Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. Acts 20:31
Have you ever seen a grown man weeping? It is an unforgettable experience. But a grown man can only shed tears out of deep, heartfelt bitterness. I remember a famous Congolese musician named Franco. In the early 70s this man lost a brother in a car accident. Franco composed a song to commemorate his brother’s death. He sang it in his local Lingala dialect. This song became one of the most touching songs in the 70s. Not because it was sang by Franco, but because of the depth of the feelings that were embodied in that song. The song bemoaned the fact of being left alone.
And it is said that ever since that time, the sound of mourning never left any of Franco’s songs.
That’s how powerful a grown man’s sorrow is.
And yet the Apostle Paul freely wept for the church. He wept for it out of sorrow; but it was sorrow in the Spirit. The love that Paul had for the church was a love that no earthly parent could never know for their child. Paul could not bear to imagine even one hair of the church being harmed.
That’s the kind of ministers that Christ left to look after the church. The 5-fold ministry is not about numbers; rather, it is about carrying the heart of God the eternal Father.
In order for a believer to go to heaven, he needs to be loved, to be prayed for, to be cared for and ministered to in many different ways. That’s called nurturing. Jesus left behind people who would do exactly that: hence, the 5-fold ministry.
We can thus begin to imagine the greatness of this man, Paul. Paul perfected ministry. And, in perfecting ministry, Paul defined the word “love”. He writes in Ephesians:
“25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Eph. 5:25-32
In these verses, Paul shows us the true meaning of love.
Let us look at something else that Paul writes in Galatians. In chapter 1 verses 6-8, he writes:
“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.”
Now, pause and think about that. Scripture here states clearly that there is no other gospel that can be preached other than the gospel that Paul preached! In 1 Corinthians 1:23, Paul talks of the gospel that he preached.
“But we preach Christ crucified…”
And here, in Galatians, he says that anyone who preaches a different gospel is troubling the church and is stands accursed. I will leave it to your imagination to work out what “trouble” it is that Paul is talking of here. That should not be too hard for anyone to do. Today, in particular, “trouble” is written all over the church. Why? Because God’s people have put aside the gospel of the cross and they are preaching a different gospel.
But Paul says, “If anyone preaches a different gospel than the one we preached to you, let them be accursed!”
The church is greater than anyone. It was greater than Paul himself. Which brings us to the question, What does Paul mean by the “we” in verse 8?
He means that even he had to be careful. Yes, Paul, the great apostle, had to be careful lest he mishandle the church! He had to be careful what he preached. God is no respecter of persons and Paul himself stood the risk of being accursed if he preached any other gospel than “Jesus Christ and him crucified”! (1 Cor. 2:2)
If every minister of the gospel could crucify his lusts and his desires and serve the church, it would be a blessing both to the themselves and to the church. But today everything is upside down.
Notice, in our key scripture in Acts, that Paul’s tears were to warn the church. Paul did not shed because there was no bread on the table. Bread is important; but the gospel of Jesus Christ is not about bread. But Paul’s tears were to warn the church.
What was so important about the gospel that Paul preached?
Paul was careful about the gospel he preached because it is the singular gospel that prepares Christ’s Bride, the church. How would you feel if, on your wedding day, they brought you a bride who was filthy, unkempt and thoroughly un-mannered in the ways of housekeeping?
I believe you wouldn’t touch her unless you were a madman.
But Jesus is not a madman. He wants a perfect Bride.
The gospel of the cross perfects the Bride of Christ. The cross crucifies the flesh and leaves behind a Bride without spot, and without blemish.
Finally, let us look at yet another example of how Paul cared for the church. In Philippians 2:19-21 he writes:
“19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. 20 For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”
Paul wanted to send Timothy to the Philippians because he wanted to “be of good comfort”. And Paul would only be comforted if he knew their “state”.
“State”. What a word!
I work with a team of four other pastors in my town. We meet every Thursday. Our motto is: “The only problem between us is the state of our hearts!”
Paul wanted to make sure the Colossians were well in their hearts. This was the only thing that could comfort him. So he sent them Timothy, the only man he could trust to truly care for their spiritual welfare.
Paul had other guys with him but he feared that if he sent them, they would go and become burdensome to God’s people. They would tell the church, “Your pastor needs a new car”, or something of that nature.
Timothy was the only person who would not say such a thing.
If faithful ministers were so rare even in Paul’s day, we can imagine how the situation is today. There are faithful ministers; but they are few. Many today look at the offering basket more than they look after the condition of people’s hearts. Many do not have the ability to deal with the problems affecting God’s people because they do not have the revelation of the cross in their hearts.
But Paul, and the few faithful men he had with him, had crucified their flesh and were thereby able to fully focus on the spiritual well-being of God’s people.
[Paul cared deeply for the spiritual well-being of God’s people]