Reflection: Apostles and apostates

In the middle of His earthly ministry, Jesus was gaining an illusion of popularity that in reality created a workload greater than one man could bear, even the God-man. Already our Lord had called out a specific number of His disciples, 12 to be exact, and commissioned them as Apostles with a capital "A."

An apostle is literally an ambassador, a person sent with the authority and a message from a superior. The United States has ambassadors in almost every country in the world. These men and women do not act or speak on their own authority, but on that of the president or government.

"The Twelve" were specifically chosen for a specific mission and given specific gifts to carry it out. They carried the specific and symbolic number of 12. They communed with Jesus and were commissioned by Jesus, in person. They carried "power and authority," most of which Jesus ultimately gave to all of His followers. However, at least one gift was especially limited to the 12: healing.

Jesus used miraculous healing to show compassion and gain attention. This was necessary to break through the hardened arteries of the old covenant and implant the new heart of the new covenant. The God of all creation came to earth in the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ, and used physical healings as metaphors of the spiritual salvation He brings by grace through faith in the gospel. God passed this ability to heal along to His first Apostles, but not before and not since, no matter what wool the televangelists try to pull over our eyes.

Since then, no one has been able to heal with a touch, but we can pray for healing. We can show compassion for those who are suffering with illness, provide for their medical care and make provision for their families. It is amazing how many hospitals in the world were founded by ordinary Christian apostles seeking to honor the Lord and spread the gospel by ministering to the sick. We are apostles, not Apostles, and this is our ordinary way of healing today.

In most other ways, however, we apostles can function pretty much like the originals. We can fight the devil. We can preach the word of God, God's means for bringing people into His kingdom. We can be content with our possessions and trust the Lord for what we need. And, like our forefathers the Apostles, we can learn to expect constant rejection, even from people who claim to know God. This is where the apostles encounter the apostates.

An apostate, capital "A" or little "a," is a person who falls away from truth. More specifically, it is someone who lets go of a previously held belief in God. At this point of Jesus' and the Apostles' ministry, apostasy was everywhere, so a lot of dust got shaken off of their feet.

The four major religions' denominations present in Jesus' day were largely apostates. The Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians and the Essenes all rejected Jesus. And, they still abound.

Today we have dozens of denominations that are dens of denials of the word of God and the gospel. Baptists and Catholics and Episcopalians and Methodists and Presbyterians and professing Christians of every stripe are modern apostates. They have Bibles, but do not read them. They recite the Apostles' Creed, but do not take it literally. Our country puts "In God We Trust" on our money, but over and over we prove that we love money more than God. Countless amateur and professional athletes pray the "Lord's Prayer" before playing a game, but it is just a game they are playing, because they do not know what they are saying or to whom they are speaking. Even atheists and agnostics are forms of apostates, as they reject the God who made them in His image. God is everywhere today, but the gospel is hardly believed.

We need apostles today. We need to reach out to the apostates. Because at the end of the day, every person is either one or the other.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church and professor of biblical studies at Champion Christian College. He is a graduate of Valdosta State University, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has served churches in Arkansas and Georgia, and preached the gospel across the USA and other countries. He can be emailed at pastorchuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org.

Religion on 12/02/2017

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