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PAUL THE PIONEER PREACHER
Intro: In our last study, we considered the content of verse 1. In that short, but powerful verse Paul reminded his readers that he was the prisoner of Jesus Christ. Paul might have been under house arrest in Rome, under Jewish charges, as he waited to appear before Caesar, but he wanted everyone to know that Jesus Christ was his real warden.
Ill. These verses form a parenthesis in the thinking of Paul as he explains to the church who they are in Jesus Christ. He wants the church to understand the amazing grace and power of God in their salvation. He wants the church to know that it is not an accident, but that it is the product of the sovereign plan of Almighty God. In view of that, Paul turns away from his original thought to tell us more about how the mystery of the church. His words revel him to be a pioneer in the early church as he preached truth that had never been heard before.
A. v. 2 The Ministry He Was Given - Paul says that he was given a dispensation. This word means, Stewardship, administration, or management. This word refers to a person who was responsible to take care of the business of another. Another person to manage a household, a business, or some other concern trusted this individual. This person would have the oversight of all the responsibilities that pertained to the business of the one who employed him.
In Pauls case, he was given the oversight of taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. He was tasked with telling them about Gods live, His salvation, His grace and the place they had been given in His kingdom, Rom. 15:15-16. Paul did not choose this ministry for himself, he was appointed to it by the Lord, 1 Tim. 1:12-13. Paul wants his readers to know that he was not some self-appointed preacher. He was who he was by the grace of God, 1 Cor. 15:10.
In 1 Cor. 9:16-17 Paul says, For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. Paul was compelled to preach the Gospel because the Lord had chosen him for that task. He had been given a dispensation of grace, and it was his duty to faithfully preach the Gospel wherever he went. He fulfilled his duty to the very end of his life, 2 Tim. 4:7.
While none of us have been called to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, we have each been given a dispensation of the grace of God. The Lord gave each of us certain spiritual gifts, talents, abilities, knowledge, and opportunities. We are to be good stewards of those gifts and use them to the glory of God, for the good of the Kingdom of God and for the good of people around us. In 1 Pet. 4:10, Pater said it this way, As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Like Paul, we all have a ministry, and it is our duty before God to fulfill it for His glory.
B. v. 3-5 The Mystery He Was Given - In these verses, Paul makes it clear that he has been given a revelation of a mystery. The word revelation refers to an uncovering. The word mystery refers to a hidden thing. It speaks of the secret counsels of God, or to things beyond natural knowledge. In other words, Paul is saying that God has lifted the veil away from truths that were hidden with God. What Paul has been writing about is a divine secret. It is a truth that was hidden from the ancients. People like Moses, Abraham, David, Isaiah and others did not possess this knowledge. It was hidden from them in the secret counsels of God.
In Gen. 12:3, God promised Abraham, ...in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. No one fully understood that truth until Paul was allowed to understand the mystery and write, And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed, Gal. 3:8. Isaiah wrote this, And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth, Isa. 49:6. No one fully understood that truth until the revelation of the mystery was given to Paul and he explained it this way, Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth, Acts 13:46-47.
In verse 4 Paul says that he wants his readers to understand his knowledge in the mystery of Christ. In other words, Paul is telling us that he has been given special insight into Gods secrets, and that he has been called to share those insights with us. Thank God for that.
Just for the record, no one is getting any new revelations today. The Scripture is complete. Everything we need to know concerning God and spiritual things is written in the Word of God. There are many truths we will not know until we are home in glory with the Lord. Right now, everything we need to know is written in the Bible. Read it and be wise; believe it and be safe; live it and be holy! All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works, 2 Tim. 3:16-17.
C. v. 6 The Message He Was Given - Paul has already touched on this mystery in Eph. 1:9-12 and Eph. 2:11-12. In this verse he explains it more clearly. So, what is the mystery Paul has been given?
The mystery is the truth that the Gentiles have been included, alongside the Jews, in Gods plan to form His church. The mystery is the truth that Jews and Gentiles are to be brought together in one body: the body of Christ.
As I have mentioned in previous messages, it is hard for us to understand just how revolutionary this truth was to the Jews in Pauls day. It was on the same level as that lepers and other unclean people should no longer be isolated. It was like saying that the chronically ill and the healthy should mix together as if they were both the same. To the Jews this idea was blaspheme.
They hated the Gentiles and allowed no fellowship with them at all. Now, Paul says that, in Jesus, the barriers are removed and Jews and Gentiles are on equal fitting before God.
Paul clarifies the mystery in these verses. Notice the content of this mystery.
· The Gentiles are fellow heirs - The Gentiles, who were once aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world, Eph. 2:12, now possess the same legal standing as His chosen people the Jews. Every single believer is on the same level. We are all given the same blessings, Eph. 1:3. We are no longer strangers, aliens and outcasts. Now, in Jesus, we are the sons of God, 1 John 3:1-3. In other words, as believers in Jesus, we share all the promises of God to His people. We are fellowheirs with all the saints.
· The Gentiles are of the same body - That is, all believers in Jesus Christ share a common life in Jesus. The same life that flowed through the spirit of Paul lives in your spirit today. Just as every cell in your body shares the life of your body, so every believer in Jesus shares the common life of God. In Gods eyes every believer is absolutely indistinguishable from every other believer. As John MacArthur says, Spiritually, he has no genes but divine genes. Paul reminds us of this truth in 1 Cor. 12:12-13, For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit, 1 Cor. 12:12-13.
· The Gentiles are partakers of His promise in Christ - Thus, all those who are in Jesus Christ as inheritors of all Gods promises in Christ. When the Jews looked forward to their Messiah, they were looking for One Who would save them from sin, deliver them from their enemies, secure them as a nation, and bless them with His presence and the goodness of God. All those things are true for all those who are in Jesus, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.
· The Gentiles achieve this standing by the Gospel - That is by believing the Gospel message, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross for the sin of the sinner, and that He rose again from the dead three days later, lost sinners are saved by the grace of God, 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Rom. 4:25. The only way anyone is ever saved is through the Gospel. Believe it and become a part of the body of Christ. Deny it and go to Hell.
So, the mystery Paul is preaching is the truth that Jews and Gentiles are made on in Jesus Christ. By the way, everyone who is not a Jew is a Gentile and vice versa. This means that a persons skin color or ethnic background should not matter to us, since it does not matter to the Lord. It is a sin to create artificial barriers between ourselves and other believers. It is not pleasing the Lord, and it is not a good testimony of the body of Christ. Ill. Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? 1 Cor. 1:10-13a.
The reverse side of this mystery is the fact that, not only are all believers in Jesus, but Jesus is in all believers as well. Col. 1:27 says, To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. The same Jesus Who died on Calvary indwells the spirits of His people. He is in every saint of God, regardless of his or her heritage. He is our common ground. He is our unifier. He is the one element that makes us one. Jesus should be bigger than differences in race, ethnicity, religious background, social status, economic means, or any other consideration. All that matter is Jesus Christ, and when He moves in, He makes us part of His body, and He lives His life through each of us.
That is why we must strive for unity in the body of Christ. We must not allow personal feelings, opinions, or actions to disrupt the unity of the body of Christ. That is why Paul tells us, If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men, Rom. 12:18. Gods will for His church is clear, Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment, 1 Cor. 1:10. Also, Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, Phil. 1:27.
I. Paul The Pioneer
II. v. 7 PAUL THE PREACHER
Having revealed the mystery to his readers, Paul wants them to know how he came to be in the office he occupied. Did Paul just wake up one day and decide to be a preacher? Did he decide on a whim to turn his back on his heritage, his religion, and his people? No, Paul wants his readers to know that the life he is living is not one he chosen for himself, but it is a life for which he was chosen. Paul the prophet tells us why he was also Paul the preacher.
A. His Call - Paul did not choose this path through life. In fact, he was a man of position and power before he met the Lord Jesus. When salvation came to Paul, along with it came the call of God to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles. Ill. Acts 9:1-16. Paul described it this way, But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee, Act 26:16.
It was not Pauls education, his power, his esteem among men, or any other thing that made him a preacher of the Gospel. It was the sovereign will of God! Paul says that he was made a minister. God took Paul, intervened in his life, and made him something he had never been. God made a preacher out him and sent him out with the mystery of the Gospel!
Again, thats how the Lord still works in the lives of His children. He saves us for a purpose, and he fashions us to fulfill that purpose for His glory. We need to remember that God has a will for our lives, and that everything we face in life is merely preparing us to fulfill the will and plan of God, Rom. 8:28-29; 1 Cor. 12:7-11.
Let me mention a couple of thoughts right here.
· First, any man who is preaching, but who has not been called of God is a pretender. He has taken on him a mantle that God has not laid upon him. He is involved in something that God has not called him to do. That individual needs to determine the will of God for his life and get about doing what the Lord has planned for him to do.
· Second, We should never be jealous of the call and ministry of others. The Lord does in our lives that which pleases Him. He gifts us, and gives us opportunities to serve according to His will. We should praise Him for what He is doing in the lives of others, and we should do our best to fulfill the ministry He has given to us. Ill. John the Baptist - John 3:25-30.
B. His Credentials - Paul says that he is a minister. This is the same word that is translated Deacon throughout the New Testament. It always refers to a servant. It was literally used of a table waiter. It comes from a word that has to idea of kicking up dust. It is the image of an individual running from one activity to another at such speed that they leave a cloud of dust in their wake.
That is how Paul saw himself. He did not see himself as a man who was worthy of honor and esteem. He saw himself as a servant of the church. He saw himself a man who was under that authority of his master, the Lord Jesus Christ. He understood the truth that were it not for the grace of God, he would still be a lost, religious Jew. He understood that the blood of Jesus, through the grace of God, had redeemed him. He was not doing what he was doing of his own initiative, but he saw his ministry as a gift of the grace of God.
None of us are prophets. None of us are apostles. Some of us are Deacons. a few of us are preachers. But, all of us are servants. First and foremost, we are the servants of the Lord Jesus, Who redeemed us, and owns us, 1 Cor. 6:19-20. Then, we are the servants of our brothers and sisters in Christ, Gal. 5:13. We each have a ministry and we are to fulfill that ministry to the glory of God. There is no greater love than to serve a brother or sister in Christ.
C. His Companion - Paul wants his readers to know that he does not know what he knows because he is smart. He does not write like he does because he is intelligent. He does not serve like he does because of any trait or power within himself. Paul wants them to know that he is the man he is because of the effectual working of His power.
Paul was a made man. God took Paul, saved him by His grace, and transformed him into the mighty apostle to the Gentiles. Gods work in Paul was supernatural. It was sovereign. It was personal. It was powerful.
Paul took no personal credit for fruit of his ministry. He gave all glory to God. Ill. Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase, 1 Cor. 3:5-6. Ill. Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily, Col. 1:29. It was God Who made Paul the man he was and he never forgot it.
When Paul preached, it was a display of the power of God. When Paul wrote, it was display of the power of God. In his preaching, his witnessing, and in his writing, Paul had a companion. He had the power and presence of the Holy Spirit to enable him to do the work he had been called to do.
So do we! When the Lord saved us, He moved in. When He moved in, He came into us to give us the ability to serve the Lord and to carry out His will in our lives. The Lord is the power behind the saint. When we are yielded to Him as Paul was, we can expect His help to work for Him, to live for Him and to serve Him in this world, Ill. Acts 1:8; Rom. 15:19. The same Spirit that empowered Paul is the same Spirit that empowers us. Thus, He gets all the glory for what He accomplishes through us.
What are you doing in your life that only be described as God in action? Is there any area of your life that can only be described as Him? We have a heavenly Companion as we move through this world. The Spirit of God dwells in us and on us to equip us for the ministry God has selected for us. We can trust Him to enable us to carry out the will of God in this world.
Conc: Paul was both a pioneer and a preacher. He was both by the will of God, for the glory of God. The Lord singled Paul out for a special ministry and he fulfilled it by the help of the Holy Spirit.
I hope you understand that God has selected you for a special ministry as well. If He saved, He saved you to serve. He desires to equip you, to use you and to make your life a blessing in His kingdom work.
If you are not serving Him as you should, I invite you to change that today. Come before Him and ask Him to use you. Ask Him to make your life count for Jesus. As Him to do in you and through you everything He has saved you for. Come to Him and yield your will to His.
If you are serving Him, but you arent seeing the fruit you expected, I want to encourage you to remain faithful. It is up to the Lord what impact our lives have in the world around us. We must be not weary in well doing, Gal. 6:9. Let me encourage you to dedicate yourself afresh to His will, 1 Cor. 15:58.
If you are not saved, let me challenge you to come to Jesus Christ today. Call on the Lord while He is near!