“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” (Ephesians 2:20)
When Jesus came to the earth the first time, He was sent to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24); in other words, He was sent to His own people, the Jews. But His own “received Him not” (John 1:10-11). They rejected Him, not because they weren’t looking for and desiring the promised Messiah, but because they didn’t have an understanding of God’s government, and its method of operation.
Natural governments have established systems of authority that are recognized readily by men. For example, our military leaders and personnel wear uniforms which designate their rank and status, and men recognize them and give them honor. But the things of the Kingdom of God are spiritually discerned (I Corinthians 2:14).
In these last days, it is more important than ever to be able to discern and recognize God’s servants and authority structure, so that we can all come together in the unity of the faith through the operation of the Spirit (Ephesians 2:20-22, 4:13). Satan is working diligently to bring forth a counterfeit church with a counterfeit gospel, to prepare the world for the appearance of the antichrist and the culmination of the ages. The move to accept all “faiths,” is already under way, so that we can “all get along and be at peace,” and where “everyone cooperates, works together, and accepts one another.” It sounds wonderful, but it is vehemently opposed to scriptural truth. The sad thing is that many will be deceived into embracing this philosophy because they don’t recognize God’s government in operation. The masses will eventually flock to it (Daniel 11:21).
God is not all that interested in the world becoming a better place; in fact, Jesus Himself stated that He didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword (Mathew 10:34, Luke 12:51-53). A division between those that recognize and understand God’s government and those that don’t. God warned us that this world and its ways are perishing (I John 2:17), and will continue to get worse and worse; it is the false church that puts emphasis on this present, evil world.
Paul was an apostle, but He was not one of the original twelve that walked with Jesus when he was upon the earth. He was “born out of due time” (I Corinthians 15:8) on the road to Damascus, as he fervently persecuted and fought against the church. Jesus revealed Himself to him in a moment of time, and Paul immediately recognized His authority, “Who art thou Lord?” “What would you have me to do?” (Acts 9:5-6) Jesus didn’t send him to the Jerusalem Bible College after his conversion; in fact, the disciples had no idea what had happened to Saul of Tarsus. Instead, he was sent into the Arabian Desert to be taught by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 1:15-19).
When He returned to Jerusalem years later, the ruling authorities of the church didn’t ask for his credentials, but instead recognized the grace that was upon him (Galatians 2:9), and even though they were apostles first, they willingly received the grace and authority that was upon his life. In fact, at one point, Paul rebuked Peter to His face (Galatians 2:11-15), and Peter didn’t respond, “Listen Mister; I’m an apostle, and I walked with Jesus Himself! I’m the pastor in charge here; don’t come around here telling me what to do!” No, Peter didn’t do this because he recognized God’s authority upon Paul.
Many of our leaders today have their titles posted on their doors and walls, more so than even the Word of God (Deuteronomy 6:8-9, Matthew 23:5-8); they demand to be called of men, “Pastor, Pastor, Prophet, Prophet, teacher, teacher…” Because of either insecurity in their calling, or the fact that they’re not called at all. They persuade men through the use of such titles and compel them to acknowledge them as prominent authorities, not understanding that God’s government is recognized by its members; even the most simple among us. God is confronting this type of thing in these last days (Luke 3:5).
“Well, are titles wrong, Brother Tom?" Not necessarily; it all depends on motive and intent. If the purpose is flattery or pride, then yes, they’re wrong (Job 32:21-22, Matthew 23:8-10). If it’s to honor the office and the man in the office, with the intent of giving honor to God, then there’s nothing wrong with it (I Samuel 26:17, Acts 24:3). And there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging what God has made you. Paul stated on more than one occasion that he was an apostle, “Not of men but of God…” (Ephesians 1:1, Galatians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, I Timothy 1:1, II Timothy 1:1, Titus 1:1, I Peter 1:1, II Peter 1:1). But he never demanded that men call him “Apostle Paul,” for the purpose of exalting himself to a place of preeminence among God’s people (Ephesians 3:8, III John 1:9). Someone once said, “Some of us are more Catholic than the Catholics are!” This saying is true.
If we understand God’s government, then we will understand the boundary of our authority. Every believer has been called to a place of dominion, even if you are five years old and your domain only involves the family dog; God has given you authority over something. An apostle is not necessarily an apostle over every church or work of God. He is an apostle over the things that God has assigned to him, and these boundaries must be spiritually discerned.
King Uzziah became king of Judah when he was very young, and he did great things during his reign; he was righteous and pleasing to the Lord, and he reigned for fifty two years. God blessed him and made him to prosper. But in his strength, his heart was lifted up; he forgot his place of dominion and stepped into a place that belonged to another man. God struck him with leprosy for his infraction, and he remained a leper until the day of his death (II Chronicles 26:16-21).
King Josiah was also a righteous king before the Lord; in fact, he walked in the ways of David, earnestly pursuing after the heart of God (II Chronicles 34:2). But when he became strong, he forgot the boundary of his authority. He was warned by another man, who was also following God’s plan, to mind his own business, but he didn’t heed the warning and it cost him his life (II Chronicles 35:20-24). There have been great ministers that have died because they have veered from their path and have used their prominence and influence to publically criticize or attacked other ministries. God had tried to warn them, but their hearts were lifted up and they inadvertently came against a genuine move of God.
God commands us to reprove, rebuke and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine (II 4:1-2), and commands that we warn the unruly (I Thessalonians 5:14) (Ezekiel 33:7-9, Jeremiah23:28). Failure to do this will also bring God’s judgment. Saul lost his kingdom because he didn’t execute God’s righteous judgment upon a people that were appointed to death. “Well, how are we to know the difference?” We know by the Spirit.
The church of Jesus Christ is a living organism in the earth, and its structure and government highly organized and precise (Colossians 2:19). In these last days, the fullness of this will be realized before Jesus returns for His church (Ephesians 5:27). The world will not recognize us, but we will know one another by the Spirit (Daniel 12:10, II Corinthians 5:16).