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FOUNDATION OF THE APOSTLES
The Apostolic Foundation of the Gospel
ISSUES OF DISCIPLESHIP
God has provided that each believer who is born of the
Spirit may grow in the Spiritual life. Learning Christ, in a
general sense is becoming familiar with God not only through His word
but also through His presence. As we mature as believers we gain familiarity
with His character and personality. We, in the process of time are assured
that we may become partakers of His glory and His character. As it is
written, we go from glory to glory (2Corinthians 3:18,)and from
faith to faith (Romans 1:17.) We learn to recognize and hearken
to the voice of His Spirit and respond according to the way we are directed.
This is learning Christ. God's model for learning Christ
is the imitation of the first born Son of God, Jesus Christ.
We are to model his manner of thinking, and his manner of acting. We
are to duplicate his interacting with the our Spiritual, "Heavenly
Father" and his Spirit-directed ministry. The first disciples
were provided with a living model but they were only able duplicate
his Spiritual behavior after they had received the enabling Baptism
of the Holy Spirit. There
were no Christians until the Holy Spirit fell at Pentecost. It is
a popular notion that Jesus' disciples who walked with him in Galilee
and went to evangelize outlying areas two by two were Christians. They
were not. They were disciples of the Rabbi Yeshua of Nazareth and merely
acted exactly as Jesus' commanded them. The Christian church, or ekklesia
(called out ones) was a whole new dispensation that followed the endowment
of Power, the receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
With Christ's life within us, we submit our egos and wills to him. Our
heart's aim is to become as he was in this world. (John
16:16; 1John 4:17) There is a total spiritual inability and helplessness
of the natural man or woman to do the work of Christ. This is the reason
Jesus commanded them to wait until they received the "promise of
the Father" the Spirit of Truth. We can not be the light of the
world if God's light does not burn within us.
many nominal Christians experience a religion that could function just
as it is without a resurrection.
We can not be witnesses of his resurrection if we have not been
touched by the mighty hand of God that raised Jesus from the dead who
also made our own spirit come to life. We can not reflect the goodness
of God if he has not remade us to be righteous saints who were once
greatest hope as we come into this world is to know God. This is our
first calling. Sadly, some come and go from this world not having fulfilled
that calling. If we are fortunate to have God reveal himself to us then
we must press on to the next stage, that of being a functional witness
of the Kingdom of heaven. It is also unfortunate that many are thwarted
in this second stage by incomplete or ineffectual teachings of religious
tradition. The reality of the
"new creation" changes our motivations and desires and plants
the laws of righteous living within our souls.
we have noted, the institutional church has either lost sight of, or
failed to actualize the provisions of the New Covenant which comprises
the Gospel of Salvation through Jesus Christ. Time has eroded true understanding,
and spiritual subterfuge authored by an unrelenting adversary has come
in to subtley sidetrack our spiritual lives and cause us to rely upon
human understanding instead.
What I am sharing in this writing is not a unique revelation but simply
a restatement of the way that was revealed by Jesus to his servants
the apostles following Pentecost, in the beginning of the church age
church or teacher (including denominational groups) who are attempting
to mentor or direct others into a spiritual life are under divine obligation
to be accurate. Private interpretation risks wrong doctrine. Since there
is always a danger of deception, it is important that we proceed cautiously,
both as teachers and learners. We are obligated to discern all things
with the wisdom, the help, and guidance of the Spirit of Truth
who is the Holy Spirit. God
has told us through the Word that we may ask for wisdom and for truth
to be revealed to us. He further instructs us to have confidence in
this asking, knowing that God is willing. God is willing! God is willing
to give good gifts which bring fulfillment and blessings and
not sorrows. When seeking the revelations which are of God, or
from God, it is up to the seeker to be on guard against deceptions
and to discern the true from the false. In asking for anything from
God it is very important to invoke the name of Jesus Christ. This
name is the name above every name and above every spiritual entity or
authority. This name will consecrate or make pure anything which may
transpire. It will guarantee that anything which will be revealed or
imparted spiritually will be free of any corrupt or deceptive influence.
If you ask in the name of Jesus, the deceiver can not work his
way so readily into the workings.
Receiving True Gifts and not Counterfeit Ones
Jesus instructs us about receiving gifts from God, especially the gift
of the Holy Spirit. He teaches us that the God of heaven gives good
gifts and not evil, hurtful or perverted ones. Christ also characterizes
the fact that there are two kinds of gifts which might be tendered,
the true and the false, but God's gifts are good and true. The scripture
is found in Matthew 7:8-11 and in Luke 11:11-13: "For
every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to
him that knocketh it shall be opened." :8; "Or what man is
there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?"
:9; "Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?" :10;
"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your
children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good
things to them that ask him?" :11. KJV The two objects which
are sought are bread and fish. God gives things which are life-giving
and safe (bread, and meat.) Luke chapter eleven restates the same teaching
about asking from God the Father but expands the emphasis, toward the
gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the living gift of God's
power and presence: "If
a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father,
will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give
him a serpent?"; "Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer
him a scorpion?" "If ye then, being evil, know how to give
good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father
give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" -- Luke 11:11-13kjv.
I have emphasized the word son to emphasize that relationship is the
key to receiving from God. There are a whole lot of different kinds
of seekers; some sincere and some less sincere. If a dabbler negotiates
to receive a spiritual manifestation from God, it is uncertain what
may transpire. But God wishes to emphasize that he is for blessing His
family. He is the giver of Good gifts. Counterfeit
gifts are a peripheral issue. The above reference represents the fact
that there is the possibility of receiving a bad gift. These
kinds of exceptions bear upon the setting and environment where and
with whom the "ministry" occurs and the sincerity of the hearts
who seek the gift. We
have a common enemy, Satan who is always ready to move in to deflect
the gift of God or to substitute a counterfeit. He does not give good
gifts, nor does he give valid revelations. His gifts are not life giving,
they give neither joy, nor health nor liberty. Yet it is possible that
he will try to come in unless you exclude him from any part of the seeking
and asking transaction Satan's gift is characterized as a stone instead
of bread, as a serpent instead of pure food, something infused with
poison instead of food. Jesus
has portrayed Satan as the deadly counterfeiter who will insinuate himself
into the seekers life subtly and at any opportunity. Forewarned is to
be forearmed; for this reason, it is wise to initiate safeguards and
precautions as I suggested above in order to keep the deceiver out of
your life and out of every spiritual transactions. There
was a time when our lives were entirely under his (Satan's) control.
We may not think that this was the case but the apostle is very clear
about it. A couple of apostolic letters bring attention to the nature
of the unredeemed life, which includes each and every life before the
renewal In Christ. Paul's
letter to Ephesus, Chapter 2, verses 2 and 3. "Wherein in time
past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the
prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children
of disobedience; Among whom also we all had our conversation (lifestyle)
in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the
flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even
as others." KJV Paul's
letter to Collosae, Chapter 1 verse 21. "And you, that were
sometimes (before now) alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked
works, yet now hath he reconciled"The apostle contrasts the
previous unredeemed nature our previous lifestyle with the redeemed
nature. In the letter to Corinth, Chapter 1 verses 10 and 11, he lists
a number of these life styles; "-Neither - thieves, - - covetous,
- - drunkards, - - revilers, - - extortionist, shall inherit the kingdom
of God.; And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified,
but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit
of our God."
The Foundation of the Apostles
Every Believer Becomes a Disciple " Apostles were first disciples.
Disciples walked with the Lord in an intimate way. They learned his
ways by first hand observation, through hearing his word and knowing
his voice. The disciples while they were growing in the knowledge of
the Lord Jesus were also participants in the work of Jesus' ministry.
It was they who announced, 'the Kingdom of God is at hand."
They showed that the Kingdom could be demonstrated by both the spiritual
power and the authority to impact the afflicted, the oppressed,
the poor and the broken hearted. Disciples
were and are called to be partakers of Jesus Christ's ministry. Each
of us continues to share the same access to Jesus Christ. We share the
same Spirit, we share in the same commission. "For this reason
the son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the
Devil." (1John 3:8) We
aspire to attain to the same unity and inclusiveness as the original
fellowship of disciples. There was no member of the original circle
of disciples who was just like another. Yet, there was a unique niche
for each of those Jesus called.
Each of the first disciples had a divine destiny and an unlimited opportunity
for growing up in the fullness of the Lord. Jesus
chose the original disciples. He singled them out and called them aside
to walk with him and to have a face-to-face relationship with him. Descriptions
indicate that each had attributes which could label them as plain folks
or ordinary people. Some associated with Jesus more intimately than
others. Each disciple had unique traits and attributes of character;
Matthew a worldly businessman, a publican, a tax collector; Peter a
robust, headstrong man who generally spoke without thinking and was
always competing to be someone; John a warm, compassionate and trusting
youth; Nathaniel innocent and open; Thomas a scientific minded pragmatist
who had to have things proven before he could be persuaded and so on.
twelve included men who we might not have chosen, including Judas the
deceiver and betrayer who Jesus also called a robber. Outside of the
twelve were a multitude of other disciples including women who
traveled extensively with Jesus though were not part of the inner group
of the twelve.
It is possible that those who were reasonably close and connected to
Jesus may have been about 500 individuals. The
apostles were men with whom Jesus visited, taught and broke bread. He
also imparted his life and Spirit into them. After he had risen from
the dead, he breathed upon the disciples saying to them, "receive
Holy Breath (Gr. pneuma)." The word breath and spirit are
the same word in the original text. This is the same as to say, "Receive
the Holy Spirit." It was this action which imparted Holy life within
each disciple this afforded, I believe the new heaven borne experience
that we believers today call born again or spiritual renewal. The eleven
and Judas Iscariot's replacement Matthias were born from above or conceived
as a new spirit being at this time.
The apostle Paul (originally Saul) came on board some time later being
called by Jesus for a particular revelation and ministry. Saul of Tarsus
was a Jewish theologian, a Pharisee of the strictest sect of Judaic
fundamentalism of the day. Saul was an intellectual of supreme discipline
and credentials. The zealous Saul, set out to destroy the disciples
of Jesus, persecuting and imprisoning all who preached Jesus as Messiah
and the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead. Saul was added to
the order of discipleship but in a special way after Christ's
How did Saul become a disciple and an apostle? Paul recounted and retold
his account of the encounter several times, but the original encounter
is described in Acts, Chapter 9. God supernaturally intervened in Saul's
life, on a journey to Damascus. His travels were interrupted by Jesus
appearing to him in a brilliant light. Saul was blinded and knocked
him off his horse onto the ground. The voice spoke to him saying, "Saul,
Saul, why are you persecuting me?" Paul
answered this voice saying, "Who are you, Lord?" and
Jesus replied, "I am Jesus who you are persecuting."
Jesus then gave Saul brief instructions about who he was to visit to
received further ministry and instruction. Jesus began to tutor a new
disciple after this. Jesus did not give Saul any information that he
did not need to know at that time, but he told him the first thing to
do. Paul was told where to go in Damascus to get further help. God likewise
does not give us more information than we need to get started. He does
list all of the stages of our journey, including both the trials and
the victories. The journey of faith is an hour by hour, day by day program.
journey of discipleship begins with a first step forward into a new
life. In the first chapter of his letter to Galatia, Saul who has been
given a new name, Paul, to go along with his new nature, accounts how
he was taken aside and how he began to be instructed face-to-face, personally
by Jesus. For three years in the deserts of Arabia, Paul learned
Christ. being discipled as one "out of due time a description
of his apostolic commissioning found in 1Corinthians 15:5-10.
The Apostles Doctrine
Why should we place an emphasis on the apostles and the disciples?
Because we wish to be connected to the same authentic and pure doctrine
and the same spirit and the same manifested spiritual life that
was brought forth in the beginning of the "church". It must
breath the same purity, power and the same divine order. The apostolic
teachings have been described as the foundation upon which the house
of God is constructed. We who continue to build the Kingdom of God must
continue building upon the same foundation which is true and sound.
The foundation is the apostle's doctrine. It is based upon the essentials
of the true faith. The "promise of the Father" a nation of
kings and priests through Jesus Christ, designated as "the firstborn
of many brethren."
Understanding the Apostle's Doctrine
The writings of the apostles constitute practical, uncomplicated, hands-on
teaching of how to live a Spiritual life. The Apostles who wrote in
the Bible include Peter, James, John, Paul and Luke is generally credited
with authoring the Book of acts as well as the Gospel of Luke, Paul
is generally credited with writing most of the other epistles.
fine tune and over-process questions of authorship and have vain debates
over endless issues of scholarship, but such debates bear little relevance
to living the Spiritual life if we merely accept the epistles as true.
The apostle Paul has a unique revelation. There are a number
of commonalities that all the apostles share. The original disciples
(apostles) received the power to become sons and daughters of God through
the Spirit of adoption and the release of the Spirit of God to bear
witness that we are the sons of God. The Jews of Jerusalem who believed
were prejudiced to the Jewish religious traditions and the establishment
of the Kingdom as a Jewish prophetic event.
is given a revelation from Jesus that is directed to the gentile
audience. The emphasis in Paul's teaching is directed to the entire
world, a Gentile world. With the other apostles he enunciates the power
of the crucified and resurrected Jesus. The Messiah's resurrection
is a legacy for all mankind, not just the Jews in Jerusalem, the promise
of sonship and new life as a Spiritual Creation in Christ.
Paul's revelation speaks to a different audience, the gentile world
and the concept of the “Church.”
(Ec-cles-si'-a) Paul goes so far as to call this revelation 'His
Gospel.' The original apostles, while they began outreach beyond
Jerusalem, maintained a focus on the Jews and Israel. Messiah's resurrection
denoted the identity of Jesus as the Son of God and the King of Israel
who would eventually restore the Kingdom to Israel. Jesus as the risen
son on God was the corner stone of both group's gospel message consistent
with the revelation of Christ's grace shared by Peter, James, John or
Luke. It is clear however, that Paul was not taught the Gospel by the
apostles in Jerusalem but given unique revelation and instruction by
Jesus personally, for 3 years after his conversion on the Damascus road.
FOLLOWING ARE SOME OF THE FOUNDATION APOSTOLIC DOCTRINES
From the outset, I do not want to neglect
the important foundation of the Christian faith which is its Judaic
roots. Jesus, Yeshua, The Messiah came to fulfill all of the ante-types
which are portrayed from Genesis to the Prophets and the Psalms. Jesus
has fulfilled the first four appointed feasts of Levitus 23 and shall
one day fulfill each unto the last. The apostate position taken by both
the Roman church that forbade the recognition of the roots and prophetic
future of Judaism as well as the reformers who followed in doing the
same pernicious path have separated Christianity from its Jewishness.
The Messiah is the Messiah of Israel; the apostles were all Jewish followers
of Moses who never discarded the scriptures which were the first and
only texts they taught from before the New Testament scriptures came
into being. Apostolic foundations merely gave credence to all that was
written pertaining to the Son of God who would come into the world to
be a light both to the Jew and to the Gentiles.
Christ, the True Son of God Almighty, Jesus Christ,Virgin born,
fulfilling the Messianic Scriptures of the Old Testament, Christ
Jesus, crucified, resurrected and alive;
Christ, the only mediator between God and man;
Christ, the lamb of God, He becomes our Passover;
Christ, offers Redemption through the blood God's of Lamb (Jesus
Christ) the perfect sacrifice;
are offered the promise of The New Creation in Christ Jesus;
Holy Spirit provides enablement and reveals truth in Christ Jesus;
believer is given authority against spiritual powers; Deliverance
and discerning of the spiritual world
potentiality of the children of God. Widely unknown or untaught
who we are as children of God.
law of the Spirit, has bought us liberty and freedom apart from
the Law of sin and death
Church calls for Unity of all believers; All blood bought believers
are one in Him,
Unity produces synergistic power, peace and potentiality.
believers must learn to discern matters of the Spiritual life
and maintain unceasing vigilance over matters of the common faith;
have been forgiven therefore we must continuing to walk in Love
and unbelief will be dealt with at the hand of the returning Jesus
in divine judgment before & at His second advent;
is a culmination of the church age; Thereafter, this evil age
will also conclude after the false prophet and deceiver are revealed
and the deeds of the wicked are met with judgment.
vigilance must be maintained against False doctrines, false messiahs
and anti-Christs; Rampaging ferocity of ascendancy of the final
need to be alert to false teachers; and Aware of doctrines of
Demons that take believers into bondage
redemption of Israel becomes a praise in all of the earth; With
the second advent Israel will become the head of all nations and
Christ will rule in the Holy City.
Insights into the Gospel
Paul an intellectual's intellectual and a theologian's
theologian, set aside his natural credentials when he began to minister
the Gospel. Paul presents some of the most powerful insights into the
conflict of intellectualism and theology. Paul experienced a total turn
around in his life. The features of his traditional achievements were
discarded as were the merits of his classical education. Paul declared
that the things which he once esteemed and considered meritorious were
now no better than "dung". The
Holy Spirit drew a line of division in Paul's life. He clarified the
difference between the fashion of this world and the world of God. He
revealed the matters which pertained to mind and soul and matters of
spirit; the thoughts of the mind versus the intents of the
heart. Vanity no
longer had a place in his life. Personal pride and striving for status
was cast down he was given another job description. A "slave"
It is Paul who addresses two points of doctrine which are at times in
tension or contrast. First the purely Spiritual nature of the Gospel
and the God-connected source of life; and secondly teachings on leadership,
headship and government impacting the long-term course of this entity
called "the church," the body of believers. Contradictions
have occurred in this respect, that individuals are placed in positions
of leadership and authority who do not have spiritual credentials but
merely human approval. Spiritual enablements allows the kingdom of God
to be manifest according to the apostolic model. Even
in the first years of the church age we hear accounts of men like the
apostles Paul and John struggling with individuals who have assumed
leadership though there motivation were entirely wrong or their doctrine
was corrupt. We hear Paul describe associates who tried to undermine
or destroy his ministry, or who departed because their hearts turned
again to the world; or of the associates who preach for personal gain;
or the associates who wanted to be pre eminent and gloried in having
control over people. (See
1Timothy 1:19,20 1Timothy 4:14)regarding Alexander the Coppersmith;
2Timothy 4:10 regarding Demas; 3John 1:9 regarding the person of Diotrephes.)
Paul Defines the Apostolic Emphasis In his first letter to Corinth
Paul presses a very important foundation point in the first two chapters.
This particular emphasis stressed the difference between a Spiritual
message contrasted to a conceptual one. In chapter 1 verse 17 he states
that his gospel emphasis is not based upon words of human wisdom but
in power generated from the cross of Jesus. The cross of crucifixion
is where the exchange of righteousness was made. The cross of crucifixion
is where the sacrifice was made. The cross of crucifixion is where God
paid the price in blood for every sinner. This
doctrine of the cross does not end with a man's death but with a divinely-powered
resurrection. Thus the doctrine that Paul speaks of includes the death
and the resurrection of Jesus. It was Jesus who was crucified, dead,
buried and resurrected. The holiday we call Easter concludes three Jewish
Festivals; Passover, Unleavened bread and First Fruits speaks of the
resurrection. As Jesus became the first fruits of those who have died.
(1Cor.15-2) It is truly unfortunate that so few Christians understand
the Jewish roots of Christianity, including the fact that Yeshua
and most all of the first disciples and apostles were Jews. Jesus (Yeshua)
rose from the dead, ascended on high, took captivity captive, and
gave gifts to the human race. Paul's
statement of the cross does not address sorrow or loss, it addresses
rather, victory, effulgence and power. The resurrection speaks of the
power of an endless life. It speaks about the Father's plan to extend
grace and peace to every man, woman and child. It speaks about the ability
to become a new creation in Christ.
Kingdom of God Wisdom Versus Human Wisdom Paul going on in his
first letter to Corinth, introduces the theme of "wisdom."
Paul contrasts human wisdom to divine wisdom. He explains that man who
deems himself wise through reasoning, can't accept the wisdom of God.
God's wisdom is framed in paradoxes and conundrums. For example the
paradox of the least being the greatest; the weak being the strong;
the first being last; the wise being foolish; the living being dead;
the dead being awakened to live. If
these concepts make any sense to you, perhaps God has already opened
your eyes in a very significant way. God framed truth in such a way
that when they are articulated sound preposterous, unbelievable and
world says, "Be someone, do your own thing, express your individuality."
God says, "Decrease to yourself, take your cross and let the outward
"you" be crucified so that the Divine (Christ) can have effective
sanctuary and expression in you. The
scientific mind requires proof. The eye measures and discerns the things
which we call real or reality. Yet Christians are entreated to disregard
outward manifestations, the outward world. Neither is the mind the highest
organ to lead and direct, children of God are led by the Spirit,
not by acting purely out of reason. The truth is not determined according
to science and rationality. God requires faith on our part.
again in the same letter speaks to the matter of making Spiritual realities
manifest, "I did not come teaching and preaching with enticing
words of man's wisdom but with demonstration of the Spirit and of power
that your faith should not stand upon man's wisdom but upon the power
of God. (1Corinthians 2:4,5) The
Spiritual life first begins to manifest, because of the grace of God
and secondarily by acting in faith. The gospel states with respect to
the Kingdom of God that we are all pressing into it. (Luke 16:16)
The Lord stands at the door knocking, the action of faith opens that
door to him. Again, grace is the initiatory cause, it is God's hand
in matters concerning our life, stirring, directing and empowering.
Grace is the hand of God outstretched to us, beckoning; he bids us to
come forth. We respond to him and we press in to the world of Spiritual
life that awaits. The
hand of grace is outstretched in love. Grace speaks of loving kindness,
compassion and giving. This love is caring and constructive in nature.
Love builds the bonds of faith and defines the character and the parameters
of the spiritual life. It
is not knowledge that defines the spiritual life although there is a
knowledge component. Scripture reminds us that knowledge ultimately
has the affect of "puffing up" our egos. There is an adverse
relationship to our character when knowledge becomes pre eminent in
our orientation to God. We will always find "knowledge" being
closely linked to "religious systems". It is a realm defined
by expertise and expertise is usually defined by knowledge.
How much do we have to know
before we become Spiritual? I
began to describe the Apostle's doctrine by mentioning doctrinal content,
followed by emphasizing the power (Gk. dunamis) that God provides,
through his Spirit, to empower our lives and relationships. The
attribute of spiritual relationships may lie closer to the center of
Spirituality than any other factor. The apostle's doctrine has fellowship
and relationship within the very heart of it. Here is a glimpse into
the New Testament church of the Book of Acts, "They continued
steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship and breaking of
bread, and with prayer." (Acts, Chapter 2:42) The
apostles who knew the way of God fully through first hand experience
were to guide the novices into the same area of common experience; the
community expands, the Kingdom of God is entered by more and more converts.
A community is being built and stands in the midst of a world of unbelief,
carnality, and unrighteousness. God calls us into a family-like community
in which God is not only glorified but in which God continuously
interacts with the community.
True fellowship is what this community is about. There is a sense of
family, it is characterized by the joy of redemption (salvation, the
first step in pressing into this community.) This intimate fellowship
of believers is the closest thing to heaven God has for us on earth.
We share a common mind, a common testimony, a common hope. We are baptized
into one Spirit and into a common destiny. This community is redemptive
owing to the fact that the smoke and tarnish of this world can not endure
in the presence of the Living God, neither can the things which defile
the flesh stand in his presence. We
come together in this community of faith where we find restoration,
strength and edification. We come together in fellowship to repair the
bumps, bruises, and blemishes that life in this world inflicts upon
those who are "not of this world."
Edification and Ministry as it Pertains to Community We have
been conditioned by a religious world to go to church
to receive ministry. After all, the church is where the minister is.
I believe this is a viewpoint which needs to be reexamined in light
of true fellowship and the question of what true ministry ought
to be. Those to whom church is a place to be ministered
to, are still conditioned to think in terms of priest (clergy) and laity.
In this model which has been the tradition for the past 17 hundred years,
we are taught that we need someone else to do our spiritual work for
us. We come to the priest; we have him pray for us, teach us, bless
us, absolve us. We presume that ministry is what happens in a church
(fellowship,) and this kind of ministry is some kind of a "Band-Aid"
to help us salve the current bruise. I
believe there is an alternative, apostolic way of viewing the community
of fellowship. It is the notion of coming to a place of restoration
and strengthening; some have called this a "spiritual filling station."
In this setting of fellowship there is rest, repose, and encouragement.
There are occasions for teaching but the manner of teaching need not
be formalistic. Those who know and who have experience victory in one
kind of challenge or another, are able to share and encourage others
with less knowledge or experience. Edification can occur without formalized,
programmatic services. There is sharing of food and the life of God.
fellowship provides a redemptive community in which the bond of fellowship
is not the bond of obligation but of the heart. Love is true and not
an affectation. This kind of fellowship is far less structured, yet
there is common motivation which guides everyone to seek first the things
which are from God. God is purposely the focus and reason for being
of all of the people who gather. God is not necessarily first in the
lives of many, but in the right community this will change.
I do not see this kind of fellowship either taught, practiced or encouraged
within the institutional church. Those who come to church for a formalistic
program come in unsatisfied and they leave unsatisfied. They come feeling
estranged or alienated from God and they leave feeling just as far from
him. They can however, pretend to be listening while they sleep; or
they can pretend to be praying while they dream of their next adventure
with the girl at the office or the guy at the club. The actions of formal
ministry can not touch the heart of those who need to have a spiritual
To summarize: Learning Christ according to the Apostles Doctrine
requires that we:
Be spiritually renewed by faith in Jesus Christ
Receive the empowerment of the Holy Spirit
Renew your mind by studying scripture
Seek personal fellowship of God
Seek the fellowship of God's family - - where
you are loved and valued
Imitate those who have mature spirituality
Walk in faith, (the knowledge that God cares for
us in our present moment)
Minister to others, the same gifts and wholeness
that we have received from God
How Much Do We Have to Learn Before We Become Spiritual?
Mentors and Ministries
of the spiritual life is to make a connection with those who can supply
valuable connections. The joints are connections to individuals in the
body of Christ. Fellowship supplies input to areas of knowledge which
will be encouraging, and edifying. When
we are born into the kingdom, we must move forward or we will retrograde
back to the old life in the world. Here according to most voices of
ministry is where one would be encouraged to get connected to a "good"
church. This should be a simple fact but it is not. There are few church
bodies of believers who hold more than a traditional evangelical viewpoint.
Most are adhering to forms and traditions as well as doctrines which
do not advance the Spiritual life to a significant level of maturity.
Once in a church you are expected to "play by their rules."
My best advice is to search for the church and set your sights on particular
features which will allow you to be discipled and grow not in tradition
but in spirituality. If one does provide "life" move on until
you sense that it is where God would have you. In the mean time find
a home fellowship where you can grow with others in an informal setting.
God does not discriminate against home meetings. They are apostolic!
It is how the "Church" began. If
is obvious that formalized Christian ministry is everywhere in one form
or another. As I have already described a vast majority of these churches
or ministries are a manifestation of institutional and traditional religion
in which the expectation is at best conformity to the norms of a Saturday
or a Sunday ritual. Most offer no more than comfortable routine or ritual
and little hope of gaining spiritual knowledge and understanding. Neither
can they prepare us to fulfill Christ's gospel in the world.
churches, which are struggling to maintain membership, interest, or
involvement, are extremely jealous of their members going astray or
getting involved with meetings or activities which are not sponsored
by their own fellowship. There was a time when such unfaithfulness could
be met by excommunication, but today the usual rebukes from the pulpit
are just admonitions or doctrines created out of hand which indicate
an obligation to support the local body. Yet it would seem to be close
to a cardinal sin to consider "church hopping" or being active
in any outreaches from other congregations. This is, in effect the fruit
of division which institutional religion enforces.
The Electronic Church There are many other kinds of ministries
that may be accessible to us. Among these are media ministries. Men
or women who have some special gift of teaching or evangelism or certain
personal charismas have been able to share their spiritual understandings
and insights with any who will watch or listen. If we appreciate the
content of a given message we write to them or request their tape series
or perhaps, we think that they have enough clout with God to pray for
our special needs. These
ministries, sometimes called the "electronic churches"
are not always highly regarded by pulpit ministries.
We hear all kinds of castigation directed toward the names of such ministries,
whether Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Robert Schuler, Benny Hinn or countless
others who fill the airwaves of radio and television and short wave
broadcast channels. In
view of practical matters of church survival and management, local preachers
and church leaders need to maintain membership and viability. 'Grandma
Smith' might write a check to a radio or television evangelist and forego
giving her five dollar donation to the church collection plate. A pastor
might make the following remark to parishioners, "Grandma Smith,
if you want to support Reverend So and So on TV maybe you should call
them when you need a trip to the doctor; or need someone to pray for
you when you are sick; or have them officiate your funeral."
What has the Electronic Church ministry to offer? In some cases they
be offer better teaching or preaching than some tradition-bound churches
where so many to languish in their pews around the world? Televangelists
usually have some unique strengths and certainly the ability to preach
and persuade. There are important matters to consider in choosing any
ministry to support whether remote or local. However,
they do subsist on donations from listeners which at times becomes problematic.
How may media ministries provide value and features that provide edification?
Let's look at some attributes of ministry:
and most importantly is the message; Do we hear the correct gospel
much of the appeal of this ministry is performance and dazzling
rhetoric which attracts us and how much is a sense of devotion to
the truth of the Gospel?
the minister seem to model Jesus Christ? The best mode of discerning
a minister or a ministry is to imagine Jesus behaving and saying
the things as the evangelist or teacher.
devotion and reverence modeled and portrayed?
the person try to draw attention to themselves through colorful
he seem preoccupied with authority and followings?
the leader indicate as we listen to his messages that he wants influence,
control, or worship?
there seem to be more of emphasis on one aspect of the Gospel than
it a Gospel of power and wholeness or just continually underscoring
it a Gospel in which we can become partakers of God's life or are
we blessed because of our supporting the "Super Ministry of
Brother X?" There
are some media evangelists who I listen to and support because they
have helped to mentor me in understanding the Word of God. I support
them because they teach the full Gospel message, (more or less)
and believe in the potentialities of becoming children of God, partaking
in His Divinity. They teach what we should be taught in the local
fellowship or church but are not.
need to practice discernment and note any inconsistencies in doctrine
which place the teaching outside of norms of the Gospel of Jesus
Christ. The Apostles Creed is recited by many denominations
in the context of a worship service, but in spite of this, the content
of the Apostle's Creed may hardly be addressed in teaching and preaching
in sermons. Based upon denominations which I have belonged to or
visited before and after I became a believer, unbelief and spiritual
deadness till characterize most of the churches today even those
who recite the Credo!
When a brilliant preacher or evangelist proves his (her) ability to
move and edify people they begin to develop a following. People follow
spiritual anointings. They follow men or women who have demonstrated
their abilities to impact the lives of others. The
largest churches today grow around the giftings of a single person.
People are searching for a greater revelation of God. When they see
God using an individual they naturally are attracted to that person.
Nearly every Christian I know has a natural desire to be in the presence
of "anointed" preaching. Mega-churches are built around mega-men.
I believe there are in America today well over a hundred such mega-churches.
I have attended a few and have seen others via telecasts and cable networks.
Positives Associated with Mega-Ministries There are both negatives
and positives in following this kind of ministry. A few positives:
shows favor to his servant by anointing him (her) just as God anointed
Jesus and the Apostles for ministry. God's
favor indicates his approval to bring forth a minister's particular
gift or understanding to the body. God's approval indicates that he
foreknows that many will be touched and blessed by this individual.
allows a such a man or woman with special abilities to reach more people
with a Gospel focus than they would ordinarily hear or be exposed to.
are born again through the mass media ministers.
Negatives Associated with Mega-Ministries
The gifted minister may be persuasive or charismatic in purely human
terms, without necessarily walking in a divine anointing. The
media evangelist may be preaching a partial or flawed gospel, a non
Christian gospel or simply traditionalism. There
is no way for the novice seeker to know whether this person teaches
true doctrine or not except by natural reasoning or mental judgment.
is a temptation for the minister to become puffed up in mind and think
himself to be great. There
is a tendency to focus on money and self promotion. Though
there may be a great gift of preaching or imparting information there
are serious limitations for body ministry or fellowship. To deal
with this home fellowships or satellite congregations are set up to
allow blessings of human interaction and loving community. Those
who study under any ministry need intimacy and a human touch. It
is not good for man to be alone. Ultimately
the spiritual life is more than the acquisition of information about
who attend services in a mega church are content to be a mere audience
onlooker. This is a terrible loss and limitation.
But the most serious limitation is that individual believers are
never really trusted or free to lead when they have received personal
testimonies or revelation. Typically, they are told that they must be
submitted to a greater ministerial authority who must oversee any sharing
by the 'laity'.
An Impression of Mega-churches I have attended worship services
in several 'average size' mega-churches with bodies in attendance numbering
2 or 3 thousand. Some great churches have numbers approaching 10 thousand
and those with 10 thousand that aspire to 50 thousand. While
there may be brilliant teaching and preaching and outstanding musical
worship, performance; one could not help but feel that those in attendance
came mainly to view the show or to hear the inspired address of the
mega-minister. What I saw was an enterprise in which each person was
committed to make the mega-church even more of a mega-church.
was missing. There was little or no contact between the "pastor"
and the individual members. Individuals may have known and recognized
a handful of people in the auditorium but they did not seek each other
out for closeness, sharing, breaking of bread or lingering in the afterglow
of God's presence. It seemed that the super Christians who were attending
the super church quickly rushed home to resume life in whatever form
life that awaited outside of church. If the members who number
thousands each give their tithe religiously, one can only imagine the
amount of revenue that affords luxury and resources of a personal and
What is the Glorious Church?
The Roman Catholic numbers in tens of millions around the globe.
Is this the glorious church?
The issue of a glorious church may well be addressed in the context
of the mega-church. There is evidence that many ministries of mega-churches
teach an emphasis of the gospel that introduces the concept of a "glorious
church." Will the church function as a dynamic economic and political
force in the earth as well as a moral power to renovate society as well?
For those who judge on externals this may appear to be the case but
God does not regard externals. How can the size of a building or the
number of people attending a mass or a service have any bearing on Godly
glory? Glorious must bear more on the quality of the heart and the sincerity
and earnestness that allows the love of God to be shared.
See the doctrine of Kingdom Theology. In
secular societies, Christians have been regarded as the bane of society
because of their conservative and fundamental viewpoints but quite the
opposite is true. The true Spirit of Christianity is compassion, forgiveness,
and understanding. Moral precepts include personal honor and righteousness,
integrity and responsibility; kindness, mutual support and family stability.
Though the world does not like to recognize sin and unrighteous behavior
as anything other than a "choice," Christians see that we
humans all share alike, having a need for a redeemer along
with the essential need of being hopelessly lost until God extends mercy
upon our lives. In
recent decades, Christians were too long absent and silenced from the
counsel of social values and political ideas. In the present hour it
is surely appropriate for those who have so much cause to rejoice and
give voice to the life-changing testimony in the arena of public opinion.
Men and women of integrity need to stand up publicly and politically
and exercise their rights on behalf of issues of righteousness.
Yet, I believe that ultimately the glorious church does not extend to
exert itself in empire or political power. Why? The spiritual life is
essentially a non secular and a non materialistic life. Social or political
activism may be a Godly calling in some. Those who follow a leading
to become apologists for social and political issues it should be presumed
have their own foundations in correct doctrine and not equate activism
with the gospel. The emphasis of the Christian life can not be focused
too strongly upon the things which are social, political, or economic
at the expense of Spiritual relationships. These are not lines that
I draw, but lines that the Holy Spirit has drawn. These parameters have
been in place since Jesus spoke these words, "My kingdom is not
of this world," and "You are not of the world." (John
18:36; John 15:19) The
nature and operation of the world is contrary to God's ways and I do
not look for this situation to change until Jesus returns to set up
an unending righteous Kingdom. Just how far into the future this event
will occur is open to debate, there have been hundreds of book titles
addressing it but the Bible itself has "sealed up" many of
the answers and insights into the "second coming" of Jesus
Christ. This is another area of scholarship.
Does this "glory" refer to the size, influence and authority
of mega-church to rule upon the earth; does glory refer walking in the
knowledge of truth; does it refer to all of the above or none of the
above? Is it possible that the glorious church refers to the whole body
has among it the faithful remnant who somehow remains separate, pure
and faithful in the middle of a reprobate generation of spiritual pretenders
and flaccid, Luke warm church goers? Church
as empire is not an new idea. It was in fact the goal of the early church
since Constantine's day, both in Rome and in Constantinople, where power,
influence, authority and might married the political and the religious.
For a time church membership and theological belief was forced upon
the whole world. A person was then a Christian because of political
decree and not by the grace of God and such ordinances do nothing to
enhance the life and promises of the Gospel. In
such an empire men were exalted who held the power of life and death
over others; who acted as spiritual judges over others; who were mediators
between God and man and who rewarded themselves with worldly luxuries
while being exalted to the point of worship in their offices.
Meanwhile, certain men lust for power, clamoring for recognition and
striving to achieve self exaltation. They lift and promote their own
names as someone great, "as the great power of God." Acts
8:10) No, I do not think this is the Glorious church. The true glory
remains shrouded with humility. This cloud of glory can only be penetrated
with meekness, self-effacement and kindly service. Success which comes
from such is contrary to the apostolic foundations of the Gospel which
we need to follow.
Giving for the Sake of the Gospel If
you want to experience anger, dissonance, or heated theological debate
this is the topic to broach. Giving is the bread and butter of ministry.
It is support for a man and his message. It is the financing of the
Gospel to world. It is the support of both the local church missionary
outreaches. Because men and women go forth with good intentions and
have devoted a large part of their lives to preparing for "ministry"
they proceed believing that they are now prepared to live by the Gospel.
"The Lord hath ordained that those preach the Gospel should
live of the Gospel." (1Corinthians
Professional Ministry The concept of the clergy, professional
ministry is a well establish and unquestioned paradigm. (See
the power of paradigms.) The concept of Ministry has been
traditionally connected to career or occupation. The concept of clergy
as a professional career extends into the dim past of Chrisendom. The
traditional church operates in accord with, and is enabled because of
the professional clergy concept. The question of institutionally
accredited, "professional ministry" appointed to churches
and church giving is something that I believe each of us has to examine
in light of Scripture and draw our best personal conclusion in the light
of the Word. It is not my desire to subvert a system that you may believe
in for your own best reasons, but rather to encourage each person to
strive to know God as fully as possible and to experience the potential
of Christ's Gospel, even if it means setting aside certain long held
person should support the Kingdom of God as we judge it to be
best expressed. We need to see the life of God as a Divine promise
and a human potentiality. We need to see ministers bringing others into
this potentiality. Once that criterion is met, we can go on to other
matters concerning Giving. It
is not my desire to subvert a system that you may believe in for your
own best reasons, but rather to encourage each person to strive to
know God as fully as possible and to experience the potential written
of in the Gospel, even if it means setting aside certain long- held
person should support the Kingdom of God as we see it best expressed.
We need to see the life of God as a potentiality and the people who
minister bringing others into it. Once that criterion is met, we can
go on to other matters concerning Giving.
Giving: Giving is Blessed by God There should be no laws (rules)
for giving in the Kingdom of God. God has set us free from rules including
rules about giving. Giving is good. Giving supports the man of God and
also supports people who are not necessarily "ministers" of
churches but who God wishes to bless through us. Various kinds of worldly
commitments which touch upon the Kingdom of God need support, whether
it be church buildings, outreach expenses, travel or any of a wide variety
of needs which can only be met by others sharing the cost. God wants
his will to be done through selfless sharing and contributions of money
resources. Yet we need to be able to hear God leading us in these gifts
so that it is truly a work of God for the Gospel sake and not just another
good sound cause or charity.
Basic principles identified in the Bible shed light on the subject
is more blessed to Give than to receive
and it shall be given unto you
up for yourselves treasures in heaven
who give to the poor lend to God
Tithe is the Lord's - (Old covenant principle)
the measure you give it shall be given to you
sparingly, reap sparing
to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven
as you purpose in your heart, Let no one give out of obligation
loves a cheerful giver
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in the Bible Index
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Understanding Home Fellowships
Frank Viola Interviews a typical church-goer
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