Thursday, July 21, 2011

Can there be Apostles today?

Acts 1:21-26 - “Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us—  22 beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”  23 So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias.  24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen  25 to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”  26 And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Judas is gone.  Christ has ascended and the Disciples are still waiting obediently for the Holy Spirit to come.  The next thing that needed to be taken care of was the selection of a replacement for Judas.

A 12th Apostle needed to be appointed. 

v21-22 - “Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us—  22 beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

Following the guidelines of Scripture, Peter stands and sets out the requirements to be an Apostle.  He lays out 3 basic criteria:

1.) They had to have been “of the men” who had accompanied them all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out amongst them.

The first stipulation was that the person had to be a person who had seen what the other Apostles had seen.  So from the baptism of Jesus by John, Peter says, and forward, the person had to have been in that group of Jesus’ followers for the three years of His public ministry.

Now, the reason for that was of course because of what they were charged with doing.  They were charged with starting churches and founding them on the truths of the Gospel and so they had to have seen it firsthand to best do that.

Second, they had to have been an eye-witness of the resurrection.
Verse 22 says that one of those men must now join them, replacing Judas to be the witness of the resurrection.

You see they were to be first hand witnesses of the resurrection which makes sense because the resurrection is the central theme of our faith!  I mean, Paul said if there is no resurrection then we have no hope and all our worship is in vain!

1 Corinthians 15:13-19 - But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised;  14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.  15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.  16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised;  17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.  18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

All of them were to be personal witnesses to Christ’s ministry, death, and resurrection.  Now, these two criteria are why, without question or subjectivity, no one can be an Apostle today.  Once more, there are NO MORE Apostles today.  Anyone claiming to be one is a liar.

Because no one is living who witnesses those things.  So the Apostolic office is closed.  But we need to note that there is one final way that someone can be an Apostle and it was the way the other 11 became Apostles and Paul himself for that matter.  That was by Divine appointment to the office by Jesus Christ Himself and later I’ll tell you why no one can make the Divine appointment claim stick today.

Well, out of all those gathered, 2 men apparently met those requirements.

v23 - So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias

Nothing is known about these two men really.  They aren’t mentioned elsewhere in Scripture beyond here. 

What they’ve done is narrow the options and eliminated those who didn’t qualify and so now they engage in their normal pattern of prayer to seek the will of the Lord pertaining to whom should be chosen.

v24a - And they prayed – They prayed.  What they were doing was being obedient to the Will of God by seeking Him in prayer.

That’s what they desired as believers, and so what they did was seek out God’s Word for instruction and then they prayed.  Make note of the humility in their prayer…

[And they prayed] v24b-25 –and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen  25 to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”

Lord, show us the one that everyone likes or whose teaching style suits us?  No

Lord, show us the one that will tickle the people’s ears?  No

Lord, you know our hearts.  Such a truth.  Jeremiah 17:9 says that our hearts are deceitful and try to deceive us constantly.  So how appropriate that they lay that confession before the Lord first.  Lord, you know how prone to self my heart is.  So work above that.

Studying the scriptures they knew that and also they know what God said just one verse later in Jeremiah 17:10 - I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.

They were aware of God’s word to Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7 - But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Their prayer is for God to pick because they know that their hearts will taint the decision and what they want to be is obedient and true to God!

So they pray, God, you know our hearts, choose the one YOU want.

v26 - And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Now some would suggest that this was a pagan practice, but in reality this underscores all the more how carefully they wanted to be in their selection of the replacement Apostle.  They wanted to select God’s man free from their influence.

Anyone know why that is the case?  Why I say that?

Well, what had they been doing?  Studying God’s Word right?  In Leviticus 16:8 - Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat.

God tells Aaron that he is to “cast lots” to determine between the two goats offered for the sin sacrifice.  One would be sacrificed and the other would be the scapegoat.  Nehemiah 10, we see another example of casting lots and then in Proverbs.

Proverbs 16:33 - “The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord.

The lot is cast, but its every decision is FROM THE LORD.  Casting lots was an acceptable Old Testament practice for determining God’s Will, now we don’t need it today.  Why?  Because we HAVE the Holy Spirit that enables us to best discern the will of God.  We also have the complete canon of Scripture so we have the completed written Word of God.

Casting lots was most likely putting their names on stones, placing them in a jar and shaking it around until one fell out, the one that came out would be the one that was chosen.

So the lot is cast and it falls to Matthias.  Which is gives us even more assurance that casting lots here wasn’t sinful.  God no where rebukes them for what they’ve done.

A choice is made by the providence of God.  It doesn’t fall to Matthias by change because there is no such thing as chance.  There is merely God’s sovereign rule and His providential and permissive will.

Now as a side note, you may have wondered about Paul?  Paul wasn’t an eye witness, yet Scripture identifies him as an Apostle.  Well, remember our third criteria, which is by Divine appointment.

Paul is divinely appointed, But what were the specifics of his appointing?  Acts 9 he is converted and then goes to see Annais… why?  To BE confirmed.

He had to go to the eye-witness Apostles to be confirmed by them in his calling.  He, nor anyone else, can just say.  ‘Well God called me to be an Apostle.’ and then go on with it without being confirmed by an existing Apostle.

After the Apostles all died there were still preachers and teachers and such, but no more Apostles.

Secondly, the eye-witness Apostles were called to minister specifically to whom?  The Jews right?  Paul’s chief focus was the Gentiles.

The Gospel was a stumbling block to the Jews because they denied Christ.  So eye-witness testimony would go a LONG way towards credibility for their claims to a society that was massively steeped in legalism.

To the Gentiles, the Gospel was foolishness, so no proof really would help… for them they needed to be brought first to an understanding that God was Creator, not chance or evolution, and they were in need of HIS forgiveness to be reconciled.

So no one today can be an Apostle because no eye-witnesses are living to be Apostles, nor are there any eye-witnesses alive to confirm the Divine appointment of an Apostle.  Anyone who comes to you claiming to be an "Apostle" is likely preaching a different Gospel, and a different Gospel doesn't save (Galatians 1:6-10).  Mark those and continue preaching the one true Gospel.  That Jesus COMMANDS all men to repent and trust in Him for the forgiveness of sins.  (Mark 1:15)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Elephant Room Conference

I recently finished watching the Elephant Room conference DVDs.  If you are unfamiliar with it let me give you a brief synopsis.  The Elephant Room Conference was a one day event recently held by Dr. James MacDonald of Walk in the Word Ministries where he gathered several well-known pastors with differing beliefs.  The goal was to get together with these men who don't always agree on some of the issues of the church and discuss them in a very generous fashion.  

I am 100% fine with generous, grace filled discussion.  In fact, I believe that we need less snarky straw-men attacks and more of these genuine grace filled conversations.  I know that I have personally fell into the trap of a snarky argument from time to time and I pray God will continue to grow me in grace and wisdom so that I choose my battles wisely and fight well when the time comes.

That said, I also think there is room for Biblical admonishment.  It is fine to discuss these things as long as the goal isn't just to better understand someone's position but rather to try and come to a common understanding of the issue. 

I don't want to spend this blog post on taking a position for each of the things they discussed... maybe in a later post... what I want to do is offer some thoughts on each person who was there.  Since the goal was to better understand them... here's what I now understand better about them.

On the panel were the following Pastors:
James MacDonald
Matt Chandler
Perry Noble
David Platt
Steven Furtick
Greg Laurie
Mark Driscoll

So here we go.

James MacDonald did I think a fair job in moderating the whole thing.  There were a few times when, in the context of a discussion, some things came up that maybe needed a bit stronger of a Biblical rebuke and exhortation to turn from that behavior and he seemed to shy away from it.  That was a little disappointing to me coming from a man who has a brilliant reputation for defending the Gospel.  I don't feel that he compromised the truth, I just personally felt he could have been a little stronger in some areas and it would have had the potential to be very helpful to those to whom he was speaking.

Matt Chandler was no surprise to me whatsoever.  Matt is ferocious about the Gospel, he loves God, he loves people.  He articulated well the Gospel, he articulated well his positions, I know that it helped me because I tend to hold many of the same views as Pastor Matt and so it really helped me think through how to articulate some of these specific convictions.

Perry Noble was also surprising.  Ok, I am going to say this and I know my reformed brothers are going to get a bit torqued at me about this but I actually found myself liking some of what he said.  I said some!  This is by no means an endorsement of Perry Noble or his practices, he does many many things that distorts and waters down the gospel and I think that is a serious issue... However, on some of the topics... I agreed with some of what he said.  Now the issue of his church band playing secular music came up, he defended it with Scripture... unfortunately for him he defended it with scripture that was ripped out of context and so it didn't make the case.  I think the issue with Perry is that he is a man who loves the Lord but perhaps he is just terribly misguided?  I won't say that he is a wolf necessarily, but he is flirting with apostasy pretty heavily.

David Platt was by far my favorite.  David has a way of articulating truth so well and in his tone you can hear that his motive is not arrogance but love for the Gospel.  He sincerely wants to see God glorified and it comes across in his approach.  I know that he has been critiqued for the Radical book, that it will lead to an extreme poverty theology, however, when you hear him defend some of his views espoused in Radical you understand more of what his aim was in writing it.  I think the reason that some people are so up in arms over his book has less to do with them feeling that he is pushing a bad poverty type theology and more with a love for stuff in their own lives and a heart that doesn't want to get rid of idols... just a thought.

Steven Furtick surprised me but not because I agreed with him more than I thought... Furtick surprised me because I was astounded to find someone who can find a way to boast on himself and what HE has done in almost every subject.  I may not be being as generous with Steven as I ought, I'll confess, but I was shocked at how often his defense for his positions wasn't 'Well, the Bible says...' but rather, 'I just did this', 'I led our church this...' so on and so on.  We heard about everything from how he shouldn't be called a wolf or false teacher because he sold everything to start his church and how he does to teach his church to love the Bible because he just led them through a fast and through the New Testament in 30 days (New through 30 he called it).  When Matt Chandler confronted Steven on his methodology, instead of making a defense of it Steven just countered back by taking a shot at something Chandler had said.  Now, whether or not Matt was in error on the comment that Steven brought up is not what I'm addressing.  I'm merely saying that boasting in self and side-stepping arguments doesn't exactly do much to help people understand you better if being misunderstood is what you feel you are by the general public. 

Greg Laurie was a new name for me.  Prior to this conference I had never heard of him although upon hearing him speak and doing a little research on him online I am becoming more of a fan.  He articulated himself well, he was clearly passionate for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and he seems to hold to very sound biblical doctrine.  Though he wouldn't call himself a Calvinist, he certainly holds to those views.  He just prefers to avoid those labels and I am fine with that... truthfully the word Calvinist has such a stigma attached to it, because most people don't really understand it, I would just as soon leave that little title off of me as well... even though I am a "five pointer" as they say. haha

Mark Driscoll did what Mark does.  He defended the Gospel well and he made me laugh.  I like Mark.  I think because of my conservative upbringing he may be a bit too close to the contemporary style for me personally... but I don't think he is in sin or error with any of what he's doing (that I'm aware of).  He made a very good point that really convicted me as well and that is that sometimes people confuse their love for the Gospel with a fear of God (fear in a negative way).  What he went on to explain was that if we take the Gospel and hide it away, never sharing it.  Treat it like the wicked servant of Matthew 25.  Then we really don't love the Gospel.  If we loved the Gospel, we'd share it.  Further, he pointed out that it is those who are like that who are most likely to take cheap shots at those who don't share the Gospel at all or share a watered down version of it.  Convicting for me because I don't want to ever drift towards the behavior of the wicked slave.  I want to be faithful with what God has entrusted to me and take the Gospel to the Nations as the Lord has commanded.

Final thoughts:

I was helped by this conference.  I think that I may have had a bit of bloodlust interest in it to begin with because I wanted to see some of those guys get a Gospel beating... which was a sinful desire in my heart.  Thankful God revealed that to me through this.  I deserve a beat down just as much as anyone for my sin as well.  I do wish that some error had been labeled as error a bit more clearly BUT I wasn't there behind the scenes so I'll pray that maybe some more useful exhorting and admonishing went on backstage.

You can pick this up from the Elephant Room Conference website and it is a bit costly at $50 but I feel it is worth the price.