The Apostle And Unity In The Church – Part 1

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God… Rom. 1:1

I often joke with my family. I tell them, “I am the most important person in this family. In fact, I am so important I don’t need to do anything else apart from just being about. My presence alone here is work enough!”

That might be me joking; but the position of fatherhood within the family is more important than we think. A household without a father is like a body without a head. It is uncontrollable. The father is the authority figure in the house. A household that has no father has very little authority – and, hence, little order or discipline – in it. This is by no means a love-less attack on single families, no. But we must uphold God’s truth despite the odds we encounter in this life, for God is in heaven.

The scenario I have just described above concerning the family is the same with the church. In the same way that the father is of paramount importance in the house, the ministry of the apostle is the most important ministry in the church. For this reason, the Apostle Paul writes:

“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles…” (1 Cor. 12:28)

Why is this ministry paramount in the church? It is because this ministry is it that establishes the fatherhood of God in the church. The church is a household; and as we just saw there is no household without a father. The Bible talks of

“14 … the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:14-15).

In this scripture, the Swahili Bible substitutes the word “family” with “fatherhood”.

There are therefore fathers, and we cannot all be fathers. We thank God that we have a Father, God Himself. But God, through His manifold wisdom, has in Jesus Christ placed in the church men to represent Him in the office of fatherhood. These men are called apostles. Notice it is men, not women. There are no women in the 5-fold ministry. Women can work in other offices in the church, but not in the 5-fold ministry. Jesus set the precedent to this during His earthly ministry. There were no women among the 12 apostles that He chose.

The reason for this separation is because the 5 ministries encapsulated in the 5-fold ministry are ministries of authority; they represent the authority of God. Now, the Bible forbids a woman from exercising authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:12). God could not therefore break his own rule by allowing women into the positions of authority that the 5 ministries of the apostle, prophet, pastor, evangelist and teacher carry.

This representation of God’s authority by men working on behalf of God, is evident in Ephesians 4:11-13, where Paul writes:

“11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”.

When these ministries are in the church, the church can therefore become a true spiritual household. There is no longer any carnal independence because the church is now a family and each person is subject to one another in the fear of God. And the authority of God can be felt by God’s people because the father – the apostle – is there. This authority disciplines us to become true spiritual children, walking in the righteousness of God. This, in turn, creates the bond of unity that makes the church to become a body, the Body of Christ.

Today, the church is there all right; but it is a different church than the one God intended. There is little discipline in the church, and it is deeply fragmented because there is no authority. Today, any man can arise and do whatever seems right in their own eyes, all in the name of the Lord. There is no one to point the way; or to put a “STOP” sign where one is needed.

So, who is the apostle? Is it any man who declares himself to be one?

By no means, no. The apostle does not just declare himself to be an apostle. On the contrary, he is declared to be an apostle both by the ministry he carries of revealing the cross of Jesus Christ. This means he reveals the crucified Christ. And, pray, how does he do that? He does so by allowing the cross to work in his own life. This fact is of primary importance. The apostle is a man whose life has been crucified with Christ; he no longer has a life of his own. Rather, he is a bond-slave of Christ in the Spirit.

Secondly, he preaches no other gospel other than the gospel of the cross.

That was how Paul and the other apostles were declared to be apostles. Firstly, Paul states in 1 Cor. 1:22-23,

“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified…”

Today, the most important preacher is the miracle-worker. Not so in Paul’s day, as is so clear in his words above.

Secondly, Paul show us something else that is of even greater importance. In 1 Cor 2:2 he declares:

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

When he says “I determined not to know” he is talking, not just about his preaching, but his lifestyle also. Paul lived a crucified life among the Corinthians and through his life that was crucified with Christ he revealed the power of the cross to the church. He revealed the power of the cross in his life first!

There are many apostles today; but there were many apostles also during the Apostle Paul’s ministry. But there was a basic difference between Paul and these other men. In 2 Cor. 11:13 he writes:

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.”

Many of today’s apostles are exactly as Paul describes those of his time. They are false apostles. Why? Because they do not live the crucified life. They cannot reveal Christ because they have no revelation of Christ in them. Rather, they have a ‘revelation’ of the flesh. They live for and serve the flesh. Chief among these are the prosperity preachers.

But Paul had a revelation of Christ in his life. His life is a testimony to that. Let us take time to read Paul’s defense of his apostleship.

“23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? 30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” (2 Cor. 11:23-30)

That is the testimony of a man who has seen the crucified Christ in his spirit. Any other ‘revelation’ will produce something else.

For a lack of a father, therefore, the church today is fragmented. There is little discipline, order, love or unity within the church. In fact, we have gone to the extent that we glory in the non-existence of these things. We rejoice in our divisions, feeling proud of our denominations or groupings somehow thinking we had a monopoly with God.

So what’s the answer to this problem?

The answer is simple. The church must recognize and allow the true ministry of the apostle within its ranks. It must relinquish the position of the father to the true church fathers – men who have a revelation of the crucified Christ in their hearts and who manifest this revelation through living a life that is crucified with Christ, just as we have seen the Apostle Paul had. These men may be few, and few indeed they must be. But they are there even now, lurking somewhere in the background, just as John the Baptist told the Jews:

“26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” (Jn. 1:26-27)

They are unknown, yes. Yet, when our spiritual eyes are open and we see what we as the church need (and what we do not need), we will turn and we will see them. And when these ministries have been given their rightful place in the church, then true spiritual healing and growth will come into the church, and the church will be a true abode of God, bringing joy to His heart as He beholds her order and righteousness.

[The Great Rift Valley]

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It Is Of Grace!

8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

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.

11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. 1 Cor. 15:8-11

My wife and I arrived in Arusha this afternoon, where we will spend the night before departing tomorrow for Nairobi to attend my sister-in-law’s funeral. As I was relaxing in my room and savouring the cool Arusha weather, my spirit calmed down and I found myself reflecting on an incident that had taken place not too long ago.

A travelling brother had passed by my house and he had the sweetest words of praise for my work in Singida. But in speaking, he said something that my spirit utterly repelled against. He attempted to compare me to some of the other brethren we work with. As he spoke, the Holy Spirit impressed upon my spirit the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. And the Lord was impressing upon me that nothing done on His behalf was about us; that, on the contrary, it is all about the grace of God in us.

Through the words of the Apostle Paul, I realized that we are simply… nothing. Paul himself used the same word about himself: in 2 Cor. 12:11 he writes,

“… in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.”

And here, in our key scripture, he says:

“… by the grace of God I am what I am… I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Concerning his ministry, Paul said, “not I”.

In fact, what Paul had to say about himself was interesting:

“8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (v. 8-9)

Paul has a very negative view about himself without the grace of God. He was “as of one born out of due time… the least of the apostles… not meet to be called an apostle”.

But when the grace of God came into His life, it began working and the fruit of that work became evident; and thereafter it is this fruit of the Spirit alone that would matter in his life.

It is not us. We cannot claim to do God’s works. On the contrary, it is God’s grace in us that works the works of God. If it is us, then whatever we are doing is not God’s work; it is our work, and it not only has no lasting value and it is bound to perish but, even more ominously, it is an abomination to God.

With Paul, it was so much about the grace of God that, even though he worked more than the other apostles, yet he said:

“Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.” (v. 11)

Wow! In other words, Paul was saying, “It is not about me. It is not about them. Rather, it is about the grace of God in us.”

Neither Paul nor the other apostles were competing against one another.

Any other viewpoint breeds pride and competition. It produces the works of the flesh. The Spirit of God is not involved in such attitudes and, therefore, even though there might appear to be a big thing going on on the outside, yet it is all a work of the flesh and people’s spirits are not edified.

We are free to do whatever God has called us to. There is no law against the doing. But it is our attitude that is everything, for we must always give place to and acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s working in us. And it is only through a revelation of the crucified Christ (as Paul had) that we can carry this heart and allow God to be what He desires to be in us – Lord of lords and King of kings, to whom alone be glory, honor and majesty.

[Does what you do bring glory to God – or to you?]

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Food For Thought

57 And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. Lk. 9:57-58

Y’know, I often think about Jesus’s words above, and I cannot imagine a grown man speaking such words in today’s world. Even in church, it would be anathema to speak such words. Had Jesus been in today’s hyper-materialistic church I know exactly what they would tell Him.

“You are lazy! Go work and put something over your head.”

And they would have turned away in disgust, muttering, “Stupid!”

They would do their best to shame Him.

But the Lord was about His Father’s business. He had no time, nor inclination, for the business of this world and the things that pertain to it and the flesh. Actually, Jesus did not speak those words because He needed a house. He was not soliciting for help. A house meant nothing to Jesus.

In Philippians 4:10-13 the Apostle Paul, who had the same heart as Jesus, writes:

“10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

“Not that I speak in respect of want”.

The spiritual men and women of old never lusted for the things of this world. When you are pursuing after spiritual things, you have absolutely no time for the trappings of this world, however ‘necessary’ they might be.

Isn’t a reproach for the church today that a person’s worth would be measured by what he owns material-wise? That a person with a car, a house, who has been to university, who is better dressed and who has all the symbols of this world upon him would be looked upon in church as someone? That’s the real shame – in the Spirit.

Jesus told Martha:

“41 Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Lk. 10:41-42)

We are so careful and troubled about many things: but one thing only is needful: to see into God’s spiritual Kingdom and to live the life of the Spirit.

The good thing about Jesus, of course, was that, try as you might, you could not shame Him. He knew what He was about.

Do you know what you are about in God’s Kingdom? When you think about how unacceptable Jesus’s words are in today’s charismatic church setting, there’s much food for thought there.

The Gospel – A Responsibility (Part 2)

And the children of the Levites bare the ark of God upon their shoulders with the staves thereon, as Moses commanded according to the word of the LORD. 1 Chr. 15:15

In his epistles in New Testament, the Apostle Paul brings the light of the gospel to bear upon this saga between God and David. In 1 Corinthians 1 verses 17-18, Paul writes:
“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.”
And, in chapter 2 verses 1-5 he writes:
“1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

Both these scriptures indicate that the gospel of Jesus Christ is to be carried in the lives of men. It is to be demonstrated in the lives of men, not in fabulous teachings and programs of men. In other words, we bear a tangible responsibility in carrying the life of God in us. God does not dwell in men’s teachings, ability, plans, or even traditions, however wonderful. Nor does God dwell in our beautiful songs and dance. These are today’s “new carts”. These are the things that Paul talks of when he talks of
“excellency of speech or of wisdom” and “enticing words of man’s wisdom”.
But, on the contrary, God dwells in the hearts of men when their lives have been crucified. The Bible tells us that. You cannot come up with a new program for God. God always depended, and He still depends on His original program: crucify the flesh!
Hence, the significance of the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross it is that comes to build an abode in our lives for God to dwell in. It crucifies the old man of the flesh and allows the character of Christ to be built in us. Actually, the gospel is all about character – the character of Christ in us. This is the significance of this account of David and God.
Today, we have men who are serving God. The manner that they are going about serving God is what concerns God most. God wants men to serve Him with their lives, not with their wonderful teachings and theologies. If you are not willing to give your life, you will only bring death to those you minister to.
It is for this reason that the Apostle John writes in 1 Jn. 3:18:
“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”
He is talking about serving God with our lives, not with our teachings or our programs.
And when the Apostle Paul says:
“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”;
he is giving an account of how he served God with his life. Paul’s life among the Corinthians is laid out here: it was
“in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”
You don’t find that in many men of God today. Today, many men of God will demand this and that. I recently heard of one who would not sleep in a hotel room that does not have air conditioning. I don’t see much weakness, fear or trembling there. Just someone who wants to be treated super-special.
But you can read a lot about how Paul demonstrated the character of Christ in his life in 1 Thessalonians chapters 1 through 3.
Where is the responsibility of the cross in God’s people’s lives today? When David put God’s ark on a new cart, where were the priests and Levites? Where was Israel’s responsibility? God punished David and the entire nation of Israel when they thought to carry His ark on a “new cart”.
In the same manner, God will punish the church for thinking to carry the gospel through teachings alone. Teachings and programs, however “anointed”, will only bring death to God’s people if their carriers have not crucified their flesh with Christ. Today, there are all kinds of wonderful teachings going on in church. But God is looking for the crucified life.
I hear there are even so-called new age teachings… “God will take you into a new dimension”, etc.
Look, there are no “new dimensions”! The gospel has only one dimension: Jesus said if any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me. It is only when we carry the gospel of Jesus Christ in the right manner by denying ourselves that we can please God and bring Him into people’s lives.

Looking to Others’ Gain

Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. Phil. 4:17
If you gave me a gift or came to my help in any way, I would feel extremely thankful to you. The reason for me being grateful is because you would have gotten me out of a jam. In other words, I would be thankful for me.
But, clearly, it was not so with the Apostle Paul. When the Philippians came to Paul’s financial and material need, he thanked them. But he thanked them, not for his sake, but for their sake. He had already stated:
“11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (vs. 11-13)
The Apostle Paul was a true servant of God. He looked not to his own profit, but to the profit of others. He looked to the profit of those whom God had placed him over. And, even more importantly, he looked to their spiritual profit, rather than their material profit.
“Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”
The “account” Paul is talking of here is the heavenly account, not an earthly one.
Most high-profile preachers today are looking to their own profit – material and financial. I have heard of preachers whose congregations have “rewarded” them with Rolls Royces, multi-million dollar mansions and even private jets. The reason these preachers grab at these “gifts” is because possessing them justifies the gospel that they preach – the prosperity gospel. They have, of necessity, to provide the prime example of the gospel that they preach through their lavish lifestyles.
How so noble of them!
In like manner, Paul also became the paramount model for the gospel he preached. But, praise God, Paul’s gospel was not the prosperity gospel. On the contrary, it was the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ. His was a gospel that required total denial of self.
Total denial of self… This reality tops the list, of all time, of things that are easier said than done, by any man anywhere on earth. The fact that Paul could deny himself to the extent of not wanting to receive things from his flock for his own gain speaks volumes about his spiritual character. That is not what a natural man would do.
But, even more astounding is the fact that he saw and desired for the Philippians far into the Spirit, that their fruit might abound in the Spirit on account of what they did in the natural.
“Not because I desire a gift…”
How so telling of the character of a true man of God! But, even more significantly so,
“… but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”
Where are such men of God? Even amongst we who have shunned the false gospels of worldly men, where are the men and women who can run such a distance in the Spirit? Whom among us can deny themselves to such an extent? Where is such love to be found?
Paul’s words are rare indeed in this present world, and they present us with a challenge – a challenge to know and to walk in the true revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ.
Then, the church will have a reason to praise and thank God for the rare gift that such men and women are to the church.

To Carry God’s Grace

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. 1 Cor. 12:7-10
Being a team leader is not easy. People will try to bludgeon you to death if they can because people naturally hate the top dog.
My wife works for a certain organisation and she is the head of the particular area that she works in. One time, for a considerably long period of time, she would come home and she would tell me the most harrowing tales of how some of her fellow teammates were treating her. It appeared as if my wife’s organisation had deliberately selected the most bellicose of its workers and put them on her watch.
The most indigestible of these assaults were a couple of workers who would always talk her down like she just got out of the crib. Worse, they tried to discredit her and prove how incompetent she was. This hurt her to the core.
They tried to hurt her as much as they could. They would ask her things like, “Are you really a pastor’s wife?”
Somehow, I knew these things were happening because, apart from what my wife told me, I noticed that whenever the company car dropped her at our house, no one else would get out, even to say ‘Hi’ to me, although they knew me. Immediately she got out, they would roll up the windows and drive off with the tyres squealing.
Naturally, this state of affairs hurt us both terribly. It was a real trial! Many times I would toy with the idea of allowing my wife to retire from her job. But then we needed the money. So we barricaded ourselves in prayer and in the encouragement we got from God’s Word. I would encourage her to forgive them – even as I myself struggled with the need to forgive! It did not seem as if the ordeal would ever end. How could it ever end? My wife’s fellow workers had bound themselves to engage us in a permanent state of war.
One day, a senior official from their organisation came from Dar es Salaam to do an ‘audit’ of my wife’s team’s performance. He stayed with them for a week. During the course of his stay, whenever he asked my wife about anything, she always had it at her fingertips. So much so that in one particularly compulsory and sensitive procedure, the official told her he would not be needing to go through it with her.
“I trust you”, he told her.
He told my wife a few other things also. He told her that she was the only team head who had everything that he needed at hand and who understood perfectly well what she was meant to do.
At the end of his audit he called the team together. He told them, “I have been observing all of you. Your team leader is the most competent person I have met since I began assessing our organisation’s teams. I therefore direct you to consult her whenever you do not know how to go about your responsibilities.”
Just before he left, he assembled them together again and let each one of them know exactly how they had performed. Their evaluation was determined on a percentage scale, and my wife’s had broken all bounds! Moreover, none of her teammates had come anywhere near hailing distance of her.
It requires a revelation from God to see the light at the end of the tunnel. On the day the official bid my wife’s team goodbye, I was home tending my chickens behind our house when the company car drove up to our house. The gate opened and I heard my wife excitedly inviting someone home. I straightened up to see the very guy who had been treating my wife like trash come walking in through the gate and towards the chicken coop. I had never seen the fellow get out of the car and he had never greeted me in his life. I thought something must be wrong for this guy to get into our compound. But he came straight up, greeted me warmly and allowed my wife to lead him on a tour of my chicken ‘farm’.
In the evening, after we had had our supper, I asked my wife what that was all about. She told me she did not know. She was as much surprised as I was, she told me. But, she said, immediately the assessor had given the team his report, she had noticed a very unexpected change in her colleagues’ attitudes. Instead of an increase in animosity, there was an air of acceptance and respect towards her.
I told her, “God has worked a miracle in their hearts.”
That state of affairs has continued to this day. One day, one of my wife’s tormentors left for a long furlough in a far-off region. We were surprised when she called my wife and asked us to check in on her children.
As I said, it requires a revelation from God to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Neither I nor my wife, not even in our wildest dreams, had ever thought things would end this way.
God said to the Apostle Paul,
“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
In other words, God was telling Paul: “You cannot have my grace without that thorn in your flesh. Unless you allow your flesh to be mocked and destroyed, you cannot have my grace; you will be of no effect in my Kingdom!”
Beloved, what would you rather have? Is it a comfortable, trouble-free life that you desire? If that is the case, you can forget about being of any use in God’s Kingdom. Flesh and the Spirit cannot work together.
1 Peter 2:21 says:
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps…”
Notice the Bible does not say that Christ did not suffer; on the contrary, the Bible says that the example that Christ left us is one of suffering – suffering in the flesh. It was the same thing that Paul suffered: thethorn in his flesh.
The best thing that can happen to anyone that aspires to the high calling of God to become a man or woman of the Spirit; the best thing that can happen to such a person is to have a thorn in their flesh. The thorn is one of the few things that we see this great man of God, the Apostle Paul, rejoicing in in the scriptures:
“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.” (1 Cor. 12:10)
Beloved, as a child of God, what is it that gives you pleasure? Meditate on this, and may God show you the road to true spiritual happiness, a thorn in your flesh.

Paul – A Father To The Churches (Part 1)

1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:

2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.

3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:

4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.

5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.

6 Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us.

7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

8 Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord.

9 Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.

10 Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus’ household.

11 Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord.

12 Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord.

13 Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.

14 Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them.

15 Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them.

16 Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you. Rom. 16:1-16

There are people, and these are mostly men, who believe that a father’s main task is to bring children into the world; in other words, to reproduce. The minute he brings a child into the world, this type of man begins preparing for his next major assignment – to bring in another child.

Another group of men – and these are the ones in the majority – consider their job done once they have provided for their families. In fact, most men feel a great sense of accomplishment if they can do this. After they have provided for their families, they go gallivanting.

Nothing is wrong with doing either of these things, minus the gallivanting, of course. As a matter of fact, producing children and putting food on the table for your family are things that are extremely important. But there is another aspect of fatherhood which makes these two to fade into near-oblivion. This facet of fatherhood is… relationships. A father might as well not be a father if he has no relationship with his children.

But, again, there are fathers who fail miserably in their relationships with their children. They have relationships with their children all right, but they only know how to scold their children and to tell them how awful and incompetent they are. They have not one good word to say to their children.

But Paul was not like that. Paul was a true father. Paul loved the children he had begotten in the Spirit – God’s people. This was because he was a man of relationships. The Apostle Paul was all about relationships.

I cannot contemplate the price that Paul paid to have the kind of relationships that he had with the people that he ministered to. It was born of love – the epitome of love.

We see here that Paul took time to know the people he ministered to. Apparently, when he went to the churches, he did not stay in hotels or guests houses. He lived with and among God’s people. He interacted closely with them. He wove his life together with theirs. He wanted to and he came to know them, and he became a part of them. Paul got to know their littlest problem – and their every trait. In that way Paul became a true father to the churches.

[Below: Allow me to introduce to you my super-special friend, Jemimah. I have many super-special friends; but Jemimah just has got to be extra-super-special. I got to know Jemimah through her grandfather, who is one of our pastors here in Singida. Jemimah’s looks are worth a thousand words and, despite her cool demeanor in these photos, she is as lively as they come]