Extra-biblical “revelations” (part 4)

Previous installments herehere, and here.


Ephesians 2:20

Paul’s answer to that question in Ephesians 2 is wonderfully simple and profound. He says in this passage that the apostolic (firsthand) and prophetic witness to Jesus Christ in the period after Christ’s ascension is the foundation of the church. Jesus, and God’s revelation through Him, are the “cornerstone” of the church, and around this cornerstone was laid the foundation of divine revelation through those who heard Him (the apostles), and the accompanying authenticating witness of the New Testament prophets (to this might be added the authenticating witness of all the signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit during the days of Jesus’ eyewitnesses).

The foundation, once laid, is not laid again. The laying of the foundation does not continue. But clearly, it wasn’t only in this early period of the church’s history that she needed to be strengthened in receiving and confessing the apostolic salvation-message. Has God provided any continuing means for her to be “built up” in her most holy faith?

Ephesians 4:11–16

The answer to this is an emphatic yes! Later in the same epistle, Paul teaches that the work formerly done by Jesus’ apostles and their accompanying prophets is now being done by what he calls “evangelists” and “pastors and teachers” (v. 11). Unlike prophets who spoke in the days of Jesus’ eyewitnesses, these officers work from a completed foundation of revelation, from a completed apostolic gospel. They do not (nor do others) exercise sign-gifts, because the firsthand witness that was to be authenticated by those gifts has now been finished and set forth in its fullness. Not to put it too crassly, the firsthand witness (regulated by the apostles of Christ) had a natural “expiration date,” namely, the death of those witnesses; and so the work of God corroborating their witness was subject to natural expiration as well.

But this doesn’t mean that the Lord’s purpose to strengthen the faith of His church won’t be accomplished by other means! What we need now is not the authentication of firsthand witnesses, but the preaching and teaching of evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Through their labors the completed “deposit of the faith” (the completed apostolic salvation-message) is passed down from generation to generation in the church (see, e.g., 2 Tm 2:2). The Holy Spirit will not cease to illuminate that deposit as it is expounded and handed down, and so the church will stand and be saved until the return of her Lord.

Category: Biblical Authority Comment »

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