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The Finality of the Apostles #2

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green
The Truth Network Radio
March 15, 2024 12:00 am

The Finality of the Apostles #2

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green

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March 15, 2024 12:00 am

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Welcome to the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, Founding Pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Hello again, I'm Bill Wright. It is our joy to continue our commitment to teaching God's people God's Word. Today Don is continuing with the second part of a message we started last time.

So let's get right to it. Open your Bible as we join Don now in the Truth Pulpit. Now, with that said, as we talk about the finality of the apostles, look at what Paul says. Christ was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. In other words, what Paul is saying right there is that as he was writing this letter in the first century to the church of Corinth, there were living witnesses to the resurrection of Christ. Christ had ascended to heaven some twenty, thirty years prior to this time. There were witnesses who saw Christ while he was on earth, and they were still alive at the writing of the apostle, having been eyewitnesses to what had occurred and having seen Christ. Now look at what he says. Verse seven, then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

Watch this. Verse eight, last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. Jesus appeared to Paul, last of all. There weren't going to be any more resurrection appearances. There weren't going to be any more witnesses to the resurrected Christ until he comes again. This era of eyewitnesses to Christ is over as shown by the fact that Paul says he appeared to me last of all.

Paul was the final one. No more to come. And the cumulative weight, beloved, of all of this testimony, it's the cumulative weight that you need to see and let bear deeply on your mind. The qualifications of the apostles, eyewitness to the resurrection, chosen personally by Christ, accompanied by signs and wonders. Twelve apostles for twelve thrones.

They believe through their word, one foundation. Paul, last of all, it all, beloved, it all, like a great tsunami, it all washes onto the same shore bearing the same message of finality. Look over at Revelation, the book of Revelation 21. Revelation 21, as if it were not enough that Christ said it in the gospels, and then it's said in the middle of the apostolic era by the apostle Paul, we come to the end of the age.

We come to the conclusion of scripture in the last book of the Bible. And what do we see as it speaks about the new Jerusalem? Verse 14. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Twelve, twelve, twelve.

Three times it says it there. Twelve apostles of Christ. There's not room for others. You know, if we can engage in some serious foolishness here, those claiming to be modern day apostles, the quorum of twelve apostles in the Mormon church, so-called church in the Mormon organization, beloved, imagine them showing up, not that they'll be there, but imagine them showing up at those gates looking for theirs.

It's not there. They don't have a gate there. It's twelve gates for the twelve apostles. There's not room for any others.

Arithmetic excludes it. That's why I say if you can count to twelve, you can understand the close of new Revelation. And then at the end of the apostolic era, you read this in Revelation 22 verses 18 and 19, practically the last words in the Bible.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth. There's a whole swath of Revelation, 1,189 chapters of it. And then it ends on this note. This book of Revelation, which summarizes and concludes all of Revelation, that as it were, prophetically brings time to an end. There's nothing to add in content, because everything has already been covered in everything that proceeds in the 66 and no more books of the Bible. It ends on this warning, another reason why I would never want to be a false teacher, and I would never want to claim I had new Revelation from God. Scripture warns the Apostle John, the last living apostle, when he wrote this, putting the finishing touches on God's revelation to mankind for all of history, says, I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book, if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city which are described in this book. It's not simply talking about the 22 chapters of the book of Revelation. When you read, and we'll do this eventually, as we study through the book of Revelation, you'll find that all of Old Testament revelation is woven through the book of Revelation. It presupposes everything about the Old Testament when you study Revelation for what it says.

It is a word of Jesus Christ to the seven churches, and it therefore encompasses the New Testament era. It's more than just talking about the book of Revelation per se. This is the closing words to the entire canon. Don't touch it, is what God says.

There will be a particular and severe kind of punishment reserved to those who try to add to Scripture or who try to take away from it. That's the closing message of the Bible. There's no more revelation, beloved. The apostles and their ministry and their writings are final.

It's over. And it's not for anyone to try to pry open the door and to insert themselves into that office. It's treachery to Christ. It's a violation of the warnings of Scripture.

And as we've seen tonight, it violates basic arithmetic. Twelve means twelve. And so, on the front end, as I said, true apostles are limited by the qualifications to get into the office. Those qualifications ended with the ascension of Christ. On the back end, they're limited by the number twelve and all of these lines of consideration that we've seen here this evening.

I'll say it one final time here. There is no room whatsoever for modern apostolic men, no matter how they may clothe the terminology, whether it's apostolic succession, a new apostolic reformation. You know, some guy wandering about on his own claiming to be an apostle, divinely anointed, divinely appointed. Beloved, those who claim an apostolic office today are false by definition.

They are false by definition. Now, thus we respect the finality in the office and the work of the apostles. Now, you read on this issue, you do some study of the technical term apostle. Some might question that with what is a legitimate biblical observation on the surface. Superficially, it might throw you off because in the Bible, the general word apostle is sometimes used to describe others beside the twelve. Epaphroditus in Philippians 2, Barnabas in the book of Acts would be examples of that, where the word apostle is used for them. There are a couple of men mentioned in Romans 16 verse 7 that perhaps are called apostles. That's a disputed point of interpretation.

What about that, you say? Doesn't that undermine everything that you've just said? Could the biblical writers, pastor, not count to twelve?

Well, look, this is easily understood. The word apostle means one who is sent. And in the case of these lesser figures who were not part of the twelve, Epaphroditus, Barnabas, these were apostles who were sent out by a local church with a responsibility to fulfill a particular duty that they had. That is different from being an apostle of Jesus Christ, one appointed by Christ to this revelatory office accompanied by signs and wonders. There's an apostle of Jesus Christ, and then the word is used in a lesser term, occasionally to describe men who were sent out by a local church, not by Christ himself, but by a local church to do something on behalf of the church. They were sent, but in a different way.

Let me give you an illustration that I've used before that makes this very clear, obvious, and accessible. Beloved, think about the way in our American culture that we use the word president. You understand, just in the course of ordinary language and communication, that the word president can be used in a lot of different ways to describe, for example, the president of the high school senior class. The president of the Rotary Club. The president of a college.

And it's used in that sense to refer to somebody who has, you know, a position in a lesser group like that. You also understand, without any difficulty whatsoever, that when we talk about big P president, when we talk about the president in the context of American history, we are referring to a select limited group of 45 men who have served in the highest office of the United States of America. And the fact that the word is used to describe the president of a high school class elected by his peers does nothing to confuse you whatsoever about what president means in the United States. And you don't think that there are hundreds and thousands of presidents simply because the word is used in a different context to describe a different office.

You're not confused about that at all. It's the same way with the term apostle. Whatever general use the term may have with regard to secondary biblical characters, it's obviously not being used in the same way. The big A apostles had unique final qualifications, which they fulfilled and for which 12 thrones await them in the coming kingdom.

This isn't difficult. That's a red herring, comparing apples with oranges in order to confuse the situation. Nothing about the use of the word apostle in those secondary ways does anything to legitimize the false claims to apostleship being thrown around so easily today. So the apostles, that time has passed.

What do we do today? It brings us to our second point, spiritual leadership today. Here's a simple principle, beloved. It takes a lot of work, a lot of study, a lot of patience to get to where we have now arrived.

But it's worth getting there. It allows us to make this very simple statement. What about spiritual leadership today? What about authority today? Where do we find authority? Where do we find the authority of God expressed today? The final authority of God where God speaks and commands us what we are to believe and what we are to do.

Well, it's very simple. Instead of apostolic men, we have apostolic writings. Instead of men, we have the written Word of God. Look over at a text we go to often, 2 Timothy chapter 3. 2 Timothy chapter 3. Paul is writing at the end of his life here. This is his swan song to the church. And when he writes to Timothy, he does not say, Timothy, now that I am departing, you are the new apostle.

You're the new chief. He doesn't do that. Instead, he points Timothy to the written Word. He says in verse 14, as for you, in contrast to the false teachers in the prior 13 verses of the chapter, he says, as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. In verse 15, you see that Scripture is sufficient for the spiritual goal of conversion. Scriptures can make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Scripture is enough. You don't need anything more. We don't have to look for things that have cropped up since the first century or root around in obscure writings to find out what is necessary for salvation.

God made it plain and clear in Scripture, so pay attention to that. In the next two verses, 16 and 17, you see that it's sufficient for sanctification, for Christian growth, for teaching the church, for reproving the church, correcting it, for training the church in righteousness. It's all sufficient. It's all there. Everything we need is there as shown by what it says in verse 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Everything that is necessary for you to live a godly life in Christ is laid out for you in the pages of Scripture. You don't need new revelation. We may. We do. We need people to teach and to help us understand what is contained in the revelation. Thus, God appointed teachers for the church.

But in terms of what the final authority is, where the last word is to be found, it is found in the pages of Scripture. We don't add to that. We teach it. That's a huge distinction.

And how important is it? There's no chapter break in the original writing. In light of the sufficiency of Scripture for conversion and for sanctification, Paul says, Timothy, I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead and by his appearing and his kingdom. He places, as it were, he places Timothy under an oath, under a divine obligation for which he would be held eternally accountable. Timothy, preach the word. Don't make up new stuff.

Don't add to it. Preach what is there in season and out of season, whether people want to hear it or whether they don't. Preach the word. Reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching.

And look at what he says. It's a direct warning on everything that we've been talking about over these past few weeks, beloved. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. Beloved, that's what happens when you abandon the finality and the sufficiency of Scripture. You wander off into false teaching, demonically inspired teaching. When people are not satisfied with straightforward Bible teaching, they set it aside and they go for other things that are more to what they liked and want to hear. Paul says, Timothy, don't you go that route.

You have to know, you have to be convinced of the sufficiency, the finality of Scripture, Timothy, and you teach what has been given. Don't try to add to it. Don't try to take away from it. Revelation 22. Don't do that, Timothy.

Just teach what has been given. Be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry, verse 5. Scripture is sufficient.

Here's why that's important. The finality of the apostles, the sufficiency of Scripture, means there will be no further revelation from God. You don't need to worry one bit whatsoever any time when you hear somebody say, I've got a new word from God. I saw a vision. I saw Jesus at the end of my bed, and he had this to say.

He can walk away from that. You don't have to worry about missing something that's truly from God, because God has spoken and he's made it plain that he's spoken with finality. So the apostolic men are gone, the apostolic qualifications are gone, the office is gone, the signs that verify the men, they're gone. We don't recognize. We do not accept. We do not tolerate.

We reject out of hand any claim of private revelation to individuals. That's because we have studied the Word of God and we respect what Christ has established, the finality of the office and the work of the apostles. The apostles, the apostolic era marked the end of revelation. God has said all that he has to say, and it's enough. If there was need for more, beloved, if something that was vital that was missing, if there were things that we needed to do to earn, to keep our salvation, that were not found in the Bible, then Scripture was never sufficient, right?

You understand that. This is absolutely the most fundamental issue that you could grasp if you want to grow in Christ and you want to be protected against false doctrine. If there really was, contrary to fact statement here, if there really was something else you needed to do, something else that had to be given to us in order to round out Scripture, then the Bible is not complete. We can't be equipped for every good work if we're missing something.

Not only that, think about it this way. If things that were added that people have tried to add in subsequent generations as being necessary for salvation, as being necessary for Christian growth and completion and sanctification, if that was necessary, then the apostles and Christ left behind a church that did not have what it needed. And they abandoned the first century church without the essentials that they actually needed. I ask you, I ask you, beloved, does that sound like the Christ who loves the church and wanted to make sure that everything was needed to accomplish their redemption, that he would leave them without anything that was necessary? Is that the love of Christ that we know, that he just abandoned them? No.

No. When you work this all the way through, you see that to try to add to the Scriptures and say other things are necessary, new words from God are needed, is to plunge a dagger into the love of Christ for his people. He didn't leave us, he didn't leave them without what they needed. Out on the thought, it's an accusation against Christ to say that he would do such a thing. The truth of Scripture is like a seamless garment.

You can't rip out parts of it without ruining the whole. If there was a need for more, Scripture was never sufficient, and the Word of God is contradicted on its face. But Scripture is sufficient, and the Word of God is not contradicted on its face.

The Word of God is sufficient, and we thank God for what he's given to us. Now thirdly, finally, spiritual discernment today. How does this help us discern truth today? I've been alluding to this throughout the whole time. Beloved, the role of the apostles, and the finality of the apostles means the revealed body of truth is fixed.

It is not shifting, it is not added to, it's fixed, it's final. As one writer said, the New Testament, which we received from the apostles and their associates, fulfills the role of authority that the apostles did in the early church, end quote. The written Word now fulfills for all time until the return of Christ. The apostolic writings fulfill the role that the apostolic men filled in the first century. Authority to command belief and to compel a conscience ends there, ends with the Scripture.

Martin Lloyd-Jones said, the church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. We must therefore reject every supposed new revelation, every addition to doctrine. We must assert that all teaching and all doctrine must be tested in the light of the Scriptures, end quote. Scripture is the final standard, and everything is judged by that. There is no parallel writings, no parallel teaching that is added to which Scripture is subjected, that is parallel alongside of Scripture.

That's not true. And so just very briefly here, I want to give you some implications of true apostolic authority. And I'm going to teach on... There's still a little bit more to say about how to know the Bible is true, which we'll deal with over the next couple of weeks, but this is kind of it for the teaching on the apostles. Number one, religions that reject the New Testament are not from God. The man who denies that the New Testament is God-given authority, God-breathed truth, any religion that questions that, undermines that, rejects that, it's not from God. You can avoid those men. You can reject them and not worry about missing something that you need to know.

Secondly, there's kind of a progression here in the way that we do it, starting from the outside and working in. Number two, men who claim equal authority to the apostles or that claim to receive new revelation, those men are not from God. Catholics, Mormons, Charismatics in one way or another claim revelatory authority when they cannot possibly meet apostolic qualifications. We have to assert and defend this ground.

Those claims are false. Reject them. Flee from them. Don't entertain them, because when you start to traffic in things that claim to be authority beyond the 66 and no more books of the Bible, beloved, you have entered into the realm of the demonic. You have entered into satanic philosophies, which can only disrupt your mind and your life and your assurance. And to leave behind the New Testament and the Scriptures in a final way to follow after those other things are a sign of apostasy. And read Hebrews 6 and Hebrews 10 to get a sense of what God says of those who have tasted the truth of Scripture but abandoned it to go someplace else. It's frightening.

It's terrifying. It's designed to draw us and drive us back again and again to the Word of God to which we must pay much closer attention. Thirdly, going back to some things I said when I first got back from my study leave, those men who say that truth is relative, there's no final truth, or that say that the Bible is too unclear to be understood, that we can't know the basic teaching of Scripture.

Men who say that, they're not from God. Listen, beloved, Jesus did not give authority to the apostles. We're not saying that there aren't things that are hard to understand. There are things in Scripture that are hard to understand. But the basic teaching of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone based on the Scripture alone to the glory of God alone, that's clear. Jesus did not give authority to the apostles and then let them muddle the message so that no one could understand it.

That's absurd. If Christ was going to allow that to happen, he was really wasting his time in the incarnation. I say that reverently. No, to the contrary, the Gospel is so clear that in Galatians chapter 1, Paul cursed those who contradicted it. The apostles were martyred for the sake of the clarity of the Gospel. Out on the suggestion that Scripture can't be understood, or that we need subsequent books to help us get to the reality of it. Scripture's clear.

The Gospel is clear. And finally, fourth and finally, and this kind of brings it all full circle, God's authority is expressed in apostolic teaching. The apostolic writings are where we find the authority of God, the Old and the New Testament. And so I can only ask you, beloved, do you receive as your final authority the teaching of the apostles as expressed in the Scriptures? That is a most fundamental test of the reality of your faith. Of whether you have genuine faith or not.

Tell me what a man believes about the apostolic Scriptures, and I can tell you a lot about whether their faith is real or not. Scripture itself says in 1 John 4.6, and I'm closing with this, believe it or not. 1 John 4.6, an apostle speaking on behalf of the apostolic ministry said this, We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us.

Whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Let's pray together. Father, thank you for giving us a final and sufficient word. Keep us in the word of God.

Help us pay much closer attention to what we have heard and received, and protect us from all alien forces that would seek to lead us astray from it. Father, as a corporate body, as individual believers, help us to love your word, to trust your word, to defend your word, to read it, to study it, to internalize it, to meditate on it. Oh, it's so precious, Father. It's so precious to have something from the eternal God that we can go to again and again and know it is true and know it is complete.

Thank you for that. And thus help us to preach the word, ready in season and out of season, to reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching. Help us to be sober-minded, to endure suffering, to fulfill the ministry that you've given to us.

Thank you for our Lord Jesus, that sin-bearing substitute who loved us and gave himself up for us. May you lead all within the walls of this building, all under the sound of my voice at any time now and going forward, Father. Lead them all safely to the foot of the cross. Draw them to yourself and then keep them for all of eternity based on the testimony that you have given to us in your precious God-breathed word. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen. That's Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Thank you so much, friend, for listening to The Truth Pulpit. Join us again next time as Don begins a new message as we continue teaching God's people God's word on The Truth Pulpit.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-15 04:46:23 / 2024-03-15 04:57:24 / 11

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