Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Introduction: I almost envy Paul’s certainty. He had no doubt about to whom he belonged; he was a slave of Jesus Christ. Also, he had no doubt about what his master wanted him to do.
Romans 1:1d “. . .called to be an apostle. . .”
The phrase is literally, “a called apostle.” The word “called” is an adjective used here in the sense of being summoned to assume an office. Paul knew God had appointed a special sphere of activity to him. He had been designated an Apostle.
In general usage, the word “apostle” simply meant one sent forth. “Ambassador” would adequately translate its general meaning. But in the church, “apostle” took on a very specific meaning. It referred to the men selected and commissioned by Christ Himself to be the original deliverers of His message. They were His immediate messengers, men who had seen Christ after His resurrection.
This select group originally referred to the eleven true disciples plus Matthias, who replaced Judas. But God decided to add one more name to the list. Paul did not accompany Jesus in his earthly ministry, but was made an Apostle by a divine commission (GL 1:1). Paul was no ordinary Apostle. Christ had to make a special trip from heaven to earth to capture his attention. He was an Apostle “born out of due time,” but nevertheless called.
These Apostles were called for a specific reason. They were not intended to be beautiful show pieces and lord it over the rest of the saints. Their purpose was toil, not honor. They were to provide “scientific proof” to the Gospel’s accuracy.
They were to be first-hand witnesses to the fact Jesus rose from the dead. They saw Him, touched Him, walked with Him, and knew He was alive. Their lives gave testimony to the facts of His risen life. “These historical facts are the Gibraltar of the Christian faith and the Waterloo of infidelity” (Barnhouse).
There is more solid historical evidence to substantiate the resurrection of Jesus than to verify Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon or Washington’s crossing of the Delaware. At least six Bible writers confirm the resurrection by their own eye-to-eye encounters with the risen Lord (Matthew, John, Paul, James, Peter, Jude).
In addition to their verbal testimony, they validated their words by their blood. We know that all the Apostles, with one possible exception, died for their belief in the Resurrection. And men do not die for fairy tales. Paul saw the risen Lord on the Damascus Road and knew he had to spend the rest of his life telling others what he saw.
Romans 1:1e “. . .separated unto the Gospel of God.”
The word “separated” would have extra meaning for Paul. He was a “Pharisee” (PH 3:5), which means “separated one.” The Pharisees viewed themselves as separated ones. They were separated to the law, and from the common people.
They disdained the lay people, and separated themselves from the rabble. A Pharisee would not even let his robe brush against an ordinary Jew, much less a Gentile.
But when God shook Paul’s tree, Paul fell out and ended up being separated unto the very people he had formerly been separated from. A Hindu in India once said, “My religion forbids me going to the untouchables.” A Christian friend replied, “My religion compels me to go to them.” Paul went from being “Hindu” to being “Christian.” He had been proud of his separation “from” people, but became proud of his separation “to” people. No wonder he spent three years in Arabia. It would take that long to get over the shock.
Paul knew exactly what God wanted from his life. Do you? What can we draw from Paul’s life to help us in finding God’s will for our lives?
A. Paul truly believed God had specific tasks for him to do.
Since he believed this, he faithfully continued seeking God’s will for his own life. If you do not believe God has a special plan for you, you will not seek His will very diligently.
God has a purpose for every man. Each believer has a gift he must learn to exercise most effectively for God. No man’s life is purposeless. God has a definite plan for each of us. Paul believed this so strongly that he said, “God. . . .separated me from my mother’s womb” (GL 1:15). No point in time could be marked as the moment of Paul’s call. He had always been an Apostle in the mind of God. There was never a time when Paul was not an Apostle, as far as God was concerned. What we describe in our vernacular as “call” is technically the verification in time and history of an appointment made before time.
The successful man is the man who is doing exactly what God planned before the world for him to do. Paul was separated by God long before his conversion. All the training and diversified exposure (Jewish, Green, and Roman learning) of his earlier years were foreordained by God to help prepare Paul for his later world-wide ministry.
Moses was trained in Pharaoh’s courts for his task long before he learned what his task would be. Surely he often thought, while tending the flocks of Jethro, that all his education was a waste. Jacob was separated as the chosen son before he was born (GN 25:23). Samson was a chosen child before he was born (JG 13:5). (Notice that Jacob and Samson were not preachers; they were laymen.)
The Lord let Hannah conceive once she vowed to give the child to YHWH (I SM 1:11,17). And God told Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee” (JR 1:5). The angel said John the Baptist would be “filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb” (LK 1:15). I am convinced that my life was also marked long before birth. And so was yours. Now how can we find our task?
B. Paul was always busy for God.
It was not until the Antioch Church set apart Paul that he fully knew his ultimate role in life. It was there that he was set apart as a missionary (AC 13:2). But in the meantime he had been serving the Lord.
Do not make the mistake of doing nothing while waiting for a definite word from God. Always be engaged in constructive service, and God will guide your movements. It is easier for Him to re-direct your movement than to get you started from dead center. Samuel was serving in the Tabernacle before God spoke to him. I preached two years before the Lord verified my call. Get busy and God will speak.
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (EC 9:10). The key words in this verse are “do it.” Paul found his specific task by being faithful in general tasks. His early consecration and commission led him to a later concentration. He had a specific work to do, but was busy wherever he was until he found that work.
C. Paul was a willing slave.
Finding the will of God is not as mystical as we often think. The hardest part is being willing to do anything God wants you to do. Paul mentioned he was a slave before he mentioned he was an Apostle.
“Separated unto the Gospel” means he would never have anything else to do. He was detached from all other attractions. Such consecration should characterize the life of every believer.
God never expected anyone to serve Him half-heartedly. God has never been content with an outside corner of our affection. God claims us every inch, for He made us every inch, and redeemed us every inch.
Not everyone is called to the preaching of the Gospel, but everyone can be personally dedicated to the Gospel. God has need of good carpenters, good employers and employees, good workers in every profession.
But men in business must dedicate their business to the Gospel. We should be able to point to something in our everyday work that proves it is a God-sanctioned position (distribute tracts, help others, stand for right). Once you become willing to do whatever God desires, then He will speak in one of many ways: the Bible, prayer, others, opportunities, strengths, weaknesses.
Conclusion: The Gospel of God must become our life-breath. It produces what a great Scotch preacher called “the expulsive power of a new affection.” The power of the new life pushes out the vestiges of an old life. The pin oak retains its dead leaves through the winter. But in the spring, when the sap begins to flow again, the old leaves drop off because new life is pushing out from within. Thank God for new life that pulsates within us. Thank God for something worth living (and dying) for. The Gospel–the news that Jesus died, was buried, rose, and was seen of witnesses–it is worth our life’s commitment.
The Gospel is a death story that ends in life. It covers three days, from the cross to the resurrection. It is proof of God’s love for us.
The love of God is something a man can never escape. His love is well illustrated by a fable: A godly mother deeply loved her son. But he loved a wicked woman who took him deep into sin. The mother tried to woo her son back to righteousness, and the wicked lady resented it deeply. One night the evil lady chided the drunken young man with an accusation that he did not really love her. He vowed that he did. She appealed to his drunken mind and said that if he loved her, he would get rid of his nagging mother. The young man immediately went home, killed his loving mother, and ripped out her heart to take back to the wicked one. In his drunken haste, he stumbled and fell. From the bleeding heart there immediately came a voice, “My son, are you hurt?” That is how God loves. Wesley penned it this way:
Depth of mercy! can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear?
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?
I have long withstood his grace,
Long provoked Him to His face;
Would not harken to his calls,
Grieved Him by a thousand falls.
Yet God still loves us. That is the Gospel.