Who Speaks for the Church?

The issue of homosexuality has magnified the length, breadth, depth and height of division particularly in the church in the west. This divisiveness is not just with morality, but with the issues behind it like authority and interpretation. For example concerning this issue and in others, who speaks for the Church*?

First, let me start with identifying the audience in this discussion: those who believe Jesus is Lord and Christ. This is the first confession of the Church, based upon the statement of the Apostle Peter in Acts 2:35: “…God has made [Jesus] both Lord and Christ…” Now, we can debate what that means, but let me offer something to help us move forward. I believe this means that Jesus is Lord-Ruler-King of heaven and earth (of all created things which were made by him, through him and for him). It also means that he is the Promised Anointed One by, through and for which all things are made new on heaven and earth. Thus, he is Savior, Redeemer, Deliverer and Everything Else that restores humanity and all creation from that which was lost with the Fall of the First Adam. While there may be some fine-tuning needed, I am not presuming an audience with those who disagree in principle with what I just wrote.

Now, for those who are moving forward with me here, the question I am asking in this blog is, “Who speaks for the Church?” I believe that if we agree that Jesus is Lord then we would also agree that Jesus is the Head of His Church. And, if Jesus is the Head of His Church, then He would determine who speaks for His Church on earth. To help us find this answer, I appeal to the scriptures… in particularly the New Testament.

In the book of Acts we find the newly formed Church discovering the implications of the New Covenant established by Jesus with His 12 Disciples who became (less Judas, plus Matthias) His 12 Apostles. These original 12 Apostles were witnesses to the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Having been commissioned by Christ, these Twelve were given both the revelation and the authority to testify concerning Jesus as the Son of God, the Promised Messiah and to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. Now certainly this commissioning would be shared among all believers who became united with the Apostles in this fellowship with Christ. That is, through the proclamation of the Gospel new believers were initiated into the Kingdom and became united in the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, along with the breaking of bread and prayers (Acts 2:42). Thus, they were empowered as well to witness to Christ and proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. We see this with Stephen and Philip in Acts 7 and 8 respectively.

Jesus established a government for His Church beginning with His Apostles. Then, other apostles since the ascension of Jesus who shared the same revelation entered into this fellowship of apostles. For example in Galatians we read how Paul and Barnabus submitted their revelation and ministry to the apostles in Jerusalem, and they extended to them “the right hand of fellowship” (Galatians 2:9). (If you compare the sermon of Peter in Acts 2 with the sermon of Paul in Acts 13, you will discover the same revelation of Christ in their proclamations of the Gospel of the Kingdom.)

This governance of apostles is demonstrated in Acts 15. This is probably to what Paul was referring in Galatians 2 as he and Barnabus were welcomed into the apostles fellowship. At this Jerusalem Council, both apostles and elders gather to determine issues regarding the implications of the New Covenant. In particular was the issue of circumcision. Paul rightly understood that the old covenant was fading and the new covenant was shining brighter every day since the Christ event. Thus, the gospel was for the Gentiles as well as the Jews, even though the first apostolic mission was to the Jews who were dispersed among the nations. Their concern was delivering the same gospel to the Jews and non-Jews. In this council meeting, the apostles (including those since Jesus’ ascension) and the elders in Jerusalem spoke for the Church, as it “seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to [them]” to relieve the Gentiles of the old covenant circumcision (and other) requirements in light of the implications of the New Covenant (see Acts 15, particularly vs 28). While Jews could still be Jews when responding to the Gospel, Gentiles did not have to become Jews in order to respond faithfully to Gospel because of the New Covenant that has been established by Christ.

As you can imagine, great discord and disunity was threatening to erupt over this great transitional matter. But, the governance of the apostles and elders, with Jesus as the Head and the Holy Spirit representing Christ being present to preside, they spoke for the Church on this issue…that maintained the Unity of Spirit in the life of the Church.

Today, we need to re-discover this governance of apostles and elders. This will not happen anytime quickly, but as we evaluate the failed governance that we now experience in church as we have known it, we prayerfully hunger for the governance of God to arise among those God chooses to be apostles and elders among us today. Honestly, there are too many self-determined apostles that make it difficult to find a starting point. However, the Lord of the Church is working to re-store the foundation of His Church by choosing true and humble apostles who submit to one another. They are there… you just may not be seeing them yet because they are currently too few and far between, with denominational and independent loyalty only adding to this delay.

In the meantime all Christians can practice the principle of submitting our revelations, ideas and beliefs to one another for evaluation, as a pre-cursor to the function of a restored apostles fellowship. Although we are not all apostles and elders, such a practice in the Spirit models the heart of spiritual governance in the life of the Church so that we may know what it really means to say, “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”

I am only written briefly, as there is much more to write on this topic. My purpose is to stimulate your prayer and thinking concerning who speaks for the church.

*Note that I use Church to describe the Church that Jesus builds and church to describe the church as we know it.

Dr. Jim Bradshaw, President

Apostles Theological Seminary

3 comments (Add your own)

1. George Kouri wrote:
Great insight Dr. Bradshaw! The greatest problem facing the 21 Century is not evil, although evil is rampent. God has an answer to the problem of evil, Christ and His Chirch. If this is true, and it is, then the greatest problem is the problem of a divided Church, with many Gospels and many ecclesiastical or governmental systems. And the reason the Church is divided is that Church leaders are divided.

In John 17 Jesus prayed that the apostles and all who would believe in Him because of their Word would be one as He and the Father are one! The great need of the 21st Century is the rediscovery of the fellowship of the apostles and the Word of the Kingdom that Jesus entrusted to them in the beginning!

Wed, May 6, 2015 @ 9:46 AM

2. John Moses wrote:
Once, at a meeting of pastors, I highlighted the importance of unity among leaders in the city by quoting a hypothetical situation. If the president of the country came to our city and wanted to speak to the church, who goes to see him? The Baptists, the Presbyterians, the Pentecostals, the Methodists, the Charasmatics? This simple illustration caused the brethren to say "amen." Even so, we are no where near to even talking about the subject in all earnestness. God, help your church! Leaders see the absolute need for the fellowship of the apostles but do not commit to working for it.

Tue, June 2, 2015 @ 2:36 AM

3. Neil Lacy wrote:
Who speaks for the Church?
This is a profound question. One that all serious leaders w/i Christ Church should consider w/ fervent prayer and scholarly study. Not only because among our most important callings was to be Christ "Witness" (how can any witness be believed or received if controverted by hundreds of different testimonies?) but because implicit in the question is to find out just exactly "What" or "Who" is Christ Church in the first place. The complexity and enormity of this concern is magnified when we, w/ sober and repentant hearts, realize that the Eternal Purpose Christ gave to the founding Apostles he knew would not be "heard" in the "world" until we demonstrated as Christ body the unity that he and the Father sustained. So here we are two thousand years later w/ over 40 thousand denominations and beyond the lives of individual Christians influence, the collective witness of Chris Church (read light) and influence (read witness) has diminished to almost nothing in western culture.
So God in his mercy allows great problems to arise (because the greatest problem of a divided, powerless, bride who is more conformed to the world that her own Groom is all to often egnored) to awaken and unite his chosen instrument to further the work of Christ in the earth. Problems like terrorism, sexual promiscuity and perversion, political corruption, economic hardship, and governmental oppression to cause men and women of God to deeply reconsider what the nature of the message of Christ really was and is for our lives and social order as well as for the nations of the earth. And not only to regain the original message of the gospel of the Kingdom but to become the Church Christ himself is truly building.
How daunting to recover and live out the original message, mission, and governmental order that Jesus intrusted to those Apostles of the Lamb? Yet we must be encouraged and see that this type of discussion was not on the radar screen of godly leaders even a few decades ago and now it is being "noised abroad" to almost every nation under heaven. The message of the Gospel of the Kingdom is becoming, as Bishop Kouri likes to remind, the plumb line in Zion. More and more Christians and "churches" are deciding that the impact they are having as the witness as light and salt is more important than institutional building (see missional churches and communities). Finally we can begin to relate and fellowship w/ what is the beginning of the restoration of the governmental structure and function of the New Testament Apostolate.
My encouragement is for those who have been entrusted w/ these "Mysteries of the Kingdom" is to teach and demonstrate them as if this is all there is, has ever been or ever will be. It is the complete lack of the knowledge of what we are sharing here that keeps the encroaching darkness looming. As we shout from the house tops and live out these historically hidden truths (the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Apostolate governmental order of Christ church) God will again pour out his Spirit and the days of refreshing will not only be upon us but will produce the end time harvest that will hasten the Day of Christ return.
Ps. Great job Jim, please keep this type of thoughtful and Kingdom advancing post coming.

Fri, July 3, 2015 @ 2:38 PM

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