Does abide not mean abide at all?

Abide with me?


There are a number of reasons for why words are used today in a fashion that was never there in their original meaning. Language is said to ‘evolve’ along with the culture in which it is used. That becomes evident when you go to literature that was written hundreds of years ago. The form of the words are not much changed, but the way those words were used then is virtually unrecognizable in the view of how they are used today. The form remains but the meaning has gone through a dramatic devolution, not really evolution. To call the loss of meaning ‘evolution’ is hailing the process in a rotting egg: ‘evolution’.They may have lost meaning or been given entirely new meanings, but still be used as if they still somehow they were unchanged. They then become signals of deception. The spade is still called a spade, but in fact describes a fork. Both spade and fork are used for digging, so there is a similarity. But in operation they are very different. We are frequently told that must welcome change unless we want to be considered fuddy duddy and old-fashioned. But what if the change in meaning actually signals an irretrievable loss? And can you be considered an honest speaker if you have a different meaning than your audience thinks the word you use warrants?

    You are wondering where this is taking us, especially in view of ‘
abide in me’ as the caption reads. It comes from several years of observing how certain concepts are used deceptively. Maybe not on purpose, not deliberately, not consciously nor with deliberate calculation, but still used in a manner contrary to the original meaning. Here is one example for this age.

    What does
abide really mean? It is linked to ‘Abode’ which is a dwelling place for a longer period of time. It carried the meaning of ‘stay and wait’, to ‘remain in a place’, to ‘linger until further notice’. It also carries ‘to stand firm’ and ‘to remain true’. That is what the grammar calls ‘an intransitive word’ ; the concept is not subject to change, it declares a ‘fait accompli’. It abides as it were by the meaning of being reliable and consistent. If someone abides by me, then he or she has come and has no intention of changing that arrival into an absence again, they abide!

    But
in language it also has ‘a transitive form’, that is: it is not yet! So then ‘abiding’ comes to mean something yet to be experienced, something we wait for. Defiantly or submissively, we are waiting for something to come. We have not yet arrived at anything in reality, but we look forward to it hopefully, we abide by a hope, and a hope is, as you all know, something not yet seen. Does it seem a small thing to you that the same word from the beginning carries two different meanings depending on the context in which it is used, and by whom? Can it be assumed that when the word ‘abide in me’ is said, it will mean the same thing to the listener as it was meant by the speaker or writer? Let me illustrate by the following reference from the Word of God. John 15:4

KJ21

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, no more can ye, unless ye abide in Me.

ASV

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can ye, except ye abide in me

AMP

Remain in Me, and I [will remain] in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself without remaining in the vine, neither can you [bear fruit, producing evidence of your faith] unless you remain in Me.

AMPC

Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me.

BRG

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

CSB

Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.

CEB

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me.

CJB

Stay united with me, as I will with you — for just as the branch can’t put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine, so you can’t bear fruit apart from me.

NASB

Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself but must remain in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.

NASB1995

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

NCB

Abide in me, as I abide in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, so you cannot bear fruit unless you abide in me.

NCV

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch cannot produce fruit alone but must remain in the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit alone but must remain in me.

NET

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.

 The selection is of various translations into English of the crucial NT reference about the relationship between Christ and his disciples. You notice how many bring out the intransitive content of the Greek phrase by actually using the ‘remain’, ‘stay united with me’, ‘dwell with me’.

Can there be a shadow of a doubt as to whether the word used is intransitive, and so used by the Holy Spirit through the apostle John?

    There is an ‘if’ relating to the fruit-bearing. But no if about the abiding. You either abide or you are cast off and fit for the fire.
Can it at all be possible that if there is no fruit then neither is there any abiding? Since abiding is absolutely critical to fruit, but fruit is not critical to abiding. There are times when no branch of the vine bears any fruit, simply because there are seasons of rest and recovery after fruit-bearing. But the abiding never ceases and temporary fruitlessness is dealt with by the pruner, the gardener and the vine keeper. Only an abiding branch will be accessible to the pruning. But the abiding is not open to the transitive meaning of ‘maybe I will abide again tomorrow’ for I am done for today. You do not abide intermittently, it is not a ‘come and go as you please’ issue. That which has ‘a once and for ever quality’ is never in doubt. Because if it is in doubt, it doubts the very character of God. And that is breaking the first command of the law.

(A point to ponder: Is it possible to stop abiding? Does the branch decide to leave? No but the owner of the vineyard may cut it off. If you hear the rattling chains of the vexed issue of "Eternal security" you hear right.)

    I am begging an answer to the larger issue. What is the Church if it is not sure of the intransitive presence of God? A presence that has two major aspects. First it is the recognition of the World as being entirely compassed about and enclosed
within the Eternal God, because it is ‘in him that we live and breathe and have our being’! Secondly it is without a shadow of a doubt the presence of Christ within. The second is only possible because of the first. A God that no man can ever see and remain alive, has made Himself visible in His son. He who is the express image of the Father makes Himself available to those who had nothing but the wages of Sin to hope for. And He gave up his limited human body so that he could clothe himself with the new body, the one he calls ‘my called out ones’ I e the ‘Ecclesia’, what we call ‘Church’. His presence in the church is not a maybe, a perhaps, a happenstance, a future hope, it is a guaranteed reality.

 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds.  Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me, but if you do not believe me, believe because of the miraculous deeds themselves. “
“If you love me, you will obey my commandments. Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you.”
“I will not abandon you as orphans, I will come to you.
 In a little while  the world will not see me any longer, but you will see me; because I live, you will live too. You will know at that time  that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you. The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him.

    I think you see the issue clearly. If ‘abide’ is transitive and of a changing nature then God was deliberately missrepresented to the generations of believers to whom the presence of God was inseparable from themselves and who knew that in their God there is not the slightest hint of a changing at all. All God’s promises are yes and Amen in Christ, is it not so? How is it possible that a church claiming to have a New Testament foundation continues to ask God to do what he has already both promised and accomplished? How can it be asking God: “So come and be with us” unless it has stopped abiding in him? He promised that if once allowed residence in mankind that ‘he would never leave them or forsake them’ so how come he needs re-inviting every Sunday?

    No doubt some will say: Oh well but it is just our manner of not being presumptuous. Not making larger statements than is fitting. It is only a sign of our humility that we never take God for granted, so we are always seeking him. But hold! Is it a sign of humility to refuse to live by faith in what God has accomplished? Is it presumptuous to stand on the promises of Christ? Is it not in fact an insult against God to repeatedly asking Him to do what he has already done? Is it not a direct refusal to live by faith in the complete atonement to keep asking for the very reason that the church exists: “that Christ clothing Himself with our human flesh would find a permanent expression of God in the World in and through the ‘Church’?”

    A possible and maybe valid protest


    A valid protest would be the fact that there are several passages that have a definite forward looking aspect: "Now may the God of endurance and comfort give you unity with one another in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." As an offshoot of the presence of God in the Church some things are to be expected to still be forthcoming. Unity in the spirit being one, since the enemy is constantly sowing division. The Church cannot be perfected unless the Holy One is present. Without Him the Church can do nothing at all, not even its own sanctification. The forward looking passages assume the presence of Him who will effectuate what is still missing. But there is no 'if' about His presence.

    Or this well known and much badly handled passage: "Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice, set things right, be encouraged, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. The pivotal word is the word 'to be'. Is it hoping for something yet distant in the future? Are we hoping that God will eventually grant this blessing, or is it as Paul says in this other passage: " Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ. For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless[ before him in love."  This is critical: have we already been blessed or will we be blessed in some as yet unforeseen future?

    Notice how we 'say the grace' based on the last line in 2 Cor 13. Would Paul have intended this greeting to the Corinthians to be used in this dislocated way? How often have we 'said the grace' while ignoring what precedes it: 'Set things right'? His greeting in grace is a capstone on the attempt to rectify what was badly wrong in the Church. Not an escape from it. Or a simple gloss over.

    How can the I AM ever be seen as separated from us?
    
The larg
est possible issue is the presence or absence of God. If His abiding is no more intransitive than our ability to walk by faith, a faith without which it is impossible to please God, then God is no longer the God of the Bible. We cannot have it both ways. It is truly either/or. We have an absolute certainty that God cannot desert us without an utter denial of Himself as the I AM. In a manner of speaking our existence is inextricable from His.

Only one factor can separate us from an awareness of his presence: 
"Look, the Lord’s hand is not too weak to deliver you;
his ear is not too deaf to hear you.
But your sinful acts have alienated you from your God;
your sins have caused him to reject you and not listen to your prayers."

    There is no friendship possible while in alienation, and if at enmity with him, then He is seen as withdrawn by us. But He never moved!
    Note: What the Lord is not... we are. It is surely one of our sins that we do not live by faith in His presence.

    If His presence in the Universe is not believed in and known, then neither can his promise of a presence within us be according to the truth. The same bible that speaks of the one speaks unequivocally of the other also. And if he does not in fact live in us, then the absence of fruit is absolutely to be expected. Since only He Himself by His Spirit can produce a fruit no branch ever can.

    We are people of the Word, our credibility depends on a careful handling of the Word. If
‘Abide with me’ is only a transitive plea for a future event then we are toying with religious notions at best. But we have not understood the intransitive nature of the Living Word and/or the Living Lord.

    Pretending to adhere to the biblical meaning of ‘abiding’ while in word and action denying it is no small matter. It is a small tussock toppling a very large load. And woe to us when we have to give account for every word that we have spoken. Some people may come to our church much like the way Mary came to the garden where she only knew of and expected a dead Saviour. Not yet knowing that the tomb is empty she will be astonished and the Angels will say: why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, he is risen.

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Doncaster July 5th

Teddy Donobauer

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The deaths of God at the hands of sinners.

The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable”


Romans 11:29



Not so long ago a man wrote a book with the title “Honest to God”. The erstwhile Bishop John A T Robinson wrote a book in which he threw out ‘The God out there’ and made God the ground of being in man alone. The only God there is, he maintained, is the god within. There was great uproar among many bible believing Christians at the very idea of a God being capable of dying, since God was previously seen the only source of life there ever was. So whereas the Christian life is a gift of God to mankind according to the Bible, the Bishop saw the life within man apart from that gift as being the only true God. The idea of “a death of God “ became the core of the liberal theology prevalent to this day. A loud and prominent movement arose in the United States and in the UK and basically stated what the Encyclopedia Britannica states: Though thinkers of many varied viewpoints have been grouped in this school, basic to practically all of them is the idea that belief in a God (out there’) is impossible or meaningless in the modern world and that fulfilment is to be found in secular life.God, so it is claimed, is equally present in all of mankind. As man is apart from the new birth!


The origin of the actual phrase came from a German Philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who termed the phrase “Gott ist tot” back over one hundred and forty years ago. What he meant was not that a really existing God had actually died, but that all the ideas about God which had ruled mankind in the past were no longer relevant to modern man. By every definition possible Nietzsche was an atheist. But he saw something very important that would happen if you did remove God from society, and from the consciousness of the people: The death of God didn’t strike Nietzsche as an entirely good thing. Without a God, the basic belief system of Western Europe was in jeopardy, as he put it in Twilight of the Idols: “When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one's feet. This morality is by no means self-evident… Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole.”
("God Is Dead": What Nietzsche Really Meant - Big Think )

Nietzsche saw that removing God from the scheme by which we understand our world would ultimately lead to what is called nihilism. The destruction of all values and the need to reconstruct the entire human society. He foresaw the development of the next 200 years and his dystopic view of human society is our reality in the entire western world today. Let go of God and you need to say goodbye to man as made in the image of God. Far from arriving at a superior human being, his concept of the Uebermensch, (the antithesis to God in the world, thus an Anti Christ,) we have arrived at the opposite end of mankind, a kind that lives below every standard of the standards imposed on mankind by the Creator, and made possible by law and grace. Mankind without God is no longer true mankind. That is the understanding of the entire bible. It is encapsulated in the succinct words of Jesus Christ: “Without me, you can do nothing.” John 15:5 And echoed by Paul the apostle: “In me, in my flesh, there is not a single good thing.” Romans 7:17-18.

The ‘death of God theology’ flatly denies the need for being born again, for receiving the life of Christ and for surrendering the self to the Maker of individuality and personality. The self centred man must die according to the Bible, it can not represent God in it’s fallen condition. The evidence for regeneration is the divine element that is only available through the death to the self. The life of faith is by definition miraculous and cannot be achieved by the natural man. Becoming a Child of God is not an achievement of the ‘flesh’. It is available by a transaction involving the death to myself in order to receive the life of Christ. It is the refusal to die to this self that leads theologians to invent the death of God.

Unless we understand the utter impossibility of the natural man to have any concept of spiritual reality then nothing in the NT makes any sense at all. The new life within responds to the words that are Spirit and Truth. The mere natural man does not have the ability to do so. All attempts and all striving to elevate the natural to the spiritual stumbles and falls at the clear and unequivocal command: “you must be born again”.
Nothing holy can be understood by the unholy. Nothing divine is understood by those who only seek gratification in the things offered in the world.
Without faith in the God who is, there is no pleasing of God at all. However glorious a human career is as seen by the world,
it is glorious only on the terms of a world in enmity to God. God is more than justly suspicious of human endeavour.  “But the Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind had become great on the earth. Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made humankind on the earth, and he was highly offended.Genesis 6:5-6.

But how do you connect “the God is dead” idea to the quotation from Romans 11?
What did it say? “The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable”. If the God who gives gifts and makes choices in time is so unreliable so as to have the ability to die, in any sense of the word, then He is plainly not God by any definition, and most certainly not the God of the Bible. And then all his gifts and callings are equally uncertain and cannot be relied on. Far from reflecting His eternal being, his gifts and callings are then as fickle and unreliable as He is himself. Does God evolve?
Is God different in one aeon of time from how He is in another aeon?

What does the scripture say about this chameleon God?


Numbers 23:19
“God is not a man, that he should lie,
nor a human being, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not make it happen?”


Psalm 33:11
The Lord’s decisions stand forever;
his plans abide throughout the ages.


Psalm 119:89-91
“O Lord, your instructions endure;
they stand secure in heaven.
You demonstrate your faithfulness to all generations.
You established the earth and it stood firm.
Today they stand firm by your decrees,
for all things are your servants.”

Ecclesiastes 3:14
“I also know that whatever God
does will endure forever;
nothing can be added to it,
and nothing can be taken from it.
God has made it this way,
so that men will fear Him.”



Hebrews 6:17-18

“ In the same way God wanted to demonstrate more clearly to the heirs of the promise that his purpose was unchangeable, and so he intervened with an oath, so that we who have found refuge in him may find strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us through two unchangeable things, since it is impossible for God to lie.

James 1:17
“All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change.”


1 Timothy 1:17
“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the Only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever..”

1 Timothy 6:14-16
“..obey this command without fault or failure until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose appearing the blessed Sovereign, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, will reveal at the right time. He alone possesses immortality and lives in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or is able to see. To him be honour and eternal power! Amen.”

Against this backdrop then, let me ask a question based on the phrase from Romans 11:29. Is it likely that the living God will equip His son, and the Son His own body, the Church, with gifts that suddenly, but totally without for
ewarning and supported by not one single word of Scripture, would disappear for ever?

Because you see, here is another, but very well disguised death of God. A death defended by some evangelical theologies to the utmost. If God can be separated from His gifts, all or just some, then obviously there must be a horrendous silence, the silence of a muted and dead God, in the Churches.
The secularized and demythologizing liberal theologians did not mince about the issue. They proclaimed boldly that “God is dead”. Whatever we mean by using the word “God” now, must be redefined along the lines of natural man’s refusal to let God be the God of the Bible. And those churches are dying as a result, or they are filled with those to whom a dead God eases their conscience as it also means that nobody will be called to account by this “God”.

But what shall we say of those who whilst maintaining the principle of “Scripture alone”, have gagged God from saying anything but what the carefully selected scriptures are still allowed to say, that seem to support this deafening silence? Not that there is a single one. On the contrary, you have just read about a totally immutable God, a God who does not revoke His gifts and callings. Not if reasonable exegesis is applied. In order for a church to say that this or that ‘gift’ of God is no longer available to the church in our age,
they would need the gift of spiritual discernment to identify which gift is no more! So without the gift of discernment and the gift of identifying what spirit is active in what ever gift is exercised, there cannot be any rejection of any gift. But logic tells you that if you need a spiritual gift to deny the existence of a specific spiritual Gift, then you no longer submit to God, but you have now become His taskmaster and His Instructor.

Romans 11:29-35
“For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you were formerly disobedient to God, but have now received mercy due to their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all people to disobedience so that he may show mercy to them all.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how unfathomable his ways!

For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counsellor?
Or who has first given to God,
that God needs to repay him?

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen.”

As the father has sent me, so send I you.” Jesus Christ is the giver of the gifts to the Church, gifts called Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Teachers and Shepherds. Those are servants of Christ sent to serve the Church and give the Church structure and impetus as long as the Church shall stand in the World. But the gifts of the Spirit are for the membership of the church since they are the workforce of the Church in the world. As long as there are unresearched nations, unsaved people, hidden sins and satanic bole-works raised up against Christ, the Church needs the equipment of the eternal Spirit. If the gifts are silenced then all that is left is a Church that makes no noise which would disturb one sinner from their sleep.

After his resurrection Jesus equipped the Church with the Spirit. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.”And after he said this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit which they received, has never had his brief changed: to equip the saints for their work. But this same Spirit is quenched, grieved and extinguished and even blasphemed by churches who prefer the long-winded preaching of human beings and mistake it for being all that is left to them, and therefore never notice the silence of God. A silent God is not much different than a dead God. With hearing ears they hear not. Anything God says falls on deaf ears. It is not the lack of ears that is the problem, it is the refusal to obey the meaning of the words. Neither is there an absence of words extracted and purloined from the Bible, but the presence of effective filters screening out what God has said in those scriptures which upsets the natural man.

Everything of the Holy Spirit upsets the carnal believer. He or she is unable to discern Spirit from Flesh, because of a theology that allows them to deny the very gifts that are needed to do so.

One way or the other, God is dead, and the Churches’ lack of vibrant life confirm it.

Let me finish this consideration by reflecting on what would be left if the Charismata, the Gifts of Grace as such were removed from the Church.
1. God is not consistent and his promises are not “Yea and Amen” at all, they are subservient to the church and the understandings of unregenerate men and women, who by denying the Gifts of God also deny their own ability to discern spiritual from merely natural.

2. The scriptures are only understood on a social, intellectual and linguistic level. They may be stored in the minds of men but have no means of effecting the needed change, the new Birth in men.


3. Everything an assembly of such people decides to do is purely the result of accumulated ignorance of the things of the Spirit. No amount of natural knowledge ever arrives at Spiritual truth. Spirit and Flesh, I e the life of God and the ordinary life of unregenerate man are never in agreement on anything. There is enmity between them. To understand the Messiah demands revelation from God the Father Himself. The mere reading of the scriptures may convince the brain, but only direct revelation convicts the heart of man. The work of the Spirit cannot be exchanged for any other work.

4. Nothing that happens in the assembly is only explicable in terms of a God consistent with His self revelation in the Scriptures. The content of scriptures is bent to fit into the activities of mere man but clothed in religious jargon.


5. It has a form of godliness but denying the power thereof. You could be a member of the church all your life and never suspect that God exists apart from the words spoken about God. The major evidence for the “virtual death of God” is the palpable and tangible absence of the presence of His Glory in the midst of the assembly.


6.The ultimate fulcrum on which the issue hangs is this: “When the Holy Spirit has come over you, you will receive power to be my witnesses.” If God is dead then no such power will be in evidence. If the world in which the church exists has not the slightest notion of the Church as a true and powerful witness, I e executively pushing back the darkness in the world, then the claim to be alive in Christ is not creditable. And unless it is the Life of Christ in the Church that keeps it at work, then it is naked, blind and dead cold.

If God could die, what would be left is what is here now, a form of religion saying the right things but doing nothing that is sufficiently “other” to show God at all. And yet it calls itself “this or that church”. The evidence of the death of God is readily found in the dismemberment of the body of Christ on doctrinal and denominational lines. Thereby denying the highest and definitive reality of the presence of God: “That you love one another, the way the Father has loved me.”

You can only dissect a dead body.


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Teddy Donobauer Doncaster 28.6.21

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So we have no more apostles?

 “I am the least among the apostles….”


The issue of the gifts of the Spirit, or rather, certain gifts of the Spirit, all depending on who defines the issue, brings an ongoing question to almost every table. Have the gifts ceased or have they not? Frequently the bland statement is made that they belonged only to the era of the apostles, and with the end of the specific category of those apostles their equipment has also been removed.
    It seems then that it is important to establish the NT view of what apostles were and are. If we do not do our homework on that topic confusion must reign. Without a shadow of a doubt Christ invited, called and selected 12 men whom he also equipped and sent on ‘missions’. This number was so vital that when one fell away from the group then a replacement was urgently to be found. So we read in Acts 1:21f of the way the disciples, who were waiting for the promise of God of the Holy Spirit, went about selecting a replacement for Judas Iscariot. 
Thus one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time the Lord Jesus associated with us, beginning from his baptism by John until the day he[c] was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness of his resurrection together with us.”So they proposed two candidates: Joseph called Barsabbas (also called Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know the hearts of all. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to assume the task of this service  and apostleship from which Judas turned aside  to go to his own place.”  Then they cast lots for them, and the one chosen was Matthias; so he was counted with the eleven apostles.” 

    I have long felt that this was wrong, forgive me Lord, because I, as many other, saw Paul of Tarsus as the natural replacement for Judas. This is not so. When we move along in the life of the assembly of the baptised we take note that ‘Peter stood up with the eleven’ in Acts 2:14. Matthias is then without a shadow of a doubt one of the Twelve. Paul had not yet been converted. So whatever else Paul went through, he was never one of the Twelve. And that then brings us to the next question: was the apostolic fellowship ever limited in number to coincide with the lifespan of the Twelve? Listen to the word. While Christ was alive he called, equipped, commissioned and sent the Twelve on specific tasks all related to the Kingdom of God. The apostles where stationed in Jerusalem and acted in unison within the Church and great signs and wonders were done by them. So it continues in the first 12 chapters in Acts. The further importance of the unique standing of the twelve is seen in the city of God in Revelation where the city of God has twelve gates, each bearing the name of one of the 12 Apostles.
  
  Then comes chapter 13. The church in Antioch has been established by the ministry of Paul and 
Barnabas as we are told in chapter 11. The men of God who had been forced out of Jerusalem due to the Roman persecution came to Antioch and started preaching to the Jews only, but soon some came who were not Jews and they shared the same message with the Greek gentiles who lived there also. The Lord was with them and numbers grew. Report is sent to Jerusalem and the Apostles sent Barnabas to take stock of events. He assessed the situation and on his own initiative went of to Tarsus to look for Paul. Bringing him to Antioch the two of them now do the full scale work of Church planters and builders of the living Church! A full year and the combination of Jewish end Gentile believers was by their fellow citizens identified as Christians, as men who claimed to live in Christ and having Christ living in them. No doubt as a slur and ridicule. The church is visited by prophets coming from Jerusalem. In Jerusalem Peter is in prison and James is killed. The Apostle’s ranks are being thinned out. There is no question of replacing James as they had with Judas.                                                                     
    The next development occurred in Antioch. We are told that Paul and Barnabas were part of a collective leadership of Prophets and Teachers. After one year of teaching the work of Paul and Barnabas had raised up at competent leadership of different men. They worshipped and served the Lord and in one such event the Holy Spirit, in a manner not told us, but unequivocally audibly “said unto them set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” No Apostolic succession, no Jerusalem authorisation, no accreditation from the Eleven. The elders of the Church obeyed the Spirit of Christ and did exactly what Christ had done when he first selected and sent his Disciples on their mission. Saul and Barnabas were called, equipped, commissioned and sent by the Holy Spirit in co-operation with the body of believers. The Church affirmed by the laying on of hands what the Lord sovereignly had told them to do. The church neither created them as sent ones or licensed them to do so. But they obeyed the Lord, the Head of the Church and by sending them to the work which the Spirit had sent them to do they made them “apostles”. That is: those who are sent. “Apostello” in its original Greek meaning means only that: One who has been called, equipped, commissioned and sent to do someone else’s bidding. Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Man and the Son of God is the APOSTLE of all apostles, as he was sent by the Father, so he would send his disciples. See Hebrews 3:1, John 17:3. And as the Church grew, He as the Head of the Church continues to ‘send’ along the very same lines, but these sent ones are never mistaken for the original twelve. Neither do they make that claim for themselves. But they are called what they were in function and office, but not as a title within a hierarchy. 
    In Acts 14:4 we are told that the area of Iconium was divided over the message brought by Paul and Barnabas, some sided with the Jews in the synagogue and some sided with the ‘sent ones’ i e the apostles. Notice: this is the first time Paul is called apostle. And notice secondly: this sending of these two men was attested by ‘signs and wonders’ that followed. Important! “So they stayed there for a considerable time, speaking out courageously for the Lord, who testified to this message of hid grace, granting miraculous signs and wonders to be performed through their hands.” Hold this thought: apostles are confirmed in their ministry by divine favour. In uncommon signs and wonders. It is part of the ‘sending you to do greater things than these’. Their status as sent ones is attested to by God. And if the gifts of the Spirit were confined to those sent ones, then we would expect them to follow any such in our time. 
    In 1 Thessalonians 2:5-8 Paul is writing to the Church in northern Greece. He refers to himself and his two co-workers Silvanus and Timothy as apostles in a most forthright manner: “For we never appeared with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext of greed-God is our witness- nor to seek glory from from people, either from you or from others, although we could have imposed our weight as apostles of Christ; instead we became as little children among you.” Plainly and obviously Paul counted his two comrades as apostles to the Thessalonians.
    In 1 Corinthians 15:5-7 We are told of the resurrection appearances of Christ. First to Cephas, then on another occasion to the Twelve, (sometime after Acts 1), then of five hundred at once, then of James alone, and then “of all the apostles”. Obviously not the Twelve, but another company of such officers of the Church. 

    Was Paul the last apostle? Still in 1 Corinthians 15 we read:Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Having listed the previous occasions on which Christ showed Himself to people Paul finishes his account by saying that “and the last occasion I will mention is, that I myself also saw him (Damascus road)”. He never claims to be either the last apostle nor the last one to see the risen Lord. (John in the first chapter of Revelation puts paid to that idea.) But Paul is convinced that he is the least of all apostles on account of his former persecution of the Church. Later Paul refers to the gifts of Christ for the Church as ‘some as apostles’ etc Eph 4:10ff. But note that Paul never sent anyone as ‘his apostle’. Whatever gifts are needed for the task, are given to men who on the strength of those gifts become gifts to the Church, but very often they are the ones breaking new ground in new places, so they are seminal gifts around whom the new church grows up. Basically fulfilling the great commission.. as the original apostles. But a different sort of apostles since these now “build on the foundations of the Prophets and Apostles.” Apostles of this second order are workers sent out to continue the building that was initiated by the twelve, and as they do so they are also fulfilling the role of the Apostle. They have not disappeared at all. They have been renamed. If the church had been finished at the end of 1st century, then apostles would have ceased. But the work has gone on for 1900 plus years, with the same equipment! 
    They have no more disappeared than the city of Oslo has disappeared because of the change of name from Christiania to Oslo. It happened in 1924 when Norway had finally come out into full independence after having first been dominated by Denmark, and then for some decades had belonged to and been in union with Sweden. The Danish king Kristian renamed Oslo to Christiania in about 1650 AD in honour of himself. But in 1924 the now free and independent Norwegians took back the original name and threw the offensive ‘Christiania’, so redolent of national humiliation, out of the window and into the Bay of Oslo. 
    Again: the Greek word ‘apostello’ is the verb ‘to send’, ‘to put in a place with a view to a service’. The Church gradually became more and more latinized because of the dominant role of Rome, and ‘apostello’ became the latin ‘mitto’, since that is the exact same verb: to send, to release, set in motion, throw, expel, ejaculate etc etc. So the apostle became the missionary! So yes, in that sense the apostolic office is gone. But only in name. Every one of the TWELVE were missionaries. All the consequent apostles were missionaries, sent on mission by Christ! Every missionary is by definition an apostle. Identical terms if the conditions are fulfilled: ‘called by the Holy Spirit on the bidding of Christ, equipped, commissioned and sent.’How many missionary’s biographies have you read? The often overwhelming obstacles that these men and women overcame began with a resolute decision to obey the heavenly calling. They went indomitably convinced of Him who called them. And nothing could stop them. Not even the Church. 
    Back in 1 Corinthians chapter 4 Paul defends his apostleship in a very clear manner. He invites the reader to evaluate even Paul as to his stewardship of what God had entrusted to him. Basically: I am the Lord’s servant, not your slaves. Leave judgment to Him who sent me. I was sent by Him and am accountable to him only. And he now makes this apostolic circle wider: He includes Apollos into the apostolic frame work. “I have applied these things to myself and to Apollos because of you, brothers and sisters, so that through us you may learn ‘not to go beyond what is written’, so that none of you will be puffed up in favour of one against the other. For who concedes you any superiority? What do you have that you did not receive?… For I think that God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to die, because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and people.” There can be little doubt that Paul considered Apollos and Timothy and himself as a sort of apostle different from the Twelve. An ongoing service to the Church as he declares in Ephesians 4.
In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul sets out his credentials as apostle. "Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus the Lord If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you, for you are the confirming sign of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defence to those examine me." "By their fruits they shall be known.." Notice how Paul refuses to use ‘apostle’ as a title, and plainly states that the apostle’s work is the changed lives of people. Only by the direct personal effects of his ministry will people know that they have met one sent to be a “fisher of men”. That those who shut their eyes to that do not acknowledge the apostle is neither here nor there. He does not defend a title, but defines a mission. We know how keen he was to be found running his race unto the crown of glory. No human accolade can add to that dimension of assurance of the calling to the work.

    One last reference to apostles should settle the issue as to how long apostles were known as such in the time of the Bible. Revelation 2:2 reads thus. “I know your works as well as your labour and steadfast endurance. You have even put to test those who refer themselves as apostles (but are not) and have discovered that they are false.” If apostles were not in existence at that time, then the need for testing the claims of ANY apostle would not be necessary. The first person to claim any such standing would be thrown out ‘prima vista’, on first sight. The need to discern presupposes a basic mass of apostles from which to sort out the good from the bad. So there could not have been false apostles at all unless there had been some genuine ones among whom, like wolves in a flock of sheep, the false were hiding. At this time, round about 96 AD, when John as the last living of the Twelve is writing, we are informed that apostles of the second order, indeed ‘the gift to the church order of apostles’, is very much alive and well enough to be counterfeited by the enemy. And there is not a slightest indication anywhere in scripture that the church of today is in any less need of ‘first apostles, second prophets, third teachers etc’ than when Paul wrote of Christ’s gifts to the Church. If the apostles are no more then neither is the Church. 
    Well what about after the death of John and those mentioned in Ephesus? It cannot come as a surprise to anyone that the 'Didache', or 'Didaskalion', a 2300 word, early Church manual, has a clear section on apostles. As it was written around 150 AD it provides ample proof that apostles had certainly not passed out of time or the life of the Church some one hundred years after the death of most of the original 12. And fifty years or more after the death of John. The manual is written to protect the church from just those false apostles of which John had written in a message from the Lord to the churches. Hear hear: “Now as concerning the apostles and prophets, according to the teaching of the gospel, do this; let every apostle that comes to you be received as of the Lord; and he shall stay but one day, and if need be, the next day also; but if he stay three days he is a false prophet. When the apostle leaves, let him take nothing but enough bread to see him to his next stop. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet.”Whatever else the Didache said, this is certain, apostles were commonly on the roads long after the end of the NT canon. So how can their ministry be said to have come to an end and their charismata with them? The charismata, the gifts of grace were not the possession of the apostles. They belonged to the entire church. And since they were not even tied to the apostles, it would not make any difference if the apostles had disappeared, it would not have affected the spiritual gifts in the Church at all.


    There is no such thing as an ‘apostolic gift’. The gifts of the apostle which are the needed equipment for the role of apostleship vary. Paul and Barnabas are very different in the gifts they have, and they complement each other since Christ never ‘lays all eggs in one basket’. But the apostles are a gift given by Christ to the Church. There is no calling to become a statutory apostle either. The proof of being an apostle is in the sending, going and doing. It never is an honorary title, but a job description. There is a calling by Christ to serve Him by being an apostle, a sent one, to a place and a nation and people to whom Christ has the errand of proclaiming the Kingdom and proclaiming the need for salvation, and pointing to the Saviour and Lord. An apostle is a witness, in word and life and deed to the risen Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle may be a prophet or a teacher or an evangelist, whatever the equipment Christ bestows on the person is what will be turned into the service to the people. It may be church planting among some who came to Faith by the work of an evangelist, or it may be ‘raw hide evangelism’ for years with no visible result. 
    The ‘sent one’ gives account to the Sender. Being faithful in the task is critical, success is accidental. Being found faithful unto death is the hall mark of the one thus called and eternally embraced by the Master. The approval of the many is of little consequence to the one who knows the voice of the Shepherd.

 

    So, once again, have apostles ceased to be on the scene of the world with the end of the Twelve apostles? No they have not. In generation after generation Christ has called men and women to be the ones sent on His behalf, whether they were acknowledged by the Church in their time or not. And never once in Scripture is there a slightest hint that the Church of tomorrow can do with anything less than was needed for the Church in the beginning.
But here is our problem: there are many who claim to know that conditions for the Church of today somehow have changed radically from what we see and read in the NT. The claim is made that God is not a solid Rock, but a shifting sand. The doctrine of the immutability of God, the faith in a God who says ‘I change not’ is replaced by the feeble minded mumblings of those who base their theology on ‘it depends’.”Sound and firm doctrine” is no more. All that is left is the Bible filtered through a medium which worships the lack of distinction and hails relativity. The ultimate irony is this: the stauncher the principle of ‘Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Spiritus  Sanctus and Soli Deo Gloria' is maintained, the more commonly the gifts in and to the Church are denied.
     
    They claim that the Word of God does not mean what it says, but must be understood in the contemporary context. If what the Word says does not fit with what we experience then the word must be theologically refitted to suit the landscape. But what we experience depends on what we believe! If we believe there are no apostles then we will not accept either them, or that which always follows them: signs and wonders. Because, like it or not, apostolic mission continues to be corroborated by signs and wonders. Every time that the gospel breaks through into a new culture, a new language group or a new nation, the breakthrough is attested by the very things that ‘happened to us in the beginning’, as Peter affirmed to the Church in Jerusalem.

 

    The writer to the Hebrews, probably another apostle of the second order, wrote very serious words:Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken through angels proved to be so firm that every violation or disobedience received its just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first communicated through the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard him,while God confirmed their witness with signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” In every generation the church starts the same way as in the beginning. No spiritual life is ever inherited, but the result of the new birth in new generations of believers. The church 2021 is not the later growth of that first generation, but a new growth in the same field of humanity. The need for conversion, redemption, reconciliation and salvation of the individual is the incarnation of the same Word of God as in the beginning. And the process is the same, the given dynamic is the same and the signs and wonders needed are the same. The gospel was to be attended by signs and wonders. And “as the Father sent me, so send I you!” “These signs shall follow them that believe”. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? We shall not, indeed the rapid loss of membership and the rapid decline of the position of the Church proves beyond doubt that we are suffering the consequences of our collective neglect. Where the Church grows in the world, there it acknowledges the apostles even if many more style themselves apostles than there is call for. Never was it more true than “not all that glitters is gold.”
It was first… and there is no hint of that not also being at the last, since Jesus Himself is the initiator, author of, and Finisher, the Alpha and the Omega, of our faith. To insinuate that the one who is the beginning and the end should have omitted the entire content in the middle between A and O is not only incredible, it is also a direct denial of the immutability of God. The Church of today must dare to say this of Jesus Christ: “Remember your leaders, who spoke God’s message to you; reflect on the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and forever.” What place is there for a faith that eliminates a large part of the things that were revealed by the Spirit to Paul and the other writers about the gifts to the church? None at all, because if you remove what Christ said he would reveal to Paul, then you no longer have a Christian church, the Christ has gone from Christian.
Acts 9:15-17 “But the Lord said to him, “Go, because this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”So Ananias departed and entered the house, placed his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came here, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

 

    When Paul shared with the Corinthian church about various matters he frequently refers to “I received from the Lord…” It would be very hard to maintain that this is true of the 13th chapter but was not true about chapters 12 and 14. By what trickery and deceit does the cessationist reject the cover teaching surrounding the teaching on love, when the very gifts spoken of in the 12th and 14th are Gods gifts to demonstrate the Love of God to the world through the Church? Does a normal logical reading of those three chapters allow you to reject the one preceding and the one following and only retain one or two phrases of the middle one? What is the better way? Better is a comparative, so better than what? 
    In the previous chapters Paul has dealt with one matter after the other that was brought to his attention about the state of things in Corinth. All sorts of wrong ways of doing things in a number of areas. Including that of how the gifts of God were understood. If there is a wrong way to do, then they did it. But there is a right way of using the gifts, a better way than that which was prevalent in Corinth. In chapter 12 he lists their misconceptions relative to the gifts. They had them, but did not understand how to handle them, they knew little of the Body of the Church in operation, they thought of the gifts in a fleshly and self-centered way. They were after all designated as children in the faith in chapter 3. Giving gifts to children is always fraught with danger. They thought that all must have this or that gift to be genuine, much because they had them, or so they thought. (The equivalent today is the Pentecostal claim that every true child of God speaks in tongues.) The gifts, says Paul therefore, must no longer be seen from that wrong perspective. They must be operative within the framework of Love. A love that seeks not its own, that is never arrogant or proud, not self seeking, not impatient not easily angered. And the love with which the gifts are used will transcend the gifts the same way that the essential me will survive my body. But until that time the gifts are the gifts of Love from the Father of lights. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” Rom 8:32  “Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things?” If you ask anything in my name..
And far far from saying that the gifts are limited in time the fourteenth chapter launches them for all the Church in all ages. “Since you are eager for the manifestations of the Spirit , seek to abound in order to strengthen the Church.” (14:12) As in the first verse: “pursue love and seek, be eager, for the spiritual gifts.” Not either or, but love essential for the use of the Gifts. To Timothy Paul admonishes: “Stir up the gift within you”. To the Thessalonian Church he warns not to extinguish the Spirit by forbidding prophecy. (1 Thess 5:18-22) A very apt warning, and a very real danger. As evidenced in the silence of the Spirit in most evangelical churches. The only voice that is heard is the voice of someone preaching about the word, and often denying the very work of the Spirit without which no spoken words ever produce that for which they were sent. The Body of believers, being the new body that has been prepared for the Head in Heaven to express Himself in the World for the glory of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit.
Neither the gifts of Christ to the Church in the form of Teachers/Shepherds and Prophets, Apostles and Evangelists are in evidence in any Church which denies that those are for the Church. Neither will there ever be evidence of the gifts of the Spirit in a church where there is no Body concept and no understanding of what ‘building up the body’ means.
Oh you can call people by those titles as long as you ignore the biblical credentials for them.

 

    You can even claim to be led by the Spirit as long as nobody contests your teaching on the things you claim that the Spirit has long since stopped doing. You can have all the elemental paraphernalia in place that constitute the popular idea of what Church is, and as long as you don’t get down to the brass tacks of scripture then you can create and constitute any number of organisations with the name of being Church. But begin to ask the Head for illumination, begin to search the scriptures and a certain unease creeps in: is this all?
“And the Spirit and the Bride say: come..and let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wants it take of the water of life free of charge.”
* * *
Teddy Donobauer, Doncaster 12 June 2021

For a more comprehensive text about the cessation of the gifts: see Blogtext. Have the spiritual gifts come to an end? ~ Teddy Donobauer


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