Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Before the foundation of the world



(1Pe 1:18-25 NLT)  For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver.  (19)  It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.  (20)  God chose Him as your ransom long before the world began, but He has now revealed Him to you in these last days.  (21)  Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because He raised Christ from the dead and gave Him great glory.  (22)  You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.  (23)  For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.  (24)  As the Scriptures say, "People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades.  (25)  But the word of the Lord remains forever." And that word is the Good News that was preached to you.

There are three verses that have the phrase, from before the foundation of the world in them (John 17:24, Ephesians 1:4 and 1 Peter 1:20.) Jesus was chosen, to be the redeemer before the foundation of the world… in other words, before creation. What exactly does this mean? Well, it means that redemption is the earliest purpose of God that has been revealed to mankind. This is the same as saying that God’s sole purpose in creation was redemption. Yes, you got it right… you heard, read me right. God created the world to redeem it! Why, you ask? Ephesians 1:6 provides the answer to this question, Eph 1:6 NLT “So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son.” He did that, (created the world to redeem it) so that he could be truly praised for his glorious grace. God wants to be praised but praised in truth!


The foundation… the ground for praising God is His glorious grace demonstrated in Jesus and His cross. Yes friend, it is the gospel that produces real true praise for God. Remember Jesus words in John chapter four. The Father wants people to worship Him in Spirit and truth. That is the reason for the gospel. That is the reason that God had redemption as his sole purpose in creation. That is the reason that God chose Jesus to be the Lamb Slain from before the foundation of the world. It is also the reason that John pointed out in his gospel, that the Word was in the very beginning. There you have it. Redemption in and through the Word, was the first and sole consideration for creation. How much more does this give the redemptive focus of scripture absolute primacy?

It is past time that we acknowledge this purpose of the sacred writings and reject the legal constitutional reading of scripture. God's New Covenant purpose was redemption to the praise of His glorious grace. Let's face it, the church exists under the New Covenant provisions (Matt 26:28), or it does not exist at all... Join me in praising God for the redemption that was before the foundation of the world.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Foundational apostles and prophets: What about the five-fold ministry? Part 5; What about signs and wonders?

Mar 16:15-20 KJV And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  (16)  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.  (17)  And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;  (18)  They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.  (19)  So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.  (20)  And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
When you have been all alone without anyone around, perhaps looking at yourself in the mirror, have you ever asked this question? Where are the signs and wonders? I mean real signs and wonders. There is a lot to be gleaned from the above passage from Mark's gospel. I have posited the King James version of this passage so that it will be most familiar. Jesus said in John's gospel that those who followed him would do greater works... that there would be a greater works ministry. Have you ever asked the question; where are these greater works? Jesus said in Matthew 28:18 that all authority had been given to him heaven and earth. So then, if we are in him, we too have that authority. But, authority alone is not enough. One must also have power. When Jesus sent out the 12 in Luke 9:1, he gave them both power and authority. That is... in the Greek... exousia and dunamis. The signs and wonders require both power and authority.

So then, where does the power come from? Where do we get the dunamis? Dunamis is the Greek word that is translated power in the New Testament writings, and it is a root word that we get dynamite from. Dunamis is explosive power. So, again the question, where do we get this power? The answer can be found in the above passage from Mark's gospel. In verse twenty it says that God was confirming the word with signs and wonders. What exactly does that mean? Well, Mark defines the word in verse fifteen. The word is the gospel. After all, isn't that the point of this entire passage? Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel is the purpose of this passage. Therefore, the word that would be confirmed is the gospel of God's grace in Christ Jesus. So then, the Holy Spirit will only confirm the gospel with signs and wonders. Really? From just this one passage?

Let's look at another: Act 14:3  Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. Oh, this backs up the theory. Paul knew that the signs and wonders were there to establish the gospel or in other words, the word of God's grace in Christ. So the power (dunamis) for the signs and wonders comes from the gospel, or in other words, the preaching of the cross. 1Co 1:18 KJV  For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. So then, if you want God's power, dunamis, preach the cross. It is the preaching of the cross, the gospel that will bring about God's power and he will confirm the word of his grace with powerful signs and wonders.

Paul explains plainly that the signs and wonders were to accompany and confirm the gospel: Rom 15:18-19 KJV  For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,  (19)  Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. It should be very clear that the signs and wonders will not come with the mixture of law and grace that is preached today. God will not confirm the leaven of the Pharisees.




Thursday, April 18, 2013

Foundational apostles and prophets: What about the five-fold ministry? Part 4; Apostles continued

Eph 4:11-15  Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.  (12)  Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ.  (13)  This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.  (14)  Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won't be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.  (15)  Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of His body, the church.
What does it mean to be more and more like Christ? The answer to this question is the Greek word for a special kind of love... God's love; AGAPE (pronounced ag-ah-pay.) I throw this in because so many people pronounce it (a-gop-ee,) and I just feel that if we throw a word around, we ought to properly pronounce it ;-) But, however you pronounce it, AGAPE is the key to real transformation.

AGAPE, is the love that God loves us with. It is the love that sent Jesus to the cross. It is the love that is responsible for God's unlimited grace and favor. It is the love that brings complete peace with God (Romans 5:1.) It is God's love for us that produces our love for God. It is a love, that when properly understood, becomes the offer you cannot refuse. It is the love that we must ultimately love one another with if we are to be obedient to Christ. It is the love that will help us fulfill the Shema (Deut 6:4-9 & 11:13-21 you should look them up if you have not.) It is the love spoken of in 1 Cor chapter 13. It is the love Jesus refers too when he says that by this love... AGAPE... all will recognize you as my disciples. It is the love that covers a multitude of sins. It is a love that will ultimately help one lay down ones life for his/her friends. It is the love that will never end.

This is the foundational apostle's job! It is to extol and promote AGAPE in the earth. That can only be accomplished by the clear presentation and proclamation of the pristine gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself not counting sin against the world. The foundational apostle is first and foremost an AMBASSADOR of the good news. The good news is that God wants a relationship with all and he has provided the means to that end. He had settled it before he created the world, and He performed it in linear time two thousand years ago on Calvary. This is a love producing news. It will bring about a transformation in people that will help establish the *love reformation* of the church. I first heard the term from Ted Haggard and the Lord recently quickened it to my spirit as I thought about the need for the five-fold ministry to continue to operate, especially the ministry of the foundational apostles and prophets. It is not important if or if not the term/name is used. One does not need to be called an apostle to hold the office of apostle and do the work of an apostle, nor does one need to have the title of prophet to hold the office of prophet and do the work of a prophet. Still, foundational apostles and prophets are sorely needed!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Foundational apostles and prophets: What about the five-fold ministry? Part 3; Apostles continued

Eph 4:11-16  And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,  (12)  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  (13)  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  (14)  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  (15)  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  (16)  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Continuing on with the subject of modern day apostles and prophets it must be acknowledged that there is not much written specifically describing the office of apostle. However, it is safe to conclude that you can look at the ministry of Paul and others found in the book of Acts and thereby extrapolate the qualities one could expect to find in a modern day apostle. First, the apostle was called by God in a profound way. The apostles either walked with Jesus or heard a declaration from heaven. So then, the modern day apostle will have heard that specific call from the Father.

Secondly, The calling will be confirmed by actions, presence, power and also by other believers. An apostle will have an unmistakably unique anointing of power and presence and will speak with authority. An apostle will easily recognize truth from error. He or she will judge everything in light of the gospel of grace, redemption, and the love of God. The reason for this is to enable the body to keep focus on the pristine gospel of grace.

Thirdly, the apostle will urge people on to love in love. The foundation of the purpose of the gospel is to inform the saint that they are at peace with God... (Romans 5:1.) It is from this understanding of being at peace with God that true transforming love can be birthed in the individual. The Apostle John said it this way. 1Jn 4:10  "This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins." In other words, supernatural transforming love is not generated because of the command to love God with all our heart, all our soul and all our strength. Supernatural transforming love is generated from the peace we have with God because of the gospel of Christ. Agape is at the heart of apostolic teaching and a called apostle will exemplify agape.


I am making progress but there is still much to say about  the apostle so expect a continuation....

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Foundational apostles and prophets: What about the five-fold ministry? Part 2; Apostles



Eph 2:20  built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, … and… Eph 4:11-13  And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,  (12)  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  (13)  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

I find it difficult to believe that anyone could assert that we have anything that remotely resembles unity of the faith. In fact, with all the denominations and divisions, it seems profoundly clear that the opposite is the case. Therefore, in my view apostles and prophets still must be necessary to the body of Christ. Further, the office of evangelist, pastor and teacher is still widely revered and accepted so why not apostles and prophets?



So then, if there should still be apostles in the body of Christ, what would that look like? What is their function? I think that it is answered in Ephesians 2:20. They should lay the foundation of the gospel of the kingdom. When you look up the Greek word apostolos as it is used in the New Testament, Strong provides this definition, [From G649; a delegate; specifically an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ (“apostle”), (with miraculous powers): - apostle, messenger, he that is sent.] Therefore, an apostle is one with a specific call to be an ambassador or emissary of the kingdom of God and the gospel of Christ. This gospel/kingdom focus will be the main driving force in the life and mission of an apostle. Since they are sent forth, they actually have within them the qualities of all of the five gifts. They can function in any of the gifts for a period of time but they are called first and foremost to be staunch defenders of the gospel of grace.



Here at the turn of the twenty-first century, considering the condition of the church, realizing that the leaven of the Pharisees has a strong hold within the evangelical church, apostles should be busy trying to establish the foundation of the pristine gospel. Apostles should be strong proclaimers of the grace of God. They should be encouraging the saints to comprehend and accept the deep unconditional love of the Father. They should comfort and console those who are being led astray from the pristine gospel. If they are to rebuke at all it should be to those who have taken leadership roles that are not promoting the pristine gospel of grace, and are trying to lead the people into achieving righteousness by works through fear.



They must insist that the mixture of gospel and works righteousness be ended. The main reason that the church today does not experience real profound signs and wonders is that the signs and wonders are meant to establish and confirm the gospel of grace (Acts 14:3.)


I especially like the way it reads in the NLT;


(Act 14:3 NLT)  But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders.

There you have it in the plainest of speech… The signs and wonders confirm the Word of His Grace, the gospel.
I can see that this series will need several posts to cover the topics properly… especially in the 500-700 word per post format…….. More to come!

 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Foundational Apostles and Prophets: What about the five-fold ministry? Part 1



Eph 2:19-22 NLT  So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God's holy people. You are members of God's family.  (20)  Together, we are His house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself.  (21)  We are carefully joined together in Him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.  (22)  Through Him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by His Spirit.

I am beginning a series on foundational apostles and prophets and what their function is in the kingdom of God. There is a debate that rages within the ranks of evangelical Christianity about the spiritual gifts and the five-fold ministry. Of course, when I refer to the five-fold ministry I am speaking of Ephesians 4:11-13. So then, this post will be dedicated to examining the legitimacy of modern day apostles and prophets.

First, let me say that there is an awful lot of questionable activity that takes place in the name of the five-fold ministry and modern day, present truth apostles and prophets. There are many self-proclaimed apostles and prophets that act much more like they are a part of the Old Covenant economy than the New Covenant economy.  I mention apostles and prophets because no one in evangelical Christianity seems to have any problem with evangelists, pastors and teachers. So then, somehow, evangelists, pastors and teachers are still necessary gifts but not apostles and prophets. This seems unlikely to me; especially in view of the passages in Ephesians where Paul speaks of them. Let’s look at this in the NLT which presents very plain language.

(Eph 4:11-14 NLT)  Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.  (12)  Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ.  (13)  This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.  (14)  Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won't be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.

Interesting, Paul says that the five gifting’s will continue until ALL come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord. OK, really? In an age with 30,000 plus denominations and all the division can anyone believe that there is no longer a need for foundational apostles and prophets?  Let me say this… if evangelists, pastors and teachers are necessary, how much more are apostles and prophets needed?



Add to this, the beginning of Ephesians chapter four… one Lord, one faith, one baptism… and it should be painfully obvious that foundational apostles and prophets are extremely necessary. So then, what should they do? What is the function and mission of modern day foundational apostles and prophets… Tune into this series and I will try to give my answer on this important issue.


Majoring in Minor Things

Not too long ago I heard a sermon where a preacher said that the Lord had recently told him that the saints were majoring in minors. What he...