Being Saved to Serve
“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the Holy Scriptures,) 3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.”
As Paul begins his epistle to the Romans he starts with a standard salutation of the ancient world whereby the writer of the letter identifies himself. Paul identifies himself as the servant of Jesus with apostolic authority. By using this title Paul is not unduly boastful for he is careful to say that he was “called” to be an apostle. He did not take office of apostolic authority by force. God called him. Consider the Doctrine of Apostleship.
The word “apostle” refers to a person sent forth on an important and special mission. The disciples of Christ were officially sent out to preach the gospel of redeeming grace.
The four Biblical lists of disciples credit the following men with being the original apostles of Christ (Matthew 10:25; Mark 3:14-19; Luke 6:1316; Acts 1:13):
James the younger and the son of Alphaeus
James the elder
John, a son of Zebedee
Jude who bore the name Lebbeus or Thaddeus
Simon the Canaanite
Simon, also called Peter
Matthew who is also known as Levi
Thomas the Twin called Didymus
Following the ascension of the Lord into heaven the disciples of Christ tried to elect Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-26). However, it is probable that God never honored the selection of Matthias. It was His will that Paul would be appointed to take the place of Judas as the Apostle to the Gentiles.
There were at least three specific qualifications that had to be met in order to be an apostle.
An apostle had to have been with Christ from the beginning of His ministry. When Joseph and Matthias were being considered as a replacement for Judas Iscariot the other apostles noted that both men had been with them from the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry. Acts 1:21 “Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us.”
An apostle had to have seen the resurrected Christ. When the people of Corinth were challenging his apostolic authority Paul reminded the Church that he was an apostle and had seen the resurrected Lord. 1 Corinthians 9:1 “Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are not ye my work in the Lord?”
An apostle had to have been a personal appointment by Jesus Christ. Jesus said to the disciples in John 15:16 “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”
Paul qualified to be an apostle, for Jesus Christ personally appointed him. The Lord told Ananias to go and minister to Paul because he was a chosen vessel. Acts 9:15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.
Following the Day of Pentecost, the Apostles were new men, in that they received unusual power from on high as Jesus had promised.
Prior to His ascension Jesus said to the disciples “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
A few days later the power was given. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).
There is a wider usage of the word apostle in the New Testament. The term was sometimes applied to those sent on a special commission as in the case of Barnabas in Acts 14:14. But for the most part an “apostle” has reference to the original twelve disciples plus Paul.
Jesus is called an Apostle in Hebrews 3:1. “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.”
From the moment of his conversion Paul was destined to be an Apostle, for sovereign grace had separated him unto the gospel of God.
The phrase “the gospel of God” reminds us of the true origin of the gospel. The gospel is not a lie, nor is it a dream. The good news of divine grace is not the creation of the fertile imaginations of men. Who would have thought of the Creator dying for His creation? The gospel is of God! Therefore, to Him belong all honor and glory and power!
It is important to understand the biblical teaching about what is an authentic apostle, because an attempt is being made today to recognize modern apostles. In California there is the Vineyard Movement, which teaches that all the New Testament gifts are still functioning including that of apostleship.
This is not a new idea really. Around the year 1824, in London a popular young Presbyterian preacher by the name of Edward Irving began to teach that all the gifts were still functional include that of an apostle. For this and other reasons some church historians recognize Mr. Irving as the Father of the modern-day Pentecostal-charismatic movement.
The practical problem is that a modern apostle could not meet the biblical qualifications to hold that office, for none could say they were with Christ from the beginning of His ministry.
Of course, someone might be bold enough to claim to have a vision of the resurrected Lord, and even assume they have been divinely appointed, but no one could honestly argue they had been with Christ since the beginning of His earthly ministry until the day of Pentecost.
As bad as believing in modern day apostles might be, the Catholic Church teaches something even worse, by declaring the pope is the vicar of Christ on earth, which is to say the pope reigns over the Church in place of Christ. To that we say no, “Christ is the head of the Church”
As the Head of His church, the Lord Jesus Christ has the right to organize it as He sees fit. Initially the Lord was pleased to establish the church on the foundation of the apostles to whom was entrusted ultimate oversight of all the local assemblies (Eph. 2:20). In matters of doctrine, and in matters of practical administration of the church, the apostles gave direction. But once the apostles passed from the scene, a new form of church leadership was set in place.
Men called the presbuteros referring to an elder (Titus 1:5), or pastor which means to shepherd (Eph. 4:11), or bishop meaning overseer, would guide the church (1 Tim. 3:1). These three terms are used interchangeably in Scripture to refer to the same individual, for they indicate the various functions associated with the office.
The term “elder” is used in Scripture for the objective is to have decisions made based upon biblical knowledge and life’s experience. The idea of trust is involved in this term.
The term “pastor” is used for the Lord would have elders who have the best interest of His people in their heart. Wisdom and love are united to care for the people of God’s pasture.
\The term “bishop” is used for the general and the specific oversight of the congregation must be maintained. Biblically, there is nothing that happens in the life of a congregation that is beyond the oversight of the pastor. A wise pastor will not micromanage people, but if matters are brought to his attention, then he has a responsibility to deal with them according to gospel terms.
A wise pastor will not try to do everything that needs to be done in the assembly. For the most part he should do those things which others cannot do. Of particular focus he is to pray and give himself to the ministry of the Word according to the apostolic pattern. Acts 6:4 “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” In contrast to the biblical duties and functions of the pastor are modern day expectations.
The advertisement read:
Wanted: Minister for Growing Church
A real challenge for the right man! Opportunity to become better acquainted with people!
Applicant must offer experience as shop worker…office manager…educator (all levels including college)
Boy Scout Leader,
minor league athlete,
master of ceremonies,
and social worker.
Helpful but not essential:
experience as a butcher,
and Western Union messenger.
Must know all about problems of
marriage and death;
also conversant with latest theories and practices in area
and nuclear science.
Right man will hold firm views on every topic,
but is careful not to upset people who disagree.
Must be forthright but flexible;
returns criticism and backbiting with Christian love and forgiveness and never take anything personally.
Should have outgoing, friendly disposition at all times.
Should be captivating speaker and intent listener.
Will pretend he enjoys hearing women talk.
Education must be beyond Ph.D. requirements,
but always-concealed in homespun modesty and folksy way.
Abe to sound learned at times
but most of the time talks and acts like good-old-Joe.
Familiar with literature read by average congregation.
Must be willing to work long hours,
subject to call any time day or night,
adaptable to sudden interruption.
Will spend at least 25 hours a week preparing a sermon—
and never be disappointed when few show up to listen.
Additional 10 hours reading books and magazines.
Applicant must live close to work.
Home not provided but open door hospitality enforced.
Directly responsible for views and conduct
to every church member and visitor at any given moment
though not to expect support from any one person.
Salary not commensurate with experience or need; no overtime pay.
All replies kept confidential.
The ad ended with this statement.
Anyone applying will undergo
full investigation to determine sanity.
As the Lord appointed elders to rule the church during and after the apostolic era, so the elders were to be assisted by spiritually minded men called servants or deacons, who were to have no other purpose in their heart than to minister to the body of Christ as they were directed. A spiritual mindset was required of those who were to serve the church even in such mundane matters as waiting on tables because it takes great grace to be a servant. The concept of servitude has an unsavory connotation unless one is spiritually minded.
As an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul ultimately proved to be worthy of his high calling despite his own human frailty. Paul was not a perfect man. None of God’s leaders have been perfect.
Abraham lied, and taught his son by example to do the same.
Jacob deceived his dying father and stole the family blessing.
David was engaged in many inappropriate actions.
Paul had an explosive temper, reflected in his dispute and separation with Barnabas over John Mark.
Paul was not a perfect man, but he did have the best interest of God’s people in his heart, even when they spoke against him in private as the people of Corinth did. In 2 Corinthians 10-13 some of the insults are recorded that reached the ears of Paul while he was still in prison suffering for the Savior.
The people accused him of abusing his authority (2 Cor. 10:8).
The church mocked his speaking abilities (2 Cor. 10:10).
Some said he was ugly (2 Cor. 10:10)
A few laughed at him for taking a small offering as if he were foolish to preach to them for so little (2 Cor. 11:7).
Others dared to say that Paul was a witless idiot (2 Cor. 11:16).
In 2 Corinthians 12:16 the Corinthians accused Paul of being sneaky, and finding clever ways to take money from them.
There were many personal and hurtful words that the people had said about him in private that came to Paul’s attention, and yet Paul loved the Church. He never stopped loving those who were unkind and ungrateful for his sacrifices and labors in their midst. From a prison cell he wrote to the church-calling individuals back to a life of grace.
“I am writing this to you now,” said Paul, “in the hope that I will not need to scold and punish when I come; for I want to use the Lord’s authority that he has given me, not to punish you but to make you strong. I close my letter with these last words: Be happy. Grow in Christ. Pay attention to what I have said. Live in harmony and peace. And may the God of love and peace be with you.”(2 Cor. 13:10-11).
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.