APOSTOLIC GROWTH

Ephesians 4:11 – He gave some as apostles.

In our next five devotionals, we will look at the Lord’s purpose in these five ministry gifts for the growth and development of the body of Christ. These ministry gifts and their function are important to the maturation of individual believers.  The first of the five is the “apostolic gift.” The original apostles are known as “the apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:14). Christ is building His church upon the foundation that the apostles and prophets laid, “Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20).

These men were given to Christ in His earthly ministry by the Father. “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word” (John 17:6). There will never be more apostles known as the “apostles of the Lamb,” since they were given to Jesus in His earthly ministry. It is important to understand that the “apostolic ministry” was meant to continue until the Lord returns. The apostolic ministry today reinforces what the apostles taught. They are used by the Holy Spirit to “equip the saints for the work of service and to build up the body of Christ: until we all attain the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13-14).

It is important to know what the Lord is presently doing in the earth. We started to hear teachings about these five ministry gifts around 1948. Since that time, each of the five gifts has been restored to the church and is still developing toward greater maturity. It is through the apostolic ministry that a great unity is manifesting in the Lord’s church. It is unity around the message of the kingdom and not a particular church system. The church is unified throughout the world as we pray for the nations. There is increased city-wide unity as pastor’s work together for the greater cause of Christ. The Lord is at work unifying the generations. There is much emphasis on fathering throughout the Lord’s church today.  

The church of Jesus is growing in numbers and in maturity. Individuals are growing in their commitment to the kingdom of God. The unity of the faith is happening. Increased knowledge of the Son of God is taking place. It is easy to be critical, but an honest examination of the church throughout the world reveals “apostolic times” are among us. Jesus is preparing His church for great things as He wraps up the ages and prepares to return for His bride.

Father, I present myself to You as a willing vessel. Help me attain to the unity of the faith. Increase my knowledge of the Son of God, causing me to mature into the measure of the stature of Christ. Grow me up to be used by the Holy Spirit for Your pleasure.

GROW UP IN ALL ASPECTS INTO HIM

Ephesians 4:15 – Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.

Paul clearly articulates the will of God in this scripture. The larger context of Paul’s instruction begins with verse 11. There, Paul outlines five specific graces or gifts the Lord has given to His church for the purpose of producing growth in the saints of God. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are gifts given to accomplish the Lord’s purpose in the earth. In verse 12, Paul states their purpose, which is “the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”  

As an individual waits on God through study of His word and prayer, they receive much in terms of understanding and ability. In God’s eternal purpose, He has established these ministries as a vital part of the “equipping” process. There is an anointing that is imparted through these gifts of God. “Equipping of the saints” has a core purpose of helping God’s people achieve maximum potential in God’s calling and service. Equipping includes many things such as structuring teachings, bringing correction, instilling vision, being an example to the saints, bringing understandings of God’s purposes, and impartation of God’s gifts, to name a few.

Our growth in Christ includes the “work of service.” Jesus told His disciples, “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Service is the cornerstone of the Christian life. Service is a heart attitude. It is not a “works mentality,” but resides at the very core of the love of God. Jesus is our model for everything. He raises up leaders in His body that are to emulate Him. Unfortunately, some leaders take privilege to themselves and expect to be served. New Testament leaders understood they were to serve the body of Christ.  

Service includes evangelism. Jesus said that “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). The saints of God are called to serve the lost by sharing the good news of the kingdom of God. As saints of God, we are called to live a lifestyle that represents God’s righteousness. The Holy Spirit supplies to each believer the power and grace necessary to serve the needs that come their way. The ministry gifts are intended to build up the body of Christ. As individuals, we should represent Jesus in the flesh. As a body of believers, the same is true. Christianity is not about a gathering that meets in a building, but a people who are equipped and given to the service of others. We are to portray the true nature of Christ in the earth.

Father, in Jesus’ name equip me through the help of Your ministry gifts for the work of service. Increase in me a burden for the lost and an ability to bring others to a saving knowledge of Your Son. Strengthen me in my relationship with other believers that we might be built up together in Christ. 

GROWING IN CHRIST

Matthew 13:23 – The one sown on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.

Jesus taught many aspects of the kingdom of God through parables. Matthew 13:23 is an excerpt from the “parable of the sower.” In this verse, Jesus is describing the effect of God’s word on the person who is like good soil where seed has been sown.  The soil represents a human soul. As we have seen previously, the soul is made up of our intellect, emotions, and will. Our soul is in a constant state of growth. No one can say they have arrived in terms of their total understanding of God’s word. Our relationship with the Godhead is constantly developing and growing. Only in eternity will we find full development.

We begin our journey with the Lord like a newborn baby. “Be like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). The key to development and growth in the kingdom of God is a constant hungering for the Word of God. This longing should never disappear! The Holy Spirit gives us the desire to read, to study, and to search out the depths of God’s truths. We should be moving from milk to the meaty food of Scriptures. The writer of Hebrews had to stop a theme he was developing in Hebrews 5, because he realized that his readers were not ready to go further. “Concerning Him, we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:11).

The Christian life is a life of development and growth. God’s life in us is organic in nature. His life is measurable in our growth and development. That measurable growth can only come through longing for His word, regular times spent in fellowship with Him through prayer and supplication, and a relationship with other believers. All three of these areas are necessary in order to be healthy and growing. These three ingredients will affect growth in your mind, emotions, and will. Relationship with the Father and the Son through the Spirit will provoke much thinking and reshaping of our thought processes. This is also true as we interact with God’s people. It will produce growth which helps us to mature as sons and daughters of God.

Growing and developing can be very painful at times. As this is true physically, it is equally true spiritually. This is why Peter declares that “the apostles were strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:22).

Father, I thank You for the seed which has been sown into the good soil of my life. I am depending on the Holy Spirit to continue to help me in my development and growth. Increase my love for Your word, for prayer, and the fellowship of Your people.

RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

John 1:12 – As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.

In John 1:12, Jesus speaks of the most important right an individual can possess, “the right to become a child of God.” The world thinks that we are all God’s children. It is true, in biblical terms, that our genealogy can be traced back to Adam. The Bible speaks of Adam as “the son of God” (Luke 3:38). Adam lost his standing through sin. God established the law of a “blood sacrifice” in the Garden of Eden when He took the skins of an innocent animal and covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness. Through what God did, we have the first prophetic picture of God’s provision for fallen humankind through His Only Begotten Son. Paul calls Jesus the last Adam who has redeemed us back to God making it possible for each descendant of the first Adam to once again have a “right standing” with God the Father.  In our spirit, we have a sure standing as sons and daughters of the living God. Jesus’ victory has secured our standing as children of God.

Paul writes of our relationship with God in his letter to the Romans, “All who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). The question each believer must ask throughout their life is, “Am I being led by the Spirit of God?” Sons do what the father directs. We live in a society where sons do their own pleasure and this even seems correct. Young people strive for independence. It seems like the goal in child development. Jesus came to do the will of His Father. Even as a child, He understood “being about His Father’s affairs” (Luke 2:49). Later as an adult, Jesus taught, “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:30).

Being led by the Spirit of the Father is what sons of God do. The Lord did not save us simply to transport us to heaven. The Father’s plan is to have sons and daughters throughout the earth whose utmost desire is to do His will. The true witness of a son of God is someone who is seeking the Father to know His will in their life so that they may please Him in everything they do. When a person comes to know that their standing before God is absolutely sure, they must do God’s will or simply be unfulfilled in their lives.

My personal experience has been to know absolute fulfillment by doing what the Lord has directed of me. Equally true, I have been miserable when disregarding God’s will and pursuing my own interests. There is a contrast between a child and a son. I know I have the right to be God’s child as Jesus taught in John 1:12.  As I mature in my relationship with the Father, I now know I am a son of God because I must do His will as Jesus Himself came to realize.

Father, I thank You I have received Your Son Jesus and have been given the right to be a child of God. Strengthen my resolve to grow in sonship where my earnest desire is to do Your will at all times. Help me in my commitment to Your kingdom purpose.

THE BLOOD TESTIMONY TO GOD

John 10:25-29 – You do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.  But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;  and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

There are three works of Jesus that testify of His redemptive work in each believer and take place in our spirit, soul, and body. These works testify of the complete salvation our Lord has provided for His redeemed people.

The beginning place of our salvation is in our human spirit. It is our spirit that is “born again.” The blood of Jesus testifies to God the Father as His blood is applied to the life of the believer. “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:20). “For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:24-27).

The Hebrew High Priest had to bring the blood of an innocent animal once a year into the holy of holies and offer it before God’s mercy seat as a testimony from God’s covenant people of their need of His mercy and forgiveness. When the Lord saw the blood of the sacrifice, He would have mercy and cover the sins of His covenant people. This yearly practice was a prophetic picture of the real sacrifice which took place when Jesus, our High Priest, offered His own blood as a testimony to His Father. Once and for all blood is before God testifying to the redemptive work of Christ.

As one, by faith, receives what Christ has done for them, the shed blood of Christ is applied to the individual’s life and allows the Spirit of God to recreate the human spirit into the image of Christ. The believer becomes a new creation as a result of the blood’s testimony to God the Father. A covenant testifies to both the one who created the covenant and the one who receives the covenant. The covenant we have in Christ is sealed with His own blood for all eternity.

Father, I thank You for sending Jesus to die in my place. Thank You Father, that the blood of Christ is the testimony of my redemption. I know I stand before You fully approved and fully complete because of Your Blood Covenant.