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Paul, an apostle…

Paul an apostle—not from men, etc.

Galatians 1:1

From whence such boasting?  Here is Paul, as we have heard, claiming not to be an apostle from men, but from God.

On the one hand, such words sound arrogant, proud, and without foundation.  Cult leaders and others all claim to have God’s calling.

On the other hand, these words from a truly called and truly sent man of God are genuine and true.

The difference between the two, between the one who is not from God and the one who is from God, is determined by their preaching, by their words.

Jesus says, 15 ” Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “Therefore by their fruits you will know them. 21 ” Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:15-23)

The false preacher might sound ‘right’, but he doesn’t preach according to the Word.  The true preacher, however, does preach according to the Word.

Paul’s boasting is right.  He hadn’t chosen himself to preach (Acts 9).  God had called him.  And what did Paul preach—the Good News of sin forgiven in Christ.  He preached that only Christ was Savior.  His boasting was of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:31; 2 Corinthians 10:17; Galatians 6:14).  His calling was sure.  And this was his confidence, as well as those who heard him.  This is also the confidence of those called today of God, and the confidence of those who hear them.  Amen.

Luther

The reason for our proud boasting is that we are in a divine calling and in God’s own work, and that the people need to be assured of our calling, in order that they may know that our word is in fact the Word of God.  This, then, is not a vain pride; it is a most holy prided against the devil and the world.  And it is a true humility in the sight of God (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p20-21)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending faithful pastors to preach only your Word.  Give us your Holy Spirit that we discern between true and false preachers, hearing the one, but avoiding the other.  Grant to your people everywhere faithfulness, and boldness to say what needs to be said.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

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Reflections on the words ‘missionary,’ and ‘call’


In the rhetoric of today’s church, clarity is greatly lacking.  Confusion abounds, often due to sloppy language (of which I am also guilty).  Technical language is left to academics, while words in the non-academic world are thrown around left and right and can mean anything and everything under the sun.

Missionary

Take the word missionary, for example.  Today, without hesitation, men and women are called ‘missionaries,’ even with the LCMS.  Historically, the word missionary was reserved for the man only (like the pastor), for only the man was the called and ordained servant of the Word ‘called’ to preach and teach.  Missionary used to refer to one who proclaimed the Gospel to a foreign people, baptized, catechized, and even distributed the Lord’s Supper to those who were united in the same confession of faith.

Today, the word missionary has additional meanings.  It sometimes means the above, but more often than not, it refers to a person who serves (often in another country, but not necessarily so) the physical needs of the people and not primarily the Gospel proclamation.  Thus, missionary today has a broader definition, which is not a little confusing.

Churches now call husbands and wives missionaries, though according to Scripture, only men are to preach publicly (1 Timothy 2:12).  This is not in the least consistent with proper theology.

Certainly, needs exist for humanitarian aid.  But why call them ‘missionaries,’ esp. since that word implies public proclamation of the Word?  It wouldn’t hurt to refer to those who help others simply as Christians, or even servants.  It at least would keep the distinctions clearer.  Perhaps such terms might sound less ‘godly’ or pious to our human ego.  But they are according to Holy Scripture.

By the way, in the dictionary, missionary is someone who is sent on a mission.  One might ask, then, what kind of mission is the missionary sent on?  Maybe this would help clarify.  For some reason, we in the church seem to have guilt if somehow we only help others in their physical need, as if we shouldn’t take joy in this, or as if this is ‘not enough’.  Certainly, the Gospel is to be proclaimed.  But I find it interesting that few, it seem, rejoice in simply helping others, and in alone helping others.  Guilt seems to pervade among Christians if only physical help is given.  Maybe that’s why that word missionary is used today.  We don’t want to imply that we only help people in their physical needs and nothing more.  Would it be so wrong, however, simply to do so, and give thanks to the Lord for doing so, rejoicing even in it? (Luke 10:37).

Call

“Call” in the church historically meant a solemn call from God to serve in a particular service (i.e. A pastor is “called” to serve a congregation as pastor).  St. Paul also talks about “callings,” with the sense of vocation (i.e. parent, spouse, child, teacher, etc.; 1 Corinthians 7).

In the LCMS, call in the past has referred exclusively to pastors “called” to congregations.   This kind of call is non-durative.  It is a call with no established time limits (Today there is debate about this in  our circles, for missionaries, interim pastors, and others, though “called,” are given a certain time frame for their service, though this is contrary to a Scriptural understanding of “call” and our understanding of the word).  Stopping at this point, again, confusion ensues.

Now, add the word “call” for a Parochial school teacher, principal, or District executive for schools.  The word “call” here is often used in connection with a contract, based on the performance of the “called worker,” with an “evaluation” of that performance by an individual or group given such responsibility (by the congregation, school, or even district).  Such a process sounds a lot like “hiring” and not calling in the Scriptural sense—more in line with the secular world, but not the church.  Another question raised is the basis/content of such evaluation (the Word, character, activity, performance, results, etc.).

The word “call” here might be used to sound more ‘churchly,’ even as the word “missionary” has now taken on the meaning of “helper” apart from the public proclamation of the Gospel.  But what would be wrong in simply saying “hire,” even for a teacher or principal or district executive for schools?  Maybe the answer is…nothing.  At least in this way, we would be more honest and consistent in our vocabulary, calling a thing what it is and not further blurring distinctions.

Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me

Galatians 1:1-2

The above words of Paul, written by Paul himself (Galatians 6:11), reflect what might seem to us to be at least a little arrogant.  Here, Paul is claiming to be called by God.  In essence, he’s claiming that His authority is not his own—that he’s not an apostle of himself—that what he writes and proclaims is in fact true.
Such apparent arrogance may remind us of those who claim a calling for themselves, but really don’t have one and only serve themselves and their own ego, not others.  And certainly there are enough of these to go around.

But Paul’s apostleship and his authority serve a far different purpose than those who seek to lift themselves up above others.  Paul seeks to serve Christ.  And in doing so, he proclaims the Word of the Lord.  He doesn’t seek to make a name for himself.  Nor does he seek to force anyone to believe his word.  Paul here is simply declaring what is true, that the hearers (readers) take him at his word and hear what he has to say—not because Paul says it, but because God has called Paul to so speak.

In a similar way, preachers today are seen as arrogant and prideful when they claim to have God’s authority to preach and teach.  But listen to what they say.  Do they say what God says in His Word, or do they say something else?  Should they say what God says, then him you are to hear, for our Lord Jesus says, “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Luke 10:16).

Therefore is it necessary to distinguish the true preacher (God’s called and ordained servant) from the false preacher (who is not called of God and serves himself and the devil).  Only the true preacher preaches rightly, calling to repentance and preaching Christ.  The false preacher preaches works for salvation and not the truth.  Those who do not differentiate between the two not only lack discernment in things spiritual, but are indicating to God that He and His Holy Word don’t really matter.

Luther

In opposition to (this) boasting of the false apostles Paul boldly and with great (openness) pits his apostolic authority, commends his calling, and defends his ministry.  Although he does not do this anywhere else, he refuses to yield to anyone, even to the apostles themselves, much less to any of their pupils. (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p15)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you are faithful to Your Word and send preachers to declare it, that I repent and believe in Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to discern truth from error, that I not be tempted away from Your Word and life everlasting, but remain in You alone.  Give me confidence in Your promises and send Your Word throughout the world that it may take effect as You so desire.  Amen.

Let each one remain in their calling…

Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.

1 Corinthians 7:20

Discontentment and dissatisfaction are rampant among us.  We are not happy with the way things are.  Things are not as we want them to be.  We don’t have ‘enough’ money, time, or resources to do what we think we should.  Even our ‘jobs’ sometimes (and for some, more than others) have the taste of mundaneness and even displeasure.

The Christian, too, struggles with such things.  They are not immune to the desires of the flesh.  And at times, they can be overwhelming, so overwhelming, in fact, that just doing anything becomes a challenge.  It is a blessing of God that one be joyful in his work, whether that work be inside or outside the home.  It is also a blessing of God that one delights serving Him according to His Word wherever he is and however God would have him serve within his calling.

Discontentment and dissatisfaction breeds contempt and does not come from God.  Rather does contentment and satisfaction come from Him who gives everything—freely and without a contribution from us (Ecclesiastes 3:12; 5:18-20).

Only the Christian knows such contentment and joy with the things of God.  Life is hard.  Being a Christian does not mean that things will get ‘easier.’  It may be just the opposite.  But the Christian has Christ, his “all in all” (Ephesians 1:23).  And it is because of Christ that the Christian has a confidence and zeal “for the Lord,” even as things don’t appear as he would like or as he thinks they should be.  It is because of Christ that the Christian has such confidence before God that God will not judge him a sinner because of his sin.  And it is because of Christ, who has done everything already, that the Christian joyfully goes about his work, fulfilling his calling as God has called him, whatever that calling may be, and however thankless that calling might seem.  One who has confidence in the Lord in His calling because of Christ will strive to serve to the best of his ability, and thanks the Lord for such work which pleases God and serves neighbor.

Lord, grant us such confidence.  Amen.

Luther

If I am a minister of the Word, I preach, I comfort the saddened, I administer the sacraments. If I am a father, I rule my household and family, I train my children in piety and honesty. If I am a magistrate, I perform the office which I have received by divine command. If I am a servant, I faithfully tend to my master’s affairs. In short, whoever knows for sure that Christ is his righteousness not only cheerfully and gladly works in his calling but also submits himself for the sake of love to magistrates, also to their wicked laws, and to everything else in this present life—even, if need be, to burden and danger. For he knows that God wants this and that this obedience pleases Him. (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p12)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Giver of all good gifts, forgive us for taking for granted all that you freely give to us, even the very callings to which you have called us as parent, spouse, child, citizen, worker, Your baptized child and member of Your Church.  Forgive us for resenting you for placing us where we are, for being frustrated with our circumstances, and for neglecting the responsibilities of our calling.  Help us to trust in You, and to do better, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

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