Monday, June 27, 2022

Gifts For The Church

Christianity is not a mere philosophy, obedience to commandments nor the acceptance of God's promises. It is much more. Christianity is the appearance of God to man in time and space. The significance of Jesus' death, not only His physical death on the cross, but what He accomplished for man in the spiritual realm especially in the regions of death, which is beyond what we could ever comprehend. He took death captive. The reality of His death is this. When death slew Him, death slew itself. "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil." (Hebrews 2:14) "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death." (Revelation 1:18)  

Jesus liberated those, who in death, waited His coming. Jesus took them from the control of Satan and in His triumphant victory over sin, death and Satan, transferred them to glory. David the king prophesied this very thing one thousand years before it came to pass. "You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men, even from the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell there." (Psalm 68:18) The Apostle Paul reiterated the same and then tells us the gifts that Jesus gave to men, "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers." (Ephesians 4:11)

Jesus is not only the founder of the church, "...I will build My church..." (Matthew 16:18) but He is the foundation of the church, "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11). The Bible gives a further revelation that Jesus wanted His followers to understand concerning Himself and the foundation of the church. "...the household of God (the church) having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone." (Ephesians 2:19-20) 

Most in the Protestant Church, from seminary to the pulpit, have been taught that the apostles and prophets were only given to get the church started and after that, they were no longer needed. That once the New Testament was completed and accepted by the church, the foundational role of the apostles and prophets was completed. Therefore, all biblical references to apostles and prophets should be understood as a historical record rather than a continuing reality for the church. Any teaching today contrary to such is to be considered heretical. But, is this kind of teaching consistent with scripture or is it presumption?

First, there is not one verse of scripture that can support the the departure of either the apostle or prophet from the church because they were only needed to start the church. Think about this from this perspective. When a builder builds a house, the foundation is the first and most important part for the structural integrity of the entire house. Is there any builder that would build the foundation, complete the rest of the construction on the house, and once it has been accepted by the building inspector and the owner as completed, remove parts of the foundation? Absolutely not! If the foundation loses structural integrity then whatever is placed on top is in jeopardy of failure and even collapse. It is the same with everything that is build, even the church. Jesus warns, "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall." (Matthew 7:24-27)

The Apostle Paul tells us, "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." (Romans 11:29) In other words, the Lord is not going to revoke, change, undo or alter the gifts that He has given to the church.  Paul also tells us, "And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues." (1 Corinthians 12:28) Notice, "God has appointed these in the church" not man. If God appointed, then how can man un-appoint without any scriptural foundation to do so? Also, notice in this verse, the absence of evangelist and pastor and yet today the church has placed a higher premium upon them than the Lord. Also, and equally unfortunate, a greater portion of the church has also un-appointed "...miracles, gifts of healings, and varieties of tongues."

Now, let us look at the following passage of scripture to see the reason why these gifts were given to the church. "And He (the Lord) Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:11-16)

Notice, "till we all (the entire church) come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect (mature, complete) man." Very few, if any Christian leaders would dare claim that the Body of Christ has reached the stage of perfection described in this passage. This being true, not only would it be right, but it would also be logical that there is still a need for apostles and prophets in the church until Jesus returns. Could the rejection of the apostle and prophet in most sectors of the church be one of the main reasons why the church is so fragmented with its numerous denominations and doctrinal differences? Could this be why the church is not knitted and working together? Could this be why there is a lack of growth of the Body of Christ? Could this be why the church lacks in loving one another as brethren?  Maybe it is time for those who reject the gift of the apostle and prophet to reconsider their position and let the Lord do what He said He would do, "...I will build my church..." The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you...

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