Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: August 2016

Monday, August 15, 2016

Separated to Preach the Gospel

Studies in the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Separated to Preach the Gospel

There is nothing more foreign to New Testament Christianity than a “born again” believer who is not burdened for the souls of lost people.  Reaching the lost is the main purpose of God in our salvation and discipleship. 

In other words, the purpose of God in creating local churches is to create a Spirit-filled army of soldiers who are theologically trained and spiritually armed to bring the world to saving faith in Jesus Christ.  Every Christian’s life should be preoccupied with this goal.  This is what defines biblical discipleship. 

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1).

The word “separated” in Romans 1:1 is from the Greek word aphorizo (af-or-id’-zo).  The basic meaning is to set apart by a boundary.  The intent is that every Christian’s purpose in life is set apart from all worldly ambitions and pursuits after worldly pleasures by a God ordained motivation to reach the lost of this world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This mission should be among our first thoughts as we arise from bed in the morning and among our last thoughts and prayers before we retire at night.  This missional vision will not happen by accident.  We will need to do everything in our power to keep it at the forefront of our lives.  We will soon discover that the forces of evil in the world, along with our own fallen and corrupt nature, will soon relegate this priority to the bottom of life’s demands upon our time. 
There is a great deal of difference between ambition and mission.  Ambition wants what it wants for our own purposes.  Mission wants what it wants for God’s purposes.  Mission is the major priority of the Christian life because mission is a direct command of the commission of Jesus Christ given to ALL believers. 

“16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth {refers to Jesus as the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; I Timothy 6:17}. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations {enroll people of all nations and ethnicities to become scholars of the Bible and followers of the teachings of Jesus}, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen {so be it or so let it be}” (Matthew 28:16-20).
Every Christian’s ministry is to enroll people in their own discipleship training once someone is “born again.”  In other words, leading people to repent of sin and “dead works” and understand and believe/trust/rest in the finished work of redemption through the shed Blood of Christ are just the first two decisions in a faith decision to be “born again.”  Then the believer must confess Jesus to be Jehovah incarnate with Sovereign authority over the believer’s life.  The believer must then call upon the Name of Jesus requesting the gift of justification and receive the impartation of the indwelling Spirit of God.  These five verbs constitute what the Bible defines as a faith decision to be “born again” into the New Genesis.  Nothing else needs to be done to be saved. 

However, a believer’s decisions for Christ do not end with these five verbs.  Water baptism is another decision having to do primarily with a believer’s enrollment in a local church with a commitment to be a student of the teachings of Jesus so as to learn to live those teachings.  Water baptism that is disconnected to local church membership and enrollment in becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ is not baptism at all.  If there is no commitment to “walk in the newness of life,” water baptism has no purpose.  This disconnection in teaching water baptism is a great corruption of the Great Commission, thereby corrupting the doctrine and purpose of the assembling of the local church.  A local church is primarily an academic institution training disciples to win souls and make disciples.
Recently, I received a call from a lady who had found one of my tracks on Saving Faith in a medical clinic waiting room.  She proceeded to tell me the tract was all wrong.  She said, “God is a God of love and when lost people die they just cease to exist.”  She said, “There is no such thing as an eternal place of torment.”  I listened to her ramble on without a breath for about five minutes.  Then I simply asked her, “Are you born again?”  Then there was a moment of silence.  Without really answering my question, she just started where she left off repeating the same things over again.  Then I asked her, “Mam, are you a Jehovah Witness?”  She said she was.  I told her if she wanted to have a Bible study with me, I would gladly show her the many Scriptures that teach on an eternal Hell and how she could be “born again.”  Ignoring my offer and everything I said, she began again with her diatribe against the Bible tract.  She had been deceived by the lies of the father of lies and was simply repeating the lies she had believed.  This is a truth common to almost every person that we will encounter in evangelism. 
Paul was not only a man “called” of God, He was man separated from the world for a specific task.  He was called to tell the whole world the good news of God’s wondrous gift of salvation and how “whosoever will” can be saved.  This is the calling and mission of every person professing Jesus as Savior and Lord.  There are only two categories of true Christians in the world. 

1. Those who are doing what they have been separated to do
2. Those who are not doing what they have been separated to do

Paul was “separated unto the gospel of God” before he was ever born.  This is known as the doctrine of predestination.  Paul even tells us the exact details in Galatians 1:15 of when God separated him “unto the gospel.”
Paul traveled extensively during his second and third missionary journeys planting churches in Galatia.  Galatia was a Roman province in the middle of what is today modern Turkey.  There were four main churches in Galatia - Antioch, Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra.  Disciples of Christ were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26).  The province of Galatia was populated by Gauls.  The Gauls were ignorant barbarians with little to no knowledge of the one true God.  When they were “born again,” they began to be influenced by some early corruptions of Christianity.  Judaizers had entered into the churches of Galatia and began teaching a mixture of Law keeping with salvation in justification by grace through faith. 

The second corruption was that Christian maturity (perfection) came through the sacrifices and moral laws of the Mosaic Covenant.  Paul condemns both of these false doctrines as corruptions of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This was all going on within the first thirty years after the beginning of Christianity and probably about twenty years after these local churches in Galatia had been founded. 

What we must learn from Paul’s Epistle to the local churches of Galatia is that we must all be dedicated to maintaining the purity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This includes both the message of the Gospel in what Christ has accomplished on behalf of sinners to be justified before God AND what defines a biblical faith response to the objective facts of that message. 

“6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men {pleasing or placating men to avoid division in the churches}? for if I yet pleased men {just to be agreeable, but compromise the Gospel}, I should not be the servant of Christ. 11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man {finds no source of origin in human philosophies}. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For ye have heard of my conversation {the way I lived} in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14 And profited in the Jews’ religion {was famous, privileged, and wealthy} above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, 16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus” (Galatians 1:6-17).

Before we were ever born, God foreknew those who would trust in Christ and incorporated them into His plan to bring the message of redemption to a lost world.  Even before we were saved, God began working in our lives to prepare us for the ministry that He would call us to do.  Many people think that it is only men like Paul, John the Baptist, Jacob, Samson, Moses, Samuel, and Jeremiah that are unique in this way.  Actually this is a common truth for all believers.  Every believer is separated from the womb unto the “gospel of God.”

“29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren {the ‘church of the firstborn’- Hebrews 12:23}. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called {‘them’ here refers corporately to the priesthood of all believers known as ‘the church’}: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).

          What Christ said about the Apostle Paul is true of every believer born again of the Spirit of God.  All who have accepted God’s free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ also have a vocational calling to take that good news to everyone with which they come in contact according to the threefold plan of evangelism defined in the Great Commission. 

“13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. 15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:13-16).

The “gospel of God” is broad in the scope of its intended audience.  The word translated “gospel” is from the Greek word euaggelion (yoo-ang-ghel’-ee-on).  It refers to the good news for humanity regarding the kingdom of God soon to be established on earth.  The good news revolves around the finished work of Jesus the Messiah and how His life, death, and resurrection opens the door to the New Genesis “in Christ” for “whosoever will.” 
However, the “gospel of God” does not end with the good news regarding deliverance from condemnation.  The Gospel message continues the good news for those who accept God’s free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus by teaching that the resurrected Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of God in heaven.  From here, He will return in glory and majesty with His redeemed to establish the kingdom of God on earth.  

Therefore, the Gospel of God to which we must be committed to proclaim is much more than a fire escape message of salvation.  The “gospel of God” is a proclamation of victory and restoration of the lost dominion of humanity over this world given to humanity by God and stolen by the deception of Satan (Genesis 1:26-28; Revelation 5:1-13).  The “gospel of God” is a proclamation of a complete salvation and an already accomplished victory over sin and Satan.  The battle is already won.

“9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete {perfect tense and passive voice} in him, which is the head of all principality and power:” (Colossians 2:9-10).

“55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:55-58).

The “gospel of God” is doctrinally definitive.

The “gospel of God” to which Paul refers is the whole book of Romans detailing every aspect of Christ’s work on mankind’s behalf.  The “gospel of God” details the doctrine of condemnation, the propitiation of God, the availability of justification by grace through faith, positional and practical sanctification, consecration, and the believer’s ultimate and final glorification with Christ.  It is this complete body of doctrine that Paul calls “the gospel.”  It is this complete body of doctrine that we are commanded to go into all the world proclaiming (Matthew 28:19-20).  Therefore, to preach/teach the “gospel of God” moves far beyond winning a soul to Christ in salvation into discipleship in “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). 
There is such a superficial understanding of the “gospel of God” that the good news is reduced to little more than a few facts regarding Jesus Christ.  This reduction of the good news is often so shallow it is dubious that anyone could even make an intelligent faith decision.  For instance, the statement of Paul in I Corinthians 15:1-4 is merely an abbreviation of this whole body of doctrine.  The work of salvation is just an introduction to the “gospel of God.”  We must remember that the first four verses of I Corinthians chapter fifteen are merely and introduction to the balance of doctrine regarding the resurrection and glorification of all believers.  The first part of the “gospel” involves what Christ accomplished in His death burial, and resurrection.  However, these truths are just the foundation for the “good news,” not is entirety. 

“1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:1-4).

Additional aspects of the “gospel” are detailed in the balance of I Corinthians chapter fifteen.  The whole of the “gospel of God” is the most thoroughly presented in the whole epistle to the Romans.
Paul clearly states in Galatians 1:6-9, that any person adding to, or subtracting from, the “gospel of God” regarding salvation retains the curse of condemnation upon himself.  However, when a person strays from any doctrine presented in the epistle to the Romans, he preaches “another gospel which is not another.”  The Gospel provides details about salvation that are much more than mere deliverance from condemnation.  The Gospel gives details about the New Genesis and the eternal life that is ours presently and in the hereafter.  The epistle to the Galatians is divided into two sections dealing with two aspects of the Gospel.  The salvation of the soul is dealt with in chapters one and two.  The salvation of one’s life from ruin and waste in chapter three. 

“6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9).

“1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. 5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith” (Galatians 3:1-5)?

Central to the Gospel message is what Christ has done to save our souls from Hell and to give us a new life.  Any admixture of religious ceremony, Ritualism, or works of self-righteousness (Moralism) for salvation perverts (Galatians 1:7) the Gospel of grace.

“15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:15-16).

“10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:10-11).

“1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from {out away from} grace” (Galatians 5:1-4).

How much “works” is too much?  To what degree can a person trust in religious ritual, ceremony or self-righteousness before the “gospel of God” is perverted and he remains under the curse of condemnation?

“5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. 7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? 8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. 9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:5-9).

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Called of God

Studies in the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Called of God

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God . . . (Romans 1:1).

Paul was a man “called” of God for a specific task.  He reminds all Christians that they are called to minister the truth and evangelize the lost.  “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,” (Ephesians 4:1).
This concept of calling to service or ministry is a universal truth taught throughout Scripture.  Abram was called of God.  “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy Father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Genesis 12:1).  Moses was called of God.  “Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).  To be called means simply to be given specific directions by God for a particular ministry.  Therefore, all believers have a vocational calling in the Great Commission as believer-priests before God.
Paul was specifically called of God and given specific instructions from God to do the work of the ministry.  “But rise, and stand upon thy feet:  for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee” (Acts 26:16).  Every Christian has a calling or “vocation” in the body of Christ. 
As individual Christians within a local church fulfill their vocational calling in the “work of the ministry” a synergy is created.  A synergy is defined as the working together of two or more things, people, or organizations, especially when the result is greater than the sum of their individual effects or capabilities.  However, the central factor defining a biblical synergy is when individual Christians are divinely empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.  When all the members of a local church habitually live in this state of empowerment, a spiritual synergism is created and true spiritual revival takes place. 
Synergism is absolutely worthless if it is not the direct outcome of fellowship with God.  In other words, a local church can experience an outward show of unity with everyone getting along, and not experience a truly spiritual synergism where all the members of the local body are living Spirit-filled lives.  Therefore, “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) is not the same as everyone in a local church just getting along with one another and tolerating each other. 

“Unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) is supernaturally produced through the filling of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).  Such unity includes unity in doctrine (right doctrine), unity in a missional vision (purpose), and unity in biblical methodology (practice).  Therefore, a biblical calling is a calling is intended to create a spiritual synergism with other believers within the context of a local church of like-minded believers (the Body Principle). 
No one is being called by God today as was Paul or Moses, where God spoke directly to the person called.  When God called me to preach, I did not hear a voice in my head telling what to do or where to do it.  God burdened me to reach souls and teach/explain the Word of God to them.  In order to do that well, God burdened me to in-depth study of His Word.  Reaching souls and leading Bible studies became the preoccupation of most of my free time.  It became very obvious to me very early in my ministry that new believers did not survive long if they did not learn the Word of God and did not align themselves with a faithful accountability group that the Bible calls a local church. 
We often hear Christians make statements such as God told me to do this or to do that.  God communicates to us through His Word and through the leading of the Spirit today.  The leading of the Spirit is usually through opened doors of ministry opportunity.  However, every opened door of ministry opportunity will also be accompanied by a person meeting the qualifications for that ministry opportunity.  If God leads a person into a ministry of which a person is not prepared to do, God is actually leading that person to first to get prepared.  Novices do not belong in leadership positions in and through a local church until they have been tested and proven both capable and faithful (I Timothy 3:1-13).  Faithful in most case simply means knowledgeable, teachable, consistent, and dependable.  These things defined themselves as Christian character with convictions.

We have two major Scripture texts teaching the synergism of the “body of Christ” (local church).  When we learn the Body Principle of Scripture, we learn that every believer was formally united to a local body of believers through the ordinance of water baptism.  It would have been foreign to early New Testament Christians not to be united together with a formal assembly of believers through which they were being perfected for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12). 

The purpose of all ministry was to grow the body.  The word “edifying” in Ephesians 4:12 is from the Greek word oikodome (oy-kod-om-ay’), which means to build a home or family.  The building blocks of this spiritual structure are born again Christians, who are “living stones” have been shaped by discipleship.  I Peter 2:5 speaks of this with the words “are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”  Therefore, this “holy priesthood” calling is common to all believers and is the ministry of all believers.  Every believer is called to be involved in building the “spiritual house” of his local assembly. 

“12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23 And those members of the body {dealing with positions that seem less important and are given little acknowledgement}, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts {the parts of the body that are concealed rather than exposed} more abundant comeliness {these parts are extremely important to the body’s functions}. 24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? 31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (I Corinthians 12:12-31).

The “more excellent way” of which Paul speaks is elaborated upon in great detail in I Corinthians chapter thirteen in the principle of biblical love defined by extreme self-sacrifice to the benefit of others.  The general purpose of the argument of I Corinthians chapter twelve in the Body Principle is that most people want to be in charge.  They do not consider the enormous responsibilities of being a leader of people who often do not want to do what God commands.  These wannabes are simply enamored with being looked up to by others.  This reveals a great ignorance about leadership.  Leaders are often mistrusted, criticized, abused, slandered, and maligned for no other reason than someone does not want to be a follower.  The point of I Corinthians chapter twelve is do not covet leadership.  Covet love!

“1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being m any, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:1-8).

Paul pleads with believers in Ephesians 4:1 to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.”

“1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-4).

When we read what Paul says in Ephesians 4:1-3 in conjunction with what he says in Romans 12:1-8, we know that all believers have a vocational calling according to the gifts of ministry that God has given them.  It is their responsibility to perfect those gifts as they begin to minister.  Every believer is a priest before God and each person as a priest before God is expected to evangelize and make disciples. 
Some vocational callings, like Abram, Moses, and Paul, were special callings for specific purposes.  Other specific callings, like those of a Pastor\teacher or Evangelist (Ephesians 4:11), are defined by a specific function and qualifications.  These callings do not come because a person wants them or because he has some special personality.  They do not come because they might be a good profession or because someone enjoys working with people.  These people hold their positions for one reason, they have been called of God and they know they have been called.
Gideon was such a man.  “And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee” (Judges 6:14).  Isaiah was such a man.  “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?  Then said I, Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).
Paul was called of God to be an Apostle as defined by Romans 1:1.  In other words, Paul’s calling was defined by the word “servant” with a specific ministry.  He was “separated unto the gospel of God.”  The only higher authority over him in the whole world was God, yet he was called and commissioned to be a servant.  Every person called to leadership in a local church understands this critical definition of ministry– SERVANTHOOD.  Paul considered being an ambassador for Christ the highest honor in this world (II Corinthians 5:17-21).  Being an ambassador for Christ is common to all believer-priests in the New Covenant. 

“17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. 21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made {to cause to be; to generate} the righteousness of God in him {in the New Creation}” (II Corinthians 5:17-21).

Paul demanded obedience to the Word of God for all believer-priests.  He commanded (by apostolic authority) that believers follow the leadership of the pastor God that calls to shepherd them.

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).

Men like Moses and Gideon were remarkable men of God.  They were not remarkable because of their abilities, but because of what God did with them in spite of their weaknesses.  God used them so that God could be magnified through the weaknesses of men.  God wants to magnify Himself through the life of every Christian in this way.  These men were not great in themselves.  They both tried to argue with God because they both had disabilities and weaknesses of which they thought God must have overlooked when He chose them.  These are the kinds of people God delights in using. 

Most people have aspirations of being great in the eyes of men.  True Christians are people who understand their overwhelming spiritual weaknesses and frailties and who simply what to be used by God to help others see the greatness of God and His grace.  Any Christian that can escape the foolishness of his own ambitions for a greatness in the eyes of men can be used of God.  This quality of character is the primary qualification for anyone to be used of God.  This character quality has the attitude, I cannot do what God asks of me.  If a Christian has this character quality, he will never take credit for what God has done through him.

“26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (I Corinthians 1:26-31).

Most Christians are not called to be a Pastor\Teacher or an itinerant Evangelist.  However, every Christian is called to be a servant of God with two primary purposes – to minister and bring forth fruit to God’s glory.

Ministry or Servanthood

“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:27-28).

Here is where everyone’s Christianity either succeeds or fails.  Individual Christians must accept their calling of God in Jesus Christ and then do it.

“Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves.  And he said, Be that shewed mercy on him.  Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10: 36-37).

The whole significance in becoming a servant means giving yourself to meet another person’s needs without expecting anything in return.  Such a desire is a complete sociological abstract.  Yet it was how God intended His children to function in His society.  This attitude defines a biblical local church both when it is present and when it is absent.  Great spiritual church leaders are capable in modeling servanthood and in teaching others to have the spirit of servanthood. 

“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ {law of love}” (Galatians 6:2).

“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

The second primary purpose of every servant of God is to bring forth fruit.

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you {vocational calling as believer-priests}, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain:  that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give if you” (John 15:16).

“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Romans. 7:4).

Our individual vocational calling of God as believer-priests should be taken very seriously (whatever our spiritual gifts might be).  To be a believer-priest is to be the voice of God in this world.  Believer-priests represent God to the world.  This is the emphasis in the word “ambassador” in II Corinthians 5:17-21.  All believer-priests are commissioned to speak the Word of God.  In other words, we are to be the voice of righteousness and the voice of appeal in calling the world to repent.  

“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure:  for if ye do these things, ye shall never fail” (II Peter 1:10).

II Peter 1:10 is not referring to salvation, but to ministry.  Your “calling” is God’s invitation to minister on His behalf.  Your “election” is God choosing you to do that ministry.  When God commands us “give diligence to make your calling and election sure,” He is telling us to hurry up in our efforts to insure that our ministry has good footings, or solid theological foundations.  The insurance of never failing as God’s ambassador is making sure we speak to others what God has spoken in His Word.  We must sow the right spiritual seed if we are to reap the spiritual fruit that God wants produced. 

“12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out {work on to the finish} your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you {through the indwelling Holy Spirit} both to will and to do of his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights {as stars in outer space} in the world {the greater the darkness, the greater the need for light}; 16 Holding forth the word of life {as a lamp; this is what creates the light}; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain” (Philippians 2:12-16).
The eternal destinies of millions of souls depend upon our faithfulness to our calling as priestly ambassadors of Jesus Christ.  Messengers are useless if they never proclaim the Message that they are sent to give.  People cannot respond to a message that is never delivered.  Even God cannot bless something you never do.  The central reason so few are coming to Christ to be saved is because very few invitations are being given.  We cannot wait for the lost to come to us.  The whole purpose in sending ambassadors is for us to GO to the lost with God’s invitation of redemption. 

“13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things” (Romans 10:13-15)!

All believers serve as priests before God and have a priestly ministry under the direction of our High Priest Jesus Christ.  Our calling (like Paul’s) separates us from living for the things of this world and separates unto preaching the good news of God’s salvation in Christ. 

Perhaps one of the greatest perversions of Christianity was the early development of the division of the church into clergy and laity.  The word laity simply refers to all people who are not priests or ministers.  The very use of the term laity is misleading.  No one who understands the priesthood of the believer should ever use the term.  This misunderstanding results in an ungodly outcome where only certain special people in local churches are supposed to do the “work of the ministry.”  This is an absolute aberration and corruption of the doctrine of the Church.  God expects every believer-priest to be equipped doctrinally and matured spiritually so as to be able to do the “work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). 

“18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (II Corinthians 5:18-19).

“24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul” (Matthew 16:24-26)?

“4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. 11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. 13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God” (I Peter 2:4-16).

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.