Apostolic Identity in The Bible and Culture

Why is there a need for Apostolic Identity? Maybe it would be helpful to use an illustration but first ponder how our world interprets Scripture. Or, how they have interpreted Jesus? For example, in his book Be Intolerant Ryan Dobson offers this rendering of culture. 

Does this sound familiar? 

And Jesus said unto His disciples, “Go into all the world, teaching all men to live any way they want, and urging each to find his or her own path to God. Let not any one of you make someone feel inferior or victimized because of your beliefs. Above all, be tolerant. Verily, verily, I say unto you that what you believe and how you live do not matter, so long as you are sincere.”
Leaving that place, Jesus led His disciples to Jerusalem where they broke bread at Club Upper Room. There He addressed them again, saying, “I am one of the ways, one of the truths, and just one possible life. If you are basically a good person, you’re okay in my book. And if you choose to come to the Father (or Mother, if you prefer) through Me, that’s cool. Now go forth to live according to whatever feels good to you.”
And there was much rejoicing.[i] 
Actually, Jesus was very exclusive and said something very different. In John 10:7-11 Jesus says that He is the “truth”; “the gate”; “whoever enters through me will be saved”; “I am the good shepherd”. In John 14:6 again Jesus says something different. He says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (ESV) Jesus alone was born of a virgin conception (Matthew 1:18-25); Jesus alone is God Incarnate (John 1:1-18); Jesus alone lived the perfect, sinless life (2 Corinthians 5:21); Jesus alone died a substitutionary death (Romans 3:21-26); and Jesus alone was resurrected from the dead as the victor over death and hell (Revelations 1:18). The Apostle Paul, in no uncertain terms, says in Romans 8:9 “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (ESV) 

The Bible:

In our times there is a famine for the Word of God (Amos 8:11-12; 2 Timothy 4:3; 2 Timothy 2:15). Most people do not DESIRE sound doctrine but they readily follow after false teachers and false prophets who only proclaim what people want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Every believer, every teacher, every preacher, every person must be about proclaiming the Word of God! We are never given the right or liberty to teach or preach our own ideology, or traditions. We are to preach and teach the Word of God (2 Timothy 4:2) and therefore we limit our doctrinal teaching to the Biblical record and not speculation.

The central focus of Scripture is Jesus. The Old Testament which anticipates and prophecies of a coming Messiah is the prerequisite to the New Testament which fully declares God manifested in the Flesh! (1 Timothy 3:16). Therefore, the core of our teachings and the heart of our theologies must be about Jesus Christ and the teachings of His disciples.

The Bible is the inerrant and inspired Word of God. It will not lead us into error and it has been inspired by God Himself by way of human writers or holy men of old. The Bible is our landmark, it is our constant. 

The only way God could reveal to us His Word was by way of a specific cultural setting in actual time and space. This fact does not detract or take away from the truth of His Word. We do not attribute Scriptural authority to the customs of the Bible rather we must discern and uphold timeless Biblical principles that transcend culture. These principles and moral laws do not change but remain in all times, places, cultures or circumstances. For example, dietary laws (Leviticus 11) are not binding today but were abolished by Christ (Mark 7:18-19). However, the principle they taught of separating the clean from the unclean, or the holy from the unholy remains. 

Not wearing clothing mixed with wool and linen found in Deuteronomy 22:11 doesn’t teach a moral purpose but rather it serves to teach the principle of separation. NT believers fulfill these principles by our separation from the world and those things spiritually and morally unclean. We do not simply disregard or completely abandon the teachings of the OT but we examine each teaching to see how it fits into the overall plan of God. We take into account how it fits into his progressive revelation for mankind as He calls us to greater spiritual truths, and even a higher standard of morality and holiness. This is why it is dangerous to ignore passages just because we do not understand them or because there isn’t a second passage that says the SAME thing. Our goal is to bring out the meaning of ALL Scriptural statements and NOT to cancel out their significance. The Scriptures have been preserved for our learning and salvation.

The Culture:

Mark Twain, in his writings about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, alluded to a gilded era. Who would ever whitewash a fence for an apple core? Twain saw that gilded notion that we are getting something for our money and time but in reality we are getting nothing. Culture offers us cheap imitations - gilded realities.

We must take culture into account but culture NEVER abolishes the Biblical principle. Instead, we distinguish between essential truths and cultural expressions. For example, Abraham arranged the marriage of Isaac but that was an ancient Eastern custom. Lot would have sacrificed his two daughters to protect the angels he knew as guests because this was an ancient Eastern custom of protecting your guests at your own expense.
Paul discusses slavery and even instructs slaves to work diligently for their masters but this is not the Bible condoning slavery. Rather it is God giving us practical guidelines for those who were living in those conditions.

Culture cannot be our benchmark. Matthew 16:26 says, “what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (ESV) Jesus desires for His followers to live in the world, to serve, and to witness but not get caught up in the godless pleasures of life and culture. Our relationship to culture is an indicator of our relationship with God. 

1 John 2:15 tells us that “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (ESV) and James 4:4 says that “”friendship with the world is enmity [hostility] with God…” (ESV) John also said “Marvel not, my brothers, if the world hate you.” (1 John 3:13 KJV) and “ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (KJV)

What is Apostolic Identity? 

We must maintain our Apostolic Identity but what is our Identity? Is it holiness? Is it speaking in tongues? Our Identity is more than one or two things. It's a package deal. I have found that these 6 points set us apart and identify us as Apostolic's to our culture. I have not found where any of them are optional for Apostolic's.

1. The Oneness of God (Deuteronomy 6:4) Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad. 

2. The New Birth Experience (Acts 2:38). Faith and Repentance with Baptism by the Spirit and water baptism in Jesus name. 

3. Lifestyle of Holiness (inward and outward) (Leviticus 18:2; 1 Peter 1:14-19). The holiness of God is the basis and the compelling necessity for our sanctification. In Remaking the Modern Mind, Carl Henry noted that a persons “concept of God is determinative for all other concepts; it is the Archimedean lever with which one can fashion an entire world view.” 

4. Worship (Psalm 150 – “let everything praise the Lord”) Heartfelt worship. Worship is something that penetrates every area of our life. Worship is not just dancing or leaping but it is also a lifestyle. We ARE worshippers – we don’t just worship.

5. Gifts of the Spirit and Miracles (1 Corinthians 12:1-11) For the edifying and instruction of the Body. 

6. Discipleship and Evangelism (Genesis 1:27-28; Matthew 28:18-20) 

In the Genesis account God commissioned humanity to multiply themselves in number, and fill the earth. However, there is something startling new with the beginning of the Apostolic Age of the Holy Spirit. Here Jesus commissions the disciples to multiply themselves in number by discipleship and evangelism throughout the earth. Notice, the first commission spoke of spreading human life globally, the new commission was aimed at spreading eternal life globally!

While teaching his theology class at Grace Theological Seminary, Dr. John C. Whitcomb, held up a magazine with a photo of seminary students, attempting to evangelize their community, at a local shopping center. The students stood there with their hands in the air and finger pointing straight up. This was their message. “We don’t know what it all means…but we are in contact with whoever is up there…” 

Although there are some things that we may never be able to explain or make perfect sense of there are things that we can know for sure. In his book, Why One Way? John MacArthur states, “Authentic Christianity starts with the premise that there is a source of truth outside of us.” 

Jesus is Truth. In the Gospel of John Christ states that it is the “truth” and knowing “truth” that sets us free (John 8:32). Truth is liberating. Later in the Gospel Jesus would go on to call Himself “truth” in John 14:6. The same Greek word for truth is used in both passages. Jesus is Truth. 

Jesus is Light. John the Baptist was a forerunner to Christ. A witness to the light (John 1:7-8). John 1:9 says “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (ESV) 

When a person, who has been accustomed to darkness, comes into the light their iris restricts due to the amount of light entering the pupil. This is called adaptation in ocular physiology. Light then exists whether we can or will allow ourselves to see it. Truth is much the same way. Yet, it exists regardless if we see it or not.

We must "consider every question in both ways--both by "looking at" it and by "looking along" it. An example is falling in love. Whose opinion on falling in love would matter the most to you? A man who had fallen in love with a woman who is enjoying and looking along the light of love or the opinion of a scientist or sociologist who are only contemplating or looking at love? We can look at light and it can blind us momentarily; however, we can also look along the light as well and it illumines us or our surroundings.

The latter, is when the light is invisible because you no longer see the light but see "by" the light. C.S. Lewis noted, "Light is not something you see; it's something you see by." It is by God's light that we can read Scripture and understand culture. 

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. Psalm 36:9 (ESV)

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