Is it safe yet to broach this topic?
Honored De Maria;
Greetings and salutations in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Once again I appreciate the opportunity to fellowship on some matters with which I'd been little concerned these past several years, having settled them in my mind and spirit long ago. It's kind of like a refresher course.
So with your kind permission, I'll pick out of your post some minor points and offer my own take on them.
You said, "I always was of the opinion that all the Apostles were prophets since they all spoke the Word of God to the edification of the Church."
Paul however, was of the opinion that apostles and prophets were not one and the same. "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets, and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." Ephesians 4:11.
With the exception of 'pastors and teachers' which are spoken here as if one unit, apostles, prophets, and evangelists are specific and different offices, with different functions. One of their major functions, held in common among all of them, is, '....speaking the Word of God to the edification of the Church" (quoting you here).
Evangelists may prophesy, prophets may prophesy, even the lowest members of the church may prophesy, but none of them are necessarily apostles (which also may prophesy).
Paul wrote to Timothy, who was himself an apostle, to "Do the work of an evangelist", so there is substantial crossover among the offices of the church, as engaged in the ministry of the church.
You also said, "So, anyone who speaks for God is God's prophet.
Jeremiah 1:9 (King James Version)"....
Does that include Balaam's Ass? Who spoke for God. And are we then to call Balaam's Ass, Saint Balaam's Ass? Or was the donkey a girl donkey? In which case it would be, well, what would it be?
Thus the danger in sweeping statements, huh? But a great riposte anyway, right?
And you said, "Judas and Silas are prophets because they are Apostles:
Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brethren:"
No, the Word doesn't say Judas and Silas were apostles (at any rate, not until Silas accompanied Paul on an apostolic mission). When sent to Antioch by the church in Jerusalem, Judas and Silas were prophets, they were 'chosen men' and also called, 'chief men among the brethren'. But they were not called apostles.
An apostle does speak the Word of God, but in the New Testament (with the exception of the twelve) apostles are sent out by the church. In fact, Paul is never called an apostle until he is on what is commonly called the first missionary journey, in Acts 14:14.
Paul and Barnabas had been called by God, and the church (at Antioch) which would be their base of operations in the first years of the apostolic ministry to the Gentiles, sent them forth. "And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." Acts 13:3.
At this point, Paul and Barnabas, though apostles (not called apostles though until Acts 14:14) had no authority in Jerusalem, nor in any other church beyond their offices of prophet and teacher for the church at Antioch.
They began an extra-local work. And not only so, but it is called the "work". Upon completing their first missionary journey, establishing several new churches (which is what an apostle does first and foremost)....
They returned to Antioch, visiting all the new churches on the way back, and ordaining elders in each of them. They sailed from Attalia, "And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the "Work" which they fulfilled." Acts 14:26.
More about the "work" though. After some time, Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do." Acts 15:36.
Barnabas determined to take with them, his nephew John Mark, who had begun the first missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas, but had departed from them at Pamphylia and returned to Jerusalem. Paul stoutly refused to consider having Mark accompany them, for, "Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to "the work". Acts 15:38.
Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways. Paul again was sent forth from the church (we aren't told about Barnabas beyond the fact that he took Mark and sailed to Cyprus), "...being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God." Acts 15:40.
Paul, always accompanied by a number of brothers, chose Timothy to stand in the stead of Mark, and laying his hands upon Timothy, brought him into the apostolic 'work'.
Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, asking them to accept Timothy and accord him the honor and deference due an apostle, "Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he "worketh" the "work" of the Lord as I also do". 1 Cor 16:10.
And no, Timothy was no 'pastor' or 'bishop'. Timothy was an apostle, just as Paul was, yet submitted to Paul. And 'bishop'? It's used in the New Testament as another name for the office of elder. Writing to Titus (another apostle of Paul's immediate group), Paul instructs him to, "....ordain 'elders' in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.'
'For a bishop must be blameless...." Titus 1:5-7a, hereby equating 'bishop' with 'elder'. While some may call themselves 'bishops', and while others may invest within their 'bishops' extra authority and power, it is done without scriptural warrant. For in the New Testament, and thus in the New Testament church, a 'bishop' is a mere elder, no more, no less.
In the ministry, there are two separate fields of endeavor. There is the local ministry in the local church, composed primarily of elders (bishops) and deacons. When however, an apostle, or prophet, or evangelist visits, the church takes them in and in fellowship with them, derives profit and growth. And yet, in that context, that of the local church, the authority in matters relating to the church, rests with the elders and deacons.
The second field of endeavor is the apostolic work, which is primarily concerned with spreading the gospel and establishing churches. As quickly as possible, the apostles turn authority over to the elders and deacons they have themselves ordained. Speaking of the apostles Paul and Barnabas, "And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they 'commended them' to the Lord, on whom they believed." Acts 14:23.
Faith, talk about faith? When apostles can leave the church they've only recently established, and turn over the church to the Lord, they've got faith.
And about all that, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers....For the perfecting of the saints (local ministry, local congregation), for the "work" of the ministry (apostolic missionary efforts, establishing churches), for the edifying (both ministries, corporately) of the body of Christ...." Ephesians 4:11-12
The Father thing...Yes, many may have used the term 'father' in the scripture, although God reserves that name for Himself ("for one is your Father, which is in heaven".
Your list of usages regarding the term 'father' is long. And impressive. But an impressive long list does not alter Jesus' Words, nor the efficacy of His plain statements.
And in this issue, like all others, Jesus has the last word, and that is, "Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven." Matt 23:9. The New Testament church knew this, for there is no record in the New Testament of any Christian being addressed after that fashion, as an honorific.
We not only are not to call a man 'father', but nor are we to call a man Master, or Rabbi, "....for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren." Matt. 23:8. (Are some brethren more 'equal' than others, thus deserving of special names and titles? Not according to Jesus.)
And even more so, if those about us do not mind diregarding the direct words of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and persist in calling us 'master', we are not to have it....
"Neither be ye called masters"....for one is your Master, even Christ." Matt 23:10. So calling another by such a term, or being called by such a term, either is condemned by the Word of God.
So if anyone does call another master, or father or holy father, and/or allows himself to be called such, he is simply refusing to obey the Word of the Lord (which if you don't believe the Word of God is just a small matter, not worthy of attention). Subsequent usage of such a title by 'religion' does not, regardless of how prevalent and prevailing, ever, alter the Word that was spoken by God, by our saviour Jesus Christ.
It is our choice, whether to obey our Lord, or whether to accept man's tradition and common usage, irrespective of motive....
But Jesus did say, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" Luke 6:46.
If you work for me, and call me boss, and don't do what I tell you to do, I'll simply fire you.
If you serve Christ, and do not the things He says to do, what does He do? Reward you with all good things in life? For your excellent disobedience?
And priests? Oh my, what an incredible subject, and yet one dismissed so easily if only we read God's Word. You will find no living man in the New Testament church, save those with the common priesthood of the believer, called 'priest'. There is no New Testament priesthood, save that of Jesus Christ and that of the believer. No special honors, no special clothes, no special authority, and no standing with God. Just a plain sort of 'royal priesthood', that We All Are Members Of....
By definition, a priest stands between God and man, ministering to God on the behalf of man and men, offering sacrifices, and other such like.
Which is an utter affront to the total, complete, and ultimate priesthood of Jesus Christ, of whom Paul said,
"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus". 1 Tim 2:5.
No stammering, no stuttering, no equivocation, just straight fact, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus".
For a man, any man, to presume upon other men, and upon God, by claiming to stand between them and God, mediating between them and God, and in effect, cutting Jesus Christ out of the equation, is mindboggling in its total, complete and utter audacity and inadvisability. Jesus already occupies that place. He is where they want, in their cupidity and self-aggrandising natures, to be. My mind simply cannot comprehend the grandeur, the majesty, the epic proportions, of such presumption before God our Saviour and Jesus Christ our Lord.
Three simple verses, and everything that has occurred since the death of our Lord by way of the business of priests, prelates and popes, is tossed aside, as disobedience before our Lord. "Call no man your father, or teacher, or master, upon the earth", and if ye do, "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord?" For there is one mediator between the one God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
And finally, for I tend to run long, you made one error of judgment, when you believed that I was, "painting everyone with one brush. Those who molested children are but a small percentage of the priests of the Catholic Church."
I wasn't referring the Catholic Church in the statement to which you're replying, was careful in fact, not to do so. I didn't want to single any one, or any church, out, for I am generally uninformed as to the degree or the seriousness with which these problems, which seem to be endemic throughout modern religion, infest any given church. But I know the problems are there, for two reasons; one, I've heard about it, read about it, and in many cases know it has not been plausibly denied, and two, like our Lord, I don't need anyone to testify to me of man, for I know what is in man, being myself, a man. John 2:25.
So, a sort of contradictory stance, but I wish to remain the most inoffensive person with whom you've ever fellowshipped. And while I am bound by the Holy Spirit to speak the truth as it has been revealed to me and in me....I am not bound by anything, requiring me to offend others by responding with cheap shots and name calling.
I think I said 'finally' a ways back there. But, 'finally', I muddled my response to you about the church being the pillar and ground of the truth. I'd like an opportunity to restate it this way....
The church does not determine what is the truth...the truth determines what is the church. And the truth having determined, shaped, defined and established the church, that church becomes the pillar and ground of the truth.
One of the greatest errors and most damaging dangers to ever face Christianity and the Church, was the taking of some unto themselves the privilege of determining what is the church, leaving the truth, the Word of God, outside in the cold. The result is the utter shambles we see of the church in the world today.
There's only one plumbline, and if all refuse to build by reference to it in every phase, they cannot expect more than to be built untrue, out of plumb, crooked, and fit only for destruction or razing.
There's only one faith, and it is encapsulated within the Word of God. And that one faith was delivered only one time, and no man, no church, council, no demon, no one....has ever been granted authority to alter it, to diminish it, to add to it, to subtract from it, in other words, to change it in any way.
And Jude puts it so eloquently it makes you want to cry,
"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for 'The Faith That Was Once Delivered' unto the saints. Jude 3.
We call it the Word of God. It was delivered to the saints (including those not called Saint So and So), to the New Testament Church in Christ, and delivered once only, never to be altered in any way. I hold it in my hand. The Word of God. Incredible, isn't it?!?
God bless you! I am and remain sincerely yours in Jesus Christ,