The Distinctiveness Of The Church – Part 1

The Apostle Paul called himself “an ambassador in bonds” of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph. 6:20). What a profound statement! A man in bonds. A bondservant.

A bondservant is a person who cannot do his own will. Not that he does not have a will; but he surrenders it. He no longer does his own will now. On the contrary, he does the will of another, his master. The Apostle Paul fit this description perfectly. He did the will of the One whom he served, Jesus Christ, perfectly. That was why God gave him so much revelation. Paul could reveal things that we in our widest search could never dream of uncovering.

Paul was so faithful to Him who called him that he revealed things that we would never otherwise have known had it not been for his faithfulness as a bondservant. He revealed the deepest secrets of God. What we are about to learn today is without a doubt one of the most profound revelations that could ever grace the church’s sight. This revelation could only be revealed by one who was as faithful as Paul was.

Our lesson today is about the magnitude of the church.

Did you ever notice that Paul never wrote to a particular person in his epistles to the churches? In every epistle that he wrote, Paul wrote to the church as a whole. It is only to the Philippian church that he added,

“with the bishops and deacons” (Phil. 1:1)

In fact, let us take time to read exactly how Paul addressed his letters to the churches.

To the Romans: “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 1:7)

To the Corinthians: “Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2  Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s” (1 Cor. 1:1-2).

To the Galatians: “Paul… And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia” (Gal. 1:1-2)

To the Ephesians: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:1)

To the Philippians: “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (Phil. 1:1)

To the Colossians: “Paul… To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse” (Col. 1:1-2)

And to the Thessalonians: “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ…” (1 The. 1:1)

Wow! What an astounding revelation! We shall be expounding on this later, but, for now…

No “Apostle So-and-so”, or “Pastor So-and-so”; nor even “Deacon So-and-so”! Nothing of the sort. Just plain, simple “To the church”; and “To the saints”.

Is that not truly telling? I believe it is.

[In a remote homestead in the village recently, I met and befriended Jessica]

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The Eminence Of The Cross – Part 3

12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. 13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to the other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong. 2 Cor. 12:12-13

One day I had a dream. In the dream, we were at a sort of pier, and people were queuing up to pay for their tickets. Upon looking behind me, I saw Jesus standing right behind me. He had a sort of string purse, and He was trying to dig inside, looking for some money. But there was nothing inside.

In the dream, I turned around and, with tears in my eyes, I said to Him, “Jesus, I could never have thought that you would not be having money!”

At which I gladly took out my own money and paid for His ticket.

I woke up from my dream my heart pounding with excitement. This was one of the clearest dreams I had ever had, and in it I had unmistakably served the Lord in the clearest way possible! I stayed there in my bed for a while, awed by the wonder of it that dream.

The Lord, however, was not about to let me have a picnic with that. He quickly brought me down to earth by bringing a few scriptures to my mind.

“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 Jn. 3:17); and,

“14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (Jam. 2:14-17).

And, finally,

“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 Jn. 4:20)

The Lord showed me that loving and serving Him was all about loving and serving my brothers and sisters whom I dwell with down here on earth. Doing so pleases the Lord just as much as if I had served Him in person.

I have not written this story to show how cozy I am with Jesus. Only God truly knows about that (1 Cor. 4:5). Rather, I have written it to illustrate that when He was here on earth, the Lord walked in need, in spite of the fact that He had many women ministering to Him (Mk. 15:40-41). It was the kind of lifestyle He had chosen.

But, back to Paul. Let us have another look at that scripture.

“12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. 13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to the other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.” (2 Cor. 12:12-13)

This is the only place in the scriptures where Paul refers to the mighty works that were done through him by the Lord. Is that not so different from many modern preachers, some of whom have raised up ministries based solely on the mighty works they perform? Many years ago, when I was living in our neighboring country of Kenya, I saw a poster that said, “A man of miracles comes to Nairobi.”

The Apostle Paul would not have written such a poster. A man once asked me, “Who are you in your church?”

He wanted to know what position I held in church.

I told him, “I don’t know.”

He thought I was being arrogant. But he was trying to back me into the very corner that I was scrambling to get out of.

Today, many men of God want to be something. But neither Jesus nor the Apostles had that goal.

Anyway, to end. The Apostle Paul talked extensively about himself in all his epistles. But all the talk about himself was only about his weaknesses, or his “infirmities”, as the Bible refers to them. He talked only about the things he suffered for the gospel’s sake. That was his singular boast. He would gladly have boasted in his many accomplishments; but the Lord told him, “No.”

And now, in these scriptures, he reveals a mind-blowing fact about his life. That he gloried in his LACK. Paul worked in the church at Corinth in great want. So much so that the church in Macedonia had to come to his aid (2 Cor. 11:9)

Whilst great miracles and mighty deeds were done through him by the Lord to confirm Paul’s calling as an apostle; yet Paul would not glory in these. On the contrary, he was looking to and rejoicing at his material and financial lack in the midst of the Corinthians. In other words, what concerned him most was the cross working in him!

I don’t know about you. But my heart rejoices when I see the beauty of the cross. The cross was the singular revelation that drove Paul’s life. And today, you cannot afford to preach the gospel without mentioning Paul, so influential is his life.

The Eminence Of The Cross – Part 2

Firstly, in 1 Cor. 1:17-18, Paul states,

“17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

Notice what verse 18 is telling us. It is making a difference between being saved and taking up your cross and following Christ. These are two completely different things. In other words, you could be saved but not be under “the preaching of the cross”. You could be a believer who panders to his or her carnal lusts. One who is not fulfilling the righteousness of God in their lives. But the Bible declares that to those who have accepted salvation, the cross is “the power of God”!

In other words, when we are allowing the cross to work in us, the power of God is revealed in us! The power to do what? To defeat sin and to work the righteousness of God in our lives.

The Apostle Paul feared lest the cross of Christ should be made of “none effect” in the lives of believers.

Wow! What a mighty revelation!! But Paul goes even further and writes similar words in Philippians 1:29:

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake”.

The believer has two mandates. Actually, one – salvation – is not our mandate. The work of salvation has been wrought by God Himself; we were dead in sin, and God resurrected us in Christ Jesus. A dead person cannot resurrect himself, so we were not involved in any way in our salvation. Salvation is all of God’s grace (Eph. 2:5).

The singular mandate that we have been given is to crucify our flesh. God calls us, by the Holy Spirit that He has given to us, to crucify our fleshly lusts and desires. Galatians 5:24 puts it thus:

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

Again, this is of grace. According to His great mercies and love, God has decided to make us co-workers with Him. He makes us co-workers with Him in His fight against His enemies. And, pray, how do we fight God’s enemies?

It is not by screaming at the devil, as most believers have been taught. Nor is the believer’s victory in the thousand and one “steps” that fill most charismatic teachings.

On the contrary, there is only one way to defeat the enemy. It is by crucifying the flesh! God gives us His Holy Spirit for the express purpose of crucifying the flesh. Once we have crucified the flesh, we are done. Done, I said. That is what it says in Ephesians 6:10-20. Here, it is well documented how our spiritual warfare is waged solely on the battleground of the flesh. Just look at our armor (vss 14-18).

Truth. Righteousness. Peace. Faith. Salvation. The Word of God. Prayer. All these things require a denial of self.

It is all about crucifying the flesh! Once we crucify the flesh, the devil has nothing in us (Jn. 14:30). The devil fears a dead Christian! But when he meets a ‘live’ believer (i.e., one who is living for himself), the devil has a powerful weapon. We do the devil’s work when we fulfill the desires of the flesh.

Hence the cross. This mandate that we have from God – to crucify our flesh – was the reason the Apostle Paul held the cross in such esteem. You can see in his epistles that the singular thing that the Apostle Paul defended was the cross. Unlike many preachers in his time (but more so today), Paul did not boast in the great works that were done through him; nor in visions and heavenly visitations, all of which he had in abundance. On the contrary, Paul boasted

“in mine infirmities” (2 Cor. 12:5)

What does Paul mean by “infirmities”?

We shall see that in the next chapter of this series.

Your Heart! – Part 3

17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.

18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;

19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride foolishness:

23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. Mk. 7:17-23

The freedom that we have in the Spirit can only be accessed through the cross. The cross working in our lives, that is. Any freedom outside of the cross of Jesus Christ is of the flesh. True faith, whereby this freedom is found, states with the Apostle Paul:

“19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live to God. 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:19-20)

Notice the things that Paul says about himself. He is

  1. “dead”;
  2. crucified with Christ”;
  3. “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”;
  4. “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the Son of God”.

Paul’s life was crucified! Paul no longer lived! On the contrary, Christ lived in him.

What profound facts! What a profound place to be! What an entirely different lifestyle from the humdrum and tepid Christian lifestyle that most believers live. We are so carnal, so selfish and so self-centered, and therefore we are deprived of the beauty and the power of the Kingdom of God.

Notice Paul says that because he was crucified with Christ, therefore Christ lived in him.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”.

The two cannot exist together. You cannot be alive and at the same time have Christ live in you. If Christ is to live in you, you must go. That was the revelation that Paul received from Christ.

And yet, as we see here, the truly wonderful thing about Paul was that, as he says in Acts 26:19,

“I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision”.

It is all about obedience. Paul could have received the revelation and sit there and begin wringing his hands and mulling over how he would one day crucify his life. He could have said, “What a wonderful revelation! I am now going to lay me down and sleep and I can come back next year and look at this revelation in a different angle. After which I will work out how to approach the cross. Oh, what a wonderful revelation!”

But no. Not this man, Paul. When Paul received the revelation of the cross, he crucified his life. He crucified his life with Christ, to the end that the life of Christ might be found in his mortal body.

This reminds us of Abraham who, when God told him to circumcise himself and all the men in his house, the Bible says:

“23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him… 26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.” (Gen. 17:23-26)

On the very day that God told Abraham to circumcise himself, Abraham obeyed God and did so.

God is pleased when we obey Him instantly, as Abraham did.

The need for obedience is the reason why, in our key scripture, Jesus swoops in on the heart. It is such a waste of time, energy and resources to approach the things of God through form and the other natural avenues that we attempt to. The reason for all this preoccupation with these things is because we are nursing our disobedience. For this reason we will never arrive where God wants us to arrive at: His throne room of power, grace and wisdom.

But Jesus wants to help us to go directly to God and to receive from Him. We do this through obedience.

In speaking to His disciples about the heart, Jesus was in effect saying, “Circumcise your hearts; that is enough with God”.

When we fail to circumcise our hearts, we are just going round and round in the wilderness like the children of Israel. They did so for 40 years and in the end they all died there!

What a tragedy. But yet, again, what a lesson for us.

We are to look at our hearts. Forget about form. God’s attention is fully centered on our hearts.

If you take a toothpaste tube written “Colgate”, although the tube is beautifully and ‘loudly’ adorned with all kinds of writings and drawings, yet you know full well that the “Colgate” (the toothpaste) is inside. You have to squeeze the tube to bring out the real stuff – the “Colgate” toothpaste.

In the same manner, God allows many circumstances into our lives to squeeze whatever is inside us out. Whatever we have inside of us is the life that we have in us, and that is what comes out when God brings people and situations to squeeze us. And so it is that when we have not the cross working in us, whenever we are squeezed we give out the “evil things” that Jesus stated here. These are the things that you will find in an un-crucified heart.

evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride foolishness”. (Mk. 7:21-22)

Jesus said,

“All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (v.23)

What troubles God, therefore, is not the food we eat but, rather, on the contrary, it is when we have these “evil things” in us. These things are the result of a disobedient heart, a heart that does not want to be circumcised. A Christian who does not want to crucify his/her life.

But when we are crucified with Christ, whenever a situation squeezes us, we give out the aroma of Christ.

God be praised for the Apostle Paul who could write,

“I am crucified with Christ”.

These are the most beautiful words ever! Whenever the Apostle Paul went through a situation, he left behind the aroma (the knowledge, the grace) of Christ. He did not leave behind the putrid stench of the flesh.

Like fighting for his rights, etc.

We are to crucify the flesh. We are to crucify the rights of the flesh. We are not just to understand the revelation of the cross as Paul and the other saints understood it; we are to get ahold of our flesh and actually crucify it. We will never really get anywhere in the Spirit until we do that. The Apostle Paul said,

“I am crucified with Christ”.

Paul was a man on the move.

[The Apostle Paul: a man on the move]

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No Longer After The Flesh – Part 2

“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh…”

When it comes to boasting in the things of the flesh, we are pros. That is where the flesh is at. But God is so far removed from such things. In fact, the Bible says that God resides in the third heaven. Not the first, or second, but in the third heaven. So when the Apostle Paul came from visiting God in the third heaven, he had enough spiritual sense not to boast in the things of the flesh (as he thought he knew the flesh). He had enough sense not to say, “Oh, you know, I am so educated.” Or, “I was once a Pharisee!” Or, “I am a Roman citizen” (which was a tough spot for a Jew to gain in those days).

And yet, these are the things we boast of when we do not have the revelation of Christ in us. We hear preachers introducing themselves with the theological degrees they have attained in this world. But all such people are looking for there is worldly acclaim, nothing else. And it is so pitiful.

But, still, about Paul. Although he had the sense not to boast in his natural attainments, still he wanted to boast! He was looking for any way to boast. (The flesh is not an ordinary enemy!}

So now he looked for another way to boast. He decided it was okay to boast in the things he had seen in heaven. There appeared no harm there.

The long and short of it was Paul was tempted to boast. He says in 2 Cor. 12:7:

“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations…”

He wanted to boast, although whatever he would have said was true and of God. He had gone to heaven and seen things which it is lawful for man to utter.

But God would not allow it. So He put a thorn in Paul’s flesh. God put that thorn there to the end that Paul might not boast in anything else other than that thorn. He told Paul, “You want to boast? Boast in that.”

When God truly loves someone, He will not allow him to boast in the things of the flesh. Instead, God will lead that man or woman to boast in the things of his or her weakness.

That is the central message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is

“Jesus Christ, and him crcufied” (1 Cor. 2:2)

I love that. I love that with all my heart. I want to be weak, that He may be strong in me.

The Battle Against The Flesh – Part 2

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

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. 1 Cor. 1:25-31

Although we are particularly thick-headed, yet verse 25 is trying to tell us something. In the natural state of affairs, everything, man included, wants to go only up. We grow up, not down! But in the Spirit, we are to take the opposite route. We are to go down. We go down with Jesus. We are to accept to be weak and foolish in this world. Philippians 2:5-8 says:

“5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Now, we cannot hope to fathom the weakness and folly that attended Jesus’s actions here. The folly and weakness – the denial of self – that He exhibited here is incomprehensible to the human mind. But we are to follow Christ in worldly weakness and foolishness.

Notice, now, verses 27 and 28. Why would God choose the foolish things of this world, and the weak, and the base and despised? And why does the Bible expressly state that

not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called”?

Maybe God does not like problems. And, in the natural course of things, educated people and the rich and those with positions are, to say the least, a bit of a problem. They know things; they have things. It is very difficult for man to humble himself, so these kinds of people tend to be a bit dificult. Scripture declares:

“Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” (1 Cor. 8:1)

It is no secret also that most white people have a superior view of themselves against other races. Whether rightly so or not, that sort of thing ought not to happen in the church. But the cold fact is that the minute natural man latches onto something, he wants to use it to elevate himself. The Bible says so.

That is why, when the authority of Christ is not in the church, men bring titles and everything else of the world into the church. But where the authority of Christ is at work, no one wants to be recognized for who they are. Rather, God’s people will desire only to reveal the fruit of the Spirit through the cross working in them. This was the singular thing the Apostle Paul desired to have in his life.

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Gal. 6:14)

Paul counted anything he might have had in the natural as dung! In Philippians 3:7-8 he writes:

“7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ”.

Paul had a lot to lose in the natural. But he realized that these things are of no value in the Spirit. But the fruit of the Spirit matters!

Is God really against the wise of this world, and the moneyed and them who have positions?

The answer, unfortunately, is yes. God wants the people He has called not to glory in these things. God does not want you waving your Ph. D in church. Go throw that in the dustbin and bring your circumcised heart into the church!

God wants us to glory in the things of the Spirit. But the flesh craves the glory of this world.

But… are we really weak when we accept to follow Christ in His weakness?

No, we are not. The Bible says of the exact moment that Jesus died on the cross,

“51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” (Mat. 27:50-53)

Great power attended Jesus’s shameful death.

It is the same with us. Great power attends a righteous man’s death. In weakness, we release great power in the Spirit. And in worldly folly, we become wise in the Spirit.

It has been one of the greatest privileges for me to minister amongst people who have little worldly education or wealth in central Tanzania.

It is wonderful to see how quickly faith builds up in such people, and to see the humility of their hearts.

[One of the purest sources of joy in my life is working with these humble men of God]

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Of Apostles And Prophets – Part 3

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,

2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,

4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit Eph. 3:1-5

Finally, let us look at the New Testament. In John 21:18-19, Jesus told Peter,

“18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.”

First, let us consider verse 19.

I used to think Jesus was talking about Peter’s physical death. But scripture here is talking about how Peter would glorify God. It is so banal to think of Jesus telling Peter, “When you grow old, someone will come, bind you and go kill you” even if Jesus wanted to communicate such information to Peter.

But scripture is no ordinary writing. So there must be something more to what Jesus was saying to Peter. I believe He was telling him, “You will glorify God by dying to self. By surrendering your life (and rights) and allowing the crucified Christ to fully live in you. You will glorify God by dying to your own selfish ways and desires.”

Which brings us to Jesus’s words in verse 18:

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

Who is this “another” that Jesus was talking about?

It is Jesus Himself. We are to be prisoners of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Which brings us to the Apostle Paul and the great work that he accomplished in the Spirit.

Remember that Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:10:

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Paul says that he labored more than the other apostles. That word, “laboured” as we shall see below, could better be translated “loved”. But Paul does not give himself credit for his accomplishments; on the contrary, he credits the grace of God. In clearer terms, Paul had more grace than the other apostles.

So how did Paul come to have more grace than his counterparts?

It was because he allowed himself to become a bond-slave of Jesus. He allowed Jesus to bind him hand and foot and to lead him where he would not want to go. In Ephesians 6:20 Paul says:

“I am an ambassador in bonds…”

Bonds are not the most comfortable thing for one to be in. Which means that Paul was forced into that situation. Willingly? Yes. And this brings us to 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

“7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

The truly ‘abnormal’ thing about the Apostle Paul was that he realized that there was only one way to “labour” for God effectively. And by laboring for God it meant loving the church. Why do you think Paul wanted to be “strong”? It was for the sake of the church. Paul loved and cared for the church with everything that he had in him! And Paul realized He had to surrender self. He had to die to self in order to truly love and serve Christ’s Body, the church.

When Paul realized this, he happily stretched out his hands and allowed the Lord to bind him. He gladly gave his flesh over to the cruel messenger to be buffeted. And thus it came to be that Paul got filled to the brim with the grace of God. Grace to enable him to fulfill his desire to love the church as Christ loved it.

You can see the grace of God in Paul’s life written all over his epistles and in the Book of Acts. He was full of humility, compassion, and love towards God’s people.

And then, again, he was full of Godly wisdom. He could bring the revelation of the cross right up to any level you asked him to (1 Corinthians chapters 1 -4).

But Paul could also compassionately tackle issues which did not have a direct answer from scripture. He would therefore write the Corinthians,

“Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me… I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.” (1 Cor. chapter 12)

What humility! And what Godly advice without a “Thus saith the Lord!”

That was the Apostle Paul. Fully surrendered to God, and fully fulfilling the purpose and calling of God upon the church, which was to love it.

That’s who a true apostle is. He is one to whom the cross is revealed, to the end that he may love the church as Christ loves it.

[I do not know many things. But I do know I love the old Hillsong songs]