The Church


The Apostle: One Who is Sent

by John Pacheco


Objection:

Unlike Catholic priests, Protestant ministers are sent by God to preach the Gospel, for, as the Scripture says: "How shall they preach unless they be sent?" (Romans 10:15)

Response:

Yes indeed, how shall they preach unless they are sent? In saying ‘Protestant ministers’ are sent by God, precisely which ministers do you mean? Would they be Lutherans, Calvinists, Baptists, Pentecostals, Assembly of God, Church of God, Amish, Church of Christ, Anglicans, Methodists, Quakers, Episcopalians, Salvation Army, Adventist, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Unitarians, Shakers, United Church of Christ, United Church of Canada, Brethren, Church of the Nazarene, or one of the hundreds of splinter denominations from these denominations?

After you have chosen one from the above list (or one of your own choosing since the list is by no means exhaustive), tell me now, exactly who sent these ministers and how were they sent? Well, it seems to me that there are essentially two options in this regard: an extraordinary one and an ordinary one. The extraordinary means of commission involves being sent directly by God Himself without the mediation of another person. The ordinary instrument involves not being sent directly by God Himself.

Let us examine the extraordinary means first.

Extraordinary Mission

If your Ministers were directly sent by God, then there should be an objective, identifiable means of determining whether, in fact, their claims are legitimate for, as you can appreciate, not everyone who claims to be speaking for God is, in fact, doing so. The Calvinist, for instance, says that water baptism is not essential to the gospel whereas the Anglican says it is. And so, the shrewd person quickly sees the dilemna here.

As a possible solution to this, God afforded a certain degree of authenticity to many of the Old Testament prophets (and some of the Apostles in the New Testament as well) by working some supernatural sign, if only a prophesy, to prove that they were indeed speaking for God (see the Appendix for some examples). Indeed, for the one claiming an extraordinary mission from God, unless there is an objective means of determining who is legitimate and who is not, then there would be little guarantee against following false teachers.

"And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ." (2 Cor 11:12-13)

"Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming." (Ephesians 4:14)

The New Testament recounts many instances of God confirming Christ’s divine mission:

"He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." (John 3:2)

"Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." But others asked, "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" So they were divided." (John 9:16)

"Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. "What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs." (John 11:47)

"Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him."(John 12:37)

Even Our Blessed Lord Himself admitted as much:

"Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." (John 10:37-38)

So that is the first biblical dilemna that a Protestant minister must face: an extraordinary mission from God usually involves supernatural acts being induced. And it is almost inconceivable - at least it is unbiblical, which more than suffices for this exercise - that God would not use the supernatural when He affects momentous changes on his people. He did it with Moses and the Red Sea, with Jeremiah and the prophesy of the Babylonian captivity, and through Jesus and His Apostles with the New Covenant. Is it therefore to be proposed that the Protestant Reformation, the foremost pivotal moment in Christianity after Pentecost, would have no such individual performing such signs? How likely, or better yet, how biblical is that scenario?

And why do you suppose that it is necessary for God to work miracles through the ones He calls in the first place? Because, in many instances, the ordinary means of transmitting his Word and His commandments; namely, through ordinary means (of his priestly class in the Old Testament, for instance) was not working. That is why He would have to get everyone’s attention by working a supernatural sign through a prophet - so the people would sit up and take notice of the message, and would have no excuse to withhold belief. So then if a Protestant wants to claim an extraordinary mission from God, he should also have the supernatural signs to go with it.

But, you object: what about false teachers? They too perform signs. Yes quite true. In fact, you might point to Deuteronomy 13:1-5 as evidence:

"If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you."

I respond: the existence of false teachers who correctly prophesy only furthers the Catholic view. First of all, if, by submitting this objection, you mean to detract from the necessity of a supernatural sign in preaching the Gospel, then you have effectively cut off one of your means of being ‘sent’. In holding to this objection, you have nullified the extraordinary route and left yourself the ordinary one only! Secondly, there is the question of adjudication on whether a prophet is a true one or a false one. Tell me, who is to decide that question? If it is another prophet (extraordinary means), then you are in an equally deficient position to answer the question since someone must judge the authenticity of THAT prophet and so on down the line. Who then adjudicates whether a prophet is true or false? Well, the answer to that question is pretty straightforward: it is those who are placed in the ordinary capacity as God’s teachers.

Ordinary Mission

The Old Testament

In the Old Testament and during Jesus’ day, it was the Levitical priesthood and the Sanhedrin. It was these people, and to the high priest in particular, who had the authority and the capacity to make such a decision. Notice, for instance, how the books of Jeremiah and Isaiah were read in the Temples. Who decided to read from these prophets if not the Jewish Sanhedrin who judged them to be the authentic word of God? If they had been judged to be false prophets, would they have been read in the synagogues? Clearly not.

So then there are three questions about this ordinary mission: authority, capacity, and origin. If all of these three elements are present, then the Sanhedrin, acting as the lawful authority for God, are the legitimate teachers.

1) Did they have authority?

Of course. The whole Jewish religion was based on it from the establishment of the Levitical priesthood and the role of high priest.

"And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them" (Acts 26:10)

"At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!" Those who were standing near Paul said, "You dare to insult God's high priest?" Paul replied, "Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: `Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.'" (Acts 23:2-5)

No prophet, however, ever spoke about having a human agent depose the Levitical priesthood or the High Priest.

"[David] said to Saul, "Why do you listen when men say, `David is bent on harming you'? This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, `I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD's anointed.'" (1 Samuel 24:9-10)

Jesus, Himself, even recognized their authority:

"Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach." (Matthew 23:1-3)

2) Did they have the capacity to make crucial decisions for the Jewish people? Yes they did. Our Lord recognized their authority over the people when He lambasted them in Matthew 23. Although He was critical of how they were using their authority, He never once denied that they had the capacity to ‘loose and bind’ or ‘open and shut’: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to" (Matthew 23:13).

The High Priest’s office, in particular, was also endowed with the Urim and Thummim. "The Urim and Thummim were considered as something distinct from the ephod of the high priest and the gems with which it was adorned. It also shows that they were conceived of as material objects sufficiently small to be inserted in the "rational" or "pouch", the main purpose of which seems to have been to receive them….From this and various other passages which it would be too long to discuss here (v.g. Deut. Xxxiii, 8, Heb., I Kings, xiv, 36, I Kings, xxiii, 6-12 etc.) we gather that the Urim and Thummim were a species of sacred oracle manipulated by the priest in consulting the Divine will, and that they were at times used as a kind of Divine ordeal to discover the guilt or innocence of suspected persons. The lots being two in number, only one question was put at a time, and that in a way admitting of only two alternative answers (see I Kings, xiv, 41-42; ibid., xxiii, 6-12). Many scholars maintain that in most passages where the expression "consult the Lord" or its equivalent is used, recourse to the Urim and Thummim is implied (v.g. Judges, I, 1-2; ibid., xx, 27-28; I Kings, x, 19-22; II Kings, ii, 1, etc.)" [Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908]

Here are some biblical passages which confirm this endowment afforded to the High Priest: "Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the LORD. Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron's heart whenever he enters the presence of the LORD. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD." (Exodus 28:29-30)

"He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the LORD. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in." (Numbers 27:21)

"This is the blessing that Moses the man of God pronounced on the Israelites before his death. He said…. About Levi he said: "Your Thummim and Urim belong to the man you favored. You tested him at Massah; you contended with him at the waters of Meribah." (Deut 33:1-2,8)

"When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. He inquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets." (1 Samuel 28:5-6)

"The governor ordered them not to eat any of the most sacred food until there was a priest ministering with the Urim and Thummim." (Ezra 2:63, Cf. Nehemiah 7:65)

3) Who sent them? I thought you’d never ask! We’ve come full circle. The answer, of course, is that God sent them. God set up a biological line to serve him as priest - the tribe of Levi (Cf. Numbers 3:9-13). The priests from this tribe served as mediators for the people until the establishment of the New Covenant under Christ. Far from destroying the pedagogy of the Old Testament, however, Jesus only replaced a biological line (Levitical priesthood) with a universal line of priests (priesthood of Melchizedek), thus mirroring the enlarged economy of salvation from a national one (the nation of Israel) to a catholic (universal) one (the whole world). Hence, under the Levitical line, the priest was sent by God to teach and instruct the people.

The New Testament

Under the New Covenant, Christ established Apostles with authority to teach all nations. He personally sent them: "He appointed twelve--designating them apostles--that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach" (Mark 3:14)

"Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go…. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."" (Matthew 28:16-20)

"For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it." (2 Cor 10:8)

"This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority--the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down." (2 Cor 13:10)

"For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus." (1 Thes 4:2)

"These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you." (Titus 2:15)

The Apostles, in turn, in order to perpetuate the Church’s divine hierarchical structure founded by Christ, sent out their pupils (in most cases, bishops) as teachers: "Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers." (Acts 15:22)

"So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul-" (Acts 15:25)

"Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing."(Acts 15:27)

"Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me." (1 Cor 16:3-4)

"If Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am. No one, then, should refuse to accept him. send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me. I am expecting him along with the brothers. Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity." (1 Cor 16:10-12)

"And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel." (2 Cor 2:18)

"In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you." (2 Cor 8:22)

And so, when someone asked Timothy or Titus or Silvanus or Barnabas or Judas or Silas who sent them, they could truthfully point to the Apostles who were sent by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. When the original Apostles died out, the men whom they had sent out would in turn send out other men and so on down through history. The resolution to the authority of a minister of God is quite simple. If you can prove that you have been sent by a successor of one of the Apostles, then you have the authority to teach. If you cannot, then you do not have such authority and you should desist from preaching immediately.

Round-Up

So then, who commissioned Protestant Ministers to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ? After all, you asked: "How shall they preach unless they be sent?" (Romans 10:15). Well then, if you are sent to me to preach the Gospel, I shall inquire as to your credentials since I am not inclined to believe every one who knocks on my door wanting to share their gospel with me.

Who sent you? "God" you will no doubt say. Well, then, is your mission extraordinary now? No. Then it is ordinary? Yes. So if it is ordinary, then you must be sent or commissioned by someone with authority to do so other than directly by God. Now who is that ‘someone’ who sent you? Your pastor, your church council, yourself, or someone else? Did any of them (or their ancestors who sanctioned them) have the authority to commission you to preach God’s word? They did? Very well, then. Was their authority extraordinarily or ordinarily transmitted? If it was extraordinarily transmitted, then such a person falls under the requirement for a supernatural confirmation by God. If it was ordinarily transmitted, then there must have been a person with authority in the past history of your line of commission in order for you to claim it now. So, then, which option do you choose?

The second one? Marvelous. Let us continue.

Who, then, is it that sent you? Jesus sent you? Indeed, that is truly ironic since Jesus sent me also! It’s a small world, is it not? So how is it that we cannot agree on what He taught? Is He teaching you one Gospel and I another? Clearly not. Does He prefer to keep us guessing on who has the true Gospel? Absurdity of absurdities. The key here is understanding precisely how Jesus sends his legitimate teachers. If Jesus did not send you, then you would have no commission to teach in His name, correct?

"I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied" (Jeremiah 23:21).

"Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. They say, "The LORD declares," when the LORD has not sent them; yet they expect their words to be fulfilled. Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, "The LORD declares," though I have not spoken?" (Ezekiel 13:6-7)

As precisely as possible now, how did Jesus send you in such a way that He did not send me as well? You say that Jesus sent you through prayer. He did the same to me. You say that Jesus revealed it to you when you were reading the bible. He has done the same to me. You say that you are well read in the bible and theology. And your opponents (in Protestantism itself no less) are not? It is more than evident to me that there is no objective instrument to which you can appeal to buttress your claims of being a preacher of the Gospel. You must appoint yourself as a teacher of God. If you were to admit that you must be sent directly by someone other than by God (as you must since you have rejected the extraordinary route), then that inevitably begs the question as to your sender’s own authority.

If your sender has authority, then you have authority. If your sender has no authority, then you have no commission to teach in Christ’s name. If you say you need no one to send you, well, then, why does the bible teach, as demonstrated above, that you do need an authoritative sender? Moreover, if you say that you do not need a human agent acting for God to grant you authority, but rely on the bible alone, then you are not claiming any authority that I do not equally possess since we both own a bible. By your own admission, you have no more authority to preach the gospel than I do which means, of course, that there is no preaching authority at all since authority is only relevant when someone has it and someone else does not. But, if you have no preaching authority over me and I have none over you, then neither of us really have any true exclusive commission to teach in Christ’s name. What then? Are you telling me that no one has the authority to teach in the name of Christ?

Sorry. That’s not what the bible teaches. Show me your Urim and I’ll submit - otherwise, you’re just one of thousands of voices today in the marketplace we call Christianity.

"Jesus said, 'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.'" (John 20:21, Cf. John 5:36-37, 1 John 5:14)

The Father sent the Son. The Son sent the Apostles. The Apostles sent the bishops. Who sent you?

John Pacheco
The Catholic Legate
July 15, 2001


Appendix

Joseph: "Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon…The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. (Genesis 41:29-32, 53-54) Moses: "Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt--to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel." Exodus 34:10-12)

Aaron: "Then the LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron, `Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,' and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats." They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came upon men and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats. But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. And the gnats were on men and animals. The magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God." But Pharaoh's heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said." (Exodus 8:16-19)

Joshua: "And the LORD said to Joshua, "Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses….Joshua said to the Israelites, "Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God…..And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD--the Lord of all the earth--set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap…Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge…the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho." (Exodus 13:7-16)

Jeremiah: For this is what the LORD says: `I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; with your own eyes you will see them fall by the sword of their enemies. I will hand all Judah over to the king of Babylon, who will carry them away to Babylon or put them to the sword…The word came to Jeremiah from the LORD when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur son of Malkijah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah. They said: "Inquire now of the LORD for us because Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is attacking us. Perhaps the LORD will perform wonders for us as in times past so that he will withdraw from us." But Jeremiah answered them, "Tell Zedekiah, `This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I am about to turn against you the weapons of war that are in your hands, which you are using to fight the king of Babylon and the Babylonians who are outside the wall besieging you. And I will gather them inside this city. (Jeremiah 20:4, 21:1-4)

Elijah: "At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD--he is God! The LORD--he is God!"" (1 Kings 18:36-39)

Elisha: Then Elisha said, "Call her." So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. "About this time next year," Elisha said, "you will hold a son in your arms." "No, my lord," she objected. "Don't mislead your servant, O man of God!" But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her. (2 Kings 4:15-17)

Paul: "They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, "You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun." Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand." (Acts 13:6-11)

Peter: "Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened." (Acts 3:5:3-5)

The Apostles: "Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles." (Acts 2:43)

Stephen: "Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people." (Acts 6:8)

Philip: "When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said." (Acts 8:6)

Barnabas & Paul: "The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them." (Acts 15:12)