THE GIFT OF THE TWELVE
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Do we sometimes take for granted God's gifts of food on our tables, the roof over our heads, the clothing on our backs? What about the leaders and workers in our congregations? Do we forget that God authorized these leaders and workers to do certain things in certain ways for our good? Those that serve well prove to be gifts to us. The book of James makes it clear that all good and perfect gifts are from God (James 1:17).
GOD'S GIFTS FOR SERVICE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
"Then David said, 'No one may carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the LORD has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister before Him forever.'" (1 Chronicles 15:2)
"Behold, I Myself have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel; they are a gift to you, given by the Lord, to do the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Therefore you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for everything at the altar and behind the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood to you as a gift for service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”" (Numbers 18:6, 7, NKJV).
LEVITES WERE GIFTS FROM GOD
The tribe of Levi did not have a separate inheritance in the land of Canaan along with their brethren, the children of Israel. They lived and served among the various tribes. A particular family of Levi, Aaron's, served as priests in the tabernacle.i The tribes supported the tribe of Levi with tithes because they belonged to the Lord in His service. The tribe of Levi in turn was to support the priests with their tithes and their labor in the assigned religious work. They were the Lord’s gift to the priests. The work of the priesthood was God's gift to Aaron's children for service.
The Levites served and assisted the priests who in their role accepted and performed the sacrifices of the people to God. The Levites were God's gift to Aaron's children. The work of the priests itself was God's gift to Aaron. Being a gift from God meant that their role must be governed by God's authority, His Word. "They shall attend to your needs and all the needs of the tabernacle; but they shall not come near the articles of the sanctuary and the altar, lest they die-they and you also" (Numbers 18:3). If they varied from God's instructions, the offenders would die. Being God's gifts was an awesome and fearful duty. It was a matter of life or death. But the Levitical system with its shadows of Christ was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14-17). Anyone that wants to serve as priests for a temple are no longer gifts from God.
GOD'S GIFTS FOR SERVICE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
NEW TESTAMENT GIFTS OF SERVANTS
“Therefore He says:
'When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.' And He
Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some
evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the
equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of
the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of
the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of
the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be
children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of
doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of
deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in
all things into Him who is the head--Christ--
from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:7, 8, 11-16, NKJV).
The gifts given by Christ are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. These gifts were given at His ascension. According to Acts 1 and 2 Jesus (and the Father) sent the Holy Spirit to endow the twelve apostles. As the days, weeks, and months pass, the gifts are expanded through the Spirit to include deacons, evangelists, and elders and teachers.
What were the New Testament gifts for? This passage says that Christ’s gifts to men were “for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”. Are the saints not members of the church (1 Corinthians 14:33)? Just as in the Old Testament, God has given gifts of servants in the New. Since the gifts were for the church, then we can properly conclude that the “apostles, …pastors” were gifts for us who are members of the church to enjoy and profit by.
Initially, the fledgling church was given extraordinary powers to perform their services: “And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:4-8, 13,28 ).
Very important point: all gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the profit of ALL. It is not just a gift for the individual that received it. For example, the wisdom from the Spirit was to be given to all. The knowledge from the Spirit was to be given out to others. Like leaven, it was to permeate the loaf (Luke 13:22). Indeed, to selfishly hide it within oneself was kin to the one talent man (Matthew 25:24). All gifts have their respective purposes of ministries and activities, including the gift of helps and administrations (1 Corinthians 12:28).
THE “APOSTLES”: GIFT TO THE CHURCH
THAT BEGAN ON PENTECOST, c. 30 A.D.
The twelve apostles had been in training but they were not placed into apostolic service of “The Twelve” until the Holy Spirit brought power to them on the day of Pentecost following the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. "Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49).
Although studying with Jesus one-on-one for over three (3) years, they still were not allowed to do apostolic work until the Holy Spirit gave them miraculous power. Jesus ascended and then gave gifts. Note: the twelve along with the seventy had preached with miraculous powers confirming their message to the Jews only; but the message was limited in scope and was before the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and their subsequent commission was unto the whole world (Mark 16:14-20).
How were the “apostles” gifts from God? They were qualified by the Lord in their selection, training and direct guidance by the Spirit of God. Apostles were miraculously endowed on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Being endued with power they began carrying out Jesus' commission to go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature. Prophets and supernaturally endowed evangelists begin in Acts 6 (Stephen, first martyr; Philip, called an evangelist later). We still benefit from the miraculous gift of the twelve apostles and (NT) prophets, through their doctrine in the Bible. John Mark and Luke the Physician were not apostles but inspired prophets, inspired by God-breathed words, which words are gifted to us today.
THEIR GIFTS ARE OUR FOUNDATIONS FOR THE CHURCH TODAY. “(You are) fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:19, 20).
Obeying the good news (gospel) preached by the apostles, the converted disciples continued in the “apostles' doctrine” which was given to them from the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). Jesus declared before God and the apostles that that teaching would be God's Word, labeled by Him as Truth. Jesus prayed that all would be unified by being sanctified by that Truth (John 17:17f) delivered through the apostles.
"I do not pray for these alone [the apostles] but also for those who will believe in Me through their [apostles’] word; that they all [the apostles and us] may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:17-21).
From book, ELDERS, GIFTS OF GOD by Gaylon West
[See books by Gaylon West.]
i first, tabernacle, a tent for movement from the wilderness into the Promised Land; later, temple.
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