Sent by God but Commissioned by the Church
We are taught to read the Holy Scriptures as God speaking directly to our hearts, and we should. What makes this difficult, and at times spiritually dangerous, is when we read into what we hear. When we hear about God speaking directly to the Saints, we think He also speaks directly to us. If God called Saint Paul directly into ministry, then He is calling us directly into ministry. We miss one important thing. God isn’t always speaking directly to us.
Brethren, it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us; he has put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. But I call God to witness against me – it was to spare you that I refrained from coming to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith; we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. For I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.2nd Corinthians 1:21-24;2:1-4
The reason we call Saint Paul an Apostles instead of another title is because he was called and sent directly from God. We read about this in Acts Chapter 9. We sometimes forget that Saint Paul had ‘papers’ with him when we went from city to city preaching Christ. The papers were letters of introduction from the trusted members of the Church.
Saint Paul was sent by God, but he was commissioned by the Church. We know that after his baptism, Saint Paul spent time with the disciples. He was being taught the fullness of the truth. We also read in Acts Chapter 15 how Saint Paul and others had to be corrected in their teaching about circumcision. Without the trusted referrals from the Church, nobody would have dared to give Saint Paul ‘the time of day’ since he was widely known from his persecution of the Church. The same practice continues today.
Whether it is the mission field or the local parish, letters of introduction always accompany (or at least they should) teachers, preachers, evangelists, and other clergy. It is the only way the local church can be assured the proper teaching is being offered.
So, how does this relate to how YOU read the scriptures? If you feel called by God into ministry, contact your spiritual father and have him test your calling. Sometimes what we hear as God’s voice is trickery from the devil. False teachings are just as real today as they were in the ancient world. Even the saints have been ‘tried and tested’ over the centuries.
Just because one saint said one thing, doesn’t make it infallible truth. Some of the saints taught mixed messages, some of which did not hold up to the test of time within the Church. Remember….sent by God but commissioned by the Church. It is the Church that is guided by the Holy Spirit, not any one singular man or woman, no matter how holy.
Fight the temptation to imagine yourself and ‘the new’ Saint Paul! It isn’t impossible God is speaking directly to you to go out and teach. Chances are you hear your voice instead of God’s voice. When the sound is swirling around your head, it can be difficult to determine which voice belongs to whom. Always err on the side of the Church. The Church was guaranteed the fullness of the truth, not you…or me.
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