In our previous post under this title, we noted two truths taught clearly in the New Testament: (1) Apostles possessed significant authority in the early church; but (2) the authority of Jesus Christ is ultimate, surpassing even those who were his apostles.
That being said, we should nonetheless pay close attention to the teachings and actions of the apostles. Of all the early Christians, their examples are most worthy of imitation.
Paul made that claim in Philippians 3:17: “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (NKJV). Paul not only commanded Christians to study the apostles (“us”) as examples of how to practice their faith, but he also pointed to “those who so walk.” Even those who followed the apostles’ doctrines and actions were to be studied and imitated (“keep your eyes on those,” ESV).
It’s hard to argue against the authoritative nature of the apostles’ actions after considering passages like these. But it’s also vital to remember that their direction came from above: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul, Peter and all the others were not innovators, but men who carried out the will of their Lord.
What was the role of the apostles in the church? “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19,20).
Members of that household (church) in later generations must be careful not to move away from the foundation upon which they have been built. This is God’s foundation!
Who has the right to direct my faith?