Thursday, October 30, 2008

Job Description: Apostleship

As Paul continues to introduce himself in Romans 1, he goes on to talk about what it is he does in response to the outline. It's as if he is setting out his job description. So what is it an apostle did? how did Paul see his role in the early church?

Unlike some job descriptions, there wasn't any information on hours of employment (after all, he was a full-time apostle - Christianity isn't a part-time job nor a hobby). But we do find some things he has been given, his main responsibilities, and also his work location.

Things he has been given - There's no information about wages or salary structure, or pension plan in these verses, yet he has been given very valuble things: '...Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship ...' (Romans 1:5). Grace is one of the key foundational elements of Christianity for Paul - it encompasses here the gifts that God has given him, first as a believer, but also the particular equipping for his unique contribution. Apostleship, if I may paraphrase in my own slightly rough style, is 'sent-ness'. He has received the call or command to go, and so off he goes. Yet it is also speaking of his call to be an apostle, that small band of original followers who testify to their unique experience of Jesus, and who teach the authentic gospel to be passed on through the generations.

Main responsibilities - Having received these gifts and command, what is Paul to do with them? Why has he been equipped? '... to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name...' (Romans 1:5). No small task, it has to be said! But notice the way it's put. Not just the saving of souls, or the preaching of the word, or the good of the community, or however we might have said it. No, Paul's task is to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of Jesus' name. The two things are put together - obedience and faith. If we may put it negatively, then to not believe his message is to disobey. Or to say it positively, to believe Paul's message is to obey God, and to obey God is to have faith in Jesus. So often we can think that faith and practice are two separate things - that so long as we have the believing sorted out, then it doesn't matter how we behave; or that if we're good enough, then it doesn't matter if we don't believe the gospel. Paul is saying here that his task is to bring about the obedience of faith. The two belong together. As Jesus said, 'Whoever believes in [the Son] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed inthe name of the only Son of God.' (John 3:18)

Job location - Could it be that Paul would have a large office somewhere in downtown Jerusalem, from which he could oversee operations? No, well, Jerusalem might be a bit dangerous for the chief persecuter-turned believer. Damascus? Paul doesn't have an office. No base, as such. Just the command to go - or as the job description continues '.. to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations'. All the nations. Hence Paul's missionary journeys. Hence his desire to reach even Spain (Romans 15:28). This was where Paul was called to be, or rather, called to go. Where is your calling? It could well be right where you are now - to be a Christian witness to the people in your office, your street, your class at school. Or it could be somewhere very far away. Do you know?

What a job description. Always on the go, with the task of bringing about the obedience of faith in all nations. Yet he was equipped for the task, with God's (literally) gracious provision. What has God called you to do? Will you also step out for God?

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