Discipleship: Calling, Apprenticeship, & Ministry

Apprentice

Repro. of painting by Emile Adan, copyrighted by Braun & Co., N.Y.

So, we’ve spoken a bit about delegated authority within the Scriptures. I’d like to continue in that thought by looking at several examples throughout the Old Testament. But I don’t want to lose sight of the end-goal of this series, so I want to anchor each post in this series in the Great Commission found in the book of Matthew:

Matthew 28:16-20 (NASB) The Great Commission
16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This is our mission. All of the scriptures are about Jesus Christ, and He left us with this charge before He ascended into Heaven. The book of Mark also records the Great Commission and summarizes the portion that I want to focus on for this study. The two accounts should be taken together. I believe that a strong case can be made for the modern church having made huge strides at following the “preaching the Gospel” as summarized by Mark (though the argument wains a bit when we look at the signs that follow believers)… but what I struggle to find is a modern-day understanding of “making disciples”. I suspect it will become increasingly difficult to connect or appreciate what it means to make disciples or to even be a disciple, because I believe that culturally we have lost sight of the concept of apprenticeship. Why? I blame individualism; however, having something to blame does not in itself address the problem. So, to explore the concept of Discipleship, I want to start out by breaking down discipleship into 3 major steps or phases: the calling, apprenticeship, and ministry.  Taking the 2 accounts of the Great Commission, we are called by Him through the preaching of the Gospel, then we are to become disciples of the Word (apprenticeship) and then go out and be partakers in the Great Commission ourselves. I’m breaking this down only as a generalized theme, and am in no way trying to make hard-lined separations so that you must be in one phase or the other.

Adam

Let’s start by returning to the Genesis account of Adam and the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 1:26 (NASB) 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Here we have God announcing the purpose of man before He creates man, “…let them rule…”. We have our calling. Our purpose was determined before we were created. Now, on the grand scale, since we know that in the Kingdom of Heaven we will reign and rule with Christ; therefore all of man’s earthly existence fits in the apprenticeship phase… sure, but that is not where I want to go. For apprenticeship, and what that means in our daily walks, lets look at the individual call of Adam.

Genesis 2:8,9,15 (NASB) 8 The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. 9 Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food…15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it…

Here, we have a garden that God planted and caused to grow, and then He places Adam in the garden to cultivate it. Here we have our first apprenticeship. God showed Adam how to cultivate His garden. Adam sins against God and fails his task, sending all of mankind into darkness and cursing the very ground he was supposed to cultivate and forfeiting his delegated authority over to whom had fathered Adam’s sin, the devil.

Genesis 3:21-23 (NASB) 21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.

Now, here our phases are broken somewhat, because the story of Adam is one of man’s failure and of God’s Sovereignty, Grace, Love and provision. We’ve already looked at how Jesus came to fulfill God’s plan and redeem all of mankind by paying the debt of Adam, by offering Himself as the Pure Spotless Lamb of Sacrifice. However, even after the fall, we have Adam being given his ministry, “to cultivate the ground from which he was taken“. I also like that we still have Adam being taught by God in that He, “made garments of skin…and clothed them“.

Abram (Abraham)

Let us now jump ahead a bit to another individual about whom we’ve discussed recently. Paul writes in Romans 4 about how Abram’s faith in God was credited to him as righteousness before the covenant of circumcision. Let us turn now to Genesis 12 which starts out with God’s calling of Abram:

Genesis 12:1-4 (NASB)
12 Now the Lord said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
4 So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Seventy-five years old when God first calls Abram! I remember wringing my hands unsure of what God wanted from me as a 20yr old college failure. But I digress, here in Genesis we have a rather sudden and out-of-the-blue call of God to Abram. In Chapter 11 we have the lineage from Noah to Abram, Sarai, and Lot. Aside from some basic family data, the only thing we know about Abram at this point is that God has a plan and a calling for Abram… and its BIG. To this point, Abram has done nothing deserving of the call of God, just as Adam had done nothing to deserve his calling. The Bible… is about God. Also notice that there is no delay in moving from Calling to Apprenticeship, “So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him“. What we will see here is that Abram has a long way to go before he can start experiencing the call on his life. He lies to Pharaoh in Egypt which almost leads to adultery (however, God intervenes), he and Lot have to part ways due to land not supporting both their wealth, and Lot takes the better looking land. Not exactly an explosive start to his calling, eh? Then the Lord speaks to him again

Genesis 13:14-17 (NASB) 14 The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15 for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. 16 I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. 17 Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”

So, we see here God is continuing to reveal to Abram all that He intends to do in Abram’s life, and for his descendants. In Gen 14, we see 4 kings (Chedorlaomer’s team) come against 5 kings in the region (Bera king of Sodom’s team), and prevail against them, ransacking Sodom and taking with them Lot and his possessions. Abram rises up and defeats Cherdorlaomer and the kings with him and rescues Lot. That’s no small feat, not in the slightest. The Bible is quick to point out to whom goes the credit for such a feat…

Genesis 14:18-23 (NASB)
18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.

19 He blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

He gave him a tenth of all. 21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.” 22 Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.

Abram declines the “fulfill your calling quick” scheme. No doubt with all of the spoils of war, Abram could indeed have made himself a great nation. But he knew better, because he feared the One who had called him, and remembered that it would be He who would bring His Will to pass. Abram’s faith was not in the schemes of men (though he will still falter on this point regarding his wife… but hey… God’s Grace is truly amazing!); rather, it was in the Word of God. In Chapter 15, we see Abram ask God directly, “Oh Lord God what will you give me since I am childless…” and God answers him with a promise that his heir would come from his own body. It is then, that Abram believed in the Lord God and it was credited to him as righteousness (now we’ve come full-circle to Paul’s explanation of justification by faith in Romans 4). God’s call to Abram was a mighty call. And God had to work with Abram for many years. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham after establishing the covenant of circumcision and He had to deal with Abraham both in blessings and in rebukes. Twenty-five years after being called by God, Abraham finally has his son, Isaac. Abraham is 100 years old by the time a son is born to him. In the very next chapter, God tests Abraham. Now, I pray that we never have to deal with this level of testing to move on from apprenticeship to ministry, but Abraham passes the test for which he had been studying for 25 years (since the God called him):

Genesis 22:15-18 (NASB) 15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.

Abraham didn’t do anything to invite God’s call on his life, anymore than Adam did. But what Abraham did after God initiated the call on his life: he believed in the Lord, and obeyed His voice. As Christians, we’ve been grafted into God’s everlasting covenant with Abraham through Jesus Christ, who bore within Himself the punishment for the sin of all mankind. We’ve been granted an inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven, where we will reign and rule with Christ as heirs and joint heirs.

But what is our calling now? Remember the Great Commission (Mark 16 & Matthew 28). That is a calling for all of us who’ve answered the call of the Holy Spirit on our lives, to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. That is not to say that we don’t have individual callings. God has a plan for each of us made before we were born (Psalm 139:16) and when we are made alive in Christ, He gives us gifts and callings:

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NASB) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

It takes time, we will stumble along the way, but God is faithful to complete His work in each of us. Not everyone has the same calling, and we really have no say in what our calling will be, nor can we randomly pick a calling from the Bible and implore to grant us that calling. God does the calling, and the teaching, and the perfecting. What do we do? In closing this post (we’ll be revisiting this topic), let us turn to James 4:

James 4:7-10 (NASB) 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

We submit to God. Please know that I am in no way claiming to have succeeded in this myself. I struggle as you. I stumble just as you stumble (maybe even in the same areas). And like you, I put my hope in Jesus Christ. For apart from Him, I am nothing.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,
FS

Delegation of Authority: Adam

We’ve been spending a great deal of time looking into the Authority of God and His Word, particularly at the Authority of Bible. The Bible declares God as the Sovereign ruler and creator of everything… by His Word. We’ve established that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, and that He was with God in the beginning, and apart from Him nothing that has come into being has come into being (John 1, NASB), I love that wording! So, in the beginning there was God, His Word, and His Spirit… and all things were created by Him. As Creator, He is undoubtedly Sovereign in His dominion.

the Hands by Michelangelo

the Hands by Michelangelo

Genesis 1:26-31 (NASB) 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Here we have the first instance of delegated authority. Man, having been formed from the very dust of the Earth, was now delegated authority over the Earth. Man is set to “rule over” everything on earth and in the sky above the earth and in the sea. In the next chapter, we get some specifics on that authority and how that played out for mankind.

Genesis 2:15-17 (NASB) 15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

I have always been fascinated with the garden of Eden. Particularly with the way it is introduced and how the Adam gets placed into it after he is created… and then booted out of it later on as a result of the fall of man. But for now, let us look at the authority and responsibility (the two concepts are inextricably linked, by the way) given to Adam. He was placed into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. Adam was given a task, and the authority to perform the task was delegated to him. How interesting to see that in the very next verse, we have the first instance of something in all of creation being “not good”. Continue on with me

Genesis 2:18-24(NASB) 18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,

 “This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

It was not good for the man to be alone. He needed a helper. However, nothing that was formed from the ground was a suitable helper for Adam (sorry, guys… the notion of “man’s best friend” being a dog…simply isn’t biblical 😉 ).  All joking aside, there are some key points I believe being made here.

The first one being that man was already created, and delegated authority and rule over all created things AND he’s been put to work while he was still alone. In his solitude, God saw that it was not good for him to be alone, so He decided man needed a helper. God had a plan the entire time, so the trotting out of all of the created beings before Adam was NOT an exercise of trial-and-error for God. It was for Adam’s benefit that God wanted to demonstrate to him that none of the other created beings were worthy of serving as helper to man. Why is that? Because man was of a different kind from the rest of creation, and man was to be set as ruler over all created beings in the sea, on the earth, and in the sky. For man to fulfill his charge, and execute his authority in ruling over the earth and filling the earth, he needed a helper of his own kind. Therefore, The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. Adam recognized the significance of what the Lord God had done here, which is why God saw fit that we maintain the quote from Adam. Now Adam was no longer alone, and in being joined with his wife, they shall become one flesh, and now they were given the ability to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, after their own kind (mankind).

The second point I’d like to make, is that there is no realignment of authority once the woman is created. Adam was already placed in charge, and given the task and its singular parameter (not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good an evil, v17) to obey. The authority and responsibility to keep the law was placed upon Adam, before woman was created. Once Adam was given his helper, his wife, the order is not re-given to them. Adam is responsible and it will be Adam who will ultimately be held responsible. That is the nature of authority. So, mankind was created equal, male and female both equal because no other alternative was suitable for Adam. However, within that equality, there is still authority. Woman was created as a helper for man, enabling him to fulfill God’s commandment to man. Woman is equal to man, having been pulled out of his rib and formed to be joined with him. But it is Adam that was given authority.

Even was tempted by the serpent (Gen 3), and was apparently not properly instructed (v3) in the commandment of the Lord God, given to Adam (which was Adam’s responsibility) and she ate the fruit. She then handed it to Adam, and he joined her in her sin. So now what? Who’s in charge now? Remember that we serve an all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present God. So God knows exactly what happened, and who was at fault for each act. So, again, the investigation that takes place after the sin is not for God’s sake, but ours. God questions the Adam first, because it was to Adam that He gave the instruction, authority, and responsibility. Having failed to do what is right in the sight of God, Adam sought to escape judgement by assigning blame, interestingly he goes about it cleverly (though foolishly) in trying to get the Lord God to accept blame for having given the woman to Adam. Following the example set before her, she blames the serpent. Notice, none of them lied about what happened, but they both tried to avoid blame. This doesn’t go their way, and we have judgement issued from the bottom up, first the serpent, then the woman, and finally Adam.

Genesis 3:14-15 (NASB) 14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat All the days of your life;
15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

The Lord God has a plan. God was not caught off-guard, nor was He caught unaware. He knows everything, and here, we see the Lord God declaring that the seed of woman would bruise (or crush) satan’s head, though satan will bruise him on the heel. Why her seed? because it has to be a human, but cannot come from Adam’s seed because it is now dead to sin. This is why the virgin birth is absolutely essential to the Gospel. The broken authority of mankind rests in man, not woman. It was by Adam’s sin that all of mankind fell into darkness, why we are born dead in sin (Romans 5:12-14) in need of a Savior,  Jesus Christ.

Genesis 3:16-18 (NASB) 16 To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.”

I do not wish to spend a great deal of time on this point, but here we have God’s judgment on woman for her sin. My wife and I are strong believers in natural childbirth, and we believe that God has a plan for every aspect of our lives, including childbirth. Throughout the scriptures, God uses birth pains as an illustration of what is taking place on Earth. We’ve been blessed with 2 beautiful children by natural means. God is good, and He provides,  Hallelujah! Notice the last portion… God is reiterating the roles of authority. Adam and Eve are still equal and when they are joined they are one flesh. But it is the husband who has authority over her. This is important to understanding much of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the fullness of what He came to redeem, and for what He said He will return.

Genesis 3:17-19 (NASB) 17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
19 By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.”

As Paul wrote in Romans 5, and really as the entirety of the Scriptures points out, the state of man is now complete separation from God. But our God is merciful and continually works to redeem His people and to gather all nations unto Him. But you see here that the very ground was cursed by Adam’s sin. What was Adam’s task in the Garden? To cultivate the garden and keep it. Now that very task is marred.  This leads to another issue, that when you are given authority and responsibility over something, you are held accountable for it… and your failures/successes don’t just affect you, but to that over which you are responsible.

God will redeem His creation, but He cannot do it through Adam’s seed, it must be through the seed of the woman, where the Word of God will be made flesh, so that He can redeem His people.  Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. Jesus, having lived, died on the cross, and resurrected…has secured all authority in Heaven and Earth. Having paid the ultimate penalty for the sin of mankind, bearing within Himself the death that was required by Adam’s sin, He now is the authority over Heaven and Earth, at the Right Hand of God the Father. Jesus has perfected the relationship between man and Creator and through Him is made the only Way to God.

A common error in modern-day Christianity is to forget that Jesus is still fully man in addition to being fully God. He didn’t lose his perfected body when ascended into Heaven, He still has his perfected body… and He will return for His bride, the Church. I make this point to set up the next: Paul makes it very clear that Jesus Christ maintains absolute authority over the His people. The declaration takes various forms in the New Testament, so let’s look at some of them:

Colossians 1:18 (NASB) 18 [Jesus Christ] is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.

1 Corinthians 11:3 (NASB) 3 But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

Hebrews 4:14-16 (NASB) 14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Revelation 19:11-16 (NASB) 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine-press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

I urge you, not to get caught so up modern feminism or misogyny that you miss out on the great picture of Jesus Christ, and the profound depth of God’s love and perfect planning in making for us a way of escape from our own sin. Jesus now fulfills every role of authority that man has messed up: man (second Adam), husband (to His bride, the church), judge, priest, and King. All authority. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about so much more than just granting you a “get out of hell free” card… It’s about the Greatness of our Lord God. Praise be to God and His son, Jesus.

In Him,
FS