In the last post I explained that Paul’s messages were birthed through his blood and tears. His messages were also strongly opposed by unbelieving Jews. Their plots resulted in all kinds of difficulties and trials Paul had to endure. Lesser men would have “taken a sabbatical” or restated their teaching so they could avoid persecution; make the message nicer, gentler, and less combative. To my way thinking, a message that is cheapened so as not to offend anyone. But not Paul! Paul points out that he didn’t “hold back from proclaiming . . . anything that would be helpful” (Acts 20:20). There are many preachers today who take pride in the fact that they teach selectively. They preach a “feel-good” message and leave the hearers feeling good about themselves—but comfortable with their sin. They leave out unpleasant topics like sin, righteousness, and judgment; even though these are the realities the Holy Spirit will bear witness to. Hell is a subject that will never come up in their preaching, but health and wealth will be a constant theme. Paul’s teaching centered around “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). In other words, the gospel was the core of Paul’s teaching.
Paul’s teaching was concerned with victory over sin—not tolerating it; it spoke of battling the weakness of the flesh and defeating our baser desires. Paul was uncompromised in proclaiming that Life is available through Jesus alone. But the reality is that our Christian walk is a journey, not a sit. If we accept Christ, and then never move forward, accept the risks, take paths that look a bit fearful; if we just stay in a place of nothing but warmth, and provision, and comfort, then most of what Christ wants us know, will be nothing but theory. A nice thought; a warm and fuzzy feeling. It’s only when we step out and move forward, putting into practice those Godly principles that they become real to us. It’s our experiences that solidifies our trust and affirms our faith.
So Paul had a positive message, just not we mean by positive in our current age. He also had several venues. Paul claims to have taught the Ephesians “publicly and from house to house.” Some teaching could be done efficiently and effectively in larger groupings, but teaching must also be done in a more intimate context, where it is applied to life’s needs and challenges. So, Paul also taught from “house to house.” Richard Baxter in The Reformed Pastor instructs: “. . . every flock should have its own pastor, and every pastor his own flock . . . and that all Christ’s disciples ‘should know their teachers that are over them in the Lord.’”
Several years ago I was one of three Pastors in a church and we were taught by the Senior Pastor just the opposite. He greatly discouraged being too involved with the people I was overseeing, because they would see my weaknesses and failings and lose respect for my ministry. When the Lord began to show me the role and responsibility of a true Pastor, I began to ask the senior Pastor of our church who he was submitted to and who was overseeing him? Was he on his own, or was he indeed receiving the same oversight that we were receiving? He explained that his pastor was “Buddy Harrison,” the Pastor of a church in Oklahoma (and we were in Michigan)—admittedly, he had met Buddy Harrison once, but only knew him through his books and tapes How is that being your Pastor? You need to know—you need to be intimately involved with your Pastor . . . and my Pastor wasn’t known by anyone, nor counseled; shepherded; overseen by anyone, and he certainly wasn’t known by me . . . fortunately I left that church and sought other leadership. I used to tell my friends that I felt like a “Timothy” without a “Paul.”
A Pastor isn’t the guy up front every Sunday morning (now it can be, you decide how well he knows you and how well you know him—is there a relationship, there? Do you meet together and pray together? How intimate are you?). A true Pastor knows you, cares for you; prays constantly for and with you; shares his life with you—and you share your life with him. He must be intimately involved with you and shedding tears when tears are needed and rejoicing with you when rejoicing is called for.
If you have stayed with the study this far, I ask you to do one thing: if you can find a copy, you must order Disciple, by Juan Carlos Oritz. It will be the most revolutionizing book you read this year. Also, The Reformed Pastor, by Richard Baxter. This book is written in very formal “King’s English,” and might be a little difficult book for some, but well worth the effort to read.
Paul instructed the leaders in Ephesus, “Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son” —Acts 20:28
Paul’s ministry was evidence of Paul’s integrity. His teaching should be heard and obeyed as the Word of God conveyed by a genuine apostle of Jesus Christ.