Why don’t you believe in Apostles operating today? Why should the verses about “some being Apostles” be split up into “that was for then” and “this is for today”?
I could give you a long theological answer about “cessationism” but many people have written about that already. What I want to do is give the logical options we face and then let the reader progress from there.
The crux of the matter is: “that was for then” and “this is for today” which we hear alot concerning many Christian issues: miracles, spiritual gifts, tongues, certain offices like Apostle, hair covering, customs, etc.
You can’t answer any of these questions until you answer the foundational question:
WERE SOME THINGS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT FOR “THEN” AND NOT FOR “NOW”?
(we will limit this consideration for New Testament only as the context of the Old Testament opens up a whole other issue)
To answer that question, we must decide on one of two options:
Option 1: Nothing in the New Testament can be categorized as “that was for then” and “this is for today”. All things are equally for all times.
Option 2: Some things are meant for certain times, and not for others.
Note: Of course we could say there is a third option that notes that only supernatural things are for “then” and “now” but NOT customs (or vice versa), but by what authority can we then make another distinction like that? Once you go down that road, then you can say “some supernatural” or “some customs”. In any case, you’ve chosen Option 2 already if you do not say “all things”.
Choosing Option 1 opens up a WHOLE lot of confusion, questions and opportunity for absurdness as well as inconsistency. Consider some things that were done, demonstrated or wrote about in the New Testament that obviously do NOT occur today (though there are some sects that practice portions of this list):
- Hair coverings
- Holy kisses
- Churches meet in homes
- Why aren’t Apostles today ACTUALLY (not claiming) doing what the Apostles did then with irrefutable supernatural power demonstrated countless times in public?
- Why aren’t there ACTUAL (not claimed) “Pentecosts” with tongues of fire and mass speaking in the Biblical version of tongues?
- ACTUAL divine revelation (not claimed) that becomes canonized into Scripture
- Why don’t we dress the way they did?
- Why don’t we follow EVERY custom, example and manner shown in the New Testament Scripture?
- Why aren’t we always baptizing in rivers and lakes instead of “baptistries”?
If everything that happened in the New Testament is a still a valid practice, office and experience for today, then we have no choice but to practice EVERYTHING we see in the New Testament. Who are we to pick and choose if the Bible doesn’t tell us specifically?
We cannot pick and choose what suits us IF we choose Option 1. We can’t say “tongues are for today but hair covering was a custom” or “we still have Apostles” but have chosen to build church buildings instead of meeting in homes… or using the exact same kind of bread in Communion, or selling our all our possessions and giving it to our modern “Apostles” to help the poor, or…. (pick one of countless other examples).
Option TWO allows us to apply some Biblical logic to the obvious fact that there ARE some things that were “for then” and some “for now” and some “for all times” or “any time”.
Option 2 allows us to make sense of not only these doctrinal questions (tongues, miracles, Apostles, etc) but also of things like customs (meeting places, clothing, hair coverings, etc).
But how can you tell? Who gets to decide. Of course, the Bible decides for us but it takes a correct understanding of the one book in the Bible where most of the “support” for these ideas come from: ACTS.
ACTS is a book of “transition”.
Acts cannot be read properly without an understanding of its place in Scripture, it’s context and it’s purpose. Acts is a book of transitions from the “old” to the “new”. God used many things during that transition that fulfilled the transition and no longer have the need for operation nor were they necessarily meant as example or specific instruction for what would become the established church.
ACTS is a transition from the old to the new, from the synagogue to the church, from the Jewish leadership to the Apostles, from the Law to Grace, from externals to internals, from compliance to indwelling (Holy Spirit).
ACTS takes us from the Old Testament and the Gospels.. then bridges… over to the Epistles. ACTS is the history and record of how God made the transition from Moses to Jesus, from the Jews to the Church.
There were many needs, situations and things that had to happen between the time of Jesus’ ascension and the establishment of His Church as we know it.
We tend to think this was instantaneous, or at best, don’t contemplate the COMPLETE OVERHAUL this represented to early Believers in Christ.
In light of this understanding of ACTS, now consider: the Apostles were a specific group of commissioned men for a specific purpose anointed by Jesus.
“Apostle” is not a “general term” Biblically. It refers to a very specific group of men who fulfilled a very specific role and purpose. It is only today’s doctrinal confusion that attempts to redefine “apostle” as some general purpose office or gift (“church planters” or “missionary frontiersman” or “father of a church movement”) still in operation today. The churches today who WANT “apostles” redefine the meaning of Biblical Apostle completely divorced from the context of ACTS as a “book of transitions”.
The plain fact is, while some men (and a few women) today CLAIM Apostolic authority and the accompanying supernatural power, NO MAN can be irrefutably proven to be doing anything even remotely similar to what the Apostles did with respect to miracles and divine revelation from God. Yes, many claim this, but if the proof was available or public, it would be plastered in a million places in this day and age of instant media.
However, that’s beside the point. I don’t “disbelieve” in Biblical Apostles today because of lack of “proof”; they don’t exist because God only appointed only 14 men to that role/office and they fulfilled their purpose and are waiting in heaven for us. Nor has any else fulfilled the qualification of being personal, literal witnesses of the resurrected Christ (again, though many CLAIM this today).
This misunderstanding of Acts as book of “transition” leads too much of our incorrect teaching today on these matters.
No, Apostles do not exist today. They were “for then”, not “now”.