Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Making of a Minister

"Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead.)" - Galatians 1:1

The Pharisee, Saul, was an impressive man. I speak from a human perspective: "Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." (Philippians 3:5-6) If any man would be deemed qualified for the work of the ministry, our church boards today would vote unanimously. A brilliant scholar of the Scriptures, zealous, ostensibly spotless in godly piety... in modern Christian credentials the parallel might have appeared as such:

-born into a godly Christian home
-son of a long line of pastors
-touching the Scriptures, fundamental
-concerning zeal, active in numerous church programs
-touching Christian behaviour, blameless

Wouldn't such a man certainly be qualified for the ministry of the gospel? He would indeed in man's sight! When Samuel visited the home of Jesse searching for a king who would lead God's people, he took one look at handsome and tall Reuben and said in his heart, "Surely this is the one!" But God saw otherwise. We learned from this story that God sees what man does not see, and that God will choose whom He will: "But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7) It is not brilliance, talent or outward excellence that God is looking for in a man.

But wasn't Saul chosen by the Lord? Yes indeed, but hear the words of Paul, the new creature: "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." (Philippians 3:7) And: "But by the grace of God I am what I am." (1 Corinthians 15:10) His calling in Christ was not because of who he was or what he had done. He spoke from experience when he said to the brethren at Ephesus: "That [ye have] put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that [ye have] put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24) Off with the old man and his estimations, and on with the new! Paul was a new man in Christ Jesus, having been given a new mind to see spiritual things; a man chosen to be a minister before the Lord.

What then makes a minister, and what then should we think towards men filling this office? Do we look for university degrees, or even fiery Christian zeal? These things are commendable and beneficial, but they in themselves do not make a minister. They certainly didn't for Paul. So what then is the qualification? It is simply: the gifts and calling of God.

"At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister." (Acts 26:13-16)

"I have appeared unto thee for this purpose: to make thee a minister!" This is what distinguishes the called from the so-called; the anointed from the self-appointed. It is the the Lord Jesus Christ who decides, who chooses, who sets apart men for His purpose. "Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1:1) It is not men that make ministers. Not of men (those chosen), nor by men (those who choose); but only by Jesus Christ.

Did the Lord use Paul's abilities? Yes. His keen intellect? Absolutely! But we have now a new man: broken, humbled; and called, not because of his great skills, not because of his great zeal, not because of his social standing, but because of the mercy, grace and sovereignty of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ toward this once ignorant man (1 Timothy 1:13). Paul was made a minister, and had absolutely nothing to boast about. This is why he could he say, "Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:1), and this is why he became the outstanding minister that he was, for whom we so gratefully give thanks and glorify God.

4 comments:

Karen said...

That's so true! What a terrific reminder of God's grace and goodness to us. If it wasn't for the fact that "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and God has chosen the base things of the world, and things which are despised, and things which are not, in order to bring to nothing things that are; so that no flesh should glory in His presence," (1Co 1:27-29 MKJV) there wouldn't be much hope for any of us!
Thanks for the good word Eli!

Logic said...

Eli,

I think you raise some excellent points about seminary and ministry training. It is God who calls some to be apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists (Ephesians 4:11).

I think that having a degree requirement, like an MDiv, in order to be a pastor is unbiblical. Education does not create a vocation for a man, rather God creates a vocation and men fulfill the call. Having an educational requirment as a necessary or sufficient condition for a 'pastor', 'elder', or church leader position is not scriptural and far too denomination focused.

That being said, I do know some guys in Seminary who have the call to be a church leader, so we must be careful not to equate those who do not have a call on their lives with people who are in Seminaries. Some good people are in Seminaries.

Perhaps to add to your argument you might include Colossians 3:17,23-24. I think this is a good description of how most of us should be. Most of us are not called to 'professional ministry', but what we do is our full-time ministry... in other words, we ought to dedicate our work to the Lord and be Christ's ambassadors at all times.

I guess God can use people with PhD's after all!? wow!

-Logic

Eli said...

"Some good people are in Seminaries."

Amen.

"Perhaps to add to your argument you might include Colossians 3:17,23-24. I think this is a good description of how most of us should be. Most of us are not called to 'professional ministry', but what we do is our full-time ministry... in other words, we ought to dedicate our work to the Lord and be Christ's ambassadors at all times."

Amen brother!
God bless,
-Eli

Paul West said...

Dear Eli,

This is a great post. It reminds me of DL Moody, who had no formal training at a cemetery - he just took God at His literal word and embarassed all the high filluting theologians/pulpiteers of the time. Like Saul, we need to be emptied of our preconceptions and self-accolades and come to God like babes admitting we know absolutely nothing, stick our faces in the dirt and say, "What wilt thou have thy servant to do, O Lord?" It's a proven formula!

PWest