just start to become competing vessels of God's so-called revelation and you are cast adrift in sea not knowing who or what to believe. What God has given us instead is a final written Word that can be studied, that can be absorbed, that is unchanging, that is not dependent upon the men of today for its authority. It's final and it's final because the finality of the apostles and the biblical doctrine of sola scriptura means that there will be no further revelation from God. Now, let me just summarize this. I'm not done in what I'm saying here today.
I'm just laying forth one key plank of principle for us to rest upon. Beloved, the apostles, when we think about the apostles, we think about them like this. The men, Peter, John, Andrew, Paul, the men are gone. They're not on earth anymore. The qualifications that gave them right to speak on behalf of Christ are gone. They cannot be recreated.
Their office is therefore gone. The signs that verified the men are gone because they took them with them on their way out. And what that means for us today is we do not look for signs and wonders. We view them with suspicion. We view them with a recognition that in this age they are vehicles of deception for us. But look at Matthew chapter 7.
I need to make this point right now and introduce it and I'll come back to it in the future. In Matthew chapter 7, oh, I can't tell you how this frightens me for the hundreds of millions of people that are being led by the charismatic movement today and resting their hope and their sense of some kind of relationship with God on the signs and wonders that are going on around them. Jesus Christ spoke against that, not in favor of it. When he said in Matthew chapter 7 verse 21, and I know, I understand, they're all doing it in the name of Christ.
I get that. That doesn't make it true. Don't take my word for it. Take the word of Jesus for it. Verse 21, not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father who is in heaven will enter. And then he goes on and says in verse 22, many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name cast out demons and in your name perform many miracles. Isn't that the testimony of today's charismatic church, that that's what they do? This is what they boast in. We prophesy.
We do miracles. There are groups that you can look up on the internet who say they're raising the dead. I'd like to take them to the Green Family Cemetery.
I have relatives I'd like to meet. It's a waste of time. They can't raise them. The point for today is what does the Lord say to those who are relying on that as their verification of the fact that they were truly in his kingdom? Verse 23, frightening in this context. Jesus says, I will declare to them I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.
Well then what are we to build on then? Verse 24, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. Where do we find the words of Christ? We find them in the revealed Word of God, the 66 books of the Bible. Where do we find where Jesus has truly spoken?
Where do we read in an authoritative way about his life, death, and resurrection? Where is that interpreted for us in a way that is infallible and inerrant? It's in the written Word. Jesus says, look at the prophecy, the miracles, and I tell you, I warn you, I warn you that many, many people like that will be sent away on the day of judgment, shocked, astonished, stunned that they're not in the kingdom. And after giving that very clear and specific warning, Jesus says, everyone who acts on these words of mine is the wise man, building on the true rock, the true foundation that the storms of Satan himself cannot blow over. Beloved, we say these things not to be divisive. We say these things for the sake of Christ and for the sake of your eternal souls. We must take Jesus seriously. We must not be intimidated or awed by the fact that this is what everybody seems to be doing.
What everybody is doing is not a reliable indicator of what is true. Look at what Jesus said in Matthew 7, up a little higher in verse 13. Jesus said, enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction and there are many who enter through it. The gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life and there are few who find it.
And then what does he go on? And he warns against false prophets, people who are claiming to speak for God who actually don't. He says, the way is narrow, pay attention, give heed, examine things carefully. And he goes on and talks about false prophets who are wolves in sheep's clothing and he flows right into a warning to those who would rely on prophecies and miracles and says, I'm going to tell them I never knew you. Beloved, you and I in this room would be wise to pay heed to the clear unmistakable words of Jesus.
Hundreds of millions of people following things of their own inventions, of their own minds or those of their leaders would be wise to pay heed to the words of Jesus and to re-examine their whole philosophy of how do I know what I know and come back to the written Word of God. Now, just in passing here, some will question what I've said about the finality of the apostles with a very legitimate biblical observation that is fair and does deserve to be touched on ever so briefly here. As you read the Scriptures, you will find that the word apostle is used occasionally to describe others beside the twelve apostles of Christ. Epaphroditus in Philippians 2.25 in the original text is referred to as an apostle. Barnabas is referred to as an apostle in Acts 13 and 14. There are some who think that a couple of people named Adronochus and Junius in Romans 16.7 are also called apostles, although it's disputed as to whether that's Paul intended to apply the term to them in that particular location.
Let me address that for a moment because I know we kind of need to close the back door on it. The word apostle, the English word apostle, comes from the Greek verb apostelo, apostelo. Apostelo means to send. The key to understanding this issue is understanding who sent the apostle, and we examine the context to determine that. The twelve apostles and Paul uniquely represent Jesus Christ because he uniquely appointed them and uniquely sent them as his personal representatives, his direct personal representatives with authority to speak on his behalf. If you read the context of these other lesser biblical figures, you'll find that the one who sent them was a local church. They were sent out by a group of believers. They were sent out, yes, but they were sent out by a different authority for a more limited purpose, and the word apostle can be used to describe the big A apostles, the twelve. It can also be applied to these other figures without indicating that they held equal authority in the foundation of the church that the twelve and Paul did.
To be sent out by a local church as an apostle, small a, is different from being an apostle of Jesus Christ. Let me give you an illustration that will clench this for you. Think about our English word president, okay? Think about our word president. You understand implicitly that we use the word president in different ways that are not the same at all. We talk about the president of a high school class, a president of the Rotary Club, presidents by which we designate that they are the leader of an organization.
We get that. We use the term, and that is a right and proper use of the term president, but beloved, don't you understand? You know implicitly that when we say the president with a big P, so to speak, we realize that there is a unique exclusive group of men to whom the word president can be used as the one who is the president of the United States. Beloved, you aren't confused about the United States presidential office because president also describes men in lesser roles in other contexts, are you?
You understand that completely. It is the same way with apostle. Whatever general use the term may have had applied to secondary biblical characters, it's not the same because as you look at Jesus saying in Matthew 19, you'll sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 apostles. You go to Revelation and you see 12 thrones for 12 apostles.
It's not an open season. Arithmetic tells you that it is limited. The big A apostles had unique final qualifications and their finality marked the end of Revelation. Claims to new revelation are to be rejected out of hand because the New Testament which we received from the apostles and their associates fulfills the absolute rule of authority today in the church that the apostles did while they were living in the early church. The apostles are final. The revelation through them is over and we now have a different gift from God which we thank him for in the 66 books of the Bible.
Now I understand that leaves a question begging to be asked. So what do we make of the modern practice of sign gifts? What do we make of tongues and prophecies and the claims to miracles today?
God you're going to have to come back and I hope you'll be with us. And so Pastor Don Green has reaffirmed biblically that the apostles Jesus chose during his ministry here on earth were unique. Anyone claiming today to be one is not to be believed.
It's as simple as that. Don will bring us more of the series The Holy Spirit today next time here on The Truth Pulpit and we hope you'll join us then. But Don as we move into a discussion of specific signs like healing, are such signs today really no longer present?
Well Bill that's certainly a volatile question in today's spiritual environment isn't it? You know my friends I hope you'll be able to join us on our next broadcast on The Truth Pulpit as we go into these matters and examine claims to healings, tongues, and prophecy. It's so important for you to understand these things biblically and to know what's real and what's true and how you determine what is true.
We look for different ways to identify the man of God not in signs and wonders today but according to faithfulness and fidelity to scripture. That's what's going to be ahead as we continue this series on our next broadcast on The Truth Pulpit. Thanks Don and friend don't forget to visit TheTruthPulpit.com where you can learn more about podcasts and free CDs of Don's teaching. Again that's TheTruthPulpit.com. I'm Bill Wright inviting you back next time as Don Green continues teaching God's people God's Word here on The Truth Pulpit.
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