A Word on Apostles and SGM

As a movement, SGM has historical roots in “apostolic ministry” – an authoritative body consisting of “uniquely gifted men” who plant churches, provide authoritative oversight over local churches and frame the doctrinal boundaries of those churches. In more recent years, the emphasis has been to move away from a formal apostolicity and speak more of SGM as an association of local churches with SGM exercising no formal authority over local churches.

This backdrop may come as a surprise to those from the Reformed camp who know of SGM from a distance as observers, especially if they have come to interact with SGM in the past 6-8 years. However, the facts are irrefutable –  SGM has roots in the idea of apostles who function authoritatively over local churches, without accountability to those local churches.

More recently, there are indications that the new board with Phil Sasser, John Loftness and CJ Mahaney are advocating for a return to apostles.  In my humble opinion, they are doing this in great part because SGM has lost relevance and influence over local churches. Over the years, they have failed to add significant value by way of leadership and arguably in some regions, have mismanaged the association of local churches. I won’t detail the mismanagement here but only to say – it was linked to poor processes in defining polity, patterns of disingenuous leadership and a lack of communication.

SGM’s response to this? Bring back apostolic ministry.

As a response to this recent development, I’d like to address the topic of apostles but with a caveat that there is no way that a simple blog post can cover all elements of whether apostolic ministry is doctrinally sound or wise.   Instead, this blog post serves as a hopefully helpful commentary on the topic of modern day apostles, especially as it relates to SGM.

To the point of apostles in SGM, let me say right from the outset – in my opinion, SGM has to “clear” two hurdles.  First, doctrinally – are apostles a valid, continuing office for the church today.  In other words – is the office of the apostle for the present day?

Second, simply put – why SGM?  Even if apostles are a valid, continuing office for today, why should these men be regarded as apostles or be invested with such authority?  I ask this respectfully – where does their authority come from?

Are Apostles for Today?

In answering whether apostles are a current, continuing office of the church, I would suggest that it begins with deciphering how the early church understood apostles.   Here’s why that’s important – a wrong, misapplied hermenuetic on this topic will lead to the wrong conclusions.   Instead, we need to begin by unpacking how NT describes or defines apostles and move toward our conclusions from that point.

Let’s begin by looking at what is meant by the word “apostles” (apostolos) – literally denoting “someone who is sent”.  So, in some sense, the word carries a generalized meaning.  However, while it may be used in a general way to denote a “messenger” or “sent one”, it is overwhelmingly used in the NT in a very specific way to denote a special office of the church (73/80 times).  This is what theologians will sometimes refer to as a “technical” definition of apostles.

Of the remaining non-technical instances, one specifically refers to Jesus Christ – in Hebrews 3:1 where he is referred to as the “apostle and high priest of our confession”.  Exploring this further, the general/non-technical use of the phrase as a “messenger” or “sent one” is used definitively only 3-4 times.  An example of this is in Philippians 2:25 where Epaphroditus is referenced as a “messenger” (ESV).

I’m highlighting this to emphasize that when the NT speaks of apostles, it is primarily referring to a special authoritative office and secondarily on a few occasions, a general messenger.   Hence, the idea of “lowercase a”, “semi-technical” apostles promoted by SGM is in my humble opinion, ill-founded.   In other words,  if you are seeking to stake a biblically consistent position around the validity of modern day apostles,  you need to either point to apostles in the lineage of the original Twelve or a variant of a general messenger/delegate like Epaphroditus.   What you shouldn’t do is invent a new type of apostle that is not biblically supported

With regard to the NT apostles, it is generally recognized that apostles have two qualifying characteristics –  First, apostles have received a direct commission from Jesus Christ. In other words, the basis for their unique authority comes directly from Jesus.  Second, apostles are eyewitnesses of the risen Christ.   Paul refers to this as validation of his unique calling (1 Cor 9:1).   It must be said that this is a necessary but insufficient attribute since not all who witnessed the risen Christ are deemed apostles.

It is important to note that as a class, these apostles also functioned in a unique, authoritative, foundation laying way. Together with local church elders, they made critical decisions that shaped the foundational understanding of the practice of law and grace in the life of the early church.   This was vitally important as the church moved from a marginal Jewish sect to a global faith.  Primarily, through the work of Paul, Peter and James, they wrote scripture that set the basis for the doctrine and practice of church life.

As such, the Twelve, together with Paul are recognized explicitly as apostles, having directly received their commission from Jesus Christ. (Luke 6:13-16, Galatians 1:1).  The uniqueness of this direct commission is noted even in the appointment of Matthias (Acts 1:21-26). James and Barnabas are not explicitly stated as apostles although a strong case can be made for them (Acts 14:14 for Barnabas).   James in particular, was noted as an eyewitness of the risen Christ (1 Cor 15:7) and also recognized publicly as being of similar authority to the Twelve in the Jerusalem council (Acts 15).

Further, we need to ask ourselves the following question – “how were they perceived in the life of the early church – were they perceived as unique or simply as one of a multitude, continuing line of apostles?”    I believe a reading of the NT will indicate that they were recognized as functioning in a historically unique role.  One example of their unique role – their words were represented to their contemporaries, as scripture or commands from God Himself (2 Peter 3:2, 2 Peter 3:16, 1 Cor 14:37).

Building on this point, it must be noted that the NT offers no indication regarding the succession of apostles.  Nor did Paul or any other NT writer provide qualifications for apostles similar to qualifications for supposedly “lesser” offices of elders and deacons. Here’s my point – if this significantly authoritative and vitally important role was meant to extend beyond the early church, how would an all-loving, all-wise God omit such critical information on how to qualify and select future apostles?

For all the aforementioned reasons, to my mind, there is no question that these men were unique in their role and office.  Together with Jesus Christ, the Chief Apostle, they were foundational in history and life of the church.

“So then you are no longer )strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,”  (Ephesians 2:19-20)

A natural question arises – if in fact apostles are foundational to the church of Jesus Christ, what becomes of apostolic authority today and how is that authority expressed?    The answer as most evangelicals will offer is that apostolic authority is expressed in their writings in the NT.    As Christians, our confidence and arguably the confidence in the building of the church, rests not in the “unique giftings” of present day apostles but in Holy Scripture.

Let me finish this post by saying that I know there are many of you, especially long time SGM members who will disagree with me.  I respect you and your point of view – I really do.   However, I humbly submit to you that the understanding that apostles were a unique class and that the office no longer continues in the present day, is orthodox, evangelical belief.   In seeking to find a new form of church government, I would strongly suggest that SGM can ill-afford to experiment by creating its own theological construct for apostolic ministry.

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49 thoughts on “A Word on Apostles and SGM

  1. I appreciate your efforts. However, maybe it is my Baptist upbringing, but I can’t be convinced that apostles have ceased unless clearly demonstrated in Scripture. By your method, we should assume all of what we hold to in terms of our charismatic heritage in SGM has also ceased. I also don’t consider theologians the last word on these issues, specially contemporary ones. I am sure you have read Brent’s post on this. He lays out a rock solid case for why they exist and nothing you offer here refutes it. I know you haven’t laid out an exhaustive argument here, but if you are going to argue they have ceased, I would like to see you at least refute Brent’s case.

    I am open to changing my position on this, really I am. It would make life easier in many respects. However, I just don’t see it in Scripture. I have yet to see anyone make this case without their argument hinging upon on theologians. I would like to see the argument hinge primarily on Scripture.

    • Jenn – I respect you and your Baptist roots but there’s a reason why Baptist don’t believe in apostles. Respectfully, when you start with – show scriptures where the office of apostles have ceased, you start from the wrong place. It’s a hermeneutic challenge and Brent has started from the wrong place of justifying apostles for the present day. The right approach is to understand how NT early church understood apostles. I’m sorry that my writing didn’t draw that out with more clarity and thanks to your comment, I’ve adjusted the post by adding a paragraph explaining this need for the right hermeneutic. I’m not saying this to disrespect Brent but you cannot build an entire theological construct for polity around Ephesians 4:11 which speaks of apostles as a unique, foundational class of individuals, not a continuing present office.

      • Thanks for your explanation, but, the gift of being an apostle is listed alongside other gifts in Eph. 4. Your explanation does not explain that away. Also, why does Paul mix apostles among other gifts in 1 Cor 12:8-10? You can’t cherry-pick which gifts cease and which don’t without a clear indication in Scripture. This same practice is how people falsely arrive at a Third Wave view.

        I think the question behind this debate is, “Do we believe in the complete canon of Scripture or not?” I do. Respectfully, you have not convinced me through Scripture that they have ceased, you have only given me man’s take on why they have ceased, and that argument is shot through with holes. You can’t overcome a clear stating in Scripture of a gift with inferences concluded by man – that bears no weight.

        Now, I in no way advocate how SGM has walked out its application of this gifting. First, and probably foremost, i am not sure there are men qualified to lead as apostles today. Again, this polity debate takes us away from the true issues within SGM – sin. As much as I loathe SGM’s sin focus, neglect of the principle of “putting on” godliness, and the legalism that has ensued from this, it doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that there are qualifications for leadership and right now, no current leadership team member, wither perhaps the exception of Tommy Hill, meets those standards, and Tommy’s unique role does not fall within the discussion of apostles at all. Second, like you, I do not see
        these different classes of apostles. Again, man’s invention, not found in Scripture. I believe in Apostles, Evangelists, and Prophets. If they were alive and functioning in SGM today, SGM would be fruit-bearing, self-correcting organization.

        To be honest, this whole mess has left me disillusioned with those that hold to reformed theology. I still believe much of reformed theology, but I find little fruit among those who profess it and less among those who are passionate about it. I haven’t worked through the disconnect yet, but it is real. Perhaps it is because they are like the church at Ephesus, they have lost their first love in their pursuit of sound doctrine.

      • It’s absolutely ok to disagree w my point of view. I just want to make sure I state my case clearly – You interpret scripture within the context of the author’s intent and its time and place in history. My position is this – in its time and place, the readers would have understood the Paul as describing apostles as class of individuals who play a unique role. So when you look at Eph 4:11 and the readers come to apostles, they understood that these individuals were special. Also, 73/80 times in NT the word is used referring to the Twelve or Paul. My point is that I don’t see anyone resembling Paul or the Twelve in operation today.

      • I think Jenn may have mentioned something extremely important:
        “Perhaps it is because they are like the church at Ephesus, they have lost their first love in their pursuit of sound doctrine.”

        I think this has indeed been a snare in which the SGM leaders have been trapped over the last few years. Here’s my admittedly weak analogy:

        I live in California, about a six hour drive from the incredible backcountry of the Sierras. If I want to experience the grandeur and breathtaking beauty of the Yosemite high country, I am going to need good hiking maps. Without good maps, I will soon become lost . . . and possibly dead. I’m thankful for good maps; in fact, any journey without the maps is foolish.

        In my analogy, the glorious beauty of the Yosemite wilderness represents knowing and experiencing God. The maps represent “sound doctrine”. The “sound doctrine maps” are tools I use for the end goal of experiencing the glory of God’s creation. I need the maps, but I don’t return home telling my family about how awesome the maps were; I don’t shoot photos of my maps laying next to my tent; I don’t attend conferences where we celebrate the maps. I come back with memories and/or photos of God’s creation . . . which in turn makes me want to worship the God who has made this beauty. That’s the goal: to whisper to myself “Thank you God for your majesty! You are so great! Thank you making me your own!”

        Here’s the point: “sound doctrine” is a means to an end, not the end itself. The goal is to belong to God and experience His life-changing power . . . and to become conformed to the image of His son.

        I’m afraid that “sound doctrine” may have eclipsed the simplicity of loving God and loving people (Luke 10:27). Leaders of SGM, return to your first love. There is unlimited forgiveness and fresh power available.

      • Al – thanks for stopping by. Your analogy is helpful and I agree with many points you made. However, I honestly cannot comment if SGM and its leaders have lost their 1st love. I don’t even know my own heart, much less theirs. This I do know – I would not place my confidence in men who see themselves as uniquely gifted without accountability- that’s crazy talk and no reformed denomination subscribes to such a view. Frankly, it’s is the starting point of cults and spiritual abuses – it’s also not sustainable. Unlike Jenn, I am not at all disillusioned w Reformed theology – have I’ve been a little jaded by celebrity pastors in the Reformed circles? Perhaps – but that’s their problem even more than it is mine. But Reformed theology that preaches a sovereign God who lovingly calls and compels sinners to repentance is just sweet gospel – I’ll stake my life on it.

  2. Thanks for the post! Do you really think that there will be a move back toward an apostolic model? I was under the impression that SGM had moved away from it primarily due to the influence of Jeff Purswell, who is on the polity committee. I honestly can’t see a move back, it would be too obvious, and controversial in the circles SGM runs in. I suspect what will be proposed is some sort of hybrid system where “councils of elders” (aka, influential SGM pastors) will take on regional and national roles of authority over the local churches. Conveniently, a lot of the SGM leadership will now be in elder positions in this new Louisville church. Yes, I think they want to keep control rather than be a parachurch support organization, and yes, I have become a bit cynical…

    I was glad to see you brought up the absence of qualifications for an ongoing office of apostle in the Bible. I have thought often that surely if God had intended it to be an office in the church with an authority exceeding that of the elders and deacons He would have not been silent on the topic of how to recognize and qualify them. I suspect that if there were modern apostles, they would be more likely to look like missionaries and church planters, as ones sent forth from a local church. I also think that if there is a modern apostleship, it is not an office, but a spiritual gift, like teaching, evangelism, tongues, miracles, etc. It is included in lists like this in a couple places in the NT. As a spiritual gift, it would be somewhat self-evidencing, and function “under” the authority of the local church and not over it. Just some random thoughts, thanks again for your thoughtful posts!

    • Disillusioned – if you haven’t read some of what Phil Sasser, Nathan Sasser and Daniel Baker have written, you probably should. Make no mistake, there is a contingent who believe in apostolic ministry and they are now in seat of power. I think it’ll be interesting to understand if Jeff Purswell will change his postion on this. I suspect that Mahaney and Loftness are also in favor of apostles since it would reestablish their relevance and influence over the local churches.

  3. An appeal to orthodox evangelical belief would lead us into arguments regarding cessasionism in general which SGM has been travelling towards practically if not theologically. It is the accomodation of orthodox evangelicals that has caused us to vere away from the course upon which God set us out. In general it is not “orthodox evangelicals” that are the most zealous, active and the doers in reaching out to this world (fruitful).
    It seems to me the issue is not that of apostles but of authority and relationship as apostles will give their lives away serving others and go without rather than burden others. Many are doing this ministry without fanfare or being the top of a pyramid. They are not establishing frameworks, strategies or methods just following the Holy Spirit, inspired by the word to do what Jesus did . They are gifted Ephesians 4 ministries who are servants of the Lord doing that which God has called them to do. Jesus is the chief apostle and that aspect of his ministry has not ceased.
    Our next argument will likely be about the rest of Eph 4:11 – prophets etc

    • Orthodox evangelicals are not solely (or primarily?) represented by cessasionist. In fact, Assemblies of God who I regard as orthodox evangelicals is the fastest growing denomination worldwide. The number that believe in modern day authoritative apostles are miniscule and far as I know, none sustained for multiple generations of succession.

      • I was trying to say that the (SGM) modern day apostles do not match the NT apostles in behaviour, ministry or demonstration of the Spirits power but it does not not negate the need of apostles for the building up of the church today as per Eph4:11.
        My background would have experienced orthodox evangelicals as cessationist.
        Orthodoxy as those who claim to be today tends towards frameworks, methodology, positions and definitions which God will not be limited within.

      • Paul – I do agree w the 1st part of your statement (SGM apostles do not match NT apostles) and grateful for the dialogue. In my reply to Jenn Grover, I make the point, there is no one like Paul running around today. So what kind of apostle is in view if not similar to Paul or Twelve? Scripture offers one other option – a general delegate or messenger but that individual isn’t authoritative.

  4. As I’ve read over what the NT says about apostles, I would disagree about how the word is used as far as specific vs. general. I’m not a scholar, so I’d be interested in any resources you used, but Paul seems to use the term very loosely. Barnabas, Silas and Timothy are referred to as apostles by Paul, and I don’t believe that any of them were eyewitnesses of the risen Christ. Additionally, other than the one instance that you mention, Paul’s use of the word apostle can often make more sense when read in the more general sense.

    All of that said, Paul rarely (and technically never) talks about apostles removing elders it seems that there is a hard case to be made for an apostle today having authority over an elder. A looser understanding of apostles (like Barnabas, Silas and Timothy) would mean that an apostle today is an extension of the office of elder, that could be called a ‘sent elder’.

  5. They already tried the apostolic experiment. The experiment failed. For men who would be apostles to decide to resurrect that status and terminology would seem to be a clear case of foisting one’s personally desired status on the text. Anyone who is tempted to nod their head and go along with the SGM explanation if changes in this direction come out of the polity committee should take a long, hard, deep look at everything these men say, measure it against Scripture and ask the crucial “why” and “why not” questions.

    If SGM leaders have a conviction about being reformed and apostolic and charismatic, why not join with and come under the authority of Anglicans who are all those things already? At least then they already have a structure with built in accountability that has stood the test of time – and they would be standing with faithful brothers and sisters who have sacrificed for their convictions. They could still have drums and sing praise and worship songs – plus great historic liturgy! And they believe in the present day work of the Holy Spirit through sign gifts. And they have a reformed soteriology. So why not join them and allow them to vet your leaders and see if they are qualified under their apostolic understanding?

    Sure, God has used SGM (and SGM has hurt people by following after things that weren’t of God too) but God doesn’t NEED SGM. Maybe SGM needs the Anglican communion?

    Now I’m not Anglican, but it’s a thought…

    Or, if SGM leaders can’t abide something about Anglicanism, they could just give up on the apostolic stuff and their commitment to an exalted view of their personal authority and become Reformed Baptists. I’m sure Mark Dever would be happy to talk with them about how it is possible for a church to be elder-led and congregational.

    • Or better yet, why not go with the number One true brand and become Roman Catholic?

      In some instances, CJ’s disobedience to his own parents (God’s authority in his life at that time) has been romanticized. By leaving his parent’s church, he was leaving something bad and blazing new trails. I posit that CJ rejected his own parent’s authority and left the Catholic church and as a result, Sovereign Grace was born out of rebellion. If a Sovereign Grace child did that, they would be chastised. But for CJ, it was ok to do.

      • Elizabeth – welcome. Interesting theory but since I don’t know anything of CJ’s relationship to his parents, I prefer to stay away from that altogether. I do agree w you that if you’re going the apostle route – the #1 brand as you call it, is the RC church – they are at least logically consistent.

  6. CJ and Larry had the opportunity, when being discipled by pastor Richard Kline of Halpine Baptist many years ago, to go to seminary. It was in fact, the specific advice of Pastor Kline that they do so. The declined and broke off the relationship. Thus the potential benefit of a more informed polity or structure ended there as well.

    The ‘Apostolic’ call of God was the primary reason given for the split as God was ushering in the days where the church would collect his people under one church. According to CJ. Once that church had completed its work, Christ would return for his unstained bride. That church was CLC, and all things SGM have flowed from this vision. This is why we, the SGM members were as Josh Harris said, ‘Put to task.’ That is why we were the ‘happiest place on earth.’ We were to be the unstained bride that would bring Christ’s return. Perhaps not in this generation, but soon.

    SGM may change titles, and come up with unique interpretations of what a modern day apostle is. The SGM practice has ‘seemed’ to have changed over the years, yet CJ’s belief and practice of said calling, or his expectations for the laity, may never change. What the rest of the other 8000 denominations of Christianity believe is irrelevant to CJ’s ‘calling’ and ‘mission.’

    EMSoliDeoGloria –
    It’s no experiment, just SGM fumbling for the right words, terms, scriptures, and practices to garner the widest acceptance as SGM seeks further influence on the rest of the Christian world. Hence the saying, “Constant change is here to stay.”

    • Unassimliated – I can’t comment about the early days but there were lots that we all didn’t understand – pastors included. So I have no problem that Larry and CJ “got it wrong”. What I don’t agree w/ is capitulating to apostles in our polity when we now know better by biblical teaching AND experience. All in search of relevance for SGM corporate

      • I have no issue with them getting it wrong either, as human beings we are all fallible. My life at times feels like a never ending apology. We do know better from teaching and experience. The question for me is what CJ has learned from teaching and experience. This current gaze at the role of an apostle along side the history of CJ’s personal apostolic calling that brought CLC into existence, and later PDI/SGM, has me concerned.

        SGM should either embrace a para-church role, or define themselves as a denomination. So many paths have been taken before, so the risk is, at least on paper, becoming no different than an existing denomination.

        SGM is not alone in this search for relevance. Proclivity, and nostalgia only go so far in keeping the seats full. Preaching the grace, forgiveness, and completed work of Christ well, puts one at risk of leaving the laity thinking there is not much left to do.

        To gather the flock, and prepare the bride, which is still the purpose of SGM, requires leaders that one is accountable to. The title of Pastor or friend are more than sufficient to me. Those that walk along side of you tend to have more influence than those that simply talk at you with a list of requirements.

        That does not seem to be the preference of SGM though. Which has me wondering if they still think more highly of themselves than they should.
        The title of Apostle, big or little a, is perhaps the fruit of said thinking, and therefore a secondary issue to the heart of the matter.

      • I said “Which has me wondering if they still think more highly of themselves than they should.The title of Apostle, big or little a, is perhaps the fruit of said thinking, and therefore a secondary issue to the heart of the matter.”

        I learn today that in a very recent sermon, presumably referring to CJ, Ken Mellinger Quoted this from Teddy Roosevelt “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”

        *sigh*

  7. Still, at the end of the day, you demonstrate nothing in Scripture itself to support your cessationist views. This is the typical problem with cessationists. When Paul grocery lists gifts, you can’t just pick the ones you think have stopped, The hermenuetical mistake is not supporting your argument with Scripture. That is foundational. The distinction you indicate is inferred by men and not clear in Scripture. There is no Scriptural evidence of these distinctions.

    I wouldn’t stake my life on reformed theology. I don’t agree with infant baptism. I am not so sure about limited atonement. I doubt anyone claim to know for sure how to interpret Revelations. Blessing is promised for those who read it not those who completely get it. Reformed theology for all its hubris, pretends to be the last word on everything and that is the fruit we see from SGM leaders.

      • I also believe there is only one Moses, one Jesus Christ, one John the Baptist, one Bible – that the canon of scripture is closed… That’s not being a cessasionist, that’s believing that there are unique persons or roles in the life and history of the church. The great majority of Pentecostals and Charismatics don’t believe in continuing office of the apostle – they believe it to be unique. I happen to know that well because that was indeed my background – there is nothing about that view that is cessasionist.

        Ironically, the apostolic ministry is part and parcel of the SGM Koolaid. It led to the SGM exceptionalism which is where modern day apostolic ministry typically leads to. The idea that there are modern day apostles that will “restore the church” to its proper place of glory is where all this originated. It’s based on the idea that CJ is exceptional, Larry T is exceptional, and somehow they will lead us to a better day. We bought into this and it lives on currently in SGM – in long time members who long for the “good old days” (that actually wasn’t really all good) and the leadership that currently still don’t get it. They will promote apostolic ministry because it perpetuates this notion and I am hoping to shed light that it is actually biblically ill founded. I’m not trying to be argumentative so do feel free to respond to my comment here but since I’ve made my point unconvincingly to some (probably due to my poor articulation), I probably won’t continue to repeat those same points in the comments. Thanks for at least considering my point of view on apostles.

      • Yes, but you are mixing apples and oranges – none of the things you just listed are listed by Paul in a list of gifts. Really, not trying to be argumentative, again, I would rather be convinced, but it will take some strong Scriptural support.

  8. This post by Nate Sasser was interesting: ourbackpages.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/delegating-the-churchs-mission-j-h-thornwell-and-the-future-of-sgm/
    In one respect, he seems to make the point that extra-local authority develops no matter what polity you have – congregational churches like Southern Baptist Churches have the IMB which operates with authority often similar to the Presbyterian Church

    • If that’s his point, he’s being intellectually dishonest. The SBC operates as a loose association of local churches. Each local church is “self governing” – there is no authoritative body over the local church. The Presbyterians have a a different structure w a governing body for certain matters of church order – discipline of pastors/teaching elders, etc… but the governing body emanates out of the local churches. Sasser promotes the idea of apostolic ministry – which I happen to believe is not biblically supported … hey, but what do I know, I’m just a regular church member.

      • He wasn’t arguing that they operate the same way, only that the SBC has developed extra-local authority through its mission board, even though we don’t normally associate extra-local authority with the SBC. As that applies to SGM, he made the point that extra-local authority will still develop even if SGM pastors elect to become independent. All of that was to support his main point that he thinks that boards and parachurch organizations are not necessarily biblical (and so not necessarily good), and that its preferable to have a biblically defined office like that of an apostle. I think he does make a good point when he argues that extra-local authority develops in one capacity or another whether churches are independent or not. I’d be interested in your thoughts on that if you’re able to read his post.

        I’m also interested in hearing where you got the 73/80 ratio. Although I probably disagree with Nate on a couple points, I think that his most recent post (http://ourbackpages.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/are-all-apostles-eyewitnesses-of-the-resurrection/) was strong. To me it seems that the 73/80 argument is too general and misses some of the arguments he makes in that post, such as the issue of whether Timothy or Barnabas had seen the risen Christ, or that the criteria for Matthias was having been with the disciples from the beginning, rather than seeing Christ post-resurrection.

        From reading Nate’s posts, its evident that this topic is in flux for SGM and I’m glad you’re interacting with the theology of polity as a member, which is the same as what I want to do.

      • Mission boards are not extra local authority over local churches. They are a delegated body w limited function. Don’t let him or anyone else play extrapolated word games. As example, if a group of churches want to pool monies to help orphans, that is not the imposition of extra local authority – that’s a cooperative. In fact, the local churches may have authority over the coop body but not the other way around.

  9. Even if SGM wants to argue for some sort of continuing authoritative role they call “apostle” it is the height of arrogance for such a group to not be accountable to others.

    I do not believe the NT teaches a continuing office, role or anything else you might want to call apostle. They were foundational to the church. The foundation was laid – once – like any other building – spiritual or physical.

    SGM can call themselves apostles and thereby guarantee their future marginalization. But to not be accountable to others is lunacy and exactly how they arrived in Louisville.

    By the way, there is no explicit NT teaching that says women can take part in the Lord’s Supper but we’re okay with that practice. You don’t need specific instruction to know that a practice or an office has ended within Scripture.

    “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, fiath, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be decuced from Scripture…” (WCF I:III)

    • Done R – I think there are some who want apostles – they are free to hold to that belief. Ongoing, current apostles are not biblically supportable – there are only 2 classes of apostles per NT – what SGM calls big A apostles and a general messenger. They can take their pick on which category they fall into. What they shouldn’t do is invent a new category.

    • Benjamin Merkle, in “40 Questions about Elders and Deacons” quotes William Mounce in saying, “Timothy and Titus stand outside the church structure. They are not bishops or elders, and are not members of the local church. They are itinerant apostolic delegates sent with Paul’s authority to deal with local problems, just as they do in Acts. They are never told to rely on their institutional position in the church, rather they rely on the authority of Paul and the gospel.” Merkle says they are neither apostles or elders, but had an authority that was derived from being an extension of Paul’s ministry. The book seems to be pretty balanced and helpful overall.

      • Thanks Disillusioned, I’m interested in getting books and articles on this stuff. The quote gives an interesting explanation, though it doesn’t seem to me that Paul would have spoken of Barnabas, Timothy or Titus as merely an extension of his ministry, but that they should be respected as servants of Christ as he was. And the way that Paul used the term ‘servant of Christ’ in various capacities makes me think that he viewed apostleship as something that was less connected to being an official separate office but was connected more to the work of an elder and as such could be viewed more loosely than the office fulfilled by the Twelve. Doubt that I’m making sense but that’s because I’m in the middle of processing all this…

      • cont… I guess that some things in Acts and the epistles just seem less official than some people make them when talking about polity. For instance, I’m not sure I buy the Acts 15 argument that the assembly of elders and apostles is officially prescriptive for us now as it seems Nate Sasser would argue.

      • Exbrit, I bought the book because I am with you, trying to get a handle on all this. One of the 40 questions in the book has to do with Acts 15. In his summary, Merkle says, “Although it is often cited as the basis for a hierarchical form of church government, the so-called “Jerusalem Council” in Acts 15 does not provide a compelling foundation for building a heirarchical structure among local congregations.” He points out that apparently only Antioch sent representatives, it was not an ordinary planned gathering but an emergency meeting to address a specific, historical crisis, and unique because the apostles were involved in the meeting. He also says, “the decision made by the council that the Gentiles needed to avoid certain foods is best understood, not as a binding decree set by an ecclesiastical authority, but as a plea for sensitivity to the Jewish people.”

      • Disillusioned – I agree w Merkle. This is what amazes me. As I make the point in this post, scripture does not support modern day “little a” apostles who are authoritative.. We also know that church history does not support it…. and church government best practice (of other denominations) do not support it.

        But somehow we think the braintrust in SGM will figure this out. Somehow outthinking the best minds in church history…. after they retracted the apostolic position 5 years ago. Simply brilliant.

  10. exbrit – sincerely sorry for not being able to answer more of your questions. I have a day job that keeps me hopping quite a bit.

    Let me start by saying that I tried my very best to handle scripture honestly with respect to this topic. The fact is that Paul treats the “title” of apostle with great respect – he does not accord Timothy w this title when explicitly addressing Corinthians in 2 Cor 1. He identifies himself as an apostle but Timothy as “our brother”. There is also nothing in the NT writings that indicates that Timothy is of that stature. I can say more about Titus but in my mind, the evidence is clear that he isn’t an apostle either.

    Even though it would be convenient for my argument to say that Barnabas was not an apostle, I believe he was because scripture is more explicit (Acts 14:14),

    Grateful that you’re keeping an open and biblically inquisitive mind – I respect that

    • Maybe we should have kissed that lucky egg. But seriously, you’ve been quiet for a while….any musings or new thoughts? We are charting our exit from our SGM church, not in a hurry to leave but getting a sense of release to new things from the Lord. Curious to hear your perspective.

  11. Pingback: Questioning SGM Apostles | sgmnation

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