Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. (John 13:20, NKJV)
These reassuring words of Jesus, spoken to His apostles, establish the vital importance of following the apostles’ doctrine today. Th word “apostle” means one who is sent. Jesus told them, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). In their case, Jesus sent His apostles into the world to preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). Only by receiving Jesus does a person receive God into his or her life. But, to receive Jesus Christ, one must receive His apostles. Therefore, one cannot reject the apostles’ teachings and rightfully claim to have received Jesus into his life. Receiving the apostles begins by hearing and believing their words (Acts 2:22, 36-37). It continues by obeying their commands (approved by the authority of Jesus) to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38-41, esp. v. 41). Furthermore, one then steadfastly continues “in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). Christians continue to learn and follow the word of Christ which His apostles taught. Do you receive Christ’s apostles, by believing and obeying their teachings? If so, you are receiving Jesus and the Father, who sent Him to the world.
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, (Ephesians 4:11, NKJV)
After Christ defeated sin at the cross, and death by His resurrection, He ascended to heaven, sat down at the right hand of God, and “gave gifts to men” (Ephesians 4:7-10). These gifts are enumerated for us in verse 11. These gifts, both inspired (apostles and prophet) and uninspired (evangelists, pastors, teachers), constitute 1) the revelation of the gospel of Christ from heaven to earth, and 2) its proclamation to the whole world. Inspired men received revelation from God, and with confirming miracles, by inspiration they “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (Hebrews 2:3-4; 2 Peter 1:21). Evangelists preach the same word of God (2 Timothy 4:2-5). Pastors “tend the flock” among them, feeding the local church the same word (1 Peter 5:1-2; Acts 14:23; 20:28). Faithful teachers teach the same word to others (2 Timothy 2:2). If we fail to value Bible teaching and learning, we fail to honor and benefit from these gifts Christ which Christ gave the world; gifts that are for our salvation, our spiritual strength, our service and our unity as we grow in Christ. Tomorrow, we will explore the reasons for these gifts, as we consider Ephesians 4:12-13.
For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13, NKJV)
Far too many who declare the Bible to be the word of God, say the apostolic letters are just their opinions. This was not at all the attitude and reaction given the words of the apostle Paul when he preached in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-4). The apostle Paul was thankful the Thessalonians had received his preaching as the true word of God. The word preached by the apostles are in fact, “the word of God,” the truth of the Almighty. It is that very word that works powerfully in believers to save and to transform lives (Romans 12:1-2). The New Testament is not a record of human opinions, it is the very word of God. We must believe, respect and obey the teachings of Christ’s apostles, or God’s word will not work in our lives. To minimize the apostolic writings as merely their opinions belies a failure to distinguish between the uninspired words of men, and the inspired, authoritative, powerful word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” 28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:27–28, NKJV)
Jesus assured the apostles a place of rule or authority over in His kingdom (see Lk. 22:30). Their authority would exist “in the regeneration,” a reference to spiritual rebirth. Of course, spiritual rebirth occurs now, through Christ and His gospel (Jno. 3:3-5; Acts 3:19-21; Titus 3:5; 1 Pet 1:22-23). Therefore, the apostles are now on the thrones Jesus promised. Their places of rule occur “when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory.” Christ’s position as King was proclaimed in Acts 2, when the apostles preached by the Holy Spirit that Jesus is seated on the throne of David, at God’s right hand, ruling as King (Acts 2:29-36; Psa. 110:1-2). Therefore, by teaching Christ’s word, the apostles rule with heaven’s approval. The kingdom exists, and the authority of the apostles is sure. The apostles have authority now, because Christ has all authority (Matt. 28:18; Acts 1:8). The apostles’ teaching executes the authority of the Son of Man. That means we must follow the apostles to have Christ’s approval (John 13:20). It is impossible to follow Christ, without following the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42).
16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.” (1 Corinthians 4:16–17, NKJV)
Should we charge Paul with arrogance for telling the Christians to imitate him? Was Timothy encouraging Paul’s hubris by reminding the Christians of how Paul lived? No, because Paul’s ways were “in Christ” (see 1 Cor. 11:1). Paul lived what he taught, and his faithful life is a pattern to follow (Phil. 3:17). It is also notable that the inspired apostle Paul taught the same thing “everywhere in every church.” Truth is not definable by time, place, or situation. There was not one truth for first-century Christians in Corinth, and another truth for 21st century Christians. Every attempt to shape and mold the word of God to our situations, instead of reforming our situations to that word, is destined to end in spiritual failure. The gospel that was preached in the first century “endures,” and bears the same fruit now that it bore then (1 Pet. 1:22-25). What we need is not a new truth; it is a new heart to receive and follow the truth that has been once for all delivered from heaven to men (Jude 3).
If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 14:37, NKJV)
Jesus sent His apostles into all the world to preach His gospel to everyone (Mk. 16:15; Matt. 28:19). Before His death, Jesus told His apostles, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Jno. 13:20). Later, Jesus appeared to Paul (Saul of Tarsus), appointed him to be an apostle, and sent him to preach the gospel, too (Acts 26:16-20). We rightly conclude that there is absolutely no way one can receive Jesus, yet reject His apostles. Truly, the first Christians were commended precisely because “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). Instead of unsuccessfully trying to separate the teachings of Paul, Peter, John and the other apostles from Christ, cherish and hold fast all they spoke and wrote. By doing so, you are cherishing the Son and the Father (who sent Jesus to the world). To do less is not only a rejection of the apostles, but also of the Father and the Son. The spiritual acknowledge this. Indeed, one is not “spiritual” when he refuses to receive the apostles’ teachings as “the commandments of the Lord.” We need all of the New Testament. All of it is from God (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8, NKJV)
The apostles did not teach the gospel by their own authority. It was not their power that persuaded sinners of salvation in Jesus Christ; it was the power of the gospel they preached. But, they did indeed have to work and sacrifice in order for that gospel to spread from Jerusalem, through Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. In today’s verse, Jesus promised the apostles miraculous powers in order to confirm the truth of their message. He kept that promise on Pentecost, when His apostles were invested with miraculous “power from on high” (Lk. 24:49; Acts 2:1-4). As they preached, “the Lord worked with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs” (Mk. 16:20; Heb. 2:3-4). Today, God’s power to save is not through miracles, but through the power of the “word of the truth of the gospel” that convicts sinners and converts them to the Lord (Rom. 1:16-17; Col. 1:5-6). If you want God’s power in you life, then believe and obey the gospel of His Son. It has the power to save you from sin and give you a sure hope of heaven.