Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Apostles

Strange Fire Book Review (Chapter Five)

This is an ongoing look at the controversial book by Dr. John MacArthur, Strange Fire.  This post will be on chapter five of the book.

In chapter five, Dr. MacArthur is going to begin looking deeper at the charismatic movement and biblically why he disagrees with it.  This chapter focused on the issue of Apostles.  MacArthur points out that many charismatics claim that apostles are for today and that in some ways, modern Apostles are more powerful, more anointed, etc. than the Apostles in Scripture.  He points out that men such as C. Peter Wagner have taught that we are now living in a new era of apostles.  Men such as Bill Hamon promote the idea that we need modern apostles just as found in Ephesians 4:11-16 to help us build up the kingdom of Christ.

Along with modern apostles comes all that the Apostles did in the book of Acts: miracles, visions, dreams, leadership, authority, etc.  MacArthur rightfully asks the question as to whether this is biblical?  Is it biblical for someone to claim to be an apostle today or has the office of the Apostles ceased with the death of Paul (who was the last Apostle according to 1 Corinthians 15:8-9).  MacArthur points out that while some were indeed called apostles, the Apostles (capitalized) have a unique place in the kingdom of God that will never be repeated.  MacArthur points out that most charismatics agree with this with the exception of a few who claim to have been gifted beyond the Twelve.

I will admit that I have struggled with people claiming titles for themselves.  I have met people who claimed to be an apostle.  I doubted they were anything like what I see in Scripture regarding the Apostles.  Frankly, I have yet to meet an “apostle” who was humble or broken as Paul was (2 Corinthians 2:17).  Most “apostles” I have met claimed that title for power purposes only.  In reality, the only title I see in Scripture that we are to give is to the Lord Jesus (1 Timothy 6:15).  Jesus alone is the exalted One that we worship and adore.  We do not exalt men of flesh (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).

The word Apostle in the New Testament has several meanings depending on the context.  It can refer to the Twelve (Matthew 10:2; Revelation 21:14) or those sent out by the Church (missionaries; the Greek word means “one sent out”; see Acts 13:1-3; 14:14).  MacArthur points out that the Apostles had three major criteria:

  1. An Apostle had to be a physical eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22; 10:39-41; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:7-8).
  2. An Apostle had to be personally appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13; Acts 1:2, 24; 10:41; Galatians 1:1).
  3. An Apostle had to be able to authenticate his apostolic appointment with miraculous signs (Matthew 10:1-2; Acts 1:5-8; 2:43; 4:33; 5:12; 8:14; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4).

If the “apostle” does not meet these qualifications, they are not biblical apostles.  He points out that Dr. Wayne Grudem (a charismatic theologian himself) has written, “since no one today can meet the qualification of having seen the risen Christ with his own eyes, there are no apostles today.”  MacArthur believes this to be a remarkable statement from someone who believes the gifts continue to this day yet Grudem admits to being a cessationist when it comes to modern apostles.

MacArthur goes on to write how the modern apostles not only fail the test of apostolic ministry but they serve no purpose today in the Church.  The Apostles laid the foundation of the Church (Ephesians 2:20) but they have ceased since no one has seen the risen Christ with their own eyes today.

I agreed with much of what MacArthur wrote here.  I have no problem saying that the Apostles were indeed unique just as Moses was unique to ancient Israel.  There will never be another Moses nor another Paul the Apostle.  In this I can admit that I am a partial cessationist when it comes to many issues regarding the charismatic movement.  This is why I admit that I am a disciple of Jesus first and foremost above being an Arminian or a Baptist or whatever.  Our faith is in Jesus and not in a movement.

In conclusion, MacArthur has a strong defense for the cessationist arguments against modern apostles.  I suspect that many Pentecostals could easily read this chapter and agree with MacArthur, that the Apostles were unique and there will never been men such as that again.  They will be forever remembered for their service to the King in Revelation 21:14.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/21/2014 at 10:10 AM

House Churches and Full-Time Elders

Does the New Testament promote the idea of full-time elders (or pastors)?  I know of many of my friends on this blog and outside who not only hold that it does but also they are full-time pastors.  In almost all cases they applied for their pastorate like any other job complete with paperwork and interviews.  In fact, the modern pastorate often resembles a CEO of a company more than taking over a church of God.  In many cases the interviews are full of questions mainly about budgets, organization abilities, and of course, numbers.  Attendance is a big issue for institutional churches since they operate on budgets that must be met.  I know of one large church in my area that sent out their yearly budget that totaled over $7 million dollars.  Less than 3% of that was going to missions.  Most of that $7 million was salaries and their buildings.  Since numbers drive the institutional church, the potential pastor must show that they can produce large results through various ides and organization.  The masses have to be kept happy.

The house church is nothing near that.  First of all, we have no budget.  Each person can give their money to whatever they want.  We don’t want it.  We don’t need it.  Occasionally we might have a family who needs money or a church planter who needs funds but we don’t regularly need your money.  Second, we have no buildings to pay for.  We have no mortgage.  We have no bills.  We offer no work insurance.  We pay no taxes since we own nothing and receive nothing.  Third, we have no staff.  We don’t pay a pastor.  We don’t pay a youth pastor.  We don’t pay a music leader.  We have elders who led us but they are not paid.

So what do we want you to do with the money that God gives you?  We want you to do what He tells you to do with in the New Testament.  First, Jesus said to give to the poor (Matthew 6:2-4; Galatians 2:10).  Secondly, give to hurting Christians (Acts 4:34-35; 11:27-30; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2).  Third, give to supporting apostles or church planters or missionaries (1 Corinthians 9:8-14; Philippians 4:10-20).  There is no biblical mandate in the New Testament to tithe to a local church to support their paying bills, salaries, etc.  Tithing is biblical but under the theocracy known as Israel.  We are not a theocracy.  Not once in the Epistles do the writers exhort God’s people to tithe.  If failing to tithe brings one under a curse (as some teach from Malachi 3:8-10) then surely the New Testament writers would want to keep us from that curse.  Sadly, those who teach this “cursed” view of Malachi 3:8-10 fail to show it this applies to Galatians 3:13.

Yet does the New Testament teach that there should be full-time elders?  In Acts 20 we have Paul holding a pastors conference (v. 17).  Paul the Apostle teaches these elders various things but one interesting thing that he says is in verse 35.  The words here are ascribed to Jesus although the Gospels do not contain them.  Using the words of Jesus, Paul tells the elders that it is more blessed to give than to receive.  Can you imagine hearing a prosperity preacher saying that to his TV audience today?  In fact, the thrust of Acts 20:33-35 is that Paul wants these elders to work and not seek money.  He point to his own example (Acts 18:1-4) as proof that he worked hard so that he could give his money to the weak (ESV).  In essence, Paul wanted these elders not to be full-time but to work so that they could give away their money.  What a radical concept for our time!

The other places we find the issue of money and elders is 1 Corinthians 9.  1 Corinthians 9 is not really about elders however.  In fact, elders are not found at all in 1 or 2 Corinthians.  Given how important the modern pastorate is in most churches, you would think that Paul the Apostle would address the elders to correct the troubles at Corinth.  He never does.  He expects the Spirit of God to lead His Church and for the people of God to obey the Spirit who leads them.  Not once in Corinthians does Paul address any leaders.  In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul deals with missionaries receiving money for preaching the gospel.  In verses 8-14 he makes the clear point that those who preach the gospel should live off the gospel.  Yet then Paul turns around and says that he has not done this despite his right to do so.  He tells the Corinthians that he didn’t want to be a stumbling block to them (vv. 15-18).  Paul could have asked for money but he gave up his right so that he could preach the gospel without hinderance.  In Acts 18:1-4 we find that Paul worked as a tent maker while preaching the gospel in Corinth.  He willfully gave up his rights to being paid so that he could work hard, give away his money, and preach the gospel.  How many modern pastors are doing that?

The final place we find elders and money is in 1 Timothy 5:17-18.  A couple of points are in order.  First, verse 17 does not use the word “money.”  I believe many read into verse 17 way too much about “double honor” as to teach that elders should be paid double what they would earn outside of the church.  The word “honor” here does not denote money.  The word is never used in the New Testament as a substitute for the word money.  Yet I have no trouble with honoring an elder who leads with much grace and ability in teaching the Word of God.  This honor can come in various ways including giving them money.  I don’t think we should isolate this verse and make it teach only money but we can give money to elders who fit this picture of verse 17.  Yet I don’t see in this verse that it teaches that elders should receive a regular salary.  Gifts?  Yes.  Salary?  No.  There is a big difference.

Frankly, I am weary of paying an elder very often since this could lead to one elder being exalted above others and can lead to this elder becoming a typical CEO type pastor only in a house church setting.  The plurality of leaders in the house church (Titus 1:5) helps to offset one elder dominating the others.  It also helps because elders are gifted in various ways other than teaching.  A full-time elder also would have a hard time fulfilling Acts 20:35 if in fact their income comes from the house church.

Lastly, if a house church is large enough to support a full-time elder, they are probably too large.  It’s time to split that house church.  House churches are strong because of personal relationships with one another.  This can’t happen if the house church is too large.  I recommend that house churches be no larger than a living room.  If everyone can comfortably be in a living room to worship God, pray, sing, eat, etc. then that is perfect.  Keep in mind that elders are to be among the people of God and not over them (1 Peter 5:1-4).

Hard work is something that we are scarred of in the West.  We need not be.  How wonderful it is to work hard and then to take our money and give it away to the kingdom of God through the poor, hurting disciples, or missionaries.  We are not to hoard up our funds but to give them away (Matthew 6:19-21).  Our treasure is not this world or money but the Lord Himself.  He is our delight and our reward.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/02/2012 at 10:52 AM

The Apostles in the Church

Having previously discussed the problems with the clergy-laity system and how I believe it robs the people of God from being true priests unto Him (Revelation 1:5-6), I then looked at what it biblically means to be a pastor.  I noted that the word “pastor” is found in most English translations in Ephesians 4:11 and is better translated (as in the ESV) as “shepherds”.  The word “pastor” has largely remained part of our language because of transition and not because of accurate Bible translations.  I noted that Jesus is called “shepherd” or “pastor” in John 10:14 or 1 Peter 2:25 and He is called the chief shepherd in 1 Peter 5:4.  I also noted that no one in the New Testament were given titles such as Pastor Jim or Apostle David for only Jesus was viewed as Lord of lords and King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15-16; Revelation 17:14; 19:11).

Now let us turn to studying the Apostles.  The Apostles play a major role in the New Testament.  While on earth Jesus Christ appointed twelve men that He called Apostles according to Matthew 10:2-4 and Luke 6:12-16.  If you will notice Luke 6:13, we learn that Jesus chose His Apostles from among His disciples implying that He had many disciples.  We know from John 4:1-2 that Jesus was gaining and baptizing many disciples.  Jesus then prayed and from His disciples, He chose twelve men and He called them apostles.  It’s interesting that Jesus called them apostles.  Why this term?  We miss something of the term in the English translations.  Our traditions often rob us of seeing the bigger picture.  When Jesus called these twelve men “apostles” He was calling them, in the Greek, apostolos.  English Bible translations, like they do baptism, simply transliterates the Greek term into English and thus we miss its full meaning.  The word means “emissary, ambassador, authorized representative, delegated authority, a missionary.”  The term was used in the Roman Empire for their naval leaders who would carry bills of laden that contained the apostle terms of being under the direct authority of the emperor himself.  They were sent ones from the emperor.

The term used by Matthew in Matthew 10:2 is this same Greek word.  It means “sent ones.”  Yet when we hear the word “apostles” we automatically think of the twelve apostles of Jesus.  Yet the New Testament presents others who were “sent ones” of Christ Jesus who were not part of the original twelve apostles such as in Acts 14:4, 14 of Barnabas and Paul.  Romans 16:7 also reveals other apostles not of the twelve.  In 1 Corinthians 9:1-6 Paul builds his case for being an apostle despite not being part of the twelve.  In 1 Corinthians 15:5 Paul mentions the twelve and then says that he is also an apostle in verse 9.  In 1 Thessalonians 2:6 Paul writes about being an apostle and he includes among the apostles also Silvanus and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1) with his usage of we.  The Bible also mentions false apostles in 2 Corinthians 11:13 and Revelation 2:2.  Jesus Christ Himself is called an apostle or “sent one” in Hebrews 3:1.

In Ephesians 2:20 we learn that the Church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus being the cornerstone.  Why the foundation of the apostles and the prophets?  The ESV Study Bible is helpful here:

There are several views about the apostles and prophets referred to here: (1) Some think that they were “foundational” because they proclaimed the very words of God, and some of their words became the books of the NT. Since a “foundation” is laid only once (i.e., at the beginning of the church) there are no more apostles or prophets today, but their function of speaking the words of God has been replaced by the written Bible, which is the foundation today. (2) Others argue that these “prophets” are very closely tied to apostles in the phrase “the apostles and prophets,” and that these prophets do not represent all who had a gift of prophecy in the early church (see note on 1 Cor. 12:10); they were a small group closely associated with the apostles (or else identical to the apostles) to whom God had revealed the mystery of the Gentile inclusion in the church (see Eph. 3:5, where the same phrase, “the apostles and prophets,” occurs). In this case ordinary Christians who had the gift of prophecy in Ephesus (4:11) and other churches (cf. Acts 11:27; 19:6; 21:9–10; Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:10; 1 Thess. 5:19–21; 1 Tim. 1:18; 4:14) were not part of the “foundation” but were part of the rest of the building that was being built (that is, the church) and would continue so throughout the church age. (3) Finally, some think the “prophets” here could be the OT prophets, though the same words in Eph. 3:5 point to prophets of the NT era.

I believe that the prophets here in Ephesians 2:20 along with 1 Corinthians 12:28 means that the apostles and prophets helped plant the churches.  The apostles were “sent ones” as in Acts 13:1-4 who went out preaching the gospel (as all disciples did according to Matthew 28:19-20) and planting churches.  The prophetic element was not so much as in the Old Testament sense of the word but declaring the words of God that we know have fully in the inerrant New Testament.  Ephesians 4:11 again mentions prophets after apostles.  All these gifted people were needed by the Church to establish a true Church.

Now I don’t mean to undermine the authority of the Apostles in the New Testament Church.  In fact, according to Revelation 21:14 the city of heaven is said to have been built on the foundation of twelve and upon them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (ESV).  In eternity, the twelve will still have a unique place in the history of the Church and the salvation that came through Jesus Christ.

So who are then New Testament apostles?  First, there are the Twelve.  Second, there were other NT apostles such as Paul and Barnabas.  And today, we call modern apostles as “missionaries” or “sent ones.”  Their purpose is to build churches in places that Jesus has not been named.  Romans 15:20-21 establishes this type of ministry.  Apostles can often serve God “full-time” and depend on the churches but sometimes they do work such as Paul did in Acts 18:3.  Paul even makes his case in Acts 20:34-35 for his own hard work so that he could help others.  How radically different from most money hungry pastors today?  I love his words in Acts 20:33 where he says that he did not covet anyone’s silver or gold or apparel.  How we need that in the Church!  By the way, the longest Paul ever remained in one city: 3 years in Corinth.  How different from many “missionaries” who stay in cities sometimes for years building usually one church or two at the most.

We need “sent ones” today to build the Church.  My vision is to see modern apostles going into cities such as for example, Phoenix, and planting house churches under the leadership of the Holy Spirit and elders (Titus 1:5) that the Spirit raises up (Acts 14:23).  These house churches would then send out more sent ones to plant more house churches.  Disciples making disciples as Jesus commanded.  These sent ones are “full-time ministers” in the sense that they are supported by the Churches to plant more churches just as Paul did in the New Testament.  These men are not professional Christians but would work if necessary as Paul did.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/14/2011 at 1:11 AM

%d bloggers like this: