|Vol. 2, No. 5||Page 16||May 2000|
My Father’s Business
A businesslike approach to the work of the church should result in the same kind of success experienced in the corporate world. As we set out, as Jesus did, to do our “Father’s business,” we can learn a lot from the success of those businesses who practice “strategic management.”
Beginning with a “business plan,” a successful company first formulates a mission statement. The mission statement of the church is in Ephesians 3:10, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.”
Once a mission statement is devised, goals and objectives are established to accomplish the mission of the company. The Bible has set these goals and objectives for us. In Ephesians 4:11-16, we can see all three of the main objectives of the church. In verse 12, we read of the “work of ministry,” as well as the “edifying of the body of Christ,” and in verse 16, “increase of the body.” These are the main objectives to making known the manifold wisdom of God: ministry (or good works), edification of the body (or the church) and growth (evangelism). This list is not given, however, in the order of first importance.
Without internal strength, the work becomes weak and ineffectual; thus, edification of the body must be the first priority. When Paul penned the letter to the Ephesians, he stipulated that this work was placed in the hands of various men: Ephesians 4:11-12,
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
An understanding of the work these men do in God’s business will enhance our understanding of our own work in today’s church.
The apostle, by definition, is “one who is sent” and though this word was applied to a few others, it primarily referred to those “apostles of Jesus Christ” (Colossians 1:1), thirteen men with special work and abilities. In Acts 1:16-26, we read the account of how Matthias was added to the other eleven as a replacement for Judas, and in 1 Corinthians 15:7-9 how Paul was added as of “one born out of due time.” These men had to have been eyewitnesses of the resurrection (Acts 1:22) to qualify for apostleship.
The apostles, along with special qualifications, had special gifts. In Acts 8:17-19, we see that these men could give the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit by laying on their hands. Phillip, though manifesting many of the gifts himself (Acts 8:6-7), could not pass on these gifts. If we understand the implication of these passages, we also know that this type of miraculous power could not be with us today, as we no longer have qualified men to be apostles. That said, the question arises: “Is their authority still with us today?”
Jesus showed us by his prayer in John 17 how he intended to use these men. In John 17:8, he said, “For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.” This was followed with: John 17:18, “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” Jesus’ authority was demonstrated in his words, and he sent the apostles in the same manner and with the same words. This was their authority, but how does this relate to today?
Paul made the following explanation about his own prophetic ability in Ephesians 3:3-4,
“How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).”
If the apostles’ authority rests in the Word of God that they expressed, and it is left to us in written form, then their authority is still with us today.
The authority of the apostles is one part of the foundation of the church. As Paul said in Ephesians 2:20, “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” With this foundation, a strong church can only be the result. This is one element of the “organizational chart” that Jesus left us with to edify the body.