The Cause of the Present Distress
Departure from the teaching of the Pauline Epistles was the beginning of apostasy in the Church – the commencement of the dark ages. The Reformation was an awakening to a sense of this disobedience, but it was only “in-part”, and the condition of the numerous Churches today exhibits as sad a condition (from another point of view), as the Church before the Reformation, and needs another Reformation, as great (though of another kind and in a different direction).
To see the root causes of this confusion we shall have to go back to the beginning, & see what Paul`s ministry really was, and was intended to be. It is recorded in Acts Ch. 13 thru Ch. 28. It is not taken up until after the record of peters ministry is closed.
Paul (Acts Ch. 13 thru Ch.28) proclaims to Jews & gentiles alike, perfection. Apart from all ordinances, in union with Christ, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. He preaches Christ as the Head of His body, the Church. He declares “all the council of God” (Acts 20:27). He “…Fully preaches the Word of God” (Col. 1:25). Paul’s ministry completes the testimony which thus, in connection with the Parable of the Great Supper, ends in grace; while the ministry of Peter & the Twelve, in connection with the parable of the Dinner ends in judgment. See Matt. 22:7 where we have the significant words: “He sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.”
This refers to the destruction of Jerusalem. While the third ministry (begun by Paul) to the gentiles is carried on after that destruction, during the National rejection, & while Jerusalem lies desolate. No words could more distinctly express the present dispensation of Grace to the Gentiles given to the apostle Paul.
After speaking the parable of the Great Supper, the Lord first lays down the great truth that those who receive Him must be prepared to give up all, (including Judaism.)
Luke 14:26, 27: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple “
This is exemplified by Paul in Philippians 3:7, 8, where all that he once counted as “gain” he counted as dross and loss for Christ’s sake:
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ”.
This is followed by three solemn illustrations as to this coming change in the dispensation, ending with the words in verse 35 (Luke 14:35),
“…he that hath ears to hear let him hear”. They are:
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he hath sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.” (Luke 14:28-30)
“Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple”. (Luke 14:31-33)
“Salt is good: but if the salt hath lost it’s savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
These are given after the rejection of Israel had been spoken of in verse 24 :
“For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.” (Luke 14:34-35)
Three solemn warnings are conveyed by these as to the folly of claiming the Apostolic Commission and authority when not possessing Apostolic power: the warning which Christendom did not heed, & the error into which it has fallen.
The Building of the Tower
The Lord gave authority and power to His apostles to gather a people to His Great Supper-
“Then he called His twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases” (Luke 9:1)
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
“And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)
“Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14)
This was connected first of all with Jerusalem:
“And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.”
…and with Himself as the King of Israel and Lord of all.
Paul’s ministry of “The Gospel of the Grace of God,” was to be continued & carried on among Jews & Gentiles alike, calling out the members of Christ’s Spiritual Body until that Body should be complete.
“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
By this illustration of the “Tower” the Lord warns us not to claim this apostolic authority, unless we have the power to complete the work by the laying-on-of-hands, & the bestowal of miraculous gifts. Which were the inseparable signs of that power and that authority. (In other words-we are not to begin to “build”, unless we are able to “finish”, an appointed or True Apostle will always finish the work he began)
Instead of this, men soon began to build the Church upon the foundation of the Kingdom; they began to build this Tower, and they went to war with the great enemy. They assumed to act in “Apostolic Succession”, but were destitute of its authority and power. The result of this attempt to build the Tower is another Babel as shown in Genesis 11, & it will now soon end in another Babylon as revealed in Revelation 17:5- That which claims to be the continuation of the ministry committed to the twelve apostles becomes: “Babylon, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth”
The Lord Jesus sent forth His Apostles to proclaim the Kingdom of God, with power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. (As listed previously in Luke 9:1)
This was the proof that the Kingdom of God had come to Israel:
“But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.” ( Luke 11:20)
The parable teaches plainly the change in character of the gospel as sent to the Gentiles by Paul from its character as addressed by Peter and the Twelve to Israel. To Israel it proclaimed the Lord Jesus as the King, by his apostles as the heralds of His authority and power; but now to the Gentiles, afar off, the ministers of the Gospel are ambassadors of Christ, desiring His enemies to be reconciled to God.
Those therefore, who in any sense lay claim to the figment of “Apostolic Succession” & those who: while they reject it, yet ignorantly assume the continuation of the apostolic ministry (after the authority, and power, and sign-gifts have alike ceased), are trying to build this Tower, but are unable to finish it. Nay worse, far worse than this, this building results in another tower of Babel-for confusion is the meaning of its name, & confusion is what we see everywhere around us.
They are unable to cope with the great king with whom they contend: they “forsake not” those things they have as in Luke 11:33: “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.”
& they cannot be, as the Lord Jesus says, “My disciples.”
They may pretend to be the Apostles `successors, but are not Christ’s disciples. The great lesson for us lies in the fact that the apostasy of Christendom began in the departure from the teaching committed to Paul concerning “The Mystery”, or the great Secret concerning the Church of God as the Body of Christ, “the pillar and ground” of all Church truth.
ORDINANCES ARE THE TEST!
Paul’s “teaching” in Ephesians 4 declares that Christ is made of God the Head of the Church, which is His Body, and that true believers are the “members of Christ”, indwelt by the “one Spirit”, wherewith, by the “one baptism” they have been baptized by the “one Lord” in to the “one Body”; that these members of Christ are sanctified in Christ, & are called by God into fellowship with His Son; that they are one Spirit with Him, & are “the temple of the living God”. For these, “Christ hath abolished in his flesh, the law of commandments contained in the ordinances”. Colossians 2 gives us their true standing. They are: “And ye are complete in him…” (Col.2:10) Hence, their circumcision is that which is “made without hands” being “the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:11). And if their circumcision is effected without hands, then, of necessity their baptism must be of the same character.
Their baptism is Christ burial:
“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Col.2:12) For them ordinances are “blotted out” and “taken out of the way”:“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14) & they are asked “Why, if they died with Christ from rudiments, that is, religious ordinances, are they “subject to ordinances after the commandments and doctrines of men?” : “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?” (Col.2:20-22).
Thank God, there are those who thus know their completeness and perfection in Christ! And what was…
“THE TEACHING OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES?”
In 1883 there was published under this title, “The teaching of the Twelve Apostles” a manuscript, then recently discovered in the library of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, at Constantinople. The date of the manuscript was June 13th, 1056: but all scholars are agreed that it is a copy of a work which was originally written in the last quarter of the first century. Its existence had long been known, for it had been quoted by Sub-Apostolic Fathers- Barnabas (A.D. 71) & Hermas (A.D. 100), & by Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 192). Eusebias (H.E.3:2 in (330-340 A.D.) mentions it as well-known in his day, and classes it among the “controverted books” of the Canon.
The work consists entirely of moral precepts, and rules as to prayer, fasting, baptism, and the Eucharist, & ends with a solemn reference to the Coming of the Lord and the Resurrection of the dead.
We cannot, of course, believe that this was the actual teaching of the Twelve. But this is what it had degenerated into before the close of the first century. We can well understand why all Sacramentarians should hail the appearance of this ancient writing: and instead of seeing in it the corruption of Christianity, and the commencement of the Apostasy, should welcome it, and make it the ground of their own “teaching”. But it shows a lack of discernment indeed for others to speak of this Didache, Or “Teaching of the Twelve” with approbation, and to see in it a model for the present day, Instead of a departure from Primitive Christianity. Alas! The teaching of Paul was soon apostatized from! – and even the teaching of the Twelve was corrupted! That corruption may be summed up in two words.
MORALITY AND ORDINANCES
Is not this exactly what we see around us on every hand today? Holding fast to these two, the other two have been abandoned & practically lost, viz., (1) The coming of the Lord, & (2) resurrection as the hope of the Church!
This was the cause, the beginning, of the apostasy of Christendom: this it was, that led up to and brought on” the dark ages”: and this is the secret cause of “the present distress in the churches.”
The ministry of Paul is rejected, and the ministry of the twelve is still carried on by those who, though destitute of the Apostles’ authority and power, impose on their hearers “the commandments and doctrines of men,” and put them in subjection to “ordinances”: and worse than that, they add “commandments”…”touch not, taste not, handle not”! Christianity today has woefully degenerated. Ordinances have become more and more positive in their character: preaching is everywhere being set aside, while even morality itself becomes more and more negative! For the most part it consists in abstinence from this or that: and in vows and pledges. It is “touch NOT, taste NOT, Handle NOT”; but “all are to perish with the using,” (Col. 2:22) and all are characteristic of the ministry which is now being everywhere exercised. The End