July 2, 2011

The Work of Ministry is Not Glamorous, But Worth It

Each week on Sunday morning, I have the great privilege to teach one of our adult Sunday School bible study classes.

A couple from our church had decided to leave in December and I eagerly accepted the opportunity to teach this class beginning in January and continue with them, in their journey through the Book of Acts.

We began in Acts 13 and now we are in chapter 18.  Each week has been an expositional study of the passage for the week and we also look at some of the specific people, places and events that are taking place, so that we are able to gain a greater understanding of the passage.

Two weeks ago, we studied Acts 17:13-34 where the Apostle Paul was in Athens, reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jews in the synagogue for three Sabbaths and then he was preaching to the Epicureans and Stoics in the Areopagus. After that, he left and headed for Corinth.

Last Sunday, we looked at Acts 18:1-8 and the Apostle Paul had met Aquila and Priscilla, who had come from Rome because the Roman Emperor Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave because of anti-semitism that was occurring in the city.

This study was very exciting to prepare and teach because of how the text began to unfold before me, as I continued to read and study the passage and in it, I learned three points that were brought to the attention of the class, to learn about the Apostle Paul's work and ministry in this passage, which were:

  1. Unashamed Work
  2. Uncompromised Preaching
  3. Unexpected Conversion
UNASHAMED WORK

When Paul met Aquila and Priscilla, he learned that they were tentmakers too (Acts 18:3).

The word tentmaker in Greek is skēnopoios, meaning one that makes small portable tents, of leather or cloth of goat’s hair or linen, for the use of travellers.

In Eastern countries, where there was much travel, where there were no inns, and where many were shepherds, such a business might be useful, and a profitable source of living. It was an honorable occupation, and Paul was not ashamed to be employed in it.  Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

This reminded me of when I first began working at The Home Depot in West Nyack, New York, three years ago.  When I began working there the Human Resources Coordinator informed me that there was another guy that was transferring in to the store and that he too was attending the same seminary as I was.

I shared with the class that when Kevin Ellwood and I met, we were both pretty excited to meet one another and especially know that we could be supportive of each other in school and at work and that it was a great mission field to be working in too!

We were both, in a sense, tentmakers too.  Working to support ourselves while in seminary, similar to the Apostle Paul, although he was a missionary and evangelizing people everywhere with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not in school.

Paul would later write to the Colossian church regarding the importance of work and the perspective of how we honor God in our work where he said, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

And again in verses 22-24, "Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.  And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ." (NKJV)

Even as I now continue to work part-time at The Home Depot, seeing the Apostle Paul's bi-vocational work and ministry became even more evident to myself as I studied and exposited this passage to the class.

I asked the class to look at Acts 6:2-4 where the apostles committed and devoted themselves exclusively to prayer and the ministry of the Word.  They were full-time in ministry, so I asked the class, which is better - bi-vocational or full-time ministry?

The answer was/is that both are important and that neither is better than the other. If a congregation can only afford to pay their pastor so much and he needs to find a second job to help supplement the difference, then so be it, until a time when he can be paid a full-time salary.

I asked if there could be a hindrance at all regarding the active engagement of fulfilling the Great Commission, as a bi-vocational pastor, which they all answered no because of the great opportunity to meet people and without compromising your responsibilities at work, to be a faithful witness for Christ in the workplace.

UNCOMPROMISED PREACHING

The passage reveals that the Apostle Paul had reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue for three Sabbaths.

The word reasoned in Greek means to say thoroughly, that is, discuss (in argument or exhortation). (Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries).  He took the time to discuss and prove through a civil dialogue those things in Scripture that the Jews were waiting to see fulfilled.

The Apostle Paul had this advantage to go in to the synagogues because he was a Pharisee, a Hebrew of the Hebrews (Philippians 3:5) and in Acts 22:3 he would explain how he had come to know the Old Testament so well too, when he explained saying, "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today."

He was successfull in his reasoning and expository preaching (Acts 17:1-4) because he had persuaded both Jews and Gentiles to faith in Christ.  Not in a manipulative way, but by convincing through argument, again, not for his glory, but to the glory of Christ and the praise of God.

Even though he was opposed and those who heard him blasphemed, Paul's actions that followed were that he shook his garments (verse 6, same experience as Acts 13:51).

Matthew Henry describes this as an act of - 1. In detestation of their wickedness; 2. A denunciation of the wrath against them; 3. The dust of the apostles' feet, which they left behind them, would witness against them, and be brought in as evidence, that the gospel had been preached to them.

Jesus had spoken of such in Matthew 10:14 when He said, “whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart…shake the dust from your feet” so, this certainly was not a good thing to have done toward them because the very dust from the feet of Jesus, the apostles and everyone that has gone into the world to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ will have that as a witness against them.

The presence of the dust from those people that were there, to help deliver them from the power of darkness and into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Colossians 1:13).

UNEXPECTED CONVERSION

Whenever Christians go out to evangelize people and be a witness for Christ, there is always the hope that someone will gladly receive the word that has been proclaimed to them.

Often, in the life experience of the Apostle Paul, since Acts 13, he had experienced conversion success as much as he had some painful and trying experiences too.

The result here is that Crispus (Acts 18:8) was a ruler of the synagogue where in today's terms he would be known as the senior rabbi, was converted to Christ, but not just himself, but his entire household was won to faith in Christ too!

Not only was this exciting to see the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ come to Crispus, but then also, many Corinthians had heard, believed and were baptized too!  What a great example of the Great Commission being demonstrated then, for us today.

This brought to my mind to proclaim to the class that we should never be intimidated to be a witness for Christ because you never know whom will rejoice in celebrating the coming of the Good News to their lives and to their families' lives too!

The Apostle Paul said in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek" and this was definitely the truth here in this account of Paul in Acts 18:1-8.

So, this past week, I had some trouble with the following section of the chapter - Acts 18:9-17.  I wrote out the passage on my yellow notepad, circled, boxed and highlighted words that I felt were important to look at more closely and then read the passage several times to internalize it.  I even listened to the passage on my Word of Promise dramatized CD set of the New Testament in the car while I was driving.

Well, I'm grateful for the Holy Spirit to teach me (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:13) and to see three more important aspects of this next portion of Scripture that we will learn from in tomorrow's exposition of the Bible.

This was just something that I wanted to share and hope that it may be a blessing to learn something new that may not have been observed before.



References
  • Meyers, R. (2006). e-Sword. The sword of the Lord with an electronic edge (Version 9.8.3) [Computer software].
  • Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Thank-you for your blog it was well worth the read. I found some information about youth pastors and how they are important but there is more to it than just them if you wanna check it out here is the link to the article. http://t.co/Ku3XWpM

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