In this 4th article on apostleship, Greek Apostle George E. Markakis asks how we are approved as an Apostle? He answers: "Only if called, approved and validated (i.e. consecrated) by corporate authority!"
This is the 4th article of this mini-teaching series. Even though it stands alone, it is better understood in the light of the previous articles.
In the 1st article, jokingly called “Apostles-Doctrine 101” (with a smile attached next to it!), we asked the question: “Saul was born to be an Apostle, but ... when did he become Apostle Paul?” We know that Barnabas and Saul/Paul were Apostles of Jesus; yet in Antioch in Acts 13:1 they were listed as either prophets or teachers! Even though born-to-be-Apostles, Barnabas and Saul had not yet been fully prepared and/or approved to become Apostles”. We had also said:
“The example of Apostle Paul was given to us in the Scriptures so that we may know it takes the approval of the King for someone to be released as an Apostle for the work for which he has been called. Barnabas and Paul were ministers of the Gospel but operated as either a prophet, or, a teacher, before Jesus called them to the work of an Apostle.” We’ll pick it up from there...
Apostles versus ... Apostles
One of the purposes of these articles on the office of the Apostle is to establish a Scriptural doctrine that NOT all ‘apostles’ are also called and approved by the Lord to be(come) Apostles.
a. Some may have never been called by Jesus to begin with, but assumed the name, or, title through erroneous teaching, or, arbitrary use of the noun. We addressed the issue of erroneous teachings mainly in article 2, when we looked deeper into the name “Apostle” that Jesus gave.
b. Others may have indeed been called by the King, even by birth, but have not yet been found approved through completion of the testing, growth and maturing process to reach their full capacity and respective authority. Or, it is simply not their appointed time yet!
c. Finally others may be ready but the approval for the position needs to be validated by the laying-on of hands of a local Body of Elders. In Acts 13:2 where the Holy Spirit said “separate me” or “set apart for me”, the response included ‘laying-on of hands’ which is the equivalent of priestly consecration. The key to understanding comes from the Levites: born into the Priesthood by God’s calling for the whole tribe, but they were not yet consecrated for the ministry of the priest until it was God’s appointed time for office, and through God’s appointed process for the consecration. Some Apostles today are like that: born-to-be, growing-in-it, but, ... may not have fully appreciated that it takes God’s appointed time and process of consecration for the release into the calling, in the proper order under corporate authority, as established by the Scriptures!
Approved for the work of the Kingdom
1 Thess. 2:4 But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel...
In addition to the historical report of Acts 13:1-3, Paul hereby confirms in his own words that he needed to have been approved by God before he was entrusted with the responsibility of the work of the ministry, for which he was called from birth (see article 1 for more details).
We therefore believe on the basis of Apostle Paul’s example and in the light of all the Scriptural background concerning the Priesthood of Jesus that it takes more than (1) the calling of God for a person to become an Apostle of Jesus. It takes (2) the approval of the King which is then (3) validated by a corporate authority through the consecration by the laying on of hands.
Individualism versus Corporality and submission to authority
We shall not examine Scriptures about how the Levites had to be (and remain) consecrated for the work of the ministry. You can do that on your own if you care to understand better the foundation of the Scriptural principles, which the Lord gave us through the Levitical Priesthood, that we may know how to stand properly in the Melchizedek Priesthood of Jesus our High Priest.
Instead, we shall take an unusual (Biblical) path to address the issue of lone-ranger and self- exalting Hollywood-star mentality (which can be a problem among this peculiar breed of people, the Apostles, who are called from their mother’s womb for such a peculiar task..).
Because Apostles are called directly by Jesus and receive their commission directly from Him, the temptation to remain a lone-ranger and operate in an individualistic mentality is great! It is not as easy to be a lone-ranger if you are a Pastor, or a teacher, for which you certainly need the approval of some group of people... but born-to-be-Apostles who do not understand the Biblical principles of corporality, consecration and submission to authority can drift away on their own, falling prey to the spirit of individualism and selfish pride, which caused Lucifer to fall... Jesus warned that in the end He would separate the goats from among His sheep... I do not need to expound on that; I am sure we all understand it! Instead, shall we turn to Leviticus 17?
3 “Whatever man of the house of Israel who kills1 an ox or lamb or goat in the camp, or who kills [it] outside the camp, 4 “and does not bring it to the door of the tabernacle of meeting to offer an offering to the LORD before the tabernacle of the LORD, the guilt of bloodshed shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people,
5 “to the end that the children of Israel may bring their sacrifices which they offer in the open field, that they may bring them to the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, to the priest, and offer them [as] peace offerings to the LORD. 6 “And the priest shall sprinkle the blood on the altar of the LORD [at] the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and burn the fat for a sweet aroma to the LORD. 7 “They shall no more offer their sacrifices to demons, after whom they have played the harlot. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.” ’
Here is what this story says in plain words: there were circumcised Jews (i.e. the OT equivalent of modern NT “born-again Christians”) whose offerings were accounted as sacrifices to demons, when offered on their own, instead of bringing them to the door of the tabernacle of meeting (ref. lone-ranger). Interestingly, the word ‘demons’ of v.7, means a he-goat in the Hebrew, which brings to mind the parable of Jesus about the goats versus the sheep.
To make the message plain it was like God was saying: “I have instituted a particular process for Israel to offer their sacrifices to me; they must submit their offering at the place of the corporate priesthood I have established for Israel”. Some preferred to ignore the institution of the corporate priesthood and offered their own individual sacrifices. Why would they do that! Those were sacrifices at the altar of pride, individualism and self-exaltation (represented by the goat – the chief of which is the Male-Goat in Daniel’s vision about the ‘Prince of Greece’).
One of the ways to interpret what God said to Israel in the OT is what God wants to reveal to His ‘Ekklesia’ (i.e. church) in the NT. The ‘open field’ where the Israelites offered their sacrifices, may be interpreted as the ‘open field of ministry’ where NT Christians operate for the cause of the Gospel, offering their ministry, even their whole lives, as sacrifice onto God! But God is trying to explain to us that He does not want that... He wants His people to offer their sacrifice at the Tabernacle of Meeting, where “the priest will offer the sacrifice to God on their behalf”.
The ‘Tabernacle of Meeting’ in our NT Christianity may be interpreted as the Ekklesia, which has the Corporate authority, such as the group of elders in Antioch. For Barnabas and Paul the ‘open field’ would be the world where God wanted to use them as Apostles. They had the calling, they had the gifting; yet, they remained submitted to the corporate authority of the Ekklesia of Antioch elders and waited for God’s timing to be released for the Apostolic ministry, to which they were called. They offered their lives as sacrifice at the ‘Tabernacle of the Meeting’ instead of the ‘open field’ on their own! That validated their humility and submission to authority!
But who is ‘the priest’ in v.6 who might offer the sacrifice of a NT Christian to God? In Protestant Christianity it is an abomination to think of a priest standing between us and God! We believe in the priesthood of all believers! Each Christian is a priest that may go to God directly!!
If this OT principle in Leviticus 17 is to be interpreted in a NT perspective, the priest is Jesus! Even though we believe in the priesthood of all believers, we also believe that we do not really go directly to God, in our own righteousness and in the body of flesh, where the Law of Sin continues to operate in our members, while on earth. Instead, we go to God through Jesus, and hidden in Jesus! We have access to the Father through the Son, not directly! The Bible says so!
Ok, if we agree on that, then let’s ask the piercing question... how do we interpret that? In an individualistic mentality or through the corporate setting of the Kingdom and the Priesthood? The manifestation of Jesus on earth is corporate! It is the Body of Christ! The principles of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Cor. 11 give us a solid platform of doctrine against individualism and build the understanding that unless we discern the “Lord’s Body” in the presence of our communion with our brethren in Christ, we may be subjected to the Lord’s correction (1 Cor.11:29-32).
Barnabas and Paul did not go off on their own to do God’s will (i.e. to ‘offer their sacrifice in the open field’), as many (most?) Christians, even Apostles of Jesus, do in our day and time of Hollywood superstars and magical “John Wayne” cowboys, who take on a whole army single- handedly... they sort of went ‘to the priest’, meaning, the corporate priesthood of the Ekklesia of Antioch. It was that ‘priest’ who offered their sacrifice to God, on their behalf. It was the ‘Jesus’ who said “where two or three are gathered in my Name” – He did not say “where you are individually there I Am”. Same as in Lev.17 God says that we should not offer our sacrifices on our own in the open fields, Jesus also said that His Presence is in the corporate gathering. In the OT that was the Tabernacle of Meeting; in the NT that is the Ekklesia’s corporate setting.
Therefore, ‘the priest’ who offered the sacrifice on behalf of Barnabas and Paul to God was (Jesus through) the group of elders that fasted, prayed and laid hands to release them for the work to which they were called. And the ‘tabernacle of meeting’ for Barnabas and Paul was the Ekklesia of Antioch to which they remained submitted and served either as prophets or teachers, till the Lord would release the approval and choose the timing for them to become Apostles.
What scares me is the warning of Lev.17:4 “the guilt of bloodshed shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people”..! Can this be the OT key to understanding the words of Jesus in Mat.7:22 ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Apostle? Yes, only if called, approved and validated (i.e. consecrated) by corporate authority!
©George E. Markakis 2013