Reprint from the April 1977 Word & Work


     After naming himself and giving himself the title of “slave of Jesus Christ,” Paul continued his introduction to his letter to the Romans by further identifying himself as one “called to be an apostle,” as we usually translate it. The words “to be” are not in the Greek, so a more literal translation would be “a called apostle'” or “called as an apostle.” Cod did not call him once to be a Christian and then later add a call to apostleship; He did not call him as a Christian then and later add the further call to apostleship; He had this in mind before Paul was born, so He called him as an apostle

from the very first.

     Now if we will look at Paul’s career from the time he met the Lord on the road to Damascus, we have no way to know from our examination that he was a “called apostle” from his actions until years afterwards. He turned immediately to Christ and started witnessing for Him (did you do this?). Apparently, from Galatians 1:17, he soon went into Arabia for meditation on his new position as a slave of Jesus Christ. He then returned to Damascus and witnessed so effectively for Christ that he was soon on the hunted list (the hunter becoming the hunted) and he had to leave Damascus, going to Jerusalem just about three years after his conversion (Galatians 1:18 and Acts 9:23-26).

     After a short time in Jerusalem Paul’s life was again in danger And the Lord warned him to leave Jerusalem (Acts 22:17-21) and promised that He would send him to the Gentiles. So, the Jerusalem brethren sent him to Tarsus (Acts 9:30). In the word “send” we begin to get the idea of apostleship, for the word “apostle” simply sent forth.” But the full meaning of the word was in Paul’s life until after Barnabas brought him to Antioch and two of them taught and worked for the Lord together there for a year or more. Then in Acts 13:1-4 we have the call of Barnabas and Paul to be sent forth by the church leaders (v. 3) and by the Holy Spirit (v. 4). They were now truly “ones sent forth.”

     So often we think of “the twelve” and “Paul” as apostles, that we lose sight of the fact that, though these special apostles have no “successors,” as many claims to be, yet there have always been certain men that have been selected by the Holy Spirit and sent out to do the work of evangelizing, of church-planting, of establishing the congregations and training local leaders. Such are “sent ones” -apostles. In Acts 14:4 and 14:14 Barnabas is called an apostle and the term is used in Romans 16:7 of Andronicus and Junias, in 2 Corinthians 8:23 (ASV, margin) of two unnamed brethren, in Philippians 2:25 of Epaphrodttus, and in 1 Thessalonians 2:6 of Silas and Timothy.

     I wonder how many readers of this series of articles have been called of God either for special work in their own localities or to be “ones sent forth” to accomplish the Lord’s work in other places, “at home” or abroad. If so, I pray that, like Paul, you will be “not

disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19). And I also wonder if the work of the church has lagged in many places for this very reason—either complete disobedience from the beginning or by starting to go out and then settling down in a convenient place. Abraham started to Canaan but waited years in Haran. There were many souls in the territory in and around Haran, as well as back in Ur of Chaldees, who needed a faithful witness, but Abraham had been called to a different territory and lie was not blessed until he fully obeyed. In prayer ask the Lord to guide you to do His work that He has called you to do, and to do it in His chosen place.

     We cherish the memory of Paul because he did not decide there was enough work to be done in Tarsus for his lifetime (and there was) or Antioch, or Ephesus, or any other place. He had the right idea. He wanted to be where the Lord wanted him to be, doing the things for which God had called him when he became a Christian.

May we be like him in that!


Ernest Lyon went to be with his Lord in 2005. He was long time minister for the Highland Church of Christ in Louisville, Ky, and was Professor of Music at the University of Louisville until his retirement after 47 years..