“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
So, Lord, is this for me? When the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in me when I place my trust, my life, my being in You, will I be this kind of witness? Who were You speaking to? Who do these words impact?
If I start at the beginning of Acts 1, I find that You were speaking to the group You had chosen known as “apostles.” What is an apostle? Who is an apostle? Is it only a particular group of men from long ago? Am I just learning about a blessing that You gave to these particular men like this is a good story to know about but no bearing on me? Maybe it matters what You mean by apostle.
The Greek word for apostle is “apostolos.” Strong’s Concordance defines it as “a delegate, specifically an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ (‘apostle’), (with miraculous powers): – apostle, messenger, he that is sent.” Often, this word is seen as applied only to particular men given supernatural power by God, like Paul and Peter. Most were men that had seen Your ministry and Your death, resurrection, and ascension. Paul was kind of a special member, having seen You, the risen Lord, on the road to Damascus. Barnabas, Timothy, and Sylvanus didn’t meet those requirements. How did they become classified as apostles? The NAS New Testament Lexicon doesn’t seem to stress that particular group as strongly. And again, it’s definition begins with this qualification, “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders.”
It’s not that I’m jealous of these men or anything. But if this isn’t just about them, if this is about Your desire for me and the next believer out there, then this can make every difference in my life and in what You are looking for in me and what You want to do in me. It’s important that I know if I’m included in this group or not. It’s important that I know Your desires for me.
Paul in Galatians 1:1 introduces himself this way, “Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead).” Is Paul above everyone else? Does being an apostle set him far apart from other believers? Is that what he’s trying to say? Is he trying to say that God made Him special above others by picking him? Or is he giving hope to others by saying that the whole reason he has become the delegate of God is because of God choosing him and doing His work in him? Is he saying that he has been chosen an ambassador of the Gospel because he is living in the truth of the resurrection and power of Jesus Christ by God the Father? Is that only for Paul?
If an apostle is an emmissary of God, of Christ, would You, Lord, only want a select small group of emmissaries? I mean, I’m not talking about You being concerned with numbers here. But how could only a small handfull of emmissaries in one particular time period fulfill Your commission? Wouldn’t You be giving them power to duplicate, to replicate, to produce more emmissaries? So, Yes, Paul and Peter and the others were very special emmissaries, and each was unique. But each was commissioned in their uniqueness to fulfill their particular role in You. And it doesn’t just stop with them. The apostles continue.
Skip Moen asked this question, “Who are those sent as emissaries of Yeshua the Messiah?” He didn’t treat the word as exlusively representing a particular group of adult Jewish males. He just translated it as the Greek word it is. When we look at it that way, when we answer that question above, I see that the “apostoloi” aren’t such a narrow group. “Who is chosen by Jesus to be His representatives in the world?” Every believer. That includes me, Lord! So maybe I don’t get to place that title before, or after my name, but I am one of Your commissioned children, I am one of Your “sent out ones.”
No, I wasn’t there during Your earthly ministry or after Your baptism. I wasn’t a physical eye-witness at the crucifixion or Your resurrection. And whereas Paul got to meet You risen, which qualifies him for that “select” group of men, I haven’t in that sense. But what if there is this other sense? What if there are different grounds that You are looking at that make Paul and Peter and James and John qualified, and equally qualified at that, to be Your emmissaries? Remember, there were others who didn’t meet the “extra-special” qualifications either, like Barnabas, Timothy, and Sylvanus. How did they become qualified? How were they equally commissioned? Why were they called and sent in the same way, as apostles?
Now, I’m going to absolutely borrow Skip Moen’s words here because I think he puts it so beautifully. And I don’t want to miss this because I need to hear this. And then I need to really understand it and really get it. What’s the significance of our also being included as apostles? No, what is that significance of our calling as apostles, as delegates, as ambassadors? “First and foremost, it means that our Lord and Savior sees something in us that we don’t see. He saw the great missionary Paul in the person of the persecutor Saul. He saw the great church leader Peter in the person of the brash and arrogant Simon. And He sees something in you and in me that we carry hidden within our broken and unworthy frames. He sees what we will be for Him! We might have some glimpse of it now, as we learn to be obedient and useful to Him, but there is much more. Now we see ourselves through the glass darkly. It will take refinement to bring forth all that we will be. It is amazingly wonderful to know that in spite of our present evaluation of ourselves, He finds something so valuable in us that He is willing to give us new life to obtain it. There are days when each one of us needs to know this – right down to the bottom of our souls (to use a Greek expression). Those days when we feel that we have failed the calling, when we see how far we still have to go, when we are overwhelmed with the responsibility of being God’s representative – on those days we need to remember that He invited us because He sees where He is taking us. Praise be to Him and blessed be His Name.” Yes, Lord, I need to get that first point that Skip saw. I need to get that life sustaining, life imparting truth that You are trying to teach me through the apostles.
But the importance of this little word “apostolos” doesn’t stop there for me. Because it tells me even more. If I look back at the example of the apostles, it tells me that as a called child of Yours, I have a specific role that You have designed for me to play in the body of Christ. Paul and Barnabas, Peter and Timothy, John and Sylvanus all had their particular assignments they were chosen and sent for. You sent Peter to Cornelius, not Paul. You sent Paul to Rome. You have a particular role for me and each other believer. Paul did wonderful things in You. But he can’t do what You have appointed me to do, just like I can’t do what You appointed him to do. So I have to find where I fit in the puzzle piece of the body of Christ because that is where I’ll be most effective and most in the middle of You. Because being in the middle of You is knowing where I belong and who I belong with. Maybe I can only make little bookmarks. But then God’s designed a place in the body that needs those bookmarks for encouragement. And You will fit me in there because that’s what You’ve designed me for, to encourage those particular individuals. But for me to fulfill my commission, I need my brothers and sisters in Christ. They are designed to help me do all that Jesus sees in me, and I’m designed to be a part of helping them to do so.
This is such a beautiful truth. I prayed for years and years to understand where I fit in, to understand my commission, to know how You designed my giftings to be used for You. I prayed to even just understand what they were. I asked in church and was given a “spiritual giftings checklist” every time. And every time I knew my gifting areas but I still never saw how they were really being applied. And then, one day, You had me meet some other believers. And You had me share some of the same things with them, whether my heart or something I wrote, and they saw something no one else had. And people were encouraged. And they encouraged me to do more and be involved and invited me in to serve with them. And I started to understand how You were designing my gifts to work and where and with who and it’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever experienced! It’s stuff You put inside of me from the start. It’s stuff that wanted to come out but couldn’t until You showed me those others who needed my gifting to compliment theirs. It’s a beautiful unity. It’s a mutual seeing. It’s a mutual dependency. It’s a mutual joy and service.
I’m so glad we’re not the same. I’m so glad I can’t do what my sister, Jessica can do, or what my brother Carl can do. But they can’t do what I can do either. And You designed it that way. Because we need each other. No man is an island and “there are no second-class citizens” in this group. We are called, we are chosen, we are emmissaries. No one is more, no one is less. We are all necessary to one another and necessary to Your will. It’s in Your design for us. Our status is the same, it’s just that You have a different job for each of us. We are all “fellow-citizens, submitted to the King. We can enjoy each other, encourage each other, and praise each other because we are all in the same boat.” (Skip Moen)
So each of us is called, commissioned, and sent. That brings me forward to Revelation 17:14. “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with Him are called and chosen and faithful.” Here it is again. We are appointed, we are selected for a specific purpose, and we are trustworthy, we fulfil that purpose. This is what You see in each of Your children because this is who You have designed us to be. You formed us in our mother’s wombs. You designed us even before we were in there. You have given us the power and all the stuff inside we need inside to fit into the body of Christ and be Your witness everywhere. What a beautiful plan. What a beautiful purpose. I am so grateful for Your design for me to fit in to Your body and for Your design for particular parts of Your body to fit in with me. Thanks for giving me a place to belong and thrive in You. Thank You for seeing something in me that no one else saw, until You put others with the same vision in my life. Now, help me to help others see what You have placed in them.