2nd July 2023

Discipleship before Ministry

Passage: Mark 3:13-21
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Transcript

Tonight, we're going to be looking just a little at some of the organisation of the Church that we can see written in the New Testament. The reason why we do that, of course, is that we take God's guidance to us as to how the Church should be structured, is what we find in the New Testament, and we seek to follow suit to how they organised the early Church. It doesn't mean that everything will be exactly the same today because there are some significant things that have happened that means that the Church, we have now cannot be exactly the same as the Church in the first years of its existence. The reason for that was that there were apostles who were given a definition, a qualification, that they were chosen from amongst people who had been with Jesus before his death and after his resurrection.

And so, although the general word apostle can simply mean someone that's sent out, so you will find that word in the New Testament talking about the apostles of the churches. So, if anybody was sent out from a church, he would be an apostle of the churches. But the apostles that we're talking about are the apostles of Jesus Christ. In other words, the ones that in his earthly ministry, Jesus chose to be apostles. And so, let's be reminded of that passage. This is a favourite passage of mine, so some of you older ones, ones who've been longer here at the Church, will have heard from this passage through me many times, I'm sure. But the chief thing we're just seeing tonight is a spiritual principle in these apostles. And even though we can't get back and exist in the period of time before Jesus died, and we certainly can't be around at the time of his resurrection, nonetheless, we are people who can spot a principle in what was happening there with that choice of apostles from that requisite that does apply to us. So that's what we're about. And so, for a start, we'll go to Mark's Gospel in Chapter 3. And this is going to tell us about the choosing of the 12. And the choosing of the 12 will include, of course, Judas Iscariot, who there were two Judas's, but this Judas Iscariot is the one who betrayed him.

So, there's really only 11 of those who survive the demise of Judas. And he went up onto a mountain and called to him those whom he desired or wanted. In other words, the text is underlining for us that Jesus had something in mind and he made a pick. And he called to him. Now the scene is actually where there's a lot of different people who are hovering around Jesus, following him in his teaching. Some of them would be people who would be, generally speaking, disciples, because they'd chosen to follow Jesus and everywhere he went, they went with him and were a part of the touring group. A disciple back in those days was someone who followed a wandering teacher, a leader. And you got to be a disciple by leaving what you regularly did and walking around the countryside with the person who was discipling you. Now that's different from today. And that's something on another day we might go into as to what exactly makes a person a disciple. But back then, this is how people got to be a person who was discipled by some authority person who might be a teacher or a religious person or a philosopher.

Well, he went up to a mountain, he called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. This was a select group out of those who would be following Jesus, following him enough that when he went up on the mountain, they all went too. And from that, he called out a subset, and it says he appointed 12. So, there was no application papers. There was no sense of democracy in which they all said, let's choose who we think should be the chief apostles of Jesus. No, Jesus just picked them, whom he named apostles. So, this is certainly getting it very clear from what happened, that Jesus is having his way as to who are going to be those on whom he's going to found the church. And that founding of the Christian church on the apostles that Jesus had chosen, so the apostles of Jesus, is a very fundamental beginning to the Christian church from which you cannot get away. Since then, in church history, there have been varying interpretations that we humans have put on to this event and wanted to have a way that we could set up the church in slightly different choices from the different groups. But what happened originally was Jesus chose the first apostles of Christ. And then it tells us why he chose them.

And here it is that we have a spot where, and this is something that you, if you've been around the church long enough, you've heard from me on several occasions, that there is a spiritual principle. And the spiritual principle I'm getting at here is that there's something prior to being chosen as an apostle back then. And if you apply the principle to us today, it might be to something like being a missionary. It might be to being something like any spot of service that we do in the church. You know, if you talk to someone who's a Christian and you get to know them, sooner or later the topic will come up. And certainly, when we approach that October Wednesday at half past seven here in the Sanctuary for Annual General Business Meeting, it's relevant to the discussions about how the church is run and how the ministry of the church is achieved. Now, are you familiar, just as we're passing, by what the word ministry means and where it comes from? Think in your mind whether you know a definition of what is ministry.

You know, our society and the politics of the nation will use the word the ministry and so there's sometimes in some countries they'll have a ministry to the interior. And we make jokes, of course, that in our house there's a person who's in charge of the ministry to the interior and that's the person who does the regular cooking. That's you in your house, isn't it? She doesn't have to say. Okay, so but the ministry, idea of ministry, it has in it the understanding of serving. But what exactly is ministry? And when you talk about how a church is founded, our church will do it and most churches do, that they have some concept of what is the ministry. Actually, as time takes us through change, the concept of ministry is often gradually morphed into something different than what it might have been a half century earlier. If you had talked about the ministry back when I was a kid, which is a half century ago, you'd discover that it had a different meaning than what it's mean mostly in our churches today.

And often when I listen to the people who give the announcements, I don't know whether Joey is an example of that because he's fairly new at the job, but when we have some of the more original people of the church and they talk about our ministries, if you listen carefully, they mean something slightly differently than what I think Joey means. But ministry means service and if you take it in its most general sense, it means what any Christian finds to do on behalf of Christ. And so, if you're here in the church for a while, sooner or later, if you go to one of the family camps, someone might ask you, what have you found is your ministry? And I could ask you a question, what is it something that you've found that you do for Christ that he blesses you in? Not everybody does exactly the same. In fact, it's one of the teachings of the New Testament, that there are different gifts that God gives to the members of the body of Christ and they determine what ends up to be our successful ministry. It is true that you'll find people who are seeking to do something for the Lord that's not very successful.

Because usually it's because of one of these reasons that I'm about to point out, the chief one of which is as we watch and see verse 14, he appointed 12 whom he named apostles and then he gives a reason so that they might be with him. And he might send them out to preach, to have authority over demons, to heal usually is in there somewhere, I can't spot it yet. And he appointed the 12 and there's a list of them and we can work backwards and look at those 12 persons and see exactly what they did and that will define for us what an apostle of Christ was. But it is because they're going to do something on behalf of Jesus and be sent out by him and the apostello word means to be sent out and as I've explained many times it means sent out with clout. And if you look back into the use of the Greek word, because the New Testament was written mostly in Greek, if you look back in the word apostello, that's the verb I send out, or apostellos which is a noun, someone who is an apostle, I send out one, you'll discover that the use of the word, you go back further into Greek language even before the time of Jesus and lo and behold the things that were called apostles were usually delegations of sailors who'd have a general on board.

They were soldier sailors and they were sent out to take the authoritative military of the Greek nation to be a force somewhere in the planet. And an apostle was usually a ship full of soldier sailors with a general on board. You know the general was called a strategos which means strategy person and he would go with a fleet of ships and so an apostle back in the early years could even mean not just one ship with soldiers on but a fleet of ships who carried a military force to bear weight on some foreign place. Usually there's a battle. And in the battles that they had they were often between similar sets of ships with soldier sailors on board and they would clash at sea. But eventually that fleet of soldier sailors which was called an apostle and ascending out from Greece to be a military force landing in a foreign place if they weren't beaten off by the enemy doing the same thing and having a sea battle, they'd arrive somewhere and all the sailors would jump out with their swords ready and take the place.

So, you can see the word apostle wasn't just someone who's a nice representative, here's my card and you can ring me on this number. But an apostle was someone who came with military might to do the will of the people that had sent him or the persons who had sent him. And the general, the strategos, we get our word strategy out of that word, the general, he'd be in charge to exercise the mission that that apostolate or that apostle and company were sent to do. And it's only in the New Testament times that the word apostle got taken over to mean more one of Jesus' apostles or someone who's sent with spiritual authority because of the Christian church. We changed the meaning of the word by how we used it to talk about the 12 apostles. Now that's all very important to have in your mind because when you look and see it says he chose the 12 that they might be with him.

And the principle I'm getting at, although we can't go back and be original apostles, we certainly can't witness Jesus before his death and we weren't around in his resurrection, though you can do a good apologetic job on the reasons for believing in the resurrection of Christ and that's the best we can do in equivalence. But to be a person who is equivalent is to take the advice or the requisites required of these ones that Jesus chose. He chose them, they might be with him. And for three years, and the reason why I've been harping on this that we have got, and we're going through Matthew's Gospel in the morning, and that's why I'm picking from Mark just now, so it's not what we're doing in the mornings but it's very parallel to morning messages. But the reason why the Matthew's Gospel, as we go on through, I keep on saying, we're only up to chapter 4 or 5 now. There's 28 chapters. It is called the Gospel. You ought to get the hint that the Gospel's more than just a simple message about say a prayer and weep a few tears and get baptised and you're a Christian. It takes the whole 28 chapters.

For the force of the Gospel to weigh in on us sufficiently there will be good disciples. And what that Gospel is giving us an opportunity to be and to do is to be like these ones here who are following Jesus and he's picking from them ones particular that he is going to make sure that they're with him and he has a chance to disciple them at depth. And therefore, it is if you want to be really someone who's a Christian with clout, then you've got to spend time with Jesus in the very degree that you are with him and letting his very being rub off on you, letting his directions guide you, letting his word transform your mind. As you let that happen, so your ministry will turn up. It's interesting how people in Christian churches generally have somewhat of an idea of what is your ministry. But just because you take on some activity, I'm involved in youth ministry. That's telling me amongst the people that you do your ministry that if you just know how to lead in games, you just know how to be palsy-walsy with young people and you might have a personality that fits that, that doesn't make you really do much ministry. If you neglect the step that Jesus knew that his twelve needed, they needed the three years to be with him. And the sending out is what comes second and so the spiritual principle I want to underline tonight is one simple.

Discipleship is prior in need to apostleship. And we can't, I don't think there's any modern-day apostles to be frank with you. I know there are people who are experienced and have gifts to use who tour around and some of them say they're apostles. They just, they don't understand the Bible, which is rather indicative of the very thing I'm talking about. Because the way that you can get to know Jesus, the way that you can be with Jesus is that you spend time with him in his word. Nothing better than the Gospels. And a lot of the lessons we learn from people who became very effective ministers, a recognition after the fact that we put on their lives and their careers was that these people blessed an awful lot of folk and I have in my mind a whole list of people who are very effective in ministry. But if you go and get the volumes of their biographies, one of the most wonderful ways you can help yourself in terms of learning the depth of Christianity is to read biographies of people who went deeply into being a Christian. And you'll discover the same thing again and again and again.

In fact, someone recently gave me a book, I think they gave it to me, there's one I've now got in my library, I think someone gave that to me, there's no name in it so I can't get it back. But it is Mark These Men. And when you read it, it's a whole host of people in Christian history who made an impact. The impact they made was precisely because of the principle I'm here articulating that ministry or being an apostle is secondary or after the fact of being a disciple. And if you don't give Jesus the time to disciple you through his word, then your leadership and your apostleship or whatever it is is your ministry will never really happen much or worse still, you may be one of the people who's leading people in the wrong direction. And when it comes to religion, when it comes to Christianity, there's a broad range of how people understand what being a Christian is, and many of them are off the track. And there are many cults, and even those groups which I would say they're truly Christian because they do believe in Jesus the right way as the son of God and they do have an experience of coming to him personally.

Yet nonetheless across the broad range of Christendom, a large percentage of it are off the track somewhere. There are many cults that you can be lured into joining, and that's something to be aware of. I remember students that I met over in Wheaton Graduate School when I was studying there, and there were amongst them some young people, some girls who were friends who'd been in a cult and sorrowed at the wreck of their lives that made them, and they had to repent out of it and take a different tilt. And they were there at a very reputable Bible Training Institute, Wheaton Graduate School, in order to do this, to spend time with Jesus so that they might get it straight. And one of the difficulties with young people is that young people are quite easy to get to be enthusiastic. Because when you're enthusiastic, you can be lured into doing things in your enthusiasm while you're unaware there might be a group who have not exactly got the whole truth. And amongst those who are like that are ones who aren't proper Christians, but they've taken off without ever having done this.

And sometimes there are people who get into ministries with all sorts of little quirky quirks on it. To give you an example of one, Michelle and I were having a crusade across in West Australia, and in the area where we were having our model was to go somewhere for three or four months. We had called it an extended crusade as it went for that time. But there came a knock at the door, and a young or teenage girl, but an older teenage, I guess, came and wanted advice. And she'd been to one of our meetings, but she wasn't one of the local church. In fact, she went to a rather cultish group that met in the same area. And she had a friend, I suppose, who brought her along. She wanted to be counselled. And the thing she wanted to be counselled about was some of the teachings that that group had, which believed that the people who were doing the discipling had the right to make decisions about everything a person did. And one of the features of this group was that if you got discipled, there'd be someone telling you how to spend your money, and in her case, who you should get engaged to and marry. And she became alarmed because she didn't want to marry the person they stipulated she should.

But they'd taken the whole idea that I'm sort of talking about tonight, but they'd taken it too far, that if you've got a church, then you get people at the top who give the commands, and everybody does, and they go right down, and everybody's being told every detail of their life to do. And I had to explain to her that that's not normal Christianity, that in the Book of Acts, when the early churches described, people do things voluntarily. Even at times when there's a movement of the Spirit and people wanted to sell their houses and give the money to the apostles to be used for relief for the poor, not a bad thing to do, but it becomes a bad thing when you're made to do it. And you can be very easily, if you become enthusiastic, recruited into a group which have overestimated how much commanding of your disciples you're meant to do about their lives. The New Testament presents that it's a conscience thing as to what you give or don't give, and you don't let any group boss you around and say you have to. And even things that they might want to stipulate that are good things, they might be just little things.

Little things, I'll give you another example, that some churches, not so much these days because the times have changed, but back when I was young, there used to be ideas as to what you did on Sundays. And some churches had a lot of rules. You didn't go to the shops on Sunday because you took the Old Testament idea of Sabbath and applied it to the Sunday, and so you had to, I can remember as a child being dressed up in my little suit with short pants but a big double-breasted cloak, and my parents had to try and fit in with the local church who said that you weren't allowed to go to the shops on Sundays and you weren't allowed to play sport on Sundays. It might be a good idea not to let your sport take you away from church, so you're very rarely at church. That's the principle of not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as some people do, the Bible says, that you make it a priority that you don't let anything take you away from going to church. But don't make it a rule that if you happen to be caught down the beach and it's on a Sunday, there will be a whole lot of rumours going around as to not keeping the Sabbath.

In actual fact, theologically, that's a mistake because the Sabbath belonged to the Old Covenant and what we have as a New Testament teaching as to what is observing the Sabbath is not the same as the really strict rules that the Old Testament people had. I won't elaborate on that, but I want to say that it is the nature of religions that they can get going on rules and regulations and if they put too much authority into them or too much authority into the people who try and say what you've got to do and not do, then you get yourself into a legalistic pond that's not actually representative of New Testament Christianity. So not only keeping the Sabbath, but there was, when you were a kid, keeping in your Sunday best all Sunday. And the funny thing was that where we lived was a big place because Dad was in a college and there was a lot of grass and they had a lovely rose bed in the middle of the grass. Well, my parents weren't really that keen on the Sabbath, but they interpreted that you can kick the football over the garden, but you can't go down the park. And I remember gradually learning there's nowhere in the Bible that says you can't go down the park. And having to realize that you don't take something to be a legalism, it might be a good example of having to make some decision as to so you can do your best to be available for church, but the idea of being in that silly little suit with short pants and big double-breasted coat and kicking a football over the garden, that really was, that's what made me realize how silly that was.

And so, there's things to watch out for churches because they can get you in a bind by putting onto you legalisms that you won't find in the scriptures. If you do find something in the Old Testament, you're not going to get a ticket to Israel and try and find a temple where you can slaughter a beast and worship that way, are you? Because there's no temple that you can do it at at the moment. The Jewish religious people might get a new temple built. I wouldn't be surprised if they did achieve that, but there's no temple there that you can use. And if you made that a necessity from the Old Testament, you haven't woken up to the fact that to be a Christian you've got to interpret how you're in the New Covenant out of the New Testament and not under the Old Covenant from the Old Testament. Anyway, they're just little examples about the fact that there's nonetheless a spiritual principle behind how Jesus chose his 12 apostles and it was that they might be with him. And the general principle I'm articulating is learning to be a disciple at depth precedes your ministry coming about, whichever it is.

And so, he appointed the 12 and there's the names that are given. Now, how do the people who are the apostles fit in with the other people who did ministry? We can look through the Book of Acts, for example, which is the best place to look and see how the apostles and then gradually not only are there apostles and people but there comes a point in time when they pick some deacons. That's in Acts Chapter 6. And after a while there'll be a time when suddenly the text keeps talking about elders. So, you have apostles, you have deacons, and elders. And in terms of authority, it's actually the apostles, elders were the next authority and the deacons were one step down. And what is of interest, of course, is how the choice is made about those people. The apostles, we the humans, never picked. Jesus picked them and he picked them, these 12 that we're looking at. He does later pick the apostle Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles, whereas these are the apostles to the Jews or the apostles generally.

But there's something that Jesus did with picking the apostles. I don't think we pick apostles. Now, you know that I taught at the college for a while and in those 23 years that I was there, the issue as to are there or are there not modern-day apostles came upon the Australian churches. If you went back earlier, people sometimes argued about were there prophets? But then it came the time when the argument was, or the discussion was, are we to try and see that we get a fully-fledged leadership group to have apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers? And that list of five comes from a Bible passage. The Bible passage is in Ephesians 4. Are you able to look up another one I'll give you? Ephesians 4, and it's about verse, if you look for the start of verse 10, that'll be one verse earlier, 10 through to about, 10 to 12. Let's see, here we go, Ephesians 4, you're doing well. Oh, there it is, look at verse 11. That's the one I'm looking for. The previous verses is about Jesus ascending into heaven and something will happen after Jesus' death, resurrection, and finally after 40-odd days, Jesus ascends into heaven.

And when he's in heaven, he is given the role of having the name which is above every name. And God grants, God the Father grants to him to be the one who along with the Father sends the Holy Spirit down on the believing disciples of the day of Pentecost. And Jesus is the head of the church and he directs the traffic down here in the church so Jesus is the head of the church and then there are people down on earth who do things on his behalf. And some of the people immediately who are given a role in the church that Jesus was just setting up after the day of Pentecost were the ones that are listed here in verse 11. So, after he's ascended, he gives gifts to people. And the gifts are persons who have roles. The gifts are not a bundle of money to spend, they're not. The apostles are people. And there's the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, the word shepherd, where pastor means the same thing, and teachers. And they're the five gifts that Jesus gave from his ascension in becoming Lord of Lords and King of Kings and becoming the head of the church. So, he chose there being five roles that the first founded church has amongst it. Now the idea of apostles is that they're the ones that founded the church.

And we're told something that's the same book of Ephesians, we'll go to another verse, which is Ephesians 2 and verse 20. And Ephesians 2 and verse 20 is talking about how God, through Christ the Son, is now the head of the church, founded his church on earth. And this church, the passage is talking about in chapter 20, is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone. There's ministry everywhere where you find cornerstone churches. It's actually picking it up from Jesus being the cornerstone. And here, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. Now the first two on the list of five that's there in Ephesians 4 are talked about as being foundation gifts. Foundation. And what is more, they are amongst another big rock, which is the cornerstone.

And the cornerstone is Jesus, and it's using language of how back in those days when they built a building, the way they did the building to see that it would go out as needed and as designed, was to start with a central big rock that was put in one of the right-angle corners of the foundations. So, the angle is orthogonal, which means right angle. And this big rock will be very carefully hewed out so its angles were exact. Reason why? If it got skew whiff angles, so the building would build up skew whiff in a funny design. So, they get the cornerstone to be very exactly measured and it would be a big strong rock right in the corner. That's why it's called cornerstone. And everything else would be leaning on it and designed by it and it would designate the direction of the walls. It was one of the corners. And that was aided by the apostles and the prophets. So, the apostles and prophets in this metaphor is Christ as a cornerstone and one wall is going down with there being apostles who set the direction exactly. And the other wall, orthogonal, that means right angle to the previous one, are the prophets.

And because they put the order as apostle and prophets, most of the commentators, not all of them, commentators often vary, talk about the apostles and the prophets to be New Testament apostles and New Testament prophets. You'll find that there's much talk about the prophets of the Old Testament who give the direction as to what is the Word of God, especially in the Old Testament. And there was anybody who had a ministry of prophecy was therefore in the prophetic role. But here we're talking about someone in a particular role that is foundational for the church. And so, the apostles and the prophets are a special foundational gift. What actually do the apostles do? It's their teaching that the church is founded on. It sets the teaching of what it is to be Christian. And the prophets are with them. How do they join in that task of being in the foundation? It's that the prophets are the one with a special gift that they're not apostles, but they do also, like the apostles, write scriptures. And what you actually have in your New Testament is a set of things that have come, if not directly, then indirectly.

But all the writings that we have in the New Testament come eventually from either an apostle or a prophet. And that's how we have a New Testament. And because these are foundational gifts, if someone turns up and seeks to, and I get this every now and then at the church, someone rings up and after a while they reveal their credentials. They're named as Apostle Morgan. That was the real apostle down in Tasmania that I used to meet. He's probably passed away now, but Apostle Morgan. And it made it very interesting when you went to ministers' fraternals and he was there introducing himself as Apostle Morgan. Well, if he wrote anything, I didn't put it in the back of my Bible. I didn't add it to the scriptures. Because these are foundational gifts to set what we have as the New Testament. And although the church didn't always recognise which of its books that were on offer were written by an apostle or a prophet, that was one of the best tests they had.

And there are people like Luke, who's not an apostle, but he travelled with an apostle, Paul, and Luke wrote and things. We have the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, which are written by those folk. And they've got a good friend who's a... Oh, no, I'm joking. They've got a camp to go to, I think. Anyway, he gave apostles and prophets and evangelists and shepherds and teachers. What it means is that when you look at the Ephesians 4 list, you've got to recognise that some of those were foundational, never to be repeated. And some of them are to be replaced as the evangelists die out, new ones arise. I told the morning congregation of recently I went down to a meeting on the Gold Coast where there was a person called Will Graham who's going to come and have a crusade down there. I'm hoping they choose to put the meetings high enough up on the Gold Coast that we might get some benefit from it. If it's down the bottom, it's too far to go. But anyway, Will Graham, his actual name is William Franklin Graham III because William Franklin Graham I is Billy Graham. And Brisbane had a crusade in 2019 with his son, William Franklin Graham II, which is known as Franklin. He's known as Franklin. And this one, the third, he's a man about 40. I'm not surprised. I thought he'd be some young whippersnapper, but he's about 40. And he's William Franklin Graham III. And he was there to cheer up and to encourage all the pastors on the Gold Coast. It was a fantastic meeting to be at just for the enthusiasm that was happening there. And you could sense the Holy Spirit's behind the project.

So, if possible, I'm going to try and get it available that we can take people there too. Just depends where they hold it. But there are evangelists who do get replaced. And so, there's always some recent evangelist. And back in history, the same. You've got the era of Wesley, and you've got George Whitefield, and you've got people like Finney, and there's different styles of evangelists. But they die off, and then God raises up someone else in that gift because the gifts that follow down that list lower are replaceable all the time. Shepherds, that just means pastor. And those pastors, they end up retiring and then you'll get someone else volunteering to be trained to become a pastor. Teachers is someone who's not necessarily staying put in one place in one church but someone who has a ministry that's moving around. And they have a charismatic gift to teach. And usually if you have conferences like that, there will be at different places like Mount Tamborine, the style of person they invite to speak is somebody who has a gift that the teaching is helpful for Christians to grow. If you haven't been to a good convention for Christians at Easter time, you're missing something. You've missed out on a lot of good vitamins and nutrients that come at some of these conferences.

They're very pivotal in Christian growth. And sometimes when we have a family camp, the sort of person I look to try and get to come is someone who has a teaching ministry. And they teach how to be a Christian. And there's a great benefit. And one of the benefits you get, of course, is without my going off the track, one of the benefits is that you get to meet all the other Christians who aren't necessarily Baptists. And I think the Universal Church, it's a blessing to realize you're all part of it, the Universal Church. You don't just have to be in your own little group. And there are some churches who will have nothing to do with you, the people, if you weren't baptized in their pond. But you don't have to be like that. It doesn't mean that you can't have your own pond. It doesn't mean you can't know your own doctrines. But there is a joy in mixing with other people who might be evangelists and teachers and shepherds and learning from them even though they're not exactly on the same page in every single matter.

Well, these are the list of available persons that Jesus gives gifts to. And what is pregnant in the whole picture, what I mean is, written into the very nature of the whole picture, is you don't get to pick yourself. Just as in the Old Testament, the priests did pick themselves to be priests. It was something God did and he made tribes to do certain roles and you couldn't elevate yourself to be what you're not called to be. But it is Jesus, from his ascension on high, gives gifts to men and he keeps adding to the amount of evangelists and shepherds and teachers. How do I know, sitting here, it's not somebody or some people that along the way God is going to tap you on the shoulder? And tapping you on the shoulder will say, I know you're in this vocation and you've done this training and you've made yourself a teacher or you've made yourself a lopotomist or whatever. I don't even know what that is. You get the job that you're in. But he says, I want you to train for the ministry. There's that word again, ministry.

What is the ministry? And we've seen that ministry can be what you do for Christ. Everybody has a ministry. But there are some people who have a calling to leave their normal, usual, natural vocation that comes out of what your gifts are. You're just good at counting up columns of figures so you've been an accountant. Don't be an accountant if you're not. But that might be your vocation because of how you've been made humanly and what gifts, abilities you have. But don't think that that means that you can't be something special that God may call you to. I don't know if from tonight, and when I knew, I was going to get onto this topic, I have every thought of the possibility that someone sitting here now isn't having God beginning to awaken in you, that he may be calling you away from the vocation you thought you naturally fitted into and asking you to train for the ministry with a big M, I make it. There's nothing in the Bible that you've got to have big M's and little m's, but my way of distinguishing something that is ministry, and I notice when sometimes the announcements are given, someone giving an announcement talks about our ministry, they're going to start up again after holidays. But that's using ministry with a little m. And working in the youth doesn't mean that you're in the ministry that I'm now talking about where you have to leave what you presently do and make yourself available.

And what happens in our denomination, this is how we do it, if someone gets to be called to the ministry, is they explore that by going along and speaking to the people at the college and saying, I'd like to put my foot into the water, see whether this is of me, and to begin to be trained. What they do is that they assign you to a church or they let you be at a church where evidence they're looking for will arise of you having ministry gifts as in being a shepherd or a teacher or an evangelist. Don't expect them, at least not while I have any influence, to come to you and say you're an apostle. I don't think that there are any more apostles quite like it. You may have a prophetic gift like Stephen or Philip had daughters who prophesied. But why does the Bible say they prophesied? Why does it say they're also prophets? The reason is the role of being one of this list is prophet with, I think to my understanding, with a big P.

It doesn't mean that people who are not necessarily in a role to write scriptures and have it stuck in the back of our Bibles, of which there are none, but it may be that people do give prophetic gifts and they will exercise that role of speaking. And even though in the Baptist churches, 20, 30, 40, 50 years, we didn't officially believe in modern-day prophecies, but they kept happening. And often even in the Baptist college, there'd be moments when suddenly students would have a burden and go and speak to another student and say, the Lord put it on my heart to give you a word. That's how they used to say it. And they'd have a Bible verse and encourage you and they felt they had to say it. They were moved spiritually to give someone a message. We had coming and speaking here when I was going through my operations, Russell Hines, where Russell has a wife called Kay. If ever there's a woman who sometimes speaks and has a message from the Lord. And I heard her one day go down to the meeting of all the students and she really gave them a rocket.

They were doing something she didn't agree with and she got them to look at themselves and tell them they better back up. And they all listened because what she said had authority. I think she has that gift sometimes of saying and being in their house recently, they were giving me examples of some things that the Lord has led her to do. That is because she has every now and then a prophetic element, but that doesn't make her a prophet as in this list. And similarly, there are some people who are sent out. In fact, the word apostle is used in writing up literature. Who was the first missionary to Britain? Well, sometimes they call him the first apostle because he was sent to bring Christianity to Great Britain and he's got a name that you can read in the literature and if you look up an encyclopedia, it will include as apostles anybody who's sent out. But that's like apostles from the churches, not apostles of Christ. This list is a foundational list at its top. So, you have to draw a line under the first two apostles and prophets. The ones underneath that are ones that Jesus does replace. But it still doesn't mean that you can make yourself that or you can suspect that perhaps you are, but then you've got to have the evidence come and that's actually what the college does.

So they look, and back when I went through college, they put you in three different churches or two different churches in the early years, get back the advice from those churches as to what happened and there's a committee that decide whether or not you're going to get ordained and that committee would take all the word coming back from how you got on your churches and they would say, yes, the evidence is in that Christ has chosen you to be a shepherd or a teacher and so they'd proceed with you eventually getting ordained, which what ordination, that's the ministry with a big M, is about.

I need to report to you that half the people in Baptist churches these days has lost that clear understanding and different people have got different things they think getting ordained means. Some even think we shouldn't bother with it anymore. But I'm telling you one that goes back to treating this passage as the apostles and the prophets are foundational and the rest are not in the sense that they're going to be replaced as new ones are needed. Well, all of this is for the sake of us understanding that there's a spiritual principle that did apply to the first apostles, although I'm not going to believe you if you come and tell me you're called to be an apostle. I'll tell you frankly, I don't believe you because there are no more apostles. There's the Apostle Paul who was an extra one and I don't know what to make of Matthias who took Judas' place when he hung himself. But there's a set number that were chosen and they have to have seen Jesus before his crucifixion and also witnessed him after his resurrection that they might give evidence to the truth of the life, the death and resurrection of Christ, which is the core of the gospel. So that's enough for one night and I'm giving you a bit of a picture of where the authority lies and why there are some who are called to ministry that has authority because they're one of that list. And there are others who have other authority that comes because of the gifts that they exercise but it's not one of those unless God's called you. So that's as much for one night. Let's have a prayer.

Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the word of God and that the word of God doesn't leave us with a blank as to how we should organise the church. Pray for those groups where somehow or other it becomes a cult and people take on board authority that belongs only to Jesus. Help us to know how to recognise what Jesus says and to be prepared to fit in with how he leads. Bless our church and bless us as we seek to find how ministry is to happen. First of all, ministry when all of us find our gifts and secondly, ministry as to how leadership would have. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

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