Romans 15:14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.
This is a very interesting statement on the part of Paul to people whom he had never met. On the one hand it might come across as simple flattery, but there are two other, very important things at work here. The first is that people tend to live up to, or down to, what is expected of them. Our self-image is controlled to a large extent by what others think of us, and that self-image is the template by which we operate. By presenting the Roman believers with this word picture of mature believers who can teach each other, Paul is encouraging them to be exactly that. The other factor at play here was Paul’s faith in the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit. He knew full well that he himself couldn’t transform people, but he had seen time and time again that the Holy Spirit could and would – besides having experienced such transformation himself. When you think about it, Paul had a history of arriving at a place, teaching for a few days or weeks, and then leaving behind a church, complete with elders. On a human scale, that seems entirely foolhardy. However, God had done it through him again and again. It’s interesting that he spent a fairly long time in Ephesus, but in Jesus’ letters to the churches in Revelation, Ephesus is warned that if they don’t return to their first love, they will be removed from the roster of churches. (Revelation 2:4-5) Length of human ministry doesn’t guarantee anything! Paul’s confidence wasn’t in people, much less himself, but in God.
This is extremely timely for me right now, because for the first time in many years I will be leaving this church on a Sunday without anyone specifically trained in charge. Right now attendance is down, and humanly speaking I have a lot of misgivings. However, it has been made very clear to me over the past year that I have allowed this church to be entirely too pastor-dependent, and I believe God has planned this as a very necessary course correction. This will be something of a trial run, because in March I will be gone (to my granddaughter’s wedding in the US) for probably three weeks in a row. I don’t know what workers the Lord might bring our way in that interval, but I do know that He wants to grow the current believers as active disciples, and this is a very good step in that direction. I’ve been given a wide suite of abilities and certainly have a lot of experience, but when I do it all, no one else gets a chance. I need to trust the Holy Spirit to use the believers to teach each other, and especially to feed on the Word for themselves, so that this church may become the healthy part of the Body of Christ God intends it to be.
Father, thank You for this reminder, and for this encouragement for me. Thank You for the various things I already see You doing in relation to this. I know that Sunday won’t be anything like “business as usual,” but that’s a very good thing. Help us all be at peace with that, trusting You do do what we need, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!