Thursday, July 2, 2015, 11:01 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Your Servant Witness.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Titus 1:1-4 (NASB).
Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior,
To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
What is a bond-servant? A bond-servant is a slave – “someone who belongs to another; a bond-slave, without any ownership rights of their own” – “used with the highest dignity in the NT – namely, of believers who willingly live under Christ’s authority as His devoted followers” (http://biblehub.com/greek/1401.htm).
We, as Christ’s followers, are to be his bond-servants, living as slaves of righteousness, with him as our Lord and Master (See: Ro. 6). Jesus said his sheep listen to him and they follow him (Jn. 10:27-30). We were bought with a price, the blood of Christ. Our lives are no longer our own to be lived however we want. We are to glorify God with our lives, following him in obedience wherever he leads us (1 Co. 6:19-20; Jn. 12:26). Jesus died for us that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (2 Pet. 2:24). He died that we would no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave himself up for us (2 Co. 5:15). We are to be his willing servants – submissive, obedient, and surrendered to the cross of Christ in our lives.
What is an apostle? An apostle is “one commissioned by another to represent him in some way, especially a man sent out by Jesus Christ Himself to preach the Gospel; someone sent (commissioned), focusing back on the authority (commissioning) of the sender; a messenger, one sent on a mission” (http://biblehub.com/greek/652.htm).
Jesus chose 12 apostles (disciples) to follow him in ministry. One betrayed him, died, and was replaced with another. Some others who lived during the time in which Jesus lived and ministered on the earth were also called “apostles,” such as were Paul and Barnabas, and James, the Lord’s brother, etc. They were all called and commissioned by Jesus Christ, were sent out on a mission as his representatives, and were his messengers to spread the gospel of our salvation. Their apostleship was not through the agency of man, though, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father. They also did not inherit their apostleship through any man, such as through succession. As members of God’s household, we are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
Yet, there is the question as to whether or not believers in Jesus Christ are ever called “apostles” today, i.e. speaking of those who did not live during the time of Jesus, and who were not witnesses to his resurrection. Revelation 18:20 says, “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.” This was in reference to the fall of Babylon the Great.
Some people believe this is speaking only of the apostles of New Testament time, and of the Old Testament prophets, while others believe the reference to apostle is speaking of ordinary ministers of the Word, who are called of God to preach the gospel, and that “prophet” is in reference to those with the spiritual gift of prophesy, who proclaim the Word of God in practical and applicable ways to our lives and world today. After all, the definition of “apostle” certainly fits with what every believer is called to do. We have all been commissioned of God to take the gospel to the nations, and to make followers of Christ of people of all nations, I believe. We are the light of the world and the salt of the earth, and we are to let our lights shine before all men. We are to snatch people from the flames and save them, and to turn sinners from the error of their ways. As the body of Christ, we are his representatives to the world around us. We are his servants and witnesses.
“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).
Is it Critical?
So, is it critical that we settle the question of whether or not a believer in Christ today could be an apostle, i.e. a “sent out one”? In one sense, I would say, “Yes.” In another, I would say, “No.”
We need to understand, first of all, that the apostles of the New Testament were given the authority to speak the very words of God to the people via direct revelation from Jesus Christ. The God-breathed words of God given to them by direct revelation of God were written down for us, which are compiled together in the New Testament in the Holy Bible. These words are scripture to us, i.e. the authority of God in our lives, and they are his instructions to us on how we are to receive Christ, and on how we are to live our Christian lives by faith in Jesus Christ. We are to obey the God-breathed Word of God, which the apostles often spoke. Yet, I believe the books of the New Testament (Matthew-Revelation) are the completed revelations of Jesus Christ for his church to follow, and that we should not add to or take away from these words. So, if someone comes along and claims to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, like those who lived during the time of Jesus, and they claim to have more divine revelation for us that we must obey, don’t obey them. Test what they say.
Now, with that said, there are those within the body of Christ who have a specific calling of God to be sent out, as a missionary, to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the meaning of “apostle,” so we could call them apostles, but I believe that can get confusing, as most all of the New Testament references to apostles were speaking of the apostles chosen by God who lived on the earth at the same time as Jesus did, and who were witnesses to his resurrection, and most (if not all) of them spoke the God-breathed words of God, which have become scripture to us, and which we must obey. We don’t have to obey the words of everyone who calls himself or herself an apostle (or a prophet) today, but there are many false apostles who would have us believe we must, just because someone claims that title for themselves, or just because they believe they have inherited that status via succession from one man to another to another. So, test everything against God’s Word.
Are Titles Necessary?
So, does having the title “apostle,” or the title “prophet” make us more credible, or more gifted? Or do titles such as these guarantee that we are Spirit-filled, called and commissioned of God for his service, or that we are actually walking in obedience to God, listening to his voice, and teaching in the power of the Spirit within us? NO! In fact, proclaiming such titles as these does not even guarantee that those who call themselves such even know Jesus Christ personally, i.e. they may not have been born of the Spirit of God at all, but they may be operating fully in the flesh of mankind. They could even be servants of Satan disguised as prophets and apostles of Christ. So, test everything! I have seen too many people call themselves “prophet” or “prophetess” or “apostle” who are following man and not God, who are operating in the flesh, and not in the Spirit, and who are not students of the Word, but are being led by human emotion. So, test everything!
So, what is really important here? For one, we are to be humble and submissive servants of Christ, doing what he tells us to do, for the glory of God, for the truth of the gospel, and for the encouragement, godliness and spiritual maturity of the saints of God. We don’t need titles to do that. In fact, titles can get in the way, and can be a hindrance. As well, we should know that we are all called of God to his service, and we are all his representatives. We are all his witnesses, too, sent out into all the world to make followers of Jesus Christ of people of all nations. We don’t need to call ourselves “apostles” to do that, though. And, no matter what God has called us to do, not one of us is any better or above the other. We are all fellow-servants of Christ and members of his body. We are all necessary. We are not greater or less just because of our calling and ministry (See: 1 Co. 12). We just have different gifts and different roles (body parts), and some people are called to lead, but to do so in all humility, and not to lord it over the people, but to lead by example (1 Pet. 5:1-11).
So, let’s humble ourselves before God in full submission and surrender to his will for our lives. Let’s listen to him and follow him wherever he leads us. Let us test our own hearts to make sure that what we are doing is of God, and that it is being done with the right heart motive, which is not for the praise of man, but for the glory of God, for the faith of those chosen of God, and for the encouragement of the saints. Let us bathe what we do in prayer, and pray for those to whom God would have us minister, and let us remember that all that we have that is good is from God, and not from ourselves, so we should give all the praise and glory to God alone. And, let us have teachable spirits, willing to learn from others, but to also test everything we hear to make sure it lines up with the teachings of scripture and with God’s divine character and will. And, let us do what we do out of hearts of love for God and for other people, and not for selfish gain.
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!