Acts – Paul the Apostle – Wayne Barber/Part 1
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1992|
|“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” It tells us who he is, tells us what he is, and it tells us why he is what he is. Did you get all that? Who he is, what he is, and why he is what he is. We’re going to look at that first.|
Paul: The Man
Well, would you turn with me to the book of Ephesians. Now you just have to get use to that. We’re moving into a brand new study, the book of Ephesians.
How gracious the Lord was in my life to go along to see the ruins of Ephesus. We had a chance to walk through those streets and to realize what Paul saw and to understand a little the feel of what we’re going to be studying as he wrote to the believers in Ephesus. It was just a blessing beyond measure.
So, we’re going to begin to ease into the book. How are we going to do it? We’re going to look at the author first. As a matter of fact, we’re going to take the first phrase of verse 1. It tells us everything we need to know. Look what it says. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by [or “through”] the will of God.” That’s as far as we need to go. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” It tells us who he is, tells us what he is, and it tells us why he is what he is. Did you get all that? Who he is, what he is, and why he is what he is. We’re going to look at that first.
First of all, let’s look at who he is. You see, by doing this, you should begin to get the feel of the man that God used to write the book. Some people believe in the dictation theory, that God gave them the words, and they just wrote them down. I personally believe that God fully possessed the man so that the man through his own personality and vocabulary could pen the words of the scriptures. So you’ve got to know the man who was possessed by God, who was controlled by God, so that we can understand that which he wrote. We’re looking at Paul, the man, next we are going to look at Paul the missionary. Who was he? Who was Paul? Let’s see if we can find some facts about him.
If you’ll turn to Acts 22:3, that will be very critical in helping us put together a summary of the life of Paul. Who he is? You know, there were some people who were born in significant places, and some people were born in insignificant places. Jesus was born in an insignificant place. However, the first thing we want to see about Paul is he was born in a significant place. It says in verse 3, “I am a Jew [we’ll come back to that], born in Tarsus of Cilicia.” He was brought up in Jerusalem, but he was born in Tarsus of Cilicia. Now where was Cilicia? Well, it was a province of Asia Minor. Now you realize that Asia Minor is modern day Turkey. I hope you realize that. I didn’t, but I now do. When we came to Ephesus, we came to Turkey. Whereas Paul dealt with the Jews there, now it’s a Muslim country, and the people have quite a different struggle.
If you would look at a map of Asia Minor or modern-day Turkey, on the left side would be Ephesus, on the western coast of Asia Minor or Turkey. If you went straight east almost all the way across the continent, you would come to Cilicia, a province of Asia Minor, or as I said, of Turkey today. Now Tarsus was the capital city of Cilicia. It was the chief city. As a matter of fact, everyone knew where Tarsus was. It was probably competing with Athens and Alexandria of that day to be one of the learning capitals of the world. Paul came from a very significant place.
If you look back up in Acts 21:39 of, Paul says something about that city. “I am a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant city.’” Now, the Greek word means “not a mean city,” the idea there is “of no insignificant city.” In other words, it was a place people would know about. It was a coastal province. Tarsus was a city of learning known worldwide. So therefore, Paul was a person who was born in a significant place. Having been born in Tarsus of Cilicia he was a Roman citizen. That’s interesting. He was a Jewish boy raised up in Jerusalem, born in Tarsus, but was a Roman citizen. You know that played a very great role in his missionary journeys. So, number one under that outline of who was he, he was born or he came from a very significant place.
Secondly, in Acts 22:3 he was educated by a very special, influential person. Everybody knew who this man was. He says, “I am a Jew, brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel.” Gamaliel was one of the most respected, influential teachers of the Law in the Sanhedrin of that time. A Pharisee, he was a man who was honored, and he had great influence. If you’ll look back in Acts 5:33, we’ll see a situation where Gamaliel is brought out. This is the chapter that it’s right after Pentecost. The Holy Spirit of God has come and empowered the apostles. Peter himself says, “Listen, you do what you need to do, but,” he says, “We must obey God rather than men.” Old cowardly Peter, the one who stood by the fire and denied Jesus, now empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, makes himself known.
Well, this really irritated the officials of that day. Verse 33 says, “But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and were intending to slay them.” Who is the “them” there? That was Peter and the apostles. “But a certain Pharisee [there, see?] named Gamaliel [now watch], a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time.” Verse 35 continues, “And he said to them, ‘Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody; and a group of about 400 men joined up with him. And he was slain; and all who followed him dispersed and came to nothing. After this man Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away some people after him, he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. And so in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or actions could be of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.’” This is great advice from Gamaliel. Verse 40 shows his influence over the Sanhedrin. “And they took his advice.” This is the man who schooled Paul. Paul was not only from a significant place, he was educated by a very special person.
Also in Acts 22:3 it tells us that he was known as a successful Pharisee. That is the understatement of the year. Verse 3 says, “I am a Jew.” Was he ever! If you’ll go on down in the verse, he says, “being zealous for God, just as you all are today.” Let’s look in Philippians 3:5-6. There he is telling them to keep on rejoicing. Stay away from people who try to add laws to grace. You see, that was what was going on in Philippi. We saw the ruins of Philippi. We looked for a synagogue. There wasn’t one. That helped me understand that the Jews who were giving Paul the problem in Philippi had to have been proselyte Jews. There was no synagogue there when Paul went.
We saw the little river there where Lydia was baptized. Boy, that was precious. We took our shoes off, rolled our pants legs up and waded around in the stream where Lydia was baptized.
In Philippians 3:5-6 Paul says, “Listen, they want to brag.” These proselyte Jews were Gentiles who had decided to become a Jew and therefore, were circumcised and brought in. They weren’t born one. Here they were telling these little, young Christians, “You need to be circumcised. You need to get back up under the Law.” Paul says, “Don’t pay attention to these dogs.” Isn’t it interesting in the Gospels the Gentiles were “dogs?” Paul is calling these proselyte Jews, who are trying to add law to grace, “dogs.”
In verse 5 he says, “I far more have a reason.” He says, “circumcised the eighth day.” Now every Jew was circumcised on the eighth day. Jesus was taken and circumcised the eighth day. All the male boys were circumcised on the eighth day.
He says, “of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin.” Now that was interesting. When they came back out of captivity they lost the records as to what tribes they were from. They didn’t even know who was of the tribe of Levi so they could be the priest of that time. So, to know where you were from, to know your lineage meant you really had to be real. It’s kind of like living in America today and being named Smith or Jones. You don’t have to convince anybody you’re from America. They know it right off.
Paul says, “I was of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.” Now look with me to Acts 26:4-5, and we find some more about Paul being a very successful Jew in his earlier years. What he’s telling them again here is he’s a Pharisee, but notice the wording here. Verse 4 says, “So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which was from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem.” He was born in Tarsus of Cilicia and raised up in Jerusalem.
Then it says in verse 5, “since they have known about me for a long time previously, if they are willing to testify [in other words, Paul is saying, “They know who I am; they knew what I was] that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion.”
Now to show how strict he was in his belief you have to remember the Pharisees. They were the policeman to the scribes. The scribes came about when they had lost the Law and read it in Watergate back in Nehemiah’s day. The scribes came about to determine behavioral patterns of people. In other words, if you live this way you won’t be found in this situation again. Well, the Pharisees were the police force of the scribes, if you please. They were the tithers of the day. On the outside they looked great. They were the strictest of all the religious sects of the Jews. As a matter of fact, they took ten commandments and made 631 laws out of it. It was ridiculous what the Pharisees had done, and yet on the outside they looked like the most religious people of the day. They rejected, very harshly, Jesus being the Messiah.
Paul says, “I was a zealous Pharisee.” Now, in doing that he was a persecutor of the church. Acts 22:4-5 says that he put believers in prisons and persecuted them to death. Look at Acts 7:58, and we’ll just see how zealous a Jew and a Pharisee Paul was. This is when Stephen was going to be put to death. He had just looked up into heaven and had finished preaching. He prayed, and the people were violently reacting. Verse 58 says, “And when they had driven him out of the city [Stephen they’re speaking of here], they began stoning him, and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul”, who was Paul whom we’re talking about. He stood right there and let them lay their garments at his feet.
In 8:1 it tells us more. It says, “And Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered about the region of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him.” Watch. “But Saul [that old devout Jew] began ravaging the church, entering house after house; and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.”
Turn back to Acts 26:9-11. We want to see one more passage on this. I want you to get the full picture on how he grew up and what he was before he met the Lord Jesus Christ. Who was this man? He was a successful Pharisee. The Pharisees really badgered Jesus. Paul was one who went after Christians. Paul is giving his own testimony here. He says before King Agrippa, “So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death, I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.”
Now here’s the man we’re dealing with. Here’s the man God chose to write to the church at Ephesus. Here’s the man who as he grew up came from a very significant place, Tarsus of Cilicia, one of the learning centers of the world. Everybody knew where Tarsus was. A man raised up in Jerusalem and educated by a very special person, Gamaliel, who had the most influence of the Sanhedrin over the Jews of that day. He also was known to be a successful Pharisee.
Well let’s move on. Secondly, now that you know who he was and who we’re dealing with, what was he? Turn to Ephesians 1:1. “Paul,” what’s the next phrase? “an apostle of Christ Jesus.” We’re going to be in Ephesians a long time. I am definitely known for getting messages out of commas. We’re going to just inch our way through. Someone said years ago, “Yard by yard life’s way too hard. Inch by inch life’s a cinch.” So, we’re just going to inch our way through here. alright? What was he? He was an apostle of Christ Jesus. Paul is just an incredible guy. There are three things we need to understand by the word “apostle.” The word is made up of two Greek words, apo, away from, and stello, to send. Let’s look at the three things that we see in that word, an “apostle” of Christ Jesus.
First of all, we see that he was saved. He was saved. You could not have an apostle of Christ Jesus and not have a saved man. In other words, a man who would pursue, follow and suffer for the Lord Jesus Christ had to be a believer, had to be a saved man. Let’s look at that in Acts 9:1. This is one of the most incredible conversions in all of Scripture, and it will mess up your theology every time you try to study it. When you try to figure out how people get saved, you get messed up with Paul. He was not seeking Jesus, he was seeking after Christians to persecute them. It was Jesus seeking after him.
“Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way.” That was one of the names given to the early believers of the New Testament. It’s odd to me that people today say that you don’t receive Jesus as Lord. You just receive Him as Savior. That’s mighty curious because even the very name they were called signified a method of life, a style of life and a direction of life that came from surrender to the Lord Jesus in their life.
Well, let’s read on, “both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” Verse 3 says, “And it came about as he journeyed, he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting [the believers? Is that what your translation says? No!] why are you persecuting Me?”
You know, a thought goes through here. You had better leave God’s people alone. If you mess with God’s people, you’re messing with God. God will defend His people. God stopped him in his tracks. You say, “Well, I thought that you had to seek after God so that you could find Him.” Well, Paul was a seeker after Jehovah, but he rejected Jesus as his Messiah. It was Jesus seeking after Paul that stopped him in his tracks.
Well, it says in verse 5, “And he said, ‘Who art thou, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do.’” He was blind for three days, and Ananias came to him.
So, we know the conversion, the early conversion of Paul. The beautiful thing is to see that he was a devout Jew, a man who had class, a man who had culture, a man who had clout, but he was a man who God stopped in his tracks, turned around, redirected him and made him a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. The first thing we see implied in the word “apostle” is the fact that he’s saved. We know his conversion. It’s recorded again in Acts 22:3-16 and Acts 26:4-18.
Secondly, we know something else from that word. Not only was he saved, but he was sent. That word apostolos (apo, away from, stello, to send), means he was sent forth. A synonym of that gives the picture of an ambassador who goes someplace to represent another. He has a message to take to others on behalf of the one who sends him. So Paul was sent forth. Paul didn’t go somewhere and ask God to bless it. Paul was sent forth by Christ Jesus. So not only was he saved, he was sent. He was an apostle.
There’s one more thing that I want to bring out about the word “apostle.” We could bring out other things. The third thing was he was set apart. Now we need to understand this. The word “apostle” in the New Testament has to do with an office that only the Lord Jesus could give to people of the New Testament. He gave not only the office, but the authority that goes behind it.
The reason I’m saying that is we’re living in the twentieth century when doo-das are everywhere. There’s a group out in Texas. Many of you love this group. You watch. I’m telling you, you read. You think they’re on target. What you don’t know about this group is they have proclaimed themselves New Testament or New Age apostles. I don’t mean in the New Age sense that we normally understand.
They’re apostles to this day. So therefore, the canon of scripture is not complete. They’re still getting fresh revelation from God, and whatever they get from God is added to this book as apostles of the new times that we’re living in today. We need to understand that the apostles in Scripture were directly appointed by Jesus for the specific purpose of spreading the Gospel and giving us the doctrine of the New Testament. Prophets were to the Old Testament as the apostles were to the New Testament. There were no other apostles.
Now Paul says, “I am an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve been set apart.” You say, “Now wait a minute. I thought there were only twelve, and I thought Judas defected so that made eleven. The disciples cast lots and brought Matthias who would make twelve. Where does Paul fit in?” In a general sense, anyone who was a believer, who had witnessed the resurrected Lord could be called an apostle. But in the specific sense there were only those designated by Jesus with the authority to come to the people.
Paul calls himself an apostle born out of due season. Look in 1 Corinthians 15:7 Paul is speaking of himself. He never felt worthy. He was a persecutor of the church which meant he was a persecutor of Christ. So he never felt worthy to be called an apostle. I love the humility of this man. Paul is talking about the appearances of Jesus, and he’s defending the resurrection of Christ. He says in verse 7, “then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as it were to one untimely born [born out of season], He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Paul very humbly addresses the fact yes, he’s an apostle, made one by God with the authority backed up behind it, but he doesn’t deserve to be one because he was a persecutor of the church.
If you’ll turn over to 1 Corinthians 9:1, you’ll see that truly he was a witness of the resurrected Lord Jesus. To be an apostle you had to be appointed by Christ, and you had to have been a witness of His resurrection, of His resurrected body. He says, “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle?” Now watch. “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?”
So we see in that word “apostle” something else about what Paul was. First of all he was saved. Secondly he was sent. But thirdly he was set apart, different from other apostles. He was in the specific office with the authority backed up behind it that when he spoke it was the doctrine to the church. That’s why in Ephesians he doesn’t say, “Paul, a fellow believer.” He says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus.” By the way, when you see “Christ Jesus” instead of “Jesus Christ” it means something. It’s not just randomly mistranslated. “Christ Jesus” refers to Christ as the resurrected Christ after His resurrection. “Jesus Christ” refers to, most of the time, to Him before He went to the cross.
Paul says, “I am an apostle of Christ Jesus.” How could he be one had he not seen Him? Where did he see Him? On the Damascus Road. God made him an apostle. So we see who he was. Who was he? He was born in a specific place, educated by a special person and known as a successful Pharisee. What was he? He was an apostle, saved, sent and set apart all at one time. It’s incredible the life of Paul. He’s a man backed up by the authority of God.
Then thirdly, why was he what he was? Why was he what he was? Why was he an apostle? To me this is the real meat of what God spoke to my heart as I was putting this together. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by [or through] the will of God.” Now this is when it really began to minister to my heart, because there are three things that we find out about the word thelematos. It’s the word that has to do with the will of God. “Ma,” the ending of it, means “the result of God’s will.”
First of all, we seek in this—now stay with me—the eternal design of God. It’s the eternal design of God because thelema means “the result of God’s will.” In other words, God said it. He had the idea. It was His design. Therefore, the result of it was Paul becoming an apostle. Paul was never asked. Paul was told. If you ask Paul, “Paul, why are you an apostle?” He says in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “I am what I am by the grace of God. I didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘You know what, I think I’ll be an apostle.’ Hey, I didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘You know what, I think I’ll become a Christian.’” No sir! Everything he was was by the grace of God. Just in the words “will of God” we see the divine design, the eternal design of God. Paul was what he was because God made him what he was. No other way.
Let me ask you a question. Who are you? What are you? Why are you what you are? I don’t know why this is on my heart, but I might as well go ahead and mention it. Sometimes either I wake up paranoid, or these things are burdens on my heart. We go through seasons here. Some of you may visit us and wonder what we’re all about. You will probably wonder for another ten years. We’re not like every other church you’ve been to. We don’t want to be like every other church. We want to be uniquely what God wants us to be. He has the design. I don’t have that design. Why am I Pastor-Teacher? I haven’t the slightest idea except that I must say, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” God has a design.
I didn’t come to this church years ago and sit down and come up with a plan to what this church is going to be. I was minding my own business in Panama City Beach, Florida when I ran into the Pulpit Committee that had been looking for a preacher for two years. They had been 60,000 miles and had heard 20 different preachers. I wasn’t bothering a soul. I knew God had released me from my church in Mississippi and when I was praying about where I was going to go, I picked two other churches. This church was on the bottom of my list, but every time I would get on my knees God whisper this name. I couldn’t debate that. I came here not even knowing what I would make. I just came here knowing God sent me here. I have no other explanation for it. When I got here I didn’t come here expecting to grow a church. We don’t go to growth seminars around here. We don’t want the world’s way of growing something. We want to know, “God, what are you all about in this place?”
Why are you in your church? We have people from time to time come into Woodland Park, and the first thing we begin to hear is, “I’m griped at this. I’m complaining about that. Why isn’t it like the place I came from? Where was the preacher when I was sick? What’s going on in this place?” Hold it! Hold it! Hold it! I’ve said since I’ve been Pastor of this church, “That door back there swings both ways.” I have never asked anyone to come here. I’ll never ask anyone to stay. That’s not my business. That’s God’s business, but when you come don’t bring your baggage from every place else.
We’re not like what you experienced before. We expect something out of you here. You’re not coming to be ministered unto. You’re coming to be equipped so that you can minister. It’s by God’s design, not by man’s design.
Paul was what he was by God’s design.The word thelematos, means it was the result of the will of God. The Word says what a church ought not to be is an organization. It’s not a place where people put in forty hours a week. The ministry is our life. I would love to punch in forty hours a week and stop work. What a piece of cake! No! We are what we are by the grace of God. There’s a design here, and we’re seeking after Him. Paul was what he was because it was God’s design, not Paul’s design. So let me just simply say to you, when you start seeing gaping holes in the church, remember God may have sent you to be part of the solution. He didn’t send you to come in and complicate the problem by what you say.
This is not something new. I don’t think I’m paranoid. Usually when I’m gone about three out of four Sundays from my church there’s a restlessness that gets in the camp. “Oh no! Wayne’s not here this morning.” Immediately people’s minds start clicking.
“Well, who’s preaching?” Listen, are you in church to hear the preacher or are you there to hear God’s Word? Yes, God’s put me here, and whatever gifts I have, God gave them to me. But remember this, I’m not the same cut as perhaps you’re used to in other preachers. I can’t help that. I want you to know that I’m trying to be what God wants me to be. That’s all I want.
Listen, I’ll be fifty years old next year. That’s not very old to some of you. To some of you it’s ancient. It depends on which side you’re on. It’s all relative. I just want to be where God wants me to be and do what God wants me to do. I really don’t care where or what that is. I just want to be found being about His business.
Some of you who visit may notice that things are a little different. Yes, they are. We’re trying to let God design and develop. We want to see a body, not an organization, but an organism. Folks, that doesn’t happen overnight. I’ll tell you how it happens. It happens when you and I start getting in touch with God through His Word and start, through the gifts He’s given us, becoming what He wants us to be to others and stop worrying about what someone is or isn’t. So it’s by God’s design.
Secondly, it also show us the eternal desires of God. This just really blessed me. The word thelema is the word when referring to God’s will has to do with the gracious disposition of God towards something. I love that. In other words, that which God does Himself for His own good pleasure. Man, when I think about that it just blesses me. You ask old Paul, “Paul, how come you’re an apostle?” “Man, I don’t know,” he would say. “Just by the grace of God I am what I am. God just took pleasure in doing what He did. That’s all I can say.” You see, it kicks in two attitudes here. One is the attitude of God in the way He does things in our life. He just does it out of His own good pleasure. It’s God who cuts the pie, folks. Your gifts may be bigger than mine. My gifts may be broader than yours. I don’t know. I had nothing to do with it. You had nothing to do with it. There’s no such thing as comparing yourself to somebody else, except in the sense of imitating their faith. God has gifted us all a different way. Why did He do it that way? It’s just out of His own good pleasure that He did it that way. That’s all we can say.
So if therefore, I get to go to Greece and somebody else doesn’t get to go to Greece, I guess you can say like Paul, “I’ll be content in whatever circumstance I find myself.” There are times when other pastors come to me and say, “How do you get to be gone so much?” Hey folks, I’m just who I am and what I am. I can’t change that. You know what I’ve always been? The very moment I find people trying to press me into a mold they think I ought to be, I’m gone. I cannot be under somebody’s thumb. Therefore, I have a ministry to let the people be what God wants them to be.
I ask my church, “Has anyone from our church called your house to see if you were at church last Sunday night? Has anyone called you up and checked on you to see how many times you’ve been here?” No! Why? Because our whole philosophy of ministry is to get them in touch with Jesus and let Jesus be in them what He wants them to be. I don’t take a role and judge how spiritual they are by whether or not they come on Wednesday night. That’s between them and God. I’m here to set the table. If they don’t come that’s their problem or their business. If people come when the table is set and don’t eat that’s their problem. I’m not responsible for them eating. I’m just responsible for making sure the table is set.
Folks, I want to tell you, when you get down to what God does, God does is His own way. Listen, if I go down in a plane, and God brings you another Pastor-Teacher, he’ll be so different from me it’ll make you flip over backwards. Don’t worry about it. He’ll bring in what He thinks the church needs and what He thinks the preacher He brings in needs. He’ll put it together. It’s just God’s business. That’s the way He works. Paul said, “I am what I am by the grace of God. I’m an apostle by the will of Christ Jesus.”
Not only is it the attitude of God, it’s the attitude of Paul towards God. You know that Paul was grateful until the day he died for being an apostle of Jesus Christ. He showed it in everything he did. He was willing to suffer. He was willing to take bad times with good times. Why? Because he was so overwhelmed that God by His own good pleasure did what He did in his life. Isn’t that wonderful? To me that really speaks to where we all ought to be.
Thirdly it shows the eternal deliberation of the Godhead. You know, there was always something I still haven’t fully grasped. It’s the counsel of the Trinity, of how they counseled with one another. There’s no definite article here which to me points to the fact of all of God, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. We’re talking about all the character of God. To me Paul is saying, “I am an apostle of Jesus by the will of God. God the Father had something to do with it. God the Son had something to do with it. And God the Holy Spirit had something to do with it. By the divine deliberation of the Godhead I am what am. I am an apostle of the Christ Jesus by the will of God.”
Whatever you are, God wants you to be what He wants you to be. Whatever you are may or may not be fulfilling that. If you’re surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ and broken of that old ugly stench of self in your life, then God’s free to make you what He wants you to be. It’s not what I think you ought to be. Don’t ever worry about pleasing me. You just be what God wants you to be. That’s the key to what God’s design is in the body. It’s His desire. He does it of His own good pleasure out of the deliberation of the godhead.
Well, what do we know about Paul who wrote the book of Ephesians? He was a unique bird, wasn’t he? He was a man who came from a significant place. He was a man who was educated by a special person, Gamaliel. He was a man who was known as a successful Pharisee. That was the early part of his life. But what was Paul? He was an apostle of Christ Jesus, which meant he was saved, sent and set apart. And why was he what he was? Because of the will of Christ Jesus, because of the eternal design, the eternal desires, and the eternal deliberation of the Godhead.
Let me ask you a question. Who are you? In Christ, who are you? Just look back to where you were born. Did you come out of an insignificant place? Hey, you’re in good company. Jesus did too. Or maybe you came out of a significant place. You’re in good company. So did Paul. It doesn’t matter. What are you? What are you? “Well, I’m a successful businessman.” Well, I’m not asking you that. I’m asking, what are you in Christ? What’s your legacy going to be to this world? What are you? What is God’s design and desires in your life? Thirdly, why are you what you are? Was it God doing it or was it you doing it?
Folks, my prayer, my heart, is that we start becoming what He wants us to become. May I say to you from my heart? I can’t make it happen. I’ve been here almost eleven years. All I can say is, it comes when you and I get serious with God, get off our pedestal and get down, down, down, down. Then God can raise up what He wants to in our lives. As long as the big “I” is complaining and pointing fingers and criticizing folks, that’s not going to get us anywhere. What are you? Why are you what you are?
- “Jesus, be Jesus in me.
- No longer me but thee.
- Resurrection power
- Fill me this hour.
- Jesus, be Jesus is me.”
The world is sick of organizations, but they are hungry for somebody to show them Jesus.