GODS APPROVAL IS ENOUGH
By Pastor William R. Cunningham
Many times Christians have the idea that they need someones approval in order to do what God has called them to do. We think that unless the pastor gives his or her approval that we cannot step out and minister to people. This is far from the truth in regards to living your ministry. The only person that you need to approve of you is God. If God has called you then He will prepare you and He will send you to do what He has called you to do.
There are Christians with an abundance of gifts from God but are inactive because they do not have the approval of their pastor, bishop, grandmother, or whomever. They dont know that they can pursue their calling personally apart from those people that are leaders in a particular church or church organization. They dont know that they only need look to God for direction, instruction and then assignment.
Now there will be people in our lives that will be used by God to train us and to be our mentor and we their disciple so to speak. This is the arrangement as Elijah and Elisha, and Jesus and His disciples. These were more personal relationships where the disciple walked with the discipler for training and instruction and to glean from his experience doing the particular ministry. Even in these situations, it was God that called the disciple and God ordered the steps of the mentor to train the disciple for future service.
In any case, let us not think that we need to have the approval of man to do what God wants us to do. Let us realize that all we need is Gods approval and that is enough. This requires much faith in God because you will find that you will have to step out and do what he says. You may not have someone to hold your hand so to speak. So a relationship with God is paramount in these situations.
We are going to look at the Epistle to the Galatians, which was written by Paul the Apostle. We are going to see two things. The first thing we will notice is that Paul defends his apostleship and the second thing we will notice is how the truth of God can be corrupted by false teachings and receptive minds. Our focus however, will be on Pauls defense of his apostleship, which I find to be quite fascinating in principle.
Galatians was written about AD 52 or in that general time frame. Some believe it could have been written as early as AD 48. The Apostle Paul wrote this epistle to the churches at Galatia (scholars are still not certain of the destination of this letter). The Epistle to the Galatians dealt with the question of salvation through faith versus salvation through works.
Paul the Apostle was born in Tarsus (about 400 miles north of Jerusalem). He was thoroughly trained in the Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament) and the rabbinic traditions (Acts 22:3). Paul was a member of the ultra-orthodox sect of Pharisees before his conversion (Acts 23:6).
The issue of being saved by faith or works was the focus of this epistle (letter).
The Judaizers (Jewish Christians) were teaching that the gentiles must first
become a Jewish proselyte and submit to the Mosaic law before they could become
Christians. The Galatians appears to have been receptive to this heresy and
Paul wrote this letter to defend justification by faith and oppose the justification
by works teaching.
Look at Galatians 1:1.
Galatians 1:1 (NKJV) Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),
Note how Paul qualifies his apostleship. He states that he was an apostle by Christ and God and not through or by another man (not even the disciples of Christ). This is very interesting because you would expect that an apostle at this point would be those that Jesus taught while on the earth. One could easily perceive Paul as a false apostle because he had not been trained or called by Christ. However, if you look at Acts 9:3-16 you will see that Paul was indeed called by Christ. You will also find that Pauls training also came through Christ (verses 11 and 12).
I have been pondering the issue of Paul and the spread of Christianity since I watched a Christian history documentary. I found it quite interesting that God chose someone outside of the inner circle so to speak, namely the disciples of Christ. In addition to that, the disciples of Jesus Christ (now apostles) did not train Paul. Pauls revelation of the Gospel came from Jesus Christ. Pauls authority came through Jesus Christ.
We tend to believe that we need the approval of men in order to do the ministry that God has called us to do. However, all we need is Gods approval and His calling in order to do what he has called us to do. However, we do live in a society that has a government and we must abide by that government. Also, the fact that we dont need anyones approval does not mean that we dont need anyone. Pastor, teachers, ministers, evangelists, and other ministers in the body of Christ can help you. You must also consider the arrangement of the mentor and student. Sometimes a pastor or minister is our mentor and we listen to him or her and glean from their experiences and knowledge. The fact remains that our calling and approval is from God not people.
Paul goes on to give a relatively standard greeting, which gives notice that grace (favor, Gods divine influence on your life, benefit) and peace comes from God the Father and Jesus Christ. This is an important concept as it is contrary in principle with the Judaizers, where peace comes from adhering to the law and not through the grace of God.
THE FALSE GOSPEL
In verse 6, Paul begins to express his amazement at the fact that the churches at Galatia were turning to a new gospel, which really wasnt a gospel at all. Paul says that if he or even an angel from heaven preaches any other gospel then the one that the church first received then let that person be accursed. The word accursed here is from the Greek word anathema, which in this case referred to someone that was doomed to destruction. The implication here is to remove fellowship from such a person, to excommunicate.
This type of thing is true even today. There is always someone that would pervert
the truth of Gods word. Here the Judaizers were perverting the Gospel
by requiring gentiles to follow the Mosaic Law and rabbinic traditions. Today
ministers place a plethora of requirements on the people, which result in bondage
not liberty. People are afraid to do what God told them to do because they are
bound by so many religious rules and regulations. Now Im not saying that
these rules and regulations are all bad. For example, a question was asked during
the sermon that pertained to the balance between having rules to abide by and
liberty. Christians are liberated from the bondage of death and the bondage
of the law. Christians are liberated from these things and they are liberated
to something. Christians arent just freely floating in moral space. We
are liberated to god, which means we are now bound to God for his purpose. Previously
we could not be bound to God because we were bound to something else, namely
the religious rules and regulations.
So we have to be careful to keep ourselves from bondage and keep ourselves joined to Christ for proper Christian living. We arent free to do whatever we want. We are free to obey God and do what He wants us to do. We have to be careful to take what we hear and weigh it against the word of God else we could easily fall for heresy.
In verse 10, Paul says that he is not trying to please man or win mans approval. His objective is to please God and to have Gods approval. After all, God is the one that sent him so only his approval and pleasure with his service are important. We should be careful to desire to please God and have Gods approval instead of looking to please people and have their approval. Many times, obeying God means that you have to do something that will cause people to hate you or despise you.
PAULS CALL AS AN APOSTLE
Galatians 1:11-12 (NKJV) But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Again Paul makes it clear that his activities and calling are from God. He also makes it clear that the Gospel that he preaches came via revelation from Christ. He did not receive his calling or knowledge of the Gospel through man, but solely from Christ.
In verse thirteen through eighteen, Paul tells how God called him to the ministry of Jesus Christ. God revealed Jesus Christ to Paul when He saw fit to do so. It was then that Paul was called by God to preach to the gentiles. What is striking is that Paul did not seek the apostles for instruction. Instead he went to Arabia and then to Damascus. What is striking here is that you would think that Paul would go to one of Jesus Apostles for instruction. After all, they had walked with Jesus Christ and heard His teachings first hand. However, Paul did not consult them at all. His confidence seemed to be in the revelation that he had from Christ.
After three years seemingly in Damascus, Paul visited Peter for fifteen days. The churches in Judea did not know Paul but had heard how the one that once persecuted the church of Christ was now preaching the Gospel of Christ and they glorified God because of that.
PAUL PREACHES THE GOSPEL IN JERUSALEM
Now fourteen years have passed and Paul goes to Jerusalem by revelation. He
preached the Gospel to the gentiles and spoke privately with the important
people. He spoke privately to the leaders so as to be affective in his
ministry and presentation of the Gospel to them.
Now Paul also said that there false brethren (posing as Christians) that were
brought in to spy out the liberty that Paul and company had in Christ and the
purpose of that was to put Paul and company into bondage. Remember the belief
of the Judaizers was righteousness through works. However, Paul and company
did not yield to the pressure of the Judaizers and continued with the preaching
of the Gospel of Christ.
I believe that a persons relationship with God is between that person and God. However, if we dont know what God said then we have no choice to simply do what we are told by ministers, pastors, and the like. We never learn to hear from the Holy Spirit ourselves so we rely on someone else to dictate our lives. Ive seen peoples lived wrecked because they listened to a pastor that had no idea what he was talking about in regards to the situation. Why do we listen to these people instead of listening to God? Why is it that Christians dont think to hear from God and allow the Holy Spirit to govern their lives? No. Wed rather live by the rules and regulations of a church institution that brings us into bondage instead of living for God who brings us into liberty to fulfill our divine purpose.
It is far easier to live by the rules of the institution instead of faith. I can just make sure that I adhere to the rules whereas faith, I am held responsible to first know what God said and then rely on the Holy Spirit to help me do what God said. Faith is crucial in this instance whereas following the rules does not require much faith. Sometimes people do see the truth in the Word of God but are shortly thereafter brought back into bondage by someone who wants to control them or is just as ignorant. Dont be compelled to go into bondage. Be free and stay free by the Spirit of God. Be free to do all that God wants you to do.
PAULS APOSTLESHIP RECOGNIZED
Paul was recognized as an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the first Apostles of Jesus Christ (formerly the disciples). James, Cephas (Peter) and John recognized the anointing on Pauls life to preach the Gospel to the gentiles while they preached to the Jews (circumcised). They gave Paul the right hand of fellowship, which was a gesture that signified their partnership in the ministry. The right hand of fellowship was a custom at that time.
PAUL CHASTISES PETER
Now here starting at verse 11 Paul demonstrates his boldness. He confronts Peter about his hypocrisy. When certain people came from the Apostle James, Peter remove himself from the fellowship of the uncircumcised (typically the Greek). However, any other time he would associate with the uncircumcised because he was afraid of the circumcised Jews. Paul confronted Peter before everyone.
What is amazing to me is that Paul confronts a man that actually walked with Jesus Christ. However, we see also that even Peter was human and had certain fears and issues. Now how many of you, being called by God, would approach someone such as a pastor and tell him or her their fault. We have come to believe that pastors are so special when in fact God shows no favoritism (See Galatians 2:6). Even these pastors would tell you, Touch not my anointed and do my prophets no harm. Did it ever dawn on you that you are Gods anointed too! Who said that the only people that are anointed are pastors and ministers? Such is not the case and very far from the truth. If you are born again then God anoints you as well. You might not be anointed as a pastor but you still have an anointing on your life. So this means that the pastor should not touch you as well. Do you understand that? We have placed these men and women on pedal stools as if they were kings and queens with complete authority over our lives. God is the authority of your life. Pastors, bishops, elders, and any other religious leader has no authority over you save they are your mentor or your discipler. Then they would have a level of authority over you as you walk under them and learn.
So remember that if you see something wrong with another Christian whether that Christian is a pastor, bishop, deacon, or whatever then you have a right to inform him of his or her fault, though in a non-confrontational manner. With humans you always have to deal with the pride issue and the fact that no one likes to be told what to do by someone else.
Now you see the authority that Paul demonstrated by confronting Peter. All that Paul had was his calling from Jesus Christ, which was eventually recognized by the apostles. All Paul needed was Gods approval. That is all that you need as well. Dont seek to please man (See Matthew 6). Dont seek to please the pastor, bishop or whomever. Seek to please God because He is the one that called you and it is He that you will have to answer to.
Dont wait for someones approval to start your ministry. Be like Paul and do what Christ tells you to do apart from anyones approval. Do what God wired you to do. Sure you will need certain types of recognition if you operate in a certain system. However, no one can stop you from ministering to people if you are called to do it. That doesnt mean that you have to have a church. That doesnt mean that you even need a congregation. It is so disturbing how church-centric that we have become. Everything seems to be measured to a church structure. I would dare say that the ministry of a pastor does not need a local church in the way we think of it. Paul says that a pastor is a gift of the spirit not a position in an institution as we are so accustomed to believing. A pastor is a gift of God not a leader over a congregation, at least in biblical terms. However, in the church institution, the pastor is the leader (the Bible does not say this about a pastor). In the church institution, a pastor is the authority over your life, which also is not taught in the Scriptures.
The authority over your life is God and He calls you to do whatever He wants
you to do. Paul said that God called him from birth and the same applies to
us. God has a calling on our lives and we are responsible for fulfilling that
call. We dont need anyones approval to do what God wants. We dont
need anyones commission or ordination to do what God wants. Who ordained
the apostles? Who ordained Jesus? Who ordained the apostolic fathers of the
first century church? Jesus, thats who. However, as the institution of
church grew, the influence of the sinful nature of men became more evident.
Its amazing that the church survived these two thousand years when you
consider the greed, corruption, and hypocrisy of the church institution. So
remember that your authority is God and it is His approval that you need and
that is enough. Amen.
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