Many wonderful deeds were done by the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. We can read about some of those exploits in the four “Gospels.” Luke, the beloved physician, also wrote about them in “The Acts of the Apostles.” They went about healing the sick and casting out devils. Some even raised the dead. Their exploits were so great that, unto this day, people think of them as some kind of super-human creatures.
Of course those men were not super-human. There was no aura around them, nor anything else to suggest that they were any different from anyone else. The Apostle Paul stated plainly, “We also are men of like passions with you.” They were simply men whom God was using at the time.
Actually, there is very little said in the “Gospels” or “The Acts” about the majority of the Twelve Apostles of Christ. The Gospels give us their names, and tell of their appointment to that venerable office. The book of “The Acts of the Apostles” also gives us their names, and then proceeds to tell us about only three of them.
We are told of the wonders performed by the Apostle Peter, and how he and John laid hands on some, and they received the baptism of the Holy Ghost. We are also told of the martyrdom of James, the brother of John. As Luke continued, he told us of Paul, Apollos, Barnabas and of James, the brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, these men are all called “Apostles” in the text of the New Testament.
When most Christians hear the word apostle, they think “twelve,” only twelve. Or we get the generic explanation that anyone who is “sent” is an apostle. As a result, when at least eight other Apostles are named in the Bible, the truth of the words simply does not register. The one exception to this is the Apostle Paul. However, when Barnabas is called an apostle in the same sentence with Paul, it is not received. Note Acts 14:14, “The apostles, Barnabas and Paul.”
The apostleship of Paul is deftly explained by most Bible teachers by insulting The Twelve; whom they profess to esteem so highly. They argue that the Apostles made a mistake when they ordained Matthias. Supposedly they should have waited seven years or more for Paul to be converted. But what are we to do with the apostleship of Barnabas and seven or so others, including James, The Lord’s brother. (Gal. 1:19)
Apostleship is a gift. It is not merely a number or an office. The gifts of Apostle and Prophet are given to whomever God decides to give them, and He gives them according to a man’s ability. (Matt. 25:15) That did not end when they finished writing the New Testament. In fact, Paul said that those gifts were given, “until we all come in the unity of the faith.” As you can see, that has not happened yet.
Since the record tells about the exploits of only a few of the Apostles, we must conclude that God had something else in mind, other than the veneration of those great men. Neither was the record given for purely historical purposes. It was for the veneration of the true author of the Holy Scriptures: The Creator Himself, showing that He, in His wisdom, had foretold of all those things from the beginning of the world.
The prayer of Peter and John, with their “Company,” in Acts 4:24-28, illustrates this point well. “They lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, ‘Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.’ For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.”
Their persecution of Jesus Christ was a momentous historical event, but it was much more: they were fulfilling prophecy.
Most Christians today believe in salvation through the scriptures, but they completely miss the prophetic side of the Word of God. They view the Old Testament much as the Jews did during the ministry of our Lord. Yes, Paul’s statement, in 2 Cor. 3:13-15, is equally applicable to Christianity today. “Even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart.” So let us take to heart the admonition which Jesus gave unto them. “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify (prophesy) of me.” (John 5:39)
The Bible does much more than show us the way of eternal life; and I’m not referring to its value as a Jewish account of world history. It reveals the plan of God to us. The Old Testament is a history, of sorts, but that is not its stated purpose. It is an account of selected historical events involving the creation, and the first four thousand years of man’s time on earth. Each of those events was selected, and written, because it could be used to reveal something about the plan of God.
The record of the creation, in the first chapter of Genesis, reveals work which God had planned to do during man’s first seven thousand years on the Earth. For instance, on the third day, God caused life to spring forth upon the earth. Likewise, in the third millennium, God gave to Israel the living oracles. He said to Moses, “I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil.” Paul agreed, saying, “Death reigned from Adam to Moses.”
Notice how the Son of God described the Old Testament record of the first four thousand years in Matt. 11:13, “All the prophets and the law prophesied until John.” The Old Testament describes itself in the same manner. Isa. 46:9-10 is a good example.
“Remember the former things of old: for I am God and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”
The New Testament is also a selective history of events which were the fulfillment of prophecies in the Old. For instance, in Acts 12:23, we are told about the death of Herod, because his death fulfilled the prophecy in Isa. 51:7,8. “Fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings, for the worm shall eat them.”
The very thrust of the Word of God is the giving of prophecy in the Old and New Testaments, and the fulfilling of it in the New Testament. The central theme of that prophecy was the coming of The Son of God. He did come in “the volume of the book - written of (Him).” And He will yet come again, as it is written in the Law and the Prophets. Yet, there is another large volume of the book which is given to God’s Elect to fulfill, and, Peter said that Jesus will not return until we have fulfilled it. (Acts 3:20,21) “The Scriptures cannot be broken.” Where are the men who are willing to bear the responsibility of this great work? We should begin to inquire, “Where are the apostles and prophets, who can reveal these things to us?”
Many of the prophesies have already been fulfilled. The time of the coming of our King “is near, even at the doors.” “The day,” which Peter mentioned in 2 Peter 1:16-19, is beginning to dawn. God’s Elect must quickly “awake out of sleep” (Eph. 5:14-17), and become well advised of the prophecies concerning the Man of God, whom God has sent to prepare for His Jesus’ arrival. Understanding those prophecies, we will be able to recognize him, and help him to complete the fulfillment of our volume of prophecy which God has given to him for us. (Col. 1:25)