Characteristic Elements of the Apostolic Witness

The following is a full repost from John Harrigan at Gospel of Christ Crucified

Theologians have long sought the “elusive center” (Gordon Fee) of biblical theology. That is, what is the central message of the Scriptures and the apostolic witness? Since the Reformation, most Protestants have focused on justification by faith. During the last hundred years, a shift has occurred toward eschatology. Some within the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement have focused on the activity of the Spirit. Those within Jewish and Old Testament studies often emphasize the covenantal nature of the Scriptures. And a small contingent of scientists (as most theologians dare not question the Darwinian dogma) relentlessly pursue creationism as the foundation of the Bible.

The main reason biblical theology has no center is because the Scriptures are not given in a categorical manner, arranged like some systematic theology. Rather, the Bible is a simple narrative, presented in a linear, chronological manner. As such, there is no center to a timeline. All events assume a common beginning, build upon one another, and point toward the same climactic ending. Though there is no single idea that defines biblical theology, there are defining events which become characteristic within the apostolic witness.

The events of redemptive history are set in the beginning chapters of Genesis, where sin and death ruin what God made (cf. Rom. 5:12ff, 1 Cor. 15:21ff). As such the apostolic witness is fundamentally creational. This beginning sets up for the ending at the Day of the Lord when God will restore all things (Mt. 19:28; Acts 3:21) and make a new heavens and new Earth, cleansed of all sin and death (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1ff). Thus the apostolic witness is also apocalyptic. The blessing of eternal life will be administrated according to the covenants (Gen. 12:2f; Ps. 72:17ff), for the birthright of Israel will never be revoked (cf. Rom. 11:11-29). So the apostolic witness is covenantal, as clearly evidenced by the apostles’ question, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)

Though the Day of Judgment will be radically apocalyptic, God is patient not wanting any to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). God is showing mercy in this age, waiting to make his enemies his footstool (Heb. 10:12f), for “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) This age is thus essentially cruciform, i.e. shaped like the Cross. And concerning the witness of redemptive history—especially the Cross and the Day of the Lord (cf. Acts 10:42ff)—God has given his Holy Spirit to confirm the truth (Acts 1:4-8). So the apostolic witness is also charismatic, depending wholly upon the gift of God to turn people from the wrath to come.

Many movements and traditions throughout church history have emphasized one or two of these elements (often to the detriment of other elements), but unfortunately few have sought a proclamation that holds them all together. We seek a holistic gospel witness that is creational, covenantal, cruciform, charismatic, and apocalyptic—“To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ!” (Rom. 16:27)

  • Dave
    Posted at 21:43h, 29 January

    People always try to reduce any message to a sound-bite. The Bible is too complex and inter-related for that. The entirety points to a loving God who will restore his relationship with a fallen humanity. However, within that entirety are a wide range of concepts, none of which can be elevated above the others without losing something vital. Without any one of the elements listed in the article, the rest does not make sense.

  • Dave
    Posted at 17:42h, 30 January

    Every Sunday school pupil knows the answer to every question posed by Sunday school teachers hence the Joke where the said teacher is describing something to the class.

    “What is grey, furry about the size of a kitten and lives in a tree and eats nuts? ” She asks, Immediately all the hands go up and the teacher chooses Johnny to answer. He says excitedly……………. “Its Jesus isn’t it Miss!”

    Perhaps the children at the Sunday school know the illusive centre that many theologians find elusive. John’s gospel describes Jesus being the “Word fleshed out” any new bible student quickly discovers that this “Word” in the Greek is “Logos”. Logos means the divine reason for everything the mind and thoughts behind all creation and all other continuing acts of God, including the Father seeking a beautiful and faithful bride for his Son, that same Son entering into a marriage covenant relationship with that bride. That same Son being “The lamb of god which takes away the sin of the world” A literal body in time and space who walked this earth sacrificing himself for the brides unfaithfulness and being raised to life on the third day. This Son and King becoming an obedient servant giving himself willingly so that his bride could be forgiven, so that the spirit of God could write Gods laws on his brides heart and would willingly return her husbands love and be able to continue being faithful. The same Holy Spirit, given as a sign and a comfort to that bride, also gifting the bride so to build up his Kingdom soul by soul till At last He comes in glory on the clouds in the great and terrible day of the Lord like a husband who in full apocalyptic righteousness judgement jealous for his wife. Slaying the wicked who abused his bride and refused to have him as king. This husband, the ethnic king of Israel and to all who believe, is the king of Glory over every created thing including all history. They say “Its the story of the Logos Jesus, His ..story”

  • Seth
    Posted at 20:12h, 30 January

    Joel why are some of Apostolic churches following Preterism? I am scheduling a debate with an Apostolic Pastor.. Not only do they follow the Oneness doctrine. They also say you must be speak in tongues to be saved. Like most Apostolic Churches they all use Acts 2:38 as their “formula” for salvation. This church takes it a step further and teaches you must be baptized in the name of YHWH YASHUA the Messiah. What are your thoughts on why these false teachings are spreading? And do i have any hope in speaking to a Preterist,Oneness,Sacred name believing church? Like they say BELIEF in stronger than FACT.

  • Joel
    Posted at 22:16h, 30 January

    YHWH Yashua huh? Interesting since Hebrew doesn’t have a W. It would be a V.

  • peter
    Posted at 15:00h, 31 January

    Where does the millennial reign fall into place on that timeline?
    I’m always confused about this part.
    Did the millennial reign already happen, The bible says he shall make us priest and kings and we shall reign with him a thousand years.
    Is it possible that the byzantine era was the millennial reign?
    If we are waiting Armageddon, is the millennial reign going to be after Armageddon with our glorified bodies, and then the great white throne judgement?
    Will the millennial reign be on the present earth?
    Will Armageddon completely destroy the earth?

  • Steve
    Posted at 17:58h, 31 January

    One thing I’m seeing sneaking into the faith is the Hebrew Roots Movement. I’m encountering these people everywhere suddenly, it seems. Maybe they’ve always been around and I just didn’t know it. I recently had a friend sucked into it and he no longer has anything to do with me after he failed to bring me along. I think the central theme of the bible is declared in the opening of the bible itself. If you look at the original cryptic Hebrew that it was written in, it proclaims God’s plan for us. Our salvation through His Son’s sacrifice. It’s easy to be confused with all the chatter from all the denominations and the few things each one of them stresses, but if you read the bible for yourself and let it speak to you without outside noise, it will reveal itself. Like Walid says, nobody knows everything. You know a little, I know a little, he knows a little, she knows a little. Then we bring it all together for consideration. The problem with denominations is they think they know it all and they never progress.

  • Javier
    Posted at 19:23h, 31 January

    Hi Joel!

    Interesting reading from John Harrigan. I have a question for you. I don’t know in the States, but here in my country there is a widespread rumor/teaching, I don’t know how to call it, that says there is gonna be a “great worldwide revival” BEFORE the [2nd] comming of Christ.

    I am not against one; in fact I agree with some, such as Joel Rosenberg, that say a Third Awakening will be very much needed in the morally declining Western culture. But is it scripturally correct to expect such a thing in the last days, especially when the Bible says teres is gonna be apostacy before the coming of our Lord Jesús Christ? What would you say about all this?

    Looking forward to your comments on Isaiah 19 also.


  • Jim
    Posted at 20:25h, 31 January

    Joel, great repost. This is an enormous problem in the Church today. Concentrating on one aspect of the GOSPEL and not all aspects. This is a wonderful area for concentrated prayer.

  • Joel
    Posted at 20:48h, 31 January


    The millennial reign is the transitionary period that immediately follows Jesus return. It is after the resurrection but before the great white throne judgment. Armageddon will not completely destroy the earth, though it will be greatly damaged, we will live with Christ here pin the earth and participate in restoring the earth during that time. We will live in what seems to be a largely argrarian society.

  • Joel
    Posted at 20:55h, 31 January

    Hi Steve,

    While I fully support and endorse and agree with the grown Messianic Movement, the emerging Hebrew Roots movement as typically defined by the two doctrines of “One Law” and “Two House” represent, in my opinion, one of the greatest deviations from the faith in these last days. Sadly, it is the great treasure of the Hebrew roots of our faith that is used to lure many into the false notion that they have physical Hebrew blood and must become fully obedient to the letter of Torah. I also know many who have fallen into this error and though I love them, it is undeniably a very grave error. Sadly, many within the movement have even apostatized into Judaism and have denied Christ altogether.


  • David W. Lincoln
    Posted at 21:29h, 01 February

    Joel, given the destruction attributable to Islam, and political correctness; what will be left within each person for each person to be governable, by the time of the second coming?

    You know better when it comes to forcing square pegs into round holes, or round pegs into square holes.

  • Joel
    Posted at 21:34h, 01 February

    Hi David,

    I’m not fully following your question.

  • David W. Lincoln
    Posted at 19:37h, 03 February

    I will re-phrase. Islam works best when it rules, rather than governs (for there is more room for interaction between government and governed, rather than ruler and those who are ruled).

    Political correctness is also harmful for people to be able to be governed.

    I submit that by the time of the second coming of Christ, political correctness will partially achieve the undesirable goal of people not be able to be governed (they will have to be ruled). Where political correctness leaves off, Islam picks up and finishes the job.

    For, what will be there from each person on the face of the earth, by the time of the second coming, so that those alive then can be governed, instead of ruled?

    Clearer now?

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