“That God May Be All in All”: 1 Corinthians 15:20–28 – Part 5

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

In our last look at 1 Cor 15:21–22, we explored how some conclude that the second “all” of 1 Cor 15:22 can refer to either believers alone or all mankind in general. This week we will examine why it matters (or not) and which option is best.

Both sides of the debate tend to narrow or expand the scope of the second “all” in 1 Cor 15:22 for the sake of narrowing or expanding the scope of who is resurrected in 1 Cor 15:23–24a. If only believers are made alive in 1 Cor 15:22, then only the resurrections of Christ and believers are mentioned in 1 Cor 15:23. The resurrection of unbelievers is assumed but not explicitly stated, and “the end” in 1 Cor 15:24 thus refers to a mere event (and not a resurrection) that is detailed in the verses to follow.

If all mankind is in view in the second “all” of 1 Cor 15:22, then one would have three resurrections in 1 Cor 15:23–24a—Christ, believers, and unbelievers. Incidentally, we have a proof-text besides Rev 20:1–15 to argue for a gap of time between the resurrections of believers and unbelievers.

Though the absence of a verb in 1 Cor 15:23a assumes recalling the most recent verb from 1 Cor 15:22 (“made alive” and thus “But each is made alive in his own order”), the specific Agent of life is not necessarily recalled along with the verb. If it is “in Christ” that “all” are “made alive” in 1 Cor 15:22, then the “all” in this phrase does not include Christ Himself. He is the one to make others alive. But in 1 Cor 15:23, Christ Himself is mentioned as one the orders to be “made alive,” indicating that Paul no longer has agency in view and simply gives the orders for who is made alive, however it is that each comes alive. Scripture typically states that it is the Father who raised Christ from the dead (e.g., Acts 2:24) or that the Father raised Him through the Spirit (cf. Rom 8:11). This being the case, “made alive” can be properly assumed as the verb for 1 Cor 15:23a without also assuming the soteriological implications of being made alive “in Christ.”

It does not follow, then, that one’s decision for how to understand the second “all” in 1 Cor 15:22 inevitably shapes how one understands Paul’s resurrection orders in 1 Cor 15:23–24a. One can agree with both amillennialists and millennialists who feel the weight of the soteriological language of 1 Cor 15:21–22.

The Corinthians would be encouraged to know from 1 Cor 15:22 that, in Christ, all of them would be made alive. Then, immediately afterward in 1 Cor 15:23, the idea of agency is dropped (i.e., who is doing the resurrecting) in order for Paul to detail who has been (Christ) and will be made alive (believers and unbelievers).

Principles for Discipling Younger Men

Note: This is part 2 of 3 of a series, “Discipling Younger Men.”

Last week, we explored the ages of Timothy and Paul. They were about 30 years apart, being 50 and 20 when they came together for ministry.

With the relationship of Paul and Timothy in mind, let’s walk through their lives as Scripture records them and see the first five of ten principles for discipling younger men.

Be the kind of man that younger men would want to follow.

As mentioned above, Acts 14:7–23 is part of Paul’s first missionary trip (Acts 13:1–14:28), which took place approximately AD 47–49. Timothy was in his mid to late teens when Paul first came to Lystra, and even before that, Timothy had been raised on the Scriptures.

When Paul came to Lystra the first time, he was stoned and left for dead. He got up and returned to the city and kept on preaching to a handful of cities until he returned to Antioch to report on his ministry (Acts 14:7–28; cf. 13:1–3).

Timothy likely knew who Paul was from Paul’s first time to Lystra. Whether directly or indirectly, he gave him and his family the gospel and almost died for doing so. Imagine the impact that Paul’s testimony would have had upon Timothy. We should strive to be as steadfast as Paul in our own faith so that younger men would want to follow us.

Minister to the whole family.

Paul knew Timothy’s grandmother and mother by name, their faith, and how they had trained up Timothy (2 Tim 1:5; 3:15). Already holding fast to the OT, it is no surprise to see that they gladly believed in its fulfillment in Jesus when Paul came to preach the gospel.

Paul’s ministry to the whole family made it an easy “yes” to answer when he would ask for Timothy to accompany him later. He needed no references, and he was not interested in only those who could help him. As he ministered to all, the opportunity to disciple Timothy came his way. Seek to minister to the whole family, and the Lord just might give you unique opportunities to disciple younger men.

Be faithful over time to increase your opportunities for discipling younger men.

Previously in his teens in Acts 14:7–23, we now find Timothy about 20 years old in Acts 16:1–2 at the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 15:40–18:22; AD 50–52). Timothy had acquired a commendable testimony among the Christians in multiple locations. Lystra and Iconium were about 18 miles apart.

Paul returned to Lystra in Acts 16:1–2 to strengthen the church that he had planted (cf. Acts 15:41). His faithfulness over time yielded an opportunity to see that some of the disciples had matured, and for Timothy in particular, to the point of being responsible enough to join his missionary endeavors.

As God blesses your ministry in maturing the church, it may snowball into something greater than you anticipated. As families grow together, your ministry to them will have an impact in the home, potentially providing a number of younger men to disciple in time.

Intentionally disciple young men who will respond to your discipleship.

Paul wanted a third missionary to join him and Barnabas for his second missionary journey, which created a sharp disagreement over taking John Mark who had deserted them earlier (Acts 13:5, 13; cf. 12:12). Barnabas thus took John Mark to Cyprus, and Paul took Silas to visit the churches from his first missionary journey (Acts 15:37–41). While John Mark had lost some points with Paul, he would return to faithfulness and recover his testimony over time (2 Tim 4:11). Not every disappointment is a permanent disappointment. For the time being, however, Paul wanted a coworker that he could trust.

The well-recommended Timothy would be that coworker in Acts 16:1–5. It was probably at this time that Paul and others laid their hands on Timothy in ordaining him for gospel ministry (cf. 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6). Paul’s references to Timothy as his son and child in the faith imply a father/son relationship and Timothy’s obvious desire to follow Paul (1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2; 1 Cor 4:17; Phil 2:22).

Sometimes you get a John Mark, and sometimes you get a Timothy. It’s hard to know exactly how a young man will develop in time, but we should disciple when the desire is there.

Involve younger men in your ministry.

Paul did not merely tell Timothy what to do and what he needed to know. He actively involved him in ministry as they visited and strengthened the churches (Acts 16:3–5). This meant opportunities to preach and speak (e.g., 2 Cor 1:19).

Not every young man is gifted to speak, but every young man is gifted to serve in some way (1 Pet 4:10–11). Whether the ministry to others is a formal program in the church or not, be creative in involving younger men in your ministries.

“That God May Be All in All”: 1 Corinthians 15:20–28 – Part 4

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

In our last look at 1 Cor 15:21–22, we explored how some conclude that the second “all” of 1 Cor 15:22 can refer to either believers alone or all mankind in general. This week we will examine why it matters (or not) and which option is best.

Both sides of the debate tend to narrow or expand the scope of the second “all” in 1 Cor 15:22 for the sake of narrowing or expanding the scope of who is resurrected in 1 Cor 15:23–24a. If only believers are made alive in 1 Cor 15:22, then only the resurrections of Christ and believers are mentioned in 1 Cor 15:23. The resurrection of unbelievers is assumed but not explicitly stated, and “the end” in 1 Cor 15:24 thus refers to a mere event (and not a resurrection) that is detailed in the verses to follow.

If all mankind is in view in the second “all” of 1 Cor 15:22, then one would have three resurrections in 1 Cor 15:23–24a—Christ, believers, and unbelievers. Incidentally, we have a proof-text besides Rev 20:1–15 to argue for a gap of time between the resurrections of believers and unbelievers.

Though the absence of a verb in 1 Cor 15:23a assumes recalling the most recent verb from 1 Cor 15:22 (“made alive” and thus “But each is made alive in his own order”), the specific Agent of life is not necessarily recalled along with the verb. If it is “in Christ” that “all” are “made alive” in 1 Cor 15:22, then the “all” in this phrase does not include Christ Himself. He is the one to make others alive. But in 1 Cor 15:23, Christ Himself is mentioned as one the orders to be “made alive,” indicating that Paul no longer has agency in view and simply gives the orders for who is made alive, however it is that each comes alive. Scripture typically states that it is the Father who raised Christ from the dead (e.g., Acts 2:24) or that the Father raised Him through the Spirit (cf. Rom 8:11). This being the case, “made alive” can be properly assumed as the verb for 1 Cor 15:23a without also assuming the soteriological implications of being made alive “in Christ.”

It does not follow, then, that one’s decision for how to understand the second “all” in 1 Cor 15:22 inevitably shapes how one understands Paul’s resurrection orders in 1 Cor 15:23–24a. One can agree with both amillennialists and millennialists who feel the weight of the soteriological language of 1 Cor 15:21–22.

The Corinthians would be encouraged to know from 1 Cor 15:22 that, in Christ, all of them would be made alive. Then, immediately afterward in 1 Cor 15:23, the idea of agency is dropped (i.e., who is doing the resurrecting) in order for Paul to detail who has been (Christ) and will be made alive (believers and unbelievers).

America’s Gay Messiah?

“If me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade…. And that’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand. That if you got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me — your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”

This quote, reported in a recent news article, comes from Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He is openly gay and married to a man. He is also campaigning to be the presidential candidate for the Democratic National Party.

For anyone watching the news, the media is making somewhat of a poster boy of Mr. Buttigieg and making much of his attempt to shape the minds of Americans as it concerns how to think of God, homosexuality, and the possibility of choosing to be gay or not. What are we to think as Christians about his comments?

For anyone who is a Christian leader, we will only find ourselves challenged on this issue time and again. Several wings of Christendom already gave up on the Bible long ago and ordain homosexuals to their clergy. It follows that America will increasingly elect and approve of homosexuals in political leadership. Buttigieg’s arguments are nothing new, and neither are Christian responses. For example, Matthew Vine argued that homosexuality and Christianity are compatible, a notion well-discredited, for example, by the faculty of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Kevin DeYoung has a helpful book that helps Christians to think through homosexuality as well.

But, for the moment, what are we to think about his Buttigieg’s comments?

Genesis 19 reminds us that God judged Sodom for, among its many sins, homosexuality. The men of the city were so consumed with their sin that they sought to abuse Lot’s visitors in the same way that Lot offered his daughters to be abused (Gen 19:5, 8). Leviticus 18:22 reminds us that it is abominable for a man to lie with a man as a man would lie with a woman. Whether it involves men or women, Romans 1:26–27 reminds us that homosexuality is in and of itself God’s judgment upon these sinners. He has given them over to dishonorable passions, allowing them to shamelessly do what is contrary to nature. 1 Timothy 1:10 reminds us that homosexuality is contrary to sound doctrine. 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 reminds us that, whether it is this sin, thievery, greed, drunkenness, or the like, people who live for these sins will not inherit the kingdom of God. This passage also reminds us that these sins once characterized some of the Corinthian readers before they become Christians. In being saved from these sins, they were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God, an example of what we hope for those who are characterized by these sins today.

Scripture—the Bible, passage by passage, the living words of God, interpreted as the original readers would have understood them then and properly applied today—this is what guides our thoughts about Mr. Buttigieg’s comments. God condemns homosexuality and will not give His kingdom to homosexuals. God’s words of judgment imply that they chose this particular sin over the gospel and His instruction about homosexuality, meaning their homosexual desires were sinful and originated with them and their sin. For specific questions related to a theology of homosexuality, I would simply refer someone to the resources mentioned above.

Whether Mr. Buttigieg or anyone else, the heralds for homosexuality in our society will continue to do what Satan did in Genesis 3—attempt to persuade us that God didn’t really say what He said and that His Word should be reinterpreted. After all, they say, if what’s true is really true, then God Himself is immoral by keeping something desirable away, and anyone following such a God is immoral as well.

Mr. Buttigieg has captured the values of the day, receiving much applause, and it’s not surprising to see an immoral America give a megaphone to his message. With God supposedly on the side of those who practice and promote homosexuality, and with a gay champion who could lead and influence legislation for their agenda, I fear what will happen to America as a whole. More so, I fear particularly for men like me who are God’s spokesmen in His churches. America will eventually attempt to silence us in the name of God, claiming that we are the abomination.

May God give peace so that it never comes to this (cf. 1 Timothy 2:1–2). And if it does, like John the Baptist, may God give us courage as leaders to keep identifying sin as sin, whatever the cost may be. And more than that, may God save many from this sin, Mr. Buttigieg included, as we continue to preach the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

“That God May Be All in All”: 1 Corinthians 15:20–28 – Part 3

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

In considering 1 Cor 15:22 last week, we asked, does the “all” who are “made alive” in this verse refer to believers alone or all mankind in general? Let’s explore the options.

Only Believers

The evidence for limiting the second “all” in 1 Cor 15:22 to only believers is impressive. In Rom 5:12–21, Paul likewise points out the universality of sin and death for all men (Rom 5:12, 18–19). But, when the text speaks of “justification for all men” (Rom 5:18), those who are justified must mean only those who exercise faith, not all men universally (cf. Rom 3:28; 2 Thess 2:2). So, if Paul parallels a universal “all” (i.e., all sinners) with a limited “all” (i.e., all who are justified) in one passage, he could do the same here in 1 Cor 15:21–22. “All” who are “in Christ… made alive” are all believers.

Additionally, the descriptions of the second “all” in 1 Cor 15:22 exclude unbelievers. The “all” are “made alive” through the instrumentality of being “in Christ,” a phrase used by Paul approximately 150 times to almost exclusively describe something related to the benefits of salvation. Second, they are “made alive” (zōopoieō), a verb that, when referring to the resurrection elsewhere, refers to what takes place for believers alone (Rom 8:11). Moreover, this verb is used two more times in 1 Cor 15 for a believer’s body that will “come to life” again, thanks to our “life-giving” Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:36, 45).

 All Mankind

Some worthy points of consideration are offered for 1 Cor 15:22 to refer to “all” as all mankind as well. First, some point out that the context of 1 Cor 15:21–22 is different from Rom 5:12–21 (resurrection and not justification), allowing for a broader use of zōopoieō.

Second, the third of the three orders of resurrection in 1 Cor 15:23–24a demands that “all” include all mankind within its scope, i.e., both believers and unbelievers. “The end” in 1 Cor 15:24a refers to the resurrection of unbelievers., 1 Cor 15:23–24a teaches that Christ is the first to be resurrected, then believers (“those who belong to Christ”), and finally, unbelievers (those at “the end”). The second “all” in 1 Cor 15:22 is therefore exhaustive, and “all” who fall within its scope are all who are listed in 1 Cor 15:23–24a, which includes believers and unbelievers.

Third, since the term resurrection (anastasis) is used to describe what will take place for both the righteous and unrighteous dead (John 5:28–29; Acts 24:15), “the resurrection of the dead” in 1 Cor 15:21 could also refer to the resurrection of all mankind. 1 Cor 15:22 thus speaks to the resurrection of all mankind by highlighting the agency of their resurrection. “All” are “made alive” in a purely physical sense “in Christ” (1 Cor 15:22).

So, which option is best? Keep reading when we find out next week!

Paul and Timothy: A Prime Example for Discipleship 

Note: This is part 1 of 3 of a series, “Discipling Younger Men.”

This purpose of this post and the text two and is to encourage Christian men to reach out and disciple younger men. As to what we mean by “discipling younger men,” I hope to encourage us in ministering to young men in the church who are noticeably younger in age (i.e., probably younger than 18 years old) and have not yet reached the point where they can confidently make disciples on their own. But we won’t stop there—I hope to encourage us to disciple these young men further as they grow into being Christian men who in turn disciple others just the same.

While many are familiar with the Pastoral Epistles and have some idea of the relationship between Timothy and Paul, I never tire of looking at how the older Paul discipled the younger Timothy. Their discipleship relationship makes for a prime example for our study.

After getting a rough idea of the ages of Paul and Timothy, we will attempt to do a chronological walk through their relationship, looking more through the eyes of Timothy than Paul, and gather principles for discipling younger men along the way.1 

The Ages of Paul and Timothy

Paul called himself “an old man” (presbytēs)2 in the sixth verse of Philemon, a letter written in AD 60, indicating that he was 60 years old or older at the time.3 About 30 years earlier, he was probably 30 years old when Luke described him as “a young man” (neanias), a term that could range from 20 to 40 years old.4 He was converted at this time (Acts 9:1–19a) and then spent roughly two decades in missionary ministry before Timothy joined him in Acts 16:1–5.

When we first see Timothy in Acts 16:1–5, Paul is traveling through Lystra during his second missionary journey in AD 50–52 (Acts 15:40–18:22). Paul is about 50 years old, and Timothy’s age is not described. We do find, however, in 1 Timothy, written about AD 65, that Paul told Timothy to let no man despise his “youth” (1 Tim 4:12; neotēs), a word indicating Timothy was probably maybe 30 to 35 years old.5 Timothy would therefore have been about 20 years old when he joined Paul in Acts 16 and was born around AD 30.

Digging further, there seems to be enough from Scripture to say that Timothy at least knew who Paul was by the time they met in Acts 16. Paul had previously made disciples in Lystra towards the end of his first missionary journey in AD 47–49 (Acts 14:7–23; cf. 13:1–14:28), which probably included Timothy’s grandmother Lois and mother Eunice —they had been teaching Timothy the Scriptures since childhood and most likely believed the gospel when the apostle Paul came through their city, preaching that Jesus was the Son of God (cf. 2 Tim 1:5; 3:15).6 While there may not have been much of a personal relationship between the two (if any at all), it is quite possible that Timothy was in his mid to late teens when he first heard about Paul. After all, the apostle’s reputation would have included being stoned and left for dead after preaching in Timothy’s city (Acts 14:19–20).

Having explored the ages of Paul and Timothy, as best we can tell, Paul was about 30 years older than Timothy. Paul was somewhere in his late 40s when he first came to Lystra, and Timothy was in his mid to late teens. When Paul recruited Timothy in Acts 16, Paul was about 50, and Timothy was about 20. As we will see, this age difference made for a natural father/son discipleship relationship that would last until Paul went to glory. Perhaps this relationship meant all the more to Timothy since his own father was not a believer (cf. Acts 16:1).

Come back next week, and we’ll see the first of ten principles for discipleship in observing the relationship between Paul and Timothy in Scripture.

  1. The dating scheme that follows is approximate and not precise and comes from my accumulated study of the life of Paul and various books of the Bible. Exact precision is not necessary for our study, though we do at least want to have a good idea of the ages of Timothy and Paul at the outset (see below). Perhaps the resources I have leaned on most are the following: William W. Combs, “Life & Ministry of Paul: Class Notes” (Allen Park, MI: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2007); D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005); and Robert E. Picirilli, Paul the Apostle (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1986 and 2017). []
  2. All Scripture quotations are from the ESV. []
  3. Picirilli, Paul the Apostle (2017), 18–19. []
  4. Ibid. []
  5. William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles (WBC 46; Dallas, TX: Word, 2000), 258–59, explores the meaning of neotēs in biblical and extrabiblical literature, showing it can be used to describe either young children or even someone into their thirties or forties. He puts Timothy “in his late twenties to mid thirties” when he received 1 Timothy in AD 62. []
  6. Paul said in 2 Tim 3:15 that he had been schooled in the sacred writings since “childhood” (2 Tim 3:15; brephos), a word that has the idea of infancy In every other NT instance always refers to a “baby” or an “infant” (Luke 1:41, 44; 2:12, 16; 18:15; Acts 7:19; 1 Pet 2:2), whether still in or just out of the womb. []

“That God May Be All in All”: 1 Corinthians 15:20–28 – Part 2

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Last week, we were introduced to 1 Cor 15:20–28. This week, we will study the first few verses of this passage and explore the solidary of believers with Christ in his resurrection. Looking, then, at the beginning of our passage, we see first of all that Paul teaches that Christ was raised from the dead, and, therefore, believers will be, too (1 Cor 15:20–22).

We remember that Paul began 1 Corinthians 15 by reminding his readers of an essential gospel truth that Christ was raised from the dead (1 Cor 15:4; cf. 15:1–11). Paul then argued that if there was no resurrection from the dead, as some claimed, then Christ Himself could not have been raised from the dead either (1 Cor 15:10–19). Coming to our passage, Paul then emphatically declared that “in fact Christ has been raised from the dead” (15:20) and then uses this truth further to argue for the resurrection of the believing dead in 1 Cor 15:20–22.

Paul first connect Christ’s resurrection to the resurrection of believers by describing Christ’s resurrection as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20). The firstfruits in Lev 23:9–24 referred to the first produce of the harvest, the first of more to come. By calling Jesus the firstfruits, Paul implied that more people would yet be “raised from the dead,” namely, those who have fallen asleep (1 Cor 15:20), an obvious contrast to the claim that “there is no resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor 15:12).

Paul then explains (note the For, gar) Christ as the life-giving agent whereby the resurrection of the dead is possible—“as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor 15:21). Just as death came to all men through a man (i.e., by sinning and thus bringing about death as the penalty for sin; cf. Gen 2:17; 3:1–7; Rom 5:12–21), so also has the resurrection of the dead come about through a Man as well. The solidarity of man with Christ includes sharing in His resurrection.

But who exactly shares in this solidarity is a matter of debate, and the debate is between amillennialists and premillennialists, and even among premillennialists as well. It is clear that “all” men universally “die” by being “in Adam,” for sin is the universal reality of all men (1 Cor 15:22a; cf. Rom 3:23). But when it is said that “in Christ shall all be made alive,” does Paul refer to “all” who have been savingly placed “in Christ” and thus refer to the resurrection of believers alone? Or does he refer to “all” mankind in general, and thus “in Christ” believers and unbelievers are alike are brought to physical life?

We will explore the answer to these questions next week. Stay tuned!

“That God May Be All in All”: 1 Corinthians 15:20–28 – Part 1

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Why does God do what He does at any time and in any situation? While we might wish we had access to His unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways in order to answer this question, we are at least privy to know from Scripture that God seeks in all things to bring glory to Himself. We ascribe “to him…to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord…glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever” (Jude 24–25).

And not only does God seek that there would be glory to Himself at any time, but the ages also lead to a climax in which He receives the greatest expression of glory that there has ever been. We find something of this progression in 1 Corinthians 15:20–28. In addressing the topic of the resurrection, Paul concludes that it is necessary, if for no other reason, “that God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

Getting at the passage itself, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul addresses a number of misunderstandings concerning the resurrection. At the outset of his remarks, Paul reminded the Corinthians of the gospel he preached them, which included the essential reality that Christ “was raised on the third day” (1 Cor 15:4; cf. 15:1–11).

Paul then moved from Christ’s resurrection to the resurrection of man and asked, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor 15:12). Paul went on to explain that to deny the resurrection of man would mean to deny the resurrection of Christ as well, which makes for a hopeless gospel (cf. 1 Cor 15:12–19).

Paul then gave a comprehensive teaching on the resurrection of dead in 1 Cor 15:20–28 in order to fully refute the claim by some that there was no resurrection at all (cf. 1 Cor 15:12). In this passage, Paul’s teaching on the resurrection in this passage could be summarized in three statement. First, resurrection comes to all believers because of the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor 15:20–22). Second, the resurrection for all mankind comes in stages (1 Cor 15:23–24a). Third, the resurrection is necessary in order for God the Father to be fully glorified (15:24b–28).

The goal of this study is to explain the teaching of 1 Cor 15:20–28 in detail, handle dispensational-theological questions that arise along the way, and show that, just as it is with the eschatological resurrections and events that Paul mentions in this passage, so it is with every age—that God has planned for all of these things to work together in such a way that He may eventually be glorified in every way—or as Paul puts it, “that God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

And First Place for Christian Convert Goes to….

If you had the opportunity to give the gospel to only twenty people, who would be on your list? Who would be “first place” on your list of hopefuls for salvation?

Please don’t misunderstand—I am not advocating giving the gospel to only those who you like or those who are like you. Such a narrow field of evangelism reeks something of favoring the rich over the poor in James 2:1–12. Instead, we realize that God desires the salvation of all men (1 Tim 2:4), that Christ has commissioned the church to take the gospel to all the world (Matt 28:18–20), and that we therefore go to all men everywhere, telling them to repent in light of Christ’s soon return (Acts 17:30–31).

But no individual can reach billions of people. So then, practically speaking, who would be some of those billions that you could reach with the gospel?

While we could easily look around us and fill out our list right away, a look at the example of Cornelius in Acts 10 helps to cement the obvious for us from Scripture—start by giving the gospel to the people you already know.

Acts 10:1–8 records Cornelius’s encounter with an angel. Cornelius was commanded to send for Peter and did so by sending three men. When they reached Peter, we then find out that the angel told Cornelius to send for Peter, as the three told him, “to hear what you have to say” (Acts 10:22 ESV). When Peter met Cornelius, Cornelius let Peter know that he and others were gathered “to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord” (Acts 10:33 ESV). When Peter related these matters to the church in Jerusalem, he recounted what Cornelius had told him of why the angel commanded him to send for Peter—because “he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved” (Acts 11:14 ESV).

“A message by which you will be saved”—does that strike you in the heart when you think of the lost that you love? It should because you as a Christian have that saving message!

It certainly struck Cornelius this way. The angel told him that the message was not just for him. It was for “you and all your household” (Acts 11:14 ESV). So, as anyone who desired the salvation of his household would do, he gathered them together in preparation for them to hear the gospel at Peter’s arrival. In fact, he gathered more than that—“Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends” (Acts 10:24 ESV). When Peter’s time to speak had come (cf. Acts 10:34–43), he “found many persons gathered” (Acts 10:27 ESV).

His “household,” “relatives,” and “friends,” altogether being “many persons”—do you know a few folks like this? Unsaved members in your immediate family? Unsaved relatives? Unsaved friends?

If you do (and everybody does), as a Christian, you don’t need angels, visions, or a Peter to walk in your door for their conversion. The gospel has been going to the uttermost ends of the earth for 2,000 years, and you yourself have the saving message by which these dear, lost loved ones can come to Christ. In carrying out the Great Commission, be like Cornelius and give the gospel to those you know. Share his zeal, and you just might be able to fill a room with people that you have given the gospel over time.

May we all be like Cornelius and invite many to hear the message by which they will be saved!

Whether or Not to Leave One Ministry for Another: Lessons from Moses

Deciding whether or not to leave one ministry for another can be difficult, to say the least. It’s a decision that requires discernment, godly counsel from others, and time before God in prayer. Especially if one is a pastor, it means giving up one’s joy and crown in one church (i.e., the people themselves) in order to go to another (cf. Phil 4:2).

In my own life, there were multiple factors that brought me to my present church:

  1. A desire to preach and lead a congregation according to God’s Word (cf.1 Tim 3:1)
    As much as I loved my previous church and pastor (and still do!), I had a desire to do more than assist a lead shepherd in a local church.
  1. The recommendation to do so (cf. Phil 2:19–22)
    My pastor had asked me at an earlier point about putting my name in to candidate at another church, but my working on a degree didn’t leave room for a transition at the time. I knew that getting to know a new church was more important than finishing a degree, and I would be forced to delay if not drop the degree altogether. However, once my education started to wrap up and knowing that my lead pastor previously wanted to recommend me elsewhere, it seemed appropriate to look for a church now that the time was right.
  1. Finding the right “fit”
    After looking for another church and not finding what I (or they) believed was a good match, I was so frustrated that I actually planned on staying where I was as an assistant. But then God brought a match my way.
  1. The providence of God
    After closing several doors, God opened one up, making it clear for me that He was leading in this matter and not me (cf. Prov 16:1, 3, 9). The longer I’ve been at my own church and considered how God puts people where He will in the stories of Scripture, the more convinced I am that it is best to let God make a transition clear instead of searching for a new ministry.

I realize that no two situations are alike and that mine is not a perfect template for others. I also realize that, yes, there are times when a pastor realizes that he should move on, even when another ministry is not waiting for him at the time. But what I’m getting at for the moment is this—don’t leave a ministry because it does not seem to live up to your personal expectations or because your personal ambitions cause you to see it as a mere rung on the ladder in rising to so-called ministerial success.

Along these lines, I think we can learn something from Moses.

When Moses was “forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel” (Acts 7:23 ESV). “To visit his brothers” meant rescuing them from the oppression of slavery in Egypt. Moses was so zealous about this rescue that he killed an Egyptian mistreating an Israelite (Acts 7:23; cf. Exod 2:11–12). Maybe Moses’ zeal stemmed from the timing of God’s promise—Israel was 390 years into her time in Egypt, and Moses likely knew that Israel would come back to her land in 400 years (cf. Gen 15:13). But, at the end of the day, even when Moses “supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand…they did not understand” (Acts 7:25 ESV). Representative of Israel as a whole, an Israelite “thrust him aside” and challenged his desire to be Israel’s “ruler and judge” (Acts 7:27 ESV).

If you’ve ever searched for a ministry or been a pastor for some time, perhaps you understand Moses’ disappointment at that moment. He wanted to serve, he wanted to help, he had zeal, and he was rejected by the very people that he thought needed him the most.

Applying these thoughts to the topic at hand, we might say that he wanted a ministry to God’s people, but the circumstances showed that, while Moses’ desire to rescue Israel was commendable and even biblical, it was not time for him to do so. Putting it into a walk-away statement for us today, we might say this:

Sometimes we desire to transition to a new ministry, but God has other plans.

It’s a hard lesson to learn, but God knows best.

On the flipside, think of Moses forty years later. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, He told him that he would finally do what he had wanted to do forty years earlier—give Israel salvation by his hand—“Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exod 3:10 ESV). But now, Moses was full of excuses and even angered the Lord with his response—“Oh, my Lord, please send someone else” (Exod 4:13 ESV). In the end, however, Moses obeyed and had a glorious God-given ministry, one like none other in Israel (cf. Deut 34:10–12).

Moses’ call and ministry were obviously unique in many ways. At the same time, in considering what we can learn from him as it concerns ministry transitions, perhaps we could say this:

Sometimes we have no desire to transition to a new ministry, but God will unexpectedly grant us both the desire and transition.

In this instance, God is the One making the transition clear.

As God was with Moses, so also He will be with those who obey Him to serve His people as He desires, whatever the result may be. If nothing else, one result will be a reward for the one who faithfully serves Him, however small or great a ministry may be, however many ministries that may be, and whatever that ministry may be in the eyes of men (cf. Matt 25:20–23).

Should you move? Should you stay?

For anyone trying to answer these questions, take in as much information as possible in order to make your choice. Gather wisdom from godly counselors. Pray about it, specifically that the Lord would make your way clear. In learning from Moses, maybe what you think you want isn’t really for you. And maybe as you wait upon the Lord, He will grant you desire to keep on keeping on in your present ministry or bring something else your way in His perfect timing.

Whether you transition or stay and whatever the task may be, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Prov 16:3 ESV).