Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. (John 4:22)
The New Testament was authorized through the Jews as were the Law and prophets. As mentioned in the previous article, the final determination of sacred writ was through the priesthood of Aaron, with the Urim and Thumim. When the veil of the temple was torn at the death of Jesus, the power of that covenant ended, as did the substance of the Levitical Priesthood. A new and living way soon brought the truth of the Messiah to light through the apostles of Jesus Christ. Authority was committed to them to establish this truth through the scriptures.
The apostles of Jesus Christ were those specifically chosen and personally authorized by Jesus. The word ‘apostle’ has the idea of sending out at its root meaning. In this case, these were sent by Jesus. This is not the same as a generic sending; “I am a follower of God through Jesus. When I obey the will of God, I am technically sent by Jesus.” By such terms anyone who is faithful would be an apostle of Jesus Christ. Those whom Jesus commissioned were not commissioned in a generic way. Specific responsibilities were given to them. Their gifts came with accompanying signs which proved the validity of their work.
What was their work? Consider the following:
• And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matt.16:18-19)
• Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. (John 20:21-23)
• 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)
• He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. (Matt.10:40)
• As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17:18-21)
• If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. (I Cor. 14:37)
The above passages show a direct correlation to authorizing the New Testament. The power to bind and loose, to remit and retain came from the force of God’s revelation through the apostles of Jesus Christ. To bind and loose, by teaching and example, does not deal with personal absolution to impersonal sin. There is no such thing as a Vicar of Christ to forgive the penitent on the Lord’s behalf. The Bible does not show an example of such things. On the contrary, the work of binding and remitting has to do with the testimony of truth. It was/is according to the hearer’s willingness to believe the Word of God. The angel said to Cornelius concerning Simon Peter; “. . . he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.” (Acts 10:6) Again, when Peter spoke to the Jewish brethren about a Gentile being converted, he reiterated the angel’s words to Cornelius concerning Peter; “Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.” (Acts 11:14) Peter gave revelation and commandment, he did not absolve anyone’s sins. It was obedience to the will of God that saved. The revealed will which, in this case, loosed or remitted Cornelius and his household from sin.
Even now at the “uttermost” in time, the work of the apostles of Jesus is still in effect. What the Lord established through them, convicts us to this day. We can know the Lord’s will and are accountable because of this apostolic revelation.
• That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. (I John 1:1-4)
There is only one source for our understanding, that which was committed through the apostles of Jesus Christ. It would be arrogant and audacious for any organization or individual, other than the apostles of the Lord, to declare our need to have fellowship with them, claiming “. . . truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” It is in the writing of truth that the declaration and path to fellowship is brought to us.
Not all of the words in the New Testament came from the apostles of Jesus. The books of Luke, Mark, Acts, and probably James and Jude were written by prophets and not apostles. Two areas of concern should be considered.
1. The commitment of responsibility.
2. The commitment of power.
The responsibility for the testimony was clearly given to Jesus’ apostles. Consider these excerpts from the book of John:
• But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)
• But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27)
• Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:7-8)
• However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. (John 16:13)
These words were not given to the church at large, but to the apostles of the Lord. The prophets received their capacity to prophecy from the Holy Spirit working through the apostles. Here are examples illustrating the focal point of power through which spiritual gifts were given.
• And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. (Acts 2:42-43)
And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:33)
• Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. (Acts 8:14-20)
• When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. (Acts 19:5-6)
• For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established. . . (Rom.1:11)
Power was extended through the apostles hands being laid upon the believers. In turn, the Spirit gave whatever gift the Lord had in mind for the believer to receive. “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he wills.” (I Cor.12:11)
Whether directly teaching and writing, or by the prophets, the Revelation came from Jesus through His apostles. In consideration of such things, the authorization of the New Testament clearly rests with them. It did not come with some convention of Gentiles who only postured, seeming to sanctify and bless a thing which had already been accomplished some three hundred years earlier.
What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. (Rom.3:1-2)