I find that many church leaders, especially those who were born again during the Pentecostal and Charismatic Revivals of the 60-80’s, emphasize the ministry of Jesus more than the ministry of Paul. What is the difference between these two apostolic ministries, and what should be the focus of each?
During the earthly ministry of Jesus, He ministered primarily to the “lost sheep of Israel,” with the exception of his teaching ministry to the disciples whom He had chosen to be in the school of ministry. The mission statement of Jesus, found in Luke 4:18, is directed to the needs of people for repentance, healing and deliverance: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”
This was not a message of spiritual growth and maturity, but of liberation to those “whom Satan had bound.” Jesus came to “bind the strongman and spoil his goods” by preaching, healing and casting out devils. Jesus was not speaking to born-again people who could understand the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. But so often, church leaders are trying to duplicate the ministry of Jesus to the church every Sunday, as though they were the unsaved crowd Jesus was ministering among. We often use John 14:12-14 as the basis for this philosophy of ministry: “The works that I do, shall he do also” (referring to the deliverance ministry of Jesus). By following this practice each week, we actually are keeping the congregation in need of healing and deliverance, because they are never growing up spiritually and taking their position as sons of God through Christ. We need the ministry of Jesus to the masses of unsaved people, and we need the availability of that ministry to people in our congregations that need it.
But we need to shift our focus for the church to the ministry of Paul as stated in Colossians 1:25-29: “…of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.“ Notice especially verses 28-29, where Paul outlines the functions and purpose of his apostolic ministry to include both “preaching to warn every man” and teaching to “present every man complete in Christ.” As we read the letters of Paul, we can sense that “power that worked mightily in him” as he taught the church who they are “In Christ.” The apostolic ministry of Paul weighed heavily on a teaching ministry that would produce Christ-like people who understood the New Creation completely.
Herein lies the difference between the Ministry of Jesus and the Ministry of Paul. We need both operations in the world, but we should realize that the Ministry of Jesus was more to the unsaved world, while the Ministry of Paul was more toward the church, even though Paul’s apostolic ministry included preaching to people who were hearing the gospel for the first time, and was confirmed by miracles, signs and wonders; yet he spent most of his time teaching the believers New Creation Realities. When believers have understood completely what God’s work in Christ means to them, they will not need the Ministry of Jesus every Sunday to get them healed and delivered again. The reason pastors are often trapped into doing the Ministry of Jesus weekly is because the people don’t have a New Testament understanding of redemption. This may be because the leaders themselves have not yet received the revelation contained in Paul’s writings. We need to understand more than, Justification, Sanctification and Regeneration – we also need to know what it means to be a son of God with all the privileges and inheritance of the Family of God: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12) Much of the church is still living as “servants” and have never moved to “sonship.” There is a transition from servant to son that must take place where we are not relating to God based on our “performance” but from our “position” in Christ.
The church today desperately needs the Ministry of Paul so that they can come to maturity and “do the greater works” of which Jesus spoke. The Lord said that believers would do the works that He did listed in Matthew 11:2-5, referring to the deliverance ministry of Jesus: “And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: the blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.’ ” But He also said we would do “greater works than these,” referring to getting people born again, spirit-filled and grown up in Christ.
The world is waiting for the mature sons of God to manifest, those who will reveal the nature of the Father, who is Love. May the Lord help us to see when each of these apostolic ministries is needed, and release them accordingly for His glory.