Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. (2 Thessalonians 2:15, NKJV)
Those who stand victoriously with Jesus Christ are “called, chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14). This relationship with Christ is precisely what the apostle Paul began to lay out for why he gave thanks to the Lord for his brethren (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). Today’s verse concludes his point with an exhortation to be faithful by standing fast and holding the apostolic traditions. We are not faithful to the Lord when we fail to seize and retain the teachings of His apostles. Their teaching (first spoken, then written) is the doctrine of Christ in which we must stand fast and not go beyond (2 John 9). It is the “pattern of sound words” from the apostles that is our standard of faithfulness (2 Timothy 1:13). To relinquish it for the creedal confessions men developed through the centuries (and the diverse doctrines they generated) is to abandon faithfulness to the “word of the truth of the gospel” that the apostles preached under Christ’s authority (Colossians 1:5-6; Matthew 28:18-20). Who ever said “church traditions” establish truth? Not the Lord Jesus, and not His apostles. Neither do we. Let us not be Catholic or Protestant, but simply Christians like followers of Jesus were in the New Testament. Like them, let us be faithful to Jesus by standing fast in the teachings of His apostles. Called by the gospel, we are chosen by God for salvation in Christ, and faithful to apostolic traditions.
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. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning. (John 15:26–27, NKJV)
Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to His apostles to be a Helper, a Comforter, after He left this world (John 14:16-18). He fulfilled His promise to them (Acts 1:4-5; 2:1-4, 33). The Holy Spirit has given powerful testimony of Jesus Christ to the world. By His miraculous revelation, inspiration and confirmation, the Spirit of truth bears witness of the gospel of Christ through the apostles He empowered (Acts 1:8). The testimony borne by the Spirit of truth is not a personal impulse, feeling or revelation uniquely given as personal experiences to each individual. His testimony is the gospel He gave the apostles which they preached to the world (Jno. 14:25-26; 16:8-13). To refuse their word for a personal testimony that contradicts the Spirit’s testimony in Scripture is spiritually destructive: “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” (Hebrews 2:3-4) The New Testament is the Spirit’s testimony to the world. What a comfort the Comforter has given us!
25 These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you (John 14:25–26, NKJV)
Jesus taught His apostles God’s commands. They were to obey them because they loved Jesus, as must we (John 14:15). By doing so, His abiding presence was assured, even as it is to us when we obey His word (John 14:19-24). Jesus promised He would not abandon the apostles as orphans but would come to them by the Spirit of truth (“another Helper”) whom the Father would give them (John 14:15-18). Jesus assured His apostles that what He taught them in person would continue with them through the work of the Helper (the Holy Spirit). The Spirit would reveal “all truth” to the apostles and give them an accurate recall of all Jesus taught them (John 16:12-13). We are reading and keeping Jesus’s word when we read and obey the apostles’ teaching (John 14:23). Jesus promised the apostles the Father would send them the Helper, which He did (Acts 1:4, 5, 8; 2:1-4). Jesus promised His apostles the Holy Spirit would empower them to know all Jesus taught them, which He did (Heb. 2:3; Gal. 1:11-12). When we read their writings we can understand what they knew of God’s plan to save us in His Son (Eph. 3:3-5). We love Jesus and have fellowship with Him by keeping what the apostles taught (John 13:20; 14:23-24).
18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18–20, NKJV)
Although it is often said that every Christian is an ambassador of Christ, the Scriptures teach that it was the apostles alone who were charged with and qualified to be ambassadors for Christ. An ambassador is an official emissary of a ruler, given the task of conveying official messages and representing the authority of said ruler. The apostles of Christ were chosen by Christ to be His witnesses to the world (Acts 1:8). They are unique in this official capacity (Acts 10:38-42). The apostles were given “the word of reconciliation” (the gospel, v. 19) to fulfill their “ministry of reconciliation” (v. 18) by proclaiming the gospel of Christ to the world. Now, God pleads with the world through them (their writings) to be reconciled to God (v. 20). Christ’s ambassadors, the apostles, have revealed the Savior’s message of reconciliation and by it, the means of being reconciled to God. Save yourself (be reconciled to God) by repenting and being baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-41).
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)
The faithful apostles had left their professions and possessions to follow Jesus (Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:11). Their subsequent work in the kingdom of God justified their sacrificial faith. Christ gave them authority to judge among the “twelve tribes of Israel” (i.e., the people of God, Romans 9:6-8; Galatians 6:16) by the gospel they proclaimed (Mark 16:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; Romans 2:16). Christ’s reign and their authority to judge coincide with “the regeneration,” a reference to the time of salvation which began in Acts 2 and continues until His return (Acts 2:29-41; 2 Corinthians 6:1-2; 5:17). Even as the Son of Man now reigns in glory, the apostles’ word is the standard of authority by which souls are regenerated (born again, John 3:3-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). We take comfort and courage in knowing that when we sacrifice all to follow Jesus, He has prepared eternal glory with Him for us (Colossians 3:4).
38 Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on our side. (Mark 9:38–40, NKJV)
The twelve apostles often squabbled among themselves over who was the greatest in the kingdom. It is easy to see how they would discount and try to forbid someone who was not of their immediate circle, even when the evidence of heaven’s approval was staring them in the face. Jesus acknowledged this person was casting out demons in His name (v. 39). John and his fellow apostles were zealous of their positions, which led them to reject someone who was faithfully working in Christ’s name. (Note, John did not say, “He does not follow You,” but rather, “he does not follow us.”) Zeal for their own positions was greater than their zeal for the Lord. This passage does not endorse unity in doctrinal diversity. (The man and the apostles were all working in the name of Christ.) Instead, it urges unity among those who faithfully follow Christ because they all work in His name (do His will by His authority, Colossians 3:17). We act with the Lord’s authority to glorify Christ, not ourselves. Another person doing the will of Christ will also be blessed (Mark 9:41). That person deserves to be accepted, not rejected as separate from us (Mark 9:38-39).
5 But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 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.” (John 16:5–7, NKJV)
Perhaps is it hard for us to imagine a situation where it would be better that Christ was not personally with His apostles. Yet, that is what Jesus told them to assure them in their time of sorrow, just hours before He was arrested, tried, abused and crucified. Sorrow filled their hearts as Jesus told them of betrayal and denial within their own ranks, of His departure and death, and of the world’s hatred for both Him and them (John 13:18-16:4). Yet, Jesus was telling them the truth (verse 7). Sometimes truth is hard to hear, but truth is what we always need to hear. In fact, an advantage would come to them from Christ because He was leaving them. He would send them the Holy Spirit, the Helper (advocate, comforter), whose presence and work would empower them to accomplish their apostolic tasks (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4). When things seem their darkest, we should remember God has blessings for us in Christ. His blessings renew our spirits and invigorate our faith, helping us accomplish the good works God has prepared for us to do (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6-7, 2:10).
1 Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. 2 He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. (Luke 9:1–2, NKJV)
Jesus gave His apostles power (capacity) and authority (the freedom to act) over demons and diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to work miracles which confirmed the divine nature of their message. The New Testament identifies the kingdom of God as the church of Christ (Matthew 16:18-19; Colossians 1:13). Preaching the kingdom of God is central to preaching Christ. When the evangelist Philip preached Christ, he preached “things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 8:5, 12). We fail to preach Christ if our preaching minimizes His church (His kingdom). There is rich irony in one thinking he can preach Christ to sinners (so they can be saved and added to the church, His kingdom, Acts 2:47) by not preaching the church (the kingdom) to them! Such is the feeble and futile attempt to preach Christ but not His church. We cannot preach Christ (the Anointed One, the King) without preaching His kingdom, His church. Truly, the gospel of Christ is the gospel of the kingdom (Luke 4:18, 43-44). Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom, and so did His apostles. When early Christians preached Christ, they preached His kingdom (the church). When we preach Christ, we must preach His kingdom, His church.
For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed— (2 Corinthians 10:8, NKJV)
Are you ashamed of Bible authority? Have you grown tired of establishing Bible authority for all you say and do by the commandments, apostolic examples and necessary inferences of the New Testament (Colossians 3:17; Acts 15:7-19)? If so, please accept this gentle reminder that without heaven’s authority for our words and deeds, we do not have heaven’s approval (see Matthew 21:23-27). Jesus Christ possesses all authority (right to rule) in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). He reveals and exercises His authority over us through His word (John 12:48-50). Only when we live according to His truth are we truly His disciples (John 8:31-32; 14:6; 17:17). The apostles of Jesus spoke and wrote His authoritative word for our benefit (1 Corinthians 14:37). Paul was not ashamed of the authority he had as an apostle of Christ. Nor did Paul abuse his authority. Apostolic authority edifies all who submit to it. Spiritual growth in Christ (edification) occurs by following the apostles’ doctrine, not the doctrines of men (Acts 2:42). Who is authorizing what you say and do: heaven, or men?
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.