A Servant Called & Separated
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, which He had promised before, by His prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, which was made of the seed of David, according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God, with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead, by whom we have received grace and an apostleship for obedience to the faith, among all nations for His name. Among whom are you also the called of Jesus Christ, to all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints, grace be unto to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Father, we thank You for Your word. We thank You that what we just sang is true, You are mighty to save, and Lord, even as we see here in this passage, declared that You are God, declared with power, by the resurrection from the dead and through You receive grace and a calling into the faith that we are to spread among all nations, God, work this into us, Your church. Transform us now by the renewing of our minds, that we may show forth to this world what is Your good and acceptable and perfect will. For we ask it in Jesus’ name; and all God’s people agreed, saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
I have been looking forward to, as I’ve said several times before, looking forward to starting the book of Romans; studying through this great book. And a couple of weeks ago, we did something of an introduction, looking at the setting of the book; the various things that happened to lead up to this letter being written by the apostle Paul. And now we’re going to jump right into it.
But it is important to recognize, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, that the letter to the church at Rome was written to a young, predominately Gentile group of people. A church that was being birthed, being established there, in that great capital of the empire of Rome, and although the church may have had roots in what took place at Pentecost, there at the very beginning, of the birth of the church, in Acts, chapter 2, there may have been some Jewish individuals who were there in the city of Jerusalem for Passover, and then for Pentecost, who, as the church was birthed, and they received Christ Jesus as Lord, they went back to Rome and they saw an establishment of a small church there. That may be the case, and very likely is true, that there were some that came from Jerusalem to start a fellowship there in Rome.
But, as you look through the book of Acts, and as you consider the letter to the Romans in whole, especially the last chapter, the 16th chapter, and there are 29 names mentioned there in that chapter, as Paul gives salutation to the believers, the leaders of the church at Rome, every single one of those individuals were people that Paul had close connection with, people that Paul had seen come to faith through his ministry, people that Paul had discipled and raised up in the church there, especially while he was ministering for 2 to 3 years in Ephesus, and I believe that Paul was sending people to Rome to establish a beachhead, if you will, there, because his intent, his plan was, “I must get to Rome, I’m going to preach the gospel at Rome.”
And so a church was being established, and it was a church that already had great influence, as we’re going to see next week, continuing on in chapter 1, Paul says, “Your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” And so, the church at Rome, because of its strategic positioning, being the capital of the empire, people were coming there to trade, people were coming there to do business and commerce and all kinds of different things in Rome. And then this church already had influence, even though it was very young. And people would leave from Rome and they would say, “Listen, you’ve got to hear what’s happening there in Rome. There is this group of people, followers of a Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, who raised from the dead.” And so people were starting to speak about what was happening there in Rome. And Paul was excited about that, no doubt.
And as he’s finishing up his third missionary journey, or what you might even call, his third church planting mission, while he was there in the city of Ephesus. And now he leaves Ephesus, and he make one last visit to the churches that he had planted in Macedonia, that would have been the churches in Philippi and Thessalonica and then Berea. And then he goes and finishes his ministry on that third missionary journey with a 3-month stay in the city of Corinth; his last time visiting the Corinthians. And it was during that period of time that Paul wrote this letter, just prior to his return to Jerusalem, for one last visit to Jerusalem. And his aim, his plan is, “I’m going to Rome. I’m going on my way to Rome after that.” And Rome was just going to be a stop. In Paul’s mind it was just stop on a continued journey out towards the west, towards Spain. And his plan was ultimately to get there. He never did, because he was killed as a martyr in Rome, in the mid 60s AD.
And so Paul writes this letter, which, I believe, is a doctrinal primer. And as you look at the book of Romans, it seems like it’s a doctrinal primer laid out for discipleship, to raise people up to maturity in the faith. There are people coming to faith, especially Gentiles who have no real Jewish heritage or background. They don’t understand Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They don’t understand the Law of Moses. They are coming out of paganism; they are coming out of just a very immoral, sensual, worldly existence, there in the city of Rome. And they’re coming to faith in Jesus Christ, and as we all know, Jesus Christ changes lives. Amen? He transforms us. And so He uses the Word of His power to transform us. Paul’s even going to say, in this book, in this letter, that we’re transformed by the renewing of our minds.
And so he writes this great, epic letter to be a work that God moves through him, obviously. It becomes scripture, because God inspired this. And so this letter, I believe, was used to disciple people, to raise them up. And the structure of the book of Romans really lends to that belief. The first 8 chapters, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, they really talk a lot about doctrinal belief, things that we should believe, things that Christians should know and follow and believe in their hearts. And then when you get on into chapters 15, I’m sorry, into chapters 12 through 15, Paul focuses on things that we should do. And so the Christian life is not just about things that we should believe, but also how we ought to live. And all of those things are fulfilled as Christ lives that life through us, as Paul talks about in the book of Galatians. So He empowers us to live in a way that we, by our own power, by our own strength, cannot live. That’s the awesome, great truth of the gospel. That God works in us, to will and to do His good pleasure. I’m so thankful for that, because I know that in my own flesh, in my own strength I can do nothing. Anybody agree with that? Amen. Okay good, I’m glad I’m not the only one. So we need the power of Christ resident in us by His gospel.
And so the first 8 chapters speak about things we should believe, chapters 12 through 15 speak about things we ought to do, but then right sandwiched in the middle of that, again remember this is written predominately to Gentile Christians, non-Jews, which most of us here today are non-Jewish believers in Jesus Christ. And so, he writes to them in chapters 9 through 11, and there is a three-chapter section talking about the importance of the nation of Israel, and God’s future plans for the people of Israel.
And so he’s emphasizing, the apostle Paul is, the importance of recognizing there is not to be two different cultural segments within the church. There isn’t a, you know, a Gentile Christian church and Jewish Christian church. However, 2000 years later, we’re still, in some ways, following that. And so we need to recognize that in Christ there is no Jew and Gentile, there is no bond or free. All of that is broken down in Christ, and He makes all one in Him, because God wants to work dynamically through His unified body. And so Paul is writing to them, I believe, in chapters 9 through 11, to deal with those cultural problems. We all recognize that even today we have cultural diversity and the problems that come with that, living in a nation that is a melting pot of different people groups from all over the world. It’s an awesome thing when you take a snapshot of a church like ours, or just a segment of society in America and see the different colors represented, or the different accents that are represented within the body of Christ, or within a nation like ours. It’s just not like that in many other places in the world. This is very unique. And the body of Christ is to be like that as well, because we know that when we get to the kingdom of heaven, it’s going to be like that. No, the kingdom of heaven is not going to be America, but it’s going to be a melting pot of every tribe, tongue, nation, and so forth. And so we recognize that the work that God does spreads beyond boundaries of borders. It spreads beyond cultural lines. And it’s such a wonderful thing that He does, in Christ bringing us together.
So Paul knew that, there was a problem. He knew there was tension. He, being a Jewish man and ministering among Gentiles, and oftentimes being beaten by the Jews for ministering among Gentiles, and then beaten by Gentile courts because of the way that he preached the gospel. So, if anybody knew the tension, the apostle Paul understood it well. And so he is writing a letter to this predominately Greek Gentile church in Rome, and he’s on his way back to Jerusalem with a gift, a financial gift from the Gentile churches to the Jewish churches, just showing the love of Christ, that there is, we’re one in Christ. We take care of one another.
And so that’s kind of the foundation of this book. It gives us a good snapshot, if you will, of what this was about, why it was written. A doctrinal primer for discipleship of new believers, predominately Gentile believers, showing them what they are to believe and how they are to live and seeking to mitigate the problem of cultural tension within the unified body of Christ. Makes sense? Good.
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God…
I, you know, I don’t think there’s any better way to start a book like that. Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God… Now we are given immediately, the very first word we’re given insight into the origin of this letter. Although it was not written by Paul’s hand, because we find later on, in Romans chapter 16, verse 22, that it was penned by a scribe whose name was Tertius. But Paul spoke these words as he was inspired of God to do so and Tertius wrote those things down.
And it probably took a fair amount of time. We know that Paul was 3 months in the city of Corinth before he headed out back to Jerusalem. And that’s when this letter was written. And it’s very likely that during that period of time he’s seeking the Lord, he’s spending time with Christ, he’s spending time with the church. And a lot of the different things that were happening within the body of Christ there at Corinth that Paul had already dealt with, some of that is built into the book of Romans. And so, as he’s there, he begins to speak forth this word as inspired of God, because we’re told, in Paul’s letter to Timothy, that all scripture is given by inspiration of God. And so, he’s inspired of God and he begins to speak these words. And so we get the identity of the person who is speaking it forth here, Paul.
And it’s interesting, because just about every one of Paul’s other letters, he wrote 13 letters that are in our New Testament, but just about every single one of those letters begin Paul and “so-and-so – Paul and Titus, Paul and Timothy, Paul and Sosthenes, as he writes to the church at Corinth. He says, “Paul and the brethren that are with me.” There are 4, actually 5 other letters that are written before this by the apostle Paul in the New Testament, and each one of those begin with him saying, Paul and “so-and-so.” And yet this one he just, even though there’s other people with him, chapter 16, the last several verses of chapter 16 tell us that Timothy was with Paul, and Luke was with Paul, and a number of other people were with Paul when he was speaking forth these words. Tertius was there in the room, and yet Paul doesn’t say, “Paul and Tertius write these things to you.” He just says, “Paul…Paul.” And there’s a lot of things that we could glean from that, but the reality is that I’m more drawn into how Paul identifies himself in this passage.
He says, “Paul,” he just gives his name, but the very next thing he says is, “a servant of Jesus Christ.” “…a servant of Jesus Christ.” What a wonderful thing to be…a servant of Jesus Christ. You know King David said, in the Psalms, “It’s better to be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord.” He’d rather that than any other thing, just to be able to serve God in that way. And Paul here says, “I’m a servant of Jesus Christ.” More than any other thing, the first thing that he characterizes himself as, is a servant of Jesus Christ. And we need to recognize in this that every Christian, every Christian, by nature of the fact that Christ is our Lord, that’s what it means to be a Christian, Christ is your Lord, by nature of the fact that Christ is your Lord, every single Christian is a servant of Christ. That’s what we are. Now, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what we do; that’s what we are. We are servants of Jesus Christ by nature of the fact that He saved us and He is our Lord. And so we need to function within that. I think this is one of the reasons why the apostle Paul would say in the book of Ephesians, that we need to walk worthy of the calling wherewith we have been called. We need to do what we’ve been called. We’re called servants of the Lord; the question is – are we serving Him? Are we practically doing what we are supposed to be doing?
You see, Peter, James and Jude, they also opened their letters in the New Testament with…”a servant of the Lord.” And the word that they use is important, because it actually could be translated – a slave of Christ, or a bondservant of Christ. And to a Jewish audience, that would make a lot of sense, the idea of a bondservant. But again, Paul’s writing primarily to a Gentile crowd of people there in the city of Rome. And the Greek word that he uses, that is slave, recognize that more than 60% of the Roman Empire were slaves. They understood the concept, the idea, of servanthood, of slavery even, far more so than we do. When we think of the word “slave,” we instantly filter that through the slavery that happened here in our own nation, in the early history of our nation. And so the word “slave,” it causes a lot of problems in our culture today, understandably so. But understand that most of the people that were coming to faith in Christ, in the city of Rome, many of them were slaves themselves. That was how they lived. That was their way of life. They understood the concept of a lord or a master over them. They fully were aware of that reality. And so when Paul says, “I’m a slave, I’m a servant of Jesus Christ,” they could connect with that, probably on a better level than we can.
But again, as I said, Paul is using a word that also could be translated “bondservant,” and to a Jewish audience, they would understand that a bondservant was someone who, they were a servant, a slave, by choice. You see, in God’s Law, back in the book of Exodus, in the early chapters, when God is giving His Law, He says to His people, that if you have a servant, if you have a slave, you’re to release that slave after 7 years. That’s the Year of Redemption, or the Year of the Sabbath. And so, you release that slave. But if that slave says, “I love my master, I am rather enjoying serving this individual,” then he can become a slave by choice. He can become a bondservant. And Paul here says, “I’m a slave by choice, I’ve not been forced into submission by Jesus Christ.”
Now, that’s a key and important point, because why? Well, one of the fastest growing religions in the world today is a religion called Islam. Islam is all about submission to Allah. It’s servanthood by submission. You’re forced to submit to his rule…or else. In many places in the world, that’s the way that Islam moves forward. But the gospel of Jesus Christ does not move forward like that. The gospel of Jesus Christ is given as an invitation to people who are already slaves, although they may not recognize their slavery, they are slaves to sin. Paul says in Romans, chapter 6, “And God, through the gospel, calls people who are slaves to sin, to become servants of righteousness, slaves of righteousness, by putting their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.” Let me tell you, as you probably already recognize, sin is a terrible taskmaster. It’s a terrible taskmaster. And I see people nodding your heads, because you remember your slavery to sin, and you remember how hard of a taskmaster sin is. Christ, He is not a taskmaster. He says, “Come to me all you who labor and I will give you…” what? …rest. He is our rest. It’s a wonderful thing to be a servant of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul, I’m sorry, the apostle Peter, in the very first sermon that he ever preached, there in Acts, chapter 2, in verse 36, he said to the crowd that was gathered there on the day of Pentecost, in Jerusalem, “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made this same Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” He is the anointed Messiah, spoken of of the Old Testament prophets, but He is also Lord. And when we received Him as the anointed Savior and Messiah, the Christ, we’re receiving Him also as Lord, and we’re confessing, in that reception of Him, that we are His servants. And so Paul identifies that here – “I am a servant of Jesus Christ.”
Now, we still sometimes use the word today in a different form. We use the word “minister.” But unfortunately, we have, in many ways, redefined what a minister is, by the use of the word, and oftentimes by the individuals who use that word. And we’ve said that ministers are only a select group of people, and if you watch the minister’s life, oftentimes, they’re not necessarily the chief of all servants. And yet the word “minister” means servant, and every Christian is called to be a servant of Jesus Christ. They are called to be a minister of the gospel. Jesus said, in John, chapter 12, verse 26, “If any man serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve Me, him will My Father honor.” You see, a follower of Jesus is a disciple of Jesus, a disciple of Jesus is to be a servant of Jesus, and those servants of Jesus will receive honor from the Father. That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? What does that look like? Well, Jesus describes it in something of a story, a parable, in Matthew, chapter 25, when He says that there’s coming a day when we will stand before our Father, and those who have been good stewards of the stewardship, the ministry, the servanthood that they’ve been given, they will hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant: you’ve been faithful over a few things, I’ll make you ruler over many things. Enter into the rest of your Lord.” That sounds pretty good. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to that. And that’s why I want to serve in a way that honors Jesus. So that on that day, we receive the honor of our Father in heaven.
The ultimate question is: have you bowed the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ, and entered into the service of Him? Have you bowed the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ? Now, know for certain, the scriptures say, Paul tells us this in the book of Philippians, there’s coming a day when every knee will bow. Because they will see Jesus in His glory, every single human being that has ever lived or ever will live, will see Him in His glory at this time when the resurrection is going to take place. And when they see Him in His glory, they will rightfully respect Him by bowing the knee. When they hear His name go forth, every knee will bow. But it’s far better to bow now. Wasn’t there a song years ago – “Bow Now or Bow Later,” or something like that? So, it’s far better to bow now to Him. We all are called to be, in Christ, servants of Jesus Christ, and those who serve faithfully, as good stewards of manifold grace of God, they will receive the honor of their Father in heaven one day. It’s a good thing.
And, as I mentioned a moment ago, everyone is a servant of someone, of something. That great 20th century philosopher, Bob Dylan: “You’re gonna serve somebody.” Right? Clearly. In the chorus of his song, “You’re gonna serve the devil or you’re gonna serve the Lord.” And listen, the realty is, the scriptures say, Romans, chapter 6, verses 16 through 18: you’re either a slave of sin or you’re a slave of righteousness. So this is why Paul says to submit yourself to the Lord, to reckon yourself dead indeed to sin and you’ve died to that old taskmaster and live unto Christ. Because there is great glory and honor that comes from that: glory to God and honor upon those who serve faithfully.
Paul surrendered, as a servant of Christ, when he answered Jesus, in Acts, chapter 9, Jesus calls out to Saul of Tarsis, at the time, who is fighting against Him, and persecuting the church, and he has this blinding experience, where a bright light from heaven, at noonday, knocks him down on the ground, and he hears a voice from heaven saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” “Who are You, Lord?” “I’m Jesus, whom you persecute.” And then he says there, “Lord, what do You want me to do.” Right response. Right response. “Lord, what do You want me to do?” He’s surrendering right there to the Lordship of Christ. And from that day forward, Paul/Saul was a servant of Jesus Christ, until the day that he died. He gave everything that he can, to serve Christ.
Not only do we read that Paul was a servant of Jesus Christ here in verse 1, but we see also that he was called to be an apostle…called to be an apostle. While every Christian is a servant of Jesus Christ, the calling under which they serve varies. Let me say that again: Every Christian is a servant of Jesus Christ, but the calling under which they serve it varies, it differs. We see that within the body of Christ; there are different people, using differing gifts in different ways for the glory of God. But every part is important. And God, in His manifold wisdom, God in His awesome sovereign power, He looks upon the body of Christ and He gifts people, 1 Corinthians, chapter 12 tells us this: as He wills and He places them, He fitly frames them together into the body to accomplish the works that He has set upon them to do. So, we are servants of Christ, but we also have a calling. Paul discovered that his calling was that of an apostle, he says.
Now an apostle simply means, just the simple definition is one sent with orders or one sent with a message. And I recognize that there was a unique classification of leaders in the early church that were called apostles, but there were other people in the New Testament that were also labeled as apostles, and they, in many ways, they were like a modern missionary. They were going on mission to carry the gospel, with orders from Christ to carry the good news wherever they would go. Some of those people did not go out into the uttermost parts, they just stayed in the area that they were in. I mean there were people who were called apostles who lived in Judea and they stayed their entire lives in Judea. And yet they went on mission for the gospel, wherever they went, they’re carrying the gospel with orders from Christ to be ambassadors of Jesus.
And so Paul says I’m called to be an apostle. That was confirmed in 9 of Paul’s 13 letters. Nine of his 13 letters he opens, “Paul, an apostle…” And he is, when he writes these things, when he sends these letters, he’s speaking with an apostolic authority that was given him by God, to speak forth truth to these churches, to give forth scripture to these churches, to challenge and rebuke things that were out of order, to give forth teaching. But in Paul’s day-to-day life and ministry, he was simply an individual sent with a message. And sometimes that was sent into the marketplace, where he would be plying his trade as a tentmaker, and there, as he was there tentmaking, you can be sure that he was finding every opportunity, making the best of every opportunity to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul, 1 Corinthians 1, verse 1, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God. Galatians, chapter 1, verse 1, Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by men, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised his up from the dead. So, Paul recognized his calling.
The question comes, how do we recognize our calling? I’m a servant of Jesus Christ, first and foremost, because I’ve received Him as Lord, but how do I recognize the area to which God has called me? We only truly discover our calling, which has much to do with our gifting, which comes from God, both come from God, our giftings come from God, our callings come from God; we only truly discover what those things are as we serve the Lord, with our natural gifts, abilities, and talents. As we are faithfully administering the talents and abilities that we have for the Lord, we begin to discover the calling, the specifics of the overarching call that He has upon our lives.
Let me give you an example of what this looks like practically. When I was in high school, we had a summer internship program here at the church, we still do, for the youth department; and for 3 summers I’d come down here with a whole bunch of other people in the youth group and we’d basically serve. We’d do things that sometimes we didn’t necessarily want to do, but Pastor Tony made us do them, our youth pastor at the time. Sometimes it was a simple as vacuuming rooms or cleaning toilets, sometimes it was, as one summer, we put all the sod in over across the street in the parking lot and planted a whole bunch of trees. There was all kinds of different tasks and things that we were doing. And then my senior year in high school, I had half days every single day, and so after school I’d come over here and I’d help in whatever needed to be done. Sometimes I’d fold bulletins, sometimes I would clean up some of the rooms, sometimes I would put cards in the seat backs, other times I was called upon to do technical things. I had some talents, some abilities with computers, and so they said, “Hey, can you build a website?” And “I don’t know how to do that, but okay, I’ll try it.” And so I started building a website for the church. And then when we were building this building and the building next door, the offices, Richard came to me one day and said, “Can you wire the buildings for phones and networks?” “I haven’t a clue how to do that.” Eighteen years old, “I don’t know how to wire phones and networks.” “Well, there’s a guy in the church, he’ll show you the basics of it.” Well they still work these years later. Praise God. So I had a good teacher. But I was just back there in a little room, tiny little room, that ultimately became my office, I’m probably going to have a tumor on the back of my head someday, sitting next to the power thing, varoom, back there. And so I punched all the wires in there; just serving, doing whatever I could do. And in the process of that, over a period of time, God began to reveal His gifts and His callings upon my life. The gifts from the Lord to be able to teach the word of God and preach His word, and be able to equip people. And then the calling to do just that, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry for the building up of the body of Christ. That’s the overarching call that God has placed upon my life; to be a pastor/teacher who equips the people of God for the work of the ministry, enabling them to do things that they didn’t otherwise think they could do for the gospel of Christ. That’s the overarching call. I learned that as I was just serving with the talents, the ability, the time, the availability that I had. And then God revealed the calling.
And so here Paul says that he’s called to be an apostle. Called to use that gifting that God had given to him by His Spirit to carry that specifically to the Gentiles. Very early on, from the day that Paul was converted to Christ, he was given a word three days later by Ananias, a word from the Lord, “You’re going to be an apostle to the Gentiles.” Now, that work did not come about ‘til many years later. It was a word that was given to him three days after he received Christ Jesus as Lord and became a servant of Christ, he’s told, “You’re going to be an apostle to the Gentiles.” But it wasn’t, you know, some 14+ years later until he received the specifics of that.
Notice what Paul says, the next thing he says here in Romans, chapter 1, verse 1, he’s servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, and then, what’s that next one? “…separated unto the gospel of God.” …separated to the gospel of God. You see this “separated” here also could be translated “appointed” or “ordained.” Under an individual’s call is the specific task to which that individual is appointed. You see, we’re all servants of Christ, and as we are serving Christ, as the Christian serves their Lord Jesus Christ, then He begins to reveal the overarching call in accordance with the giftings that He has given to those individuals and then, within that, after then begin to realize their call and their giftings, as their serving, then the Lord begins to identify the specific area or task or ministry that He appoints or separates them unto…the specifics, the details.
Look with me if you would to Acts, chapter 13, because we see where this came about in the apostle Paul’s life. Acts, chapter 13, at this point in Paul’s life and his ministry, he still was going by the name Saul, and he was serving in a church in Syria, a city called Antioch. We read in verse 1, Acts chapter 13, “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers,” these guys, they have gifts, callings. We see this in Ephesians, chapter 4, He, God, gave some, as gifts, He gave some as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Paul was one of these individuals. There’s 5 guys that are listed there: Barnabas and Simon, or Simeon, and Niger and Lucius and Cyrene and Manean, and then we read of Saul. And here are these prophets, here are these teachers, they’re in that church, and they’re just serving faithfully in the church there in Antioch. “As,” verse 2, “as they ministered unto the Lord, and as they fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Separate,’” same exact word used in Romans, chapter 1, verse 1, “’Separate unto Me, Barnabas and Saul, for the work where unto I have called them.’” “The specific task where unto I have called them. I want you to appoint them to this. I want you to consecrate them to this. I want you to separate them to the specific task where unto I have called them.”
Now, what was the specific task where unto He had called them? To carry the gospel unto Gentiles. And so from there, they began their first missionary journey. They went to the island of Cyprus. They went from there to the north, into the region of Galatia. And there they saw several churches planted. They saw the church of Iconium and Lystra and Derbe and Antioch of Pisidia. They were all planted there as they went forth into the specific work. But this came as they were serving in their local church, as they recognized their gifting and their calling, then God said, “Appoint them to the specific task where unto I have called them.”
Now, there’s rarely a week that goes by, that I don’t interact with someone from our church here, who says, “I really want to serve the Lord. I really want to work at a task for the Lord.” And they’re generally looking for how they are gifted and how they are called so they can be doing a specific task. And, I have to be honest, a lot of times that specific task is something they can be seen doing. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, that someone wants to serve the Lord. It’s a good thing to desire the position of a leader, Paul says in one of his letters to Timothy, “That’s a good thing.” People should desire that. But you will never fully come into the work, the specific work that God has called you to, if you don’t begin to just serve Him with the gifts and the talents and the abilities that He’s given to you right now. And it may look like something that’s totally trivial, it may look like something that seems pointless and no one ever sees and you just say, “Why am I even doing this?” You’re doing this because God called you to be faithful. He called you to serve Him. He is the Lord Jesus Christ. You became a Christian. You confessed, I’m following You as Lord. So He says, “Okay, I want you to serve Me.” “All right Lord, how do You want me to serve You?” “Well, here’s this opportunity to this.” “I don’t want to do that.” “Well, you have some abilities, or you just have some availability.” Sometimes, I’ll be honest, there’s sometimes where all that is needed is a warm body. You say, “What? How so?” Okay, I’ll give you some examples: folding bulletins, like I did in 1998, it really doesn’t take a lot of mental ability to fold a bulletin. It may feel incredibly beneath you, now to be honest with you, it’s such an easy task that now we have a machine that does it for us. And so, there’s a recognition that some tasks are just like, well okay, I guess that needs to be done – putting things in the seat backs, vacuuming the sanctuary, helping clean up things, helping someone in the church go and get groceries cause they can’t go get groceries. I mean, some of these tasks are things that you look at them and you go, “Really, that’s serving the Lord?” Yes! In the name of Jesus Christ, we’re called to do whatever we do, whether we eat or drink, as to the glory of God. So that means every single thing that we do, even when you’re having a meal at lunchtime, you can do that as worship to the glory of God. Did you ever realize that? Eating lunch can be worship? It could also be sin. But it can be worship. So recognize, there’s a lot of different things that God says, “Hey, yes, this may seem very basic, it may seem trivial, it may seem mundane, but you have a gift, you have an ability, you have a talent, you have availability, and so you can begin to do this thing.” And as we are faithful in those little things, God adds more. That’s the story of every single life of every single Christian who’s in full-time ministry today, and when I say full-time ministry, I’m not talking about vocational ministry in the church. That they recognize that everything they do in their life is ministry. And they are using whatever opportunity for the glory and the kingdom of God. This is the revolutionary thinking that God brings into our minds as He begins to work in us, by His word. He transforms us by the renewing of our minds.
And so Paul was separated unto the gospel, as they were ministering to the Lord, they were worshipping, they’re fasting, God said, “Hey, I want you to appoint these guys to this task.” John the baptist, was appointed to go into the wilderness and preach the gospel and baptize people. The purpose of his baptism is given by John, in the gospel of John, he tells us the reason I am baptizing is to reveal the Messiah. That’s why. And so he was doing what the specific task he was appointed to do. Jeremiah was called and appointed to be a prophet to his nation and other nations at the time. And that was the specific task, but that just came as he was diligently seeking and serving the Lord, that God begins to reveal these things. The apostle Peter was an apostle to, primarily Jewish individuals. Again, he just followed and served the Lord for 3 ½ years and then God said, “Okay, now I’m appointing you to this task. I’m calling you and separating you to this.” And Acts, chapter 6, we see 7 individuals’ names that are given, and these guys, as they were just well-spoken of in the church, because they served in the body of Christ, they were appointed to the task of daily ministry for those in the church that were widows.
You see, the specifics of the task, which falls underneath the overarching call, is not discovered until you just begin to serve faithfully in the work that God has set before you. And the reality is, God takes all kinds. In fact the kind of people that God selects, 1 Corinthians, chapter 1 tells us are the weak, the foolish, and the base. Can anybody say, “I identify with that? This is me. Alright, cool. I fit there.” You know, we’re not looking for people who’ve go PhDs and Master’s Degrees, although we’ll take you too. But we recognize that God calls everyone in His body to be a part of the work of the ministry. And you ask anyone who is serving in some capacity, and they’ve been given a title, which, you know, servant is a good enough title. But, if you ask anyone who’s serving the Lord faithfully, from their heart, as worship to the Lord, they’ve been given a title, you ask them, “How did you come to do this.” They’ll tell you, “Well, I started out setting up chairs, or doing this or that. And, next thing I know, the Lord’s placed me in a specific area of ministry.”
And so, God desires people, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, chapter 4, verses 1 and 2, He desires people who are faithful. It’s required of stewards that one be found faithful. They’re just faithful in the little things. God primarily is looking for availability and faithfulness. You see, because God, through His power, He gives us miraculous ability. And we see that in the lives of Peter, Peter’s a great example of it. This guy couldn’t even catch a fish on his own without Jesus’ help, and yet he’s called the great fisherman of the Bible. Every single time you see him catching a fish is because Jesus said, “Cast the net on the other side.” Good fisherman he was. So, even in his regular daily life, he was only successful in what he did when God gave him power. So, the ability to do wonderful things for God’s kingdom, for His glory, comes from the Lord. He’s looking for availability and faithfulness. Someone who says, “Here am I, Lord, send me,” as Isaiah did, in Isaiah, chapter 6. He heard the voice of God saying, “Whom shall we send? Who will go for us?” And he just said, “I’m here. I’ll go.” And God says, “Great, I’m going to make you a prophet to the nations.” “Whoa, wait a minute!! I don’t know about that.” “No, no, you don’t have to know about that. I’m going to give you supernatural gifting and ability.”
So God, in salvation, becomes Lord over our lives, and we, as we faithfully serve Him, He reveals His overarching call to us. And then, as we are faithfully developing those gifts and those calls, because, let me tell you something, the gifts that God gives to His people, they don’t come perfectly, you know, like perfectly put together out of the box sort of thing. What do I mean by that? Well, I knew very early on that God had called me to teach His word, He had gifted me to do so, but I have had to develop that. I have had to develop the ability. He’s given me ability by His Spirit, but I’ve had to develop that. And so, as we are seeking and serving Him in our calling, with whatever He sets before us to do, then it becomes specific, and He says, “I’m calling you to do this.”
Now, let me just tell you, sometimes the specifics that God separates us unto, sometimes those things change. What do I mean? The location may be different, the specific ministry may have a different name, especially if the church changed the name, but the calling remains the same. God called me to equip the saints to the work of the ministry. I started doing that with junior highers next door. After several years, God continued to call me to equip the saints, the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable, but the location, the specific nature of it, differed as He sent me to Germany to teach at a Bible college for a year. And then after there, the location changed again, and He brought me back here, and I was teaching at Murrietta, at the Bible college there, and I was teaching some Bible studies here at the church, and doing the school of discipleship at the time…equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. The calling remained the same, the location, the specific nature of it might change.
We need to recognize that if the specific nature changes, it doesn’t mean that God revoked His calling. He’s just saying, “I’m moving you. I’m going to move you over here; you’re going to do this. But I’m still going to have you function within your calling.” You see, I think that Romans, chapter 1, verse 1, is awesomely important, not just in the life of the apostle Paul, as he gives his statement of who he was, but in our lives as followers of Jesus Christ as well. Now I realize, I told you 2 weeks ago, my plan is to finish Romans by June of next year, and we’re only getting through 1 verse today. So, this is problematic, I’ll admit.
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God. So I ask you…Todd, if your name was at the beginning of this, what would it say…Todd, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be…what? …separated unto…what? …for God. You see we need to recognize that we should be able, in some sense, to put our name in this. And if, if it doesn’t fit, there’s a problem. Right off the bat. If you put your name in there…Tonya is a servant of Jesus Christ… If it doesn’t fit there, you’re not going to know what the blank is for the calling and you’re not going to have the specific task at all.
It starts with saying, “Okay, I’ve received Christ Jesus as Lord.” Have you bowed the knee to Jesus Christ as Lord? Can you logically put your name in there, and say, Dave, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be…this? …separated to this specific ministry of God? See, I recognize, and I don’t speak this boastfully in any way, this is…I am what I am by the grace of God, like Paul said, but I can say, “Miles, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be a pastor/teacher for the equipping of the saints at Cross Connection Escondido.” And I’ll tell you right now, there may come a day, I’m not telling you, this isn’t going to happen, I don’t think soon, but there may come a day, where the Lord may say, “…called or separated to go somewhere else to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” But we all should be able to put our name here. And the specifics of the calling and the giftings become clear as you serve faithfully as the Lord sets before you opportunities for service.
Now let me just say one last thing in closing, there are times where we are serving faithfully as we’re seeking to discover our gifting and our calling where we recognize, “I’m not called to that.” And that’s a good thing. In fact, before I discovered what I was called to…am called to…I found a lot of things I’m not called to. Let me just tell you, I can do it, I have done it, I will work at it. I’m not called to be a children’s ministry director. I’m just not. I don’t know if you notice, I kind of speak above kids’ heads. I try, I really try, and it’s really hard for me. But there’s some people it’s not hard for. Van, it’s not hard for him to minister to kids. I know because my son had his 4th birthday party on Friday night, Van’s my brother-in-law, he came over, we had all these kids over there, and for, like, 2 hours straight, he had those kids running around the backyard doing everything he wanted them to do. And I just stood there and went, “Wow!! That’s…that’s impressive.” Couldn’t do that!! Not called to that!! Sonia Searle, she’s called to that ministry, and so she’s been separated to that work within our church. But there are times when you step out and you just faithfully say, “Okay, I’m going to try serving in ESL, I’m going to try that.” And you go there, and you go, “I’m not sure if I’m called to do that. I’m really having a hard…” That’s okay. What else can you do? And I’ll tell you right now, this is why we put on our website the ServeY and why we put the spiritual gifts test, just to enable you, and to help us to be able to see where you might fit well. Because here’s one of the problems, sometimes when we take a person and we force them into an area where they’re not gifted or called, they get burned!! And they walk away and they say, “Oh, I tried that serving the Lord thing, I can’t do that.” Well let’s try something else; let’s see where you might fit. Why? Because it’s my desire, my joy, as Paul said at the end of his, I want to say it’s 1 Thessalonians, chapter 2, my joy is this, you, standing in the presence of the Lord on that day, that we all together hear Him say, “Well done, Cross Connection Escondido, well done. You were faithful over that work that I gave you there in North County. I’m going to give you much more to do. Enter into the rest of the Lord.” Amen?
Let’s stand and pray for that. Father, thank You for Your word, thank You for just here in this one verse, these important truths. Lord, as we stand here right now, I recognize that in a group this large, there are some here who have not bowed their knee to You as Lord, they have not received You and they have not become servants of You. They’re servants of sin, slaves of sin, but Lord, they need to be brought in to and under Your Lordship. So Lord, we pray right now for any in our midst who might be in that place today, and You brought them here for that specific reason, that they could come and bow the knee to You, Jesus, and that they would find that You are not a hard taskmaster, that when we are yoked to You, You set us into a work that is light but joyful.
If that’s you today, if you’re standing here and you recognize that you’ve not bowed the knee to the Lordship of Jesus, and you want to receive Jesus today, He died on the cross for your sins and for mine, this is what we’re going to look at in Romans, chapter 1, next week, that we might live to righteousness. If you want to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ today, would you mind putting your hand up high right now so I can see it? Put your hand up. God bless you, I see you in the back. If that’s you, raise your hand up. God bless you, I see you back there. God bless you. I’m going to ask you that raised your hands, the person that you came with today, even maybe they’ll step up here with you, but come up here right now, we have some of our prayer team leaders up here. People are praying for you right now. Don’t be embarrassed to come up here, but if you came with a friend, just say, “Would you come up here with me?” Receive the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Lord, we pray for those right now, if that’s you, step out from where you’re at, and come up here. We thank You that You’re doing a work, we ask You to move mightily in our midst. Lord, help us to see that we are servants of You, to understand and recognize our calling in You and to be separated and appointed to the specific task You’ve set before us, because You prepared good works before the foundation of the world, that we would walk in them. Thank You Jesus. I know there’s a couple of other people, if you want to receive Christ, step up here right now.
Lord Jesus, do a work in us, Your church. Make us stand as a city set on a hill, that cannot be hid, that people would see our good works and glorify You, our Father in heaven, for we pray this in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people agreed saying, “Amen.”