You should take care not to be found a false apostle or indeed, a false-anything: false brethren, a false prophet, a false witness, a false brother, a false sister, a false evangelist and a false pastor.
We live in an age of insatiable appetite for titles and the more lofty-sounding the better. Never mind that in most cases the bearer of these self-created and self-conferred titles are obviously empty vessels except in the sight of their cronies and hangers-on. Thus you find a deacon that wants to be served instead of serving, and in many cases doesn’t even understand what it means to serve.
You find the so-called pastor that fleeces the sheep instead of feeding them. Indeed the only person he knows how to feed is himself, and that not with the word of God but with the goodies from, by and for the sheep.
I wonder if they have seen that passage that says: “whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame.” Well it is Philippians 3:19.
You now understand why: “They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepareth deceit.” (Job 15:35).
Not long ago, someone visited and was eulogizing some so-called man of God.
She said “you need to meet this man of God. He is archbishop —- (a bishop of bishops she added) and a mighty apostle, the very voice of God for our day!” If I didn’t know a bit about this sister I would have concluded that she was probably paid to come and advertise this self-appointed God’s man-for-the-hour to me.
Fortunately for her I know a thing or two about this object of her affection: in his third marriage that is almost collapsing now, and as I understand it another sister is already waiting at the door ready to jump in when this man walks out of the relationship (that reminds me of the woman that the Lord met at the well); he is an entertainer extraordinaire who on the pulpit is more at home relaying the latest news from major news networks and discussing latest episodes of soaps and sports; he is so barren of the word of life that his sermons are more of banters about the latest gossips making the rounds amongst secular celebrates and sleazy tabloids.
Yet some people will come out of his meetings claiming to have heard a powerful message! He says your behaviour doesn’t matter what matters is that you have believed in Christ. You are still going to heaven even if your behaviour is as the unbeliever. No wonder, a young man described going to their meetings as attending a secular jamboree. Let’s move on.
Initially there was some argument. Her posture was defensive and her initial reaction was like this man is a true man of God. She said things to the effect: ”be careful how you talk about the man of God. Remember you are not to judge and God says you should not do his prophet any harm!”
Fortunate for her because I could see that our discussion has some impact on her – towards the end she was more receptive and no more as argumentative. She was rather questioning. And also because I shared more of the word with her rather than talking about this archbishop so-called, and gave her some further references so she can then go home and look things up herself and thus be in a better position to continue to grow in her faith.
You see, the best cure for error is to state the truth clearly.
However, our meeting set me thinking and a torrent of questions surfaced:
- Is it alright to see someone who claims to be a Christian engaging in what is obviously contrary to the word of God and to keep quiet because you do not want to be seen as judging?
- Is that the type of judgment that the Christian is not to judge?
- In other words is that the right use of those particular scriptures she and others like her commonly quote?
- Should a Christian continue to attend the ministration of a minister who consistently disregards the word of God under the pretence that “everyone else lack the spiritual maturity to understand Scripture except himself, and therefore, they should just take his word for it?
- Others say: we are all learning; only God knows the true believer; don’t judge things before their time and other such statements to justify blatant disregard for Scripture. Is this true?
- What type of judgment is forbidden the Christian?
- What type of judgment may the Christian judge?
I felt ignorance of the word has a big part to play is this and many other similar scenarios I have witnessed.
As the word of God tells us, when a person refuses or rejects the truth, the only thing remaining is falsehood. When a Christian refuses to use biblical standard as the measure of who a Christian is and especially who is a Christian leader then all sorts of people get elevated to where they should not be and all sorts of errors occur.
I also needed to refresh myself as to who is an apostle of the Lord:
Apostle signifies one sent, a messenger sent in the Lord Jesus Christ’s name about his work so I have heard repeatedly. That makes all believers in Christ apostles, doesn’t it? I suppose —–.
Credentials of the original apostles
To determine whether modern pastors, bishops and others who style themselves as apostles are apostles, it is necessary in the first place to determine the nature of the Apostleship as detailed in Scripture, and ascertain whether modern church leaders or prelates have the gifts, qualifications, and credentials of the office.
So who then were the Apostles?
Strictly speaking, apostle designates the highest office in the church of Christ. This title was conferred by the Lord Jesus Christ on twelve men specially chosen by Him out of His followers (Luke 6:13-16; 1Cor 12:28). He later added Saul of Tarsus Paul) to their number.
Hence, the Apostles were a definite number of men selected by the Lord Jesus Christ to be His witnesses, to testify to His doctrines, to the facts of His life, to His death, and especially to His resurrection.
To qualify them for this office of authoritative witnesses, it was necessary:
- That they should have independent and plenary knowledge of the gospel.
- That they should have seen Christ after his resurrection.
- That they should be inspired, i.e., that they should be individually and severally so guided by the Spirit as to be infallible in all their instructions. And so they were led into all truth.
- That they should be authenticated as the messengers of Christ,
- By adherence to the true gospel,
- By success in preaching (Paul said to the Corinthians that they were the seal of his apostleship (1Cor 9:2); and
- By signs and wonders and divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost.
- And so they were given extraordinary gifts:
- The power to work miracles not at will or at all times but only when Christ pleased;
- They were led into all truth;
- They were endowed with the spirit of prophesy and their words considered Scripture.
- They had an extent of power and jurisdiction beyond all others.
- Thus every apostle was a universal bishop in all churches and over all ministers.
Such were the gifts and qualifications and credentials of the original Apostles. And those who claimed the office without possessing these gifts and credentials, were pronounced false apostles and messengers of Satan.
It would appear that certain sections of the early church called into question the apostleship of Apostle Paul who was not part of the original twelve chosen by our Lord, but to whom the Lord appeared years after His resurrection. There is much we could learn about this position of apostle from his response to his critics.
In defence of his claim to be an apostle, the Apostle Paul he felt it necessary to prove:
- That he had been appointed not by man nor through men, but immediately by Jesus Christ (Gal 1:1).
- That he had not been taught the gospel by others, but received his knowledge by immediate revelation (Gal 1:12).
- That he had seen Christ after his resurrection (1Cor 9:1; 1Cor 15:8).
- That he was inspired, or infallible as a teacher, so that men were bound to recognize his teachings as the teaching of Christ (1Cor 14:37).
- That the Lord had authenticated his apostolic mission as fully as he had done that of Peter. (Gal 2:8).
- He reminded the Corinthians that: “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” (2Cor 12:12).
The office of the Apostles as described in the New Testament, was, therefore, from its nature incapable of being transmitted, and has not in fact been perpetuated. There is no command in the New Testament to keep up succession of the Apostles.
Thus, it was a once-for-all position with no succession by any other. Outside of the twelve and Paul no other Christian can and should equate himself with the apostles as many do who claim the designation of an apostle.
On the other hand, with regard to the permanent officers of the church, there is:
- The promise to continue the gifts which pertained to them, the command to appoint suitable persons and also a specification of the qualifications to be sought and demanded;
- A record of the actual appointment of incumbents; and
- Historical evidence of their continuance in the church from that day to our day.
But as regards the Apostles, all this is lacking.
Further, observe that:
While being aware of what some have alluded to as the “loose” use of the word “apostle” to refer to some Christian leaders like Silas, Barnabas etc.
You should particularly note that:
- These leaders themselves never used such title to refer to themselves.
- Those who used the title to refer to these leaders recognised the special class of the original apostles and never elevated these leaders to the same level.
- The apostolic fathers (the leaders of the church who took over the leadership of the church following immediately after the apostles) and those who followed them recognised and respected the preeminent position of the original apostles and never used that title to refer to themselves.
- And even though the apostolic fathers were taught directly by the apostles, they never sort to elevate themselves to their level or claim they were succeeding them in the apostolic office.
- This is the opposite of those who claim this title in our day: they claim the same level of authority!
- This can only be preposterous, presumptuous and dangerous: they are just false apostles plain and simple!
Have you conferred the title of an apostle upon yourself or surreptitiously instigated your stooges to confer it on you for a so-called mighty call of God on your life?
Or are you following one now?
This is a serious issue for it is about errors being perpetrated within the Christian fold by those who appear to be Christians but who when measured by the word of God may be found to be false.
Please, don’t neglect or ignore the word of God.
Remember that some have been taken captive as the word of God says: “And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” (2Tim 2:26).
Please, compare and measure yourself by the word of God.
Subject yourself the word of life that you may truly have the true life.
This is the time of grace: may you avail yourself of it in Jesus’ Name, Amen.