The Missionary, part 2: built in the wilderness

Paul was brought to faith in Christ. There is no other way to describe the sort of change that happened in his heart and mind. The one who persecuted Stephen was now like Stephen. In Acts 9:20, we see that Paul immediately began to proclaim the Gospel of Christ in Damascus. In 9:25, Paul is having to flee Damascus because he becomes the one persecuted against. What we know from Acts is that Paul spent his time in Damascus working for the Lord. He took up the mantle of evangelism and sought to preach Christ and prove Him. That is the job description of every pastor/teacher/theologian/evangelist. This is The Missionary.

There are some details Luke chose not to include Paul would write these details himself in Galatians 1:11-24. Paul writes that God set him apart from his mother’s womb (v. 15), that God had a particular people whom He would use Paul to proclaim the Gospel to (v. 16), and that he spent some time in preparation in Arabia and in Damascus before going to Jerusalem to meet the apostles three years later. In Acts 9:23, the “many days” is a period of about three years. during this time of preparation, Paul was preaching the Gospel of Christ in Damascus.

The missionary is so impacted by Christ that he or she cannot help but to speak the words of Christ to others. While they are training, they are also proclaiming. This is the reason I think many seminarians are ill-prepared to serve the church despite the great education. It is not the fault of the seminary. It’s the fault of the seminarian. This is why local churches (particularly the elders according to Ephesians 4) have the primary responsibility to equip the saints for ministry. During the years of preparation, there is also service in the area which we are being prepared to serve. These are years that we must embrace. Acts 9:22 reveals that this period is when Paul kept “increasing in strength,” and the text refers not to physical strength but strength explicitly as he confounded the Jews in Damascus. It was a trial by fire and Paul’s initiation into the ministry of Christ. Most ministries of most missionaries do not survive this trial, but it is a trial we all must go through so that we are ready for the ministry of God’s word in a world that is directly opposed to the grace of God. Not only this, but it is also our sanctification as we are conformed more to the image of Christ.

The truth of this is that Paul’s trial would never end, at least not on this earth. He was always preparing and being prepared; both proclaiming and being sanctified. We, too, are always being built. God is always making us more like Himself as we participate in His ministry on this earth. So, the question is, “How are you being built?” Are you proclaiming as you are being prepared? We have the same mission. Who are you to proclaim to? Are you rushing into the ministry that God has prepared for you like I did, or are you taking full advantage of your initial preparatory years like Paul did in Damascus and Arabia? Even after that initial preparation, are we still willing to be built? Are we always willing partakers in God’s sanctifying work? If not, we will work in opposition to Christ and we will be frustrated as Christ accomplishes His own work.

The missionary is always growing more mature on this earth and will forever be advancing in the knowledge of Christ Jesus, our Lord.

“You have been speaking about William Carey. When I am gone, say nothing about William Carey-speak only about Willam Carey’s Saviour” (William Carey).

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