Unit III. Calls in the New Testament
Acts is the book of the Bible where we see the New Testament Church comes to life. They are witnessing God working through the Holy Spirit in the lives of men and women. Acts is also about the spreading of the Gospel, hence .
This unit of lessons for the month of August is found in the book of Acts. We transition from the calling of the prophets in the OT to the New Testament calls. “God continues to work through ordinary people.” Stephen, Peter, Ananias, and Paul are our foci. “Growing pains” are the source of the beginning of these calls. Let us make note that growth causes pain. There are more people coming into the fold, who all come from various walks of life. This brings the requests for more interests to be considered, which would cause those who had become comfortable with their norm to now reconsider some things in regard to the ministry. Therefore, men are called to serve the people who are being left out of the distribution.
Understanding that this is where our interpretation of a Deacon’s service comes from, let us notice their role. They are doers, not thinkers. It was the role of the apostle to do the thinking, teaching, and leading, while the deacons were to carry out the vision and service the people/congregation.
In the next three lessons, we see those ordinary men who were called to carry out specific, seemingly ordinary, tasks as well. Peter was called to explain scripture to an Ethiopian eunuch. Ananias is called to lay hands and, in a sense, confirm the call of Saul (Paul). Peter was called to a Gentile’s home to tell him of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These all are seemingly ordinary tasks. Yet, because of the mission and obedience, these actions were weaved in the working of the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s perfect will.
If there is one introduction I truly like, it is this one. Notice that what is being communicated here is that the effectiveness and fulfillment of the role is based upon what they do. The role of the deacon is a role of SERVICE. There is no particular biblical job description. THAT is left to the pastor to determine. Their job is to serve in whatever task they are given to help the people of the church and community.
Notice, the church was doing just fine BEFORE deacons were called, until there were more people. The more people came in, the more leaders were needed. The task of the deacon is to free up the Pastor/Teacher/Apostle to do just that... Preach and Teach.
But they did it with the help of the church. By their authority, they could have, but they presented it to the people for everyone to be on one accord.
As a result of having people in the right places to cover particular tasks, the church grew. It calmed grievances. It eases frustrations. It works better when there are people in the right places to handle particular tasks.
Here we witness the power of being obedient to going to where God wants you to go. This lesson shows us that ministry and its call is not just limited to preaching and even mission trips. But rather we see that when Philip goes where God leads, God puts him in position for his call to be fulfilled. It required no seminary education, but just a simple willingness to Go.
Philip already had the tools necessary. He could read and explain the word, because he knew:
What the Word said, and...
Who the Word was talking about
It is necessary for every believer to know these two things.
In this lesson, we witness the skepticism of a call. We see that God calls Ananias, and Ananias responds with a concern about who he would be ministering to. God is NOT concerned with our skepticism, but rather our obedience. God had use for Ananias, and a special place/role for Saul.
Ananias is used for healing Saul and setting him on a trajectory for ministry. From a human standpoint, if Ananias is not obedient, Paul does not receive his sight back, which prevents him from carrying out the task of ministering to the Gentiles, which eventually means no understanding of true salvation for you and I.
The black box on page 90 will heavily inform your teaching and understanding of who Cornelius is.
Heavily weighing on our minds as we teach must be the ability to reach a common ground with those who do not look or live like us. We must be able to FIRST reason within ourselves that if God can love these people, then I can too. Peter first had to have an experience that would allow him to care for those that did not live like him.
This can be the difference between our success and failure in ministry, calling, and evangelism. There are people who need to hear about the God that saved us all, but how can we share his goodness if we cannot communicate with them on a common level.
Peter’s call shares a similarity with Philip’s… They both had to listen to the voice of God and be obedient to His direction. If they do not move when God speaks, they miss their opportunity, thus finding themselves rendered as failures at their tasks. Let us note that all callings are not lifelong.
Peter goes into what he would normally consider forbidden territory to fulfill his task. He was breaking the Law to do God’s will. Is that not interesting? God would send a man to commune and be in company with someone that causes him to become a law-breaker, all for his will to be done.
*** We cannot limit God’s work and action to what He did before. Even with Jesus, God continued his statement in . We must follow the Spirit of the Lord, not the limitations of the Law, as we are now free from the Law, as found in Romans.
Despite what Cornelius represents (Rome), he seeks God and he prays. God answers his prayer the same way He has done for others. Peter is the mouthpiece sent to minister to him. We must remember, Cornelius had to something he would not have done ordinarily to get Peter in his presence. This alone shows that God is working, and Peter now had a platform for ministry (10:30-33).
In all these cases, the same is for us. Let us be obedient to the call of ministry, and fulfill our tasks obediently.