45. The Christian Disciple and the Apostolic Church
John 17v18: “Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.”
There are two main reasons regarding the church being apostolic: apostolic mission and apostolic teaching. There is also a theory regarding the apostle Peter and papal succession.
Firstly, the two New Testament words translated as ‘Apostle’ are apostolos and apostolē, both of which signify mission and being sent out. Mission is at the heart of the apostolic church in that it is sent into the world with a Gospel that is for all. Therefore the two assured reasons that the church is apostolic, is due to its being founded on the authority of Apostle-based teaching as found in the New Testament, and apostolic mission as in the Great commission (Matthew 28v18-20).
Secondly the church is apostolic because the Church, according to Paul, is founded upon the teachings of the Apostles (Ephesians 2v20). The Apostles as witnesses to the very life and teachings of Jesus, and their teachings, were the identification mark that was considered normative practice for the early church. The Apostles still play a role in church life today, in that the church’s teaching, authority, life and preaching is based upon the apostolic teachings found in the New Testament.
Thirdly, there is a theory that the church was founded on the Apostle Peter, and that the church today has an apostolic link to him via papal succession. This is based on the thinking that the Apostle Peter was distinct from the other apostles in that Jesus always chose him first and that he spoke freely and independently from and for the other apostles. It is also based on the tradition of cathedra Petri that states that Peter alone had Episcopal authority, and that this is passed down through the Roman Catholic Church and its pope. This view is based on Peter’s confession of Jesus being the Christ, and Jesus stating that the keys to paradise are for Peter alone (Matthew 16v18-19). However this interpretation is erroneous and there are a multitude of objections to this theory. The principle objection being that all of Scripture, warrants that the church is founded on all of the apostles and all of their teaching, and not just on Peter alone. This is the correct view and to read anything else into the pretext and context of Matthew 16v18-19 is erroneous.
The means by which this hallmark can be tested in any church can be monitored in the function of Bible interaction. If the church is a community engaging in bible teaching, then the church can be seen to truly be ‘apostolic’.
The apostolic church devoted itself to teaching from the Apostles (Acts 2v42). One of the tests given to manuscripts in order for it to be considered part of the New Testament canon was its link to the apostles. Other tests included:
- Were they accepted as authentic and used by the Church?
- Were they in agreement with the doctrine handed down from the apostles?
- Self authenticating - Godly men and women could recognize God's Word.
What is the Bible? The Bible is the Word of God, and is the instrument of the Holy Spirit to bring people to faith (Ephesians 1v13) and ongoing sanctification (Ephesians 5v26). Paul writes that all of it is “God Breathed” (2 Timothy 3v16), in that it is inspired by God and has its origins in God. It is not just the ideas, but also the words that are inspired by God (1 Corinthians 2v13).
Why interact with the Bible? The Bible is capable of being understood by all God's people. God the Holy Spirit enlightens the minds of Christians Disciples, so that they can understand spiritual truths (1 Corinthians 2vv10-16). Through interacting with the Bible, the church teaches, rebukes, corrects and trains people for the purpose of righteousness (2 Timothy 3v16). By interacting with the Bible, Christians keep from sinning (Psalm 119v11), are comforted (Psalm 119v52), have their minds focused on God (Psalm 43v3) and are sustained in a daily spiritual life (Deuteronomy 8v3). The church also interacts with Bible, as the Bible is a link to the apostles (New Testament) and prophets (Old Testament), who are the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2v20).
What is the interaction?
There are five main ways in which Christian Disciples can interact with the Bible. Public reading of Scripture was regular in Israel and in the early church (Nehemiah 8v3). Presently due to high literacy particularly in the Western world, Scripture can easily be read in private as well as corporately. Memorization of the Bible was commended to “lay up His words in your heart” (Job 22v22). By reading and memorizing the Bible, meditating on it helps understand the implications of life’s occurrences and God’s blessings (Joshua 1v8). These three interactions lead to a fourth: that of obedience. By obeying the Bible the Christian Disciple learns to obey God, as it is His word (Deuteronomy 31v12).
Fifthly, preaching/teaching of the Bible receives the main emphasis in the New Testament, such as at the Church’s birth and Peter’s address to the crowd (Acts 2). After they were dispersed due to persecution, the Apostles continued preaching and teaching (Acts 8v4). Luke gives thirteen different words for preaching, and over thirty are used in the entire New Testament. Preaching is defined as God communicating Himself to man through other humans empowered by the Holy Spirit. For John Stott, preaching is the centrepiece of worship to God in the Spirit’s power.
These four marks of the church can be summarized like this. The church is one because Jesus is one; the church is holy because Jesus is holy; the church is catholic because Jesus is saviour of all; the church is apostolic because , as the Father sent Jesus who taught the Apostles, Jesus sends us to teach the Apostles teachings. It is these four hallmarks and their functions that are the test of whether a church is a biblical church.
For more to think about please do read 2 Timothy 4v1-5. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.
Q1. As a Christian Disciple, do I need to change how I interact with the Bible?
Q2. As a Christian Disciple, why and how can I be watchful and endure?
Q3. Do I as a Christian work at telling others about Jesus?
As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at partake(at)hotmail.co.uk. Thank you.