My aim in these two posts (you can read the first here) is to show you from the Bible that there are no more apostles today as seen in the New Testament. Jesus’ original apostles had unique authority that no one today has. I’m making this case under three headings:
- The Apostles were chosen witnesses
- The message of the Apostles
- The replacement of the Apostles
Now, what stands out about the Apostles is how they don’t make a big deal about themselves. They highlight their unique God-given authority but they do that so that people will listen to God’s gospel, the message of salvation that they proclaim.
See, here’s the second thing I want us to see from Scripture: the message of the Apostles.
THE APOSTOLIC GOSPEL
In Galatians, Paul defends his authority as an Apostle. But it’s important to see exactly how Paul defends his authority. It’s all about the Gospel.
He tells the Galatians,
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who call you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed…”(Galatians 1:6–8)
And he goes on in verse 11…
“For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Paul writes in chapter 2 that after fourteen years of ministry, he visited Jerusalem to “set before them [the other apostles] the gospel that I [Paul] proclaim to the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.” That’s humility.
Even though he’s an apostle, Paul is willing to humble himself before the other apostles, to make sure he’s preaching the gospel accurately. Now that’s amazing.
This is so different from the men who call themselves apostles today: untouchable. If they are rebuked for bad teaching, they might arrogantly respond, “Touch not the Lord’s anointed; no one has the right to challenge me.” No, Paul wants to make sure he’s preaching the true Gospel. The same Gospel that Peter and the other apostles preached.
But you may be thinking, what if God sent new apostles today to preach some new message for today? New revelation.
Well, you’ve already heard God warn us that even if an angel from heaven preaches another gospel, don’t listen to that angel.
But Hebrews makes it even clearer that God has no new revelation to tell us today. Why? Because the gospel—the news that Jesus of Nazareth, who died on the cross for sinners and rose from the dead, is Lord over all—is God’s full and final message to humanity. That’s the point of Hebrews. Hebrews 1:3 tells us,
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” We’re in the last days because the one saving message from God has been fully and finally revealed — at last!
How can you get greater revelation than Jesus, God the Son, God himself, becoming human to reveal God perfectly to us? Greater revelation than Jesus the Son of God offering himself on the cross once for all time to make purification for sins? This is why, Hebrews 1:3 tells us, after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
He sat down in heaven because he finished his saving work on earth.
So here’s the point: God has nothing new to say to us today, certainly no new messages of salvation. And he never will have a new message of salvation. Do you need more proof?
The Apostles’ and prophets’ teaching about Jesus is the foundation.Tweet
Consider Ephesians 2. Paul writes “So then you [Gentile believers] are fellow citizens with the saints [Jewish believers] and members of God’s household…” and what is God’s household built upon? Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.” (Ephesians 2:19–20)
The Apostles’ and prophets’ teaching about Jesus is the foundation. Jesus is the cornerstone, in this illustration. The cornerstone holds the whole building together. The point is that the teaching on which the church is being built has already been laid. Never to be re-laid again by some modern-day apostle.
And so if a man claims to be an Apostle today, but he preaches a different message, he is a false Apostle. Don’t let them deceive you.
The teaching on which the church is being built has already been laid.Tweet
Sadly, there are many false Apostles today. They often appear powerful. It’s sadly also a problem that has always plagued the church. In Paul’s day, super-apostles were deceiving the church in Corinth, trying to move them away from Paul and his gospel to come under their control.
Paul writes to his beloved Corinthians,
“But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles.”(2 Cor. 11:3–5)
Dear friends, don’t be deceived by men claiming to be apostles today. If they’re not preaching the gospel, then they’re not from God, so we should not listen to them. If they are preaching the Gospel then they should stop calling themselves Apostles, because it’s confusing people.
Now, you might say, well, these apostles today don’t deny the Gospel. They’re just not focusing on it. They speak blessing over my life: a beautiful spouse, success on exams, a new car and house, a great job, all this is coming your way. Now, what are we to say to that? Well, for one, the evidence reveals that their words are empty lies.
How many times does the same apostle declare, to his poor congregation who’s funding his fancy car, that this year, 2019, is the year of your breakthrough? Oh really, but didn’t you say that in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018? He’ll of course blame you for “not having enough faith”, faith in his empty lies.
God does want to bless his people today, especially bless us spiritually in Christ—to grow us—so that our faith strengthens.
But how does God build us up? By his gospel.
I’m sure you’ve seen houses being built. Sometimes the house takes a long time to build, but before even one brick can be laid, what happens first? The foundation is laid. The bricks are laid upon the one, immovable foundation. And it never moves.
In Corinth, the Apostle Paul preached the powerful saving message of Jesus Christ and him crucified for sinners. The Corinthians put their trust in Jesus, and the church in Corinth was founded. Paul laid the foundation.
The Apostle Paul preached the powerful saving message of Jesus Christ and him crucified for sinners.Tweet
When Paul left Corinth, he warns he each preacher,
“Let each one take care in how he builds upon it [the foundation Paul laid]. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”(1 Cor. 3:10-11)
Paul wants each preacher to build in line with the gospel, the foundation. Not to move on from it. So if some modern-day-Apostle is speaking blessings about houses and cars, what does that have to do with the gospel? That apostle is building another building: it’s his own-man made building project. Certainly not God’s church.
Now, here’s the thing, how do we today, build our lives on the Apostles’ authoritative teaching about Jesus? By prayerfully reading and listening to the New Testament.
This is our third and final point: the replacement of the Apostles is the New Testament.
The New Testament Replacement
As you know, the Apostles died, so who replaces them? Where does their authority get preserved for future generations? In their Spirit-inspired writings, the New Testament.
I’m sure you’ve noticed how most New Testament Letters begin, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” Or, “Peter an apostle of Jesus Christ.” They’re stating their God-given authority so that we listen to their writing, the word of God.
The Apostles’ words are Scripture. In 2 Peter 3:16, the Apostle Peter describes Paul’s writings as Scripture. The written words of God: “There are some things in them [Paul’s writings] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
If you want an “apostolic” ministry today, preach the same gospel that the apostles proclaimed, which we have preserved for us in the New Testament. Let the Bible drive your ministry.
So, are there Apostles today? Yes, false Apostles. Men and women who arrogantly claim to have a direct hotline to God, who live lawless lives, accountable to no one but themselves, who are deceived and deceiving others. Don’t listen to them. The apostolic gospel has been preserved for us, once for all, in the Bible. So listen to the Bible, seek to understand the Bible. And may God, through the Bible—His authoritative, liberating word about his Son Jesus, Christ—keep us from being deceived and enslaved by false apostles today.