Paul’s Passion for the Church BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES FOR LIVING SERIES
INTRODUCTION Paul had a passion for the church because Jesus had a passion for the church His Bride! Prior to his conversion on the Damascus Road, Paul had an opposite passion – to destroy the church. As a radical fundamental‘Jewish Jihadist,’ he had led the assault against the church – resulting in the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr in church history.
INTRODUCTION • Skeptics still find it impossible to explain this radical spiritual about-face that totally rearranged his perspective and priorities from… • ‘Saul the Antagonist’ to ‘Paul the Apostle’ • ‘Blasphemer’ to the ‘Believer’ • ‘Persecutor’ to the ‘Preacher’ • ‘Murderer’ to the ‘Missionary’ • ‘Jewish Fundamentalist’ to a ‘Jesus Fanatic! • Either he had a total psychotic breakdown on the Damascus Road – or He had an encounter with the resurrected Christ! • There is no other plausible explanation for such a radical change of belief and behavior!
INTRODUCTION And nowhere is Paul’s radical transformation more evident than in his fanatical commitment to the church! Few men in history have been more radically devoted to the church than the Apostle Paul. Following the example of Christ, Paul literally poured out his life for the church. He had one burning passion – the planting and advance of the Church of Jesus Christ in the non-Jewish World.
INTRODUCTION • In II Corinthians 11, Paul recounts the punishment, persecution, privation & poverty he went through to take the Gospel to the world of his day – especially the unreached Gentile world. • He concludes: “I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep. I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food. I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (II Cor. 11:27-28).
1. PIONEER CHURCHES “I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done– by the power of signs and miracles through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the Gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation…as it is written: ‘Those who were not told about Him will see, and those who have not head will understand” (Rom. 16:17-21).
1. PIONEER CHURCHES “…we will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you…for we did get as far as you with the Gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that…our area of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the Gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in another man’s territory” (II Cor. 10:13-16).
1. PIONEER CHURCHES • (Paul to Barnabas after 1st Missionary Journey) • “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing” (Acts 15:36).
2. POOR CHURCHES (Paul’s early ministry at the church in Antioch): “During this time, some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them…stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world… the disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gifts to the elders by Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:27-30).
2. POOR CHURCHES • Visit with Disciples in Jerusalem about his ministry to Gentiles: • “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do” (Acts 2:10). • “After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings” (Acts 24:17).
2. POOR CHURCHES “I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem… So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this gift, I will go to Spain…” (Rom. 15:25-28).
2. POOR CHURCHES “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints” ( II Cor. 8:1-4).
2. POOR CHURCHES (Church Giving): “Now abut the collection for God’s people. Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me” (I Cor. 16:1-4).
3. PERSECUTED CHURCHES “You became imitators of us and of the Lord in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere… For you brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea… You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and also drove us out…
3. PERSECUTED CHURCHES …We sent Timothy…to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason… I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless… Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith… since you are standing firm in the Lord.” (I Thess. 1:6-8; 2:14-15; 3:2-9). (Persecution statistics)
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES • LEGALISM • “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the Gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned… I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!...
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?... Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?... It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery… A little yeast works through the whole lump of dough” (Gal. 1:6-9; 3:1-3; 5:1, 9).
LEGALISM “Avoid foolish controversies and…arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless” (Titus 3:9). “They want to be teachers of the law but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm” (I Tim. 1:7).
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES • TRADITIONALISM • “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world, rather than on Christ” (Col. 2:8). • “…stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work – which is by faith” (I Tim. 1:3-4). • “Avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments… because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person… and then have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful…” (Titus 3:9-11).
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES • ASCETICISM(Self-Denial, Works) • “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration, or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come, the reality…is found in Christ… Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why… do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch! These are… based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgences” (Col. 2:16-23).
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES • “The Spirit clearly says that in later times, some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with thanksgiving because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (I Tim. 4:1-5).
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES • GNOSTICISM (Secret Knowledge/Revelation) • “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith” (I Tim. 6:20-21). • “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head…” (Col. 2:19-19).
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES • MATERIALISM (Prophets for Profit) • “If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing… and have been robbed of the truth, and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. For godliness with contentment is great gain… People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (I Tim. 6:1-10).
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES • “There are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers… They must be silenced, because the are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach – and that for the sake of dishonest gain.” (Titus 1:10-11). • “Among you here must not be even a hint of…greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people…No greedy person – such a person is an idolater – has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ…Therefore, do not be partners with them” (Eph. 5:3-7). • Remember: “Greed = idolatry” (Col. 3:6).
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES • Similarly Peter Warned: • “There were false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies…Many will follow shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up…they seduce the unstable, they are experts in greed – an accursed brood! They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam…who loved the wages of wickedness…These men are springs without water…For they mouth empty, boastful words…by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature…” (II Pet. 2:1-3, 14-18). • “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5).
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES • SENSUALISM (Senses, Bodily Appetites, Sex) • “I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, man live as enemies of the cross of Christ…their god is their stomach (appetites, senses, lusts of flesh) and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things” (Phil. 3:18-19). • “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who create divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people” (Rom. 16:17-18).
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES • “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans. A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief… Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough… I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people… With such a person do not even eat” (I Cor. 5:1-7-11).
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES • “Flee from sexual immorality” (I Cor. 6:18) • “Flee youthful lusts” (II Tim. 2:22). • “Treat…younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (I Tim. 5:2). • “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity… because these are improper for God’s holy people… For this you can be sure: No immoral, impure… person… has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ” (Eph. 5:3-5 ; Gal. 5:19).
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES • “It is the Lord’s will that you should be sanctified, that you should avoid sexual immorality, that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust, like the heathen, who do not know God.” (I Thess. 4:3-5). • “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Heb. 13:4).
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES • WELL-FAIRISM (Laziness, Slothfulness) • “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you…Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work…And we urge you brothers, warn those who are idle… For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat’” (I Thess. 5:14). • “We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busy-bodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ, to settle down and earn the bread they eat.” (II Thess. 3:11-12).
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES • “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (I Thess. 4:11).
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES • SPIRITUALISM (Elitism, super-spirituality) • “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches another Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those ‘super-apostles’… I do have knowledge…
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES …And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve” (II Cor. 11:1-15).
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES Warning: • “…evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived…The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths…” (II Tim. 4:3-4). • (Teaching of false prophets) “…will spread like gangrene” (II Tim. 2:17); will have the “…form of godliness, but not the power thereof” (II Tim. 3:5)
4. PERVERTED CHURCHES • Paul’s warning to Ephesian Elders: • “I know that after I leave savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!” (Acts 20:29-31).
5. PAMPERED CHURCHES “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph. 5:14). “Let us not be like others who are asleep, but let us be alert…For those who sleep, sleep at night…But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet” (I Thess. 5:6-8). Church at Corinth: “Now finish the work…” (II Cor. 8:11).
5. PAMPERED CHURCHES (Church at Laodicea): “I know your deeds that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm – neither hot or cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich. I have acquired wealth and do not need anything. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked!” (Rev. 3:15-18).
CONCLUSIONS • Regardless of her problems, Paul never lost his passion for the church of Jesus Christ! • Whether it was the… • Pioneer Churches • Poor Churches • Persecuted Churches • Perverted Churches • Pampered Churches
CONCLUSIONS Paul never lost his passion for the Church because Jesus has never lost His passion for the Church – His Bride! “Washing & cleansing her” (Eph. 5:26). Quote: The church is like the Ark: ‘If it were not for the storm on the outside you could not stand the smell on the inside!” Not museum for saints…hospital for sinners! So while the church has many faults and critics – she has no rivals! The Church is still the greatest ‘saving institution’ on earth – God’s SALTandLIGHT!
CONCLUSIONS • “Chinese New Year” vs. “God’s New Year” (Passover; Ex. 12) “Year of the Dragon” vs.“Year of the Lamb” (Rev. 12-13) (Rev. 7:9) “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamband the word of their testimony.” (Rev. 12:11). ETERNITY OF THE LAMB!