If Paul Were To Live Today
by Job Anbalagan
He would not tolerate the tendency of these pastors that condemn their sheep from pulpits instead of praying for them and teaching them with tears.
Paul’s personal care and love for a single person!
Though Paul wrote epistles to many churches, he wrote epistles to individuals like Timothy, Titus and Philemon. This shows the apostle Paul cared for individuals in the same manner as he cared for the churches of God.
These days, we find that many evangelists and other ministers did not care for individuals because they have had their big establishments where they engaged staff to scan their letters, emails, etc. The staff would decide for themselves which letters or emails should be put up to their boss. If they received letters enclosing cheques or offerings for their ministries, the staff would immediately acknowledge such communications and inform their bosses; then their bosses would sign the replies to such donors. If the staff received letters seeking financial help or any other prayer request, they dispose of such communications at their level because probably they have received such instructions from their boss. Then the staff on their own send out printed letters with some standard messages to those who have sent merely prayer requests.
In his epistle to Philemon, Paul reveals his love for this single person who had refreshed the bowels of the saints including himself. Philemon ministered to many saints of God including Paul for which Paul acknowledged with gratitude the ministry of Philemon “toward all the saints”(Vs.4&7).
Paul in his epistle commends his son in Christ, Onesimus, whom he had begotten in his bonds. Onesimus, a servant of Philemon, had defrauded the latter and forsaken him. Then Onesimus was saved through the ministry of Paul. Paul now sends him to Philemon beseeching the latter to accept his spiritual son, “not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh and in the Lord?” (Vs.16). Paul asks Philemon to count “me therefore a partner” and to “receive him as myself” (Vs.17). According to Paul, Philemon must receive Onesimum in the same manner as he received Paul. In other words, there should not a different yardstick of treatment for a person who had defrauded a minister of God like Philemon.
Paul tells Philemon that he was prepared to restore to him whatever was defrauded by Onesimus. “I will repay it; albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides” (Vs.19). According to Paul, Philemon was dearer to him than his money.
How much Paul loved Philemon and Onesimus! Paul, though in his prison, chose to write a personal letter of comfort and of edification to Philemon, a single person by his own hand.
Today, the establishments of various ministers stand in the way of their reaching out to the individual sheep whom they are supposed to tend for. In fact, the establishments with all its modern communications have not brought these ministers very close to their sheep but have separated them from their fellowship. The establishments of such ministers have become corrupt these days because the Babylonian system has pervaded their establishments. They are more interested in selling their products to their sheep.
The ministry of the Holy Ghost is perfect but the establishments through which they perform their ministries have become corrupt.
If Paul were to live today, he would have raised up many Ephaphras’s, Timothys, Philemons, Titus’s, etc. Paul would have thus raised up an army of soldiers of Christ in every town, in every nation, in every continent, by making use of the modern transport and communication facilities. Paul or his fellow laborers (and not any “subordinate staff”)would have been always available to the people they ministered. They would not be needing any staff to dispose off the communications they received from the people to whom they ministered. Each communication would be read and personally attended to. No standard reply would be sent to them. Thesedays, we find the T.V. ministers place their hands on the bunch of letters received from the people and pray without opening these precious letters sent to them.
Paul in his epistle to the church of the Thessalonians firstly reminds them of the afflictions through which they received the gospel and of the spread of the gospel through them to the other places like Macedonia and Achaia. He appreciates them, saying “ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia” (I Thes.1:7). Through his apostolic ministry, the church of Thessalonians became a witnessing church. He then proceeds to tell them how he suffered for the sake of the gospel; how he loved them.
If Paul were to visit our churches and to inspect our ministries today, he would find our churches and ministries as money making business establishments; he would call our ministers as hypocrites because they quote from his epistles but do not follow the same. The churches of today are not witnessing churches because these churches are not involved in evangelism. Where are the ministers of God like Apostle Paul who would transform these churches into the likes of the church of Thessalonians?
In I Thes.2:4-6, he tells them that he and his co-workers were “allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.
For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness: God is witness;
Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ”.
God has to allow a person to be put in trust with the gospel. God tries a person for His ministry and then entrusts him with the gospel. It may take years for God to entrust that person with His ministry.
Paul preached the gospel to the Thessalonians not “in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance….” (I Thes.1:5).
Preachers preach the gospel in flowery languages and exhibit their oratory but not in the power of God. Oratory takes the place of the power of God. Gospel is preached from the church pulpits as a matter of routine, at times, mostly from texts already prepared. The power to convict the hearers of their sins and iniquities is missing. Flattering words are used just to please the parishioners. Fear of losing pulpits makes the preachers dilute the gospel. Gospel should proceed from the heart of the preachers, and not from their heads. Preachers come to the pulpit to seek recognition from men. They do not have a burden in their hearts for the lost souls.
Preachers use the cloak of covetousness. They covet offerings from the sheep they are supposed to serve and tend for. Evangelists expect offerings of those people that have been blessed by their ministries. Paul made God a witness to his apostolic ministry. If we conduct an evangelistic meeting in a town, the servants of God in that town covet the chief places on the dais and want to be honoured by the organizers. They expect praises of men before preaching the gospel. They make elaborate advertisements for their products but do not allow other servants of God to sell their products.
Paul never sought the glory of men, including the Thessalonians to whom he was ministering. All the people whom he served were equal in his eyes. He never preferred a particular person to another person. In the churches of today, the glory of men rules the roost. Men with good family background or rich men are honored when commonplace people are shown the backseats. The churches do not call “poor saints” or evangelists with poor financial background for giving messages but prefer only “renowned” evangelists.
Paul did not want to burden the church of the Thessalonians for ministering to him. He said in I Thes.2:9 that he and his team laboured and travailed night and day so that they “would not be chargeable unto any of you” for preaching the gospel of God. This is the true sign of a minister of God. These days, we find the ministers of God covet “service” from the people whom they are supposed to serve. They boast that they had resigned from their secular jobs to serve God but expect offerings from the people whom they serve. They do not work with their own hands even in their own offices established by them for running their ministries. They want “service” from the staff working in their offices.
Paul boldly told the church of the Thessalonians, “Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe….”(I Thes.2:10). He behaved himself as a nurse that cherished her children and as a father that cared for his children.
Oh, how Paul loved them! He wanted to see their “face with great desire” (I Thes.2:17). He knew their sufferings and persecutions for the gospel of Christ. A minister of God or an apostle should know the sufferings and the persecutions of the people to whom he is supposed to minister. What happens to day? The minister of God concerned does not want to know the sufferings and the persecutions of the sheep under him but wants to tell them about his own sufferings and persecutions in order to earn their sympathy. Paul and his co-workers desired to see the faces of Thessalonians whereas the modern ministers expect their sheep to see their faces.
According to Paul, “ye are our glory and joy” (I Thes.2:20). For Paul and his team, Thessalonians were not merely believers or supporters but were their glory and joy. In other words, Paul’s glory was not his ministry or his spiritual gifts but was the very sheep he was serving. Paul’s joy did not emanate from the offerings and the love he received from Thessalonians. His very joy was Thessalonians.
In the 3rd Chapter of I Thessalonians, we find that Paul was worried about the church of Thessalonians when he came to know that they were passing through much afflictions. He feared that they might backslide due to trials and tribulations or might succumb to the temptations of the Devil, the tempter. In his epistle, he edified their faith by reminding them that they should not be moved by such afflictions because “we are appointed thereunto” (Vs.3). He reminded them, “when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass…”
While preaching the gospel to Thessalonians, Paul did not promise a life of comfort and ease to them. He told them in unambiguous terms that they had to suffer much afflictions for the sake of the gospel. Nowadays, preachers while preaching the glorious gospel hesitate to tell the audience about the afflictions that they have to endure because, according to these preachers, the audience may not accept the gospel if a mention is made about the afflictions. The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation. It is the power of God and not the oratory that saves the people. We should exhort the audience to bear their crosses, deny themselves and follow Christ.
Recently, I watched a T.V. Evangelist in the USA preach a message of “prosperity” to his sheep. He quoted Jesus’ words in Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor…”. This preacher replaced the word “gospel” with the word “prosperity” and preached that prosperity should be preached to the poor so that the poor may become rich. See how the gospel is diluted! Hundreds of people in the audience raised their hands in joy and shouted.
Evangelists mainly preach on healing and miracles and not on cross-bearing and discipleship. The apostles during the New Testament period preached the gospel to the people with the result that the sick and the demon-possessed were delivered. They did not focus on healing and miracle ministries. But, miracles and signs followed them. They did not follow miracles and signs.
Paul did not rest in his couch when he heard about the afflictions of Thessalonians. Neither did he rest in the couch after giving a message of comfort through his epistles. In addition, he deputed Timothy, “Our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow labourer in the gospel of Christ”, to establish them and to comfort them concerning their faith. Timothy visited them and brought good tidings of their faith to Paul. After receipt of the report of Timothy, Paul and his team were comforted.
If Paul were to visit our churches today, he would find our ministers give long sermons to their congregations and lead them in long worship services on Sundays. According to these ministers, ministry means giving messages, conducting worship services, extracting tithes and offerings, and praying for the sick in their churches. But, according to Paul, ministry means taking care of the sheep, ministering to the poor saints and widows and edifying the faith of the weak sheep during their trials and tribulations.
If Paul were to visit our churches today, he would hardly find these ministers establish their sheep in their faith when the latter have passed through afflictions. Paul would be surprised to see the pastors who are mostly concerned about the coffers of their churches. He would not tolerate the tendency of these pastors that condemn their sheep from pulpits instead of praying for them and teaching them with tears.