Let us pray: Dear Savior, how we miss Your physical presence on this earth! How we miss You walking with us and talking directly to us. And yet, we thank You today for providing us with public servants of Your word who speak the truth to us in love. May we honor them and hold them dear—just as they are to You. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE LORD OF THE CHURCH!
TEXT: Acts 1: 15-26
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Growing up it was always a great mystery to me. I never really understood the dynamics of calling a new pastor. To be sure, as a child I only experienced it twice. And both times it was traumatic and mysterious. First, it was traumatic when a beloved pastor received another call to a congregation and decided to accept it. Was he rejecting us? What would we do without him? Who would replace him?—Those were the thoughts which filled my head. Over time, I learned that: 1. No he wasn’t rejecting us, he simply felt God wanted to use his talents elsewhere. 2. I learned that God will and does provide for His people in all circumstances. And 3. God also replaces faithful shepherds with new ones who have the ability to lead a flock to new pastures.
In today’s lesson we have what we call the “doctrine of the call” laid out for us. Since it is seldom discussed in any church unless and until they are vacant, it would be good to review the Godly rationale behind it. For today, in this text, we see that:
GOD PROVIDES SERVANTS FOR HIS FLOCK
The days after Christ’s ascension into heaven were trying ones for the apostles and the early church. We see from our lesson that 120 souls comprised the extent of God’s people in Jerusalem at that time. They were exhilarated by the resurrection, filled with joy over Christ’s return to heaven, and also saddened by the awful end of Judas Iscariot. That infamous betrayer of Christ had met a very sad ending to his life. In despair over what had happened he threw the 30 pieces of silver at the high priest, stalked off and hanged himself from a tree overlooking the city dump. Then the rope broke and his body fell to the stony ground below where it broke open and “his intestines spilled out.” How sad. How sad to die in unbelief and despair. The priests didn’t know what to do with his body since he was an abomination to everyone, so they used his blood money to buy a piece of ground called: “Akeldama” or “field of blood” and buried him there. With it that sad chapter was closed.
But then comes the issue of replacing him. Peter took the lead in this. Apparently under God’s direction he came to understand that the work was too great for only 11, so they must choose another to round out their number. “May another take his place of leadership.”
“Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning with John’s (the Baptist’s) baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
From this little section we can learn much. First, God’s flock needs pastors, public teachers of His truths. Leadership in any organization is a must. Second, remember the 70 servants of God’s Word that Christ sent out 2 x 2 to preach and teach? Apparently Jesus had more men engaged in His labors than merely the 12. Yes, the seminary system was alive and well in those days, too! And all these folks witnessed the truth of the resurrection. They knew firsthand that Jesus was God’s Son Who had suffered and died to save lost souls. They knew that He had risen from their graves, too. In this vein, recall Paul’s words about how Jesus appeared to 500 brethren at the same time—sometime before His ascension. Yes, those 70 men had been busy throughout the land! So now, under the Spirit’s guidance a “call” goes out. A new apostle, a leader, a servant of Christ’s Word is chosen.
“So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, (invoking the Spirit’s guidance) “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.’ Then they cast lots and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.”
Today we follow the same format with slight variations when a group of believers needs a pastor to lead them. We call this a “call.” That is, a call by God through His flock of a man into the public ministry of His Word. To streamline the process, usually a list of candidates is given to the calling body, the congregation. Then they weigh what they need in a new pastor, see who measures up to those needs, and they vote on the man. Yes, we could cast lots as did the early apostles. But really, modern voting is simply a variation of that process.
When a servant is chosen, the leader of that meeting should ask to make it unanimous. That’s for the sake of good order, since the pastor will shepherd every soul in that congregation. Then a letter, a phone call, etc. is sent out to inform the person that they have received this call from God through His people at that place to Him by serving them.
Such calls are always traumatic on all involved. Prayer is needed in each case, much prayer. For as the Bible says: “The prayer of a righteous man avails much.” The new candidate then is obligated to weigh that call with his current position. That person ponders questions like: “Where am I needed most? Where can I serve God the best?” Over time with prayer and consultation with others involved, the candidate comes to realize an answer. It may come quickly. It may come slowly. But over time God always makes things clear. Then he either accepts that new call or returns it for another to take.—And goes on doing the Lord’s work in his present position.
When you carefully study the New Testament, you come to realize that the ministry is God’s service—done through God-picked people—service to nurture and build up His flock. As we examine the New Testament we see that that service takes on both a narrow definition and a broader one, as well. The narrow office of public ministry is the pastoral office. The wider ones include: seminary professor, evangelist, and even parochial school teachers. But all have God’s warrant behind them because all do His work publicly on behalf of and for His flock. Thus, since they make use of God’s Word in their role, they should be called, set apart publicly, for this great work. They all need to know that God wants them to labor for Him and stands behind them.
Without a shepherd to lead, guide, and protect them, God’s flock will wander off and get into trouble. Jesus knew that. And that is why God provided servants for His flock! He gave them ministers to stand in His place keeping them safe while also guiding them toward heaven. And they do this not on their own—just because they think they should. No, in God’s Church we always do things God’s way. That’s why we have public calls and public call meetings. And in every case, God gives the increase—to help and uplift you! Amen