Created Dec. 10, 1999   -   Updated  Dec. 27, 2009   minimal

The Authority & Foundation of the Church


Sub-headings:
The Apostles' Qualifications
Apostolic Gifts of the Spirit & Baptism
Salvation to the Nations
Agents of Independent Authority
The Great Apostasy
The Last Hour
Baptism Essential, Gifts Not!
Love Is Better Than Gifts

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Within this article I try to show how the Apostles carried all the authority that Jesus did and that this authority came directly from Christ and the Holy Spirit. Each Apostle was given his assignment and instructions from the spirit and not from each other. That they acted in unity is evidence of that spirit. They were not a governing body who acted of their own counsel. The Apostles also had unique special powers not possessed by anyone other than the Apostles. These unique powers were not spread to others and would die out with the Apostles' deaths. Because of this fact, we would not expect to see these powers (gifts of spirit) to be present in our day.

And it is essential that all Christians be baptized in order to be accepted by Jesus and the Father. With the death of the Apostles would come the end of the true church; and lawlessness, heresy, and rebellion would set in among Christians. Only Jesus' return would restore all things and fulfill all God's promises. Check it out and see for yourself if there is truth in it.



The Apostles' Qualifications
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1. It was Jesus who appointed the Apostles and gave them their commission as shown in Matthew 28:19:

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (RSV)



2. There were special qualifications that had to be met in order to be an Apostle as is shown in the following account. And the helper promised by Jesus arrives on the day of Pentecost in this account as well. The Holy Spirit descends upon all those gathered, most notably the 11 remaining Apostles and the newly appointed 12th Apostle to replace Judas. Acts 1:4 begins:

(Green's Literal Trans. "GLT")    Acts 1:
4 And having met with them, He charged them not to leave Jerusalem, but to await the promise of the Father, "which you heard of Me; 5 for John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days after."
8 but you will receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you, and you will be witnesses of Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Acts 1:13 And when they went in, they went up to the upper room where they were waiting: both Peter and James, and John and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alpheus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the brother of James. 14 These all were continuing steadfastly in prayer and in supplication with one mind, with the women, and with Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
15 And in these days, standing up in the middle of the disciples, (and the number of names together being about a hundred and twenty), Peter said,

Acts 1:21 Therefore, it is right that one of these men being together with us all the time in which the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when He was taken from us, one of these to become a witness of His resurrection with us. 23 And they set out two: Joseph, he being called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And having prayed,

Acts 1:26 And they gave their lots. And the lot fell on Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Acts 2:1 And in the fulfilling of the day of Pentecost, they were all with one mind in the same place. 2 And suddenly a sound came out of the heaven, as being borne along by a violent wind! And it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And tongues as of fire appeared to them, being distributed, and it sat on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled of the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave ability to them to speak.

Since Matthias had been with the group from the baptism of John till the death of Jesus to the present time referred to in Acts, he was qualified to be a special witness of Jesus as an Apostle. Holy Spirit obviously had a roll in picking him as there were others who also qualified and were candidates.

Certain gifts of the spirit had been granted to all 120 gathered, namely the tongues of fire and the speaking in different known languages, referred to as speaking in the tongues.

One could not dispute the works of God taking place through these men, the Apostles. If they were not telling the truth then God would not continue to perform these wonderful works through the Apostles. It was God's way of showing His blessing of these men and their appointment as spokesmen for His appointed Son, Jesus, and Himself. The Words of the Apostles would have great weight with the people on account of this divine blessing and many became believers throughout the book of Acts on account of these things.



3. The Apostles preached and performed their miraculous works in the name of Jesus to witness to the fact that Jesus had been raised from the dead by God and appointed as the savior of all men.

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized, each of you on the name of Jesus Christ to remission of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:43 And fear came to every soul, and many wonders and miracles took place through the apostles.

Acts 3:15 And the Author of Life you killed, whom God raised up from the dead, of which we are witnesses. 16 And on the faith of His name, this one whom you see and know was made firm by His name, and the faith which came through Him gave to him this complete soundness before you all.

Acts 4:1 and the Sadducees stood near them, 2 being distressed because they taught the people and announced in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

One could not dispute the works of God taking place through these men, the Apostles. If they were not telling the truth then God would not continue to perform these wonderful works through the Apostles. It was God's way of showing His blessing of these men and their appointment as spokesmen for His appointed Son, Jesus, and Himself. The Words of the Apostles would have great weight with the people on account of this divine blessing and many became believers throughout the book of Acts on account of these things.



Apostolic Gifts of the Spirit and Baptism
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4. Although gifts of the spirit were given to all, special gifts and powers were given to the Apostles. Notice from Acts 2 what gifts were received by all.

Lets look again at what Peter said in:

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized, each of you on the name of Jesus Christ to remission of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

If those people listening to Peter were to obey Peter and get baptized, then they would receive the Holy Spirit. Obeying those whom Jesus appointed and getting baptized was a requirement if one wanted to receive the Holy Spirit. Peter was obeying Jesus when Jesus commanded at:

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Jesus required all who followed him to be baptized and Peter was instructing people to obey those commands of Jesus by insisting on baptism. Obedience to that would bring the gift of the Holy Spirit. One could not disregard the words of Peter or Jesus and still hope to get the Spirit. Receiving the Spirit was conditional. The condition was obedience as it has always been with God throughout the bible.

Although gifts of the spirit were given to all, special gifts and powers were given to the Apostles. Notice from Acts 2 what gifts were received by all.

Acts 2:2 And suddenly a sound came out of the heaven, as being borne along by a violent wind! And it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And tongues as of fire appeared to them, being distributed, and it sat on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled of the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave ability to them to speak.

All were given fire and the ability to speak in other languages as directed by the Holy Spirit.

Acts 4:31 And they having prayed, the place in which they were gathered was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God with boldness.

Here too, the gifts were modest and allowed them to speak the word of God. But notice what is said of the Apostles:

Acts 4:33 And with great power the apostles gave testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

Paul elaborates a little about gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. below is a sampling:

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

Though some may speak in tongues, not all speak in tongues. Not all possess gifts of healing. Each has a unique gift. Now is revealed a distinction in how the Apostles are important in administering the gifts of the Spirit, the power of God in the following:

Acts 6:5 they chose out Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 each of whom they made stand before the apostles. And having prayed, they placed their hands on them.

Steven now begins to do great things and so does Philip. Both had already received the spirit in some measure as quoted above in Acts 6:5 but now more so:

Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, was doing wonders and great signs among the people.

Acts 8:
5 And going down to a city of Samaria, Philip proclaimed Christ to them. 
6 And with one passion the crowds heeded that being said by Philip when they heard and saw the many miracles which he did. 
7 For many came out from those having unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice. And many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed.

Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the gospel, the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 And Simon himself also believed, and being baptized was continuing steadfastly with Philip. And seeing miracles and mighty works happening, he was amazed.

Here too, Philip required all those that he preached to who became believers, to get baptized. Now notice what happens in the next verse in:

Acts 8:
14 And the apostles in Jerusalem hearing that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 
15 who going down prayed concerning them so that they may receive the Holy Spirit. 
16 For He had not yet fallen on any one of them, but they were only being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 
17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 
18 But Simon having seen that the Holy Spirit is given through the laying on of the hands of the apostles, he offered them money.

Philip baptizes them and yet they do not receive the Holy Spirit. The Apostles must come down to pray and lay their hands upon them. Now they receive the Holy Spirit. The Apostles are apparently necessary for one to receive the blessings of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles can transmit the Spirit to others. Philip could not. Only the Apostles had this ability. Apparently, only the Apostles were given this so that all would recognize them as the only ones who had the authority to speak and command in Christ's behalf, as if it were Christ, himself, who was speaking and commanding. They would not recognize Philip or Steven in this way. Only the Apostles.

One can only receive the gifts of the Spirit, the outstanding gifts of healing and the like through the Apostles. They are Jesus' directly appointed representatives to spread the good news of the resurrection and God's kingdom. The Apostles are given the job of spreading this good news to all the inhabited earth and establishing the Christian faith among all. They are teachers of Christ and as long as they, as fully appointed and empowered by the Spirit, are around there can be no disputes or arguments about what Jesus wants or teaches. The Holy Spirit backs their words with powerful signs and works. As long as they are around this will be so.

That does not mean that gifts did not take place after the Apostles died. But those gifts were limited in their degree of power. The tongues and prophecy no doubt continued after the Apostles started things off. New comers would receive the spirit from those who received that laying on of the hands by the Apostles. How long it may have carried on without the laying on of the hands is hard to say.

There is not one place in the bible where we see the Apostles extraordinary powers passed on to someone else. The powers are only with them and die with them when they die.

Now as regards baptism, it could be stated that it is a requirement of the Lord Jesus and those who follow the Lord Jesus. And it is a requirement for receiving the Holy Spirit, provided that the Apostles are around. But what of Cornelius some might ask? Did he not receive the Spirit before being baptized? He sure did. Let us look at that account in Acts 10.

5. One can only receive the gifts of the Spirit, the outstanding gifts of healing and the like through the Apostles. They are Jesus' directly appointed representatives to spread the good news of the resurrection and God's kingdom. The Apostles are given the job of spreading this good news to all the inhabited earth and establishing the Christian faith among all. They are teachers of Christ and as long as they, as fully appointed and empowered by the Spirit, are around there can be no disputes or arguments about what Jesus wants or teaches. The Holy Spirit backs their words with powerful signs and works. As long as they are around this will be so.

6. There is not one place in the Bible where we see the Apostles extraordinary powers passed on to someone else. The powers are only with them and die with them when they die.



Salvation to the Nations
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There we see an angel of God instruct Cornelius to send men to get Peter. Cornelius was a faithful worshiper of God though not a Jew. Peter went along with the men as the spirit had instructed him to do. Cornelius had been instructed by the angel who appeared to him, to listen to whatever Peter would say to him. Peter responded:

(RSV) Acts 10:28 - and he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit any one of another nation; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

Acts 10:34 And Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

Peter was starting to understand that God was now welcoming those who were not Jews. Peter went on to explain how the Apostles were bearing witness to the resurrected Jesus and teaching all to believe and obey Jesus as God's appointed judge. By doing this people could receive forgiveness of sins. Then . . .

Acts 10:44 While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 "Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

God was clearly demonstrating to Peter that the Gentiles, people of the nations, should now be welcomed as fellow believers and no longer treated as common or unclean. Yet these Gentiles, after having the obvious blessing of God by having received the Holy Spirit, were still commanded by Peter to be baptized. Speaking with the authority of Christ, Peter still laid the requirement upon them, one and all. Peter evidently recognized the outpouring of Holy Spirit as God's way of instructing him that Gentiles were now to be accepted as brothers in the faith. But Peter still insisted that they obey the commands of Jesus already expressed in the past and still currently enforced by the Apostles upon all who would be believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So all were baptized in obedience to those commands, even after having received the Holy Spirit. The receiving of Holy Spirit did not mean that they no longer had to obey Christ's or the Apostle's commands. Receiving the Spirit before baptism did not mean that baptism was no longer necessary. Peter made it clear that it was still very necessary. In addition, under normal circumstances, the baptism of water preceded the receiving of the spirit as was made clear in earlier scriptures in this article. So all who love and honor Jesus Christ as Lord and Son of God must get baptized in obedience him.

After Acts 10, the writer of Acts, Luke, focuses on the preaching of the Gospel going out to the Gentiles and the works of Paul who was instrumental in bringing the good news to the Gentiles. His appointment is related in the chapter (chap. 9) before the one about Cornelius (chap. 10).


Agents of Independent Authority
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Jesus appoints yet another Apostle in Acts 9. It is Saul who was persecuting followers of Jesus. He is on his way to Damascus when Jesus appears to him, reproves him and orders him to receive instruction. Saul becomes a directly appointed Apostle of Jesus with an assignment from Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Saul becomes Paul in name. Paul becomes Jesus' primary instrument in delivering the word of God to the Gentiles. Paul begins his own ministry as is shown by him in his letter to the Galatians:

Galatians 1:1 Paul, an apostle, not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, the One raising Him from the dead.

Galatians 1:
15 But when God was pleased . . .and having called through His grace, 
16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the nations, immediately I did not confer with flesh and blood, 
17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to the apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia and returned again to Damascus.

Paul did not receive an assignment from the other Apostles nor did he consult with them but went directly to his assignment as given to him by Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 1:18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Peter and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw no other of the apostles except James the brother of the Lord. 20 And what I write to you, behold, before God I do not lie. 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and of Cilicia, 22 but I was not known by face to the churches of Judea in Christ.

So Paul was not even acquainted with any of the Apostles or prominent ones of Jerusalem such as Peter or James. He finally meets those two men three years after being in Damascus. Paul does not meet any other Apostles. He was not even recognized by anyone in the churches of Judea. So it is clear that Paul's authority rests only with Jesus and not of any governing body of Apostles or others in Jerusalem.

So Paul goes "into the regions of Syria and of Cilicia" and:

Galatians 2:
1 Then through fourteen years, I again went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, also taking Titus with me. 
2 And I went up according to revelation. And I put before them the gospel which I proclaim in the nations, but privately to the ones seeming to be pillars, lest I run, or I ran, into vanity.

Paul went up to Jerusalem, not to get approval of what he had been doing from a governing body of Apostles and Elders, for his approval and direction came from Jesus. But he "went up according to revelation." That revelation no doubt occurred because of the false brothers who were disputing with Paul about the need of circumcision.

Galatians 2:4 But it was because of those false brothers stealing in, who stole in to spy on our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, they desiring to enslave us, 5 to whom not even for an hour we yielded in subjection, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

Paul continues:

Galatians 2:
6 But from those seeming to be something, . . . for those seeming important conferred nothing to me; 
7 but on the contrary, seeing that I have been entrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter to the circumcision, 
8 (for He working in Peter to an apostleship of the circumcision, also worked in me to the nations), 
9 and knowing the grace given to me, James and Cephas and John, those seeming to be pillars, gave right hands of fellowship to Barnabas and to me, that we go to the nations, but they to the circumcision.

James and Cephas and John conferred nothing to Paul but they did recognize what was taking place by means of the Holy Spirit through Paul and they blessed Paul's ministry to the nations and extended "right hands of fellowship." But they, themselves, continued to tend to the circumcised, meaning the Jews. This was the assignment that they had received from Christ. It was not of their own planning.

At one time, Paul even went so far as to reprove Peter rather than take direction from him as a superior. Paul was an equal among the Apostles and not subject to them in any way as is shown below:

Galatians 2:11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was to be blamed.

Galatians 2:14 But when I saw that they did not walk uprightly with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before all, If you being a Jew, live as a non-Jew and not as the Jews, why do you compel the nations to Judaize?

Now this gathering in Jerusalem to settle a dispute about circumcision is also recorded in Acts 15. Peter boldly reproves the Judaizers who insist on circumcision for the "Gentiles."

Acts 15:22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with all the church, to send chosen men from them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.

These ones confirmed "to those throughout Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia (Acts 15:23)" that there was no need for circumcision. "(Acts 15:28) For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to put not one greater burden on you than these necessary things: 29 To hold back from idol sacrifices, and blood, and that strangled, and from fornication; from which continually keeping yourselves, you will do well. Be prospered.

The Apostles and Older Men of Jerusalem set matters straight, not because Paul needed authority for he had that already from Christ, but to show opposers of the truth that they were united in agreement with Paul and that this was from the Holy Spirit, as should have been obvious, and had their support as well.

The Apostles all have their individual assignments given them by the Holy Spirit. They often work autonomously of each other. They often travel around to tend to matters. There is no ruling body. The most prominent ones all happen to reside in Jerusalem most of the time. They give the appearance of acting in a body as they are all lead in unison by Christ and the Holy Spirit. This Spirit keeps them unified in their actions and beliefs. They are one with the Son of God and with the Father. So they appear as one in their actions. But they are all individually led by Jesus. One flock, one shepherd.

We observe through the letters of Paul that those congregations in Asia Minor and Rome are subject and accountable to Paul and he makes an accounting with each church. We see Peter, James, Jude, and John also making an accounting of the churches and giving instruction to them through their letters. All had equal authority as all spoke from Christ. They were all brothers, all equals among each other as Christ had instructed them to be.

8. The Apostles all have their individual assignments given them by the Holy Spirit. They often work autonomously of each other. They often travel around to tend to matters. There is no ruling body. The most prominent ones all happen to reside in Jerusalem most of the time. They give the appearance of acting in a body as they are all lead in unison by Christ and the Holy Spirit. This Spirit keeps them unified in their actions and beliefs. They are one with the Son of God and with the Father. So they appear as one in their actions. But they are all individually led by Jesus. One flock, one shepherd.

We observe through the letters of Paul that those congregations in Asia Minor and Rome are subject and accountable to Paul and he makes an accounting with each church. We see Peter, James, Jude, and John also making an accounting of the churches and giving instruction to them through their letters. All had equal authority as all spoke from Christ. They were all brothers, all equals among each other as Christ had instructed them to be.



The Great Apostasy
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9. Before the arrival of Jesus, there would have to be a rebellion among the Christian brothers and those would arise who would place themselves on God's throne, becoming judge and dictator or Lord over all in his care. He would exalt himself over and above his brothers and even over God. Have we not seen this many times, ourselves, in our own lifetimes?

2 Thessalonians 2:
5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? 
6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.

Who was it that was in the way of the mystery of lawlessness; you might say the absurdity of lawlessness. Lawlessness is a mystery. It sure is hard for me to understand; how about you? Anyway, it is clearly the Apostles who put lawlessness in its place and holds it back and keep it out of the churches. But Paul tells us that lawlessness was at the moment of his writing, already at work. And he says that lawlessness will only be held back until he who holds it back is gone. The Apostles will have to die and get out of the way, and then lawlessness and rebellion would set in.

2 Thessalonians 2:8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming.

When Jesus finally does return he will destroy the lawlessness and those who carry on in it. But notice Paul's warning about this rebellion:

2 Thessalonians 2:
9 The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, 
10 and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

10. Satan is very powerful and he will use great power with pretended signs and wonders and deception. And those not loving truth will fall for Satan's deceptions. But how can we tell the difference between Satan's pretended signs and wonders and God's true signs and wonders? By using the bible! Paul seems to be warning us that maybe Satan would be allowed, after the removal of the Apostles and the completion of the bible, to use these fake signs and wonders. They would almost certainly not include healings and resurrections or real prophesying, and not likely real tongues as they had already accomplished the establishment of Christianity everywhere. But they might include fake healings and prophecies; maybe claim that certain events fulfill prophecy when they do not fulfill it. What exactly those signs of Satan will be can perhaps be discerned from these scriptures:

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone forth into the world.

How do we test a spirit?

2 Corinthians 11:
14 Did not Satan marvelously transform himself into an angel of light? 
15 It is not a great thing, then, if also his ministers transform themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

Satan and his ministers will pretend to have a form of Godliness, seeming almost as angels or something. So we want to be on guard, don't we? So be sure to test the spirit you encounter in others. It might be a false one.

Galatians 1:
8 But even if we, or an angel out of Heaven, should announce a gospel to you beside what we preached to you, let him be accursed. 
9 As we have said before, and now I say again, If anyone announces a gospel to you beside what you received, let him be accursed.

How do we test a spirit? By comparing it to the gospel which is recorded for us in the bible. The gospels of many Apostles and that of Jesus, as related by faithful disciples. By these we may test a spirit or question an angel or a minister of "light." Let's return to 2 Thessalonians where we left off to consider one more thing.

2 Thessalonians 2:
10 and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 
11 Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, 
12 so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

It is so important to love the truth, isn't it? For if we have pleasure in unrighteousness and not believe the truth, then we will be pleased to follow Satan and his deceivers with their many "signs and wonders," what ever those may be. But those loving truth will by no means be deceived by these false ploys to lead us away from the true message of the gospel. Jesus' sheep know the voice of their shepherd and master and they follow him wherever he goes. They are not fooled by imitators. They know the real thing when they see or hear it because they have the bible and they use it.

1 John reveals to us the last dying moments of the churches. Here he, John, writes:

1 John 2:18 Young ones, it is a last hour, and as you heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have risen up, from which you know that it is a last hour.

Even back at that time there had arisen many antichrists or false prophets when John was the only remaining Apostle and very old when he wrote that letter. There would be many more antichrists to come and lawlessness with them. John says:

1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us. For if they were of us, they would have remained with us; but they left so that it might be revealed that they all are not of us.

We have further proof of the last hour as we note that John is given counsel from Jesus to give to the 7 churches of Asia (Minor). This had been done by the Apostles, Paul in particular. But evidently, they were not around anymore to tend the flock. Only John who was quite old. So Jesus gives the churches one last warning which will be sent in letters by the Apostle John. After John dies there will be no more Apostles to send letters, give revelations, or do anything else. And we will have received all the scrolls and letters that are to be in the Bible. There will be nothing to add after John. The work was to be fully accomplished by the Apostles and John was wrapping up and putting together the last pieces of the work to be done. Indeed, it was the last hour.

Rev. 1:1 A Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him to show to His slaves things which must occur quickly. And He signified by sending through His angel to His slave, John,

Rev. 1:4 John to the seven churches in Asia: Grace to you, and peace, from the One who is, and who was, and who is coming, and from the seven spirits which are before His throne; 5 even from Jesus Christ the faithful witness

Rev. 1:
9 I, even your brother John, . . . 10 I came to be in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 
11 saying, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last; also, What you see, write in a scroll, and send to the seven churches of Asia: to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.

John was also given the Revelation to record and send to the various congregations. Revelation and John's 3 letters were the last pieces of the bible to be given to an Apostle for inclusion in the bible. And in Revelation 22:18 it is warned that :

Rev. 22:
18 . . .If anyone adds to these things, God will add upon him the plagues having been written in this Book. 
19 And if anyone takes away from the words of the Book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the Book of Life, and out of the holy city, and of the things having been written in this Book.

Sobering thought for someone contemplating adding more to the bible or taking something away from it after the Apostles.

11. The deaths of all the Apostles would bring an end to the powerful works that took place through them. They were the only ones ever to be directly appointed by Jesus and part of a small number who were directly acquainted with him while he was on earth. So they were the only ones qualified for such a great work as Jesus gave them to do. The Apostles enabled the unity of the churches and their beliefs and provided protection from lawlessness. In the Apostles absence, these would cease to be.

12. Lawlessness, deception, and rebellion would set in among Christians. Jesus likened it to the devil sowing weeds among good wheat (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). This would be a necessary occurrence before Christ could return. After the departure of the Apostles and those whom they appointed, we would be left on our own among the weeds, to try to discern, as best as we can, the truth that is contained in the scriptures. The bible would be our only reliable source of guidance and truth. The wheat and the weeds would be allowed to grow together until the harvest, and then judgment will take place and the righteous wheat will be distinguished from the unrighteous weeds and each rewarded accordingly.

For those who consider themselves followers of Jesus it may be wise to search the Bible with diligence and pureness of heart and motive to find the truth and be found faithful at the return of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.


The Last Hour
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Jude 1:
17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 
18 they said to you, "In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions." 
19 It is these who set up divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

Paul gives us a warning in 2 Thessalonians 2 about something that was due to happen before the return of our Lord Jesus Christ to judge the earth. Other scriptures follow as well.

(RSV) 2 Thessalonians 2:
1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him [the so called rapture], we beg you, brethren, 
2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
3 Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, 
4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? 
6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.
8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming.
9 The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, 
10 and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

1 John 2:
18 Young ones, it is a last hour, and as you heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have risen up, from which you know that it is a last hour.
19 They went out from us, but they were not of us. For if they were of us, they would have remained with us; but they left so that it might be revealed that they all are not of us.

We have further proof of the last hour as we note that John is given counsel from Jesus to give to the 7 churches of Asia (Minor). This had been done by the Apostles, Paul in particular. But evidently, they were not around anymore to tend the flock. Only John who was quite old. So Jesus gives the churches one last warning which will be sent in letters by the Apostle John. After John dies there will be no more Apostles to send letters, give revelations, or do anything else. And we will have received all the scrolls and letters that are to be in the Bible. There will be nothing to add after John. The work was to be fully accomplished by the Apostles and John was wrapping up and putting together the last pieces of the work to be done. Indeed, it was the last hour.

Rev. 1:1 A Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him to show to His slaves things which must occur quickly. And He signified by sending through His angel to His slave, John,

Rev. 1:4 John to the seven churches in Asia: Grace to you, and peace, from the One who is, and who was, and who is coming, and from the seven spirits which are before His throne; 5 even from Jesus Christ the faithful witness

Rev. 1:9 I, even your brother John, . . . 10 I came to be in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last; also, What you see, write in a scroll, and send to the seven churches of Asia: to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.

John was also given the Revelation to record and send to the various congregations. Revelation and John's 3 letters were the last pieces of the bible to be given to an Apostle for inclusion in the bible. And in Revelation 22:18 it is warned that :

Revelation 22:18 . . .If anyone adds to these things, God will add upon him the plagues having been written in this Book.
19 And if anyone takes away from the words of the Book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the Book of Life, and out of the holy city, and of the things having been written in this Book.

Sobering thought for someone contemplating adding more to the bible or taking something away from it after the Apostles.

The deaths of all the Apostles would bring an end to the powerful works that took place through them. They were the only ones ever to be directly appointed by Jesus and part of a small number who were directly acquainted with him while he was on earth. So they were the only ones qualified for such a great work as Jesus gave them to do. The Apostles enabled the unity of the churches and their beliefs and provided protection from lawlessness. In the Apostles' absence, these would cease to be.

I cover this topic in much more detail in my article on "The Great Apostasy" linked in Related Articles at the end of this article.



Baptism Essential, Gifts Not!
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Some dispute the need for baptism, claiming that it is symbolic. There is no question that it is symbolic but it is very necessary just the same. The entire priesthood and temple set up was symbolic but required of Israel until Jesus' sacrifice. Naaman was commanded by Elisha to bathe 7 times in the Jordan river in order to be healed of his leprosy. Was this, too, not symbolic? But Naaman was obligated to do it before he could receive a healing. Joshua and Israel were commanded to march around Jericho 7 times before God made the walls fall down.

Why does God make us go through these symbolic rituals? Could it be that he is testing our obedience just as he did with Abraham when he was asked to offer up Isaac in sacrifice? You decide but it would seem to me that obedience, however small or trivial the ritual or command, is very important. Note how it was merely eating a piece of fruit from a tree that got Adam and Eve and all their offspring (us) into trouble.

Full immersion baptism was the only kind ever recorded in the Bible so it would seem only logical to perform the ritual the same way that the Apostles, Jesus, and John the Baptist did. That would be the obedient thing to do. And the fact that Cornelius was still obligated to be baptized, even after having received the spirit, would indicate the importance of this symbolically ritual yet literal command.

The gifts of the spirit seem to be misunderstood in our present day for you will note that not all who received gifts received ones that were miraculous. Some received gifts as teachers, helpers, administrators, and other such functions to build the body of Christ up. Not all spoke in tongues and not all prophesied. The Spirit gives to each one special unique gifts. So even if all are expected to receive gifts of the spirit, they should not all expect to receive the same gifts. But many do expect that all must speak in tongues.

It seems that many feel that they must give evidence of some extraordinary gift but some of the gifts are somewhat ordinary and subtle and not miraculous. These seem to be almost disdained, unappreciated, and undesired by many modern so called "believers." What a shame because any gift of God should be valued and treasured by those who receive them, even if the gift received was not an extraordinary miraculous one. And one should not make a habit of telling the Holy Spirit how to conduct it's business by insisting on specific gifts and rejecting what the Holy Spirit chooses.

I would like to point out that after Pentecost, people were not capable of receiving the spirit until the Apostles laid their hands upon the people. Since the Apostles are no longer around, it is difficult to understand how those gifts would continue to be received in our time. Could modern manifestations of the spirit be those fake signs and wonders of Satan? It certainly leaves one to wonder, doesn't it?

It also seems apparent to me that the gifts given to those in the beginning was for a purpose. There was no church or firmly established faith after Jesus died. That job of firmly establishing the faith and churches was given to the Apostles by Jesus and the Father. The helper, the Holy Spirit, was sent by the Father to accomplish this goal. Gifts of the spirit were distributed to all to help establish and fortify those in the faith.

Speaking in tongues allowed the message of the gospel to be delivered to all the Roman Empire in every language and tongue. These were not just some noises made but were actual languages. This way all would receive the undeserved kindness of God by receiving the good news in their own language.

Receiving the gospel in their own language would also drive home the point that all men of all races were acceptable to God if they wanted to become obedient to Him. Whether it was prophecy, healings, resurrections, or whatever else, it would show God's power and show that God was blessing this particular religion and that people should now come to God and accept Him as God and become obedient to Him. And these very powerful signs were not the sort of thing that just any god could perform. No other gods could touch the display put on by the Apostles who came in the name of the Father (Jehovah), the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. It would give people a good reason to give careful attention to what these men were speaking.

But as soon as the churches, the Bible, and the Faith were firmly established, then the Apostles would be killed off or die out, leaving each individual Christian to prove himself worthy of God and maintain an acceptable faith. Many would not.

And it is essential that all Christians be baptized in order to be accepted by Jesus and the Father. With the death of the Apostles would come the end of the true church; and lawlessness, heresy, and rebellion would set in among Christians. Only Jesus' return would restore all things and fulfill all God's promises. Check it out and see for yourself if there is truth in it.

In addition, the salvation that was originally carried only to the Jews, was now opened up to the nations, commonly called Gentiles in some translations. This was prophesied by the prophets, although not readily discerned until Jesus and the Apostles, with the help of the spirit, it was made clear.


Love Is Better Than Gifts
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Since the establishment of the Faith has been accomplished and the Bible firmly established, what need do we have of the gifts of the spirit? They accomplished their goal. Note what Paul wrote in 
1 Corinthians 13:
"8 Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
9 For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; 
10 but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. 
11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways."

Paul says that our knowledge and prophecy are imperfect, incomplete, only partial. When they have been completed (fulfilled), they will not be useful because they have been accomplished, they will have been spent. As regards gifts of the Spirit, they have become less necessary than before. In the beginning of the faith, they had nearly nothing. But now that we have the whole and completed Bible, completed by John; and now that the faith became firmly established, the gifts, for the most part, are not necessary and have ceased. They are no longer needed. They served their purpose.

Yes, we still have teachers and evangelizers and other such "gifted" ones but miracles and the need for miracles for establishing the faith are gone. What do we have in their place to help those who do not believe? Well, Paul said we still have hope and love, especially love. Jesus said:

John 13:
34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 
35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

I could list many other scriptures showing that love is really the main thing to be pursued by Christians but many have sought the gifts of the spirit more instead. But love is the identifying factor not the gifts of the spirit. This is how you tell the impostors from the real thing.

But for those not believing, do we not have the fulfillment of many more prophecies now in our day and age? Do we not better understand God's purpose and the outworking of the spirit? And though scientists may dispute it, I would argue that scientific findings and evidence also support and fulfill the scriptures. And the Bible appears in nearly every language of the world. And missionaries reach out to all peoples of the world.

We have so much! Could it be that we have become ungrateful in regards to all we have in that we demand the gifts of the Spirit in addition to the incredible bounty we already possess? We have all we need without the gifts of the Spirit. But I can hear some now. Apollo, God wants us to have the gifts of the spirit because He loves us and wants to shower us with love and gifts.

Maybe God does feel that way but Satan doesn't! So God allows a with-holding of all but the absolutely necessary things. And those who love God would not demand more than is necessary. They would appreciate getting the necessities and waiting until the end should arrive in which afterwards they will receive the full abundance of blessing. Make sense? May I point out that love is a 2 way street. We expect God to be thoughtful and understanding with us. Should we not also be understanding with God and the predicament He is in with His dispute with Satan? Do we serve God, as Satan claims, only when it is to our benefit? Or do we serve even when there is no apparent benefit? What do you think?

Since the Apostles' deaths, the Christian movement started to go wrong and be corrupted if we are to believe the Bible. So it is not likely that the Christianity of after the 1st century, say 2nd to 4th centuries, would be a reliable example for us and we can only figure that it must have gotten worse with time. So it seems to me that the various reformation movements could have some merit to them as they challenged things that had been accepted as the truth but had little or no support from the scriptures.

The duty of all sincere and diligent Christians today is to carefully examine each and every little belief they have to see if the Bible really supports such beliefs. We have only the Bible and ourselves to discern the truth as the Apostles are gone. We can not depend on tradition or a religious body to give us the truth. We want to avoid the lazy attitude of letting someone else care for our beliefs and belief systems. We should tend to them personally ourselves as God will make us account for ourselves.

Now some religions suggest that there was a governing body over all the churches. This body is said to be made up of the Apostles and elders such as James, the brother of the Lord. But as we have seen, that is not possible. They all acted independently for all were guided individually by Christ and the Holy Spirit. This unifying spirit certainly gives the result of unity - but not from men, but from God. There is absolutely no governing body over the churches. They are all individually accountable to Christ as shown in Revelation.

This fact also exposes that the early movement to bring all the churches together under one man or body in the 2nd and 3rd centuries was not from God. And the powers assumed by these leaders was not from God or the Bible, either. Any groups of churches existing under a single authority today also give evidence that they, too, are not from God!

There are religions whose leaders claim some sort of Apostolic succession or a sort of Apostolic status. This would be impossible for it was necessary for an Apostle to have been a witness of Jesus from the beginning of Jesus earthly ministry. There are none that could possibly qualify for that today. The Apostles have long since died. They were the only ones who could transmit the ability to receive gifts and so the ability to lay on the hands and give the gifts to others or pass on an appointment or abilities is also impossible. Anyone who claims to be an Apostle of some sort or exhibit miraculous gifts of the Spirit is a liar and a deceiver and comes from the devil. Anyone fooled by these manipulators is tragically mislead and I hope that this article will help them understand their error and correct their course. Keep in mind that these deceivers would appear as ministers of light. In short, they would look and sound good if one didn't pay real close attention. Something to consider!

Doesn't it make sense to pursue an accurate, clear, and precise understanding of the Bible as much as it is possible with each of us? And perhaps more importantly, pursue love. Love for other Christians, love for neighbors, even love for our enemies and persecutors. Love as in caring about other people's feelings, caring about their well being, caring about their best interest, caring about them as much as you care about yourself.

The Bible says that 
(RSV) 1 Corinthians 13: 
4 Love has patience, is kind; love is not envious; love is not vain, is not puffed up; 
5 does not behave indecently, does not pursue its own things, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; 
6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth. 
7 Love quietly covers all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Obedience to God means love for our fellow man! And anyone who does not obey God does not love or honor God. In fact, one who disobeys God actually worships the devil. That is a course I wouldn't recommend.


Related Articles
God's Plan and Purpose   from beginning to end
God's Institution - The Nation of Israel

The New Testament on the New Covenant
Early Church Conduct and Organization
The Great Apostasy
The Septuagint in God's Purpose
 

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