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Understanding How God’s Promises Work

by Rev. Sunday Bwanhot

God's Promises
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:19)

This verse is very encouraging, and believers reference it frequently. The problem, however, is that it is often taken out of context or wrongly applied. Paul, in the course of the ministry God called him to do, admitted the challenge of inconsistent support from brethren. Sometimes he had plenty, and at other times he had nothing, but he learned the secret of being content no matter what! When I am not where God wants me to be, and I am not doing what He wants me to do, I cannot claim our verse for today and expect God to empower me to do what I want and not what He wants. Most of God’s promises are conditional and generic. I must, first of all, fulfill the conditions required, and secondly, get a confirmation from God that the generic promise I am claiming has my name on it. That is what it means to ask according to God’s will and not my will.

Relax: It is your party

by Rev. Sunday Bwanhot

He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love. Song of Songs 2:4

Exclusive Banquet
Exclusive Banquet

Due to ignorance, some people think that God loved them in the past, but because they failed Him, He no longer loved them. Others are working so hard to improve their lives so that God will love them. These are all wrong assumptions. Here are the facts: God loved us before creation. He knew that we would sin, and He made provision for our redemption even before we existed. Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross is God’s banner hanging over us and announcing boldly that our past, present, and future sins do not stand against us anymore.

God is proudly displaying His love for us which we neither deserve nor can earn. Please, relax at the dinner table where God has given you a prominent seat and is flashing the banner over your head announcing that His love for you is forever and ever. The only thing you need to do is to respond by accepting the love of God for you.

Doctrinal Uniqueness and Unity of the Evangelical Church Winning ALL (ECWA)

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How a Church can remain faithful to their history and biblical legacies in a changing world.

Many nuances of doctrinal beliefs and practices appear to remain in the background of how things are conceptualized and applied within ECWA circles, however, quite often the details are not very familiar or thoroughly discussed with members and even some pastors who might not have had adequate theological training from evangelical seminaries. Hence, this work provides an important springboard of discussing some doctrinal statements that may not be on the basis of Biblical theology, specifically since doctrinal beliefs and practices usually inform many things within church denominations. Notwithstanding, issues such as religious heritage, doctrinal beliefs and practices and history were not explained fully in this article. However, the article begins with a brief historical outline of the beginnings of ECWA. It then briefly discusses the doctrinal beliefs and practice of ECWA in relation to the Bible, God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, angels, salvation, assurance of eternal faith, sanctification, church, ordinances, Christian life and service, spiritual gifts, blessed hope, the day of the Lord, and resurrection of the body. The article culminates with two challenges that ECWA is currently facing with its local church pastors concerning issues like the omission of the Apostles’ Creed in worship services and the negligence of youth ministry in churches which are at the verge of collapse. The article then proposes a guide towards making corrections in order for ECWA to return to her former practices that were deeply rooted in scripture before it becomes too late. The principles shared in this article, though specifically about ECWA, however, can be generally useful to other church denominations that desire to remain faithful to their history and biblical legacies.

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The easiest way to know the will of God

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

The King James Bible

God has revealed all that we need to know in the Bible. He did not forget anything, and nothing new has popped up that will require the Bible to be updated. Our verse for today is one that every Christian must cherish and work with because it is a guide to resolving specific issues each one of us has to deal with that the Bible does not address directly. Many want to know the will of God regarding specific issues in their lives. When we apply this verse, Philippians 4:8, to the issues we are dealing with, we will discover the will of God pertaining to the situation. An honest evaluation of the issue is necessary, and sometimes, you may need other Christians to help you through the process.

Is it true, is it a noble thing, is it right, is it pure, is it lovely, is it admirable, is it excellent and praiseworthy? If all your answers are in the affirmative, then you can safely conclude that it is the will of God. Apply this principle today and see how easy it is to discover the will of God in your life.

CHAIRMAN - Rev. Sunday BwanhotAuthor: 
Rev. Sunday Bwanhot is a missionary with EMS/SIM. He pastor’s ECWA Chicago, serves as ECWA USA DCC Chairman and Team leader of SIM Culture Connexions.

Is Christianity too Narrow?

by Rev. Sunday Bwanhot | Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Chapel

The assertion here is that Christianity has many restrictions and is not inclusive. People want a borderless Christianity. The fact is that every institution that is worth its salt has restrictions and is inclusive only under certain conditions. Christianity is not different. We generally view God’s laws as restrictions from enjoying something good. Which is not true! God’s laws are barriers to protect us from hurting ourselves while enjoying all the good God has made available to us.

Christianity is a relationship with Christ and everyone irrespective of race, age, gender, abilities/inabilities, sinners, etc. are accepted unconditionally. All roads may lead to Rome, but only one Road leads to God – Jesus Christ. Religion is humanity’s attempt to reach God while Christianity is God’s attempt to reach humanity. God is the initiator and not man and He says “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Matt. 7:13 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. Those who argue that Christianity is narrow are not sincere. They willingly accept restrictions in other areas of life. They only know about Christianity and have never experienced the true freedom that being in Christ brings.

Regardless of how Christianity is viewed, the question remains,  are you ready for a committed relationship with Christ knowing God personally came down to look for you and bring you into His Kingdom? So, what is the point of this argument?

Christ is Risen! Christ is Alive!

Easter 2022

Happy Easter Sunday from all of us at Doxa! Today we celebrate Christ’s triumph over death and the grave. Christ is Risen! Christ is Alive!

Pastoral Letter: Prayer – A Mystery Known and Unknown

” Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed. The motion of a hidden fire, that trembles the breast.”- James Montgomery
“We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties”. Oswald Chambers.
” Prayers don’t have to be long or eloquent They need only come from a sincere and humble heart”. Author unknown.
” God understands our prayers even when we can’t find words to express them.”- Author unknown
” If you are a stranger to prayer, you are a stranger to the greatest source of power known to human beings”.- Billy Sunday
“We are never nearer to God than when we are praying.” Joseph Ezeigbo

The April Prayer Marathon in ECWAUSA prompted the interruption of the series on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Charismata). The series will resume in the next Pastoral Letter.

Prayer is a universal practice in all religions and cultures and shares a common meaning and understanding whenever it is practiced. It is an expression of human weakness and inadequacy to fend for one’s self. Prayer is a beckoning upon the supernatural or a power higher than one’s self. It is an absurdity when human arrogance prompts into a despicable attitude such as described in Job 21:14-15, ” Yet they say to God ‘ Depart from us, for we do not desire the knowledge of Your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? And what profit do we have if we pray to Him?

From a Christian perspective, prayer is a declaration of human dependence upon God. The Scripture abounds with typical examples of people who prayed and obtained answers to their petitions and supplications. But at the same time, prayer is riddled with many difficulties when it comes to receiving the outcome. These unanswered questions often result in skepticism or a total abandonment of prayer.

THE RESPONSE OF FAITH

The answer to despair which leads to the abandoning of prayer is faith. The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Heb. 11:6. Faith is a prerequisite for prayer. The ancient maxim of the scholastic theologian, Anselm, (originated by St. Augustine) Credo Ut Intelligam, ( I believe in order to understand) has a strong relevance to prayer. When God commands us to pray, He does not at the same time promise a time frame or a method of answering the prayer. That needs to be taken by faith. The author of Hebrews defines faith in this manner, ” Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Heb.11:1. It is by faith that the ancients obtained a good testimony. Heb.11:2. And it is by faith that we believe that the universe was created out of nothing (ex-nihilo). Heb.11:3. Faith demands trust in whom God is- His omni-potent, omni-science attributes and His sovereignty. Isa.40:12-14,18-31; Ps.115:3. God’s thoughts and ways are exceedingly beyond human comprehension. Isa.55:8-9. Jesus Himself taught us to pray by faith. Mk.11:22-24. He expects faith from His followers at His return. Lu.18:8. Faith has no limit when it comes to prayer. James declares that prayer offered without faith would not obtain an answer from God. Jas.1:5-7. Faith is also necessitated by the fact that God’s ways are past finding out. Rom.11:33. As fervent as any prayer may be, only God can determine its outcome. The human responsibility is to pray in obedience and leave the result in God’s hands.

THE MYSTERY OF PRAYER

Prayer like a coin, has two opposite sides-the known mystery and the unknown mystery. In the New Testament, mystery is generally understood as a revealed hitherto unknown secret. Eph.3:3-5,9-10.

The Known Mystery of Prayer

While the depths of prayer exceed human comprehension, the Scripture provides several admonitions and examples of answered prayers.

  1. The atoning prayer by Moses Exo.32:9-14.
  2. The prayer for protection by Ezra and his returnee entourage. Ezra 8:21-23.
  3. The patriotic prayer of Nehemiah. Neh.1:4-11.
  4. Hezekiah’s prayer for defense against an offensive and intimidating enemy. Isa 37:14-20.
  5. Daniel’s prayer for divine revelation and for the end of the captivity. Dan.2:17-19; 9:1-19. In addition to these selected examples are the parables, teachings and exhortations in the New Testament regarding prayer. Among them are:
  6. The parable of the importunate friend. Lu.11:5-8.
  7. The exhortation for persistence. Matt,7:7-11; Lu.11:9-13.
  8. The parable of the widow and the unjust judge. Lu.18:1-8.
  9. Prayer for laborers in the vineyard. Matt.9:37-38.
  10. Exhortation for constancy in prayer. Rom.12:12; Col.4:2;1 Thess.5:17.
  11. The reason for lack. Jas.4:2.

In his small classic, How to Pray, (highly recommended) R.A Torrey lists many other reasons for the necessity of prayer. All these explain why prayer is a known mystery- because prayer works.

BUT… PRAYER IS STILL AN UNKNOWN MYSTERY

The paradox of prayer is that while there are countless lists of answered prayers, so also are seemingly unanswered ones. Whereas the answer to some prayers is immediate, others are seemingly denied or delayed ad infinitum.

Some examples can be likened to:

  1. The promise of Psalm 2:8, ” Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance. And the ends of the earth for Your possession.” (Though Messianic, but applicable to the Church and modern missionary enterprise).
  2. The conversion of loved ones or the lost.
  3. When we pray for revival.
  4. When necessary and genuine material needs are not met.
  5. When sickness results in death despite earnest prayers for healing.
  6. When war breaks out against prayers for peace.
  7. When an accident happens despite prayers for journey mercies and safety.

There is no prescribed formula for revival apart from the commonalities of yearning hearts and persevering prayers. Yet still sometimes, with so much agonizing prayers, revival still tarries. All these inexplicable circumstances and varying situations have no easy answers, but demand for faith and obedience. They call for persistence and persevering prayers. The worst possible experience that could happen to a praying believer is despair. The prophet Habakkuk despaired when his prayers seemed unanswered and when God replied and told him how He is going to answer his prayers. Hab.1:1-4,12-17. After he recovered from his despair, he made a firm resolution.3:17-19.

Habakkuk was not alone. The psalmist also became despondent when he viewed the inequities and seeming injustice in the affairs of life.Ps.73:2-16. Another psalmist experienced depression when he was mocked by the same people with whom he had worshipped who have become his enemies. Ps.42:3-6,9-11.

Both Habakkuk and the psalmists suffered their various difficulties, not because of any sin or misconduct of theirs, but on the contrary, when they were seeking for God’s honor, justice and righteousness to prevail. Their prolonged prayers and waiting seemed to deepen their volatile conditions.

GOD ALONE HOLDS THE KEY TO THE UNKNOWN MYSTERIES OF PRAYER

Tucked in the four verses of Exodus 30:34-38 lay hidden the elusive answer to the mysteries of prayer.

And the LORD said to Moses: Take some sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanium, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. You shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the Tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. But as for the incense which you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition. It shall be to you holy for the LORD. Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people.

Both in the Old and New Testament, incense symbolizes prayers of God’s people. Exo.30:7-8; Ps.141:2; Rev.5:8; 8:3-4; However, this special incense which composition was prescribed by God was made exclusively for Him. This incense appears more sacred than the holy oil because of its very restricted use. The holy oil was used to anoint the furniture of the Tabernacle and the priests. Exo.30:22-33. But the incense was restricted for God alone. God also commanded for a portion of this incense to be deposited in the innermost sanctuary of the Tabernacle. The severe warning that none other but God alone should smell the fragrance of this incense is instructive that the secret of the fragrance, meaning the essence of the perfume is known to God alone. Just as God alone smells the fragrance of this incense which represents the prayers of the saints, in like manner, God alone knows and reserves the mystery to all prayers, both the known and the unknown. None but God alone knows and determines the timing, the method of answering and outcome of all prayers. The forbidden fragrance of the incense symbolizes that the mystery of prayer exceeds human knowledge and comprehension. The human responsibility is obedience to praying as taught and commanded severally in the Scriptures. ” The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever that we may do the words of this law. Deut.29:29.

Prayer is not the only mystery that God is its title holder. There are many other secrets and mysteries that God reserves to Himself. Dan.12:4,7-9; Rev.10:1-4.

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire
Uttered or unexpressed
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh
The falling of a tear
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
Those infant lips can try
Prayer, the sublimest strains that reach
The Majesty on high

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath
The Christian’s native air
His watchword at the gates of death
He enters heav’n with prayer

Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice
Returning from his ways
While angels in their songs rejoice
And cry, ” Behold! he prays

No prayer is made on earth alone
The Holy Spirit pleads
And Jesus at the father’s throne
For sinners intercedes

O Thou by whom we come to God
The Life, the Truth, The way
The path of prayer Thyself hast trod
Lord, teach us how to pray -James Montgomery

Rev. Joseph EzeigboAuthor:
Rev Joseph Ezeigbo studied at Grace Collage and Grace Theological Seminary, both in Winona Lake, IN, where he obtained his undergraduate and graduate degrees respectively. He also did some Postgraduate studies at Liberty University and Liberty Theological Seminary, Lynchburg, VA. He is the coordinator, African Missionary Outreach. Rev Ezeigbo is the currently Vice Chairman and Prayer and Renewal Facilitator ECWA USA. He has also served as Secretary and Chairman of ECWA USA DCC. Rev Ezeigbo is an advocate for prayer for the Muslim World and International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, a Bible teacher for ECWA MD and Researcher – Church History and Theology.

Balancing your Christian Life

Do not stare at me because I am dark, because I am darkened by the sun. My mother’s sons were angry with me and made me take care of the vineyards; my own vineyard I had to neglect. Song of Songs 1:6.

Balancing your Christian Life

Have you ever been taken advantage of, manipulated, used, and abandoned? Then, you can understand our verse for today. Pressure to conform to national, corporate, or organizational ideals over individual preferences is a daily experience for everyone. When a church emphasizes and demands participation in all church programs to the point that individuals do not have time or energy left to have regular times alone with God, this becomes a great disservice to the individual and even to the body of Christ. Saints must be taught the value of personal time with the Lord to develop deep personal convictions on issues of faith and not be misled by leaders who are pursuing other agendas. The Church is strongest when individuals spend time with God and come together corporately.

CHAIRMAN - Rev. Sunday BwanhotAuthor:
Rev. Sunday Bwanhot is a missionary with EMS/SIM. He pastor’s ECWA Chicago, serves as ECWA USA DCC Chairman and Team leader of SIM Culture Connexions.

To know what we must know

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I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his suffering, becoming like him in his death. Phi. 3:10

We know that there is a Holy God who created all things and demands holiness from His creatures. This God revealed Himself in and through His Son, Jesus Christ (Jesus = Savior; Christ = Anointed One).

So, Paul’s passion is to know Christ experientially and not just intellectually. He longed to experience in his own life the mighty power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. If he had that power, he would have victory over sin, death, and every shortcoming of humanity.

Remarkably Paul also longed to participate in the sufferings of Christ. When we suffer as Christ did, we will also reign with Him. But some teach that a Christian who suffers lacks faith or is living in sin. Such teaching is falsehood. Suffering helps to perfect us to become more like Christ. Therefore, if we will follow Paul’s example, we must put our desires to know Christ above everything else in our lives.

Is the Bible Reliable?

Some people think others don’t believe the Bible because they don’t have sufficient proof of its authority. However, the unity of the Bible, its miracles, its scientific accuracy, its Biblical archaeological evidence, its fulfilled prophecy, or its transforming power remains unmovable.

If the Bible is indeed the Word of God, then you will expect it to be accurate, truthful, impactful, prophetic, not requiring any improvement. Indeed, the Bible is the word of God that meets all requirements. There are those who raise objections regarding the reliability of the Bible. There is no doubt that some of those individuals have never read through the Bible or experienced its transforming power in their lives.

The Gutenberg Bible, the first printed Bible
The Gutenberg Bible, the first printed Bible

The Bible is unique. It was written over a period of 1,600 years by 40 authors from every walk of life. Written in 3 languages on the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe. God inspired the authors and they wrote as the Spirit of God moved them {2Tim 3:16-17; 2Peter 1:21}. As of September 2020, the complete Bible has been published in over 704 languages and the New Testament in over 1,551 languages. No book in the world has been criticized like the Bible. But all the critics continue to ware away while the Bible remains unmovable.

Biblical archeology has further authenticated the Bible. Prophecies are in abundance and many have been fulfilled while others are waiting for the right time. True account of History and personal stories are not brushed up. No one has ever trusted in God’s Word and has been disappointed.

Rev. Sunday BwanhotAuthor: 
Rev. Sunday Bwanhot is a missionary with EMS/SIM. He pastor’s ECWA Chicago, serves as ECWA USA DCC Chairman and Team leader of SIM Culture Connexions.

30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World

International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, January 18-25, 2021

The 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World, is an international movement that began in 1993. It calls the church to make a deliberate but respectful effort to learn about, pray for and reach out to our world’s Muslim neighbors. It coincides annually with the important Islamic month of religious observation — Ramadan, a time of the year when Muslims are much more deeply aware of spiritual matters.

While Media sound bites about Islamic extremism can too easily incite anger, fear and even hatred towards Muslims, we seek to resist this temptation to generalize, and instead, resolve to respond and pray with the mind and heart of Christ.

Join the millions of Christians around the world, and churches and ministries from many denominations, who regularly participate in this largest ongoing prayer focus on the Muslim world. A new full-color prayer guide booklet — available each year in both adult and kids versions — is a proven tool to help Christians to understand and to persistently pray for Muslim neighbors and nations.30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World

Here is how we must live

Now all has been heard, here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecc. 12:13)

Solomon, the author of the book of Ecclesiastes, was a king. He had executive, Legislative, and judicial powers all vested in him. He was the richest and wisest man on earth, and his kingdom was at peace. Everyone prospered. He married 700 wives and had 300 concubines (girlfriends). He set his heart to enjoy life, and his conclusion about life is the verse for today. Leading to this conclusion, he described life as vanity; and that the rich and poor die the same way.

So, the best and wisest way to live is to fear God and keep all His commandments. Have a reverential fear of God that will lead us to total submission and worship of God. We will choose to obey God in everything He commands us. So, we must devote time to reading the Bible and living out what God tells us. Do not pursue life as Solomon did. It is a dead-end as he discovered, and as God is warning us.

CHAIRMAN - Rev. Sunday BwanhotAuthor:
Rev. Sunday Bwanhot is a missionary with EMS/SIM. He pastor’s ECWA Chicago, serves as ECWA USA DCC Chairman and Team leader of SIM Culture Connexions.

Pastoral Letter: Understanding The Gifts Of The Holy Spirit Part 2

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away, For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 1 Cor.13:8-10.

Understanding The Spiritual Gifts. Part 1

But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.  1 Cor.14:3-4

Do not quench the Spirit.  1 Thess.5:19.

Do not despise prophecies. 1 Thess.5:20.

And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 1 Cor.12:28.

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 the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Eph.4:11-12.

The part 1 of this series is an effort to shed some light on one of the most controversial doctrines of the Bible. Pneumatology, generally, is a doctrine on which Christians of sound faith and spiritual giants have disagreed through the centuries. This historical disagreement, however, should not constitute the reason for avoidance of intelligent inquiry and searching for understanding on the subject.  Because of these controversial tendencies, any effort to understand the truth about this doctrine should be approached with much caution, diligence, and humility. And nothing less than this approach is the manner of this presentation.

This letter, like Part 1, will provide only a bird’s-eye view discussion of the different gifts of the Holy Spirit as only would be allowed on a limited medium such as this.

Division of the GiftsThe gifts have been classified into three major categories in the following manner:

Ministry Gifts – Apostles, prophets, teacher-pastors, and evangelists.
Sign Gifts – Miracles, healings, tongues, word of knowledge and interpretation.
Service Gifts – Administration, leadership, helps, giving and encouragement. etc.

No believer possesses, nor is it the intention of the Holy Spirit that any believer possess all the gifts, as Paul has rhetorically argued. 1 Cor.12:29-30.

Modus Operandi-The Root Of The Misunderstanding
The misunderstanding about the gifts is mainly the question about the method of operation of the gifts beyond the first century of the history of the church. There are those who maintain that the gifts and offices are as operative in contemporary times as they were in the early church.  And there are others, who hold that certain gifts have permanently ceased or are no longer needed having fulfilled their purposes. The Pentecostals and Charismatics who hold the former position are known as Continuationists, and those who hold the latter view are generally classified as Cessationists. (This is a misnomer as there are divergent views among the group). In listing the gifts, Paul seems to have categorized the gifts in order of importance.

” And God has appointed these in the churchfirst apostlessecond prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues”. 1 Cor.12:28. The use of first ( Gr. proton) emphasizes importance or of primary importance. Cf. Rom.1:8; 1 Cor.15:3; 1 Tim.2:1. Paul ranks prophesying above speaking in tongues. 1 Cor.14:4-5. He also indicates that some gifts are foundational for the building of the church. Eph.2:19-20. Paul further states that some gifts have temporal duration. 1 Cor.13:8-10. With these intimations as a background, the examination of   the meaning of the various gifts will now begin.

Apostles – The Greek word, apostolos, translated apostle is used in different ways, and so have varying meanings. The common meaning of apostle is a messenger or missionary. It conveys the idea of one sent with a special commission or authority. In this general sense, every believer is a missionary because every Christian has been called to spread the Gospel. Jn. 17:18; 20:21. But the word apostle is also used in the Bible in a special or technical sense and in a non-technical sense. Of the more than 70 times that the word appears in the New Testament, the non-technical use appears only two times. 2 Cor.8:23; Phil.2:25. In these two passages, the reference is to the messengers of the churches.   It is therefore evident that the usage of the word in the New Testament is in reference to its special or technical sense. Hence it is in this technical sense that the meaning of the word apostle would be examined.

As has been shown, Paul ranks the gift or the office of the apostle as number one in order of importance.1 Cor.12:28. The apostles were foundational for the establishment of the church.Eph.2:20. They were the leaders who laid the foundation of the church. Acts.15:6-29. The New Testament gives an enumeration of credentials for an apostle:

  1. Those chosen by Christ Himself. Mt.10:1-4; Mk.3:13-14; Lu.6:13-14; Acts 9:15;26:16-18; Gal.1:1,15-16.
  2. A witness of the resurrected Christ. Acts.1:21-22; 15:13-21; 1 Cor.9:1; 15:7-9.
  3. Endowed with power of exorcism, to heal diseases and to raise the dead. Matt.10:1,5-8; Mk.3:13-14.
  4. Accompanied by signs, wonders and miracles. Acts. 3:1-8; 4:13-16,29-30; 5:12,15-16;9:32-35; 19:11-12; 20:9-10;2 Cor.12:12; Heb.2:3-4.

It is important to note that the signs, wonders, and miracles performed by the apostles were truly supernatural and instantaneous in contrast to the claims of modern faith-healers and Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. This of course is not denying that similar miraculous healings and incidents periodically occur today, but certainly not in the manner or fashion of the apostolic period. God answers prayers of His children today whether or not they are designated as apostles or prophets. Even in the apostolic days, believers were still enjoined to pray for healing and other needs including medical treatment Jas.5:13-16; 1 Tim.5:23.  Consequently, it does not mean that every answer to prayer for healing or any miracle is a result of exercising any of the spiritual gifts. There is a clear distinction between the ordinary answer to prayer and the signs, wonders and miracles that God wrought to authenticate the early disciples and the Gospel.

As stated in the preceding Pastoral Letter, one of the purposes for the spiritual gifts, especially the sign gifts is for the authentication of the Gospel. ” Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.”2 Cor.12:12. ” How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing them witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles and , and gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His will?”. Heb.2″3-4.

Are There Apostles Today?
The claim of apostleship today by some in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement lacks biblical support because no so-called ” apostle” meets the biblical criteria as outlined above. Even the claim of “miracles” by some of their “apostles “falls far short of being comparable to the ones recorded for the apostles of the Lord. The authenticating miracles, signs and wonders performed by the apostles, such as raising the dead, healing the lame and diseases, detecting of falsehood, casting out demons, rebuking of false prophets and similar incidents were instantaneous and hardly repeated today. Acts 3:1-10; 5:1-11,12-16;8:5-13,18-24;9:32-41;13:6-12;14:8-13;19:11-12,17-20;20:9-12;28:3-9. These listed instances are typical cases of exercising of the gift of apostleship and authenticating of the gospel. There is no doubt that there are instances today where similar healings or manifestation of God’s power may happen, but they are extremely rare and not normative as with the apostles. And such occurrence is by no means an evidence of the manifestation of the sign gifts.

Another evidence that belies the claim of modern day “apostles” is that their teachings or writings lack inspirational authority like those of the apostles of our Lord. Many modern day “apostles” readily admit that some of their teachings and writings contain errors and have had to periodically change their positions.

Such is not the case with the apostles of our Lord whose teachings and writings are inspired and constitute part of the Scriptures. 2 Tim.3:16-1; 1 Pet.5:1-4; 2 Pet.1:20-21; Jude 1:3. Paul exercised his apostolic authority by stating personal opinion on some matters on which no specific divine instruction is given.Rom.7:1-3;1 Cor.7:1-7,8-9,12-24. Note, in particular, these statements, ” But to the rest I, not the Lord, say.”  “ And so, I ordain in all the churches” ” Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord: yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy. I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress that it is good for the man to remain as he is.” 1 Cor.7:12,17,25-26. The whole instruction to the Unmarried which appears in 1 Cor. 7:25-40 is entirely Pauline. He asserts his apostolic authority for doing so in these words, ” according to my judgment – and I think I also have the Spirit of the Lord.” v.40. Besides being ridiculous, it would be nothing short of a blasphemy for any so-called “apostle” or anyone to make such a claim today. The foregoing evidence is sufficient to conclude that the gift of apostleship ceased with the foundation of the church and the completion of the canon of the Scripture. Eph.2:20. Although there are some old-line Pentecostal denominations and African Indigenous Church movements who designate their high ranking leaders as apostles, neither those so designated nor the self-appointed “apostles” of the modern Pentecostal/Charismatic movement meet any of the criteria of the apostles of our Lord.

Prophets
Next in importance in the list of the spiritual gifts is the office of the prophet.  1 Cor.12:28. The importance of this gift is highlighted by the many references to it in the New Testament. Rom.12:6; 1 Cor.12:10; 14:1-40; Eph.4:11. Also the naming of individuals who were described by the title. Lu.2:36; Acts.11:27-28; 13:1;15:32; 21:9-11. Paul himself likely possessed this gift judging by the way that he received divine guidance. Acts 16:6-10; 18:9-10; 22:17-21;27:21-26. The church at Corinth had some individuals who possessed this gift.1 Cor.14:29-32.

The Greek word Prophetes (prophet) is used of someone who has insight into divine will and possesses the ability of divine utterance. And Prophetuo (prophecy) has the double meaning of predictive prophecy(Fore-telling) and declarative prophecy( Forth-telling) Declarative, meaning proclaiming or preaching the word of God. This appears to be sense in which Paul applies the meaning in 1 Cor.14:3-5.” But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all speak with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless he indeed interprets, that the church may receive edification.   In this context, 1 Corinthians 14 elevates preaching (declarative prophecy) to a level not found anywhere in the New Testament. Prophecy, hence, is a reference to forth-telling not fore-telling.

Predictive prophecy is no longer the norm of divine communication since the Incarnation of Christ and the completion of the New Testament canon. Heb.1:1-2. God spoke through the prophets during period of progressive revelation, but now speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures. 2 Tim.3:16-17. This is known as the Sufficiency of the Scriptures.

Characteristics Of A True Prophet 
In the Old Testament, God gave to Moses some features with which to identify true and false prophets.Deut.13:1-5;18:20-22. Deuteronomy 13:1-5 indicates that even if the prediction of a prophet comes true, but he is leading the people to other gods, that is a false prophet. Neither Jesus nor Paul endorsed the accurate identification given by a demoniac or the young woman who practiced divination. Mk.5:1-13; Acts.16:16-18. ” To the law and to the testimony, if they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isa.8:20. The invariable characteristic of a true prophet is that his prophecy comes directly from God and comes to pass without fail all the time. Deut.18:20-22.

Dr. John Walvoord lists three elements which are essential to the gift of prophecy:

  1. The prophet must have received his message from God in the form of some special revelation.
  2. The prophet must have divine guidance in the declaration of this revelation corresponding to inspiration of the written Word.
  3. The message delivered by the prophet must bear with it the authority of God.

None of the modern day “prophets” can claim such infallibility stipulated by the Scriptures or the supernatural revelation described by the above elements. Some of the modern day “prophets” admit that some of their “prophecies” have been erroneous and often disagree with the predictions of their peers. In defending their flaws and failures, Mike Bickle, one of the modern day “prophets” is quoted as saying that “prophetic ministry in the United States is still immature in its expression and that even the most well- known prophets miss the mark sometimes.” Obviously, he is not referring to the God-appointed biblical prophets, but to those of the Neo-Charismatic movement to which he belongs. Another leader in the modern prophetic movement, Cindy Jacobs, laments,” the same excesses that have plagued the prophecy movement have affected other gifts.”   As is therefore evident from the above remarks, one is left but with a justified conclusion that the modern day “prophets” do not meet the criteria set forth in the Scriptures.

Understanding Cessationism
A major debate and disagreement about the spiritual gifts exist between the Continuationists and the Cessationists.  Continuationists as earlier explained, are mainly Pentecostals/Charismatics. They maintain that all the gifts of the Spirit are operative today as in the apostolic age. But the Cessationists are mainly non-Pentecostals/Charismatics. The hold that certain gifts, especially sign gifts, have ceased to function because the need for them no longer exists.  I have earlier indicated above that the term Cessationism is a misnomer for the following reasons:

  1. The term is often used pejoratively to include all the spiritual gifts.
  2. Divergent views and opinions exist among the Cessationists.
  3. Cessationism does not deny that miracles, healings, and supernatural incidents still occur today.

What Then Is Cessationism?
Cessationism is pointedly referring to the ministry gifts of apostles and prophets which were foundational. Eph.2:20. It also includes the sign gifts- miracles, healings, tongues, word of knowledge and interpretation. The gifts which were for authenticating of the gospel. Acts.19:11-12; 2 Cor.12:12; Heb.2:3-4. When Cessationism disputes that the sign gifts are no longer in operation today, it is not saying that miracles, healings, and supernatural events do not happen.   They happen, but not because of exercising any of the associated gifts.

Dr. Charles Ryrie provides this helpful explanation.
Distinction should be made between miracles and healings and the gift of miracles and healing. The spiritual gift is the God-given ability to perform miracles and healings for the purpose of serving Him. However, a miracle or healing may be done apart from the exercise of those gifts…Consequently, then it does not follow that if one considers the gift of miracles and healings temporary, he also is saying that God does not perform miracles or heal today. He is simply saying that the gifts (emphasis mine) are no longer given because the particular purpose for which they were originally given (i.e., to authenticate the oral message) has ceased to exist.

Even during the days of the apostles, when it was not necessary, believers were instead urged to pray for miracles and healings, including the use of medicine, rather than the exercise of spiritual gifts. Jas.5:13-15; 1 Tim.5:23. Similarly, is the prayer of the apostles,Acts.4:24-31, and specifically asking ” grant to Your servants that with boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus” It was purely a prayer for miracles and for the supernatural to happen apart from the exercise of any spiritual gift. Even Paul who seemed to possess and had exercised the gift of healing, did not deem it necessary to exercise it towards himself, 2 Cor.12:7-10, or to his sick companions-Epaphroditus, Phil.2:25; Timothy, 1. Tim.5;23; and Trophimus, whom he left sick at Miletus, 2 Tim.4:20.

Other than the gifts of apostleship, prophecy and the sign gifts mentioned above, Cessationism recognizes the ministry gifts of teacher-pastor and evangelist as well as the service gifts to be operational in the church today.

While there may exist those who claim Cessationist position by denying the occurrence of miracles and supernatural healings today, such a marginalized position and unbelief does not represent the Cessationist viewpoint.  A brief summary of the position of Cessationism can be stated as follows:

  1. Both the offices and gifts of apostle and prophet have ceased because they are foundational and therefore temporal.Eph.2:20.
  2. The sign gifts also have ceased because they were temporal for authenticating the early disciples and the gospel message. Acts.3:1-9; 5:12;13:8-12;14:8-11; 19:11-12; 2 Cor.12:12; Heb.2:3-4.
  3. All the other ministry and service gifts are still operational in the church today. Rom.12:6-8; Eph.4:11-14;1 Pet.4:10-11
  4. The Scripture clearly states the temporal duration of certain gifts and therefore alluding to Cessationism.1. Cor.13:8-10.
  5. Although some Cessationists base their position on 1. Cor.13:8-10, a Sovereign God may on occasion, at His will, revive any of these gifts. But this is not normative.
  6. Miracles, healings and other supernatural events occur today, but not because of exercising any of the sign gifts.

Conclusion
This tedious discussion again highlights the controversial nature of the subject of the Spiritual gifts and Pneumatology in general. The earnest approach to this kind of inquiry is to subdue all preconceived notions and let the Scripture speak for itself. This principle has been applied in this presentation, and it has been the guideline of this Pastoral Letter forum.

The discussion of the other gifts will continue in the subsequent letters in this series.

Rev. Joseph EzeigboAuthor:
Rev Joseph Ezeigbo studied at Grace Collage and Grace Theological Seminary, both in Winona Lake, IN, where he obtained his undergraduate and graduate degrees respectively. He also did some Postgraduate studies at Liberty University and Liberty Theological Seminary, Lynchburg, VA. He is the coordinator, African Missionary Outreach. Rev Ezeigbo is the currently Vice Chairman and Prayer and Renewal Facilitator ECWA USA. He has also served as Secretary and Chairman of ECWA USA DCC. Rev Ezeigbo is an advocate for prayer for the Muslim World and International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, a Bible teacher for ECWA MD and Researcher – Church History and Theology.

The Best Trade-Off Ever Offered

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Phi. 3:8)

The Last Supper
The Last Supper

Jesus never minced words when He counseled His would-be disciples to count the cost before jumping on board. In another setting, He taught that the Kingdom of God was of such value that you should exchange everything you have to acquire it. Paul unveiled his approach which is in line with what God commanded. He traded off his Jewishness, culture, education, relationships, and even ambition for the sake of knowing Christ. We cannot joggle and try to balance other pursuits on the one hand and knowing Jesus Christ on the other hand. It does not work that way. You can only know and experience Christ fully when you fully give up everything else that is important to you. The good news is that when you take this approach, you will know Christ and even gain better things than what you gave up. Wow!

Rev. Sunday BwanhotAuthor:
Rev. Sunday Bwanhot is EMS/SIM Missionary. He serves as Team leader of SIM Culture Connexions; Pastors of ECWA Chicago and ECWA USA DCC Chairman.

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