Sunday, May 03, 2015

An apostle - Galatians 1:1-2

"Paul, an apostle, not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead." (Galatians 1:1)
Prior to the Christian error, "apostle" did not seem to be a common term, at least in representing a single person. Prior, "apostle" was most commonly used to refer to a group of people; a political embassy sent from one political power to another. Josephus makes mention of one such embassage in recounting, "So when Varus had settled these affairs... he had new sources of trouble come upon him at Rome, on the occasions following: for an embassage of the Jews was come to Rome... that they might petition for the liberty of living by their own laws." (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 17.11.1) An embassy was a group of people sent from one group to another either with a message from the first or a petition to the seconds in order to gain some purpose or plan of the sender. Paul was an embassy from Jesus Christ to the church with a message of salvation and grace.

Paul's mission was not earthly; he was not sent by men nor through men. He did not come representing some human authority or plan, but was directly sent by God with His message to the church. Men like Paul cannot be "raised up" nor can they be formed by institutional centers of learning such as monasteries or seminaries. One can desire to such a mission but it's one they cannot take upon themselves. They must be called, commissioned, and sent by God rather than men.

Unfortunately, today, in the church, we value the opposite; men and women who have chosen the call for themselves, who have been properly trained and prepared in seminaries, and those whose personality and statue makes them well suited for the pulpit of our churches today. Their choice is theirs and their authority is from human agencies of learning and training. How would we respond to someone who claims upon themselves the same that Paul did; to have a calling and a mission that was from God and not from human agencies? How would we respond to those who claim a ministry who had yet to go thought the "proper process" to become a minister? Would we receive them? Would we seek to force them into our mold and process? Could we learn from them even though they had never gone through our seminaries of great learning? Is there still room for God-made men and women in the Body of Christ today?

While Paul's calling was extra-ordinary, his work was not unique or singular. Paul understood that he ministered in the context of a larger body of Christ along side with others who so ministered. Paul's calling was elevated but it was not exclusive, nor did it obviate the need for others who ministered within the Body of Christ. For example, of others Paul wrote, "What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one." (1 Corinthians 3:5) Paul understood that he was not alone, that there were many whom God had appointed to work within the Body of Christ. Furthermore, Paul taught us, "On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary." (1 Corinthians 12:22) Paul understood that others, besides him, were also necessary for the growth and health of the Body. Paul had a mission and this mission was but a part of the work of the Body.

Paul understood his work in the greater context of the work of God, yet he was not shy, timid, nor ashamed of the work he was called to. He approached his calling with confidence, boldness, and determination. He may not be the whole but he knew how to do his part to the best of his abilities and to the fullness of the grace that was within him. The message of Paul's calling is that, while we may not be apostles, we must still fulfill our calling from God and not look to men for our calling or the support of their agency in fulfilling it. Let us take up the calling and become whom God has called us to be. Let us become God-made men and women.

David Robison

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