Apostles / Prophets and Sign Gifts

Most informed and Bible literate Christians acknowledge the unique and primary call of Jesus our Lord extended to His disciples.

John 20:21 “So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

These 12 disciples were chosen to replace the authority of the Jewish Sanhedrin who had corrupted the position of leadership.

The Word of God as revealed through the Scriptures underscored the apostles position. After the ascension of Christ delegated authority was imparted to the apostles.

Matthew 10:5 “These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.”

Their primary call was to reach Israel and the lost sheep of a divided nation. Remember that the 12 tribes of Israel were divided as a judgement against Israel’s idolatry and sin. The northern tribes were invaded and exiled by Assyrians with Damascus as the seat of power. The southern kingdoms of Judah, Benjamin and the Levitical priests of Levi were taken capture by the Babylonians. The New Covenant of Promise was made with both the northern and southern tribes.

Hebrews 8:7-13 “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbour, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds[a] I will remember no more.” In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

The 12 apostles wee to reign on 12 thrones with Christ over a united kingdom on earth.

Revelation 21:14 “Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

The Old Testament of 39 books was considered “closed” or “complete” as God’s revelation of Truth to Israel via the prophets and priests of the nation.

Hebrews 1:1 “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets.”

The Jewish Council of the Sanhedrin accepted the Jewish Torah (5 books of the ????? and the writings of the kings and prophets of the (Haftorah) the other Old Testament books as authorative as the law and prophets. Jesus was born under the law and ???? served the Law of Moses and the Old Testament prophets. At no time did Jesus correct the Old Testament or declare it incomplete. Jesus quoted the Old Testament as God’s Word. However, He rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for corrupting the Old Testament scriptures by teaching doctrines of men. To this day Judaism endorses the 39 Old Testament books as their writings and observe them holy as such.

Matthew 11:13 “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.”

The law and prophets served the nation until God raised up John the Baptist as a prophet. From Malachi to Matthew there was a lapse of 400 years. No prophet or writings were included or added to the Old Testament. It remained closed or complete. John the Baptist was the prophet who broke 400 years of silence.

The primary focus of the 12 apostles was the Kingdom offer to Israel. The earthly ministry of Jesus focussed on this subject – Matthew 10.

The apostles were given delegated authority to heal the sick and pronounce the pending Kingdom. The rejection of the call to national repentance meant that the Kingdom programme was postponed,

Acts 3:18-26 “But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.”

because of this rejection. Note that Stephen in Acts 7:52-60 “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.” When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep,” rebuked Israel for their sin of rebellion which resulted in his martyrdom.

The first half of Acts has Peter and the Jewish apostles on the stage promoting the message of the Kingdom. Midway in Acts Paul becomes the prominent character in the unfolding drama of the church age. God reveals to Paul a New Gospel independent from the Gospel that was preached to the Jews.

Note Galatians 2:1-16 “Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do. Now when Peter[a] had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.

But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”

With this background we can now consider

1 Corinthians 12:28-31 “And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best[a] gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.”

The office of an apostle, prophet and the sign gifts such as tongues, miracles and gifts of healing functioned during the transitional phase of the Jewish church and that of the Christian church. During this period the followers of Christ only had the Old Testament writings. The sign gifts, prophets and apostles were God’s agents delegated to write, under Divine inspiration, the New Testament of 27 books. While there were many more books and letters written, only the 27 books were considered inspired or God breathed.

2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

The “all Scripture” phrase related to the Scriptures that were already being received as inspired and authoritative. It is well documented in church history that in the first century of Christianity the canon of Scripture was unanimously accepted by the apostles and early church fathers. In 314AD the 66 books of the Bible were endorsed by the church council in Nicea. The English Bibles translated from the original Greek became the authority for church doctrine and belief.

When the full revelation was given the sign gifts and apostolic authority had fulfilled their purpose.

1 Corinthians 13:8-12 “Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,” confirms that when the complete revelation was given, that which was given in part will replaced by the prefect on complete revelation.

Note, that on that time they only gave part of the revelation until the full mature revelation was given. Verse 11 and 12 metaphorically states that a child (which in the process of becoming an adolescent to be a child when is mature) becomes an adult at puts aside childlike things. So the role of the prophets, apostles and signs and gifts to convince hearers that God was speaking fell into the child phase of revelation until the message fully was given in maturity.

Consider Mark 16:16-20 “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.”

Prophets or apostles or followers of Christ today would fail this test. It would be fatal. If we understand that all of the Bible is for us but not all of it is to us we will learn that the secret of understanding the Scriptures is 2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Extra Biblical revelations if accepted nullifies the authority of God’s Word, the Bible as the only reliable rod or barometer.

Consider Galatians 1:6-11 “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.”

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