Apostles; December 17, 2020

Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.

Paul was very aware of his apostleship, but we tend to have a distorted idea of what an apostle is. We tend to think of it in terms of authority, when the actual focus is on having a job to do. There is authority, yes, but it is given as a tool to accomplish the assigned tasks. (Actually, genuine authority is inseparable from responsibility, and vice versa, but that discussion is more than I need to do here.) An apostle is literally one sent, an agent or representative, whose tasks and authority are dependent on the one who sent them. Since all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Christ, (Matthew 28:18) those He sends exercise that authority, which is why we tend to focus on that. However, for the apostle himself (or herself) the focus is much more on the job to be done. Paul is here making it clear that his responsibility lay in the areas of faith and knowledge of the truth, and he fulfilled that marvelously. The fact that half of the New Testament is made up of his letters is ample testimony to that. Literally countless people have entered into saving faith because of what he wrote, and the truth that he recorded has led equal numbers of people to reject the lies of the devil and walk in victory in Christ. This was no empty boast on Paul’s part, it was an objective statement of the facts. Like he wrote to the Romans, we all need to have sober judgment of who we are and what we are. (Romans 12:3) That includes recognizing our calling and the gifts we have been given to fulfill it. The devil loves to lie to us, naturally, and he tells us our gifts are ordinary and insignificant and of no use to the kingdom of God, when God has a plan for every one of His children, and He provides everything necessary for them to fulfill that part in His plan. In that sense, we are all apostles, because God has His work for us to do! (Ephesians 2:10)

Naturally, this applies to me. Growing up in a Southern Baptist family, the term “apostle” was one we never used outside of referring to individuals in the Bible. However, at my father’s memorial service at the Foreign Mission Board, right after his death and before my mother brought his ashes back to Japan for burial, Dr. Cauthen, then head of the FMB, specifically referred to him as an apostle. Simply in terms of language, “apostle” is a direct equivalent to “missionary.” I grew up with the idea of being sent by God to do things as being completely ordinary and to be expected, and for that I am grateful. In my own case I have no human sending agency, but as my wife said explicitly at the time the FMB was dithering about why they didn’t want to appoint us us as missionaries, “We’d rather be Lord sent than Board sent.” After the FMB was finally honest enough to tell us they would never appoint us because we exercised gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Lord opened the way for us to come to Japan independently, and we’ve been here ever since. I recognize that I fit the Biblical profile of an apostle, but how well I have fulfilled the tasks my Lord has set for me is His to judge. The fact that I’m still here means He still has work for me to do, particularly since I’ve already outlived my father by 8 years! Like Paul, I am to seek constantly to transmit faithfully the truth He pours into me, so that the lies of the enemy may be defeated and many set free, for their salvation and God’s glory.

Father, thank You for this reminder and affirmation. Thank You also for the many reminders I have of my humanity and imperfection. I pray that I would be less and less in the way of Your truth pouring through me, so that Your Word may indeed accomplish everything for which You send it, (Isaiah 55:11) for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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