The body of Christ is vast – no group or individual can claim monopoly of truth or knowledge. Let us be careful to learn from each other and tap from the different available graces with humility.
Allow me to use six vital personalities from the New Testament to summarise my theme and train of thought.
1) PETER VS ANDREW – THE ZEAL
Among the Apostles of Christ, Peter epitomizes great zeal and courage; a unique passion and a daring attitude. It goes without saying, that these are ingredients for success or achievement in any pursuit of purpose. Basing on the days prior to Christ’s death and ascension, Peter would make a great student and follower so long as the trainer is keen to ensure that the rest of the class is moving in the same pace with him. This is because, out of curiosity, Peter is a type of student who may possibly read ahead of the syllabus. He is mostly seen on the front-line and perhaps the one asking more questions and attempting to answer more. He is quick to explain and even willing to go an extra mile to create enough room for team – Jesus, Moses and Elijah at the mount of transfiguration. He will go into history as having walked on water like His master. He is however the most rebuked by Jesus; the one who blunders most and severally hits the ball from an “offside” position. In his supposed naivety, Peter is quick to pledge allegiances only to drop them again as soon as things get seemingly tough towards the end. He is even ready to chop off someone’s ear in order to preserve loyalty and mount defence for his leader.
We however see a different Peter after Christ’s resurrection and ascension. Peter must have picked his lessons and is now qualified and ready to lead and flag off the Apostolic team in the book of Acts. He brings 3,000 souls to Christ on his first sermon; heals people by his shadow and performs many other special miracles, including the fact that by his obedience to God, he becomes the first channel through which the gospel penetrates the gentile community,
Like Peter, there is therefore room for us to grow and mature from mere zeal to knowledge in Christ as we serve in our graces and areas of calling.
But there’s a different grace and zeal working through Andrew which must not be ignored.
Andrew who was formerly a disciple of John the Baptist is the one who introduced Peter to Christ (John 1:35-39). Literally, Christ never called Andrew. He (Andrew) followed Christ out of his own initiative. Not much is mentioned about him in the bible, but it must go on record that his “silent” zeal brought the “aggressive” Peter on board! According to the gospel of Mark, Andrew is, in fact, fourth on the list of the Apostles. Andrew lastly features in a very significant moment of Christ’s ministry. He is the one said to have identified the young boy who gave out his two fish and five loaves of bread (John 6:8).
The Andrew grace is rare and unique: It may not be “multi gifted” like Peter; it can quickly be dismissed to the periphery (or substitutes bench), yet it works behind the scenes to provide not only the requisite support to the entire game plan but to identify the main players!
In this context, the “former” Peter can only be an explanation to the many activities that rainbow the church today yet without the real meaning of true revival that we desire. The move of God through the church as opposed to merely programs and a busy community of believers, cannot be traded for anything. While it is good to have “conferences” and “meetings” and nice programs on a weekly/daily basis, it is important to note that activities and zeal alone cannot sustain our relationship with Christ as well as our functionality in executing our kingdom mandate. The scripture warns that zeal without knowledge only breeds a porous and polarised situation that will still open up loopholes for the enemy’s “well known” tricks and attacks. (Romans 10:2 & 2 Corinthians 2:11).
Activities and zeal alone cannot sustain our relationship with Christ as well as our functionality in executing our kingdom mandate.
The bible is a very important document that must not only be handled with the sanctity it deserves but must be subject to appropriate interpretation and accurate explanation. We live in days where anyone who will endeavour to serve God or be in a spiritual leadership responsibility, must not only pay attention to zeal, but to what really brings knowledge on the table. I am a strong believer in the need for servants of God to attend an authentic basic bible school of sorts or at least, like in the bible days, where the sons of the prophets followed and subscribed to a system of training by an individual who carried a God given mandate and assignment. That is what John the baptist and Jesus subsequently employed. (2Chronicles 15:3).
We must ask questions like: What impact came along with our previous crusade or how beneficial was our last men’s dinner? What testimonies did we accrue from last week’s seminar/revival meeting? It is only at the point of learning and impactful knowledge that freedom and promotion to the next level sets in.
2) PAUL VS APOLLOS – THE MIND
It is in the book of Acts that we are introduced to Apollos during Paul’s third missionary journey around Ephesus and Antioch (Acts 18:22-28). Apollos is referred to as having been eloquent and mighty in the scriptures. He was well versed with the art of public speaking, and perhaps can be likened to an astute present day motivational speaker. He evidently had a significant following too.
On the other hand, there’s no doubt that the Apostle Paul equally had a great mind and a refined one for that matter, The scripture traces and alludes his mentorship and knowledge background to a man known as Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). We confirm this in his habitual “reasoning” with the rulers, teachers of the law and pharisees in the synagogues and in various public arena (Acts 17). He definitely convinced the masses and educated the populace.
Perhaps there is no other Apostle you can think of who has made such significant impact in the history of the church like Paul. We understand, through the canopy of the scripture, that even though he was not among the first twelve Apostles of Christ, and that besides not being privileged to have had a one-on-one advantage with Jesus like the rest, yet by spiritual revelation, Paul emerges into building most of the new testament doctrinal blocks and structures. Pauline epistles are arguably the largest in number and carry the largest content. We learn the family and marriage institution, for instance; the church leadership and administration structures from him. We understand much about prayer, spiritual warfare and weapons; spiritual gifts and the fruit thereof, signs of the end times – all from him, just to mention but a few.
On the flip-side, the “Apollos postured church” and community, can only produce schooled believers with sharp minds, great knowledge of the scriptures and enormous information, but who still need to experience a real transformation of the heart. This can only happen through a personal encounter with Christ and an environment where spiritual disciplines are exercised corporately.
The “Apollos postured church” is keen to write as many notes as possible from their Pastor’s sermons as if, on a lighter note, they will soon be sitting for a “paper”. Perhaps you need to know how church exams are set and when they come? Again, this kind of church may easily fall into the trap of complicating the process of discipleship and maturity by fashioning it after the ideal merit systems out there. The “Apollos postured church” may naturally disqualify those who are spiritually qualified.
Comparatively, even with his “great mind”, Paul, on the other hand, is still careful to emphasize divine wisdom and spiritual demonstration as opposed to sheer accumulation and display of knowledge. He is keen to affirm that his mission does not thrive on human wisdom and a philosophical approach in communicating the gospel. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). And even with his seemingly vast knowledge in many disciplines, we can still feel his cry when he acknowledges his emptiness without Christ and without His grace (Philippians 3:4-14 & 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 ).
The Apollos mind and church therefore needs a benchmarking mission to the Pauline one. Knowledge is good and, in fact, the church has in the recent decades been treated to a whole buffet of biblical knowledge. This owing to the many channels of communication as the counterpart technological knowledge also advances. But with all these, you will only soon realise that what God has deposited in your heart is bigger than what you know and have retained in your mind. There is a call to the church to turn and move higher, and tap from the wells and cisterns of the spiritual heart! Where are the virtues of the heart? Where is the place for character? I believe we can still tap and listen to the heart – that’s where spiritual communication; spiritual understanding and true transformation takes place. That’s the dimension that Paul’s company (Priscilla and Aquilla) introduced to Apollos.
3) JOHN VS JUDAS ISCARIOT – THE HEART
John is known to have been the most “beloved” disciple and, in fact, he has been spotted to have always been sitting/laying at the bossom of his master during those special moments when Christ would be teaching or expounding on some parable or doctrine (John 21:20-24). Both from his epistles and synoptic gospel, John is evidently the most passionate and best versed on the subject of love than any other disciple. We also gather that with his background in fishing, John’s particular preoccupation was in mending broken nets – something which is practically not easy unless there is much patience as of dealing with delicate entities.
Without minding his bad ending, Judas Iscariot, on the other hand, had the same opportunities as the rest of the Apostles. He was equally selected as an apostle after a whole night of prayer by Jesus (Luke 6:12-16). He was truly willing as well, to forsake everything and follow Jesus. And as it follows, he would soon be appointed treasurer!
It must however occur to us, that what is generally referred to as ministry is quite delicate in nature. It is more than words can say. It is a heart matter that requires heart checks and commitment. As much as possible and as it should be possible, we have no choice but to learn the wisdom of juggling between the extremes of passion and zeal, together with being knowledgeable enough on what we are dealing with, without forgetting that Kingdom engagements must be carefully handled and approached from a heart posture.
Whether in counseling, leadership, resource mobilization or just in the general preaching and teaching of the word, it is the state of the heart that ultimately carries and determines all the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23).
The state of the heart of Judas was first revealed when “expensive” perfume was poured out/spent on Christ by Mary. He went ahead and incited the rest about the matter. in fact, John reveals that Judas’ sentiments were not out of compassion for the poor but because he was a thief! (John 12:1-11).
Judas is a representation of double motives and it gets worse when he finally hardens his heart and is unwilling to be corrected; unwilling to repent; harbours a bitter and revengeful attitude and finally betrays his master. This wasn’t just for the 30pieces of silver? It was a heart issue that had been building for a while.
But like John, let us mend broken hearts; heal relationships, restore the lost, give hope, preach forgiveness and mercy as well as warn about sin in the church and society, from a heart posture. After all, our faith will only work in and with an environment of love (Galatians 5:6). The gospel of Christ cannot thrive in a Judas type of church – an environment full of hatred, unforgiveness, bitterness and anger.
This perhaps, is one of those moments, where we urgently need to drop the charges and let the love and the heart of Christ reign in our hearts that we achieve the call of the scripture- “owe no one nothing but love!” (Romans 13:8).
God is still crying out through the Prophet Micah and affirming what He requires of man above everything else – not an offering; not any body posture; but the heart virtues of Mercy, Justice and Humility! (Micah 6:6-8)