Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ascension of Jesus & the Apostolic Church

Today is Ascension Day. It is a public holiday in Indonesia (Hari Kenaikan Isa Al-Masih). The Ascension of Jesus completes the work of God from the birth of Jesus, his life and ministry culminating in his death on the cross and his resurrection on the 3rd day. The ascension is the climax of Christ's life - once descending from the Father and now ascending to the Father in glory. The ascension of Christ has two major theological imports. First, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit only comes at Christ's exaltation on the right hand of the Father (Acts 2). Jesus ascends to the Father in order to receive the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit. And on Pentecost, the 10th day after the ascension, Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit to his disciples and the early church in Jerusalem. The pouring out of the Spirit completes the Trinitarian cycle of God's work and hence, all believers are to be baptised in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19-20) so that every believer will experience the fullness of salvation in the Father, in the Son and in the Holy Spirit. From now, the Christian has the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit dwelling in him, first making him a child of God the Father, a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son and filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue to do the works of the risen and ascended Jesus on earth. The second most important theological import of the Ascension is the giving of gifts to the Church. In the pouring out of the Gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), gifts are also poured out for the church. Out of the Holy Spirit, who is at once one with the Father and the Son, but is multi-dimensional in its working as if there are seven Spirits (Rev 1; 5) or seven facets on that one stone (Zech 3-4).
The ascended Christ through the Holy Spirit gives to the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Eph 4:11). The early church was apostolic precisely for the reason that it was led by the apostles. The early church was founded on apostolic doctrine and teaching precisely because the apostles were the chief witnesses of Christ' life, death and resurrection, and therefore they were the authoritative teachers and pastors of the churches they founded by the proclamation of the Gospel, either in word or by letter. The church continued to be apostolic when the first generation of apostles passed away provided they continued in the apostolic teaching, now handed down to us as the Gospels and Letters making up the 27-volume of the New Testament corpus. Today the church is an apostolic church if she continues and remains in apostolic teaching of the early church. Today the church is an apostolic church if she recognises the apostles and prophets sent to her to equip her, and lead her to the unity of faith and in full maturity and stature of Jesus Christ. But how many churches today can really claim to be apostolic? Despite the claims that they are apostolic but if put to the test, most churches will fail miserably (just check whether your church is following the entire Pauline order in 1 Cor 11-14) where the apostle Paul pronounces that if anyone claims to be a prophet or spiritual , he will acknowledge apostolic writing as the Lord's commandments and if he does not, he is ignorant and a reject. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. How can the church claim to be apostolic when they reject those sent to her, the apostles and prophets even as Jesus says, "I will send to you prophets, wise men and scribes: some of them you shall kill and crucify; some of them you shall scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city" (Matt 23:34).

2 comments:

  1. Similar to Jesus' words for the church at Ephesus in Rev. 2, many churches today have abandoned the love they had at first (when they first turned to Christ, and the apostolic witness to Christ in the N.T.) and have preferred to focus on other voices.

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  2. Yes, first love is definitely the sign of a revitalized church. I have mentioned that in my previous post on "Music is the Language of God" and how those who love God will worship Him in a way that pleases Him.

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