Audio Library

The Risen Christ Chooses His Leaders 

Second Presbyterian Church
George Robertson
October 15, 2017

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.” (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms: “‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it, and, “‘May another take his place of leadership.’ Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

 

There are only a few books in my library, which I find myself returning to again and again. One of them is one of Francis Schaeffer’s early books No Little People. The book is about leadership and I find the biblical principles he elucidates about spiritual leadership to be encouraging, rebuking, and refreshing all at the same time. It is not a book only for vocational ministers—it is a book for every Christian who is called to lead wherever he or she is.

 

The most basic principle of Schaeffer’s perspective on leadership is the one I want to highlight in this text. Schaeffer says a Christian must seek the lowest place of service in every situation and every organization (Lk. 14:7-11). If God wants to call him up to a higher station then so be it, but it is not for the Christian to assume the highest place from the beginning.

 

This insight was first expressed in a sermon Schaeffer preached early in his ministry called “God so Used a Stick of Wood.” The sermon was about the mighty things God did through Moses’ staff. The stick in Moses’ hand became the rod of God (Ex. 4:20). Through that stick God judged the Egyptians, supplied for his people’s needs, and conquered military enemies. Schaeffer’s point is that a dead stick of wood became powerful because it was consecrated to God. Likewise, no matter how little you think you are in God’s hand, you can be used to accomplish his will in eternally significant ways. There are no little people and no big people, Schaeffer says, only consecrated or unconsecrated. The call on every Christian’s life is to seek the lowest place of service to God which he will then transform into consecrated leadership.[1]

 

In this passage, I see three categories of leaders: dignified, distinguished, and delegated. Each category contains “sticks of wood” made to be leaders by God’s grace, even as they sought the lowest place of service in grateful response to salvation.

 

Dignified Leadership (12-14)

The first category of leaders we observe in this passage are those dignified by God’s magnanimous grace. After the ascension, the apostles returned to Jerusalem as they were commanded in order to await the gift of the Spirit. They were not alone, however. A large number of other disciples were also there bringing the total to one hundred and twenty (15). By naming the participants, the Spirit dignifies them.

 

Also, notice the different categories represented:

 

1) Unknown

This group includes some who were poor, others who were working class, thieves, and a few troublemakers. These were found by Jesus, transformed by the Good News, and made his leaders. A good or significant reputation is a not a prerequisite to coming to Christ and being used by him.

 

2) Insignificant

The second category of people dignified by grace is the women. Women were little more than chattel in large segments of the near eastern world. But they were always dignified by Jesus and they are dignified by the Scriptures. Surely Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna are included besides Jesus’ mother. Women figured prominently in Jesus’ life and ministry. Some supported him financially (Lk. 8:2,3). The women were the only ones not to abandon him in his death (Lk. 23:49,55-56; 24:1; Jn. 19:25). They were first to his tomb to care for the body and the first to witness his resurrection (Lk. 24:9,10). The women in the Church are equally significant disciples of and leaders for Christ.

 

3) Unconvinced

The third category is the unconvinced. This is the first we learn in the Scriptures that Jesus’ brothers were eventually converted. Jesus’ brothers had refused to believe in him during his earthly ministry (Jn. 7:5). However, during the period between his death and resurrection Jesus appeared to his brother James (1 Co. 15:7), which lead apparently not only to James’ conversion (Ja. 1:1), but also Jude’s (Jude 1) as well as Joseph and Simon’s. Jesus turned mockers into ministers!

 

Christ turned these “sticks of wood” into leaders of his Church. Unsurprisingly, their first commission is to pray. It makes sense that if God is using these unlikely people as leaders of his church, then their first step in spreading his kingdom is to humbly rely on the Spirit in prayer. If you are going to be the leader God wants you to be in any organization but especially the Church, you must become a person of prayer. No special training is required, anybody can do it, and everyone must.

 

But then I must challenge you as well to focus your prayers on Kingdom purposes. God is concerned about your health and your finances and your house-buying and your car repairs, but what God desires is for us to pray in every situation that the Gospel would be advanced and that his Church would be successful. In this way, we can and should still pray that God would meet our needs, but we do so with a different end goal in mind.

 

Distinguished Leadership (23-26)

The second group of leaders is the apostles. They were distinguished by Christ to be the fathers of the church, humbly but authoritatively leading the church family.

 

Before talking more about these apostles, it is important to note that power is not the sole possession of the apostles or their successors, the elders. The whole Church is empowered by the Spirit—every man, woman, and child. By that power, the people of the Church entrust authority to their elders. We see that in this passage as the first order of business of the New Testament Church was to select a replacement for Judas.

 

As they were in Old Testament times, elders are to be “elders of the people” (Mt. 21:23; 26:3, 47; 27:1). It is Church members who must nominate and elect leaders who in turn serve the people. Again, one of the primary callings of the elders in their service is to pray for the people.

 

So how does one seeking the lowest place of service in the Church come to be a distinguished leader? It is by means of what Schaeffer called “extrusion.” He imagines a piece of soft metal being forced into the shape of a die by the pressure of a giant press.[2] One is made a distinguished leader in the Church, not by seeking it but by being extruded into it. While the Bible says that one who “aspires” to the office of elder desires a noble thing, it does not pronounce blessing on the one who lobbies for such position. Every man in the church should aspire to be an elder, the qualifications for which are little more than the basic duties of a faithful Christian life. But that aspiration should take the form of a prayer something like this, “Lord, so dominate my actions, emotions, and speech that I would be recognized as possessing the qualities of a consistently gracious Christian life whether or not I ever occupy an elected position.”

 

Delegated Leadership (15-22)

Finally, Peter is an example of a delegated leader. He is the symbol of a minister of the Word. Peter is delegated by the Spirit to be the leading spokesman among his apostolic equals. In this role, Peter does not speak from his own authority but rather points his listeners immediately to the Word of God. A minister may prescribe no more and no less than what the Word prescribes explicitly and implicitly.

 

That ministerial function of the minister also involves suffering. If the elders suffer by virtue of being at the head of the flock, the minister especially suffers at times by virtue of his being the leader of the Session. The Bible warns those who aspire to this office that their judgment will be the more severe, because their responsibility is the greater (Ja. 3:1). And along with greater responsibility comes greater suffering at times. But the Chief Shepherd assures that he will provide for his undershepherds (1 Pt. 5:1-4). Again, this third and final group of leaders must also place total reliance on Christ in order to lead the church effectively.

 

No matter what form our leadership takes in the church, God shows us in His Word that every expression of leadership begins by humbly relying on the Spirit of the risen Christ. Only then can we be used to “turn the world upside down.”

 

 

[1] Francis A. Schaeffer, No Little People in Complete Works, v. 3 (Wheaton: Crossway, 1982), 11-12.

[2] No Little People, 12,13.