January 18, 2012
Back to Basics
Gifted for Purpose
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As we all launch into the new year, I suggest we take some time and go back to basics. I have mentioned to some of my friends that I want the year 2012 to be the best year ever, after salvation. I mean that I look forward to the Lord Jesus making me more usable for His service. I want to be rooted and grounded in only Christ, and to know nothing except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. As the proverb proclaims, “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full light of day” (Proverbs 4:18). I look forward too to my path growing brighter and brighter each year, until the full light of day, because Jesus has given to me all of His righteousness by faith alone (Romans 3:21-22). So, we will begin our study of the Book of Galatians today, looking for a great new year in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You and Your Spiritual Gift. I had a dear friend who lost her job several years ago. For the first few moths, she needed to adjust to the reality that she was not going to work at her old job. She had done hospital work for decades, and now the time had come due to health reasons where she could no longer work in the hospital, or really for any other employer. She had developed a seizure disorder, which did not cause grand mal seizures, but seizures in her brain that were not obvious to others or herself. Over time, medicine began to help her recover her mental bearings, but the disorder still takes its toll on her. Not only that, but she also has other serious health problems that persist. For her, life changed when she lost her job after decades of seeing herself as a laboratory scientist. In some ways, it was the best thing that ever happened to her. She started to read her Bible more, and see herself the way that God sees her every day. When we talk about going back to basics, let us start with how you see yourself and describe yourself to others. For Paul, he considered himself an apostle.
Paul the Apostle. Paul wrote the epistle to the Galatians, and identified himself right in the first verse. If you look at the epistles in the New Testament, many of the epistles start just the same way. Today, we often sign our names at the end of the letter, but as a lawyer, I often identify myself and the purpose of my letter right at the beginning. Paul described himself in terms of his spiritual gift: apostle. An apostle means one sent for a purpose. Jesus trained twelve apostles, and He knew from the beginning that Judas Iscariot was a “son of perdition” (John 17:12). After Judas Iscariot had died and Jesus was resurrected, the eleven apostles sought a man who could serve as a witness with them of the resurrection of Jesus Christ: the man must “have accompanied us from the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us” (Acts 1:21-22). The eleven apostles cast lots and Matthias was appointed to occupy the ministry and apostleship vacated by Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:19-26). In contrast to this method of selecting an apostle, Paul received his apostleship directly from God, without any immediate recognition from the other apostles. In Galatians 1:1, Paul states flatly that he received his apostleship directly from Jesus Christ and God the Father, and not through the agency of men. Paul also stated that other men in Jerusalem (Peter, John, and others) were “apostles” before him (Galatians 1:17). Likewise, Paul mentions that James, the brother of the Lord, was also an apostle (Galatians 1:19). James, the brother of the Lord, was not one of the twelve apostles. Paul never considered himself in “the least inferior to the most eminent apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:5), even if Paul was unskilled in speech, but not in knowledge (2 Corinthians 11:6). In summary, we see that the twelve apostles met a special criteria of being with the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. Those type of apostles have left the earth with the death of the last of the twelve apostles. The Holy Spirit bestowed the spiritual gift of apostleship upon other men, and they often planted churches. Some of those men also received special revelations from God. Today, anyone who claims to be have the spiritual gift of “apostle” should be carefully tested, and see if they have been sent from God for a special ministry. If they claim to have new revelation from God, we should remember that God said His Bible is complete.
All the Brethren. In Galatians 1:2, we read about brethren being with Paul. Paul also addressed the Galatians as brethren (for examples, Galatians 3:15 and Galatians 6:1). Paul’s entire ministry was about spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Jews first, and then to the Gentiles (Romans 1:16). Paul did not labor alone, and as God converted people to salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone, they formed in local assemblies (churches), and some of the converts travelled with Paul.
With Me. In Galatians 1:2, we also read that Paul had men with him. Paul describes Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke as fellow workers with him (Philemon 24). Paul often mentions in his letters the people who travelled with him. Some served as messengers (for example, Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21) to the churches they came from (for example, Epaphroditus from Philippi (Philippians 2:25). Paul always took men with him so that they could work as a ministry team, ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ and forming and strengthening local assemblies. Some people had special ministry to Paul in his imprisonment (for example, Onesimus (Philemon 10-13). I remember a friend of mine telling me that I should always consider taking a new believer with me, even when I went to the hardware store or did some other errand. I have found that spending time with young believers, to encourage them in Christ, has been very profitable.
So we learn more about Paul and basic Christianity.
● Paul the apostle based his entire life upon using the spiritual gifts the Lord Jesus and God the Father had bestowed upon Paul.
● Paul emphasized that Jesus has been raised from the dead, and so we should live with that truth in mind all day, every day.
● Paul had other Christians around him as part of a ministry team all the time.
Application for Today
As I walk through life today, I want to use the spiritual gifts that God has placed into my life by His power and for His purpose. I intend to use His gifts in my life to emphasize to people that Jesus has been raised from the dead, and Jesus now lives to give eternal life to everyone who turns to Him alone for salvation by faith. I want to encourage every believer I know to be a part of a ministry team for Jesus Christ this year. With these basics in mind, I look forward to the greatest year of my life, after salvation. Will God be making this the best year of your life, starting today?