Spirit of Grace Ministries
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The Apostles vs Today's Ministers

Peter and lame man

By Dennis Pollock

Since I gave my life to Jesus in 1973 until today, I have read the Bible a lot. These days I read through the Old Testament once a year, and the New Testament several times each year. When I reach the end of Revelation I start afresh in Matthew. I am thankful that the Holy Spirit still gives me fresh insights, but in most cases the stories, doctrines, and passages that I read are old friends. I have read them dozens and dozens of times. When I am reading the Scriptures aloud and get to the end of the page, I can often carry on with the words before I get the page fully turned.

I do not say this to boast. I love to read, always have. I know reading is difficult and even painful for some, which makes reading the Bible a chore for them. During my nearly fifty years of reading Scripture nearly every day, especially as I have read the epistles of the New Testament, I have noticed some glaring differences between the emphasis of the apostles and the emphasis that we find coming from the pulpits in most of our modern churches.

Of course we would expect that these men, hand-chosen by the Lord and having had direct encounters with Him, would be superior and a class above all the rest of us ministers who had to learn the ways of the Lord through a more ordinary and less direct fashion. There is no way that I or any other minister on earth today could compare with Peter or John or Paul, who had such a deep history with and revelation of Jesus. It would be unfair to expect that of any of today’s pastors or evangelists.

Models to Emulate

Still, although we cannot attain to their deep spiritual insights or anointing, they were human and flawed, just as all of us are, and there is no reason why every generation of ministers cannot at least somewhat resemble those early apostles of Christ, if not in anointing at least in emphasis and focus. But as I read the writings of these early leaders of the church I find that not only do we come short of their spiritual gifts and anointing, but many, if not most, ministers today are light years away from the ministry emphasis that burned in the hearts of those early-church apostles. Obviously all ministers are different and one should not over-generalize, but based on the television preachers I have heard and the pastors in the churches where I have attended or visited, I cannot help but sense a vast disparity between the majority of today’s ministers and the leaders of the early church. Let’s consider three areas where this disparity is unquestionable.

The apostles were a lot tougher than most ministers of today. When I consider this difference, I cannot help but think of the difference between coarse, dark brown, whole wheat bread compared with soft, white, colon-clogging bread. The apostles were the whole wheat, of course! Today’s ministers seem timid and rather pale by comparison. Paul could be incredibly encouraging, but he could also be painfully tough. He writes such things as:

  1. To those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. (Titus 1:15, 16).
  2. Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals… (1 Cor 6:9).
  3. If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

When I read verses like these, I sometimes try to imagine modern preachers ever saying them from a pulpit in church on a Sunday morning or on television. And of course, I cannot even imagine it. I’m sure that somewhere in the world a handful of ministers may be saying such things or quoting these verses, but not many! Few pastors would dare utter them, fearing, I suppose, that they might lose a big chunk of their congregations. It would be almost as unlikely to hear one of these kinds of verses coming from the mouth of many of our popular preachers today as it would be to hear a sparrow bark like a dog, or a hamster roar like a lion.

Peter, like Paul, could be very encouraging to the believers, but also like Paul he could also be tough. He writes:

…the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness… (2 Peter 2:9-10).

And John forcefully declares:

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:3-4).

These are concepts and expressions that one rarely hears today, either by the television preachers or in the Sunday morning service at your local church. This vein of tough, uncompromising teaching and warning is for the most part totally ignored. If Paul or Peter or John could be raised from the dead and come and preach at the average “Who-says-Christianity-can’t-be-fun?” church they would receive an icy reception, and very few “Great sermon, Pastor!” compliments when folks shook hands with them after the service.

A Matter of Focus

A second area of difference is that the apostles focused on Jesus, while most modern ministers do not. To me, this is huge! When I read the epistles of the Bible, I find Jesus all over the place. A perfect example of this is found in the first chapter of First Corinthians, written by Paul. He refers to Jesus or Christ or Jesus Christ 16 different times in that single chapter, including:

  1. …to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours. (verse 2)
  2. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (verse 3)
  3. I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus… (verse 4)
  4. …eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ… (verse 7)
  5. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (verse 9)
  6. Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ… (verse 10)
  7. …we preach Christ crucified… (verse 23)
  8. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God… (verse 30)

And I’ve just shared with you about half the references in this one chapter of this one epistle of Paul’s. The Bible says that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, and surely the great apostle’s heart was filled with Christ. In another place he states, “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

How pathetically different this is from most sermons we hear today, both those on television and those in church on Sunday mornings. Many pastors will reference Jesus if He happens to be in the text from which they preach. But if they are preaching on some Old Testament story, or simply sharing about how God wants to make your wildest dreams come true, there will be almost nothing of Jesus in the message. Sadly, it is frequently possible to sit through an entire Sunday morning sermon of thirty-five minutes or so, and never hear the name of Jesus mentioned one time!

How anemic much of our modern church has become for want of Christ, who is the strength and the life of His people. He says that with Him we can do all things and without Him we can do nothing. He tells us that if we fail to abide in Him, we will be plucked up like a dry, withered useless, fruitless branch. Sadly, that is exactly what many churches and many professing Christians have clearly become.

Cross-less “Christianity”

A third difference between the apostles and many modern ministers has to do with an emphasis on the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Not only do many ministers today seem to rarely mention Jesus by name, when they do it is more likely in the sense of Him being a great Friend and little more. There is a huge silence about Jesus’ death on the cross for the sins of the world and His resurrection from the dead. Sometimes pastors attempt to “lead people to Christ” by declaring that we need Jesus in our lives to help us with our problems, bless us, and be an encourager of our hearts when we are in despair. No doubt all of this is true but being born again is not about receiving Jesus as our Lord and Encourager, or our Lord and Helper, or our Lord and self-esteem builder. We must receive Jesus as our Lord and SAVIOR. This means we recognize that we are sinners, and that Jesus’ death on the cross was to take our place and take our sins upon Himself, and that He was raised from the dead three days later.

If there is no cross and resurrection in an evangelistic presentation, be it at a coffee shop or in a stadium of 50,000 people, there is no real evangelism. The gospel of Jesus Christ is all about His cross and resurrection. And people never get saved, never find forgiveness, never experience peace with God until they see this. Paul writes:

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures… (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

In many churches today you might easily be able to attend every Sunday morning service for a year and hear a reference to the cross and resurrection of Jesus less than five times. At Easter you would probably hear it, and maybe two or three other times, and that would be about it. Yet the apostles were constantly talking about this all-important event. Peter writes:

…when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness–by whose stripes you were healed (1 Peter 2:23-24).

And also:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).

The death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart of the gospel and the lifeblood of the church. And yet in our desire to be relevant, in our ambition to attract as many people as possible, in our lust to be pleasing to all and offensive to none we have somehow decided that this needs to be put in the closet and only brought out on special occasions, such as an Easter Sunday.

Who is Right?

Would Paul or Peter be popular preachers today? Well, of course they would be popular due to the fact that people were healed when the shadow of Peter fell upon them or delivered when handkerchiefs from Paul’s body touched them. But if you took away the miracles, and let them simply preach and teach the way they preached and taught back in the days of the early church, somehow I doubt they would be too popular. They promised no easy life, they were long on doctrine and short on dramatics, they preached much of Jesus and said next to nothing about us fulfilling our destiny to become great in this world, they acknowledged that Christians must sometimes suffer… In short, they were almost antithetical to much of the modern idea of what Christian preaching should entail today.

Being the Bible lover and the Bible reader that I am, I must admit I am biased. I can’t help but feel that Peter and Paul got it right, and many of our modern preachers have missed it. It is not that everything they say is wrong. Much of what they say is right. But too much of it is pablum, it is Christianity lite which promises much, asks little, and is strangely silent about the Founder and Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ.

May God have mercy on us!



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