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Where Are The First Century Churches?
Published On : April 8, 1998
Last Updated : May 9, 2011
Office Of The Apostle, Appointed Directly By Jesus Christ, Responsibilities Of An Apostle, Authority Of The Apostles, Apostolic Appointments, Barnabas Forsakes All, Selection Of Matthias, Barnabas Introduces Paul To The Apostles, Luke Refers To Paul And Barnabas As Apostles, Paul Chosen By God As Apostle To The Gentiles, Paul And Barnabas Confirmed By Prophets In Antioch, Paul Meets All Biblical Conditions For Being Considered An Apostle, False Apostles And Deceivers, Threat Of The False Jews, John's Warnings Regarding Spirit Of Antichrist, Paul's Stern Warnings Regarding False Jews, Antichrist Jewish Influence In So-Called Christian America, God's Hatred Towards Annual Jewish Feast Day Observances, God Demands And Expects Repentance On The Part Of The Jews, The Only Way To Truly Honor God Is Through Accepting Christ, No One Can Approach The Father Except Through Jesus Christ
Undoubtedly, the most important position within the First Century Church was that of the Apostle. In his Epistles, the Apostle Paul clearly places Apostles at the top of the list in terms of spiritual authority within the First Century Church, as we see by the following verses:
"And God hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues."
1 Corinthians 12:28, KJV
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:"
Ephesians 4:11-12, KJV
Our English word "Apostle" finds its origin in the Greek word "apostolos". Pronounced ap-os'-tol-os, Thayer's Greek English Lexicon informs us that an Apostle is a delegate, messenger or one sent forth with orders. In the case of the original Twelve Apostles, it is clearly evident from the New Testament Scriptures that these twelve men were appointed directly by Jesus Christ Himself to be His earthly delegates, messengers, emissaries and ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. Consider the following verses:
"And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
Matthew 10:1-6, KJV
"And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor."
Luke 6:13-16, KJV
"Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute:"
Luke 11:49, KJV
"And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him."
Luke 22:14, KJV
"Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."
John 15:16, KJV
"Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:"
Acts 1:2, KJV
From the previous verses, we can determine that out of the many Disciples who obviously followed the Lord during the First Century, Jesus only chose twelve of them to be His leading men. Exactly what were the orders that these Twelve Apostles were given to carry out for the Lord? The answer can be summarized in the following verses:
"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
Mark 16:15, KJV
"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
Acts 1:8, KJV
Aside from being directly chosen by God Himself, and being given specific orders and a mission to carry out, the job of the Apostle is also to set down, maintain and preserve the doctrine of the Lord's Worldwide Church. I am not referring to denominational churches or organizations who set up their own leaders whom they call apostles -- such as the Mormons do, for example -- or to an individual who appoints himself as an apostle or prophet. Rather, I am speaking about the worldwide Christian Body of Believers -- that is, the Bride of Christ -- who recognize Jesus as the only legitimate Head of His universal Church. The following Scriptures clearly establish that only God's appointed Apostles have been given the spiritual authority to set down the doctrinal foundation for His Church:
"And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."
Acts 2:42, KJV
"And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem."
Acts 16:4, KJV
"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;"
Ephesians 2:19-20, KJV
"And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb."
Revelation 21:14, KJV
According to the Scriptures, apart from being directly chosen by Jesus Christ, it appears that the only other way that a person can possibly become an Apostle, is if he is appointed as such by one of the Lord's existing Apostles. Such may have been the case with Barnabas in Acts chapter four, where we read the following verses:
"And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet."
Acts 4:36-37, KJV
You will notice that just as Jesus gave some of His Twelve Apostles new names, in the previous verses, Joses is also being given the new name of Barnabas. It is possible that it may have been at this point that Barnabas was accepted, not just as a regular Disciple, but rather as a fellow Apostle. However, what casts doubt on this possibility, is that only a few verses later, in the very same chapter, we read of the selection of Matthias as a replacement for Judas Iscariot. While Matthias was also chosen by the Eleven Apostles, it is interesting to note that we never hear about him again -- at least not by that name -- so I can only wonder if perhaps he wasn't the Lord's best choice. Consider these verses:
"For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take. Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles."
Acts 1:20-26, KJV
While Matthias seems to disappear from the remaining pages of the Book of Acts following his selection, as well as from the rest of the New Testament, Barnabas, on the other hand, becomes rather prominent. In fact, he is very instrumental in introducing Paul to the Apostles in Jerusalem, as we can determine by the following verses:
"And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus."
Acts 9:26-27, KJV
The very fact that Barnabas was able to arrange this meeting between the former Christian persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, and the Apostles -- who no doubt were very security-minded at the time -- may be another indication that not only was Barnabas close to the top leadership of the First Century Church, but that he may have also been counted among them as a fellow Apostle. When new Disciples began to be won in Antioch, upon hearing about it, the Apostles chose Barnabas to go there to assist in the work. Thus we see that Barnabas was a man who was sent with a mission, which is one of the requirements for being considered an Apostle. Consider this verse:
"Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the Church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch."
Acts 11:22, KJV
While it may be difficult to determine at exactly what point Paul and Barnabas were accepted as fellow Apostles, only five chapters later -- in Acts chapter fourteen -- the writer Luke clearly identifies them as such. The following verse is taken from the incident at Lystra, Lycaonia where Barnabas and Paul were given the names of Jupiter and Mercury, after Paul had healed a man who suffered from crippled feet:
"Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,"
Acts 14:14, KJV
While it could be argued that this was just Luke's opinion, personally, I don't believe that this was the case. By this time, I suspect that the Apostles in Jerusalem had begun to recognize that the Lord had indeed raised up Paul to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. On several occasions, Paul referred to his Divine Appointment as the Apostle of the Gentiles in his Epistles. Consider the following verses:
"For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:"
Romans 11:13, KJV
"Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity."
1 Timothy 2:7, KJV
"Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles."
2 Timothy 1:11, KJV
As I explained earlier, Scriptural evidence seems to indicate that a legitimate Apostle is anyone who is either appointed directly by God, or by another already-existing Apostle. In the case of the Apostle Paul, we know without a doubt that he was chosen by Jesus Christ in a very dramatic manner on the road to Damascus. I discuss Paul's conversion in detail in the article "A Biblical Cafeteria, Or The Whole Course?". In reading the Book of Acts, we know that Paul clearly accepted his calling from the Lord. He was a man chosen by God, and he was sent on a very specific mission. When Ananias was fearful of going to heal Paul's eyes after Paul went blind as a result of his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, the Lord specifically told Ananias the following:
". . . Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:"
Acts 9:15b, KJV
Later, in Acts chapter thirteen, the Lord again confirmed the calling of both Paul and Barnabas, when He spoke through some of the Prophets of the Church in the city of Antioch, saying the following:
". . . Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them."
Acts 13:2b, KJV
We are later informed in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, that they successfully fulfilled their mission, and returned to Antioch, as we see here:
"And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled."
Acts 14:26, KJV
What I find very interesting concerning the Book of Acts, is the fact that in a red-letter edition of the Authorized King James Version of the Bible, aside from chapter one where Luke reiterates the Lord's commandment to the Eleven Apostles, the majority of the conversations that the Lord holds in the Book of Acts, are with either Ananias -- who healed Paul -- or with Paul himself. As I explain in "A Biblical Cafeteria, Or The Whole Course?", Paul clearly received all of his orders, and his understanding concerning the Salvation message, directly from the Lord. Clearly then, Paul meets every condition that is set down in the Scriptures for being considered as an Apostle. Following are some additional verses which confirm that Paul viewed himself as such:
"For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men."
1 Corinthians 4:9, KJV
"For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God."
1 Corinthians 15:9, KJV
"For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles."
2 Corinthians 11:5, KJV
"I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing."
2 Corinthians 12:11, KJV
At this point in our discussion, we are going to look at the issue of being chosen as an apostle, from the exact opposite angle. If an Apostle is one who is chosen directly by God, or by one of His authorized representatives, and who is sent on a mission with specific orders, then a person who is selected by Satan would be the exact opposite. In other words, such a person would be a false apostle. During His Earthly Ministry, the Lord clearly recognized these false apostles, and did not hesitate to expose them in His stinging rebukes. Consider the following two examples:
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves."
Matthew 23:15, KJV
"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it."
John 8:44, KJV
The Lord was fully aware of the danger that these deceptive, evil, Law-bound vipers posed to His fledgling Church. That is why even after His departure and return to Heaven, Jesus continued to warn His followers by way of John's Revelation. The Lord knew that just as the Jewish religious Elders had fought against Him in life, they would no doubt continue to fight against His followers after His Death, Resurrection and Ascension. Thus, we find these scathing warnings in the Book of Revelation:
"I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars . . . I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan."
Revelation 2:2, 9, KJV
"Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee."
Revelation 3:9, KJV
Please notice how the Lord very specifically says that these deceivers claim to be both Apostles and Jews, when they are in fact neither one. He calls them liars, just as He did in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John. Therefore, there should be no doubt regarding exactly who the Lord is talking about. John himself also exposed these lying Jews and false apostles who denied that Jesus is the Christ, in two of his Epistles, as we see here:
"Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son." 1 John 2:22
"And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world." 1 John 4:3
"For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
2 John 1:7-11, KJV
The Apostle Paul likewise clearly exposed these Jewish false brethren who feigned to be apostles, in order that they might cause doctrinal division within the First Century Church. On a number of occasions, Paul warned the Disciples to beware of these treacherous wolves. Following are some clear examples:
"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them."
Acts 20:28-30, KJV
"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him . . . For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 13-15, KJV
"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."
Romans 16:17, KJV
"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."
Galatians 1:6-9, KJV
"And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:"
Galatians 2:4, KJV
"Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision."
Philippians 3:2, KJV
"If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself."
1 Timothy 6:3-5, KJV
"But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself."
Titus 3:9-11, KJV
Today, two thousand years later, I'm very alarmed by the fact that despite the preponderance of warnings that are found in the New Testament, there are so many Christians who have been completely fooled by the demonic deceptions of these Jewish snakes. The Lord and His Apostles clearly told us many times that these unbelieving Jews are our worst enemies; yet today, Christian America and antichrist Israel have become involved in a sickening love affair. Some Christians seem to have the mistaken impression that all is forgiven and forgotten, and that the Jews continue to be God's so-called "Chosen People", despite their blatant rejection of Jesus Christ.
Quite frankly, I don't know where they get this idea from, as it certainly doesn't agree with the aforementioned Scriptural warnings. It is my personal belief that in God's eyes, this American-Israeli "marriage" relationship amounts to nothing less than spiritual whoredom. Some American Christians have become so mesmerized, that they believe that Israel can do no wrong. Furthermore, they've been deceived into believing that recognizing, honoring and even observing Jewish feast days, in some way gives them some special edge with God. All the while, these same Christians ignore the warnings that we find in the Old Testament, where the Lord repeatedly tells the Jews that He is sick of their holy day observances, because in reality, they are absolutely meaningless. Why? Because their hearts are far from the Lord, exactly as Jesus also told them in the pages of the New Testament. Consider these example verses:
"To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood."
Isaiah 1:11-15, KJV
"I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts."
Amos 5:21-27, KJV
To add insult to injury, while the Jews are free to mock and criticize our Lord and Savior, and to spit at the mention of His Name, and to even blaspheme His Name on a daily basis, if a person dares to say a single word against the Jews, he is immediately accused of being antisemitic. Such is the degree of control that the Jews now hold over many Christians in the United States of America. Let me tell you this: If American Christians are not careful, one of these days, America will become just as antichrist, and just as ungodly, as Israel. In fact, I think that the process has already been in motion for quite a few years now. The way that our Christian faith is increasingly being suppressed in the American public forum, is quite alarming.
As I pointed out not too long ago on the Endtime Prophecy Net Blog, if the Jews truly want to honor God, then there's really only one way in which they can truly do it. That way is simply by humbling themselves, confessing their sins of stubbornness, pride, rebellion and disbelief, and accepting God's Mercy and Forgiveness which results from faith in the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That is how God wishes everyone to honor Him, because as Jesus Himself said in the Gospels:
"He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me."
Matthew 10:40, KJV
He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad."
Matthew 12:30, KJV
"Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
Mark 8:38, KJV
"He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me."
Luke 10:16, KJV
". . . This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent."
John 6:29b, KJV
"And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day."
John 6:40, KJV
". . . I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
John 14:6b, KJV
The previous verses make it very plain that unless the Jews are willing to accept Christ, their feast day observances will continue to remain an utter abomination to the Lord, and hollow works of hypocrisy. Furthermore, as Jesus makes clear, to reject Him is also to reject God the Father. Why? Because the Plan of Salvation through Jesus Christ was a Work of the Father. As Jesus says ". . . no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
Please go to part eight for the conclusion of this series.
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