Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Authority Who Has It?

Authority Who Has It?

“Given to me was all authority in heaven and on earth”
(Matt 28:18 - Young's Literal Translation)

Welcome once again to Truth for the Journey. Today we are looking at the role of authority and who has it! We all know that we have been given authority; inherited through Jesus Christ to overcome in this life; to lay hands on the sick and to cast out demons etc. Spiritually speaking this means we reign in life and have dominion. Nevertheless we are all part of the Body of Christ, which has a specific “structure” with leadership – called “Church” and whether we perceive we are individually gifted or not – this gives no “automatic-right” for any of us to become a leader within the local church. (Qualification for leadership - authoritative office if God appoints - takes a number of years).

So today I would like to begin by speaking about the apostolic and apostles in general. Which means this article is not a written “spot-light” based upon the believer’s authority but more specifically in regard to “5-fold-governmental-authority.” (Note: successive articles will touch on elders and deacons including whether the title “Bishop” is just another word for “Elder” currently mistaken as the “supreme-title” of the Church, replacing that of the apostle!)

First and foremost, authority begins and ends with Christ but the question is; who else has authority? To help answer this we are going to look at the 5 fold ministry gifts, ordained by none other than Christ Himself and known as the “resurrection apostles.” The one that we will focus on the most in this article is the apostle but before we continue let me make this statement; “authority and responsibility can only be given by those who have it.” Our opening scripture reveals very clearly that ALL authority - both in heaven and on the earth belongs Christ. That is a lot of authority! And it’s not a power sharing scheme either… all means all. Jesus will never SHARE authority power with anyone, but He does GIVE it to those He delegates (chief components in this of course are the ascension or 5 fold ministry gifts). Lets see this again briefly in the following verses: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me...”(Matt 28:18) “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up...”(Eph 4:11,12).

“Ministry Gifts” then, exist primarily for the building up and preparing of God’s people for works of service. It could be said like this: principally they have “earthly” authority and receive their ordination directly from the Lord Himself, without human involvement. Such was the case with the original disciples who lived with Jesus during His “earthly” ministry. Equally so, however, was the case with Paul who was “...one born out of due time...” (I Cor l5: 8 KJV). “The things that mark an apostle - signs, wonders and miracles - were done among you with great perseverance” (2 Cor 12:12 - emphasis added).

Therefore it is true to say that the original New Testament apostles literally had “ultimate authority” on this earth, which was no small thing! (Something that we will clarify as we go along in successive articles, so stick around!) For instance if there was a dispute regarding doctrine, then the apostles were the final adjudicators; they had the last say. Some of the apostles by their very nature also fulfilled the offices of elder (bishop) and overseer. The reverse however does not necessarily apply. A person recognised as an elder is not automatically an apostle or other ministry gift to the Church. The apostle is perhaps the most difficult of the five ministry gifts to explain.

Known to us then in more familiar terms as the “Fivefold Ministries” these are perhaps better called the “Five Ascension Gifts” as we already saw revealed in Eph 4:11 above: “Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher.” Let me point out however, these are not just gifts of the Holy Spirit per se, they are Office and Gifting combined, an extension of Christ’s headship ministry to the Church. Their primary ministry and function is to teach, train, activate and mature the saints for work of service (Eph 4:12-13).

As one of the five and concerning the apostle in particular - the apostle is a “foundation-laying” ministry (Eph 2: 20) that we see in the New Testament, establishing new churches (i.e. Paul’s missionary journeys), correcting error by establishing proper order and structure (first epistle to the Corinthians), and acting as an oversight ministry that fathers other ministries (see 1 Cor 4:15; 2 Cor 11:28).

The New Testament Apostle has a “revelatory-anointing” (Eph 3:5). Some major characteristics are great patience and manifestations of signs, wonders and miracles. However we will know more and see greater manifestations surrounding the ministry of the “apostle” during the peak of the Apostolic Movement to come.

A keynote to point out here of course is that no person ever went or ever will walk straight into an apostolic ministry! There is always a process just as we saw with Paul: “In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod tetrarch) and Saul” (Acts 13:1). Evidently Paul was recognised operating in other ministry gifting (Teacher) before he was commissioned by the Holy Spirit and then “sent-out” as an apostle by (his) the leaders. This is a good point to remember. In other words, no one is born an apostle. It takes serious preparation and maturity to walk in that office plus it is not chosen by the individual – rather it is bestowed upon them, at God’s bidding – not their own. Paul was no volunteer! God had to throw him down off his high horse first and that was just to get his attention. Rather Jesus “informed” Paul of his selection; he was not “consulted!”

It is a sovereign act of God. Entirely for His choosing and while many are called – few are chosen; few can walk in such an office. Therefore “self-assigned” or “self-appointed” apostles are real glutens for punishment, as scripture clearly reveals that it is no walk in the park to be a genuine apostle! Its not a title for glory, its an office of government; spiritually weighty and generally unpopular! As spearheads and pioneers, they take the brunt of onslaught, while at the same time as they faithfully lead others to victory! Not everyone has what it takes! Remembering that part of the calibre and proof of leadership is generally that other people naturally “follow!” It’s self-explanatory then that if no one is “following,” those claiming “leadership” status are clearly just in wishful thinking! The gift will speak for itself.

Generally if an apostle walks in a room, his presence fills the room and is felt by everyone! They possess such “weight” in the spirit that rarely goes unnoticed. They become recognised quickly as well as targeted and spoken about quickly! (A lot!) These are the true joys of apostle-hood (with its inherent and unrelenting passion). No one in their right mind would sign up for a role like this, rather the Lord Himself confers it on man simply because there are no volunteers!

However to continue, the apostle will usually have one or more of the other five-fold ministry gifts - as his major gifting as well; this is called his “gift-mixture.” For example; Apostle Paul was a Teacher. Apostle Peter was a Pastor. Apostle Barnabas was a Prophet. We need to look at scripture to see what kind of men these were and what they did to discover their ministries as true apostles of Christ. The most important is shown in the listing found here: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues” (1 Cor 12:27-28).

So does this “apostolic ministry” merely exist to “bless” or to “build?” To bless is one thing, to build is quite another. We could say it like this: to “bless” and just “excite” people all the time, requires humanism, stamina and lots of charisma! This usually results in human appreciation, generally large love-gifts and popular return bookings (invited back!) Yet for God this will never be enough! A true apostle cannot be bought or sold. He is not a crowd pleaser. Even if he does please the crowd, that’s not his primary intention. Why? Because Jesus is not just interested in “exciting crowds” but in “building His Church” and building with this “Master Builder” (Jesus) is genuinely “hard work!” It takes dedication on an unprecedented scale and life-long commitment (the apostolic ministry is not for the faint of heart!)

We can say it like this: all apostles are in it for the long haul. They don’t need convincing. They don’t even “sprint!” Rather they plod, even when everyone else is having a spiritual sugar rush; running here and there on nervous human energy! In fact by the time others collapse from weariness, the apostle just keeps on keeping on, steady and undeterred. Mature with lengthy “staying-power” - because he has had to learn to “suffer-LONG!” Apostles generally show no interest for time wasting activities and are notoriously “stable.” They bring order and Godly discipline wherever they go and exude an admirable “stature.” People are drawn to them, for all sorts of reasons, both good and for bad. In other words they can attract trouble like bees to honey, or moth to a flame simply because they have been dispatched as God’s “voice” in the earth; anything and everything wants to shut them up!

Going back to building. In order to “build” a master plan is required and the master designer is not haphazard. The builders need insight into God’s plan and strategy for the Church. The apostle in close collaboration with his prophetic teammates seeks always to build according to the patterns shown on the “mountain” of revelation. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain” (Heb 8:5 - emphasis added).

As it was in Nehemiah’s day, there must be a “clearing-away” of accumulated rubbish! Today there exists, to a very large extent; wrong thinking in regards to the actual role of the local Church. Many see it as a place to attend only when needing a blessing. A cavalier “easy-come-easy-go” attitude prevails. In addition there are such individuals who perceive that they can justifiably manipulate the Church in order to serve their own ends (personal-gain - financial, sexual or otherwise) or simply fill a vast ego! Either way Christ is not usually “front-and-centre” in those types of churches!

Then there are those churches who try to embody new ideas and structures within their services and mingle it in with the “old-way.” Generally this effects no real or worthwhile change, but instead introduces “competition” into their churches - where the old now has to compete with the new! We see this featured in Mark 2:21-22, “No one sews a patch of un-shrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins” (Mark 2:21-22).

With all intents and purposes an apostle is a prolific “builder” and will always have that desire to BUILD. He will establish new churches and/or re-establish existing ones, but his ministry will always be the same. In fact restoration and pioneering go hand in hand for the apostle – “building” or “re-building” are the same to him – it’s all “building” and is precisely what he will be found doing. It is his calling card. To bring into order “…to build and to establish” (see Jer 1:10; 18:9; 31:28; 33:2).

Philip Mohabir in his book “Hands of Jesus,” (Pages 24, 28-29, Published by Power House, Thisted Denmark 2003) says that; Paul sets forth in Ephesians 4 the core values and essential virtues that form the kernel from which local church life and practice flow. They are unity expressed in diversity, maturity, stability and corporeity. The ascended Lord gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to the Church to build these characteristics in the very fibre of local church life. He has given five gifts for this purpose. We cannot do it with three or even four. In His infinite wisdom, He knew we need five. God is generous but not superfluous. Any other structure, system, strategy, or man-made method will fail to produce the kind of Church that Jesus wants and for which He died.

But now is the time when the Lord is restoring the apostolic and apostles to the Church. Now is the time for the whole Body of Christ to experience the authority and anointing of apostles just as it was in the book of Acts. To see the Church rise to its full potential and built according to New Testament pattern, we must rise in vision and faith. To see the Church become all that the Lamb died to make it, we need another apostolic reformation.

In these days the Lord is preparing the Church, His Bride, for glory, equipping her to reap a final gigantic harvest and at the same time preparing the world for judgement.
As Dr. Sam Matthews said, let us allow the Holy Spirit to orchestrate us into a worldwide penetration of the gospel. It is time to become part of the second apostolic reformation. As mentioned before “The vision is rushing to completion” (Dr. Sam Matthews). The five ascension gifts are not optional extras, but essential imperatives, ordained by God for the Church. Their importance and role to the body are a divine arrangement by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We cannot fulfil the apostolic mission of the Church without their active presence. If the Church 2000 years ago needed them, how much more do we need them today when the days are so much more evil? Oh, how we need them!

Father I value all of the ascension gifts that You have placed within the Body. Open the eyes of my understanding so that I can properly comprehend their function and to flow with and appreciate how You use still want to use them today in order to equip the rest of the Body. Help me cooperate with all that You are doing in the Church right now, especially the part that You need me to play and to flow with Your dealings for the sake of the whole and not just my own interests. Amen.

God has given five gifts - we cannot get by with three or even four – but FIVE! In His infinite wisdom, He knows that we need five. He is generous but not superfluous. Any other structure, system, strategy, or man-made method will fail to produce the kind of Church that Jesus wants and for which He died. All five of the gifts are potent parts of the overall structure. All five must be recognised to nurture growth and stability as God planned it. The ascension gifts are not optional extras, but essential imperatives, ordained by God for the Church. Their importance and role to the body are a divine arrangement by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


Motto: ‘God Chooses, then the Spirit Tests, but You Must Respond!’

Copyright 2011 © Alan Pateman Ministries


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