For What Purpose Has God Sent You?
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
As Paul began the letter we know as Ephesians, he identified himself as "an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God" (1:1). Whereas we might wait until the end of a personal letter to identify ourselves, in Paul's culture letter, writers began by naming themselves and the letter's recipient(s).
Paul refers to himself as an "apostle." Our English word is derived from the Greek original: apostolos. This noun literally means "someone who is sent." It was often used for a messenger who had been sent by someone in authority to pass along certain information. In the case of Paul, he had been sent by God to carry the good news of salvation. Moreover, as an apostle, Paul was also what we might call a church planter. He not only preached the gospel, but also helped communities of believers live out the implications of the gospel in their daily lives.
Some Christians today use the term "apostle" for authoritative church leaders and church planters. Others reserve this term for people like Paul who ministered in the earliest decades of Christian history. Yet, whether or not we recognize official apostles in our day, there is a sense in which we have all been "sent" by God. God has sent every one of us into the world to serve him in our daily lives. He has sent us to bear witness to the good news through our words and deeds. He has sent us as bearers of his love and grace. He has sent us to live in this world as citizens of God's own kingdom.
Moreover, God has "sent" the church into the world as a demonstration of the truth and power of the gospel. We'll see this more clearly as we move through Ephesians, especially as we get into chapter 3. The church of Jesus Christ has a profoundly missional purpose for its existence. (The word "mission" comes from the Latin mission, which means "act of sending." For more on this, see my blog series: The Mission of God and the Missional Church.)
So, though I wouldn't encourage you to print up business cards with the title "Apostle" under your name, in a very real sense God has sent you into your workplace for his purposes. The same is true about the other places into which God might send us: school, neighborhood, city, soccer team, etc. You are where you are in the world because God has placed you there as an official representative of his kingdom.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you ever think of yourself as having been sent by God for his purposes? Do you see yourself as being sent into your daily life, or do you use the language of sending only for special occasions, like going on a mission trip? What difference might it make in your life if you truly believed God had sent you to the places, relationships, and institutions that fill your life?
PRAYER: O God, how grateful I am that you chose Paul as your apostle. His impact on the church and the world is amazing. So is his impact on my life. Thank you for using him as you did...and still do.
Though you have not sent me as an apostle in the sense you once sent Paul, you have indeed sent me into this world to serve you and to serve people in your name. Help me, dear Lord, to believe this and to live it each day. Amen.
Images sourced via Creative Commons.