There are three aspects of the life of St. Paul that we must not confuse, or else we will become confused and ineffective as ministers in God’s Kingdom. The first is the ministry that St. Paul received, the second is the scope of his ministry, and the third is the manner in which he received his commission to ministry. The conversion of St. Paul and the ministry of St. Paul were written by God in such fiery writing in the sky that we not only wonder at God’s miraculous work in his life but also wonder how in the world we could ever possibly measure up.
It is in this trying to “measure up” that we make our mistake, a mistake that hamstrings the very glorious ministry to which God has called every one of us, and to which He called St. Paul.
To begin with, St. Paul was elected by God to be the steward of His mysteries, an apostle to the Gentiles, and a witness to Jesus Christ wherever he went. He was called to be a faithful witness and minister of the things he had seen and the things which Jesus Christ would reveal to him. He was to go out and open the eyes of those who were blind, as he himself had been, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Christ.
The scope of St. Paul’s ministry is unparalleled. The number of churches he personally founded, the territory he visited, the revelations he received, and the grace to be the apostle to the Gentiles are beyond any other in God’s Kingdom. We’re all familiar as well with the miraculous personal visitation by Jesus Christ that he experienced, and the dramatic way that he was converted from being a persecutor of Jesus Christ (because he was a persecutor of the Body of Jesus Christ) to being the Church’s greatest minister and sent one.
So we praise God for the life and ministry of St. Paul and the epiphany of God’s light and power that was revealed in St. Paul. And we wonder where that leaves us.
I have never been knocked down by Jesus Christ (though He has had to slap me a few times!) I’ve never heard the voice of Jesus Christ from heaven speaking directly to me, nor have I seen a blinding light much brighter than the sun. I haven’t been caught up to the third heaven, and I haven’t suffered the way St. Paul suffered. The reach of my ministry, even with the advent of the Internet, is still relatively small.
I’m tempted to think that I just don’t measure up.
The problem is that I’ve been comparing myself to St. Paul using the wrong measure. I’ve been comparing the scope of the ministry God has entrusted to me and the means by which God has revealed Himself, two things that God says really aren’t that important. God is telling us that we don’t have to “measure up” to St. Paul in these areas because it isn’t His will for us to receive the same things in the same way as St. Paul.
The true comparison is between the ministry we have received and that which St. Paul received, and when we compare these two we find that they are identical. You and I have received the same glorious ministry that St. Paul received because we have received the same glorious Christ and same powerful God that St. Paul received.
God has appeared to each of us just as surely as He appeared to St. Paul, albeit it less dramatically. The epiphany of Jesus Christ has come to each of us for precisely the same purposes as the epiphany of Jesus Christ came to St. Paul. What Jesus Christ told to St. Paul about the ministry he had received is exactly what he is telling every one of you today about the ministry He has given to you:
You have been elected by God to be the steward of His mysteries, a sent out one, and a witness to Jesus Christ wherever you go. You have been called to be a faithful witness and minister of the things you have seen and the things which Jesus Christ will reveal to you. You are to go out and open the eyes of those who are blind, as you yourself had been, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Christ.
You and I and St. Paul are the same, for we have all received the same Jesus Christ and the same glorious ministry! So what if the things that St. Paul saw were greater than the things that I have been permitted to see? Is my eye jealous because God was good to St. Paul? So what if St. Paul went out to more people and endured more suffering for Christ’s sake and is more famous?
Who cares? Who can even think about such things when he has seen the all-glorious light of Jesus Christ, and who can feel impoverished when he has been entrusted with the treasures of heaven?
The truth is that each of us has been called to be a Lucifer (Satan doesn’t deserve that name anymore): a bearer of the Light in God’s Kingdom. Each of us has been given exactly the same ministry as St. Paul because Jesus Christ Himself has commissioned us to serve in His ministry, not St. Paul’s. You and I are to be faithful ministers and witnesses to however much of God’s light and treasure it pleases Him to share with us. It’s all a gift anyway! You and I have been given the Great Commission of turning men from darkness to the light, from the power of one who was Lucifer but became Satan, that they might receive the forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are being sanctified by faith in Christ.
If God gave me no one else besides my wife and 5 children to witness and minister to, what a glorious and immense ministry would already be mine!
If I would just be faithful in bearing the light of the epiphany of Christ in the way and scope which God has entrusted to me, there would be plenty of glory for me. More than this, I would be not only Lucifer, a bearer of light, but also Crucifer, bearer of the Cross to all those to whom God had sent me.
Prayer: O God, who through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Saint Paul,
hast caused the light of the gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same, by following the holy doctrine which he taught;
through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
1. Meditate on the greatness of the ministry and the Savior that God has entrusted to you.
2. Consider the ways, small though they may seem, in which Jesus Christ has commissioned you to lead people out of darkness and into His glorious light.
Resolution: I resolve to find one way I can more faithfully bear witness to Jesus Christ to one person today.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson