Acts Devotionals

Servanthood Over Lordship

We have been calling the apostle Paul by his Hebrew name Saul since meeting up with him when the Jews stoned Stephen to death:

Ac 7:58 Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

Ac 8:1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.

Now Luke starts to call him Paul. This is most likely because they are now outside the Jewish environment, although still evangelizing Jews. Thought, their Holy Spirit directed target from now onwards would be mainly Gentiles. This is the reason Luke writes:

Ac 13:9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul.

Some suggest that because the proconsul was named Sergius Paulus, Saul changed his name to Paul as a play on Paulus to get a favorable hearing. Others suggest that when Saul was commissioned as a missionary with the laying on of hands in Acts 13:2-2 his name was changed. Although there is no conclusive evidence for any suggestions, I feel he changed his name to the Greek version for missionary purposes. The Hebrews’ way of saying Saul would sound too foreign in the Greek communities he was going to evangelize. Our passages continues:

Ac 13:9 filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? 11 Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

1) A leadership change. You will recall that Barnabas seemed to be the team leader, even from before he fetched Paul (then Saul) to help him. From now onwards Paul is mentioned first, indicating him as the leader of the missionary team. More, Luke does not refer to Barnabas being filled with the Holy Spirit, but Paul.

Ac 13:9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit.

As we have already mentioned, one should never seek to be the number one in God’s Kingdom, nor in the local Church. You will recall James and John’s mother requesting her sons receive the highest positions in Jesus’ Kingdom.

Mt 20:20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. 21 “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” 22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. 23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” 24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

2) The greatest lesson to learn when it comes to leadership within the Church is that a leader needs to be a servant! The problem is that we all want to be at the helm. That is the reason for other disciples being “indignant”. They were angry and unhappy because they too wanted those positions but John and James’ mother beat them to making the request for her sons. We too need to search our hearts. We might refuse or decline a nomination to a certain position … not because we don’t want it but because we might feel we ought to have a better position. This is a heart matter and based upon the deep rooted sin that lies embedded there. We might not articulate our want for a position but it’s in the heart. It is that feeling “I am able to do better”. When it comes to the Church, we need to listen carefully to our Lord’s words to the Twelve:

Ac 13:26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.

Jesus calls for the total opposite of the world’s attitude to leadership.

Ac 13:25 “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.”

See the contrast? Servanthood over lordship! Our Lord shows us the greatest example of servanthood in Him revealing His sacrificial death to ransom many souls. All Church leadership needs to be sacrificial servanthood. Then add to this that all Christians in whichever position they find themselves, be it as a husband, wife, parent, child, neighbor, employee, employer or Church Member needs to practice sacrificial servanthood. Barnabas was equal to Paul in their position in Jesus and as fellow workers, but from this point onwards, it appears that Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles is now the mission’s team leader.

2) All Church leaders need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Ac 13:9 filled with the Holy Spirit

the spiritual leaders need to be … that must be a given. They need more than salvation. They need the new birth and they need the spiritual gift of leadership but through their daily meeting with the Lord they ought to be “filled with the Spirit”, knowing God’s mind for directing the Church community and seeking the lost. Yet … the way the passage is set for us implies that Paul’s being filled with the Holy Spirit meant he was filled with “indignation” against Elymas, the false prophet and a Jewish sorcerer. The indignation the 10 disciples had for James and John was jealousy. The indignation Paul has was righteous anger because Elymas was a wicked enemy of the Gospel.

Lord, please grant wisdom and discernment to Your Church leaders to identify and deal decisively with all false prophets who infiltrate Your Church to evil purposes. Amen.

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