Some of you know Ruth’s and my testimony. Jesus found us, lost and astray, in our 27th year. Neither of us knew the Bible or even how to pray. Nevertheless, Jesus sent a layman to speak the Gospel of Jesus to Ruth. The Holy Spirit went out into our wilderness to corral us, and by Sovereign power make us a daughter and a son of God.
I became what before I had ridiculed: I carried a big black Bible and talked about Jesus all the time. Someone asked me, “Are you going to become a minister?”
Before becoming a Christian, I had been Chairman of the Board of Deacons in our church. I didn’t like our minister. I thought he was an old fuddy-duddy. I wouldn’t allow him to baptize Laura and Susan. As he rambled on in meetings, I cut him off, and then moved the meetings on. The Deacons believed our Pastor was too old to appeal to the people we thought should come to our church. So, we had a clandestine meeting to decide how to get rid of him. He was approaching retirement, so we decided to wait him out.
So, after I was saved, when asked if I would become a minister, I responded, “No! I know what they do to ministers.”
God led us to go to Bangor Theological Seminary, where I received my Masters of Divinity. In the process of time, I was ordained. I served churches as an official minister for just three (3) years. For the last 42 years, I have served as a layman. In a sense, my ordination is irrelevant. I have served my Lord and His people in a wide variety of positions, none requiring my ordination.
I have some questions for you:
Let’s look at Paul: He was layman, a tentmaker. Paul was not even there when Jesus said,
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19)
He was not there on that Judean hillside when Jesus said to his Disciples, “You go into all the world and preach the gospel.”
But on the Damascus road Paul had a confrontation with Jesus, who he had thought was a heretic. Jesus commissioned Paul through the godly man Ananias,
Go, to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. (Acts 9:15)
Paul looked around himself and said, “Who, me? I don’t know anything about preaching. I’m not a priest or even a Levite. You must be pointing to the guy behind me.” So, he went back to Tarsus and made a tent, Right? No!
The truth is that:
And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God. (Acts 9:20)
He began testifying to what he knew. He didn’t know much, but He applied Himself to the Scriptures and to prayer. He turned himself over to the Holy Spirit. He submitted to the work of the Spirit in his life.
Paul was not a priest. He was not ordained. He was a common man filled with the Lord Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. That means he, too, was a disciple of Christ.
What was the primary work of the Spirit in the lives of the Disciples? Jesus revealed that just before His ascension,
“And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-5 & 8)
Their primary work was to submit to the baptizing in the Holy Spirit to receive power and then go! Go to make disciples at home, in the neighborhood in the region and to foreign lands.
Paul was an Apostle, a church planter. He went into a town, located a place where people gathered. He proclaimed to them the truths of the gospel:
Pretty elementary, Right?
Then he collected those who responded, the new believers into a church, introduced them to the Scriptures, assigned them the responsibility to tell the good news to others, and then he left for unreached territories.
Tell me who grew the church?
The spread of Christianity from A.D. 1 to 2016:
Paul recognized that the world as too big a place for him. He could not evangelize a whole city. He knew the ministry was not restricted to ministers, pastors and priests. His teaching in Ephesians points that out.
Paul enumerated five ministry offices in the church:
What was their primary responsibility? “… to equip the saints for the work of ministry…”.
And it was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for works of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, (Ephesians 4:12)
What was the work of the ministry that those elders had to prepare those church members to do?
Paul left them, not expecting the believers in Ephesus, Philippi or Corinth to know much. They were, for the most part, Gentiles, who had little or no knowledge of Scripture and probably no knowledge of Christian doctrine. But he left them, expecting that they would share with unbelievers their experience of Jesus in their lives. And that would be enough to arouse in others an interest in Jesus
Over 20 years, from A.D. 33 to 53 Paul plied the Roman world proclaiming the Gospel. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul reflected on his first coming to them,
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
Paul’s Mission was to spread the Truth
This is not rocket science. It does not take a seminary education. As a matter of fact, that may actually be a barrier. What it takes is a love for Jesus and a willingness to be a fool for Christ. Paul did not use theology or doctrine to convert the Roman Empire. He used simple truth that any new believer knows.
Even Paul’s chains provided him opportunities to witness.
When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him. (Acts 28:16)
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! (Acts 28:30-31)
My understanding is that, while Paul was imprisoned in a rented home, he had companions around him and had visitors. But, he was perpetually chained to one of the Pretorian Guards. They were the household troops of the Roman emperors, a permanent corps of nine cohorts, stationed around Rome. The Praetorian Guard at over 4500 men, was nearly the size of an imperial legion.
The Greek word Paul used to refer to his being in chains means a short chain binding he wrist of the prisoner to the wrist of the guard. Chained to a powerful and wide awake guard made escape impossible. To the Philippians, Paul says,
“my bonds became manifest in Christ throughout the whole Praetorian Guard” (Philippians 1:13).
The guard was most likely changed on a regular schedule, probably 4 to 6 times or more in a 24 hour-day. It is also likely that there were more guards in a shift.
They overheard his talking with his companions, his prayers and his discussions with visitors. I cannot imagine Paul resisting the opportunity presented by a literally captive audience. I am sure that he shared the Gospel with the guards. Each day there was a rotation, so he had a number of guards to evangelize. Apparently, as one became converted and then another, they talked in the barracks about the reality of Christ. Over the years of Paul’s imprisonment, many, if not most of the Praetorian Guard became converted to faith in Jesus.
This is the power of witnessing by word and life.
Paul’s witness was straightforward–what Jesus did for him and what Jesus was doing in his life.
Knowing this, each of you is fully qualified to evangelize. If that is too strong a word, then to share the love of Jesus with your neighbor.
If your neighbors do not accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, they will be cast into outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth
He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:36)
If you have not told them of their danger, how will they hear?
Since Paul knew that his days were numbered, he wrote to the Ephesians.
“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry.” (2 Corinthians 6:2-3)
And again, how can those in this culture respond to the Gospel? The Good News has been shuttered off from the general populace. Since we live today in a 1st Century, pagan culture, Paul’s comments are relevant
Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? Even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things! (Romans 10:13-15)
Jesus gives you all you need to witness.
I am sending to you what my Father promised, so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)
This promise is the indwelling, empowering Holy Spirit.
“And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Therefore, in the Name of Jesus Christ I send you into the fields that are white unto harvest. You are the Evangelists. You are the Missionaries. You are the Preachers.
Go and make Disciples of all nations.
Lord God Holy Spirit, pour out on these people Your power. Make their hearts soft to Your entry and open to Your ministry in their lives.
Give them boldness to speak of the blessings of Jesus to any and all.
Give them confidence in You to protect them against the debilitation of the enemy of our souls.
Manifest in them your Gifts of the Holy Spirit and raise up in them the Fruit of the Spirit, so that their declaration of the truths of the Gospel will be natural and comfortable.
Hallelujah! We Praise You!