This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
Our theme this morning as you have already heard is “Apostolic Teams.” I believe that this is an area of truth into which the Holy Spirit desires to lead the people of God at this time. I have the privilege of traveling widely amongst many different nations and also amongst Christians from many different backgrounds, both denominational and racial, and I find that this theme is spontaneously coming up amongst the people of God. I believe that’s the work of the Holy Spirit. I believe this is, perhaps, the next main phase of truth into which the Lord is planning to lead us.
About twenty years ago as I traveled around the United States as a Bible teacher, I began to emphasize the importance of elders. And at that time most Christians hardly ever used the word elder. It was a strange sound to them. They were used to words like pastors and evangelists and that kind of word, but the word elderreally hadn’t impacted them. Today if you travel to most cities in the United States you’ll find people talking about the elders. In other words, in twenty years the Holy Spirit has brought this truth before the people of God and there are many who are now applying the truth. I believe the next phase in this particular line of development is that which we’re going to be dealing with today—Apostolic Teams.
I’m going to make a number of rather general statements and try and present a kind of sweep of truth without going into to much detail. I could, I believe, give you Scripture references for everything I’m going to say, but if I took the time to give every reference and we all turned to every passage in the Bible we might lose the general thread of what I’m trying to impart. So I’m, in many instances, I’m rather sticking to generalities than going into details and I’m not attempting to offer you proof texts for everything I say.
So I want to begin with this rather sweeping general statement that on the human level, that is not looking to the Lord Jesus, but just on the purely human level there are two main forms of leadership in the Church as depicted in the New Testament. And I have stated them there: Apostolic Teams and Presbyteries. And I believe in a logical and historical order, apostolic teams come first, and out of them presbyteries.
Now the word presbyteryis a little unfamiliar to some of you and also it’s used in some context in a way that’s not completely Scriptural. The Greek word for an elderis presbuteros. And a presbytery is simply a corporate group of elders. So that’s why I’ve put elders in parenthesis after presbytery. Both of these—not but, but both—I don’t think I need to change that. I write my t’s and my h’s and they get run together and my u’s look like o’s and my o’s look like u’s, so that’s how bothgot transformed into but.But it is bothusually plural. I think this is an extremely important fact, and one which historically the Church has often ignored. I believe it’s the wisdom of God that He has not made one particular human being thehead. I believe the Church has one head, and His name is Jesus and His residence is in heaven. And I believe that our headquarters should be where our head is. I don’t believe the Church has an earthly headquarters. Nor do I believe the Church has more than one head. There are creatures depicted in the Bible that have many heads, but they’re not the Church. The Church has one sole unique supreme head—He’s head over all things to the Church which is His Body: His name is Jesus. And from heaven, through the Holy Spirit, He governs His Church. The Holy Spirit is the personal, resident representative of the Godhead now on earth. God the Father is in heaven, Jesus the Son is in heaven, the Holy Spirit is in divine exile on earth, and He’s here forming a body for the Lord Jesus Christ, forming a bride for the Lord Jesus Christ. And when His task is complete, He and the bride will take off for a better area.
The concept of plural leadership is pretty hard for many contemporary Christians to accept. We’re used to talking about thepastor or whatever else. Now I appreciate and admire the men whom God has called to be pastors, but I don’t really believe that you can find in the New Testament a phrase such as the pastor. The word pastoris an alternative translation for the word shepherd. The Greek word is ___________. It occurs eighteen times in the New Testament, and in the King James Version, seventeen times it’s translated shepherdand only once is it translated pastorand that’s in Ephesians 4:11, “he gave some pastors…” This confuses many people who don’t realize that there’s no difference between a shepherd and a pastor.
I said to you the other day, but I’ll repeat it. The associations of the word in English today are totally different. If I say to you pastoryou think of a man in a dark suit behind a pulpit on Sunday. If I say to you shepherdyou think of a man in working clothes with dirty hands out in the open looking after living creatures. Which is the correct picture? The second one. See how verbal associations can mislead us and divert us from the truth.
Now I have researched this because I have been closely and personally involved in it. In the New Testament the name or the title shepherdin the singular is applied only to one person. That’s Jesus. Whenever it speaks on the human level it’s always plural. There are three different titles used for the same persons, and I think to establish this we need to turn briefly first of all to Acts chapter 20. Now this you probably need to turn to. It’s not on the outline and I’m going to be saying quite a number of things which are not on the outline. Verse 17, it says,
From Miletus Paul sent to Ephesus and summoned the elders of the church.
Notice, not the pastor, but the elders. Now if that church had a pastor, it was very unethical of Paul to summon the elders and leave the pastor out, wasn’t it. You know the reason why he didn’t do that? Because there wasn’t a pastor. The leadership of the church was the elders, the collective presbytery. Then he said to them in verse 28, talking to these elders,
Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseer,
Notice they were also overseers. Now the Greek word for overseeris episcoposfrom which we get by derivation or transliteration the word bishop. Those of you that know the Scandinavian languages it’s biskop. It’s just, it’s not a translation, it’s a transliteration. It’s taking the letters and just writing them over in another language. I suspect they did that in the King James Version partly because King James didn’t want to clash with the bishops of the Anglican Church. And if you don’t translate the word you conceal a lot of truth. So he called for these elders and he told them they were overseers, or bishops if you want to use the word but it’s a very bad word, in fact for me it’s almost a dirty word, and then he said to them—are you with me…
…take heed to shepherd the church of God.
So they were also what? Shepherds. So the three titles apply not to different persons, but to one and the same kind of person. Elders are overseers and shepherds. Somebody had said you can view it this way, the qualification is to be an elder. The job is to be an overseer, and the ministry is to be a shepherd but it’s one and the same thing. You see when we talk about overseers, those of you who are on such fields of work as construction, immediately you get a picture of a man who’s overseeing a group of men seeing that they do the proper job. That’s the picture. All right.
Now just to prove to you that Paul wasn’t some oddball who had different terminology from the other apostles, turn to First Peter chapter 5 and read the first two verses with me. First Peter chapter 5 verse 1 and 2.
The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder [but the Greek is one compound word a co-elder] and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:
Shepherd the flock that is among you, [taking the oversight] serving as overseers…
You see. They were elders, they were shepherds, they were overseers. That’s the New Testament pattern, and invariably without one single exception, every time they are mentioned in the New Testament they are mentioned in the plural. The only one that’s called a shepherd in the singular, in the New Testament, is Jesus. This is no accident. If gives Him a unique place. He is the Head over the Church, He is the Good Shepherd. He is the One who laid down His life for the sheep. Under Him there are a group of shepherds, elders, overseers who are a presbytery collectively.
Now you see in the New Testament there was never more than one church in one city. When Paul wrote to Corinth he didn’t write to the Baptist Church or the Catholic Church or the Pentecostal Church. He wrote to the Church. And in my personal conviction, there is only one church in any city in God’s sight today. Jesus is not a bigamist. He’s not going to marry more than one bride. We’re not far away from that because I really believe every God-called pastor or shepherd has a right to be in his place. The only real major change that’s needed is that all the pastors in a city acknowledge one another as co-shepherds of one flock. That’s all that’s needed. And thank God in many parts of the United States and other parts of the world, this is beginning to happen.
There was a time when I and some of my fellow preachers were very concerned about bringing the church together. And we held conferences which were attended by large numbers of people, but I have to say eighty percent of them were women, which is all right. God bless the women. But what we realized was we were bringing sheep together but not get shepherds together. It’s not difficult to unite sheep. But as soon as they go back to their disunited shepherds, they’re disunited again. The problem is not the sheep, it’s the shepherds.
I must tell you this story. This is by the way, but in 1970 or ’71—I think it was ’71—I attended a unique conference held in Seattle, Washington, to bring together preachers and teachers and ministers in the Charismatic Movement, which was very much needed because we were like ships that passed in the night. We went past one another on our glamorous missions, we really had very little contact with one another. So through the good offices of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Seattle and some of the other local pastors—I think forty-four Charismatic preachers gathered. The condition was we were to spend every day together for five days, we had to be together. And in order to gather in the money for our fares, we were sent out to preach at five different preaching locations every evening. But that was incidental.
I remember the first morning. The forty, approximately forty of us sat around and looked glumly at one another. This was Monday morning and everybody you know doesn’t feel their best on Monday morning especially if they’re Christians. And we didn’t know how to begin. And then one precious Catholic brother said, “You brothers are going to have to pray for me and cast the spirit of fear out of me, because I’m afraid of the rest of you.” When he said that about half the people said that’s my problem too.
Well I tell you we had a time. We discussed demons for one whole day and that was a very controversial subject. And I was the center of the controversy. We discussed water baptism for a day and a half. Well if you want to be controversial amongst a group of people that go from Catholic to Anglican to Presbyterian to all the rest down to the lunatic fringe which I didn’t name… I mean I never knew there were so many different concepts of water baptism. I just couldn’t grasp it.
We didn’t settle anything, but for my part at that time I made a number of lasting personal friendships which I still have today, and which I value very highly. I think I’ll have to tell you a little more about this. My first, wife whom some of you knew, was Danish by background, brought up in the Lutheran Church, got saved, baptized in water which is a heresy in Denmark, received the Holy Spirit, and for fifty years she had a running war with the Lutheran Church. And I kind of inherited this war. So I didn’t really think that Lutherans could be much good. God forgive me, but that’s what I thought.
One of the things that changed me was when I was in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1963 having just arrived in the United States, I met a lady who was a Lutheran. And she told me that God had filled her tooth. I thought, “God, do you do that for Lutherans?” I said, “Let me see.” And she pulled her gum back there was this extraordinarily kind of ceramic area in her tooth. I said, “Did you show it to the dentist?” And she said, “Yes, I did.” “And what did he say?” He said, “We don’t use material like that.” So that kind of opened my eyes to the fact that God could do something for Lutherans.
Well, then when we went out preaching we were assured—there were two or three of us together in the same—there were five preaching areas, we were assured we would only be paired off once with any other preacher. Well the first night I was paired off with a Lutheran. So I thought that’s got it over early you know. Well something went wrong with the computer—there wasn’t a computer—but and I was paired with the same man three times. And at the end of that I had to say to myself there are good Lutherans. There’s no doubt about it. He’s a good man. He’s a close personal friend of mine today. His name would be known to every one of you if I were to mention it. Well you see that kind of break things down and show is that we had to relate to one another.
Then I was invited to stay on in Seattle where I had been a pastor previously, and preach in a local church. So that Sunday I heard some of the local pastors come together and discuss these meetings, and they were all astonished at this. They said, “We have organized meetings to make an impact on the city of Seattle, but these meetings we didn’t organize for that purpose but they’ve made a bigger impact than any meetings that were organized to make an impact on the city of Seattle. So Monday morning I’m sitting in my Boeing Jet flying back eastward from Seattle, and I’m pondering this thing in my mind. “How come that a meeting that was not organized to make an impact, made a greater impact than the meetings that were organized for that purpose?” And God does at times speak to me very clearly, sometimes audibly, sometimes through the gifts of the Spirit, sometimes just with a clear inner voice, an inaudible voice. So I was saying to myself, “How come that these meetings made this impact?” And the Lord, I believe—you can test this for yourself—I believe the Lord said to me, “Now tell me. With whom did I have more problems, with Jonah or the City of Nineveh ?” So I though it over and I said, “Lord, when you got Jonah straightened out You had no problems with Nineveh.” And if I understand the voice of the Lord He said to me, “And when I get the preachers straightened out, I’ll have no problems with the people.” Now he didn’t say “the other preaches” I want you to notice. I was included.
Well, I believe that process is going on. God is moving to cause pastors, shepherds, overseers, bishops, whatever you want to call them to recognize one another in a given area as co-pastors of one congregation or one flock. Let’s say many congregations, one flock. I don’t believe the changes need to be so radical as they would first seem. The changes that are needed are changes in relationships. Now as I understand the Scripture the local elders are, in God’s sight, the governing body in that area. Their first responsibility is government. First Timothy 5:17 says,
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor.
The first and primary function of elders is to rule or to govern. Ungoverned people are disorderly and defeated people. Sheep without a shepherd are invariable scattered, and become a prey to wild beasts. So God has provided shepherds to govern His people. That’s the primary function of a pastor or a shepherd in any given area.
In the Old Testament if you study the position of elders it is stated particularly in Proverbs 31, but in other places, the elders sat in the gate of the city. That was their official position. Now the gate was the most influential and authoritative place in the city. It was the place of judgment, it was the place of counsel, and it was the place of government. And so the elders in the city were responsible for judgment, counsel and government.
Now I believe in the New Testament the same principles apply. The elders in the city are answerable to God for the government of God’s people in that city. That’s a tremendous responsibility. And it cannot be carried out by any one man on his own individually. In the very city of Seattle that we mentioned, there was about that time a group of at least thirty different pastors—Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal—who met regularly, prayed together and sought God for the city. And a certain false heretical group tried to make inroads into the city of Seattle and establish a work there. The elders came together and closed the gate and they never could make their way into that city. They made their way into many other American cities, particularly the city of Atlanta, and they created havoc. Why were they able to do that? Because the elders were not doing their job. Their job was to govern. Their job was to watch over the people of God and exercise their God-given authority. But you see Jesus said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” As long as Satan can keep God’s shepherds disunited, he cannot be defeated.
Okay. Now that’s about presbyteries. Our theme is not presbyteries. It’s apostolic teams, but the two must be seen side by side. Their function of apostolic teams, in my view, is to reach out. It’s extension. Let’s look at that Scripture in Romans 15 verse 20 through 21. This is Paul’s testimony.
And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation.
but as it is written:
“To whom He was not announced, they shall see;
And those who have not heard shall understand.”
That was I think the supreme motivating force of Paul’s ministry was to reach the unreached. And I believe that that is the ultimate motivating force of the apostolic ministry. But once again, we do not find apostles in the New Testament, normally, operating as individuals. In fact, accept when an apostle was put in prison or isolated in that way, I don’t think you can ever find an apostle operating on his own. This I think is very, very important. It’s again the principle of corporate leadership.
I think God has introduced two safeguards against the very things that have happened historically in the Church which never should have happened. Number one the Church is not led by one man. It’s led by a group of men. Apostolic teams are not one man. They’re a group of men. And furthermore the authority is divided between the two groups. The apostolic teams don’t have all the authority. The presbyteries don’t have all the authority. So that it takes a balance and it takes the ongoing grace of God to operate. See, this is one of God’s principles. He gives us ways of operating which only work in the grace of God. And the human mind always thinks it’s difficult to stay in the grace of God. “Let’s find a way that we can do it without depending on the grace of God.” But God has made sure there is no way.
My summation of church history is nineteen centuries of trying to find a system so safe we didn’t have to trust in the Holy Spirit. The answer is there is no such system. It may be risky to trust in the Holy Spirit, but it’s much riskier not to. So, now again, another thing I wish to say is that I believe myself, and some of these opinions are questionable, but I believe that the governing body of the Church in a local area is sovereign. No one dictates to it. No one can walk in and say you people have got to do this. I believe in the sovereignty of the Church as I believe in the sovereignty of the family. I believe that in a family, father and mother are sovereign. And mother-in-law or father-in-law, or father or mother cannot walk into that place and say, “You’re doing this and you should be doing that.” That doesn’t mean that they’re independent. There’s a difference between being independent and being sovereign. Being sovereign means you are accountable directly to God for what you do. But, young married couples, if father-in-law, mother-in-law has experience and proven success, you’re stupid if you don’t listen to them. Okay. They have no authority to walk and in and say you’ve got to do this. But if they’re sent by the Holy Spirit and they have words from God, you’re going to suffer if you don’t listen to them. See what I’m saying?
The same with the local Church. I don’t believe even an apostle can walk in and say, “This is what you’ve got to do and that is what you’ve got to do. And I’ll put up this man and put down that man.” But if God sends an apostolic ministry to a local area and the local presbytery rejects it, they’ve got the right to do it but believe me they’ll suffer for it. Understand? God’s got His own way of imposing His authority. It’s not carnal. The Church, historically, has resorted to many carnal ways of enforcing authority, but it doesn’t produce the results that God desires.
*[Appears to be something missing from the tape at this point.]
In one place I’ve committed such and such a man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Well it just depends how you view Paul. If I’d been that man it would terrify me much more than anything that any human authority could do to me. But if you don’t have the authority in the Spirit, just using words is not going to accomplish much. Do you see what I’m saying? I hope I’m giving you a picture.
So here’s the leadership of the Church. Consists of two corporate groups—apostolic team, presbyteries. Presbyteries are local. They’re resident and they’re responsible for the government of God’s people in a given area. Apostolic teams are mobile. A stationary apostle is a contradiction in terms. The top of human authority in the Church actually is the apostle. He said, “In the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers.” But that doesn’t mean that they can dominate or take over a local church. This is an issue that we’re going to have to face. Believe me it’s coming up.
I personally don’t believe in apostolic franchises. Get what I mean? I don’t believe an apostle can say, “Well I’m responsible for these six churches and nobody else has any input,” like Kentucky Fried Chicken. I don’t find Paul treated his churches that way. He was totally the father and the founder of the Church of Corinth, but he didn’t restrict them as to other preachers coming in. When Paul’s teachers came in he didn’t say, “Why didn’t you consult me?” He simply said, “You were stupid to listen to them.” The New Testament puts much more responsibility on God’s people than most Christians are willing to acknowledge. You’re free to do the wrong thing but you’ll suffer for it. How many of you say Amen to that statement?
All right. Now as I see it in the New Testament the greater emphasis is on apostolic teams. There’s much more said about apostolic teams than there is about presbyteries. But let’s be conservative and say that the balance should be about fifty-fifty. Fifty percent emphasis on apostolic teams, fifty percent emphasis on presbyteries. Well, on that basis the Church continually advanced. It was continually extending its borders. Now my estimate which is stated there of the current balance is conservation ninety-eight percent and extension two percent, and I think that’s a little bit generous. I think the Church is totally out of balance. It’s completely askew, and that’s its basic problem. It’s marvelous what two percent of the Church can do. Just think what would happen if it was fifty percent of the Church.
Now as far as American churches are concerned there is no lack of resources. Friends, we have the resources to do the job: financially, technologically, and in other areas. If we don’t do it it’s not because we couldn’t, it’s because we wouldn’t. And we are going to be answerable to God. There are poor countries that maybe can’t give much outreach to the world. Although, it’s a funny thing, some of the poorest countries are giving a lot of outreach. Wait till the Christians of China get turned loose and see what will happen.
Now let me say something further. I don’t believe the word independent is a Christian word. My friend, Charles Simpson, says when you’ve said Independent Baptist, you’ve said the same thing twice. And he was the Baptist from the womb upwards. Born in a Baptist hospital, grew up in a Baptist Church, attend a Baptist Seminary, and so on. So he presumably he’s talking from experience. I wouldn’t dare to say that. But what I’m trying to say is the word independent for Christians is a dirty word. No Christian is independent. We are all part of a Body. We depend on one another. The eye cannot say to the hand I don’t need you. The head cannot say to the foot I don’t need you. Isn’t remarkable that Jesus is the Head. Even Jesus needs the members of the Body. He’s dependent on us.
What I do believe we are is inter-dependent. And I want to suggest to you that there’s inter-dependence between presbyteries and apostolic teams. I’ve stated it this way. Apostles appointed elders. As a matter of fact, in the New Testament you cannot find elders appointed by anybody but apostles. Paul says in Ephesians that the Church is founded on apostles and prophets. I wonder whether God recognizes as a Church anything that is otherwise founded. I personally believe we are calling a lot of things churches which God doesn’t call Churches. The fact that we the label to something doesn’t make it something. I can label a person a zebra but it doesn’t make a person a zebra. If you have ever seen zebras, and I’ve seen a lot of them, they’re very distinctive. In my opinion the New Testament Church is very distinctive. We shouldn’t take that label and put it on a donkey.
Return to my theme. Apostles appointed elders. Look in Acts 14 verse 23. It says beginning at verse 21.
When they …
That’s Paul and Barnabas—the first apostolic team recorded in the New Testament. One member had dropped out. Who was the member that dropped out? John Mark. He couldn’t take it but later on he made it. Thank God. That’s encouragement to some of us that have dropped out once. We’re not permanent dropouts.
And when they had preached he gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch,
Strengthening the souls of the disciples [notice that word] exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through much tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
Notice there is no other way into the kingdom of God. There is no easy way into the kingdom of God. Then it says,
So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting,
Very significant terminology. When they arrived the people weren’t disciples. They were just a group of disciples, but after elders were appointed what were they? A church. You understand the transition from being just a group of Believers, to being a church occurs when government is in store. That’s what makes a church. A group of people without New Testament is not a church. It can be a prayer group, it can be a house group, it can be all sorts of things. But it isn’t a church. That’s the transition point from disciples to a church. Who appointed the elders? The apostles. You can search the New Testament. You’ll never find anybody else appointing elders. Now, personally I believe, once elders were appointed, Scripturally they had the right to appoint further elders to add to their own body. But remarkably enough no one in the New Testament initially appointed elders except apostles.
However, the boot is also on the other foot. Who sent out apostles? The answer is elders. Let’s turn to Acts 14 for a moment—or Acts 13 verses 1 and following.
Now in the church that was an Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers [Five men are listed—let’s not bother with the names.]
As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said [have you ever wondered how He said it? Was there a disembodied voice? I mean we don’t know, but my guess is that it was through prophecy.] the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.
So [they], being sent out by the Holy Spirit [notice that], went down to Seleucia, and started on this journey.
Now those people that were mentioned in the first, I would regard as the corporate eldership of the church at Antioch. They were the main leaders and they were the ones to whom the Holy Spirit said send out Barnabas and Saul. Now when Barnabas and Saul were in the Church they were prophets and teachers. After they had been sent out from the Church by the Holy Spirit what were they? Apostles. That’s right. You want confirmation for that turn to Acts 14 and look at verse 14, just read this phrase.
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this…
So when you are sent out from a local Church by the Holy Spirit for an apostolic task, what do you become? An apostle. Let me emphasize by the Holy Spirit. Another interesting point is that people sent out in the New Testament were not sent out from the bottom. It wasn’t the junior minister that was sent out. They were squeezed out from the top. A very, very important principle. They didn’t send out some inexperienced young man that had just come out of Bible School. The most experiences and fruitful men were the men that went out. Now the Church has habitually gone against that order. When we talk about sending out missionaries, we think of a young man who’s been through Bible School and served as a Youth Pastor somewhere, and come on let’s send him out. According to New Testament pattern, and it’s obviously most practical, the hardest job should take the most experienced people.
Furthermore, as a matter of experience, when the leadership is squeezed out at the top, you know what happens? New leadership emerges. As long as the old leadership sits on the thing, no new leadership actually can emerge. And if new leadership emerges, it’s a split. See how important these principles are, and how simple, and how basic, and how often the Church has gone directly contrary to them. The result is what? A mess.
Now we have the reproductive cycle because in Acts 16 we find that a church which Paul and Barnabas had founded had educated and brought up a young man named, Timothy, and when Paul went back on the second journey that church sent Timothy out to go with Paul. And after the Church, by the Holy Spirit, had sent Timothy out, what did Timothy become? An apostle. That’s right. You might question that but look in First Thessalonians. I told you I wasn’t going to give you Scriptures for everything but I know there are some things you won’t believe if I don’t give you Scriptures. All right. The first verse of First Thessalonians, just the greeting.
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy.
And Silvanus is just the Latin form for Silas. It’s Paul, Silas and Timothy. Who wrote the letter? Paul, Silas and Timothy. It wasn’t written by Paul alone. It was written by three men. Now notice what they said in chapter 2 verse 6.
Now did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as [what?] apostlesof Christ.
All right. All three of them were apostles. Why were they apostles? Because they’d been sent out. What does the word apostlemean? I should have said that a long while ago. It means one sent forth. If you haven’t been sent forth you can’t be an apostle.
Now the Church doesn’t initiate it. It merely is a link in God’s chain. Because Paul says in First Timothy that his apostleship came from God the Father by Jesus Christ the Son. That’s where everything in the Church starts with God the Father—everything that’s of an consequence. Anything that doesn’t start from God the Father has no permanence whatever. It came from God the Father by Jesus Christ the Son, but into the Church by whom? By whom? Come on. Who said? The Holy Spirit. You see all three persons of the Godhead are involved in apostleship - Father, Son, Spirit.
Now though Paul was in the eternal counsel of God apostle right from the beginning he was never called an apostle until the Church sent him out. So the Church has to cooperate with the Godhead to fulfill the purposes of God. So a person becomes an apostle because God the Father decides it, Jesus Christ the Son implements it, the Holy Spirit imparts it to the Church and the Church responds. That’s the perfect order. We have to admit we live in an imperfect world. That’s one of our problems. Also another problem is we’re imperfect people. But that’s the divine pattern. There’s no reason to stray from it unnecessarily. Sure we won’t always do things exactly right, but why do them deliberately wrong.
Now we come into something exciting. Can we turn over—thank you Phenu—you’re going to be forever immortalized as the one who turns the pages. Okay. Now here we’re coming to real dynamite. I think I’ll read my outline. Jesus set the pattern with the first apostolic team. Who was the first apostle? Jesus, friends. Hebrews 3:1
Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.
The Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Jesus. Okay. He was the Apostle, He was the High Priest. He was the one sent forth from God to do a job that no one else could do. When He’d done the job he returned to God as what? Our High Priest. To represent those who’d received His apostolic redemptive task. And Jesus started out, if I may say so, in a big way. Let’s look in Luke 8. Ladies be sure to turn to Luke 8. If you don’t look up anything else, look up Luke 8 verses 1 and following.
Now it came to pass, afterward that he [Jesus] went through every city and village, [that’s a thought to ponder. He didn’t leave out one city or village. He was thorough.] preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God.
The word translated bringing the glad tidingsis the word evangelizing, bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And you’ve probably heard me say, the gospel is not just the gospel. It’s the gospel of the kingdom of God. The good news that God is going to set up His kingdom. That’s the gospel. And if you ever hear anything that isn’t good news, remember you’re not listening to the gospel, because the gospel is good news.
And the twelve were with Him,
and certain women [notice that] who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities - Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons,
That’s her testimony. That impresses me. Most Christians in a church today if they had to be delivered of demons would never tell anybody. But her testimony was He delivered me of seven demons. And bear in mind that that woman who was delivered of seven demons was the first witness of the resurrection. She had a unique place of honor. I’ll tell you what, brothers and sisters, it isn’t shame to be delivered of demons. It’s a shame not to be delivered of demons. God doesn’t hold it against you if you need deliverance, but He will hold it against you if you refuse deliverance. That’s the problem. All right. Let’s go on verse 3,
and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others [and in Greek the othersis feminine. Many other women—what do you women say to that? Amen.] who provided for Him from their substance.
What do you say to that? I didn’t hear that Amen. They were the ones who supported Him financially. Did you ever think about that? You know what I say? Praise God for wealthy women. Commentators estimate that there were at least thirty people with Jesus when He went around. He didn’t start in a small way. Why were there women there? One reason was because Jesus needed them. But another was because Jesus wanted to show the people of His day that women had a place in His kingdom. You see an apostolic team is not just a group of people to get the job done. It’s a group of people who visibly demonstrate the character of the kingdom their preaching. That’s why it’s important that we don’t send out all WASPS. You know what I mean by WASPS. White, Anglo-Saxon protestant. Because the Third World already things that’s what Christianity is, a little social club run by white Anglo-Saxon protestants. We misrepresent the gospel if we don’t send out teams that represent the variety and the fullness of what the kingdom of God is.
All right. Let me make this statement and it’s good for this particular audience. I’m not naming you because who know where this video cassette might end. It might end with people who would be upset if I named you, and we don’t want to stop them getting the blessing. But this particular group of people needs to know, I believe, that the Church started mobile. It didn’t start residential. It started mobile. This is the first demonstration of the Church.
I was in Denmark years ago in a Pentecostal Church and I asked the pastor’s daughter, who was about eighteen years old, I don’t know why I asked her this, I said, “What is an elder.” She replied, “An elder is one who sits on the platform.” I thought to myself, “That’s it. The real mark of a Christian is sitting.” If you’re a member you sit in the floor and if you’re an elder you sit on the platform. But one thing you have to do is sit. The early church was not a sitting church. It was a mobile church. That’s why Jesus said, “You can’t be My disciple unless you forsake all that you have.” He wasn’t using fancy language. He was very practical and down to earth. You’ve got to be willing to say good-by to everything if you’re going to join My team. Praise God.
Now something tremendously important and we only have a little time left. Apostolic attestation—Romans 15 verses 18 and 19. I couldn’t finish without this. It’s such a beautiful text. There’s two more texts to come. Romans 15:18 and 19. This is the statement of an apostle.
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—[notice the key word obedient. Our aim is to get people obedient. How do we do it?]
In mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.
My observation and this is based on personal experience in a number of Third World and other countries, is it takes the supernatural to make Gentiles obedient. They’ll give intellectual assent to what you’re teaching, but real obedience doesn’t come until the supernatural is demonstrated. There’s a totally different level of response that comes when you touch people with the supernatural. And we have to do that. Second Corinthians 12:12.
Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.
Those are the signs of an apostle. I think the NASB says, “the marks of a true apostle…” What are they? First of all please notice number one is perseverance—it’s character. It’s holding on, it’s hanging in, it’s not giving up. And there’ll be many times when you’ll be tempted to give up.
Secondly signs, wonders and mighty deeds. God has never ordained the gospel to be preached with out supernatural attestation. The disciples didn’t beseech Jesus to give them signs. He said, “These signs will follow…” Just as Moses didn’t ask God for signs. God said I’m going to give you signs. God is logical. If you’re going to hear a message about another world and another kingdom and things that you’ve never seen with your eyes or heard with your ears, you’ve got to have supernatural attestation to know it’s real. We ought to apologize to the world for ever asking them to believe a gospel that isn’t supernaturally attested. You go to the Jewish people. They know well enough if a message is from God, it will have supernatural attestation. You give them one supernatural attestation, they’ll change.
I don’t have time to give this testimony but we had a Jewish engineer who helped us build out house, and he had back pains. So I didn’t run after him. I said, “I’ll pray for you.” I can’t tell you the story, but the Lord lengthened his legs. And then he had pains in his neck and the Lord lengthened his arm. And after that he was in short sleeved shirt, the hair was standing up on his arm. He said, “I have never felt anything like this.” His attitude changed immediately.
All right. One more statement and I’ll just say it. The issue, friends, is not apostolic succession. Who cares about apostolic succession? Who cares whether fifteen centuries ago somebody laid hands on somebody who laid hands on somebody. And nobody can prove apostolic succession. It’s a theory, wishful thinking. The issue, friends, is apostolic ministry. Let’s show them. Let’s not say way back somebody laid hands on somebody who laid hands on somebody. Let’s say when I lay hands on you you’ll receive the Holy Spirit. That’s different. First Corinthians 4:20, my closing Scripture.
For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.