Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.
We tend to forget just what an apostle is, or for that matter, what a prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher is. None of those designations are honors or merit badges, they are gifts by God to the Church, the Body of Christ, and they have specific functions and purposes. Ephesians 4:11-13 is appropriately famous for listing those “ministry gifts,” as well as giving their overall purpose of “preparing God’s people for works of service.” That said, we still have trouble grasping the office of apostle in particular. These days some church groups use “apostle” rather freely as a title in their hierarchy, and some “free-lance apostles” appropriate it as a title for themselves. Both of those are mistakes. In the first place, the word itself means someone who is sent, an envoy with a specific purpose. It is not at all a matter of a “corner office” or the like. Paul, who was certainly not shy about his own commission as an apostle, here specifies the purpose of that commission: the faith of God’s elect and knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness. In other words, if his activities were not contributing to faith and knowledge of the truth, then his title was completely empty. However, we know that Paul was true to that commission indeed, to the point that half the New Testament came from his pen. It’s not that every “5-fold minister” is to be a Paul, or even every apostle, but that every commission is given by God to build up the Body of Christ in specific ways. Each individual’s commission is going to be different in various details, but no commission is given simply for the sake of the title.
I am in a somewhat ambiguous situation as to titles, because I am an American pastor in Japan, which makes people assume I’m a missionary. That’s not a term I shy away from, but I have no sending body, so there is real question from a semantic standpoint whether it is appropriate. That said, I do believe I was commissioned and sent here. While I was in seminary we were tangling with the Personnel Department of a major missionary agency, and they eventually made it clear they would never appoint us because of our Charismatic faith and experience. During that process, my wife said, “I’d rather be “Lord sent” than “Board sent.” I think that encapsulates it pretty well! However, I can’t say I’ve always kept the purpose of my commission in proper focus. There have been periods when I was here because I was here, and that was just about it. That’s hardly being faithful to my commission! I need to remember that I am here for the sake of the faith of those whom God chooses, teaching them God’s truth so that they may be equipped to live lives pleasing to Him. If I get distracted by anything else, particularly by my own comfort or pleasure, then I have abandoned my commission and am certainly worthy of no honor. I need to be consistent in seeking and applying God’s wisdom and strength to fulfill the tasks He has for me, for His glory.
Father thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the beautiful time of ministry You gave me last night, particularly when I have been so wrapped up in things involving Cathy’s health. Thank You for being so faithful to use me, though I can’t make anything happen on my own. May I be fully available and yielded to You at all times, so that all of Your purposes for me may be fulfilled on Your schedule, for the blessing of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!