Apostolic Exceptionalism Print E-mail

Apostolic Exceptionalism
by: Bishop Samuel Smith

  • Why are some running away from the name “Apostolic”?
  • Do we really believe in the true end-time destiny of the Biblically defined New Testament Church?
  • “I would rather be scorned for being right, than admired for being wrong.” SLS

Recently on a flight returning from Stockholm, Sweden, the following impressions came to me so strongly that I had to make notes on something. I had only the print-out of my flight ticket; thus, I scrawled my initial outline for this article.

“Apostolic Exceptionalism.” Of late there has been a heated national debate on the subject of “American Exceptionalism.” The more I look into this matter, I am impressed that the natural mirrors the spiritual.

The debate, “American Exceptionalism” is between two spheres of thought. One being that our nation is special. The USA is the will of God for the world. It was founded by people yearning to be free, believing that they were endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights. Our forefathers were guided by Biblical principles to establish a nation that would become a beacon in the world’s long dark night, a shining light in the midst of oppression and mistreatment of millions. America has fought and won two World Wars, and countless military engagements to liberate enslaved people of every color and religion. Our nation has built countless institutions of higher learning, universities and theological schools, based upon Judeo-Christian values, that have trained leaders who in turn fashioned a nation where unparalleled freedom and prosperity have flourished. Our churches have spent millions of dollars sending missionaries and resources around the world preaching the Gospel and spreading the Kingdom God.

Of course America has made its share of mistakes; but, as a people, we have tried to correct them; from reversing the mistreatment of native Americans, to fighting a war to remove the curse of slavery, to promoting and preserving civil rights. Behind every reform and step forward has been the driving force of conscience, provoked by people of faith, inspired and guided by the Word of God.

On the other side of the spectrum is the “liberal-socialists” who seem hell-bent to ignore every mistake of preceding civilizations, who now wish to take the most infamous failed policies from some of the darkest shadows of history and reinstate them here, and pry our nation away from the roots that have made America, “a city set on a hill.” We have leaders who apologize for America, who have brazenly bought into the theory that the world is entering into the “post-American era.” There are those who would completely remake America in a way that we would never recognize what has been the greatest nation the world has ever known, with prosperity, security, and freedom for all. Their attempts to change the foundation of this great nation borders on high treason.

I have been around the world twice and all over the continents. The pages of my previous ten year passport were full within five years and I had to return it to the State Department for additional pages. My present passport, after five years is almost full. I know of no one within the Apostolic experience who has traveled more internationally: I state the preceding only to make the point that with everything taken into account and what I have personally witnessed, America is the greatest nation in the world! I say this not to boast, but to give praise to God, because He has honored the faith of our visionary forefathers who set forth with the goal to establish one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Granted, there have been failures along the way, “to error is human;” but, as a nation we have constantly striven to correct our mistakes and to form a more “perfect union.” It is a shame that so many who now enjoy the greatest overall blessings in the world, do not appreciate what God has allowed us to have here. All things taken into account, I do believe in “American Exceptionalism.”

I am astonished at the similarities in the spiritual realm. The Old Testament states plainly, “Hear O’ Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4). Immanuel Swedenborg, the 18th century theologian/scientist/philosopher, reputed to have been the most intelligent man who ever lived, said; “There is a ‘word’ that angels cannot utter… gods.”

The book of Genesis contains two chapters that describe the creation of the whole world; please compare that to the book of Exodus which contains sixteen chapters that describe the construction of the “Tabernacle in the Wilderness,” that was to serve two purposes: (1) A place of worship for the Israelites in their journey between Egypt and Canaan; (2) a “type and shadow” of the will of God for His people in the “church age.” Note, there are eight times more chapters describing in detail God’s plan for the Church, His ultimate pride and joy, than the creation of the universe!

There is no religion in the world, nor any sect of Christianity, that so mirrors the typology of the Tabernacle as does the Apostolic Church. The author of the book of Acts, makes the comparison irrefutable, comparing he Tabernacle in the Wilderness to the Apostolic Church, saying; “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us” (Acts 7:38). It is a point that should not be missed or ignored that the first Church, established on the Day of Pentecost, “continued in the apostles’ doctrine,” and is accurately recalled by historians, the Apostolic Church Era. Why now the push to ignore and pull away from that identity?

Of course there have been mistakes and embarrassments in the Apostolic movement by some of its most ardent advocates . The first century Christian church should not be discredited because of Judas, Simon the sorcerer, the well documented errors of the Corinthian church, and Apostle Paul’s painfully “sharp” contention with Barnabas. Why then, as the old adage goes, “throw the baby out with the bath water,” meaning, why discredit “Apostolics” because of the errors and excesses of some?

The Old Testament records the failures of Adam, Lot, David, Solomon, and many more: that does not make me ashamed of the Old Testament and the foundation laid therein relative to the New Testament Church. Let us be real. The “non-denominationals,” whose title many Apostolics now covet to wear, have had their share of embarrassments, scandals, and more.

There is an awakening stirring in America! In the midst of great international peril and mounting national chaos relative to almost every major issue; people are longing for direction and safe boundaries. There is a daily growing awareness that America needs renewal that can only come from returning to “tried and true” rock-solid foundational standards. As souls turn to ministry, churches, and the Word of God for answers, we who adhere to the Apostles’ doctrine have been commissioned a very vital revelation to share. We must fulfill the plan and purpose for which God has prepared us! We are His witnesses! The truth will set men free. Jesus asked Peter, “Whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15) Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ,” (Matthew 16:16). Upon Peter’s bold and confident revelation relative to the identity of Jesus, understanding that He was the promised Messiah, the one whose coming was prophesied by Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 53:5-7, Zechariah 12:10, and Micah 5:2; the Church is built whereby Satan’s weapons are destined to be futile. Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

There are indisputable facts that should be obvious to any believer! There is a Creator, and He is one. He is jealous of His position, and His name is one. He has provided a manual of conduct for his creation; it is known universally as the Holy Bible. The Bible is divinely inspired with infallible content. God, seeing the end from the beginning, saw that mankind would need redemption; thus, was “…
the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). The prophets gave ample information to know who that Lamb would be.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced…” (Zechariah 12:10). “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:5-7). “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Who can this be, if not Jesus?

Jesus came into the world and fulfilled the scriptures, saying, “He that believeth on me on me as the scripture hath said,” (John 7:38). Apostle John proclaimed, “In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word was made flesh and dwelled among us,” (John 1:1 and 14). Biblical scripture clearly declares that Jesus is the Lamb of God; “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us” (I John 3:16). The author of the Acts of the Apostles placed the issue into context, “…the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood,” (Acts 20:28).

Apostle Paul declared; “One Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). Our Lord Jesus Christ gave Apostle Peter the keys of the kingdom, whom when asked in Jerusalem, “what must we do?” Peter answered: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38); thus fulfilling the commandment to be born again, in accordance with the terms of Luke 24:47, “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name beginning at Jerusalem”…and (John 3:5), “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Peter, the man whom Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom, identified the Holy Ghost outpouring in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost as fulfilling the prophecy of Joel; “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16). After the Holy Ghost outpouring and Peter’s command to, “repent, and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” the scripture records, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine…” (Acts 2:42).

The Apostolic Church is “…built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20). Christ came to, “… seek and to save that which was lost,” (Luke 19:10). He paid the ultimate price, and left us, His Church, with the responsibility to finish the task, preaching the Gospel to every nation and “…to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God,” (Acts 20:28); thus enabling us by His “spirit and truth” (John 4:24). How dare we “…depart from the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” (Jude 1:3)??? How dare we shirk our responsibility to preach the only message that can save a soul from hell? “If our gospel (note ‘our’ gospel) be hid, it is hid to them that are lost,” (II Corinthians 4:3).

Apostle Paul gave the most severe warning to those who would preach another gospel; “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so say I now again. If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9).

It is quite obvious that Paul was very concerned about the Gospel being altered, or changed in any way. His warning exceeded those who would proclaim Islam, Scientology, Buddhism, Hinduism, New Age, and any one of a multiplicity of religions; it was the diluted, changed, compromised, politically correct, impotent gospel, that belittled repentance, diluted the message of the name and the blood, denying the spiritually empowered life of the disciplined believer, that he forbade.

“Would Christ have been crucified if He preached what we preach?”- Leonard Ravenhill

The last book in the Bible, Revelation, chapter 17, warns of a religious system that would commit fornication (doctrinal and spiritual unfaithfulness) with the end-time world order. That fatally flawed compromised system is called the “Great Whore, the Mother of Harlots.” It could not be clearer, that those who fall under her influence are her daughters and become the “…abominations of the earth,” Revelation 17:5). How much, and what all, will some trade to be “mainstream,” politically correct, and successful within the popularly approved religious system?

If history teaches mankind anything from history, it is that mankind never learns from history. I pray that time-worn adage does not apply to the 21st century Apostolic Church. What happened when the early Apostolic church era, who were eye-witnesses to the resurrection, signs, wonders and miracles, whose generation heard firsthand the teachings of Christ and His apostles; whose descendents for safety and numbers sake decided to merge with the political correctness of their day? History reveals that their decision was spiritually fatal, “…for truth is fallen in the street” (Isaiah 59:14); and the shadow of the infamous Dark Ages descended upon the earth with horrors too awful to describe.

An unholy church, it is useless to the world, and of no esteem among men. It is an abomination, hell’s laughter, heaven’s abhorrence. The worst evils which have ever come upon the world have been brought upon her by an unholy church.” – C.H. Spurgeon

In my world travels I have seen up close the most magnificent religious edifices that money can build; cathedrals, temples and churches, laden with gold, silver, marble, and priceless art. The grandeur thereof is unspeakable; but, without exception, they are cold and lifeless. When will we learn that material riches and the works of man’s hands does not necessarily make a place of true worship, nor guarantee the favor of God?

Thank God for the Christian Reformation that revived Europe and ultimately reached around the world! “Line upon line, precept upon precept,” the reformers, step by step, came closer and closer to regaining what the Dark Ages had spoiled. Thank God for the dawn of the 20th century when a revival of spirit and truth swept the world. The revelation received by our Apostolic forefathers has been vindicated! We, who have inherited the torch, first given to them and now to us, must finish the course! Wherever “truth is fallen in the streets,” let it not be on our watch!

As a young Bible College student in the early 1960’s, I remember the phenomenon of the Holy Ghost being poured out in the major Christian denominations, then called the Charismatic Renewal, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Joel, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28). “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh” (Acts 2:16, 17). I recall Bishop S.G. Norris relating that years earlier, in the 1930’s, the noted scholar, William Phillips Hall, then president of the American Bible Society, had written about his remarkable discovery, the correct biblical formula for water baptism, “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Even now, worldwide, there is a global awakening of the revelation who Jesus really is, and His name in water baptism. God is up to something! Toward the conclusion of Daniel’s end-time prophecy, he declares; “…but the people who do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits” (Daniel 11:32). Think of it, “the people who do know their God!” In addition to that, He promised, “shall be strong, and do exploits!” Our strength is anchored in the “spirit and truth” of His Word. What began in the spirit cannot be completed in the flesh. No talent, genius, technology of man can take the place of the supernatural that is accessible only by adherence to the Scriptures.

It is incredible how many Apostolics would now return to traditional orthodoxy and/or leap ahead to the philosophy of the new “emergent” church order, to become more palatable to the world. The Church has never converted the lost by becoming like them! Millions, worldwide, are coming toward the revelation, the identity of Jesus, the new birth, real Bible holiness; will we Apostolics pass them going way from it? I want nothing to do with “Fatal Progress.”

The point is argued by some that the name “Apostolic” is not that important, just calling ourselves “Christians” should be sufficient; that is what the first church was called, and it is not as offensive to many, allowing more flexibility today in appealing to the world as opposed to the more narrowly defined “Apostolic.” Yes, the first church was called “Christian,” but, in that era, there was only one church, one safe ship in a sea of hostility and skepticism, and they were unified in one mind and one accord. The first “Christian Church” definitely abided by the “apostles’ doctrine”. There was no controversy that the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in the Lord Jesus Christ; Paul laid it on the line, “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.” Biblical and historical facts clearly state how the first church interpreted the New Birth and emphasized the identity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul gave a stern warning to those who would preach another gospel; in fact, he said, “let them be accursed.”

Now, almost two thousand years later, there are hundreds upon hundreds of denominations, sects, branches, some large and some small, all over the world, calling themselves “Christian”; from Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, to the mainline denominations; Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, and on and on; to the multiple Pentecostal groups, and even to some of the most bizarre cults, too many to mention; even the shameful Kansas church that taunts the grieving families of slain war heroes and celebrate their deaths; all calling themselves “Christian”. So, today that name can mean anything. “Apostolic” more clearly describes what the first century church believed. In today’s world it is much more accurate to be called “Apostolic” if one wishes to identify with the doctrine and experience of the first century church.

At Mt. Sinai, the revelation demanded a sacrifice. At Mt. Calvary, the sacrifice demanded a revelation. Jesus is the “Lamb of God”. When nothing, nor anyone else could fill the role, the Creator Himself came to redeem His creation. “In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, and 14). How great is our God! What a truth! This truth is not hidden from man, but, for man to discover for his eternal benefit.

How can any believer, no matter how sincere, discount the importance of the following scriptures?

Jesus said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). Paul admonished, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). Jesus made this promise exclusively to His followers, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matthew 13:11).

It is irrefutable that the first century disciples, who adhered to the Apostles’ doctrine, as even our 20th century Apostolic forefathers, believed the truth of the Word was paramount. They were not moved by mere emotion, promotion, success schemes, whims, wishes, fads, fashions, popularity, prosperity, numbers, and political correctness; but, “Those whom the world was not worthy,” (Hebrews 11:38)et for the defence of the gospel” (Philippians 1:17). armed with nothing more than biblical authority and the might of His Spirit, ushered in the promised Holy Ghost revival in the first century, and their spiritual descendents, the same in the 20th century. The first century revival was quenched not by oppression from without, but heresy from within. We can not let that be the fate of this latter day, end-time revival, preceding the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are the “watchmen on the wall,” whom Apostle Paul stated were, “…s

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (I Timothy 3:16). It is not coincidental that the verse just before this powerful statement of Apostle Paul reads; “…the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth.”Jesus, in the Old Testament concealed, in the New Testament revealed.

Satan, knowing his time is short is composing a vicious worldwide assault! Violence covers the earth, immorality is a flood, false religions that confuse and beguile, cloud the minds of millions. Indeed, this is the time likened unto the days of “Noah and Sodom” that the Bible warns would precede the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, and finally, the Last Judgment. Now is the time when the Church must be the light of the world and the salt of the earth!

Present day American patriots who stand firm on the doctrine of American Exceptionalism,” rest their case upon the Constitution of the United States. History records that, that monumental document was the product of prayer and was drawn from the hearts of men who had been dramatically impacted by the Word of God. History reveals that of the 56 signatories of the U.S. Constitution, 29 held seminary degrees. Today, hardly anyone in America, especially our youth, has read the Constitution. In fact, it is reported that in some instances in our society where the Constitution has been referenced, it is prefaced with a disclaimer that it should be read against the backdrop that it was written for an earlier age and another time. The implication is so transparent, that people now have the right to re-interpret the U.S. Constitution to suit themselves relative to a new code of morality, ethics, and values. Thus, without a sure and certain compass, many Americans have forgotten from where our country has come, and they know less where it is headed. No wonder the present is so uncertain? Their errors are so breath-taking that our forefathers would turn over in their graves!

Even more incredible in this late hour is that some Apostolics would relegate the Apostles’ doctrine to an earlier time and place and allow that they have the right to take away, ignore, delete, add to, or whatever, to satisfy the present religious market for what they consider “growth and progress.” The Church cannot afford the high price of “Fatal Progress!”

Concerning the fixation that today’s church has with numbers, with growth at any price: The church has paid a terrible price for statistics!” – Leonard Ravenhill

Please note the following excerpt from an article by Paul L. Williams, Ph.D, entitled Koran in the Pews : “This weekend (November 13, 2010), the Memorial Drive Presbytarian Church in Houston along with Christian communities in Atlanta, Seattle, and Detroit will initiate a series of sermons that have been designed to produce an ecumenical reconciliation between Christianity and Islam. In addition to the sermons, the Sunday school lessons will center on the inspired teachings of the Prophet Mohammad. Korans will be placed in the pews next to Bibles. The concept of ‘Chrislam,’ now embraced by such preachers as Rick Warren and Robert Schuller. The ‘Chrislam’ movement has gained impetus by statements from President George Bush that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship the same God, and by Rick Warren’s reference to Isa (the Muslim name for Jesus) in his prayer at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.”

The two preachers referenced in the William’s article are read, quoted, and imitated by a growing number of Apostolic ministers who are now transitioning into the “progressive/emergent movement”. I pray that they will stop, and consider the errors of their newly found mentors, and ask, “Where will this end?”

Carefully consider the blatant errors of Islam, now coddled by “Chrislam,” starting with their doctrine in the Koran that our beloved Jesus is neither the only begotten Son of God, nor the Messiah, but, He is viewed as a prophet who was appointed by Allah to prepare mankind for the coming of Mohammad. The victim at Calvary, Islam teaches, was either Simon of Cyrene or Judas Iscariot.

Allah is not another name for the true God, and Mohammad is a false prophet by every reasonable historical and biblical standard. No matter how many, or who, may try to spin it, Islam is not a religion of peace. In Islam’s truest form it is not compatible with anyone who does not submit to their doctrine. The Koran states in Sura 5:17, “In blasphemy indeed are those that say that God is Christ, the son of Mary.” The Koran has many verses that command the followers of Allah to kill Christians and Jews if they do not convert to Islam. Apostle Paul could not have made it more plain than his admonishment; “Be ye notunequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (II Corinthians 6:14). How can anyone who believes the Gospel be in fellowship with such proponents of heresy? I ask again, “Where will it all end?”

“We are playing church. We are so busy trying to be relevant to the world that we have become just like the world. AND the world is not impressed.– Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

What comes first; the falling away of the nation, affecting the church, or, the falling away of the church, affecting the nation? The Scriptures propose the latter. As the church departs from the old landmarks, the nation declines: “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

“We are not called to proclaim philosophy and metaphysics, but the simple gospel. Man’s fall, his need of a new birth, forgiveness through atonement, and salvation as the result of faith, these are our battle-axe and weapons of war.” - C.H. Spurgeon

Apostle Paul, champion of the 1st century Apostolic Era and author of most of the New Testament, preached; “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” (Romans 1:16). Is it possible that Paul, heavily anointed with the Holy Ghost, penned this mighty statement with the foreknowledge that a day would come when adherents of the “apostles’ doctrine” in an era of political correctness, would be embarrassed, intimated, deceived, and even ashamed to proclaim the clearly documented Gospel? Without a doubt, Paul believed in “Apostolic Exceptionalism.” It is an honor to stand with him, a true “hero of the faith.”

The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him to all that call upon him in truth” (Psalms 145:18).

 
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