"Just What IS an APOSTLE?"

Chapter 5

Unity – Through Grace

Has God given His people anything specific to counter fragmentation and promote unity? Can churches from different areas and cultures, being shepherded by different pastors, all consistently speak the same thing? Can such people link arms in harmony to do whatever Work God expects at this time and prepare God’s people to be part of a single, spiritual temple to which Christ is prophesied to return?

The answer from scripture is clearly – yes! The True Church is a unified body (Eph 4:4-6). There will be an elect on this earth at the end (Matt 24:22) and the single prophesied spirit-begotten Temple will be ready, prepared by and for Christ, when He returns (Mal 3:1). These scriptures are very clear.

Unity is Vital Within the Family of God:

Christ prayed to the Father on His last night as a human being, “keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we [are]” (John 17:11). There is absolutely no schism between Christ and the Father. They exhibit perfect unity through out-flowing love and cooperation. Christ never usurps any role that the Father reserves to Himself. Jesus Christ submits perfectly and obediently to whatever is placed over Him within the family of God. This is how perfect unity and harmony exists on their plane of existence.

God and Christ want this for all of us. Christ prayed for that identical understanding within His Church – within His future brothers and sisters: 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 [grk: apostello] me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me,that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent [grk: apostello] me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:21-23).

But the question is, how?

The Grace Given an Apostle:

What sets the elect apart is the fact that they are striving to be totally subject to God’s Word (John 17:17, Matt 4:4). But this Word is not revealed to us individually, by each privately interpreting the scriptures however he or she pleases. Peter says “that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy [Spirit]” (II Pet 1:20-21). The same Holy Spirit must therefore reveal what God is saying within the scriptures (verse 19).

Private interpretation by all within the Church would produce confusion, and God is not the author of such a state (I Cor 14:33). Scripture tells us that instead, God has chosen a specific way in which He reveals His Truth: He does so as a grace – or undeserved favour – given principally to apostles (and occasionally prophets working under an apostle) who are then sent to His people with that revelation (Eph 3:5). In this way unity within God’s True Church is preserved.

Other Grace Given:

Ephesians 4 explains how this precious unity is to be achieved.

After stressing how in God’s True Church there must always be only one body … one Spirit … one hope … One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God” (Eph 4:4-6), Paul goes on to explain that “unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he … gave gifts unto men … And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph 4:7-13).

Each position within the ministry, or administration of the Government of God, is given by God as grace (an unmerited favour), and each gift of grace is different. Only apostles and prophets are associated with the task of laying foundations. We have seen, in chapter 3, the prophets being talked of here are the Old Testament prophets. They, and the apostles sent by God, receive foundational Truth by revelation – foundational Truth that the Church of God today specifically requires, and if correctly aligned to, will produce unity.

The rest of the ministry are not given this grace. Yes, they too are given grace – given gifts from God – but they are not given the gift, or grace, of an apostle. Their grace consists of gifts required to build on the foundations that God has laid through the apostle sent.

Therefore if a rank and file minister (or even a lay member) should take apostolic gifts to themselves, they are effectively attempting to steal them! As in II Cor 11:13 they make themselves false apostles, deceitful workers! They take to themselves something God has not given them, and bring about the exact opposite of God’s purpose within the Church. Such people cause disunity. They thus work against God and, though they may not realise it, Paul describes them in verse 15 as being the very ministers (or servants) of Satan!

Remaining Unified – While Growing in Grace:

In II Pet 3:18 we are told to grow in grace. So how should we do this in light of the above? Does this scripture give any justification to altering foundations? How can we all remain in unity – yet grow as this scripture commands?

The answer is found within Romans 12. Here Paul makes it very clear that such “growth” can only be done through God’s Spirit within us and is limited, therefore, to the grace and faith given to us individually by God as He chooses: “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think [of himself] more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, [being] many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Rom 12:3-5).

Paul encourages us all to increase, to grow – but he limits that growth to within the gift or grace given to us by God. There is absolutely no justification for taking to ourselves another grace given specifically to an apostle and attempting to justify such an action by saying we must “grow in grace.” This approach would result in chaos within the Church and is totally out of line with Romans 12: “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, [let us prophesy] according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, [let us wait] on [our] ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, [let him do it] with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Rom 12:6-8).

Humility is vital within each of God’s potential sons and daughters throughout this life in which we are being trained. God has decreed that unity and harmony must be maintained for eternity within His Spiritual Family. And God has shown us how this is achieved in a small way now by providing each of us with the individual grace that we need, in order that the whole Church may be “fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part” (Eph 4:16).

Correctly respecting the unique grace bestowed upon the apostle God sends to us, is a vital part in this process and will help cultivate within all who put it into effect, the Godly unity that is destined to last for eternity.

In Summary:

Unity is a vital and eternal quality that God insists is present within each of His potential sons and daughters. Without it, there can be no True Church of God; God and Christ and those within the Family of God are all to be one (John 17:21). If unity is lacking between different organisations that all claim to be the True Church, it indicates a grave sickness. “The people judge or decide” – the very meaning of the word “Laodicea” – gives rise to such an antithesis of unity. It produces a myriad of different interpretations of the same scriptures. But scripture is not for private interpretation (II Pet 1:20).

God has given His Church the means whereby the unity He insists upon can be achieved. To be in harmony under God, each of God’s people must have the humility to grow according to the grace given and not attempt to take something that is not theirs. The grace to lay foundations within the Church is specifically given to apostles – not the general ministry or membership. Only by aligning our teachings and beliefs with such foundations can the unity God wants be produced. Going in any other direction takes us away from God’s revelation and will produce chaos and confusion – the utter antithesis of what God insists must be found within His Family.