The Acts of the Apostles is the second book of the bible that was written by Luke, a first century physician. Luke is also one of four Gospel authors in the New Testament.
In the Book of Acts, Luke records the conversion story of a Jewish religious man named Paul. Paul is converted by a supernatural but publicly witnessed meeting of the resurrected Jesus.
This meeting with a previously dead man, now raised to new life and speaking to Paul, converts him from a Christian antagonist and persecutor of the church, to believer and follower of Jesus.
After his dramatic conversion, Paul is appointed by the resurrected Jesus to be the Apostle to the Gentiles (non-Hebrews). In the Book of Acts, Chapter 26, Luke records Paul recounting the conversion for the third time. In his conversion story, Luke writes that the resurrected Jesus not only spoke loudly and clearly to Paul but also, He used the particular word “minister” to describe what Paul will be doing in His new life as a converted Jesus follower.
Luke writes; “But arise, and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; New American Standard Translation, Acts 26:16
The word minister used in this case designates an action and is not a specific title of the person. In other words, Jesus is saying to Paul, you will ‘minister’ and as you do you will be a ‘witness’ to even more and greater supernatural events.
The New Bible Dictionary defines minister several ways, but the most frequent description in the Old or New Testament is ‘Servant.’
The word servant, then harkens back to Jesus in the upper room the night of his betrayal and the eve of his crucifixion. In this moment Jesus says to the 11 friends present for the most holy of Jewish nights, the Passover, that everything in their lives and understanding, from this moment on will be different.(John 13:1-17) Early in the meal he explained that what they see him doing, “ministering” to them in the very act of washing their filthy feet, is what they will be doing as His commissioned ones(apostles) and servants, when he has resurrected and ascended to the Father. They will minister in his name from that night on as servants. That is the upside-down power that Jesus wants all his ministers to display, servanthood. Foot washing, lowly, un-dignified servanthood. Most importantly this ministry will be possible because of the new meaning of Passover. Jesus explains after washing their feet that the meal that night takes on a different meaning as Jesus declares his body and blood will be the substitutionary and sacrificial unblemished lamb, offered for the sins of the whole world
Jesus connects the two words together for his disciples in the upper room, just like he will to Paul on the Damascus road. From that night until today, Ministry (servanthood) and witness are now the marks of a Jesus follower.
The good news, in this act of servant ministry is hidden in the power that moves self-centered, strong willed humans like Paul who call Jesus Lord, forward in this ministry. The power is found in his promise to be with them until the end of the ages. Matt 28)
His promise to Paul, as well as followers of Jesus today, is that we don’t minister ALONE! His promise to all that believe on his name and call him Lord is that He will minister with us. His Spirit, the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead, will come and dwell in our hearts and lives, when we confess him as Lord and Saviour. That Spirit will then be the catalyst for new life, new ministry and continued servanthood. Jesus told his followers that, “With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (Matt 19:26) What I believe he is alluding to is that without his Spirit and power living in us, our efforts count for nothing. But, with Jesus, a life of ministry and servanthood will always and consistently point to Him and His love.
The best news in this ministry of servanthood and for my life as a “professionally religious” clergyman is the second word, witness. The gift in ministry for me and many followers of Jesus down through the ages, is not just being called into service for the King of the Universe, but rather the front row seat we have to see lives being changed by the life giving revelation of Jesus in others (read Paul’s Damascus road conversion Acts 9:3-9) and then watching them further live out their new lives serving Him. It is the highest privilege to sit with others as the eyes of their heart are opened, or as John Wesley described his conversion as “his heart being strangely warmed.” In my experience, once a person has encountered Jesus in a real and life changing way then their lives and the lives around them begin to shine with love and servanthood that brings glory to our Father in Heaven and eternal benefit to his people on earth.