Monday, June 19, 2017

Are the Twelve Apostles in the Body of Christ?

A common question people have after coming to understand that Christ gave Paul a distinct message and ministry concerns the relation of the twelve apostles to the Body of Christ. Did they, and the kingdom saints that they represented, become members of the Body of Christ? While it is evident that some of the kingdom saints did become members of the Body of Christ (like Barnabas, Luke, Silas, and Mark), I do not believe that the twelve apostles did. Neither do I believe that the majority of the kingdom saints became members of the the Body of Christ.

This is not an issue that I would break fellowship over, but it is an important issue because it has doctrinal ramifications. For example, if the twelve did become members of the Body of Christ, then at least some of the Hebrew epistles were written to us. That would be a major problem due to the fact that there are some major doctrinal differences between Paul’s epistles and the Hebrew epistles. 
Did the twelve apostles become members of the Body of Christ?
I. The Bible does not say that they did
The Bible does say that the twelve apostles and the little flock of believing Israel were in Christ and that they were a church. Many think that this proves they were in the Body of Christ. Although the terms “in Christ” and “church” are mainly used in reference to the Body of Christ, they are not exclusive to the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:10; Acts 7:38; Heb. 2:12). In the kingdom age, Israel will be “in Christ” and they will be a church (called out of nations, assembled in their land). The distinctive thing about the Body of Christ is that in it there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Gal. 3:27-28; Col. 3:11); it is one new spiritual man (Eph. 2:15). The Body of Christ was a mystery hid in God until it was first revealed through the apostle Paul (Eph. 3:1-13). We are God’s heavenly people; we have a heavenly position and destiny. Israel is the subject of prophecy. They are God’s earthly people; they have an earthly position and destiny. It is not rightly dividing the word of truth to mix these two groups together. Yes, they are both redeemed by the blood of Christ and in the family of God, but there are still major distinctions between them.
 II. There are verses in the Bible that indicate they did not 
We cannot prove a doctrine from silence. Even though the Bible does not say the twelve were in the Body of Christ, it is still possible that they were, unless there are verses that indicate that they were not. There is not a verse that says, “the twelve apostles are not in the Body of Christ,” but there are verses that indicate they were not in the Body of Christ by virtue of the fact that what it says about them cannot be said of the Body of Christ. Let me give you some examples:
1) Matt. 19:28 – They will judge the twelve tribes in the kingdom age
2) Gal. 2:1-9 – This passage clearly shows the distinction between Paul and the Jewish apostles
3) Gal. 6:15-16 – There were two groups in the transition period (Israel of God and new creature)
4) Rev. 21:12-14 – They will be identified with Israel forever 

 III. The doctrine in the Hebrew epistles proves they did not
This issue settles it for me. The Hebrew epistles do not even mention the three major doctrines revealed in the Church epistles for this present age of grace. In fact, they teach something different instead:
1) Justification – by the faith of Christ vs. a man’s faith proven by works
2) Body of Christ – one new man vs. Hebrews, twelve tribes, etc…
3) Hope – rapture to heaven vs. second coming to earth

I believe that all of the Hebrew epistles were written during the Acts period, some probably before Paul was even saved. If the twelve became members of the Body of Christ, it would certainly be reflected in the doctrine of the later Hebrew epistles, like 2 Peter.

The apostle Peter wrote his second epistle to the same group as his first epistle (2 Pet. 3:1). Both of Peter’s epistles were written to the scattered Jewish believers to remind them of the words of the prophets and the  Jewish apostles concerning the last days and the coming of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:1-4). In his first epistle, he speaks of the coming of the Lord as being “at hand” (1 Pet. 4:7). In his second epistle, he knows that it has been postponed due to the longsuffering of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:9). The difference is in that between the writing of his two epistles, he came to know some things about Paul’s ministry (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Peter acknowledged that Paul’s ministry was of the Lord, but there were things about it that were too hard for him to understand. False teachers in the tribulation will be misusing Paul’s epistles just like false teachers misuse the Hebrew epistles today. They will probably say things like, “Go ahead and take the mark of the beast, nothing can separate you from the love of God” (Jude 21). Just because Peter knew of Paul’s ministry does not mean that he changed his. He continued as an apostle to the circumcision and wrote his last epistle to confirm that their prophetic kingdom program will be fulfilled (2 Pet. 1:10-21; 3:8-14).

The kingdom church stopped expanding and eventually died out. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, not long after the transition period ended, definitely brought closure to the kingdom program of Israel. Some of the kingdom saints heard Paul’s message and were given the opportunity to change programs, but I believe the majority continued in the kingdom doctrine and hope. I realize that the nature of a transition period presents some complex issues that we may not ever fully understand, but we do know that there is a difference between the kingdom church and the church which is the Body of Christ and to mix them is not rightly dividing the word of truth.

1 comment:

  1. Thank-you Pastor, always look forward to these!


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