Tuesday, June 30, 2015, 1:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Your Servant Witness.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Timothy 2:8-19 (NASB).
Remember Jesus Christ (vv. 8-13)
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. It is a trustworthy statement:
For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
Jesus Christ, God the Son, came to earth, took on human form, and died on a cross for our sins so that we could die to sin and live to righteousness (See: 1 Pet. 2:24). By his stripes we are healed! He did not remain in the grave, though. The third day he was resurrected from the dead, at which time he rose victorious over sin, death, hell and Satan – to God be the glory, great things HE has done! Amen! Through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection God made the way for us, who were born with sin natures, who were separate from God and without hope, to be delivered from sin, to be restored to fellowship with God, and to be given new lives in Christ to be lived for the honor and praise of Almighty God. Amen!
When they put Jesus to death, they thought they had finished him. They thought there would be an ending to the messages he taught and that his disciples would dissipate, and that would be the end of the matter. Yet, Jesus Christ, God the Son, the Living Word of God, could not be bound by death. He came back to life, appeared to many of his followers, ascended back to the Father, and sent his Holy Spirit to dwell within the lives of his disciples, in order that he might teach us all things, remind us of all that Jesus taught when he was on the earth, purify us of all unrighteousness, transform us in heart and mind, give us new lives in Christ, and counsel, comfort, encourage, strengthen and empower us in the faith, and in our Christian walks and testimonies for Jesus Christ and for his gospel.
We are forgiven of our sins and are given eternal life with God, beginning now and forevermore, when we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives. When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we die with Christ to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to new lives, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24; Ro. 6-8; Gal. 2:20).
Yet, our salvation will not be complete until Jesus Christ returns for his bride, and he takes us to be with him. We must remain in him, and him in us, and we must endure to the end, and continue in the faith (See: Col. 1:21-23). Only those who are believing in Jesus (present tense) have eternal life. Eternal life is not guaranteed on the basis of past belief. If, after having made a confession of Christ, we end up denying him, i.e. to the point of rejecting him as Savior of our lives, and denying that we know him, he will deny us. Yet, if we are faithless, i.e. if we sin, or if we wander off temporarily, he remains faithful, and he will bring us back, because he will finish the work which he began in us (See: Phil. 1:6).
Accurately Handle (vv. 14-19)
Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some. Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.”
In the past couple of days I have been made aware of the doctrine of “apostolic succession.” I was unfamiliar with this doctrine prior to a few days ago. Since it is being taught in Christian circles as truth, I felt the Lord would have me investigate it, and learn what it was about, and test it against the word of God to see if it was truth. So, I set out to do that a few days ago, and I will now share what I believe the Lord has taught me so far, because I believe this falls into this category of “worldly and empty chatter,” which is spreading like gangrene, or has the potential to do so, and is, or could possibly be a teaching that would upset the faith of some and lead them astray to a false gospel and a false belief.
Definition of Apostolic Succession: “The doctrine maintaining that present-day successors to Jesus’s apostles, i.e. the bishops, have the same spiritual authority, power, and responsibility conferred upon them as did the original apostles” – http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/apostolic+succession
From what I can ascertain about this belief, it appears that the thought is that there are those who have received the gift of apostleship by way of succession, much like a prince might receive the crown from his father who was the king, after the father dies. The thought is that Jesus passed his authority down to his apostles who then passed their authority down to other apostles, and so on and so forth, and that these who have received apostleship by way of succession are in a class all to themselves above others (a hierarchy), again much like royalty, as compared to or in contrast to the common person who is not royalty. A hierarchy is “government by an elite group; government by ecclesiastical rulers;” and/or “the power or dominion of a hierarch,” which is “a person who rules or has authority in sacred matters; high priest” – http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hierarchy.
I believe the Lord is saying this is a false doctrine, based in the lies of human beings, who have cooked this up out of their own minds. The foundation for this belief is not Jesus Christ, but it is man (human flesh), and this human flesh, from which this doctrine is coming, is at some of the highest levels in the land. Yet, there are those who are embracing this doctrine, and are holding on to it tenaciously, with their minds. Yet, the power through which this belief comes is not the Holy Spirit of God, but the flesh of man. These who are holding to the belief of “apostolic succession” have, thus, separated themselves from the body of believers in that they see themselves as superior, a class unto themselves, and there seems to be a desire among them, as well, to lord it over the people, rather than to humbly see themselves as one of us, i.e. as fellow-servants of Christ and of his gospel.
So, what is an apostle? “Apóstolos (from apostéllō, ‘to commission, send forth’) – properly, someone sent (commissioned), focusing back on the authority (commissioning) of the sender (note the prefix, apo); apostle; a messenger, one sent on a mission,” etc. – http://biblehub.com/greek/652.htm.
So, to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, we need to be commissioned by Jesus Christ himself, to be sent on a mission, to be his messenger, and to represent him. This is not something someone can inherit from another human being, like in a blood-line, of sorts, but we must be called of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, and commissioned by God himself to do whatever it is he has called us to do. The Holy Spirit gives gifts as he chooses, and God assigns roles within the body of Christ as he determines, not as man determines, and not through some succession from one man to another to another. Let’s compare this to:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
So, what is this saying? Under the old order of things, i.e. under the Old Covenant, there was an order of priests who served as mediators between God and man. They were the ones who would make sacrifices for people’s sins, once a year, and they were the only ones, I believe, who could enter into the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was housed, and in which was God’s presence. Yet, when Jesus Christ died, the veil that separated us from the Holy of Holies was torn in two. In other words, through Jesus’ death for our sins, the barrier that stood between humans and God’s presence was destroyed, and a way was opened up for us to be able to come into God’s presence, through the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever” (Rev. 5:12, 13b). He is the one who is to be high and lifted up, not man. He is our only high priest!
When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are indwelt with his Holy Spirit. We, thus, become the body of Christ, his church, the temple of God. The Holy of Holies now dwells within us. We no longer need human priests to mediate between us and God, for we can go directly into God’s presence. Jesus Christ is our hierarchy, not man. Since we are now the body of Christ, we are a holy and a royal priesthood, and we have been commissioned by God for his service, to proclaim him who has called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. We are all his servants and messengers. As his body, we are his representatives. We have the Word of God dwelling within us, so we no longer need prophets or apostles, in the sense of those who speak God’s God-breathed words to us. God can speak directly to each and every one of us. We have the written word of God, as well, in which we can be taught God’s words to us. And, the Holy Spirit is our primary teacher.
Now, within the body of Christ, the Holy Spirit gives gifts to all followers of Christ, as he chooses, and God assigns us the parts in the body, which he determines. But, we are all parts of one body, fellow servants together, chosen by God for his service, and not one of us is to be placed above another. One plants, another waters, but it is God who makes all things grow. We are all merely servants of God through whom he works for his purposes and for his glory. We do have teachers, but what they teach is the Word of God. We have those who prophesy, but what they do is proclaim the Word of God in very practical ways as is applied to our world and our lives today. We have appointed leaders, but they are to lead by example, and to not lord it over the people. Their purpose is to help nurture us in our walks of faith to maturity, to give guidance and direction, to keep order and discipline, and to direct the affairs of the church with love, justice and mercy. But, we are all fellow workers together in God’s kingdom, and all answerable to Christ, who is our only head.
So, if someone comes to you with this teaching of “apostolic succession,” reject it, because it is not of God. Jesus Christ is our only King and Lord, and He alone is to be High and Lifted Up! We are ALL his servants and messengers, commissioned by him for his service.
Your Servant Witness / An Original Work / March 13, 2012
Humbly I bow, Lord, before You,
Bringing my requests to You.
May I listen; hear You speaking.
May I follow You in truth.
Gently lead me in Your service.
Guide my steps and strengthen me.
Fill me with Your love and mercy.
May I live for Thee!
Let me be Your servant witness,
Telling others of Your grace.
May I always share the gospel
With those I meet face to face.
May I show the love of Jesus,
Caring for the needs of men;
Be Your servant witness always
For my Lord, Amen!
My desire to be like Jesus,
Living for Him ev’ry day.
May I obey all His teachings
Given me, so I’ll not stray.
Love You, Jesus, Lord, my master.
You are the King of my heart;
Follow You where’er You lead me;
Not from You depart!