Under the Old Covenant, the highest spiritual ministry that God gave to his people was the ministry of the prophet. In other words, if God wanted to communicate something really important to His people He sent the prophets. The Bible tells us so in Hebrews 1:1:
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets…”
But in the New Covenant, we see the arrival of a new ministry, the apostle. This ministry is greater than that of the prophet, for in 1 Corinthians 12:28 the Apostle Paul writes: “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers …”
So what does the apostle do? Actually, he does not do much. All he carries is a message. But it is a message full of the power of God. The apostle’s message has the power to transform a man from being carnal to being spiritual. In other words, from a person of sin to a person of righteousness. In even better words, from a person who does not please God to one who pleases God.
The message that the apostle carries is the message of the cross. The Apostle Paul puts it this way: “17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:17-18).
The message of the cross of Jesus is greater than baptism or any outside markings. There are some Christian denominations that put all their emphasis on baptism. To them, getting baptized is synonymous with being born again. But one could come out of the water and be no different from someone who has just taken a bath.
The second birth, however, is a miracle of God that occurs in a man’s heart, and this miracle is what transforms a man. That is why the Apostle Paul says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” (Gal. 6:17).
In Hebrews 6:1 the Apostle Paul also writes:
“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection…”
And in Colossians 1:28: “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”
Even as God wills that we all be saved, yet it is our perfection that God is most concerned. Hence the revelation of the cross through the apostolic gospel.
In the Old Testament, the cross had been revealed since God’s dealings with Adam. But it was never revealed clearly, for God waited until the fullness of time would come, when Christ, the perfect Lamb, would be sacrificed on the cross. All the Old Testament prophets therefore saw the cross, but they did not see it clearly. Nonetheless, everyone who pleased God in the Old Testament had to have carried the cross, one way or another. But it is clear from the Bible that these were only a handful of people.
When Jesus went up to heaven, He sent us His Holy Spirit. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment…” (Jn. 16:8)
That statement by Jesus immediately sets alarm bells ringing in us that these things – sin, righteousness and judgment – were not dealt with sufficiently under the law of the Old Covenant.
Or they were not dealt with at all.
But now, through the ministry of the apostle, the Holy Spirit would effectively deal with these things. If it is sin it would be defeated. If it is righteousness it would be established. And men will be made to know that a time is coming when all will be judged by a righteous Judge.
Everything is bound up within the cross of Jesus Christ. It is through the cross that these things will be accomplished. If these things were not made clear under the Old Covenant, now, under the New, they will become clear as day, for Christ has accomplished all.
The apostle, therefore, is like a professional, sent by God. If you are taught something by an amateur, it is not always clear or perfect. When the professional arrives, however, everything flows smoothly. He brings things out more clearly and perfects everything.
That is what the apostle does through revealing the power and grace that is found in the cross. Any child of God who submits himself under the ministry of the apostle can understand all that the cross is meant to do in their lives, not bits and pieces about salvation. When the message of the cross is delivered to the church under the anointing of the apostolic ministry, God’s people can understand that, even as they rejoice at the fact of their salvation, yet, more importantly, they realize they are called upon to suffer for the sake of the gospel.
In this way, both the flesh and sin are confronted in church.
In the Old Testament, very few people pleased God. Not many did His will. God had a difficult time dealing with His people. But God bore with them, sometimes punishing them according to the law, although He never punished them according to the extent of their evil ways because He is a merciful God.
But in the New Testament, God expects all His children to walk in the fullness of His will, and to please Him fully. Not by law, but by grace.
Still, for the believer who does not walk in this revelation, the gospel of the cross is as difficult as trying to commit a Ph.D dissertation to a kid in kindergarten. He will say, “Too hard!” – and seek for an option that eases the suffering on his flesh. That is why, for many Christians who are not under the apostolic ministry, all they know about the cross is that Christ died there for their sins (the initial salvation). They do not know the role of the cross in enabling them to live a victorious life over their flesh and over sin.
The apostolic message is one of self-denial, of taking up our cross daily and following Christ:
“…For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” – Rom. 8:36.
“As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ” – Gal. 6:12
“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” – Gal. 6:14.
That is why all the other ministries, including that of the prophet, must come under the ministry of the apostle, for grace’s sake. The grace of Jesus Christ diffuses from this one ministry – this ministry that clearly sees the cross – to the other ministries. Any ministry purporting to work outside the authority of the apostolic ministry is simply lighting strange fires.
The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians, “You may have ten thousand teachers, but it is I who bore you in the gospel!”
There are many churches today where you find the pastor is the alpha and omega. In others it is the bishop, or the archbishop. In others it is make-believe ‘apostles’, ‘prophets’, etc. There are all kinds and all levels of spiritual leaders, but the true father of the church is the apostle. He has the authority and power in the Spirit to bring and men and women into the true image of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
Where the apostolic ministry is not, there is no grace, there is only law. That is why pastors introduce long strings of rules, laws and regulations (do’s and don’ts) in church.
The Apostle does not do that. Did you ever read how Paul dealt with the Corinthians even after they had reneged on their contributions for the church in Jerusalem for a whole year? He did not threaten them. Nor did he set a law on them. Nor did he tell them, “Ok, let’s try the ten percent.”
On the contrary, he used the example of the Macedonians to encourage the Corinthians to give. He dealt with them the way a father would deal with his children.
Instead of giving them rules and principles, Paul talked to them about the grace of God. Indeed, he was in effect telling them: If it is not of grace, it is not worth it. All that God accepts is what has been accomplished in our hearts as a result of the working of the Holy Spirit.
Now, today, you have very many teachings in church about giving. All are geared to make God’s people to give. I went to one church where I found five different categories of envelopes, each one for a different offering!
All this is due to a lack of a connection with the apostolic gospel. Without the apostolic message, law reigns supreme. It might be more so in some churches than in others; but still it is law.
The gospel is about setting people free and only the apostolic gospel of grace and truth can do that.
Have you seen the light? Which by interpretation means, have you met up with the true ministry of the apostle,the one who can show you the strait and narrow way?
Is the cross close enough to you that you are able to take it up daily and follow Christ? (Lk 9:23)
[“Have you seen the light?” One of the most beautiful songs, here beautifully sang]