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Paul List God’s Hierarchy in the Church Part 1
1 Corinthians 12:28 “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets” KJV
Paul having completed his list of the gifts earlier on in this chapter and how they are to be employed by every individual believer for the good of the entire Body of Christ working harmoniously like the different members of a human body, Paul now details for the Corinthian believers God’s pecking order in the operation of the church. Like every good organization or company must have a structure of leadership, so that it can run smoothly and not chaotically or with confusion, so has God the Father set in order a hierarchy in His Church that it would work out His Purposes on the earth void or empty of confusion because He is not the Author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) as Paul is going to lay out in much more detail for these Corinthian believers and us in Chapter 14 of this epistle or letter. The Corinthian believers were coming together as Paul has already written to them turning the Lord’s Supper into a party and not the reverent and observant service our Lord Jesus meant it to be for every believer, of every generation, in every church. The problem that caused this occurrence and the many others Paul has already addressed in this letter thus far to them is their miss-understanding of God’s Order and His Structure in His Church, for these believers did not appear to be under any strong leadership at all and it appeared to be that everyone was doing as they pleased without having to answer to anyone above them in position in the church.
Paul declares that God the Father “has set” in order in His Church the following offices and this English phrase “has set” is translated by the Greek word tithemi which means appointed or ordained. Therefore, this reveals that every true Church of God has men appointed or ordained and that is fixed or established by the order or command of God and not some human selection committee such as a deacons board, but if any selection committee or deacons board is in communion, consultation, and receiving counsel from God the Father, then He will direct their selection to the man or men He wants to serve His Purposes in His Body as the Prophet Samuel was so led as declared in the discourse of Scripture in 1 Samuel 16:1-13. Now with this truth etched in his heart and mind, Paul writes that God the Father’s Hierarchy is “first Apostles” and the English word first is translated by the Greek word proton which means foremost (in time, place, order or importance). The English word apostles is translated by the Greek word apostolos which means a delegate, a messenger, one sent forth with orders specifically applied to the twelve apostles of Christ and in a broader sense applied to other eminent Christian teachers of Barnabas of Timothy and Silvanus and also Apollos.
The Apostle Paul even placed Apollos on the same level as Peter and himself when he wrote these words to the Corinthian believers, “So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23) and he continued on to write this, “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2) and with these words, “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other” (1 Corinthians 4:6).
Whether Apollos was an appointed or ordained Apostle (not one of the twelve) or not, it is clear that Paul regarded him of equal authority with him in the declaration or proclamation of the gospel of grace and of expounding the Word of God (at that time only the Old Testament) as was Timothy, Barnabas, and others. Martin Luther even went as far to suggest that because of Apollos’ great knowledge of the Old Testament that he might have been the writer of the Book of Hebrews, perhaps not so far-fetched at all. It is clear in the Scripture (from the Lips of our Lord Jesus Himself) that the 12 Apostles appointed and ordained by Him will be given special, superior, and supreme honor in His Eternal Kingdom as declared by His words here, “Then Peter said to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’ (Matthew 19:27-28).
The second in rank in the Church of God is the office of prophets and this English word is translated by the Greek word prophetes which means a foreteller or inspired speaker or writer or poet; an interpreter of oracles or of other hidden things, one who moved by the Spirit of God and hence his organ or spokesman, solemnly declares to men what he has received by inspiration, especially concerning future events, and in particular such as relate to the cause and kingdom of God and to human salvation; one who is moved by the Holy Spirit to speak, having power to instruct, comfort, encourage, rebuke, convict, and stimulate their hearers or readers. As our Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit was working through men as documented and recorded for us with this example by Dr. Luke, “Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius” (Acts 11:27-28).
Paul charged or commanded Timothy with these words to fulfill his office of God’s ordained Prophet, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). The writer of Hebrews (Apollos?) makes it clear that those placed in the Hierarchy of God in His Church have a great responsibility with those positions as he declares with these words, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
“As God has made evident distinctions among the members of the human body, so that some occupy a more eminent place than others, so has he in the Church. And to prove this, the apostle numerates the principal offices, and in the order in which they should stand.” Adam Clarke
“Is God the Father appointing “Apostles” in His Church today? The answer is not as our Lord Jesus gave authority to the original 11 plus Paul at the beginning of His Work through them on the earth, but rest assured He still has “sent ones” and whether He gives them the “title Apostle” or not does not matter and although none of them in any generation will ever sit on one of the 12 thrones, they will be and are in every generation placed as leaders in His Church by Him and will be judged or held accountable for their faithful, trustworthy, uncompromising, truthful, and loving guard or watch over our Lord’s true sheep. It does not matter what we call them today.” Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ and His amazing healing power, pray this from your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ (you speaking directly to Him), Dear Lord Jesus, I confess to You that I am a sinner and I need Your forgiveness. I believe You shed Your Blood and died for my sins. I believe that You rose from the dead proving that You alone are God. I repent of my sins. I want to turn from my sins. I ask You Dear Lord Jesus to come into my heart and take control of my life. I want You to be my Lord, Savior, and my God. Amen...
Sincerely in Christ,
Clifford D. Tate, Sr.
Author of “Silent Assassins of the Soul - Are you Broken by Pornography and Masturbation? You can be Restored by the Lord Jesus Christ and brought into Deliverance, Freedom, and Victory! A Guide for Men and Women in the Enemy’s Crosshairs” e-book available now @ Amazon Kindle, @ Apple I Bookstore for IPod, Barnes and Noble for Nook, Reader Store for Sony Reade, Kobo, Copia, Gardners, Baker and Taylor, and eBookPie…
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