Prayer or Politics? (Politicking in the Church)

Prayer or Politics?
Robert Wurtz II 

From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (James 4:1–4 KJV) 


As we begin the quest to elect a new president in the United States, I wish to turn our attention to our passage to help identify politicians who are operating within the churches of God. Whether running for the president of the United States or some office in the churches, the strategies are nearly identical; and they are as old as Satan himself. Denominations create “offices” not knowing that this will almost guarantee that a dangerous and divisive political element has been introduced along with it.

James answers a question that is on many peoples’ minds these days who attend denominational churches, “where are all of these fightings coming from? Why all the strife and division? Why can we never seem to come into unity?” Notice that James practically assumes that there are “wars and fightings” among God’s people (James 4:1). He identifies the trouble-makers as “friends of the world” and “enemies of God” (James 4:4).

Let’s make it plain from the beginning that practicing politics in the churches of God is pure worldliness. Jesus warned the Disciples about worldly power structures commanding them, “It shall not be so among you.” We are not to seek to be the “greatest” or set up offices where a man can be the “greatest” and voted on every two or four years. Did Paul and Barnabas get voted on every few years? How about Peter? There is no example in the New Testament of such behavior  but this has not stopped many Evangelicals from doing it (Matthew 20:24-28). The only thing worse than creating the office to begin with is to afterward covet holding it  knowing it’s not supposed to exist. One of the most “unChristlike” things a person can do is covet an “office” within the churches.

Unlike the procedure in the book of Acts where the Holy Spirit separated ministers to the works that He called them to do, men have set up a democracy within denominations, and it’s dreadful parliamentary procedure akin to Western nation-states. The apostles would have trembled at the thought, but in modern times men have come to believe that democracy is God’s way. Some even believe that casting lots is casting votes. Others suggest that casting lots is a less spiritual way of ascertaining the mind of God than what we see later in the Acts. This may be; but have we somehow confused democracy with what was done in the book of acts? I believe we have. 

Moreover, we ought to really ask ourselves, “Do we truly think we can improve on God’s way of setting up ministry?” I suggest that God is willing to sit back and wait for us to realize that our way is creating a total disaster and maybe — just maybe we will be willing to return to the word of God and do things biblically and not “worldly.” That’s right, “worldly”… the way the world does things.   

While many preach against “worldly” living they ignore the fact that politics in ministry is as “worldly” of practice as the most liberal church on earth. In fact, James calls the promoters of this type of church politics not prophets and priests, but adulterers and adulteresses (friends of the world). When men set a Christian organization up like God’s enemy would, is there any wonder He would call their actions adultery and the parties involved adulterers? Heaven doesn’t operate like a Gentile power structure  nor should the churches of God.   


 

Notice how James identifies the problem saying, Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Clearly, the problem is lust warring inside the people who are causing the “wars and fightings” among the saints. It’s the same thing that caused a stir in Matthew 20:24. This could be lust for power; lust for money; lust for popularity; lust for control; etc. The war of fleshly lusts raging inside the person not only “wars against their own soul” (1 Peter 2:11), but it spills over into the churches to destroy them as well. In order to get what they want, the “luster” will fight, war, and kill. In centuries past this was quite literal. In modern times, the warfare is different. In fact, it’s the same drama playing out in the run up to the presedential elections right now in America. 

Prayer or Politics?

When a person prays for something they are coveting and God does not answer that prayer, the coveting one is tempted to take matters into their own hands. If it is money or merchandise — they are apt to steal. If it is an “office” they tend to “fight, war, and kill.” Generally speaking, God will not answer the prayer of a person who wants what they are asking for in order to “consume it upon their lust.” If the lust is for power  they want the higher office to satisfy that lust. No matter how they may spin it, God knows their true motivation and is not answering the prayer. What happens? When prayer doesn’t work  they resort to politics.

When a person decides who they want to be in certain “offices” in ministry  they stop praying all together. If ministers really wanted God’s will done they would stop playing their democratic/political games and pray until the body heard from God and acted on it. Democracy seeks to snuff out God’s say in the matter. I need to ask, what are people afraid of? Are they afraid that God may have someone in mind to do a ministry other than them or one of their family members or friends? This is a very serious question that needs to be explored. Why do people say they want God’s will and then refuse to come together in a biblical way and try to ascertain it? In fact, the people with “voice and vote” in these so-called proceedings are people who pay tithe  or meet some other man-made qualification. Is that how the churches were led in the book of Acts? Of course it wasn’t. Do these men still claim to be God-fearing, spiritual, and Bible believing? Of course they do. But we need to face the music here. “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46 KJV) 

Are you concerned about who is going to “take the position” when it’s vacated? Have you lost sleep looking over your shoulder? Do you feel threatened that someone is “gunning for your position” in the church? If you can say yes to one or more of those questions it is almost a guarantee that what is being built is man’s kingdom and not God’s. Think about it. If it were truly God’s kingdom we would not be talking about anyone replacing God. We would continually be commended to God and the word of His grace and not be looking to “men” to do what the kings in Israel were forever doing. God wants to be king. This is as plain as it gets. Paul wept for three years while at Ephesus because he knew there were politicians wanting to take over that church (Acts 20). If we could hear the grieving of the Holy Spirit right this moment for all the politics going on in the churches we would be rocked to our core.  


A Culture of Obstruction (You fight, war, and kill)

A politician will never help his opponent in any meaningful way. He covets what another man has and will do what is necessary to get it. In fact, he moves in what may be called “passive aggressive” behaviors that deal blows without causing a scene or leaving a bruise. He sets up policies that promote his political objectives. He enforces them when they promote his intentions, and sets them aside when convenient (propose a “variance”). The better the politician, the more proficient he/she will be at this methodology. A good politician can wage war (stir the pot), but do so in such a way that it leaves the opponent looking bad, not the politician. Dr. Michael Brown posted a Meme in October 2015 that is well worth gazing at for a while. Here we have one person helping their brother; the other one silently happy that they failed. 


A politician is not concerned with the furtherance of the kingdom of God; they are focused on building their own kingdom. This is why they can never help the person that is in the “office” they are coveting. To the contrary, they will obstruct their success, expose their weaknesses, laud their errors, and focus on their failures. All the while never lifting a single finger to help them. Why? They want them to fail so they can campaign for their office on the platform of “CHANGE.” It is the oldest trick in the book. “Change is coming! Change is coming!” Is the cry of the politician. 


“Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.” (Proverbs 8:33 KJV)

How can you take the job of a person who is successful? The diabolical attitude of the politician can bring an entire denomination to a standstill. What happens? Nothing gets done because the politicians are sabotaging the people who occupy the offices they are coveting. Sometimes they do this publicly, but generally they do it privately by spreading what the business world calls F.U.D (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). They sow all kinds of discord behind the scenes in order to undermine the people who occupy the offices that they covet. The next time you are invited to dinner and the conversation begins to bite and devour a person who holds an “office” be advised that you are probably eating with a politician or one of his/her campaign supporters. What is the most shocking thing of all is how they put on a public “face” to deceive the people at large. The poor and unsuspected people have no idea what is going on and will often defend the person because they only ever see the “Jimmy Carter smile.”

A politician in the kingdom of God is a “snake in the grass.” Most people know who they are but are powerless to deal with them. They behave like a spoiled child who was raised to believe they are above their peers. They act out and everyone just has to put up with it. This is the practical side of it all. From God’s perspective, they are fighting and warring against the people of God in an attempt to satisfy their own inward lusts. This is the spiritual reality of it. They have confused God’s will with their own and usually have a band of supporters and “enablers” who partake of their evil deeds.

All the while, the kingdom of God suffers; the sheep get wounded and scattered; and the politicians continue with their glib — adulterous behavior. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4). “Adulteresses is the feminine term is the general designation of all whom James here rebukes. The apostate members of the church are figuratively regarded as unfaithful spouses; according to the common Old Testament figure, in which God is the bridegroom or husband to whom his people are wedded. See Jeremiah 3; Hosea 2, 3, 4; Isaiah 54:5; 62:4, 5. Also, Matthew 12:39; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7; 21:9.” (Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament)

Sycomore Tree Ministries

Sycomore Tree Ministries
Robert Wurtz II

Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. (Luke 19:2-6)

I have chosen this passage to illustrate how Christ can call a person to Himself virtually anywhere. Notice what is missing from this scene. All the things that have traditionally been believed as necessary to seeing a person come to Christ are all absent. In fact, when this man gives his testimony as to where he was when he heard the voice of Christ his shocking reply will be, “I was up in a tree.”



Many in modern times believe that God can only “call” or “save” people the way they were “called” or “saved.” It’s as if the enemy has tried to turn every way in which a person has successfully come to Christ into a measure or a ministry. Although there are no two people alike, the enemy would have us believe that God saves all similarly. It is true that all the elements must be in place (faith, repentance, etc.); however, how God accomplishes these things may vary as the sand on the sea shore. 


Measures and Ministry

It seems to be human nature to want to immortalize things. If God moved in one way or in one place, someone is bound to build three tabernacles to it. This is a tragic mentality. Soon rather than relying on the Holy Spirit to do a work, a superstitious reverence is placed on the spot where God moved. In other words, unless a person is in a church building, a stadium, camp meeting, youth camp, etc., they cannot hear from God. In fact, not only the spot, but the whole process of how God moved can be used superstitiously. That is to say, they have an unjustifiable faith in the means and the measures rather than God Himself. Anytime we put our trust in anything but God, we  are in error. 


Sycomore Tree Ministries?


Imagine Zacchaeus deciding that the way he came to Christ is the primary way God wants to save people. So he holds a meeting in a grove of Sycamore trees. He tells the people to climb up and wait for the call of God. Without question, if he had done such a thing, he would be labeled a lunatic. Why? Only because he believed he needed to employ trees as a measure in evangelism. However, the real error is in the notion that we can clone a move of God.

It is unfortunate that such ideas can actually become a stronghold in people’s minds. For example, imagine believing that the only way you can be saved is to go to a church and wait for an altar call. It would be pitiful to believe such a thing, when the truth is, a person can respond to God and be Born Again almost anywhere they are. I have known of people to be driving down the road, and God speak to their heart. Others have been saved by going out into the woods or a field to pray. The places are almost limitless. If the story of Zacchaeus teaches us anything along these lines, it is that “If God can call a man from a sycamore tree — He can call them from any place.” 

Called From Where We Are


I recall over twenty years ago God called me to Himself while I was living my daily life. He began speaking to me and drawing me to His word all during the week. I went to church on Sundays, but this was not where God dealt with me primarily. It was at home, at work, driving in the car, etc. Later, when God called me to service for Him, I was at work in a warehouse.


Think of all the different places the Lord Jesus calls people at. Some were on the fishing bank; some were collecting money; some were on His way to Galilee. The only common denominator was the call itself. They could have been anywhere; it  didn’t matter. God does not need sycamore trees to save people — though He may choose to employ them. The key thing is that when a person hears the voice of Christ that they respond rightly. 


Carcinogenic Christianity

Carcinogenic Christianity
Robert Wurtz II

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:15-16 ESV)

Ephesians is basically broken down into two halves: chapters 1-3 are doctrinal and chapters 4-6 are exhortation. In short, God says in chapters 1-3, “I have made you a saint.” In chapters 4-6, He says, “Now, live a saintly life.” (Weust) This is why we have the use of “therefore” in Chapter 4:1 and in Romans 12:1. Paul builds his case and then calls us to action. 

When Paul was leaving Ephesus for the last time, he warned the elders emphatically and with tears that grievous wolves would come into the church not sparing the flock. He told them that among those present, some would seek to draw disciples after themselves. This was not the first time he issued such a warning. For years He lamented the destructive power of such behavior- in so much that he had here-to-for spoke these things night and day to them. When writing to the Ephesians years later, he offered precious instruction on how to prevent this type of destruction. To explain it he employed the metaphor of a human body.

Building Up Itself

I find it interesting that in modern times we have a great understanding of the things Paul spoke of. Paul would have had no such knowledge; but the Holy Spirit, who inspired these writings certainly did. As technology has increased so have the dangers Paul spoke of. His metaphor has only sharpened with time. Understand that when a body functions normally, it grows and repairs itself automatically. Cells die and are replaced, while other cells multiply to effect proper growth. However, we need to ask, what happens when a cell begins to grow and divide uncontrollably? We usually call that a tumor. What happens when that abnormal division begins to spread around effecting other parts of the body? We usually call that cancer. Paul’s body metaphor comes into view. He expounds on the importance of the whole body being under the Head (Christ) and that every joint or part must work properly for the Body to grow in love. His concern was that individuals would break off from the Head- doing their own thing becoming what we might call a “tumor” or a “cancer” to the rest of the Body.

The Carcinogen of Pride

Any time there is a platform for men and women to express their pride and ambition there is great danger. We see it in all walks of life. The churches of God are not immune to such things. Pride and ambition are like cancer causing agents in the Body of Christ. When left unchecked, people who are motivated by these realities will multiply themselves (as it were) simulating legitimate growth. We must understand that not all growth is created equal. Not all growth is healthy to the Body. A “following” is not the same thing as a ministry. Many in these last days are taking to themselves the title of minister, but are not truly under the Head (Christ). The result is the exact thing Paul warned Ephesus about:

 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
(Act 20:29-30 KJV)


False Growth

In the early days of Television Ministry, the National Religious Broadcasters held seminars to prepare TV ministers for “celebrity status.” Since that time almost all forms of ministry have been directly effected by a form of Christianity, as defined by Television. The brightest and best have been pushed to the front until Christendom is largely an expression of Paul’s great fear in Acts 20. It has gone unchallenged to the point of normalcy. In fact, many ministers have nearly reached demigod status. They are untouchable. The Christian landscape is now filled with ministries, under the names of men and women, with all of their respective alliances. A form of Christianity has emerged that is very different from the book of Acts. Multitudes have embraced the very thing Paul warned about. 

Christ’s Vision of the Church

Thousands of ministers have a “vision” for their ministry, but Christ has one vision for His Church. In His Church the Saints are endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3). Why? because in the mind of God there is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Eph 4:-6) To Christ, everyone is vitally important and functional in a real sense. There are no superstars. There are no “American idols.” As the cliche goes, there are no big “I’s” and little “U’s” (you’s). The worldly scourge of such mindsets are non-existent. What did Paul say to the Philippians?

 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. (Php 2:5-16)

Lowliness of Mind

It has been said that one of the greatest tests of our spirituality is whether or not we can esteem others better than ourselves. A Christian with a lowly mind is the enemies worst nightmare. A person serving the Lord who could care less if they were ever seen or noticed is a mighty weapon in the hand of God. Paul stated on two occasions in his epistles (Eph 4:2, Php 2:3), that we are to walk in lowliness of mind. “Trench says of this word: “The Christian lowliness is no mere modesty or absence of pretension, nor yet a self-made grace. The making of ourselves small is pride in the disguise of humility. But the esteeming of ourselves small, inasmuch as we are so, the thinking truly, and because truly, therefore, lowlily of ourselves.” The word is used in an early secular manuscript of the Nile River at its low stage, “It runs low.” Expositors defines it: “the lowliness of mind which springs from a true estimate of ourselves – a deep sense of our own moral smallness and demerit.”” (quoted in Weust) We are to have the mind of Christ in the genuine article as the antidote for the spiritual “carcinogens” of this world that lead to “cancers” that sicken and drain the Body of its vitality. 

We have to make a conscious decision to be in God’s will for our lives and not allow selfish ambition to become destructive to the Body of Christ. The world likes to manufacture idols of people. If we fall into that trap we endanger not only ourselves but they that we would seek to lead. We imperil the churches and provide for the enemy a beachhead from which he can invade the Body.   

 

Dropping the Torch

Dropping the Torch
Robert Wurtz II

And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. (Judges 2:10)


Our passage is a sobering look at a generation that came along after the generation of Joshua and they knew not God nor the things He had done for Israel. Something had gone terribly wrong. One generation walks with God in righteousness and holiness, and the next one comes along and is as indifferent and unconcerned as anything. It’s almost as if the two generations were from different planets. The one generation longs to serve the Lord and pass that heritage down to continue on in what God had started, but the next generation seems to care less. They wanted to do their own thing and make a clean break with the past. We read the chilling words in Judges 2:11, 12; And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. 


A Mixture

You will notice that the new generation was “exposed” to be Godless once the elder generation that loved God had passed on. Joshua died in verse 8 and the rest were dead by verse 10. It is a sad thing to consider, but this left no one to keep the rebellious people in check. Undoubtedly these young people were a thorn in the side of the elders until they all grew old and the elders finally died. It was not as if they woke up one day and were backslid, these people were kicking against the goads all their life. What were they doing? Verse 12 is instructive, and [they] followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them. This is a sure sign of backsliding: wanting to be like “the people that were round about them.” There was no desire to be wholly sanctified unto the Lord. No desire to maintain continuity with the God of their fathers. They wanted a novel change. This is important to consider because God has called His people out of this present evil, Satan-inspired world. Soon the lust for worldliness led to the people worshipping Baal and God at the same time. As the people got used to this “compromise” it became no big deal to keep doing it. Over time it was almost impossible to reverse the trend. This is why the resistance has to be strongest when the compromise begins. The compromisers needed to be rebuked and stopped. Not as the failure Eli that “rebuked” his sons and then passively allowed their madness to continue until God’s presence left.

Progressive compromise


Israel broke ranks with their fathers and followed the patterns of the people around them until they wanted a king like the rest of the nations. This would have horrified previous generations, but this new generation cares-less. It is their day now. What was happening? They were abandoning their uniqueness one step at a time. This is key. There is something terribly wrong when folk that are called by the name of Christ want to be like the world rather than being what God calls us to be, separate and holy. If we allow this in the churches of God it is only a matter of time until we have totally lost Christianity.


Discouragement

Some people in Israel probably got discouraged when they were challenged or they found out that folks didn’t quite agree with how things were going. Any resistance was seen as a personal attack. Likewise today, leaders are often clueless to the fact that we are not talking about personal convictions and preferences here; we are talking about the very soul of the Church and what it means to be a Christian. Further, what these folks don’t realize is that had the resistance to the change been what it needed to be it would probably have caused a revolt. But because the ones resisting were depicted as “trouble-makers” or “influenced of the Devil”, the compromise is allowed to come in and leaven the whole lump. This is where we are today. Resistance has been all stomped out and the people that resisted are hated and despised. 

Out of Church Christians?


Others simply discouraged and simply quit church all together. In retail sales we have a saying, “Most people don’t complain. They just don’t come back.” They don’t have a voice or their voice is not heard. They have tried everything and still we seem to be snow-balling towards hell. If they do dare speak they get blackballed. Talk about discouragement? 



But none to fear, God is watching. I’m reminded of a passage in Ezekiel:

And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. (Ezekiel 9:4-6)


What we need in this adulterous generation is a people that will get discouraged when the glory of God is being challenged and His churches are trying to take up the ways of the people of the land. Where are the people that have a zeal for God? Where are the people that will get discouraged when they look on Facebook New Years Eve and can’t tell the church houses from the party houses because of the similar black tones and colored lights? Who will weep for a generation that would decorate the temple of God like the Temple of Dagon as if it were a light thing? Where are the people that will sigh and cry because they see a generation establishing precedence for what Christianity is supposed to be and yet it looks like the corner bar dealing death in the name of freedom. Who will weep for a generation that loves darkness and the feel and ambiance of a worldly sin den as a place of worship? The elders are all almost dead now and there are none to restrain them. The philosophy of the youth-group in the former generation has become the philosophy of church in our generation. What some of us resisted and fought against is now here and there is nothing left to do but weep and pray for God to mark our foreheads.
  
It’s all legalism?

There is a generation that wants to know freedom but inquires not of the holiness of God. There was a time when Christian men and women would go out of their way to keep from offending God or identifying with this present evil world. Not today. It’s been said that the difference between many Christians and the world is only about 6 months. That sounds like a harsh thing to say, but look around. I remember a time when people came to church and poured their heart out to God in songs and prayers of great substance. Prayer was with unction. They truly meant what they sang. If they didn’t- you could tell it. They didn’t care how they looked doing it. No need to impress the judges. Nobody was watching them anyhow because they were caught up in the moving of the Spirit in such a way that they were utterly worshipping God themselves. The reason they didn’t go to places other people went, or dress like other people dressed, was because they didn’t want to offend God or identify with the world. They did not want to compromise the fact that they were temples of the Holy Spirit. It’s all legalism now. People do what they want and there is no difference. 

Fading Away

Perhaps by now you are good and upset wondering who this guy thinks he is. I would provoke you to love God and hate this evil world if I could. Maybe you already do. But anymore it’s as if we are just fading away. Folk don’t even care anymore. Those that are left are growing tired of fighting the system. The old-timers are dying off and there are few now left that even remember what Christianity ought to look like. 

Lukewarm is room temperature. Its what everything else is. When the Spiritual vitality of a church or a Christian is such that they are just like the world, they are lukewarm. But God is calling us out of that lethargy. He is calling us out of pretense and fakery. He is calling us to a depth of walk that is deeper than skin deep. No more going through the motions. No more working at being like the world. We are supposed to hate the world and abhor evil. Two things that are missing in this crisis hour. 


     

The Mystery of Ministry

The Mystery of Ministry
Robert Wurtz II

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase 
(1 Cor. 3:6).

W

hen Paul arrived at Ephesus from Corinth he found certain disciples. It stands to reason that these were somehow the product of the preaching ministry of Apollos. Some have suggested that the evidence is inconclusive, but I suggest that a casual reading of the text and the close proximity of events leaves us with the impression that the 12 disciples that Paul found there and addressed in Acts 19:1ff were by no coincidence holding the same beliefs as Apollos. He had been ministering powerfully in the synagogues his partial understanding of the Gospel. This same partial understanding was found in the 12. It is not difficult to connect the dots and with no evidence to the contrary, and without being overly dogmatic, I think it safe to suggest as much. At any rate, Apollos was certainly involved in the foundational ministry at Ephesus. 

Priscilla and Aquila were a Christian wife and husband that had traveled with Paul from Corinth. Paul preached briefly in the synagogue and as Paul was determined to travel on, they stayed behind at Ephesus. On one particular day they came to the synagogue and heard Apollos preaching boldly to the Jews. It is unclear when he arrived in Ephesus, but it is certain based on the Greek text that this man was zealous for God and the Gospel. He was a repentance revival looking for a place to happen. Understand that in the early part of his ministry he was preaching a partial version of the message of John the Baptist due to his own limited understanding. We can deduce from the texts that it is likely he understood only repentance, fruits worthy of repentance, faith in a coming Messiah and the baptism of repentance (John’s baptism). When Priscilla and Aquila realized he had a limited understanding of the Gospel, they took him aside and expounded the truth of the Gospel to him more accurately. This upgrade in his understanding and his receiving of the Spirit equipped him to minister in such a way that the brethren could place in his hand a letter of recommendation for those Christians that did not know him, to receive him. (Acts 18:27) 

This makes for an interesting scenario that balances the way in which God uses men in ministry; Apollos eventually heads for Corinth to minister and Paul would later return to Ephesus. Earlier Luke describes Apollos as an eloquent man and mighty in the scriptures. He was an Alexandrian Jew that has been recognized by theologians as second only to Paul in the preaching of the Gospel. Martin Luther suggested that Apollos wrote the book of Hebrews, though that is impossible to verify. So powerful was his ministry of the word that when he came to Corinth people divided up and said ‘I am of Apollos’. We will return to this thought later to examine the implications of that statement, but we can rest assured that there were few people that preached the Gospel as powerfully as Apollos.   


Apollos planted 


The disciples Paul found were almost certainly the fruit of Apollos preaching. They were solid in their repentance, but had never heard of the Holy Spirit. There was anticipation in their hearts as to what God wanted them to do next. They had been ‘planted.’ Paul arrives back at Ephesus and asks them plainly, did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Notice that Paul does not tell them that they received the Holy Spirit when they believed, but he asks them if they received when they believed. Paul does not believe receiving the Spirit is determined by a process of logical deductions drawn from proof texts as we find pervasive in modern Evangelicalism. He wants to know, Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” This is Paul building upon their understanding and experience in God to bring them into the fullness of Christ. They heard the message of repentance from someone other than Paul, but now he is watering their understanding. The question has to be asked, why does God work things out this way? Why not just use one person for everything?

I am of Apollos

I said we would return to a statement made in Corinth, so I will quote the passage in full; For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? (1 Cor. 3:4) Here are the two great ministers of the Gospel in one sentence and the enemy has worked to pit them against each other. They loved one another and sought to work together in unity, but the enemy sought to divide them. Paul and Apollos wouldn’t have it. Notice that Paul calls such behavior, not ignorant or childish, but carnal. Bear in mind that they were proficient in the use of the gifts of the Spirit and were yet in a carnal mind. Amazing. These people could not see what God was doing so they reverted into a worldly mindset. They we acting as if they were not even saved. Meanwhile Paul stayed at Ephesus for 2-3 years ministering. Nobody said, “I am of Priscilla and Aquilla” or “I am of Paul.” Why? Because they were moving in first love and when in that state people simply do not act carnally. 

Paul had to explain to Corinth later on the secret to this by saying that he did not preach himself (2 Cor. 4:5). In fact, when he got ready to leave Ephesus he commended them to God and to the Word of His grace. He did not commend the flock into the hands of men, but into the hands of God. That is a radical revelation if we can take hold of it. Paul warned them night and day with tears that the enemy wanted to send in grievous wolves to destroy the flock. (Acts 20:29ff) It never happened. Why? Because the people kept holding the Head, which is Christ. Jesus walked in the midst of their Lamp stand from the very beginning bringing them essential words of revelation at crucial times. 

F.F. Bruce is reported to have said that God intended for the churches to be built for disaster. Satan could never rest thinking that if he martyred a certain leader the ministry would stop. It was set up so that each person in the meeting could hear from Christ. We as men and women sometimes like to think that if we die or are somehow incapacitated that the world will end and God will have a nervous breakdown; but the fact is God has insured that the work of the ministry will go on. It is a hard saying to reckon with, but it is not our responsibility to find our own replacements, that is God’s business. Understand that Ephesus was not a man-centered church, it was a Christ-centered church. It could go on functioning if Paul, Apollos, Priscilla, Aquilla and the rest of the leaders all left, died, or never spoke to them again. They were Christ dependent, not men dependent. The Reformers called this the priesthood of all believers. The enemy found it hard to take out the main leader because He was seated in the Heavenlies at the right hand of God.

Why does God move men?
Before we can ask why God moves men I think we need to carefully read the passage where Jesus dealt with a critical fault in human psychology. The people began to say of Jesus, Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. (Mark 6:3, 4) There is something about familiarity that causes a person to want to turn off the guy that’s ministering. Even Jesus dealt with this, so it suffices us that we be as our Master. We can speak to the same people for so long that there is no longer any effect. I have seen it happen. A preacher preaches a message using certain passages and points- yet the people will not hearken or respond. Another preacher, a stranger, can bring an almost identical message and the people act as if they heard it for the first time, get stoked, and are ready to storm the kingdom of Darkness. What happens? Familiarity. I believe that sometimes God has to move the pieces around on the board just to keep everyone at maximum effectiveness; not because they are less on their game, but because of the psychological peculiarities of men and women who hear the Gospel. Traveling ministers are such a breath of fresh air that they risk losing their cutting edge because people are so un-used to them that they can minister the same couple messages in 200 places and get an amen every time. While the home preacher may have a fresh word every day and it go unreceived. Why? A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

Paul leaves Ephesus

And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him, Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more… (Acts 20:1ff)

Paul here is leaving Ephesus and went on to fulfill God’s will for his life, leaving us many vital life lessons and revelation that had he stayed at Ephesus we would have never received. All of his work was closed in a triumphant testimony at the end of 2 Timothy and his ministry to Nero where he was likely put to death. He wrote many epistles after this time. At some point he apparently sent young Timothy to be at Ephesus, because in 1 Tim. 1:3 he told him to ‘abide at Ephesus.’ This would have been ca. late 60’s AD. He came up under Paul and from a child had known the holy scriptures. Ephesus went on being the premier church in Asia Minor and is our example of how a church can leave their first love, repent and return to their first love. It survived several centuries after Paul’s and Timothy’s death as an example of how God can keep a church by the Word of His grace and with men after God’s own heart. Apollos planted, Paul and Timothy watered and God gave the increase. There can be no greater testimony in this life or no greater glory given to God.

Artists concept of Paul and Apollos



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