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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Where Are Paul, Peter and Timothy,Today? Those Valiant Leaders of God’s Early Church?

     In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing, (2 Timothy 4:1-8)
     The above is from a letter the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, encouraging him to be steadfast in his respective ministry. Paul was not seeking anything from Timothy other than Paul did share that he was exhausted, and knew that his life was short and probably coming to an end. Paul did not tell Timothy that he needed some rest; that he was seeking a nice beautiful piece of land where he could retire, maybe sit on a rocking chair and stare off at the sunsets each evening. Nor did he speak about a pension nor inquire how his 401K was doing at the Jerusalem Savings and Loan, nor was he asking him to pray for the things people commonly pray for as they see their careers coming to a close. No! Paul kept being a son of encouragement to his fellow minister, telling him to endure hardship, to discharge all of his duties, even as more perilous times appear in the horizon.
     Paul was telling Timothy that in light of the pressures of their times, his ministry should not just come to a wearied end, as his was, an exhausted, tired, old preacher. He was telling Timothy that he should be willing to let his Christian experience and his Christian standards cost him something right down to the last gasp! Paul had picked up his cross and followed Jesus, experiencing some of the most horrendous trials ever by any disciple of Christ, and he was telling Timothy to expect the same.
     I speak of this at great length in my book, Why Christians Will Suffer Great Tribulation (Author House), about Paul’s attitude and commitment to Christ throughout his entire ministry, which ended in his beheading for proclaiming the Gospel to the very end. Although we don’t hear anymore about Paul after Acts 23:31, where he probably wrote many of the epistles to the churches in Rome, Corinth, Galatia and Ephesus, he nevertheless continued to preach the Gospel to the very end. The claim that he was beheaded takes nothing away from Paul’s epistolary legacy; but it does go to the degree of commitment that Paul had for his ministry.

     This (beheading) claim has been debated for centuries; many theories about Paul’s death have been posited by scholars based on gleaning information from the early church fathers, but no factual proof is recorded in the Bible nor through the annals of church history. 
    Nevertheless, we feel confident that Paul was martyred and the following quote regarding his death, taken from the Smith's Bible Dictionary by Dr. William Smith, where he provides scant details about the death of "Paul,” is no less nor greater than what other scholars have surmised:

     "This epistle, [2 Timothy] surely no unworthy utterance at such an age and in such an hour even of a St. Paul, brings us, it may well be presumed, close to the end of his life. For what remains, we have the concurrent testimony of ecclesiastical antiquity, that he was beheaded at Rome, about the same time that St. Peter was crucified there. The earliest allusion to the death of St. Paul is in that sentence from Clemens Romanus . . . which just fails of giving us any particulars upon which we can conclusively rely. The next authorities are those quoted by Eusebius in his H. E. ii. 25. Dionysius, bishop of (A. D. 170), says that Peter and Paul went to Italy and taught there together, and suffered martyrdom about the same time. This, like most of the statements relating to the death of St. Paul, is mixed up with the tradition of the valiant work of St. Peter at Rome.”

     One thing is expressly certain about Paul’s ministry, is that it was not going to be a cake walk. In Acts 9:15 and 16, the Lord, speaking to Ananias about Paul’s mission, made the following profound statement:
     But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he (Paul) is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake, (Acts 9:15-16, KJV).
     Although the Bible does not record Paul’s death, the entire book of Acts speaks volumes concerning the trials and tribulations he experienced throughout his ministry. In Chapter 11 of 2 Corinthians, Paul not only recounts in detail the many painful afflictions he experienced, he actually proceeds to boast about the sufferings he endured for preaching the gospel. In this, he is telling Christians that not only will they suffer for the sake of Jesus, but that they ought to take pride in this, to the point of even becoming fanatical (possibly delusional) about the expected sufferings:
     To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that! What anyone else dares to boast about – I am speaking as a fool – I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrew? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 25 three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked, 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? (2 Corinthians 11:21-27, NIV).
     It is interesting to note that Paul not only recounts the many trials and tribulations he endured, but he also mentions the fact that through these grivious times he also had to deal with the issues of his own personal sins, something that today's ministers never discuss amongst themselves, that is until they are caught with their pants down!
     The psychology community would consider it sheer folly these days to express Paul’s sentiments about suffering for Christ, because it knows not, nor can it understand the things that believers (through the power of the Holy Spirit) will hopefully realize and accept about trials and tribulations. Practitioners of (especially modern-day) psychology (and varying enlightened) philosophies don’t realize that as the believer surrenders all claims to worldly (and emotional) strength, then and only then can the power of God begin its work in their lives. Many modern day preachers and authors have achieved great success (as the world understands success), but may also be failing miserably in the eyes of God because they are going against His will and most often have no idea their efforts are mere ego and folly!


     Many of today’s Christian ministers, preachers and authors are probably saying, “This type of ministerial experience (suffering for Christ as Paul, Peter and Timothy did) was necessary back in the old apostle days, during the early church’s evolution; but today’s churches are different. Besides! We don’t have to worry about persecution. God promised to get us out of this mess through the soon-to come Pre-Tribulation Rapture to Heaven experience. Glory to Jesus!

     This has been the prevailing mind set and attitude of most church people in America, who (for the most part) have had a 35 to 45 year history of clocking in on Sundays, listening to a one hour sermon, after the service slipping the pastor that sawbuck when no one is looking, then heading out, heads held high, taking the kids for some good grub at McDonalds, and racing home to see who gets the remote control first to watch either the football game or recordings of Dancing With The Stars on their new HD television set.
     “Besides, it’s the Sabbath and we are not supposed to work on this Holy day.”
     Why is the church failing today? It’s not really failing; it’s never been doing its job in the first place. Today’s church is running out of time and doesn't even have any clue what God truly expects from it!
     Based on the ever increasing pressure for political correctness, the church has compromised the word of God on so many occasions and circumstances, most Christians (and this is the real reason many youth flea the church today) have no idea as to who or what to believe. Rather than speaking forth the need to obey God’s laws, believing there is no dilution of the word of God (that sin is sin no matter how you couch the circumstances), we focus solely on the forgiveness, grace and mercy aspect, but fail to work on how to walk a true journey with Christ. Works are required after confession of our sins to change the direction of their lives towards immediate repentance! What with the technological advances we witness today, we don’t even have to focus on righteousness. Heck! We don’t even have to get cleaned and dressed up, nor get on that old horse and buggy and drive a few miles down the road to hear God’s word. We now merely flip the switch! God on command!

     Yet, in the hinterlands of Third World Countries, in remote villages in various nations throughout Latin America, in faraway lands in Asia, Africa and the Eastern continents, disciples of Christ carry forth not only the tradition of the early apostles, but most of them, (like Paul, Peter and Timothy) bare emotional and physical and scars from toes to nose. Many even experience death while standing up for Jesus Christ and His wondrous Gospel. But, not in the good old USA! Not in this so-called Christian nation, one which supposedly was founded on Godly principles.

     “Hey! We are a chosen people, we are a blessed nation; we are prosperous because God loves the United States of America! We are the mom and apple pie of a wondrous banquet God has prepared for humanity! As long as we are patriotic, honor our flag and country, praise Jesus after winning that football game, get that raise, our new car or a new home, it’s good enough for me!”
     So! Where are Paul, Peter and Timothy today? Where are those apostles who were not afraid to look into the king's face and boldy speak forth the word of God, as did Paul with King Agripa (who almost became a Christian upon hearing the word of God)? Where is that valiant soldier of the cross who is not afraid to boldy speak to presidents, governors, senators and even church leaders to confront them with their errors! And I don't mean to battle political philosophies with them but to confront them with the word of God!
     You will probably find them enjoying the fruits gained through their evangelistic crusades, lounging inside their lavish homes, enjoying rich gourmet foods, and traveling the countryside in their shiny BMW's. The newbies are in Bible school, working towards a theology degree, hoping to find a job in either corporate ministry, a leading role in some megachurch, and maybe even write a best selling book, record a great Christian music album, start a Christian rock band, or land on their own radio and television program amid the electronic church, and carving for themselves a notch among the celebrated men of the American cloth. They knew when they first decided to get into the ministry, that they wanted to at least become a pastor at a nice church, in a nice neighborhood, send their kids to nice schools, and lead a nice Christian life, and then eventually retire in a nice senior’s only country club or a nice high end mobile park. Hey! It’s the American way!
     In the meantime, communities throughout the nation are headed to hell in a bread basket! 
    Oh well! Let’s just lift up hands and keep praising the Lord! Let us continue to spew out various Bible verses in the public square (such as the Internet) where others can see how religious we are. Let us wear our religion on our sleeves rather than rolling them up, picking up our crosses and marching head first into society's stench to tend to the poor, infirmed, homeless, downtrodden, orphans and widows, with our hearts and pockets filled with charity in addition to offering them hope .
     Where are todays' Paul, Peter and Timothy?
     Jesus scanned the earth looking for servants to fill and walk in the sandals of dedicated servants like Paul, Peter and Timothy....and found none.....then He wept!

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For more information about this blog, web sites and information about the books written by this author, please click Joe Ortiz



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