An Apostle by the Will of God
Paul introduces himself to the Colossian believers.
- The first word in this epistle in both English and Greek is PAUL.
- For years during our study in Hebrews, I referred to “the author.”
- Now, I can freely name the author: Paul!
- It says Paul… there is no question as to the identity of its human author. It is Paul, the apostle.
Paul an Apostle
The title of apostle is how Paul introduced himself in many of his epistles. Twice as “servant” (Philippians & Romans); once as “prisoner” (Philemon); once simply by name – no title (I Thessalonians); once as apostle AND servant (Titus 1:1); and seven times as “apostle” (Corinthians; the Galatians, Colossians, Timothy).
The term “apostle” = a sent one; one sent on a mission. The term literally means “one sent from”; it implies one sent on a mission… But it also is similar to our ambassador, in that it implies one sent as a representative and with authority.
Paul’s view of the PURPOSE of the apostles’ ministry: Eph. 2:20 – the apostles were the foundation of the church. Eph. 3:5 – the holy apostles were given revelation of the church. Eph. 4:11 – they were sent by the risen Christ as apostles to minister to the early church… and build up the Body.
Paul’s view of THE POSITION of an apostle: He held the position in high esteem. Rom. 11:13 – Paul magnified his office as apostle to the gentiles, ONLY because their salvation magnified God. I Cor. 12:28 – the apostles were set forth FIRST in the church.
Paul’s view of himself as an apostle: I Cor. 15:9 – he was the LEAST of the apostles because he persecuted the church. II Cor. 12:11 – his office was something in his eyes, but he was NOTHING.
The world’s view of an apostle: I Cor. 4:9-13 – the offscouring…(dirt rubbed off; scum). When Paul introduced himself as an apostle, this was not a title that would make men stand up and applaud… not in the world! Just a generation or so ago, a Bible believing minister of the gospel was held in high esteem in the community in this country. Today it is edging closer and closer to offscouring. Paul wasn’t ashamed of Christ or of the gospel or of his ministry as an apostle… but it was NOT highly esteemed in the world.
Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ
Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ… sent from Christ… with a message from Him… as His representative… and carrying the full weight of His authority. Though Paul was a “sent one” like the other twelve original apostles, Paul’s apostleship was a bit different.
The term implies one sent on a mission, but says nothing about what that mission was. Paul’s mission was a bit different than the mission of the other twelve. His mission and apostleship were different from the other apostles. This truth is KEY in dispensational theology…
- It is key in keeping Israel and the church distinct…
- It is key in keeping the gospels and the epistles distinct…
- It is key in keeping law and grace distinct…
- Paul’s message, ministry, and mission were NOT like the other apostles as we read of them in the gospels.
Acts 9:15: The Lord said unto him, “Go thy way; for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to BEAR MY NAME before the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. The other apostles were not sent to bear the name of Christ before foreign kings… and before the Gentiles. They were sent to PROCLAIM His name in Israel. Paul was sent to BEAR His name before the world… in a unique way.
Not by men…not of men… but by Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:1,15). Not OF men – of = apo = from… which speaks of source. He didn’t come FROM men with a message, but from Christ Himself! Men were not the source of his message, authority, or commission. Paul was not an apostle because the leaders at the church at Jerusalem ordained him and sent him out. His apostleship did NOT have a human source. It was NOT the laying on of hands in Acts 13:2 that made him an apostle. That was men acknowledging God’s choice.
Neither BY man – Neither = not even… By = dia = here speaking of an intermediate agency. Paul is stating that his apostleship did not originate with men… in fact, men were not even used as the agents in God’s choice! Paul’s apostleship came DIRECTLY from the Lord Himself! (Gal. 1:16-17) Not of flesh and blood – but from Christ in the Arabian desert.
But by Jesus Christ… By = dia – agency – Christ was the direct channel of Paul’s apostleship. Paul’s apostleship was not of human origin, but DIVINE, Jesus Christ being the Divine agent in that call.
And God the Father. Paul’s apostleship was DIVINE… It came to Him from God the Father… and the Son – mediate… agents… I Tim. 1:1 – “Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
And an apostle by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:2) It was the Spirit who sent Saul and Barnabus on their missionary journey. This was God’s doing all the way – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! I Cor. 15:9-10 – “By the grace of God I am what I am.” God appointed him; called him; chose him; gave him the gift of ministry and being an apostle. He didn’t win a contest to become an apostle; he didn’t beat out the competition; there was no showmanship; he didn’t show off his talents and public speaking skills. He wasn’t chosen because he was talented. He was chosen by GRACE… undeserved favor! He wasn’t chosen as a called apostle because he was gifted. Rather, he was gifted because he was a called apostle. Paul’s call to the ministry was DIVINE – not of men neither by man, but by Jesus Christ.
Application: His call was not of men, but of God. So too is the call to the ministry today. There is no supernatural call or appearance of the Lord or audible voices from heaven… But my recommendation to young men today is DON’T go into the ministry unless you are certain that it was the LORD who called you to do so! If one’s concept is that men called you, then you end up serving men… and serving in order to please men. 1:10-12 – not so with Paul. He serves Christ, not men. 3:23-24 – me too! “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” Unfortunately, church leaders seem to have lost sight of this call of God… and as a result have become man-centered… The ministry is seen as a job (job fairs!) Men hire you so you feel obligated to do what they say and what they want—instead of what GOD says and what God wants… Men often look for all the wrong qualities in calling a pastor. (Who is the most talented (Moses?); who is the most popular among the people (Jeremiah?); who wins the most souls (Noah?); who is the most eager beaver (Jonah?) who commands the best presence? (Saul or David?) Men look after the outward appearance… (tallest; strongest; smartest; most talented; most successful; best looking. God looks at the heart. Men go about choosing in all the wrong ways.
Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the Will of God (Col. 1:1)
By the will of God (Col. 1:1)
The will of God – Will: what one wishes or has determined shall be done; purpose; intent. The term speaks of God’s plans, purposes, intentions, will. God DOES have a will… a purpose and a plan for Paul’s life and for yours. Paul was an apostle because of the will of God. This was God’s plan for this man’s life… God intended for him to be an apostle… It was God’s purpose for his life… This is not simply the sovereign will or His permissive will (he permitted it – God permits many things to occur that He does not desire – sin!). Rather, this was the sovereign will AND it was the desire of God’s heart for Paul to be an apostle.
Paul was an apostle because God WANTED him to be so. Paul was a Pharisee, but God saved him and didn’t want him to be a Pharisee any more. God’s will was for Paul to be an apostle. I Tim. 2:7 – God ORDAINED him to be a preacher and apostle. II Tim. 1:11 – he was APPOINTED an apostle.
BY the will of God (Col. 1:1) (via) The very same Greek construction appears in four other epistles:
- Through the will of God (I Cor. 1:1)
- By the will of God (II Cor. 1:1)
- By the will of God (Eph. 1:1)
- By the will of God (II Tim. 1:1)
By = dia = because of; or by means of; Paul became an apostle because of God; because of God’s will; because God chose him to be an apostle. By the will of God (Col. 1:1) (via).
Paul did not become an apostle for reasons that men often use for changing their jobs: His point is that he was not an apostle because he decided to make a career change… from a Pharisee to an apostle. He did not become an apostle because the position became available and there was a great need and he felt he could resolve that need. He did not become an apostle because men convinced him that he was the man for the job. His family didn’t groom him for this position. He did not become an apostle because the position was more lucrative than his last job as a Pharisee. He did not become an apostle because the job description sounded appealing to him. He didn’t become an apostle because that’s what his degree was in. He didn’t become an apostle because of personal ambition. He did not become an apostle because he had grown disenchanted with his last position and just needed a change of pace… a change of scenery. Nor did he become an apostle because he lost the fire in his belly for his last job.
Paul lists ONE reason here for him becoming an apostle: because it was God’s will. Paul lived by the will of God. God’s will became his will. His will was merged together with God’s will. Oh that God might give us that kind of a heart!
The first thing Paul tells these folks about himself is that he is what he is because of God and God’s will. I hope we can all say this about ourselves: we are what we are because of God’s will. Your job: I work at _________ by the will of God. He led me. He guided me. He has confirmed it to me. Your ministry in the Local Church: I am a Sunday school teacher or _________ by the will of God. I am serving as pastor because of the will of God. (My position should be the same as yours in that sense! Being in the will of God is not just for pastors and missionaries!) I have decided to go to _________ school to study _______ by the will of God.
Paul, an Apostle Called to Suffer IN the Will of God
Acts 9:15-16 – Being a called apostle meant a life of suffering for righteousness sake for Paul. That was his calling. His calling was not to celebrity status… but to be viewed by the world as its offscouring.
II Cor. 11:23-28 – Paul suffered the rest of his days after having been called to the apostleship. He was whipped, beaten, humiliated; imprisoned; stoned; slandered; and the list goes on. Paul never had the opportunity to walk with Jesus on earth… see His miracles… listen to Him preach to multitudes. Paul became an apostle when being an apostle meant suffering… opposition…
Walking in the will of God does NOT mean that we live happily ever after. Walking in the will of God did not mean that for Paul… nor for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego… nor for Daniel… nor for Joseph… nor for Jesus. Sometimes we SUFFER according to the will of God.
Take this a step further. We are what we are by the will of God. But I just broke my leg! I just realized I have an awful disease! I just got laid off from work! My son just got in an auto accident! I Kings 12:24 – this thing is from me! Rehoboam just lost his kingdom… torn in half before his very eyes. Civil war… brethren against brethren. He went to fight in order to get it back and reverse the awful circumstances, but God said NO. This thing is from me! Rehoboam tried to fight against God’s will, but the Lord made him to learn to accept it… submit to it… Rehoboam now ruled over a portion of a divided kingdom… and this was “by the will of God.” It would be a difficult pill for Rehoboam to swallow, but he would learn that “this thing is from me.” The division in the land… was “by the will of God.” This ugly civil war… a nation broken up and divided, was the will of the Lord.
Sometimes God’s will for our lives is difficult to swallow. God’s will for Rehoboam was the LAST thing Rehoboam would ever have chosen for himself. God’s will for Paul as an apostle also included many sorrow filled days and nights… but there was a comfort in resting in the fact that he knew that this was the will of the Lord. Acts 9:15-16 – I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. Yet Paul didn’t fight against it. He submitted to it… knowing that Gods’ call included much suffering.
I Pet. 4:19 – “let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing.” If we suffer while doing the will of God – commit your soul to God as to a faithful Creator! Your soul will NEED comfort when God’s will for your life takes a tragic turn. God is the God of all Comfort – not for the world – but for those who suffer according to His will… for righteousness sake. When you walk with God, follow His Word, and men turn against you – you are suffering according to the will of God.
This thing is from me. The Lord Jesus told His disciples that if you are going to follow Me, be ready to pick up a cross. If we are going to follow the One who carried the burden and the weight of the sins of the whole world, then we too must be willing to carry a burden… a weight…
Paul was an apostle by the will of God. His apostleship would prove to be a most difficult task. He would suffer unimaginably because he was an apostle. Of course, he would experience joy unspeakable on many occasions too. And Paul learned that all this was by the will of God. He lived and died by the will of God. He learned that the purpose of his life was to live out God’s will… and for him – that included apostleship – which included much suffering…
Do you think Paul would have ACCEPTED the position as apostle if he knew EVERYTHING God had in store for him? Perhaps not. Perhaps if he knew ALL of the suffering, all the grief, the humiliation, the burdens that were part of it, he might have said, “No thanks. I’ll stick to tent making.” But God didn’t reveal ALL of the suffering to him up front… Neither does God reveal all of what His will for our lives includes when we are new believers. It might scare us away. God waits until we grow, and mature, and are able to handle it… But He never gives more than we can handle… God gives us grace for each part of His will… strength for each day we walk in His will… As thy days, so shall thy strength be. Paul’s unique life proves this to us all.
Paul, A Unique Apostle of Jesus Christ
His Unique Calling: He was called… (Rom. 1:1) Called: invited; divinely selected and appointed. The term is used in 8:28 – “the called” according to His purpose. Chosen by God… handpicked. Paul was an apostle by the will of God; and by the call of God – by divine appointment… divine choice… he was elected or selected to the position of an apostle—by God!
He was a called apostle… but unique. His unique calling:
- The other apostles were chosen by Christ during His period of humiliation.
- They were called to be WITH Jesus in His earthly ministry to Israel. (Mark 3:14)
- They walked with Jesus, and listened to Him teach.
- They ministered with Jesus…
- Paul never met the Lord in His period of humiliation.
The Lord Jesus in His earthly body walked up to the other apostles and called them one by one. Paul’s calling was unique. (Acts 9:3-6) His was a supernatural appearance of the glorified, eternal Son of God in power and great glory… Paul was blinded by the sight of Him… Paul was called from heaven.
A Unique Sending – The other apostles were sent to the lost sheep of the tribes of Israel exclusive and were specifically told NOT to go to the gentiles. (Mt. 10:5-6) Jesus too was sent exclusively to the house of Israel. (Mt. 15:24) Paul is an apostle sent on a mission TO the gentiles! (Gal. 2:8-9; Rom. 11:13) Acts 13:2 – sent by the Holy Spirit… men merely recognized the call.
A Unique Relationship to Christ. Paul met Christ only after His glorification. (Acts 9:3-6) Paul’s conversion took place only AFTER the cross and resurrection… and after the church age had begun. Paul only knew Christ as the God-Man in Glory… the Risen, glorified Savior… who (at the time of Paul’s conversion) was the Head of the Body, the Church… Born out of due time…Paul stands alone among the hand-chosen apostles as the only one chosen on resurrection ground. (I Cor. 15:8)
- Paul was unique, in that he was chosen by the Risen, ascended, glorified Savior.
- Paul never thought of Jesus as a carpenter… as a frail human being.
- Paul always thought of Christ in His radiant glory… as John saw Jesus in Rev. 1… and fell down at His feet as a dead man!
- II Cor 5:15-16 – We know Christ no more as the carpenter from Galilee. We know Him as the Lord from Heaven… the Lord of Glory… the glorified God Man… as the Great High Priest in heaven… the HEAD of the new creation, the church which is His Body.
His Unique Message – Unlike the other apostles, Paul never preached “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 10:7) Read through the gospels: the original 12 apostles never preached, “Jesus died for your sins and rose again on the third day.” In fact, they were reluctant to believe that! Peter outright denied it! (Matt. 16:21-22) Paul’s gospel was uniquely the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24) Paul received his message from Jesus FROM HEAVEN… not the Jesus upon the earth… an earthly message for His earthly people Israel… a message of an earthly kingdom and its Messiah King. Paul received a message from heaven, for God’s heavenly people, the church… Christ, the Head of the new creation… the New Man… the church… a unique place in God’s program.
His Unique Revelation – Paul was also the primary vessel used of the Lord in revealing the mystery, the church. (Eph. 3:2-6) Paul revealed the mystery of Christ in you—the hope of glory.
His Unique Ministry – Gal. 1:16 – God called Paul to reveal His Son IN him. God revealed Christ IN Paul, that he might communicate the GLORY of this mystery to the whole world – Christ in you! (Col. 1:27) This is the mystery of the indwelling Christ. The fact that God would be WITH His people was no mystery. The apostles knew that during Jesus’ earthly ministry. (“Even the Spirit of Truth… he dwelleth with you, and shall be IN YOU.”) Paul revealed that Christ would be in—even believing Gentiles! A marvelous mystery, now revealed… the glory of this age.
Gal. 2:8 – God worked IN Paul and that resulted in his unique apostolic ministry. God worked IN Paul… God working IN YOU both to will and to do of His good will. Hebrews ended with the words, God “makes you perfect/mature… to do His will working IN YOU that which is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ.”
Paul was sent out as an apostle in a unique way. His calling was unique – supernatural appearance of the glorified God Man. His sending was unique – sent to the Gentiles to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. His relationship to Christ was unique – he knew Him not in His earthly ministry as King, but in His heavenly ministry as Head of the Body. His message was unique – the gospel of the grace of God… His revelation was unique – called to revealed the mystery of the Body of Christ = Jew and Gentile in one Body on equal footing in Christ! His ministry was unique – sent not just to preach ABOUT Christ, but to manifest the LIFE of the indwelling Christ to the world!
The book of Colossians is a reflection of Paul’s unique apostolic ministry.
Application: Does this have any impact on our lives today? It sure does. We too are called of God – called saints! Called to suffer for His name’s sake… Called to be His witnesses… to bear His name… to represent Him… to be His ambassadors… Called to tell others the good news of a risen and glorified Savior who died for their sins and offers them life as a gift of grace. Called to manifest His marvelous indwelling LIFE to a world that needs a clear witness of who He is… that they might be attracted to our Savior… called to be a savour of LIFE… unto life.
God will call each one of us to suffer for righteousness sake sooner or later. We need to KNOW and experience the unsearchable riches of the indwelling LIFE of Christ and His resurrection power IN US… This is the ONLY way we will be able to continue on… the only way we can bear the burdens and suffering God has called us to. “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” He is not just with us… He is IN us… We don’t need help holding up our old man. Reckon him to be dead. What we need is His resurrection life… to walk in newness of life. The stronger our knowledge of and faith in this indwelling LIFE and power are – the better equipped we are to face whatever God shall call us to suffer for His name.