22: Apostolic Authority

Posted: Thursday, May 29th, 2014
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About Our God Reigns Series

Martha's thorough and definitive series on one of the most pivotal spiritual issues, and one of the most misunderstood: Authority.

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Paul seemed to live in a peculiar position, subject to no one.  Discipled by none of the disciples.  Paul sauntered into the Church and took his place equal to those who had walked with Jesus in His earth-days.  He stepped onto the stage of First Century Church and assumed the position as a full-fledged member.  He even presumed to correct Peter publicly (Gal. 2:11).

He was either presumptuous and wrong . . . or absolutely clear about his position.

Paul was discipled by no one, sanctioned by none.  He had no mentor, he answered to no authority.  He nurtured many disciples but no leader nurtured him.  His training was in the desert of aloneness by the personal and visible presence of Jesus.  His only tutor, the Master Himself.

Gal 1:11 NIV
I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; 
rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

Paul’s account of it is in Galatians 1:18-20 and 2:1-2.
“When God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.”

The office of apostle is a matter of election, not favor.  Paul was called from birth but only learned that in the desert of aloneness.

“Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles – only James the Lord’s brother.  Fourteen years later I went up to Jerusalem . . .”

A “visit” with Peter.  Imagine the seeming gall of this man.  Not a bow of acquiescence to that legendary figure, but a visit to become acquainted!  Three years after the Damascus Road . . . only when God released him, only THEN did he meet the “rock” upon which the Church was to be built.  And then, only briefly.

After that it was 14 years before he settled in Jerusalem with the Early Church.  Even then he went not to be taught, trained, or discipled but to present his personal revelation from Jesus, one he preached to the Gentiles.  He submitted his revelation to the apostles, but not his calling, not his position.

This in Paul is a picture of a certain type of authority, Apostolic authority.

“I did not consult any man.”

This is the way of the apostle.  Their revelation comes from God directly.  And they walk without the covering that is mandatory for other positions.  The Apostolic covering is the very wing of God.  Their discipline and guidance comes from Him.

The apostle is – as with Paul – “set apart from birth.”  Trained for integrity, given uncompromising standards, molded into rigid character, uncommon and irritating.  God must oversee the development of this one because he will bear the first position of authority in the Church, receiving his orders directly from God.

The apostle must be trustworthy.

1 Cor. 12:28 NAS
And God has appointed in the church,
first apostles, second prophets, third teachers

A descending order of authority, set by God and each office, filled by Him by appointment not qualification.

Paul is the apostolic example.  His revelation of grace – received directly – was startling.  So extensive was this divine grace that he was compelled to submit it to the apostles.  See? He was utterly capable of submission to the Church but he was called instead to lead it.

Fiercely loyal to God and unimpressed with any person!  No matter who. Respectful – this you see in him.  But intimidated, no.  Paul would not be conquered by the titles and records of others.  Without the false humility of pride, Paul wrote his letters in all the authority of his ordained position.

Paul, an apostle – sent not from men nor by man,
but by Jesus Christ and God the Father . . .

Paul is who he is . . . that is to say, who God said he was.  He never counted himself worthy of such a Calling, but he wore it by radical surrender to the God who chose it.

For I am the least of the apostles,
who am not fit to be called an apostle,

because I persecuted the church of God.   
1 Cor. 15:9

Paul’s identity lay in his position, fixed by God.  He was unashamedly an Apostle and claimed all the deference due that Appointment.  He rose to all the dignity of it, commanded recognition of it.  And this was merely obedience by allegiance to the Ultimate Authority, to whom he answered . . . directly.

Grave responsibility and terrible accountability, both joyfully embraced by Paul.  He was bold in the authority assigned to him.  Never abusing it but always faithful to fully employ it for the sake of God’s purpose.

Apostolic authority was new to that First Century Church.  Apostle was not an office of the Old Testament but it is reminiscent to the fiery Prophet of the Old Testament, carrying a singular mantle, walking utterly alone with the Almighty.  But for Paul, we would think that Apostleship died with the last disciples.

He blazes into the birth of the Church and it is Paul who writes most of the New Testament, our pattern, our doctrine.  The Eternal Word of the new covenant.  To the apostle is given direct and current revelation, the “message.”  And the one who hears the First Revelation is the one who is first in authority.

1 Cor. 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and 
Timothy {our} brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth 
with all the saints who are throughout Achaia:

Rom. 1:1
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called {as} an apostle, 
set apart for the gospel of God,

1 Cor. 1:1 NAS
Paul, called {as} an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God . . .

Copyright © 2000 Martha Kilpatrick, Our God Reigns

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