In Romans 11:13 Paul describes himself as “the apostle to the Gentiles.” This isn’t the main point of the chapter, but it reveals that Paul possessed a clear understanding of his ministry and calling from God.
God didn’t call Paul to stand by the temple gates in Jerusalem and hand out Jesus tracts to those coming to worship. Although Paul healed people at times, God didn’t call Paul to establish a healing ministry at Jesus empty tomb. Paul’s mission didn’t exclude Jews, but he was called to ensure that his mission, and God’s kingdom, always included gentiles.
I suspect that many Christians lack a sense of calling and purpose in their Christian walk. Our Christian mission has a global, nondiscriminatory element to it. Jesus himself taught us “Go into all the world and make disciples” and “A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” Which makes the specificity of Paul’s calling all the more interesting.
Sometimes God continues to call people to serve and share the Gospel with particular foreign nations. I have friends in a variety of African, South American and Asian nations endeavouring to introduce people to Jesus. At first glance, this international mission work seems like the closest approximation of Paul’s calling.
I believe that God also calls each christian to narrow their beam of light. In that sense we’re more like a rotating lighthouse that shines it’s light in different directions at different times. We may have a stationary light at the top of the lighthouse that people can see from all directions, but the strong light focuses its beam in one location at a time.
The question really isn’t whether we have “gentiles” in our lives. Rather, the question comes down to whether or not we’re willing to accept our proximity to them as our God-given calling.
The word “apostle” comes from the Greek word for messenger. In this sense we can all describe ourselves as the “apostle / messenger to the ____________”. Who might God be calling you to shine His light upon?
- Children’s friends
- Teenage mothers
- People in recovery
- Special needs families
- A local elementary school
- College students
- White collar professionals
- First responders
When I was in university studying accounting, I had a commercial law professor, Dr. James Wong. He passed away several years ago, but he remains a great example to me of someone who let his light shine. Here are three examples I know of.
- Students: I first met Dr Wong outside the classroom when I chose to attend a “Staff & Students” Bible study I saw advertised. Dr Wong was the only staff member and there weren’t many students, but it became a source of encouragement for me. The group primarily consisted of students from Hong Kong and southeast Asia. Dr Wong and his wife, Sharon, served these students not just through a Bible study but in helping them adjust to life on a Tasmanian university campus. He was an apostle to these students.
- Professional colleagues: Dr Wong felt that churches often struggled to connect with white collar professionals. As a lawyer himself, he felt a strong desire to share the Gospel with this community. To accomplish this end he self-published a book of testimonies from various successful Christian lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers and others. It never became a best seller, but it was how he carried out his calling to be an apostle to the professional community.
- Northern Tasmania: Dr Wong and Sharon weren’t from Tasmania, but they lived there for many years. They gave themselves the goal of delivering gospel tracts to every home in Launceston. When they accomplished that they continued to expand their efforts. Over the years they had traveled as far as 100kms from home to fulfill their mission of sharing the Gospel with as many of their neighbours as possible. We might question the effectiveness of tracts in letterboxes, but not their commitment to letting God’s light shine through them to a specific region of “gentiles”.
Who are your “gentiles”? Who are you seeking?