The Restoration Principle

4 — The Apostolic Norm

“For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:17).

THE TEACHING OF JESUS WOULD HAVE BEEN THE HEIGHT OF ARROGANCE AND BLASPHEMY . . . IF IT WEREN’T TRUE. The same can be said of Jesus’ apostles. Their claim to teach with supreme, universal authority would have been ludicrous . . . if it weren’t true.

Among the roles in the early church, the work of the apostles was preeminent and unique — there were to be no apostles in succeeding generations. When we say their teaching was to be the “norm” for the church, what we mean is that Christ invested them with His authority and after He returned to heaven following His resurrection, the apostles were to direct the faith and practice of the disciples in the foundational period of the church (Ephesians 2:20). It was through the apostles that Christ made known His intention for how the church was to be set up (Matthew 16:18,19; Acts 2:42; 2 Peter 3:2).

Jesus promised He would send the Holy Spirit to guarantee the truth of what was taught by the apostles as His spokesmen. “He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). “He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13). Their work was not to begin until the Spirit began to empower them (Acts 1:8).

Consequently, the apostles’ teaching was a body of instruction that had to be taken seriously. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Teaching received from Paul, or any other apostle, could not be rejected without disrespecting the Lord.

We need to get back in touch with the importance of the apostles, reminding ourselves of the absolutely unique role they played. It has never been more urgent that we recommit ourselves to apostolic Christianity — going back again and again and again to the New Testament when we want to find out what the church looks like which the Lord said He would build (Matthew 16:18).

“The Apostles were chosen by Jesus to be the revealers of his will. Their actions and teachings were not arbitrary or incidental; they were intentional and authoritative. The practices they ordained were in accord with Divine will. It was on this foundation that the church was built” (David Edwin Harrell, Jr.).

Gary Henry — +

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