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The Apostle Paul and Pastor Ben?

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Recently another pastor had a go at me (nothing new there!).  He had overheard me chatting to some people from the church and was very upset because the people called me “Ben”…

I said I couldn’t understand the problem as Ben is my name.  I’m just glad they are not calling me Scumbag!

But he was adamant: I need to insist on being called PastorBen, yes like one word! 😉

Meanwhile another pastor I know well with a church of 20ish has changed his title to ApostleJim.  He has all the business cards, the website and everything.

It has made me think about titles and offices quite a bit.  Why do people need the titles so much? Why does it matter? What does the Bible say about it all?

Starting with Scripture, there is NOT one single example in Scripture of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher EVER used as a title.

The phrase “the apostle Paul” is not in the Bible.  Go and take the time to try and find it if you don’t believe it.  Paul isn’t ashamed he is an apostle and will happily say Paul, an apostle.  But he never uses the word as a title, because it isn’t a title, it’s simply a job description.  No one in the Bible is apostle anything or pastor anyone.

Calling me Pastor Ben is about as logical as you being Taxi Driver Fred or Accountant Jeff.  It’s not a title, it is simply a description of what you do with your time and skills.

So why is it so widespread as a practise? Firstly I think it is because so many pastors are genuinely insecure and need a title.  Secondly, to exert unnecessary authority over people.  Finally, I believe that people use it as a short hand to influence.  Every pastor should be leading his (or her!) people forward but they should be doing that because people are confident that they have a God given vision and the character and resolve to see it happen.

In other words people should follow you because they trust you are going somewhere they want to be not because of your title.  In this status obsessed value based society the church needs to be like Jesus, not the world.

Romans 1.14

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I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.

In the last verse, Paul says that he would not have the church ignorant. That is Paul’s calling – to educate and provide information about grace and faith to the body of Christ. A very high calling – but it is your calling too.

As an apostle Paul’s ministry was to equip the saints to do the works of ministry (Ephesians 4.11ff). His life was to train the church to do the works of ministry.

We have to, utterly and totally, get away from the superstar ministers that do all the work and get back to the Bible bueprint: the fivefold ministries equipping, training and discipling the church and the CHURCH doing the works of ministry. The church being every single Christian.

We often read statements that Paul makes and we dismiss them as being for superstar ministers. Rubbish – Paul tells us clearly: copy me as I copy Christ (1 Corinthians 11.1).

Why I have said all this is to say this: Romans 1.14 is not just for Paul, not just for Oral Roberts, not just for Billy Graham, not just for Mike, but for every single Christian in the body of Christ. It is for you!

Paul says this: I am a debtor to people. The Greek word is opheiletēs. It means to be bound to someone by duty. Paul’s duty to ensure the church had knowledge bound him to people. So much so that his writings are still rescuing the church from ignorance, generations after he penned them!

Everyone of us is bound to people by duty. For Paul it was four groups of people: the Greeks, the Barbarians, the wise and the unwise. (Actually the wise and unwise covers everyone!), who is it for you? Who are you bound to by duty?

I used to be in a denomination where pastors moved around all the time, then they found out that you do not build a church by moving around, you build a church when a pastor comes to a people and the people realize that the man of God is bound to them, that he will never leave them or forsake them, that he is there for their good and will keep being there. He may move on like Paul did often, but he will still be there in his heart and still be with them in spirit.

Who are you bound to by duty? Who do you owe your destiny to? There is no destiny that does not involve people. No Christian has a destiny that does not involve them being bound to a group of people by destiny.

No Christian can avoid saying what Paul says here: I am a debtor to people. If you cannot say this and know which people you are in debtor to, go and find out. Go and pray and ask the Lord – go and find out.

I have just entered into the first step of my ministry, but I could not enter it at all if I did not know from the Lord who I am a debtor to.

I am a debtor to the people of London and of Essex, people who have lived there all their lives and people who have moved there from every nation and ethnic group.

I am bound to them by my duty to God. They will rise or fall on my obedience.

It is a weighty matter when you deal with destiny because it is not just a game – it is about people. Every single person is worth an infinite amount because that was the price that Jesus paid for them. Every single person on the planet will in one million years time either be a being of pure light and love, or a creature of torment and hatred.

When I make decisions such as where shall our church meet, when shall it meet, what shall I do this evening, where and when shall I go on holiday, what book shall I read I need to realize I am not a free man. I cannot ever just do what I want. I am bound to London and bound to Essex by duty and by destiny.

I take this seriously and soberly. It is not just enough to know the function of your destiny, you must know the geographical and ethnic boundaries of your destiny.

I will say it again – if you do not know who you are bound to by duty, you must find out. Then act bound!

Glory and freedom,
Benjamin

Romans 1.5

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By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:

Paul is now being fairly personal about his life: from Jesus he received grace and apostleship.

Paul breaks down what Jesus has given him into two categories: grace and apostleship.

Grace is what Jesus gives to everybody – of his grace we have all received (John 1.16). When Paul talks about receiving grace He means receiving the grace that we all have access to in Him.

Grace means something you are given that you do not deserve. When we are talking about Jesus, His grace is where He gives you what you do not deserve due to His redemptive work. You deserved poverty, but He gave you riches (2 Cor. 9.8). You deserved sickness, but He healed you (Matthew 8.14-16). You deserved death and hell, but He gave you eternal life (Romans 6.23).

Apostleship is what Jesus gave to Paul only – He gave some apostles (Ephesians 4.11). This represents what Jesus gives us as individuals as our destiny – the anointings and giftings that help us assume our place in the body and fulfill our destiny. You are probably not an apostle, but you are a somebody with a destiny and with a special gift from God that no-one else has.

Can you see how wonderful this is? Jesus gives us grace – all the stuff that everyone gets, and then Jesus gives us an equipping, a mantle, a revelation, a gift that is just for us to fulfill our ministry. He is such a good God.

I have received from Christ grace and teachingship. I have got all the stuff every Christian has – health, wealth, righteousness, peace, joy; and I have some stuff only I have – the ability to expound the Word in a way that makes people think and changes lifes, the ability to release people into their destiny, and the ability to refresh an entire church at once through my words.

You have the stuff we all have, and you have stuff only you have. You should know what both those stuffs are. You should be operating in both the stuffs.

However, confusing these two things up: the general grace and the specific gifts of your destiny leads to many Christians leaving stagnant lifes.

I lay hands on the sick and see them recover not because I am a minister but because I am a believer (Mark 16.17). Many believers will never minister healing because they think it goes in the specific gifting category and never realize it is for EVERY Christian. I have been to churches that teach that speaking in tongues is only for some Christians, when it is available for all.

On the other hand, some Christians think they can be a prophet or teacher if they believe and receive. You can only believe and receive what is in the general grace, not what is a specific gift. You cannot make God make you a teacher or a prophet or an apostle. You cannot confess that you are an apostle and make it so. You cannot teach like me – just like I cannot do what you do the way you do it.

You can believe and receive for your healing because that is grace. You cannot believe and receive for an office and role in the body of Christ – you can only discover your office, not decide it.

Notice that Paul’s grace and apostleship (just like your grace and destiny) were not for him to strut about and boast, were not for goosebumps, were not for laughing and happy meetings – no, they were for obedience to faith among all nations. God has given you grace and a destiny for a reason: to make the nations obey the Word. Whatever God has given you to do, go and take that gift to the nations and convince them to obey the Word.

If you do not know your destiny, don’t sit on your backside waiting for God to write on your wall. Go and use your grace and take that to the nation. Paul was called to be an apostle when he was already preaching the gospel to the nations. If you want to know your calling, start doing the stuff every Christian is expected to do: go and heal the sick, cast out demons, preach the gospel and raise the dead. Speak in new tongues, preach the gospel, make disciples of all nations. As you go, God will reveal His specific plans to you.

But don’t expect God to reveal His specific orders to someone not obeying His standing orders!

God has a destiny for you impact the world and glorify His name. If you want to know what it is, start doing all the stuff that you know to do from the Word.

Then you will know that you have grace and a destiny. You too can say with Paul:

By whom I have received grace and [my destiny], for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:

Romans 1.3

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Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;

The next wonderful thing Paul tells us about the gospel is that it is always about Jesus Christ, God’s Son. You cannot preach good news without it being totally centred on the person of Jesus Christ.

Some people take the principles of God – because God is a God of order He works by principles – and they teach you how to work them without the person of Jesus Christ.

This happens in the world, for example “The Secret” is simply the divine principle of what a man thinks in His heart, so is He; but completely divorced from the person of Christ. A Christian shouldn’t be reading the Secret because it is wrong, but because they should already know the principles from the Word of God – we don’t need the world to confirm the Word thank you!

But it happens in the church as well – messages that are 7 steps to healing. Healing isn’t a step – it is knowing the Healer. Prosperity isn’t a step – it is knowing the Prosperer.

There are principles, and there are Christians who are intimate with Jesus who don’t know the principles. The principles bring the prosperity and the power of God, but the person of God brings the presence of God.

We all know those elderly saints who bring the presence of God into the room, but they are as broke as a beggar and have ailment after ailment. Presence without power because they know Him but don’t know His Word.

However, we are in danger of a far worse condition: knowing the principles, working the power, and forgetting about Him in the middle of it.

In the midst of the Azusa Street revival, Frank Bartleman – a powerful apostle from the most influential revival ever to impact the world – said the greatest danger for the Pentecostal is to have a spiritual ministry that is not focussed on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ensure that everything you do, every increase you have is concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.

Glory and freedom,

Benjamin

Romans 1.1

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Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

I am going to daily post a sequential verse of Romans and make commentary on it.  I hope you enjoy.  Please feel free to make comments as per the blog system, regards.

The gospel is the Greek word euaggelion which means good news or happy news. There is no Hebrew equivalent because the Old Testament does not bring good news, only the news that Jesus Christ has completely paid the price for your sin, that you are not under law but under grace, that you are completely free from sin, sickness and poverty is good news.

Paul was separated to the gospel. What are you separated unto? Paul was utterly devoted to the gospel – anything that got in the way of the gospel Paul just did not pay attention to. Think about that – if anything in your life does not increase the gospel in your life: does not increase the amount of good news that is in your heart, then just ignore it. Turn that TV programme off, distance yourself from that person, and throw that religious book in the bin. If it is not making you glad, what is your fascination with it?

Get separated unto the gospel. Whatever it takes get it. Because what you are separated to, what you fill your heart with will produce in your life. You are what you think, so think the gospel.

Glory and freedom,

Benjamin

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