A Man and an Apostle

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God…” (Ephesians 1:1)

Bible Reading: Ephesians 1:1-2

In this series of devotionals on the book of Ephesians, our aim is not simply to understand what the words before us mean but to reflect on what they say as it relates to our faith and life. There are similarities in our approach to what has been described in earlier times as the “spiritual reading” of Scripture.

The spiritual reading of Scripture involves coming to the Bible with a desire to encounter God personally as the Holy Spirit illumines and applies his written Word to our lives. It differs from more analytical (exegetical) Bible study in that it calls for reading the Bible (intelligently still) with a prayerful openness of heart to what the Holy Spirit impresses upon us. That will never contradict the intention or meaning of a passage, but it usually emphasises an aspect of it. And it has the special quality of applying to us personally.

Take the opening verse of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It begins, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…” (Ephesians 1:1). Paul begins with his given name, “Paul” (originally “Saul”). He wants his readers to think of him first of all as a man, the man they knew from his time among them, a man with distinct physical features, manner, personality and history.

True, he was more than just a man, he was also an “apostle of Christ Jesus,” an authoritative messenger of the risen Lord.  But all the same, that didn’t stop him from being someone to be known and loved as a person. People must recognise authority (or office), within the church, but it is also important that those in leadership roles be known as more than just leaders. Older men and women, for example, need to be known and respected not just as “seniors” in the church, and elders and pastors as more than just “elders and pastors.” They need to be known, loved, respected and cared for as real persons.

Whenever I think about this, and how Paul introduces himself here in Ephesians, I recall the words of his fellow apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3:15. There, he describes Paul as “our beloved brother Paul.” Peter acknowledges his brother-apostle as a wise and deep thinker, but in the same breath, calls him a “beloved brother.”

Those of us in leadership roles need to guard against so exalting our position that we set ourselves above others. No matter how dignified our role is, we remain people, not just officials.  And as people, we need to be known and loved, and to be great lovers of others.

Similarly, those who are not leaders need to remember that those who govern and lead are still real people, longing to be known and loved as such.

Closing Thoughts:

  • Do you know and respect those who lead you as real people?
  • If you are a leader, are you in danger of wanting to be thought of for your position more than for who you are as a person?

– Andrew Young, from Grace Presbyterian Church, New Zealand