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Presbyteries and Apostolic Teams—Part 2
Okay, now then—safeguards against abuse of authority. Everybody pricks their ears up at that one. I’ve got nothing particularly revolutionary to say. Man was created to rule. Genesis chapter 1 speaking about the creation of man,
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, etc.
So God created man in His own image etc. Verse 28,
Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea…
Modern translations say rulebut it comes to the same thing. So man has in him an innate urge to rule, perfectly correct. The problem is that fallen man usually doesn’t rule the right way. His carnal nature often causes him to seek to rule either for wrong motives or by illegitimate means or both. The result is usually expressed in two dirty words: manipulation or domination. And I’ve said many times wherever you encounter manipulation or domination, behind it is the Devil. God never manipulates and He never dominates.
Now the New Testament offers certain safeguards. There are more safeguards than I’ve listed here, please understand. The first is plurality in both presbyteries and apostolic teams. So there’s no one person who says, “I’m it. You’ve got to obey me.” This does not set aside the position of a leader among leaders which is obviously demonstrated in the New Testament. But this position depends primarily on respect and recognition and should not normally be legislated or institutionalized, which is what has happened in Christendom. The position of leadership has been institutionalized and then you have a situation where there is no one qualified to fit the institution but you still have to have somebody in it. Actually if a leader does not succeed because he’s respected and recognized institutionalizing it will not achieve it.
In a presbytery, the responsibility for decisions and policy should be corporate.Now I wish that could be underlined. I have to say in my own experience over the past decade I, myself, have seen very unfortunate results through not enforcing that principle. I’ve always believed in it, but there were situations in which I let people get away without doing it and the result was disaster. And here is a case where you will find manipulation easily moves in. And you find one man who knows how to manipulate his peers. If he has an overseer he knows how to manipulate his overseer, and the end result is confusion. So in the future my personal resolve is to emphasize wherever I go to the elders of any church, you are responsible collectively for every decision and every policy. You cannot hide behind somebody else. You’ve got to take your share of the responsibility. It is dangerous to undermine this principle.
In an apostolic team, the recognized leader may have a greater measure of personal authority. I think it’s obvious in Paul’s apostolic team Paul in a certain sense called the shots, and if you think of the nature of an apostolic team that’s understandable. It’s more like a football team, there’s got to be a captain, there’s got to be somebody who’s got to say this is the way we do it. But apostolic teams were not permanent. That’s another important thing we haven’t touched. They function for a while and then some left, some came. One of our big problems is trying to make everything in this world permanent. Very little in this world is permanent. And if we try that then we feel guilty when it doesn’t work. Well we never need feel guilty because we shouldn’t have tried it in the first place. All we need to feel guilty about is trying it. Now that’s painful for people younger than I am, but I’ve lived long enough to know it’s true. And I’m enough of a realist to know that there are a lot of things that are nice in this life, but they’re not going to last all through life. I’m adjusted to that.
Now when we get into the next world everything there will be permanent. And I don’t look upon the next world as pie in the sky, I want you to know. I think it’s exciting. I’m glad I believe I’m going there.
All right the second safeguard is there—the little “B”, interdependence between the two groups. Neither group has liberty to ride roughshod over the sovereignty of the other. Each needs the other. An apostle cannot swagger into a church and say, “Now listen, I’m an apostle and you fellows do what I tell you.” The eldership has got a right to stand up and say, “We are responsible to God and to man for what happens in this place. If you convince us, we’ll do it. But don’t go to the sheep and bypass us.” And in Ephesians Jesus praised the Church at Ephesus because they’d tried those who said they were apostles and found them liars. That’s the responsibility of the local eldership. And if you don’t know what a zebra looks like, you won’t be good at judging whether the thing that comes through the door is a zebra or not.
All right. I’m going on. Historically, the church has tended to overemphasize conservation at the expense of outreach. That is the understatement of the evening I want you to know. This has tended to give preeminence to the ministry of the shepherds who are also pastors or bishops or overseers. I hope I don’t have to labor that point. Also the pastors or bishops control the communion or the Eucharist, often considered the sacrifice essential for salvation. So historically in the church for many centuries the decisive authority has been in the hands of the pastors, bishops or whatever you call them, because they’ve convinced the people, “We administer the sacrament and if you don’t have the sacrament you’re not belonging to God so you’ve got to do what we say.” That’s a very simplified version of church history but basically it’s the way things have gone.
And apostles and prophets have basically been excluded. The Roman Catholic Church, which I respect, talks a great deal about apostolic authority. You know what I’m interested in? Apostolic ministry. I’m rather suspicious about an apostolic authority that doesn’t produce an apostolic ministry. I want to see it work. I’m not interested in your genealogy for fifteen centuries. I want to know what you can produce today.
Now going on much the same happened to Israel in the Old Testament. The priests abrogated excessive authority to themselves. Notice the priest were the only ones who were allowed to sacrifice. So in a sense they had a monopoly on some things. And God had to raise up prophets to rebuke and challenge the priests. I think I’ll just let you look at those references for yourself. You see everyone of them is a message from a prophet rebuking priests. Well, we’ll look at Malachi for a moment. There’s some pretty solemn statements in Malachi. Malachi 1:6-10.
“A son honors his father,
And a servant his master.
If then I am the Father,
Where is My honor?
And if I am a Master,
Where is My reverence?
Says the LORD of hosts
To you priests who despise My name.
Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ You offer defiled food on My altar,
But you say,
‘In what way have we defiled You?’
‘The table of the LORD is contemptible.’
And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice,
Is it not evil?
And when you offer the lame and sick,
Is it not evil?
Offer it then to your governor!
Would he be pleased with you?
Would he accept you favorably?”
Says the LORD of hosts.
“But now entreat God’s favor,
That He may be gracious to us.
While this is being done by your hands.
Will He accept you favorably?”
Says the LORD of hosts.
“Who is there even among you who would the doors so that you would not kindle fire on my altar in vain?
I have not pleasure in you.” Says the LORD of hosts,
“Nor will I accept an offering from your hands.”
That’s pretty plain speaking but it had to be a prophet to deliver that to the priests. Again in the second chapter of Malachi verses 1 through 3.
“And now, O priests, this commandment is for you.
If you will not hear
And if you not take it to heart,
To give glory to My name,”
Says the LORD of hosts.
“I will send a curse upon you,,
And I will curse your blessings.
Yes, I have cursed them already,
Because you do not take it to heart.
“Behold, I will rebuke your descendants.
And spread refuse [or dung] faces,
The refuse of your solemn feasts;
And one will take you away with it.”
You couldn’t be much more plain spoken than that. And I am sure that there have been whole generations of priests in the history of the Christian church that have been just as guilty. One thing we have to beware of is that the people who do the organizing are usually the people with the pastoral ministries. Thank God for them, but they usually tend to organize in favor of themselves, I think often unconsciously. And so the person with an evangelistic ministry really gets the thin end of the deal.
It’s interesting if you look at the history of the Assemblies of God which is a movement I respect. In the forties and fifties, maybe sixties, a lot of very powerful ministries emerged in the Assemblies of God: A. A. Allen, T. L. Osborn, Gordon Lindsey, and so on. And almost without exception they were squeezed out. You can say the attitude was wrong. In some cases maybe it was. But the truth of the matter is it’s hard for the pastoral ministry to make place for an evangelistic or apostolic ministry. And so everybody gets conformed to a rather narrow mold and it’s considered dangerous to get outside the mold. This is not a new phenomenon. It’s been in the history of the Church even in the Old Testament. The moment you make a little box and tell the Holy Spirit that’s where to operate, you can be absolutely sure of one thing, He’ll operate somewhere else. Nobody tells the Holy Spirit where to operate.
Now we’re coming to perhaps the most significant part of what I’m trying to communicate and something that I have seen for myself in a new way, what I call invisible government. Jesus in the heavenlies is head over the Church. Let’s look in Ephesians 1, I’m sure it’s familiar to many of you or all of you. Ephesians 1:20.
God worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
Far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
And He put all things under His feet, and give Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body…
That’s very clear. He is thehead over all things to the church…Now my simple mind tells me that if I want to find out where my headquarters are all I have to do is locate my head, because when I find out where my head is, I’ll find out where my headquarters are. If I have a head in one place and a headquarters in another I’m a schizophrenic person, and I think a lot of the Church is schizophrenic. The church’s headquarters is where its head is.
From here—now this is very crucial, don’t just sit there and flow past you, analyze it, reject it if it isn’t right—from here Jesus governs His Church through the Holy Spirit. Exemplified by Paul’s apostleship which is a very clear simple example. Turn to First Timothy first of all. First Timothy chapter 1 and verse 1,
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope,
Notice where Paul’s apostleship originated—with God the Father - and it came via Jesus Christ the Son. That’s where all governmental authority comes from. It all comes from the Father, through the Son to whom He has committed all authority in heaven and in earth. There is no other source of authority in the universe. But for it to get into the Church, one other person is needed. Who’s that? The Holy Spirit. Let’s go back to Acts 13 verse 2,
As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to MeBarnabas and Saul.”
Who was the executive administrator of the Godhead—the Holy Spirit. That’s right. Jesus is Lord over the Church, the Holy Spirit is Lord in the Church. But even so Paul still isn’t called an apostle until what? Until the church has recognized it and sent him out. And then, and then only is he actually called an apostle. In the eternal counsel of God he was an apostle before time began. God the Father decided it, directed it through Jesus, but it was administered on earth in the Church by the Holy Spirit and only when the Church embraced and acted on it was it officially recognized. That is a pattern for all the administration of the Church. It all comes from God the Father through Jesus Christ who is the Head over all things for the Church, but it is all administered by the Holy Spirit. And for it to be effective God’s leaders on earth have to respond, accept and endorse.
All right. I’ve already stated the Holy Spirit was Lord in the Church—Second Corinthians 3:17,
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
No system can take the place of the Holy Spirit. Most Christian groups need to give much higher priority to seeking the counsel and direction of the Holy Spirit, and I’m not excluding the Christian groups represented here, let me say that. There’s a kind of attitude prevalent—well it’s awfully risky to be led by the Holy Spirit. I tell you it’s much more risky not to be led by the Holy Spirit. But the really—I’ve encountered many places and attitude, “Well Brother Prince thinks he’s going to be led by the Holy Spirit, he’s in for trouble.” You know what I think? That attitude is an insult to the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit, the author of Scripture says, “If you want t be a son of God you’ve got to be led by Me. There’s no option.” And if we suggest that the Holy Spirit is so arbitrary and unreasonable that he requires us to be led by Him and then makes it difficult, we’re painting a very unflattering portrait of the Holy Spirit. The problem is, dear friends, we haven’t given nearly enough time or attention to seeking the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is difficult to hear what somebody’s saying if you’re walking away from them rapidly in the opposite direction in the middle of the traffic.
All right we’re coming to the next paragraph. Now this is—don’t just take this like an item in the newspaper about who won the baseball game, because there’s more to it than that. On the earthly level, there is no human authority over presbyteries and apostolic teams. Okay? Now I say that. It’s up to you to check in the New Testament and see if you can find them. There may in church tradition. I’m not concerned with church tradition. I’m concerned with that which is basic and authoritative in the New Testament.
Going on with my paragraph, Jesus governs these direct from heaven through the Holy Spirit. Now I—please understand what I’m telling you is extremely radical. It’s going to change a whole lot of things that all of us do if you accept it. You don’t have to accept it. Historically, man has set other individuals or groups over presbyteries and apostolic teams almost invariably, and thus frustrated the government of Jesus. The usual result is some form of bureaucracy, but this does not meet the real needs. Now I’m president of the society to abolish bureaucracy you understand. All I’m saying is a bureaucracy is incapable of governing the Church of Jesus Christ, that’s all. It may do all right in Washington, D.C., or it may not. It’s a matter of opinion. But it cannot handle the issues of the Church.
I would say almost all the Christian denominations and organizations we can think of probably with a certain number of exceptions are administered by bureaucracy. The Church of Rome, which I respect is one of the vastest bureaucracies on earth. And I admire their efficiency. Think of that—they’re administering seven hundred million people. That’s no small task. But many of my good Roman Catholic brothers have told me, if you could get inside that maze you might never get out again. A bureaucracy cannot handle the issues of the gospel of the Church. We’re living in a world that’s changing almost every day, where crises and revolutions and wars are developing, where people are open to the gospel in certain specific moments in a unique way and then their hearts are closed again. Only the Spirit of God has got the computer that tells us where to be at what time. I’m so concerned that this is practical that I’m not interested in theological theories.
You see another thing with bureaucracies is the kind of man that flourishes in a bureaucracy is usually not the kind of man who ought to be leading an apostolic team. So you’ve either got a man who ought to leading an apostolic team, doing a job which frustrates him, or you’ve got the wrong kind of man who does flourish in a bureaucracy, in position of authority he ought not to have. You see the issues?
Now Ruth and I have been studying the life of Abraham together recently and one thing has struck me which I have never seen so clear before. Abraham is the father of us all. Generally speaking he’s a pattern that we should follow. But he had one problem and it cost him dearly. I think he always did what God told him to do, but his problem was he did more than God told him to do. Okay? And two examples: God said leave your family but he took Lot along. Well that was a major problem. Lot is the father of the Moabites and the Amonites who are still part of the problem for Israel and the Middle East today. And then he waited twelve years and didn’t have a son by Sarah, so he decided to have a son by Hagar. And the result was Ishmael and Ishmael—for the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob is a four thousand year continuing problem. If ever there was a warning that’s it—don’t do more than God has asked because it won’t be blessed. You’ll just build problems for yourself.
All right now we’re going on about this invisible government issue. There is a precedent from the Old Testament. Israel found it difficult to live under God’s invisible government and asked for a human king. I’m sure you’re familiar with the story. In such a case, visible human government tends to come between the Lord and His people, and to drain the resources of the people. I think it would be worth while looking at what Samuel told them about the king in First Samuel chapter 8, I’m going to read quickly verse 4 and following.
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah,
And said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”
But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the LORD.
And the LORD said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; of they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them
You see when we will not accept the invisible government of God and ask for a human substitute, we are rejecting God.
“According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. [And if you’re a leader of God’s people, sooner or later you will discover they treat you the way they treat God.]
“Now therefore, heed their voice,
That’s wisdom. You know don’t fight people when they want the wrong thing. Let them have it—not always but generally speaking that’s the only way they’ll learn.
However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.”
So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who asked him for a king.
And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots.
“He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.
“He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks and bakers.
“And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants.
“He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants.
“And he will take you male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work.
“He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants.
“And you will cry out in that day because of your kind whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the LORD will not hear you in that day.” [And so on.]
What I think Samuel was telling them is if you have human government you’ll find it’s expensive in one short sentence. And I would say—and I hope I don’t appear uncharitable and I’m not aiming these remarks at any particular group—but I think a tremendous amount of the finances of God’s people is diverted into bureaucracy. And it could be much better used.
Now going on there is both room and need for other kinds of groups: committees, councils, etc. But these must never be allowed to usurp the authority of presbyteries and apostolic teams. And generally speaking that’s what tends to happen. I would say with regard to a council there is scriptural precedent in the New Testament but not as a standing permanent body. Councils were called in church history to meet specific critical situations and they were dissolved when the need had been met. And you know the nature of a thing is once it gets into being its primary motive is to keep itself in being. Have you ever noticed that? Regardless of what it came into being to do. I think that’s true of almost all major denominations. Their supreme objective is to keep themselves going and most of them have forgotten what they came into being to do in the first place. And I’m not anti-denominational. I have many friends in many denominations. I just try to be realistic.
Now I’m giving you some examples of other such groups but I’m not going to dwell on this. The churches in a locality might appoint a committee to fight pornography as they did here in Fort Lauderdale with great success. Or a radio or TV station supported by a group of churches in an area, or churches in a locality might send relief to a disaster area, as we did once upon a time when Guatemala had an earthquake. Those are perfectly legitimate and I would not set any limit to the kinds of groups that might come into being as long as they do not obviously contravene some clear principle or teaching of Scripture. But the point is they must never usurp the authority of presbyteries and apostolic teams.
Now relationships between apostles and presbyteries. Apostles were at times directed to specific sections of humanity. I’m not sure that at times it’s strong enough. I think it’s probably pretty common. I have a friend, who I will not name just to avoid embarrassment, I regard him as the apostle to East Africa on the basis of his fruit. There was just before World War I two men, James Saltzer and William Burton, who went out from England to the Belgium Congo and in the next forty years they established more than one thousand independent or self-governing local churches. And all the signs spoken of in the New Testament occurred in their ministry. They were the apostles to the Belgium Congo, or not theapostle, apostles to the Belgium Congo. I think in certain sense, apostles are more to a section of humanity than to a geographical area. At least that’s the example we’ll look at. And I say that tentatively. I haven’t really weighed it. Galatians chapter 2—this is Paul’s confrontation with James, Peter and John.
But from those who seemed to be something - whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me.
But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter [the uncircumcised-the Gentiles, the circumcised-the Jews.]
(for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles),
We don’t need to go any further, but there was a kind of splitting up of the ancient world. And the really respected leaders, James, Peter and John, went to a very small section of the ancient world, but in their eyes it was more important than all the rest put together. They went to the Jews and left Paul who was in some sense kind of an upstart to go to the rest of humanity. But I mean, it’s scriptural.
A person’s calling makes a difference they way you to people. If I’m preaching in an ordinary meeting and I see one Jew sitting in the meeting, I will address most of my message to him. I don’t do it deliberately. It’s just that’s the way it is because that’s my calling or part of my calling.
Now what I say here—we’re at the bottom of the first paragraph in section “B” in case you wandered off. They, the apostles, did not claim exclusive authority over specific churches. Now that’s an important statement. To illustrate it I’m going to look at the relationship of Paul to two churches: Galatians and Corinthians. He was a father to both groups. Okay? Look in Galatians 4:19 for a moment. Galatians 4:19, he says to the Galatians,
My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you.
He was their spiritual parent. There’s no question about that. Likewise you look at what he says to the Corinthians in First Corinthians chapter 4 verses 14 and 15.
I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you.
For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
That’s very specific. He was the spiritual father of the Corinthian church. He was the spiritual father of the Galatians. But how did he relate to them? Now he got very provoked with them, both groups, because they had coming amongst them the Judaizers—that is the religious Jews who believed in the Messiah. But who preached to Gentiles that if you’re going to believe in Jesus you’ve got to come under the Law, you’ve got to be circumcised. They were a continual thorn in Paul’s flesh almost all through his ministry. And they infiltrated both the Galatians and the Corinthians. Now what is interesting to me is to see how Paul responded and I’ll say it very simply. He did not say, “Why didn’t you get my permission before you invited those preachers?” What he said was, “You ought to have known better than to believe them.” And I think that very much characterizes Paul’s attitude. He did not appeal to his authority. He appealed to their maturity. He never, apparently, claimed exclusive right over any church even if he was the total parent of that church. He expected more of them.
Let’s look briefly at when he says first of all to the Galatians in chapter 4 verses 12 and following. We have to read quite a lengthy passage but be patient.
Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all.
You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first.
And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.
Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? [Now he speaks about these Judaizers.]
They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them.
Now I want to ask each one of us here that has some kind of, some kind of responsibility for people outside our immediate area. How do we respond when that kind of thing happens? My personal reaction, and I’m a very individualist person, I’m not going to impose my views on them. I think you can produce conformity for a while by imposing on people, but I am personally convinced the end result is less than effective. We have to produce mature people. I’m not prepared to go round changing diapers for a lot different people in different churches. They should have grown up. They should have been potty trained years ago and I’m not prepared to go back and do it all over again. I am no good at that. I hope I’m communicating to you. I’m trying to communicate an attitude and I’m very clear it’s my attitude. You may not feel that way. But something in me in those situations says let them alone. Let them find out for themselves. You tell them, you teach them, you’ve prayed for them, but don’t you become a sergeant major to them. Maybe it’s five and half years in the British Army it’s made me allergic to sergeant majors, but or more accurately it’s sergeants major—did you know that?
All right we’re going on to verse 17.
…yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them.
But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you.
My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you,
I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you.
[Now listen. This is his basic response.] Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?
What is he saying? “Can’t you see for yourself what the Bible really says?” That’s the ultimate appeal, it’s to Scripture and their own understanding and good sense. You can read the rest of the chapter.
And then again First Corinthians 3 where he’s dealing with the Corinthians who were having the same problem. We’ll read just the first probably ten verses or so.
[He says you are just babies, that’s your problem he says.] Our brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.
I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able;
For you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? [What’s the problem?]
For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?
Now what did he want them to say? Did he want them to say all of them, “I’m of Paul.”? Absolutely not. He was just as upset with that as with the ones that said I’m of Apollos.
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.
So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.
Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, and you are God’s building.
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. [Does he say nobody else should build without my authorization? No. He says,] But let each one take care how he builds on it.
And then he warns, “If you build with wood and hay and stubble, it will all be burned up.” He doesn’t say, “Don’t do it.” He simply says “I’m pointing out what will happen if you do do it.”
I think the truth in the long run is the most powerful instrument we have. I am preoccupied with the statement Paul made and I don’t even know where to find it—I think it’s in Second Corinthians—we can do nothing against the truth. I am totally convinced of that. I don’t even want to fight the truth. I try not to be stubborn. When I’m confronted with the truth I bow to it. It doesn’t always suit me. Sometimes my wife tells me the truth. You know, well she’s my wife, I could just say well if it’s the truth I’ll bow to my wife. She knows I do. That’s right. I’ll bow to anybody who tells me the truth. I don’t want to fight the truth. It’s disastrous. Stubborn—stubbornness is an iniquity and idolatry. Don’t indulge in it.
Let’s look also in First Corinthians—just one other passage there, 1 verses 11 through 13.
For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.
Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.”
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
Paul was just as much upset with the people who said “I’m of Paul,” as all of the rest. He did not want, what shall I say, them to be his people. I think that’s the fairest way to say it. And that’s wise. The more people you have that are yours the more problems you have. That’s right. Why make problems for yourself. Some of you will leave here blessing me. You’ll be able to walk upright. You’ll have shuffled a burden off your shoulders.
I just put there at the end both Paul and Peter wrote independently to the Galatians, Second Peter 3:15. They didn’t cross check with one another. As each was led by the Holy Spirit he ministered to those people.
All right. Now we’re coming to something important. This is the closing section. The nature of the apostolic ministry. An Apostle is literally “one sent forth”. That’s the meaning of the word—to extend the boundaries of God’s kingdom. That’s my addition. A static apostle is a self-contradiction. The essence of the apostolic ministry is to be moving out. He is sent forth—put those two simple English words together and you get the right picture.
Now I’m not saying an apostle should never become resident anywhere, but when he does he functions as a co-elder. First Peter chapter 5 verse 1,
The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ…
The word translated fellow elderthere is a compound Greek word. The best translation is a co-elder. In the government of a local church there is no one higher than the elders. An apostle is merely a co-elder. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have authority, but it’s the kind of authority that functions by being recognized not by being institutionalized. If an apostle speaks out of his apostolic ministry and you don’t listen to him, you’ll be sorry.
Next statement—an apostle normally combines in himself one or more of the other four main ministries. He is more than a successful pastor or evangelist. Now that’s an important statement. I find the term apostle being applied to men with a successful pastoral ministry. Thank God for the successful pastoral ministry, but that in itself does not make them apostles. His ministry must include the manifestly supernatural. Second Corinthians 12:12,
Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance…
The first sign is character, notice. The apostle is the man who hangs in when everybody else gives up. But that’s not all.
…in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.
These signs of an apostle. I’m going to read you two other translations just to let you get the full impact of that. Second Corinthians chapter 12 in the New American Standard, verse 12,
The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. [The signs of a true apostle.]
[And in the New International Version Second Corinthians chapter 12 verse 12,] The things that mark an apostle, signs, wonders, and miracles, were done among you with great perseverance.
I think those three translations make it absolutely clear that an apostle without the miraculous is an incomplete apostles. He may be a fledgling apostle, he may be on the way to being an apostle, but he is not a New Testament apostle.
I heard a prophecy in 1964 from a brother who’s known by name to all of you—Brother Kenneth Hagin. He and I were ministering in a meeting together. And in this prophecy which has stuck in my mind ever since, he predicted what God was going to do in the Church and he said, “God will bring forth,” those are not the exact words but the phrase I want to get is, “the full stature of the apostle, the full stature of the prophet.” Taken from the King James translation, “till we come to the full measure of the full stature of Christ.” I believe that. In fact I could say I believe God spoke to me very recently that He’s shortly going to manifest in the Body of Christ apostles and prophets, such that it will not necessary to label them, because their ministry and their fruit will attest sufficiently what they are.
Now I want to point out to you two main purposes of the supernatural. I find amongst a lot of people that I move amongst, they’ve got a kind of negative attitude towards the supernatural. If you get a vision you’re kooky. Well that makes Paul and Peter kooks. And listen, I hear this kind of talk, “Well, there are people who’ve got a supernatural ministry, but their character doesn’t measure up.” Therefore by very illogical deduction we don’t want a supernatural ministry. That’s not logic, let me tell you that.
But let me point out another side to that which I don’t think they’ve considered. You take the men whose character we most admire in the New Testament, all right. Let’s take Jesus, Peter, John, Stephen, Philip, Paul—you know what? They were all men with tremendous supernatural ministries. So if we’re saying to somebody you’ve got the supernatural but I’ve got the character, he can reasonably answer if you’ve got the character why don’t you have the miracles? Because the men in the New Testament with the character had the miracles. That attitude has undermined the faith of countless numbers of Christians. Brother, if you don’t want miracles pass them my way. I want them all and more.
Now let me point out two main purposes of the supernatural. Number one I learned by experience. It is to produce convinced obedience. Let’s look at the Scriptures there. I’m going to look at Romans 1:15 in the NASB—5 not 15, talking about Jesus Christ he says,
Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles.
What was the apostolic ministry give for? To bring about the obedience of faith. Now look what he says in Romans 15 verses 18 and 19.
For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed - [How?]
in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit…
Okay? You understand that the signs—I think I’ll read it in this version too because it’s—Romans 15 verse 18,
For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed to make the Gentiles obedient –
in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God,…
“So the supernatural has got a very important practical purpose which is to make Gentiles obedient. And this became so clear to me when I was in East Africa because I was ministering to young people, students, in the college of which I was the principal. And basically they were cooperative, they were willing. And I did all the preaching and all the teaching I could do. I crammed Scripture into them by every channel and they said, “Yes sir, yes sir.” But the results were disappointing. There was something missing. And eventually I told the Lord, “Lord, I’m going to stop trying to make them what I want them to be, and I’m going to start praying for them.” And about six months later a rather lowly educated young man, an African, turned up with a guitar which he could barely strum, and he said, “I would like to preach to your students.”
Well, my students—if there was one thing they were proud of it was their education. I though how will a man who’s never got beyond grade five ever convince these students. Well my first wife, Lydia, said with characteristic wisdom, “Let’s pray with him and see what he’s like.” So we prayed with him, and praying with him was like being at the gate of heaven. So we said if he can pray like that we’ll let him preach.
Well the power of God descended, the miracles began, and those students were a totally different bunch of people within a few weeks. You see there’s a great different between the soul and the spirit. I had been reaching their souls with teaching and counseling and discipline all of which is very good. But it only goes so far. Miracles reach the spirit. It’s not the miracles that reach the spirit, it’s the power of the Spirit that produces the miracles. You see you can reason people a long way but you’ve only got them up to a certain point. And something has got to happen that’s totally supernatural.
This is so clear to me because my whole background was reasoning. And when I was confronted with the gospel I could understand book I could read in Greek, Latin, English or even Russian, but I couldn’t understand the Gospel. I could not understand the Gospel. It was the most frustrating thing. And I never did understand it until I had a miraculous experience. And when I had a miraculous experience I couldn’t help understanding the Gospel. So I want to point out to you the miraculous is no superfluity.
I was with—Jim and I were with a group of very wonderful ministers a little while back in Miami. And there was a man there who was invited to speak about when he’d discovered about water baptism. And I want to say this nicely because he was a fine man and I respect his opinion. But he had discovered and a few other men there with him that if you teach people right about water baptism, that it really is the burial of the old nature and the burial of the past, they won’t keep on having recurrent problems in their character and in their behavior afterwards. You can deal with it once for all. But he said we usually put them through a six weeks course and then we baptize them.
I don’t make fun of that, but I couldn’t help because it was legitimate time for question and answer, I couldn’t help getting up and saying, “How is it then that in the New Testament they invariably baptized people the same day?” In fact with the Philippian jailer they didn’t even wait for dawn. What’s the difference? Well we couldn’t go any further, but I’ll tell you what the difference was. There was a work of the Holy Spirit that gave instant revelations. And there’s no substitute for that. And it saves a lot of discouragement and frustration. Stop reasoning with people and start pleading with God and see what happens.
We talk about some men who’ve got miraculous ministries and we tend sometimes—I wouldn’t do it—to belittle them. But I’d like to tell you this, you’d better check on how much time those men spend in prayer before you criticize them.
All right. Second practical purpose—we’re very near the end now—to produce maximum results in minimum time. And you can look at Acts 14 again. They went through a group of cities, won converts to the Lord, went on, came back and appointed elders. I doubt whether it was as much as six months. How many places could we do that today? We take two, three, four, five years to produce elders. And I’m not criticizing. I’m just pointing out there was something at work then that we don’t often see now. It could do things in the Spirit that could happen almost instantly. And that’s the supernatural. And it isn’t just being convinced by miracles. I want you to understand. It’s the supernatural atmosphere—it’s like moving into the New Jerusalem where the light is clear as crystal—you see things instantly. You don’t have to sit down and reason them out.
I’m not a great one on counseling, but that’s a weakness of mine. I mean people need counseling, but I get tired of listening to people’s problems for two house, honestly. I don’t have that much patience. Get them in a deliverance session. Get the demons out. Now deliverance is no substitute for counseling, I want you to know that. But it can shorten counseling a whole lot.
Another thing that helps in counseling is a word of knowledge. He sitting there tell you his version of the story, but you say, “You’re lying. It wouldn’t happen that way.” That’s supernatural.
Now, you all want to be apostles right now I’m sure. So I just want to tell you what’s involved in being an apostle before you make the final decision to apply. Turn with me to First Corinthians chapter 4 verses 9 through 13. So before you sign that application form that’s on your lap to become an apostle just listen to the job description for a moment. First Corinthians chapter 4 verses 9 through 13—I hope that’s right. Yeah. We’ll read verse 8. You see the Corinthian church had become tremendously knowledgeable. They knew it all, they had it all. So Paul says, “Already…” this is the NIV. It’s very vivid.
Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings—and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you!
For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.
We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!
To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we hare homeless.
We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;
when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.
Now sign on the dotted line, all right? I’m just going to bring out the concluding emphasis without dwelling on it. It’s been a long session and I want to just bring out, what I consider to be the main points.
Number one—apostolic teams and presbyteries are the two legs of Christ’s body. The need for a scriptural balance between them—if one leg is much longer than the other the body cannot function. Three, jointly they are under the direct invisible government of Christ in the heavenlies made effective by the Holy Spirit on earth. Four, until apostolic teams become functional, the Church should consider itself in a process of ongoing development. Don’t cast anything in concrete yet. You haven’t got the form.
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