Sunday 7 September service: Imitate prophets and Paul

Nearly 2000 years ago Paul was at pains to remind the ecclesia that the gospel had brought them out from their former life of immorality into the purity of new Jerusalem, to be presented as a pure chaste virgin to her loving husband. The apostle Paul who had a tent-making business knew about what he was talking, having had himself to rethink everything where he had stood for. Before becoming a follower of Christ he was already convinced that God would always provide what He needed and would take care that His Plan would come to fulfilment. When we would listen to God he would be willing to come to us and to listen to us and to our needs. To help us in our life He gave us His Word as a guide.

English: Their are thousands of artworks creat...
St Paul by Rembrandt. (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC)

When Paul as a devout Jew as a “Pharisee” was confronted with the words and works of the Nazarene preacher Jeshua (Jesus Christ) he probably often may have felt been a target of Jesus his words as well, being also one of those men who really wanted to keep strongly to the Word of God. As a student of Gamaliel or as part of Hellenistic Judaism he was thoroughly impregnated by Jewish doctrine. Paul was very annoyed with the Platonic teaching which many people let them carry away from the real substance of God’s Word. He wanted to keep the Word’s of God clean of wrong teachings, and at first the new teachings of that Nazarene rabbi looked to take too much liberty with that Word. Therefore those followers had to be put to silence. Paul violently persecuted what he later also came to consider the church of God. He was trying to destroy it, but it looked like how more he tried to go against Jesus his followers how more they got strength to continue their preaching and how more he became in conflict with his own mind. He advanced in Judaism beyond many among his people of the same age, for he was far more zealous for the traditions of his ancestors.

Gal 1:13-14 The Scriptures 1998+  (13)  For you have heard of my former way of life in Yehuḏaism, how intensely I persecuted the assembly of Elohim, and ravaged it.  (14)  And I progressed in Yehuḏaism beyond many of my age in my race, being more exceedingly ardent for the traditions of my fathers.

Php 3:3-6 The Scriptures 1998+  (3)  For we are the circumcision, who are serving Elohim in the Spirit, and boasting in Messiah יהושע , and do not trust in the flesh,  (4)  though I too might have trust in the flesh. If anyone else thinks to trust in the flesh, I more –  (5)  circumcised the eighth day, of the race of Yisra’ĕl, of the tribe of Binyamin, a Heḇrew of Heḇrews, according to Torah a Pharisee,  (6)  according to ardour, persecuting the assembly; according to righteousness that is in the law, having become blameless.

The apostle Paul felt God had set him apart from his mother’s womb and called him by His grace to reveal His Son in him, in order that he would proclaim the gospel about him among the Gentiles.

Gal 1:15-16 The Scriptures 1998+  (15)  But when it pleased Elohim, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me by His favour,  (16)  to reveal His Son in me, that I might bring Him, the Good News, to the gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood,

By joining the followers of Christ the apostle Paul could from then onwards only count on his tent business to provide for an income, though it was not easy to run a business and travel and minister. Sometimes he got his food and lodgings from fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. He was not overly concerned with where his provision would come from. For him it did not matter any more where it came from as long as he did receive it from honest work and from genuine gifts. His confidence was in God, his provider. So, his attitude was in affirming the benefit that came to the giver from a Kingdom perspective.

For Paul it was the grace of God that had appeared, bringing salvation to him, training him and his brethren in order that, denying impiety and worldly desires, they could live self-controlled and righteously and godly in their present age. As they were looking forward to the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for us, in order that he might redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for himself a people for his own possession, zealous for good deeds.  He denied ungodliness and worldly lusts and asks us to do the same, living soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. (Titus 2)

The Apostle Paul worried about people’s reaction to him! He wondered if they could see that he had changed weapons of his warfare. He appealed to the congregation by the humility and gentleness of Christ. He did not want to be bold with the confidence with which he proposed to show boldness toward some who considered them as behaving according to the flesh. For although Paul and the followers of Christ were living in the flesh, they did not wage war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but powerful to God for the tearing down of fortresses, tearing down arguments and all pride that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:1-5)

It was said Paul his letters “are severe and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak and his speech is of no account.” (2 Corinthians 10:10) People were often disappointed when they met him in the flesh, perhaps they imagined somebody totally different. Problem with people is that they always want to label people and want to go of from outward looking appearance.

The clothes we wear are most obvious outward show of our inward thoughts. When we meet a new person, the first impressions we have of them, before they ever open their mouths, will be their appearance and the way they are dressed. The word of God tells us that our character and the way we think are shown firstly by the clothes we wear. In 1 Timothy 2 verse 9 the women are told to “adorn themselves in modest apparel”. The reason they are told this was because their outward adorning should have displayed their inward character. The modest apparel was a reflection of their character, their “shamefacedness (modesty) and sobriety”.

If this principle of manifesting our character outwardly, is seen in even the clothes we wear, surely it should be seen in all aspects of our life. As it is written in 1 Peter 1 v 15 “be ye holy in all manner of conversation (way of life)”. And again in 2 Peter 3 v 11 “what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness”.

So our inward character (those characteristics developed by God through His word) should be seen in all our life. It should be seen in the clothes we wear, the places we go, the things we say, and the things we do. That outward adorning then becomes very important for us as the bride of Christ.

Looking at our character and attitude we do want to take on in our life we looked at the importance of telling others what God want and how we do have to take the right attitude and show others how we are guided by God and are renewed by Christ.

If the Word of God is to have any real effect on those around us and make any difference at all we must preach whole-heartedly and convince people that the Gospel is a living message that can change their lives. We could be like Jehoash (2 Kings 13) and approach preaching half heartedly thinking to ourselves (or even saying to others!) that it is pointless to speak out because no one will listen or no one will turn up to the talk even if we deliver invitations. No doubt with this attitude like Jehoash we will fail. Not only that but we will have let God down. Jesus spoke a parable to teach us this in Luke 11:33-36. So as individuals and as an ecclesia we must make sure that we shine brightly so others can see a reflection – even though it is very feeble – of God’s light and come to it.

In the second reading of the day Ezekiel 3 we find God Who told Ezekiel that he had to literally consume his Word in v 1-3 by eating a scroll. Ezekiel is left in no doubt that with the pleasure (sweetness) of knowing God’s Word comes great responsibility. He has to warn the people that they must turn away from sin and turn to God (vv16-21). If he does not do this God will hold him responsible. Chapter 33, which is the parable of the Watchman, goes in to more detail and we are left in no doubt. So, brethren and sisters, we must take our responsibility to those around us seriously as our own salvation depends on it! Jesus warned us that it would not be easy and that people’s response would not be overwhelming Matthew 7:13-14. Just because the response is poor we must not give up. We must not decide who to preach to; only God knows who will listen. Matthew 10:11-14. The word “worthy” in Greek does not have the same meaning as it does in English. It has nothing to do with deserving but rather implies “openness” or “willingness”. So the disciples were told to seek out anyone who would listen to the Gospel message regardless of their social status, wealth or physical appearance. Jesus made this very clear in Luke 14:15-23 that it is not always those we would expect that will respond to the Gospel message.

Let’s not be downhearted because we are in the company of many men and women in the Bible. Moses felt exactly the same when God told him to speak to Pharaoh (Exodus 6:30). Moses told God that he would “dry up” if he had to speak to such a great man. God was not angry because He understood – He solved the problem in Exodus 7:1-2, by making Aaron the spokesman. Not all of us can speak formally like Aaron – it is often the odd word at the appropriate time or a private conversation that has great results. Jesus again spoke about our worries and showed he too understood. Luke 12:11-12 deals with appearing before authority figures (as Moses did) but the same applies to talking with our neighbours or work colleagues or a casual conversation on the bus or in a shop. Do you and I have this level of faith brethren and sisters? Of course we must continue to study the Word and be familiar with it so we are prepared but God will be with us and guide our lips.

As we mentioned earlier even the Apostle Paul worried about people’s reaction to him. His physical disability (2 Corinthians 12:7-8) prevented him thinking his authority was of his own making. He spoke of a thorn in the flesh and prayed three times for his struggles to be taken away. He lists for us the sufferings he went through preaching the Word in 11 v 23-28, no wonder he appeared weak. The same applied to Jesus Isaiah 53:2 – the stress and physical toil of his ministry aged him quickly so he looked haggard. What made both these men powerful? The way they preached the Gospel brethren and sisters.
People listened not because they were good looking or “smooth talkers” but because the light of God’s word shone out of them.
Can we try to imitate them in some small way?

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Additional reading:

  1. A Living Faith #1 Substance of things hoped for
  2. Gaining Christ, trusting Jehovah
  3. God my fence, my hope for the future
  4. Trusting, Faith, calling and Ascribing to Jehovah #2 Calling upon the Name of God
  5. Trusting, Faith, Calling and Ascribing to Jehovah #15 Exposition before the Creator
  6. The Immeasurable Grace bestowed on humanity
  7. Creator and Blogger God 5 Things to tell
  8. Give your tears to God
  9. Come ye yourselves apart … and rest awhile (Mark 6:31)
  10. How should we preach?
  11. Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement
  12. Free to be quiet

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