spiritual or governmental authority in the early Church was not the Senior Pastor and his elders or deacons, or the Episcopal Bishop and His Presbyters, nor a single Apostle and his network of ministers and churches. Instead, according to the historical testimony or witness of the New Testament Canon, it was "the fellowship" or communion of the apostles that Jesus Himself established during the three and a half years of His earthly ministry to be the "on-going-ness" or the actual extension of His own Apostleship" in the earth, or the governmental foundation of His Holy Apostolic Church.
According to the words of Luke in Acts 1:1, the Gospel of Luke was written about "all that Jesus began to do and teach," implying that the Acts of the Apostles (also written by him) is about all that Jesus continued to do and teach through His chosen apostles.
Thus, we read about this "fellowship" or governmental body of apostles and it's establishment in Acts 1:14ff, which is Luke's historical account of the filling of Judas Iscariot place in that fellowship by Matthias, who is chosen to take Judas's place or "office" (the Greek word Luke used) in the fellowship of the apostles that Jesus had established as part of His Apostleship. In Acts 1: 25 Luke calls this fellowship of apostles Christ's "apostolate" (the Greek word Luke used).
We see this fellowship functioning powerfully in Acts 2: 41-47. Luke tells us that the three thousand (men) who obeyed Peter's apostolic command on the day of Pentecost were baptized and added to Christ's Church, “continued in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship.” What fellowship was Luke talking about? Luke tells us in the text of Acts 2:42 itself, the "apostles' doctrine and fellowship" that Jesus Himself had previously established.
Paul speaks of this foundational fellowship or governmental body in Galatians 2:9, declaring that after he had gone up to Jerusalem and submitted his apostolic revelation and ministry to Peter, James, and John, they gave him “the right hand of fellowship.” Again, what fellowship is Paul talking about? He was talking about the fellowship of the apostles that Jesus had established as the governmental foundation of His Church's unity. Those who had been made apostles before him gave to him the right hand of fellowship, receiving him into the fellowship or communion of Christ's authentic apostles, His "apostolate" (Acts 1:25).
John, who describes himself as "the apostle whom Jesus loved", expounds on the importance this fellowship in I John 1:1ff, boldly declaring, “so that you might have fellowship with us and our fellowship is with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” What fellowship is John writing about in this critically important passage? He is writing about the fellowship of the apostles or the apostolate that Jesus established.
This fellowship (understand as "partnership"), this apostolic brotherhood, this communion of apostles, this "apostolate" was actually the governmental foundation of the early Churches unity and the governmental body responsible for maintaining it! According to Acts 15 and the entire Canon of the New Testament, apostles and elders governed the early Church in the fellowship or communion of the apostles, and in Acts 15 they governed the circumcision question and issued apostolic degrees for the ministers and churches to follow as the apostolic rule or governmental order concerning the issue of circumcision for the Lord's One Holy Apostolic Church throughout the Roman Empire. (See Acts 15: 2,4, 6, 19, 22, 28 and Acts 16: 4-5.)
According to the historical witness of the New Testament Canon, the "allotments of believers" that made up the Israel of the New Covenant that King Jesus was building throughout the Roman Empire in the beginning of the New Covenant Age all had the same apostolic doctrine or faith.
(To understand this term "allotments", please read 1 Peter 5: 3, which is Peter's declaration about the apostles and elders [i.e. the ruling shepherds or overseers] and their responsibility to give governmental oversight and pastoral care to the myriad of churches that made up the early apostolic Church in the beginning. In this critically important passage Peter is referring to the "allotments" or "father's households" that made up the New Covenant Israel in Peter's day. What I want you to see is that according to the Apostle Peter, the Israel the Lord Jesus is building today by the Holy Spirit and the authentic Gospel or Word of the Kingdom is supposed to be One Holy Nation or One Holy Apostolic Church made up of myriads and myriads of "allotments" of believers---"father's households"---i.e. what we like to call "local churches" today. Just like Old Covenant Israel was made up of "allotments" or "father's households" (See Exodus 18, Numbers 1, Joshua 11: 23), so also the Church or Israel that the Lord Jesus is building today is made up of myriads of "allotments of believers" or "father's households". The principal difference is that the Israel of the Old Covenant was the natural man born of the flesh or the "will of man", while the Israel of the New Covenant is the spiritual man made up of all who have been born of the Holy Spirit and the Gospel or Word of the Kingdom. According to the Apostle Peter and the entire Canon of the New Testament, the valid or authentic apostles and elders of the New Covenant Israel are the spiritual fathers (elders), overseers, and shepherds (rulers) of the allotments or spiritual households that make it up, and who also oversee, shepherd or govern, and care for the Lord's Church together, again I say together, in the "fellowship of the apostles". )
But not only did the all the allotments of believers or churches of the early Apostolic Church have the same apostolic doctrine or faith, they all had the same authentic Kingdom experience of the baptism of the Spirit with speaking in tongues and prophesying. According to the Apostle Paul, they were all baptized by one Spirit into one body (the Body of Christ) and made to drink of the one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13).
They also all had the same governmental order or Church structure because the apostles and elders governed the one Church of Jesus Christ throughout the world in the fellowship or communion of the apostles that Jesus had established!
Thus the early Apostolic Church throughout the Roman Empire was One Holy Nation made up of many allotments of believers or local churches.
Think of it: One Holy Apostolic Church with one faith (or doctrine), one baptism, one Lord, one Spirit, one God and Father over all, one Kingdom experience and culture, and one governmental order or structure, all because the original apostles of the Lamb and the first ascension-gift apostles were connected,
joined, and held together as one in the fellowship or communion of the apostles that Jesus had established.
The four Gospels reveal that the primary focus of our Lord’s Apostolic ministry for the 3 and 1/2 years of His earthly ministry was the choosing, training, and commissioning of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.
According to the Gospels, Jesus largely avoided Jerusalem except for the special feast-days of Israel because He did not want to prematurely
His death at the hands of the chief priests and elders of the apostate nation until
His apostles were ready to become the ongoing extension of His own Apostleship, His Apostolate, and the governmental foundation of the New Covenant Israel that He would build for His Father and for His New Covenant Administration of the Kingdom of God.
After our Lord's death on the cross and His descent into hell (where He suffered the agony of soul for 3 days and 3 nights), in hell, very early in the morning of the third day, Peter tells us that Jesus was quickened and made alive, or begotten again by the Holy Spirit and became the firstborn from among the dead (see 1Peter 3:18, Psalm 2:6-7, and Psalm 16: 8-11, Revelation 1: 5). Then, having conquered Satan, sin, and death in His regeneration, Jesus took the keys of death and hell from the Devil and began His ascent. He went first to the upper region of death, to paradise, where He released the spirits and souls of the Old Testament saints who were waiting for Him in paradise. From paradise He ascended to the borrowed tomb of Joseph in the Old City of Jerusalem and raised His own body from the dead. (It is important for us to remember that His spirit and soul were quickened and made alive from the dead before His body was raised.) Then, still very early in the morning of the third day, Jesus ascended into heaven, where as the Apostle and High Priest of the New Covenant, He sprinkled His blood, cleansing the Holy things in heaven, and establishing the New Covenant in His body and blood. Then for a period of 40 days Jesus continued to ascend and descend to appear to His apostles and show Himself alive again, as the Firstborn from among the dead.
During this same 40-day period, He also opened the Holy Scriptures and explained to His apostles the secrets or mysteries of His Messianic Kingdom and His Church. By doing this Jesus entrusted the keys of His Messianic Kingdom (the restored Kingdom and House of David) to the apostles of the Lamb, thus fulfilling the promise He had made to them in Matthew 16:19.
By entrusting the keys of His Kingdom to them, Jesus established them as His governmental representatives, His Apostolate, or the governmental foundation of the Church that He is in the process of building today as the body or instrument of His Kingdom purpose to conquer the Devil's kingdom, disciple the nations, and fill the earth with the glory of the Kingdom of God.
Today, the Lord Jesus is in the process of pouring out His Holy Spirit throughout the earth in order to revive the Church as we know it, and to enable us to rediscover and restore the foundations He laid in the beginning, and re-form ourselves into One Holy Apostolic Church worldwide and fulfill His Kingdom mandate to disciple the nations and fill all things with the glory of the Kingdom of God!
The restoration of the communion or fellowship (i.e. partnership) of authentic apostles, together with the revelation of the mysteries of Christ and His Kingdom (i.e. the keys of the restored Kingdom and House of David...which is the Zion above, are absolutely essential for an authentic apostolic reformation and the doctrinal, experiential, and governmental unity of the One Holy Apostolic Church throughout the cities and nations of the earth. And we must remember and understand that unity is essential to the success of the Church's God-given mission to disciple the nations and fill the earth with the glory of God!
For more information and greater clarification about these critically important matters please see the CAC Constitution (An Architectural Blueprint for The Apostolic Church) at www.communionofapostolicchurches.com.
Also, please read my teacher's notes for "God's Agenda For The 21st Century" which is about the need for an authentic apostolic awakening or revival, restoration, and reformation. I have taught leadership training seminars and led regional and national Apostolic Summits in many parts of the world (especially the USA, India, and Africa) on this vital theme. Both of these books are available for purchase on Amazon.