Types of People God is Calling
by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1974
Transcribed, edited and expanded by David Sielaff, June 2004
Read the accompanying Newsletter for June 2004
What kind of people is God now calling for His work at the present time? We know that troublous times are coming. The book of Revelation is not very far in the future from us. 1
What kind of ekklesia or people does God want in these times of trouble on the horizon in front of us? I know one thing for certain. Those people in a hierarchical form of government, who depend on a hierarchy for knowledge, for understanding, for their own salvation as a corporate group, those people are in serious trouble when it comes to the future if they rely too much on the ministry. The hierarchical system of government in God’s ekklesia is wrong.
It is not only wrong for the Christian here and now, it certainly is wrong for the future. This is because people in a hierarchical form of government are the very people who cannot withstand the things that the book of Revelation says will come upon the earth in the next few years. I will explain just why. People who depend on a ministry too much are people who can be dealt with easily by any foreign power.
Let us say for example the United States was taken over by an alien power of some kind. I know of several hierarchical church governments that could be put out of action very quickly. All you would have to do is take the leaders, put them in jail, or line them against a wall and shoot them. If you take away the leaders of people who depend on those leaders all the time, the sheep will go away and scatter. They will not know what to do. They cannot stand on their own two feet; they depend too much on the ministry. If the ministry is forcing the group to depend on them for every little thing: how you plant your garden in your front or backyard, how expert farmers are supposed to plant their crops (when the man teaching has never farmed) or when you get a sniffle you must send for a person to anoint you, or things of that nature that involve a complete and utter dependence upon the ministry. Take a government modified from that, say a church that is run by a board, will you depend on a board of men, are you going to depend on [ASK], are we or am I the saviors of all of you? The answer is no, of course we are not.
Obviously the only type of Christian organization that can survive times of trouble is one that has individual members in it who are strong, who stand on their own two feet, that have independence but are not necessarily independent from one another. We need fellowship. We need to grow in grace and knowledge by cooperation one with another. We need to have assemblies. Getting together is essential for your Christian growth. We should not be so independent of one another that we do not support each other laterally, shoulder to shoulder. On the other hand it is wrong for one man or a group of men to begin to carry everybody. We all must get down and have our feet firmly on the ground spiritually, doctrinally.
God is calling out those who are people of independence, not necessarily that they are independent of others where you become selfish and say, I can take care of myself. That type of attitude is not what God wants. But He does want us to have independence under Him.
I know that people who are growing in grace and knowledge themselves will survive any persecution that comes along. Maybe one or two may be killed off, half the ekklesia could be killed off, but the ekklesia of God would still go on because the people are strong. They have knowledge themselves. They do not so much depend upon a minister. I have told several ministers in the past that they should get up in front of the people and speak themselves out of a job. Give the people so much knowledge and so much understanding of this Bible that they know as much as the minister does.
If they have as much knowledge, they can stand on their own two feet when things go wrong. A good minister of God, by the time he teaches the others has the opportunity to study the Bible more hours each day. The people do not have the opportunity to do that because they have farms, businesses and jobs to take care of. But ministers have a number of hours each week that they should use to get familiar with the Bible. They have a bit more time to study to educate you into the biblical understanding of the Word of God so you can see those teachings for yourself. By the time he has taught you as much as he knows, he will have grown much himself.
A good minister of God will never teach himself out of a job, but he ought to try as best as he can to teach as much as he knows to all of his congregation. However, there are times when you do not have a minister and you have to stand on your own two feet. This is what God wants. God is calling out a proper type of people, to be able to do that very thing. I feel sorry for those who depend too much on ministry, on hierarchical government.
I am against hierarchical government systems, first of all, they are contrary to the Gospel, and I can prove that. Second, they are destructive and spiritually ruinous because they are not giving the truth of God so people can stand on their own two feet. I like people that treat me like an equal, not someone way up high. If I have a little bit of knowledge to give, fine. I want to give it. Let me tell you that you have all types of knowledge I do not know. I never met a person that could not teach me something. Everybody has something to give to somebody. I want to see it developed in God’s people, to make a strong ekklesia where people can stand on their own two feet.
God is calling the best people for the best job at the present time. You are all aware what it says in 1 Corinthians how not many noble are called, not many wise, not many this, not many that (1 Corinthians 1:26). However, even though God may call the foolish, or what people in the world would call foolish, He is actually calling the best people for the job. I have no doubt about that. I cannot imagine the eternal God calling out a people so base, so weak, so ignoble, so unknowledgeable that they just founder about, and call them out to be members of His ekklesia, to lead the world in education and knowledge of God. Yes, God is calling the best people He can possibly find. That is not to build you up, that is just to tell you the truth. He usually calls people that the world looks on with distaste, sometimes with disgust. I know that for a fact. He has always done that.
It has come to my mind of late that God deliberately calls people that the world would not necessarily like to be leaders of them. He does this because He wants to show that the physical things of this world and the physical appraisals of men are not the standards by which things or people ought to be judged. Understand spiritual truth. Sometimes He takes the weak of the world to show the strength of spirituality that only He can really bring out.
Take the Old Testament example, if there was any law that sticks out above any other, it is that of primogenitor. That law shows that the father is the head of the family and that the firstborn son should take over rule of the family. It bypasses the mother and goes to the firstborn son. In the Old Testament it was that way. It was also that way in Egypt and Babylon and it appears to be universal in the Near East. It is most interesting when you check the Bible, even though God Himself brought that rule into play, He violates His own rule. In fact He violates it so many times I have come to the conclusion that the rule is just the opposite of what you might imagine.
Take for example Abraham. Abraham was not the firstborn son. He was the baby of the family. God picked him to be the father of the faithful. People of the world would have asked, why did God not pick Nahor or one of the others. Abraham had a son, Ishmael, and he had six other children by Keturah. He finally had a son named Isaac, and the promise came through whom? It came through the baby, Isaac.
Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau. Who was the firstborn? I know, maybe by the hand it was Jacob, really Esau was the firstborn. Though Jacob needed a bit of spirituality given to him in the earlier years, nevertheless he was the one God chose to be the father of the nation Israel. He was the baby of that family.
Jacob went north to get a wife and came back with four, two wives and two concubines. Then he had 12 children, 13 with Dinah. In actual fact it says he had daughters, so we do not know how many daughters he had. But if he had 12 sons, maybe he had 12 daughters also. Of those 12 sons Reuben was the firstborn, but he was disqualified because he went into his father’s concubines. Levi was next, then Simeon. They were disqualified because they were cruel in heart and they went into the Shechamites and killed them all.
For Leah’s children it was Judah, the fourth-born son of Jacob, who took preeminence; Joseph, it was true, was the firstborn of Rachel, but he was born long after the children of Leah.
Joseph gave birth to Ephraim and Manasseh. Joseph was not the firstborn, but he got the blessing of territory, or power, of government. Manasseh was the firstborn, but who did God choose to give the greater blessing to? He gave it to Ephraim. It is as if God picked the younger every time. He is not supposed to do that according to the laws of the Old Testament. God seems to be go counter to His own laws.
Then we come down to the time of Moses. Moses was to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, which he did quite well. But Moses was (as far as we know) the leastborn son of that family. Aaron was three years older than Moses. Why was not Aaron picked to be the leader and lead the children out of Egypt? God picked Moses.
When it came time to make a kingdom and King Saul disqualified himself, King David was chosen as a king that God placed great confidence in to rule. You know how He selected David? He told Samuel the Prophet to go south out of the hill country of Ephraim to a little place in Judea called Bethlehem. Go to the family of Jesse and there he was to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king over Israel.
Samuel goes down and says to Jesse, bring your child to me because I will anoint him to be king over Israel. Jesse, according to the law of primogenitor, brings the firstborn son. Samuel says, no, I do not want him. He brings a second. No, I don’t want him. Then the third. By this time Jesse is beginning to wonder what is going on. Samuel goes through the fourth, the fifth and the sixth and he finally brings the seventh and Samuel does not want him. Jesse says surely, those are my children. Samuel asks, do you not have any others left? Jesse says I have a stripling of a lad out tending the sheepcote. That is all I have left. Samuel said to bring him. Jesse brought him and Samuel anointed his head with oil. That was David, the leastborn son of Jesse. He was the one God picked. Why does He pick the leastborn most of the time?
At least Jesus’ genealogy was from David, and David was a great man. But the genealogy of Christ is not much to laud over, except it goes all the way back through David to Adam. I suppose all of us should get some laudation out of that, because we are all from Adam. But Jesus’ genealogy was not all that profound. 2
Only four women are mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy of Matthew chapter 1. The four women must have been very important, they must have had great virtues to appear in the genealogy of our Lord Himself; or so you would think. Though he had his faults, David was a man of virtue. Who were the women in Christ’s genealogy? One was an incestress. Her chief role in the Bible was that she committed incest. Another was a harlot, a prostitute. Another was a foreigner and the last one was an adulteress.
The incestress was Tamar who went in with Judah, her own father-in-law (Genesis 38:12–30). The harlot was Rahab who kept the spies from being discovered in Jericho (Joshua 2:1–24). The foreigner was Ruth, the Moabitess who went over to the land of Judah and abandoned her own people and her own gods (Ruth chapters 1–4). That was a virtuous thing to do, but she was a foreigner. The adulteress was Bathsheba who committed adultery with David (2 Samuel chapters 11–12). Those are the four women who are virtuous enough to appear in the genealogy of our Lord. They are there for a good reason. It is to show that when you pick the genealogy of the Lord and you say, here are the women and the men (some of them were not all that good), though it was a kingly line, the inclusion of the women is to teach some of us that our genealogies may be not all that good either. 3
When Christ came along He picked disciples of fishermen, tax collectors and people like that, the opposite from what most people would pick. However, He picked the best men for the job. I know that when one goes back to Abraham, God picked the best man. He picked the best man in Isaac. Even though old Jacob’s name was Supplanter (that is what his name meant), still he was the best man for the job. Ephraim was the best man. Moses was certainly the best man. David was the best man. Those women in the genealogies of Christ, they must have been the best for the time, even though they did those ignoble acts. Christ called people that most individuals would not call for a noble endeavor like Christianity.
He is not calling what the world would consider to be the best at the present time. I know that what He is calling happens to be the best whether it is me, or whether it is you or anybody else. We should not be arrogant or haughty over that by any means, because if we start doing that, God has the ability to bring us down. He will do it. He will chastise every son that He loves (Psalm 94:12–14 and Hebrews 12:6–8). So He is calling the best people for the best job.
The first Gentile that was called to a knowledge of the truth must have had all the credentials on him of birth, of race, of position to make him a noble person for him to be the first one called. In the Bible the first time you come across an event, whether it deals with a person or a group of people. God focuses on it so it can be seen that this event is a very important. In the book of Acts every time Luke introduces something, and he spends time on it, it is important. 4
The first Gentile ever called to a knowledge of the truth after the resurrection of Christ was the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip was ordained to a special position called “one of the seven” in Acts 6:3–7. He was a man filled with God’s Holy Spirit. He was north in Samaria around that area preaching the Gospel. It says that He was taken bodily through the air (like Ezekiel in the Old Testament was transported from Babylon to the Temple in Jerusalem), and he was put there beside the road to Gaza from Jerusalem. It was a desert region and there were few people there.
[ EDITOR'S NOTE: Reading Acts 8:25 it is clear that Philip, Peter, and others returned to Jerusalem. Philip from Jerusalem went on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza and met the Ethiopian eunuch (verse 26). Only after the eunuch was baptized that Philip was supernaturally transported away (Acts 8:39). See my Commentary, "Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch" at http://askelm.com/news/n040608.htm for more information. ]
After this experience he sees a caravan going by and hears the book of Isaiah being read in the old Greek version, the Septuagint. It was coming from one of the portable tents on top of a camel that was passing by. Here was a man reading as he was traveling. Philip walked up to the tent. It stopped and the tent door opened and the Ethiopian eunuch asked Philip “Who is this prophet speaking about?” He was reading Isaiah 53. Philip then taught him what Isaiah 53 said, the man said, “What shall I do?” Philip said, “be baptized.” The man got down off of the caravan camel and he was baptized. He was the first Gentile ever baptized. He was evangelized by Philip being taken there by God.
Philip, of his own volition, would not have done that. But God took him there and put him by that roadside so he would evangelize that one person. Who was he? He was an Ethiopian eunuch. As far as the flesh is concerned, he was a Gentile who was unable to go into the Temple of God. He could not go to the altar. He could not make an offering on the altar. That meant he was cut off from God. Besides that, this Gentile was as far away, racially speaking, from a Jew as you could get. 5 Here was a man physically speaking, as symbolically far from the altar as you could possibly get and he was the one to whom God wanted Philip to explain the Gospel.
The man had another point against him. Not only was he an Ethiopian and a Gentile, he was a eunuch! Even if he would have been a Jew of noble birth and a eunuch, the Old Testament says a eunuch was forbidden go into the Temple of God. God said to Philip, preach to that eunuch. Also, he was in the service of a woman. Though she was Queen Candace of the Ethiopians that he was serving, he was a woman’s servant, which was about as low as you could possibly get. Put these things together and what do you get? The first one that God picks has all the physical credentials of exclusion from God’s divine government. But that is the one God picked.
When Peter was in Lydda and went to Joppa (near modern Tel Aviv), he got hungry one day and went on top of the roof to pray before lunch. In the meantime up in Caesarea about 40 miles north a man by the name of Cornelius had a vision. It said I [God] want you to send some men to a man called Peter who is at Simon the Tanner’s house in Joppa at the seacoast. Have your men to tell Peter to come up and talk to you.
Peter was there about noon and he received the vision of the unclean animals and the sheet that was brought down, like a stork carrying the baby with the four corners of a sheet. Peter looked in the sheet and here were all these unclean animals crawling around.
“And there came a voice to him, ‘Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.’ And the voice spoke unto him again the second time, ‘What God has cleansed, that call not you common.’ This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.”
That happened three times and it left quite an impression on Peter, but he was doubtful about what the vision meant. At the very time the third one was over, Peter was told that someone was at the door who wanted to see him. Peter goes down and he finds three men came to see him, sent by a Gentile from Caesarea. He puzzles over the whole thing. He did not want to be disobedient to the heavenly vision so he and the others walked north about 40 miles to Caesarea and Peter was introduced to Cornelius. While they were talking Cornelius and his family were converted. The Holy Spirit came into them. Peter said, what can I do, let us baptize you. They were baptized. Peter went up to Jerusalem later and told the leaders of the ekklesia and they were amazed about Cornelius.
“When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, ‘Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.’”
They were amazed at it. Peter said, there is the evidence. We have no other alternative but to accept it. Who was Cornelius? Cornelius was a Roman centurion. He was the least likely person you would imagine as far as a Gentile would be concerned to get the Gospel. He was one of the members of the Roman military aristocracy, the occupiers of the country at that time. They were the most hated people in Palestine. Here was this officer in the Roman government, called to a knowledge of the truth and baptized, an officer in the occupying forces of Palestine.
He would have been the least likely. So was the Ethiopian eunuch. So was Abraham. So was Moses. So were those in Christ’s genealogy. Do you see the pattern? What we get out of this is that God seems to call the least likely as a people. But those are the ones God called in the past, going against His own laws in the Old Testament, as far as the firstborn being the most important.
The man I want to discuss now was a man of letters, no question about that, fully qualified as far as education is concerned, but he was a great persecutor of the Christian church to begin with. You could call him the Adolf Eichmann of the Christian ekklesia in the early years of its existence. I am talking about a man called Saul, the chief man in charge of exterminating the Christian ekklesia in the first few years of its existence. He had orders from the high priest to destroy men, women, and children in the Christian community and exterminate it from the earth. He went about his job with gusto, as he says in his own writings.
This man was a man of great wisdom who was converted on the road to Damascus and his name was changed to Paul from Saul. The word “Saul” signifies something very great like King Saul, the first great king of Israel, tall and handsome. God then changed his name to something phonetically close to it, but he changes the first letter from an “S” to a “P.” “Paul” in Greek means “little.” It means small, insignificant.
Paul later, by writing 14 letters of our New Testament, by all the other things that he did, could hardly be called little, but that is what God called him. From then on he had to be little. Though he was a great man and had great intellect, do you know that his intellect was the only natural attribute that man had? He was brilliant in the head, that was about it. When it came to other things, such as physical attributes, he had practically none. This is exactly what he says in his letters about himself.
Many of us tend to idealize the personalities of the Old Testament. We imagine Abraham as a tall individual, muscular, must have a beard, who would look like a Charleston Heston. We idealize the saints of old. We certainly have done it with Christ. But the apostle Paul was also quite a bit different than many people have imagined, by his own admission in the Bible. He was probably very much like some of us and indeed, he was probably by nature a lot weaker physically than many of us. I have no doubts about that at all. Look at some of the references Paul gives concerning himself. I have no doubt God picked the right man for the job, but when we really look, I am not sure he had any qualifications, not the physical ones; mental yes, he certainly had the education. That was about the only attribute that Paul had.
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.”
1 Corinthians 2:1
The first thing he says is that he did not have an “excellency of speech.” Some would say, surely he must have been a great speaker? He went into the Jewish synagogues, spoke to them, and convicted people. Yes, he did that. But he says, when I came to you Corinthians I came with speech, but it was not “excellency of speech.” Then he says he did not even come with wisdom, that is with man’s wisdom, philosophy (in Greek, sophia). He did not come to them with that when he declared to them “the testimony of God.”
“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you ...”
1 Corinthians 2:2–3
This is how he was with them for 18 long months. The Corinthians knew Paul. They were with him day and night. They understood his temperament. They understood his strengths. They understood his weaknesses. Here is what he said appraising himself. He was with them for 18 months, “... in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:3). That was the demeanor of the apostle Paul so far.
Some people when they read that, because of their idealized appraisal of Paul, interpret “I was with you in weakness” simply means that I am very strong, but weak compared to God. “In fear” meant in fear of the Lord, full of strength and fear of the Lord. “Much trembling,” meant trembling to break any of God’s commandments. Surely that it is what Paul meant, most people would say.
That was not what Paul meant at all. He was saying something that the people knew themselves about the temperament of the apostle Paul. When he says I came to “you in weakness,” physically he was weak. “In fear,” naturally he was a very fearful man. I do not have the slightest doubt about it. He came “in much trembling.” The trembling was not in fear of God (of course he feared God), but the trembling was about what was happening in Corinth with all the pressures. He was scared a lot of the time. His natural constitution was one of weakness, he was naturally fearful and he had much trembling about him. Whether we want to accept tradition or not, that is another thing, but tradition has it that Paul was
In other words he was not good looking at all; his appearance was one of great weakness. If the tradition is correct, it agrees with most of the statements of Paul in his own writings. “I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.” (1 Corinthians 2:3). That was the natural manner of Paul.
“And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
1 Corinthians 2:4–5
The Corinthians could see that there was something beyond the physical state of Paul that inspired him to preach the Gospel. The preaching was with power but it was not with excellency of speech. It was not with man’s words of wisdom, like a Greek philosopher getting up and speaking, and the oratory would roll out, and it would be beautiful. Back in the days of the apostle Paul the greatest attribute that man could have in those days in the Greek world was to be a philosopher. The second thing was to be an orator, to really speak well and communicate his philosophy to an audience. The apostle Paul said he was neither a philosopher or an orator. He was coming.
“in weakness and in fear and in much [natural] trembling. My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”
1 Corinthians 2:3–4
If they looked to the apostle Paul for his physical promise, he had none to give. If they looked beyond him to the spiritual message that God was giving, to God in heaven, then he was powerful indeed. But they had to look beyond the physical to get to the spiritual. Look at 2 Corinthians chapter 7, where we read about the time when he went to Macedonia (northern Greece today).
“For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings [in the streets, riots, things like that] within were fears.”
2 Corinthians 7:5
Inside Paul and his colleagues were fears. I would think that the apostle Paul would never be a fearful man. After all, he was inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. Should he ever fear for his life? Should he ever fear for being injured or persecuted or things like that? Paul by nature was a very fearful man. He says that on the outside there were all types of fightings while “within were fears.”
“Nevertheless God, that comforts those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you [you Corinthians], when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more.”
2 Corinthians 7:6–7
Titus came from Corinth and told Paul and the rest in Macedonia how faithful the Corinthians were, how they were praying for him, and how much they loved him. To see Titus’ face and his message in the midst of these fightings and inward fears was a great comfort to the apostle Paul. In fact Paul rejoiced.
Going back to verse 6, notice that “Nevertheless God, that comforts those that are cast down, comforted us ...” There were so many inward fears and fightings that it was getting the apostle Paul down. He was “cast down.” He was depressed! Here is the mighty apostle Paul with God’s Holy Spirit backing him up. Surely he would never get depressed! Of course he did, because he was a human being. He had natural fears on many occasions. When he saw Titus, Paul’s spirit was given a lift.
How many of you have ever gotten in a state of depression? Well, you do once in a while if you are human beings. I tell you, I do not want to work with anybody who does not know how it feels to be depressed. I do not want to work with anybody who does not know what it is to fear anything. I do not like to be around a person who is strong all the time. I like to see a little weakness coming in, because it makes me feel at home. It makes me feel that if I can see strength coming out of that man through God’s Holy Spirit, maybe I can get it too. We are all in a position like that once in a while. I try to be a happy person. All of us try to be. But there are times when there is trauma in your life. Sometimes it can be pretty severe and you need comfort. 6
I know all the promises of God about, I will be with you, I won’t do this, I won’t do that, but on the other hand, they are the promises of God and you must put them into action by the Spirit of God. The apostle Paul had them all too and it is beautiful to know that the apostle Paul had fears once and a while. When I have a little fear, then I can associate with Paul. I am convinced that the apostle Paul by nature was a very fearful man, much more than I am.
Here we find the apostle Paul who had difficulties. The only thing that man had going for him naturally was his mind power, his ability to reason, to think, and his education. Physically though, he did not have very good speech, he had inward fears, but the apostle Paul became great because he overruled those fears. He was able with God’s Holy Spirit to go against his own nature time and time again.
Turn to 2 Corinthians chapter 10. “Do you look on things after the outward appearance?” (verse 7). He is speaking to the Corinthians and he will soon talk about himself. He says, do you Corinthians look on the outward appearance? I know what mankind would do. They would look totally on the outward appearance.
“Do you look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ's, even so are we Christ's. For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed.”
2 Corinthians 10:7–8
Look at those last 5 words. “I should not be ashamed.” Why would he say such a statement as that? Because naturally speaking on v. 7, “Do you look on things after the outward appearance?” he is saying you better not do it. But when the apostle Paul was looked at, he would naturally be ashamed, comparing himself with others. He says, “I should not be ashamed.” He says in verse 9,
“That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters. For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.”
2 Corinthians 10:9–10
That was their appraisal of Paul. He is talking about himself here. Whether he was bowed over, or has a bald head, I am not sure. But that he was a weak-looking individual physically is not tradition, that is from the Bible. His speech was not just bad, it was contemptible. That is an English word, but it hits the Greek right on the head. He could not speak worth anything.
What he did say was powerful and good, especially what he wrote was powerful, but the man simply was not a good speaker. He could be compared to most anybody and he would come out last as far as speaking was concerned, and his bodily presence was weak as well. He did not have much going for him.
“Let such an one think this [neither comparing or ashamed (v. 8)], that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present. For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”
2 Corinthians 10:11–12
Do you see what the apostle Paul is getting at here? These Corinthians were comparing him with others. Paul always came out last physically and speech-wise. But he says he will not be ashamed in their midst, no matter how bad he was. The Corinthians knew that Paul had something besides the fact that he did not have a very good appearance and could not speak well. They knew he had the Spirit of God behind him. When he got up to speak, though he stumbled all over himself, though he did not make it plain, maybe he repeated himself time and again, and his bodily presence was weak, and he came out on the lower rung of appraisal, nevertheless he was the apostle Paul who wrote 14 letters of your Bible.
If you saw him walking down the street or if he was here speaking now, there would not be one thing about him physically that you would desire. In fact you would not even want to be around him. But he said he would not be ashamed of himself, because God made him that way. I am adding a bit to it, but that is what he is saying there.
“For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles [compared with them]. But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge.”
2 Corinthians 11:5–6
That was the apostle Paul’s ace in the hand, his knowledge. He had that, plus the Spirit of God backing him up, which was even better. He was very “rude in speech,” it was contemptible. Go back to 1 Corinthians chapter 1, he gives a little bit about his own personality:
“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”
1 Corinthians 1:17
His commission was not to preach with wisdom of words, because his speech was contemptible and it was very rude. It was barbaric. Nevertheless it was the truth of the eternal God.
Look at 2 Corinthians 12:1, “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.” He will glory in one regard. He will talk about visions and revelations.
“I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows) such an one caught up to the third heaven.”
2 Corinthians 12:2
This man he talks about is himself, but he puts it into the third person because this man had such a glorified experience in vision of being taken into the paradise of God that he did not want to say that I, Paul, am so powerful that I was taken there. He was, after all, saying, “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory.” I can glory if I want to because I was taken into the paradise of God. But he says “that man” was taken there, whether in or out of the body he did not know.
“How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.”
2 Corinthians 12:4–5
The word “infirmities” here means sicknesses. It is translated as “diseases” in Acts 28:9. It is the same Greek word (if you have read the article on healing 7) describing the impotent man for 38 years at the gate of Jerusalem who was healed by Christ, told to pick up his bed and walk, he had an infirmity (John 5:5). We do not know what his sicknesses were, but notice it is in the plural. I will glory alright, but he says, I will glory, “in my infirmities,” which means his weaknesses.
“For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he sees me to be, or that he hears of me.”
2 Corinthians 12:6
When they looked at Paul he was not very good. When they heard from him he was not very good either. He said I do not want any man to look on me higher than my physical presence.
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
2 Corinthians 12:7–9
Of himself Paul was weak. All the power he had came from God the Father and Jesus Christ. “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches ...” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Many people were reproaching him for his physical appearance, for his speech, for many things.
“I take pleasure ... in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. I am become a fool in glorying; you have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you.”
2 Corinthians 12:10–11
He was not being commended by them. They compared him with others, and who always came up least? Always the apostle Paul. So he was given “a thorn in the flesh,” and people have disputed just what that was.
Some have considered that it was a man going around trying to persecute him. I do not think that was the case at all. It was infirmities that he is talking about, sicknesses, weaknesses. He says it was “in the flesh.” It may be a figure of speech but on the other hand if the thorn was in the flesh it must have been some kind of physical infirmity in the flesh. It persisted with him for a long time because he said he asked three times that it be taken from him. Each time he was told by God, by Christ, that His grace was sufficient for him, that His strength was made perfect in weakness.
Paul was told, no, God would not take that thorn in the flesh away from him. He would have to continue with his infirmities, along with his bodily appearance being not too great, and his contemptible speech. He must endure it all and it will not look good physically. This is what God wanted.
Our Lord Himself when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane just before He was crucified, went a stone’s throw away from the disciples who were beginning to get sleepy and he said to them, wait here. He goes over, kneels down and says, Father, if it be your will, remove this cup of the crucifixion from me. God told him that he was going to have to go through with it.
Jesus goes back to His disciples, finds them getting drowsy, so He returns and asks the same thing again. God tells Him the same thing. The third time He asks, will you remove this cup from me? God the Father says no, you must go through with it. The answer He got the first time was no, you must go through with it. The answer He got the second time was no, and the answer He got the third time was no. You would think that maybe the first no would have been sufficient. But with His human emotions He asked two more times. When He got a third no, and He knew it was a third no, He would not ask any more. He had to do it.
Here is the apostle Paul using that same example, there is no doubt about it. He would say, look, this physical infirmity is injuring my ministry. I cannot do this, I cannot do that. So Paul got down on his knees and he asked God to remove it. God said no, “my grace is sufficient for you, my strength is made perfect in weakness.” This went on for another period of time, a year or so, and Paul said this is getting me down. It is interfering with my ministry. So he got down on his knees and asked for relief. God told him no. So that gives Paul an idea that maybe he will go ahead and he can survive. He goes on for a while and it gets him down again, so he asks once more. Do you know what God said the third time? “My grace is sufficient for you, my strength is made perfect in weakness.” The answer, Paul, is no. 8
It was so troublesome for the apostle Paul that he asked this thorn to be removed three times. God said, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” You will keep your infirmities to keep you from being haughty, because of the divine revelations I have given you. This must have persisted for a long time.
“Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as you are: you have not injured me at all. You know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.”
The first time Paul preached to the Galatians in central Asia Minor, he was a sick man. I do not know what the sickness was, but we can look at some evidence. “You know how through infirmity of the flesh,” does not mean just some skin abrasion. It means very sick and it was in the flesh. It goes on in verse 14:
“And my temptation [“trial” in Greek] which was in my flesh you despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
It was such a trial that naturally and normally people would have despised him and rejected him. Can you imagine? Here is someone like me [Paul] for the first time coming into your midst and here I am preaching, obviously sick, but still preaching. If it was an inward sickness like an intestinal problem that you cannot see, no one would despise me for that. You would not reject me on that. But if it was something you could see on the outside and an obvious sickness of some kind where you could despise or reject me and I said “depend on Jesus Christ and He will heal you of your afflictions,” You could look at me right in the eye and say, “Physician, heal yourself.” Why are you coming preaching to me as sick as you are. The natural tendency would be to despise anything I would say if I was sick like that, at the same I am saying, “trust in Christ.” It must have been a real trial to the apostle Paul.
“Where is then the blessedness you spoke of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes, 9 and have given them to me.”
The Galatians did not despise him, did not reject him. That is what he is recalling to their attention. Though his bodily presence was weak, he could not speak worth anything, he was crude of speech (it was contemptible), and he did not give men’s wisdom like the philosophers of the Greeks. He was a sick man when he preached, yet his trial they did not despise or reject. They received him as an angel of God.
What does this show? It shows that God picked a man in the apostle Paul who had all the physical attributes going against him. The only thing he had was a good intellect, but he had the Spirit of God, and God used the apostle Paul with all those bad physical attributes. He did not want the Galatians or the Corinthians looking to the physical or for their desires to stop there. They had to go beyond through the physical to the spiritual in heaven. That is the kind of man God called when He called the apostle Paul.
When Jesus became the Christ on this earth (through His incarnation), He took on the seed of Abraham, (not with the countenance like an Adonis, for no man even desired Jesus, Isaiah 52:2).
Here was Isaac, the baby of the family. Here was Jacob, the baby of the family. Here was Ephraim, the baby of the family. Here was Moses, the baby of the family. Here was David, the baby of the family. Here was Christ with all those women with “bad” virtues in his genealogy. Here were the fishermen from Galilee. Here were the tax collectors. Here was the apostle Paul. Not all of us are like that physically speaking, that is true. But the ones that God did call are the ones best suited for the job.
We have a spiritual job to do. God has picked the right man and the right woman in every case. What He wants now at this crucial hour in history (and I have no doubts about this at all), that He is calling out people from churches that are fine and good in many ways. 10 All of you have come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Timothy 3:7; Hebrews 10:26) and He has called you out. God is calling you now because you are the best people for the job. You may not be the most noble, as far as the world looks at it, but God is calling us, people who are to step out with independence.
We are not being independent, in the sense of being separate one from another, that is selfishness. There is a minority of people who go that way, saying they can take care of their own self and do not worry about anybody, any organization, or any man from now on. In my case I feel I want independence, I want to stand on my own two feet, but I want to shoulder support alongside with you on one side. I would hope that you could have a little shoulder support on one side or the other from me, and all of us work together. Let us have our independence. Let us stay within the liberty that God has called us, as in Galatians chapter 5:
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
Many of us have been in yokes of bondage. Anytime you are in a yoke of bondage, you are not standing on your own two feet. You are doing it for someone else.
Now we are working under the Bible, not under a yoke. Now we need to take our independence and rejoice in it, because God is calling people now who will be persecution free, as far as this church is concerned. That is a fact. If you are all growing in the grace and knowledge of God and you are really learning yourself that you know as much as the minister and anybody else, that is the most beautiful situation you could possibly imagine. You are being the type of Christian that God wants in the first place.
If you ever get back into hierarchical governments where one man rules, you are putting on yokes of bondage once again. Cooperate together as brothers and sisters should cooperate.
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.”
Do not neglect assembling yourselves. Listen to tapes. Read a wide variety of material. Study the Holy Scriptures. God has called you now for independence and liberty so you can help thousands of others in the future that He wants also to be His full sons and daughters to stand on their own two feet as well. This is the type of individual He wants. People are telling me that they are now standing on their own two feet. They have had a great load off their backs. They are now loving Jesus Christ and God the Father as they never have before because they now know that God wants them and loves them individually.
The old billboards during Second World War had statements like “come and join the Army,” or “Join the Navy and see the World” or something similar. Join some organization. Maybe it is necessary physically speaking, but I wonder how many of you notice lately that about 4 years ago the Defense Department decided on a different advertising scheme. They are now saying that the Army wants to join you! All of a sudden young men and women are saying that the Army looks upon them as important, as an individual, and they want to join me? Maybe I will join them.
I turn that around from a Christian point of view. In the old days people would join the church, come and join God. But God is really saying, come, I want to join you as an individual. If He joins you and you and you, we are all joined together in a proper type of organization. That is what God wants. He wants to join you as an individual. He will not accept you any other way. You must stand on your own two feet.
“For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But
- God has chosen the foolish things of the world [you and me] to confound the wise; and
- God has chosen the weak things of the world [you and me] to confound the things which are mighty; And
- [God has chosen the] base things of the world [you and me], and
- [God has chosen the] things which are despised [you and me],
- has God chosen, yea, and things which are not [you and me], to bring to nought things that are:
That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, he that glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:26–31
Under God you will not only survive, but you will grow the way God wants His called-out ones to grow. You were chosen to fulfill a purpose that will be performed in God’s own time. In the meantime your responsibility is to learn, study and mature as a child of God.
“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”
2 Peter 3:18
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
Ernest L. Martin, 1974
Edited by David Sielaff, May 2004
1 Its events are just around the corner. I cannot state dogmatically any dates on when these things will occur. We will get into serious difficulty if we start to make dates. There are chronological problems. There are calendar problems. There are many types of problems in setting dates as far as the 2nd coming of Christ, the Great Tribulation are concerned. The problem is not with God or with the Bible, the problem happens to be with us. We just do not have the necessary in our minds to put everything together. But God knows when these things will occur. An exposition which I have on “Mystery Babylon the Great” I give 7 points in which we ought to watch for. Prophecy is moving on. [See the article at http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p030901.htm.] ELM
2 We find in the prophecy of Isaiah 53 that Jesus was not a big person like a kind of Miami Dolphin football player, with broad shoulders and looking like the pagan Adonis, the god of strength and beauty. People have imagined that Jesus Christ, because He never sinned once, was the epitome of health, vigor, and strength. He easily could have been a wrestler in his day. The prophecies do not say that was how Jesus Christ was to appear at all. He was to grow out a desert land. He was to be like a tender root. He was to experience weaknesses, not just while He was on the tree of crucifixion, but also while He lived. That is Isaiah 53. When Jesus Christ came on the earth He had no physical comeliness about Him that any person, man or woman, would desire Him. If He were such a handsome fellow as some people imagine, all types of people would have been flocking to him. That was not the way Christ looked. In fact I get the feeling that He was just downright ugly, to be honest about it. I do not think He had any good looks. If He had good looks the emphasis would have been on those good looks. That gives me a lot of encouragement to be honest. [See Chapter 23, “The Real Jesus of the Bible” in Dr. Martin’s book, Secrets of Golgotha: The Lost History of Jesus’ Crucifixion (Portland, OR: A.S.K., 1996), pp. 328–344.] ELM
3 I had a beautiful father and mother and as far as I can get, beautiful grandparents on both sides, and maybe great grandparents. But I heard a few stories from the time of the Civil War about my great grandparents that might cause eyebrows to go up. If I go back far enough I know I have horse thieves in my heritage. What about the rest of you? You might be in a bad position genealogically speaking. If you are, so was our Lord. It was deliberate that it was recorded that way. ELM
4 Luke is very interested in the introduction of things. If you would study the introductions of things in the book of Acts, and even the whole Bible, you find that God tries to show you cardinal events to help us understand the doctrines of the Bible in point after point after point. ELM
5 There was nothing wrong with him, a Chinese, an Ethiopian, it makes no difference, but he was far away. By the way, the Ethiopian was not a Jew in the service of Candace (Acts 8:27); some have thought that, but there is no indication of that. I believe he was definitely an Ethiopian. ELM
6 I am depressed once and a while, but this is the way I usually illustrate it. Get a big graph and the lower part of the graph and you put it regard to your emotions or your fears, your depressions. The Christian ought to be able to have a graph where he is up in the upper third most of the time. If you were down at the bottom you would be so depressed you would want to commit suicide or something evil as that. If you are in the middle zone, up and down, that is how most people are. Sometimes you go on a holiday and you have plenty of money in your pocket, you have your health, you are right at the top. The Christian cannot be at the top all the time. It would be spiritually ruinous to be up there all the time, because we have to experience life. We must experience the good with the bad. We cannot really appreciate the good unless we have some bad once and a while. I do not want any of you to have any bad, but I know you will have it. The Christian ought to have the line marking the graph mainly in the upper third. Very seldom should you go down into the lower half. I know with me that I get up on the wrong side of the bed one day and I can be as grumpy as anything. I get that way, so do you. The next day I get up and I am on top of the world. The ups and downs should be in the upper part of the graph. ELM
7 “Was Jesus Ever Sick?” at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d990701.htm. See also the article “Fasting — Its Use and Abuse” http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d010801.htm, “How You Can Influence God” http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d980615.htm, and “Where Is God?” http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d030201a.htm. DWS
8 However, we have the example of the importunate widow (Luke 18:1–8) who went back time and time and time again to get her answer, and Christ said to do that. That was perfectly good if you do not know the answer. But if you get an answer from God and you know it is “no,” maybe that ought to be enough. But on the other hand if the trouble creeps up on you and you say, I will ask again and God says no a second time. That ought to be enough. Still if you are really down in the dumps that you think you absolutely must have release from whatever it is, and you ask Him a third time, and He says “no,” that is enough. It ought to be enough the first time, but Paul did it three times. Christ Himself did it three times. I think we all have three times. ELM
9 Some people imagine that Paul had serious eye trouble, that he could hardly see. However, it could be that this is a figure of speech, saying that you Galatians would have taken out your chief organ of sin, which most people hold in the highest esteem — eyesight, more than taste, more than hearing. But eyesight seems to be the chief organ sense that we all have. Most people feel it would be disastrous to go blind. It may be a figure of speech saying they would have plucked out their chief organs of sense to be able, vicariously, for Paul to be rid of his sickness or his great trial which he had in his flesh. That was how much they loved him.
10 In 1974. Dr. Martin is referring to a hierarchical structure church organization that he, and many others, recently separated from, to work with an independent research organization (not a church) as the chief teacher. DWS
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