The Apostles’ Doctrine One 2018
The Spirit and the Word
by Fred Pruitt
To listen to an audio version click here: Audio
Acts 2:42 – 42 And they continued stedfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
John 17:17-23 – Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. 20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
I have been pondering the issue of “doctrine” since around 1986. That was when it first began to occur to me that there seemed to be some “disconnect” between the inner Spirit reality in me, and the doctrines or teachings that some of us thought would put us solidly on the leading edge of truth, while also proving themselves by solving all of our lives’ problems. It seemed to me there was something askew.
Now, to be fair, the word “doctrine” simply means someone’s teaching or philosophy. A chemist would tell his doctrine when explaining elements and compounds. Like the word “religion,” it is not a bad word in itself, but certain connotations in some circles have made “religion” and “doctrine” to be bad words.
But taking the term in its normal meaning, the “Apostle’s doctrine,” would obviously then be, the things the Apostles taught concerning Jesus and their experiences and lives with Him. Jesus even sanctions their “word,” their “doctrine,” on His last night with them before the Cross, in John 17:20 – “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” We can see the plain and evident passing of the baton, from Jesus to the Apostles, and then through the Apostles, to all of us who have come after. It is as Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:18-22 —
“For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
I think it is important and most especially valid that we remember that our household, the “household of God,” has been built on those who have come before us, especially those who laid the foundation in the beginning, “the Apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone!” But also, we remember that we do not stand alone in our generation as if no one has come before whose works and lives have brought us to where we are. All of us stand on the shoulders of others.
The epistle to the Hebrews testifies that we are “compassed about with a … great cloud of witnesses,” (12:1), which “cloud of witnesses,” gives us the divine unction to continue to patiently “run the race,” and finally exhorts us to look “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
What “cloud of witnesses?” Certainly it means all the saints who have ever lived – but specifically he is talking about all the people of faith he had named in the previous chapter, the famous Hebrews chapter 11. The author, speaking of those notable ones who lived and walked in the Spirit in the faith of God, lists quiet a crew: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab the harlot (whore/prostitute) of Jericho … and
Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. (Heb 11:32-40)
These folks, along with a multitude that no man can number (Rev 7:9), are the ones who surround us, compass us about, every moment in the Spirit in the Kingdom of Heaven. We do not go anywhere, do anything, try anything, speak anything, nor have faith for anything, without these witnesses from on high joined with us in the eternal intercession of the great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are built upon them, and they are fulfilled and justified in the Christ expressed in our lives – wisdom justified of her children. They REJOICE to see our Day! We are eternally indebted in love to them!
While most “traditions” are of men, which can be discarded when they are no longer useful, there are some “traditions” which are of God, from which we cannot deviate, not because it is so much a “law” for which one will receive punishment for breaking, but because it would be insanity and self-destructive to deviate from the Life which has created and sustains the universe. It would be like a drop of water trying to go back up to the top of Niagara Falls from which it just fell.
The reason why we respect and pay attention to the book which has come down to us as the “New Testament,” is that it is the best record we have available of the “Apostle’s doctrine,” or, as Jesus said, “their word.” Though each of the individual documents and books that make up the New Testament have always been subject to attack for one reason or another, and still are in our time, there simply are no other writings that can substitute for them nor even stand close to equal in authority to the apostolic documents of the first century AD.
The “authority” of the scriptures comes directly from Jesus, as I see it, to be a commission to the Apostles and those who came after, “through THEIR word!” It is almost synonymous with the Father saying, “This is My Beloved Son, hear ye Him!” on the mount of Transfiguration! The Father, in the hearing of Peter, James and John, sanctions Jesus as THE Christ, Son of the Living God (Matt 17:5). As plainly as the Father has given authority to the Son, it is just as plain that later He gives that same authority to His Sons in the Son, foremost the Apostles and their “Apostle’s Doctrine.”
To further clarify it, there is the Living Witness we all have within us, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who leads us into all truth, (Jn 16:13), Who is the chief of all the “Apostle’s doctrines.”
“Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (Jn 3:7,8).
“Forasmuch then as God gave them [Cornelius and friends] the like gift [baptism in the Holy Spirit] as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, [Peter] that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:17).
“But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” (1 Jn 2:27).
Secondarily, we have the writings, the “written expression” of the Apostle’s doctrine, which today we call The Bible. The purpose of the writings, are to point us to the Living Truth, and not to be the living truth themselves. It is God we worship, not the book. But still He did give us the book and it contains limitless riches for those with eyes to see.
From that first generation the line continued, branching into many lines which also branched out into other lines, continuing on and on and on for the 1900 years since the Apostolic days. It is the great Tree of Christ, the Tree of Life, that is our line, and every man and woman since has built upon the branches holding them up. Paul said what was of Christ in our “works” would stand eternally, and what was not would be discarded. I have no problem with that, and how could I, since it comes from the heart of love filled with mercy and grace.
And of course the scriptures are under fierce attack in our time, both from the non-believing world and sadly, from those who claim to be “Christians” as well. I’ve heard and read many of the arguments for dropping the scriptures from their exalted place of authority, or for removing parts or simply ignoring parts that collide with certain doctrines some hold dear. Others object to the authority of the scriptures by bringing the Council at Nicaea in the fourth century into question. It was at Nicaea that the canon was set with the New Testament as we have it today, declaring those to be apostolic writings or directly affected by the apostles. People find fault with that, pointing out some books were not accepted, and some were, making the whole book invalid pretty much. The truth is the canon accepted at Nicaea was what had been circulating in the Christian world since the first century, and at the time were the de facto word from the apostles. Nicaea only placed their stamp of approval on what was already accepted by most to be the word of the New Covenant.
I went through my intellectual struggle with the validity of the scriptures in the beginning of my Christian experience. It was one of my major intellectual arguments that I used “against” those who witnessed Christ to me in the days before I came to know Him for myself. I understand the arguments, from a purely intellectual platform, but the Spirit jumped me over my intellect and bored into my heart, and when that occurred, I became empty of knowledge and understanding (that I thought I already had), because I knew I was being taught anew by the Spirit. And just as the scriptures had been such a stumbling block for me before I entered in, they became the primary way the Spirit began to speak in me and renew my mind. This was completely outside of any church or ministry – it was just Jesus, the Father, Holy Spirit and me. No man, at least in the beginning, told me I “had” to read the scriptures to get closer to God. That came later. But in those beginning days, nobody had to tell me to do anything. I was drawn and taught of God – and so is everyone who is born of the Spirit!
Bottom line, I cannot let go of, cannot do violence to and cannot desert the authority of the Spirit in giving us “the Apostle’s doctrine” through the scriptures. It would be like ripping off my right arm. (To look further into our relationship to the scriptures, click Why I Am Not Ashamed of the Scriptures.)
I believe it is a grievous error to desert the scriptures, or to throw out parts we do not like. I do believe a time of the Spirit is coming, and the sign of its validity will be that it is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, and Jesus Christ will be its chief cornerstone. But we do not just look back to that first generation, and skip over all the generations between then and now, as if we have a direct line back to them and give little to no esteem toward all who came between their time and ours. No, not hardly!
We owe everything to those who have gone before us. Not just the first generation, but every generation since the First Century has seen a move of God, and strong men and women who hazarded their lives for the cause of Christ and were often subjected to torture and horrible deaths. These things are still going on in parts of the world today! Certainly we are called to prayer and as led to petition the worldly authorities who practice violent religious persecution, to reverse their ways and release all those held for that which is not a crime. But let us also remember that if any of our brethren, even despite our prayers and petitions, suffer torture or are even put to death for their witness to Jesus Christ, it will not come out in the Eternal as a tragedy, even though in our own minds and hearts in the moment it is an insane absurdity, something which makes no sense whatsoever, in any sane universe. Certainly it is that in the world, but we are not of the world but of the Spirit, and in the Spirit it is to their eternal glory and the glory of God, and by the Spirit in each one of them the Apostolic Spirit arises and says, as it did in the Apostles after they were beaten and then released in Acts 5:41, “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”
That is the Spirit we are “of,” if anyone will have it.
Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Independent, Evangelicals, no-names, whatever we call ourselves, we are as much the children of the immediate past as we are children of the ancients. Before we are too critical of our forefathers in the faith, let us at least equal their exploits!
It grieves me that many are throwing out some of the true saints of past generations because people these days find them “legalistic.” How sad to me that some criticize the missionary spirit, both local and foreign, that longs to put people into motion in fulfilling the role of Christ’s church in the world, to bring all of the Lord’s Sheep into HIS (not our) fold, and then to bring them to maturity in Christ. The job is not yet complete! For those who cannot help themselves because they are under the unction of the Spirit, they take up the mantle wherever they are in whatever they are doing. There is no need to go out and start another “My Name Ministries, Inc.” There are more of them now than there are lawyers. Our “field” is wherever the Lord puts us, with whomever the Lord puts us. Now, not tomorrow.
We may clap our hands and enthusiastically shout, “Hallelujah, The Lord will do it!” and He will and does, but it will not be without the involvement of His perfect instruments that He has raised up and tuned to a fine pitch – US! We are not called to sit on the sidelines and cheer Jesus on (that is not what the “finished work of the Cross” means), but to realize we are team players, too, and can be as much in the thick of the ball game as we desire.
The message to the world is not just about Jesus of Nazareth being the Messiah, the Christ, which He is and so many other things as well, but that His Death and Resurrection has brought the Life of the Spirit into every heart that honors Him, bringing each of us into union and oneness with Him, so that we may all stand up as little Christs in our individual forms. It is not “our” lives that are manifest in our humanity, but His divine Life expressed as our humanity, and at the same time being completely ourselves also.
WE are the joy that was set before Him at Calvary, for which He endured the Cross and its worldly shame! He didn’t die and rise again just so we could observe, cheer and sit in the bleachers for all eternity while we watch Jesus do stuff. No! He came to raise us up “into Him,” as the “Head” of the body, so that we also might rise in our particular Sonship, and be His Life expressed in our world, as the hand, eye, nose, mouth, elbow, leg, foot or whatever He needs! And the way He does this is to send us out, as He did the original twelve and Paul, into the world of men, near or far, to become intercessors for those whom God gives us, and live the Life of Jesus in our mortal flesh. (2 Cor 4:11). We are His witnesses, who do not go out “to witness,” but simply to BE His witnesses everywhere we are. A witness can only tell what he has seen and heard. That is what it means to be Christ’s witness.
God looks on THE HEART! But there are also many critics, not operating by the Spirit, who nitpick and complain! They won’t go into the fields themselves, saying, “There is no need,” citing some man-made doctrine, and then ridicule those who give their all to an endeavor of the Spirit, being living-room quarterbacks, pontificating about how Paul did it, or Peter did it, and so and so is unscriptural, or too scriptural, not enough this, too much that. As of 2018, in some it is exactly as Jesus said in His generation in Luke 7:31-35:
“And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like? They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all her children.”
But we press on and leave the critics behind. They can catch up if they want, but we must move on. These ARE the times for our generation, if they are not the fulfillment of all generations.
What do I mean? Only that we stand up in our Fatherhood level. (This is for those for whom it is meant, the Spirit knows.)
What does that mean? It means we forget the things that lie behind, and press on …
End Part I
Coming Soon: The Apostles’ Doctrine II – On to Fatherhood and Intercession