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© 2012 Jasper Life Publications 1st Edition in English – December, 2012 1st Edition in Portuguese – April 2010 Servos de Deus: Bons, Fiéis e Prudentes Translated from Portuguese with permission of Editora Árvore da Vida All rights reserved by Jasper Life Publications Inc. Jasper Life Publications Inc. 725 Viscount Road London, Ontario, Canada N6J 4G9 Email: info@jasperlife.com http://www.jasperlife.com ISBN 978-1-926970-53-0 Printed in Brasil All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Other versions of scripture are indicated as follows: ASV                      American Standard Version lit. Literal translation


CONTENTS

Preface...............................................................5 1 God’s Commission.............................................9 2 The Calling and First Journey of the Apostle Paul.......................................25 3 The Second Journey of the Apostle Paul........45 4 The Third and Fourth Journeys of the Apostle Paul....................................... 57 5 Paul’s Epistolary Ministry............................... 75 6 Peter’s Epistolary Ministry..............................97 7 The Ministry of the Servants.......................... 111

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PREFACE

It is with great joy that we present one more book from Dong Yu Lan to you. The content of this book was based on conferences held by the author in March of this year in the cities of Ribeirão Preto, Brasília, Piracicaba, Belo Horizonte and São Paulo. The words were so rich that we prayed to the Lord and begged for a special grace to enable us to print them quickly and make them available to the largest possible number of people. Our prayer is now for God to bless each reader in the meditation of these words. God expects His children to be useful servants to Him. Moreover He wants us to be good, faithful and wise servants. This is indeed a great challenge in our Christian life. If we accept God’s call to serve Him today and if we do this according to His will, we will be able to govern with Him in the coming age when He returns. As you read this book you will realize that there will be different levels of responsibility in the millennial 5


kingdom. Therefore, the more useful we are to the Lord today during the age of the church life, the more useful we will be in the coming age. The author makes a very interesting and suitable exposition of some experiences from God’s servants throughout history, especially the apostles Paul, Peter and John. He points out that the ministry of John will last until the Lord’s coming and that we are included in this ministry, which will end this age and usher in the age of the millennial kingdom. While reading each page of this book, may you feel constrained to further consecrate yourself to God to serve Him intensely! São Paulo, April 2010. The Editors.

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But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Tim. 4:5).

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Chapter 1

GOD’S COMMISSION

Our Commission until the Lord’s Coming The Lord is constantly calling His people, His chosen ones. His calling comes with a commission, a responsibility. He expects us all to fulfill our ministry properly, even more because His return is drawing near. As we see in the Word, the ministry that will remain until the Lord’s coming is the ministry of the apostle John. In the Gospel of John chapter 21, there is the record of the dialogue between the Lord Jesus and Peter. At the end, in verse 19, the Lord told Peter, “Follow Me”, and Peter asked Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” referring to John. The Lord answered him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me” (v. 22). Verse 23 says, “Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet 9


Servants of God – Good, Faithful and Wise

Jesus did not say to him that he would not die.” In fact, this Bible portion indicates that what will remain till the Lord’s coming is the ministry of John, which emphasizes Spirit and life (John 6:63).

Ministry: the Result of the Exercise of the Gift What is ministry? When we were saved, the Holy Spirit gave us at least one gift. If we use this gift, grace is added to us. I believe that all of us children of God want to receive more and more portions of His grace. Do you want to receive more grace? In Ephesians 4, we read that grace is given according to the measure of Christ’s gift (v. 7). So we need to use our gifts even more so that we will receive grace upon grace. The result of that will be a ministry. The ministry mentioned in Ephesians is individual. We can divide this ministry into three main aspects: 1) The ministry of the Word, which is the result of the exercise of the gift of releasing the Word and giving testimony in the church meetings, preaching the gospel and fellowshiping with the saints in the Word; 2) The ministry of offering material riches, which is the result of the exercise of the gift of offering in a regular and specific way in order to supply the needs of the church in our city and also for the advance of the expansion work of God’s kingdom on earth. All the ones who were saved, with no exception, must have the desire and experience of offering to the Lord until this 10


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becomes a ministry; and 3) the ministry of services. It is possible to see saints serving in various practical aspects in the church, such as caring for children, teenagers and young ones, serving in the meeting hall maintenance, in the music and sound services, and others. This happens because they have already realized that the more they exercise their function in the church by serving the saints and other people, the more grace they receive. As they receive more grace, they will have a stronger desire to serve voluntarily until this becomes their ministry, their commission. Therefore, we 0btain our individual ministry by exercising our gifts continuously and this gives God a basis to give us a special and larger commission to be carried out in our generation. The special commission in which we are involved today is the extension of the ministry of the apostle John.

Ministry is for All Children of God Why will the ministry of the apostle John remain until the Lord’s coming? In these past years we have been talking a lot about the ministry of John, which is a ministry of Spirit and life and is according to God’s will. However, we may have been under the impression that this ministry was something only for John. In fact, God’s desire is to give this commission to all of us so that we will carry it out until His coming. 11


Servants of God – Good, Faithful and Wise

In the past, we thought that it was a privilege of just a few to receive and carry out a spiritual ministry, and after they passed away, no one else would receive God’s commission for the continuity and advance of His work on earth. However, this thought is not according to the Word of God.

The First One Who Received a Commission from God Throughout the Bible we see many cases when God anointed somebody so that he could carry out a specific function in His work. But when this person didn’t act according to what God had determined, his ministry ended; it didn’t go on. In the Word, there are many examples of successes and failures of the ones who received some commission from God. Lucifer was one of them. In Ezekiel 28, we read that he was the anointed cherub who covers (v. 14). The fact that he was anointed indicates that Lucifer had received a commission from God and he was to carry it out. So it was considered a special commission, a ministry. In the beginning, he was perfect in his ways (Ezek. 28:15): he was the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty (v. 12); he was in Eden, the garden of God, and we see the Lord covering him with many precious stones. These stones refer to the capabilities, the abilities that God had given to Lucifer. 12


God’s Commission

In the New Testament language, it was as if he had received many talents for the purpose of governing all creatures at that time. According to the book of Job, at that time there were very strange creatures, like the ones represented by Hebrew words: behemoth, whose description resembles that of the hippopotamus (Job 40:15), and leviathan, similar to a crocodile (41:1).

Lucifer’s Failure and Fall Due to his rebellion, Lucifer was cast to the ground and became Satan, God’s adversary. That was the end of his ministry. The Garden of Eden was temporarily unprotected. God then formed man in a way that was different from all creatures He had previously created, because man was made in the image and likeness of God, Who put him in the Garden of Eden and gave him the responsibility to take care of that garden.

Adam’s Creation and Commission Adam started to cultivate the plants and to keep the realm of the garden, not allowing enemies or wild animals to enter there. We can say that this was the beginning of the ministry of Adam. For that purpose God gave him a helper, Eve. In Genesis 1:28, we see that God’s commission to man and his helper became much greater than the previous one, because they 13


Servants of God – Good, Faithful and Wise

had to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. In other words, their responsibility was then to reestablish God’s government over all the earth that had been already usurped by Satan by that time. However, in their cooperation and coordination some problems arose, because Satan found a loophole to establish a dialogue with Eve (Gen. 3:1) and she ended up falling for his deceit and temptation. She ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, going against God’s warning, Who had told them not to eat of that tree, for in the day that they ate of it they would surely die. After she ate, Eve may have told Adam, “I ate and I didn’t die, so you can also eat.” Little did she know that a deadly poison was within them and it would lead them to death little by little. This means that when she ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, death itself came into her. From this episode, we can learn a lesson for our marriage life: in the marital relationship, husband and wife must seek to do the will of God and not the will of each other, which frequently is like the will of Satan. Eventually, both of them were driven out of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:24). We can say that this was the failure of Adam in his ministry. In Eden, God was everything to man: joy, sustenance, protection and peace. Once man was driven out of the Garden of Eden, he had to find a way to get these things without God. Later, we see that the generations of Cain, one of Adam’s descendants, created a civilization in 14


God’s Commission

order to try to live independently from God for they had lost His presence (4:17-22). But praise the Lord, when a son was born to Seth, men realized that they were fragile and mortal; that is why the name Enosh was given to Adam’s grandson. The Bible says that then men began to call on the name of the Lord (v. 26). Which men are these? Are you a man? A human being? Because we are men, we must call on the name of the Lord, “O Lord Jesus, I need You. I can’t live without You, because You are my joy, my sustenance, my peace, and my protection.”

Adam’s New Beginning – Calling on the Name of the Lord Adam failed initially and lost the ministry of keeping the Garden of Eden. However, another ministry was produced—the ministry of calling on the name of the Lord. Praise the Lord, this ministry has come to us. As we call on the name of the Lord, we declare our total dependence upon Him and we enjoy His presence continuously.

Abraham’s Commission – The Ministry of Faith In the sequence, we see the experience of Abraham. We know that God had promised him the good land of 15


Servants of God – Good, Faithful and Wise

Canaan. In order to obtain this promise, his ministry was of faith. Where did Abraham’s faith come from? It came by calling on the name of the Lord. That’s why, when he arrived in the land of Canaan which God had given to him, he pitched his tent, built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord (Gen. 12:6-8). Abraham, who became the father of faith, called on the name of the Lord (13:4; 21:33). After Abraham, God raised up Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Samuel, David and others from the Old Testament. They all became models to us, examples of people who received a commission from God. Undoubtedly, all of them had positive points in their experiences which we should also apply to our experience today, and negative points, which serve us as warnings. If the Lord allows us, we’ll publish a book on the experiences of eight key ministers of the past in the exercise of their commission.

The Preaching of One Hundred and Twenty Galileans and the Establishment of the First Church When we arrive in the New Testament, in Acts 2 we see the record of what happened on the day of Pentecost. It was there under those circumstances, that the first church came into being through the gospel preaching of one hundred and twenty Galileans. 16


God’s Commission

Most of them were unlearned fishermen. Would an educated person listen to the words of such simple people? However, those were the ones equipped by the Lord with the Spirit. The Spirit of power was upon them so they were courageous to speak. The text says that there appeared to them tongues as of fire, and one sat upon each of them (v. 3). The most important function of the tongue is to speak. We need to use our tongue mainly to speak the Word of the Lord and call on His name.

Saved by Calling on the Name of the Lord In that place there were people from every nation under heaven (Acts 2:5). Even though the Galileans didn’t know other languages, these people heard what they spoke, each in their own language in which they were born (vv. 8-11). Speaking in tongues there was specifically for those people to understand and be saved by the Lord. It was as if Peter was saying, “You killed Jesus a few days ago, but God has made this Jesus both Lord and Christ” (v. 36). They were all amazed and perplexed with what they saw and heard (v. 12). Others mocking said that they were full of new wine (v. 13). But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “These men are not drunk. They are full of the Holy Spirit. This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to 17


Servants of God – Good, Faithful and Wise

pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.’ What you see is the manifestation of the outpouring of the Spirit. But for you to be saved, you need to call on the name of the Lord Jesus” (vv. 14-21). Praise the Lord, they believed, called on the name of the Lord, and in that day three thousand souls were saved and after that another five thousand, besides women and children. The believers started to come together and had meetings in their houses where they broke bread, prayed, called on the name of the Lord, and had fellowship in the Word (Acts 2:42, 46). Who taught them? Peter and the eleven told them that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (vv. 14, 21). To be saved is not a matter of speaking in tongues, seeing visions, dreaming or prophesying, in the sense of predicting something that is about to happen. For one to be saved, calling on the name of the Lord is good enough. The apostle Paul also emphasized this later in Romans 10 and in 1 Corinthians 12.

The Normal Church Life Caused Envy and Persecution from Religion In the city of Jerusalem, the ones who were calling on the Lord were the ones in the church. I believe 18


God’s Commission

there were about ten thousand people saved. Those who believed in the Lord lived a healthy life together, meeting from house to house, having all things in common, calling on the name of the Lord, and having fellowship in the Word. This living must have caused envy among the ones practicing Judaism, who sought to find a way to exterminate them: they arrested some in the attempt to stop them from calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 4:17-18). But Peter and John neither stopped nor felt intimidated by the threats they suffered (Acts 4:1920), so they were arrested. They were released later, still being threatened. At that time, Saul was very young, blameless with regard to the law, he advanced in Judaism beyond many of his contemporaries (Gal. 1:13-14). He bound the ones who were calling on the name of the Lord and consented to Stephen’s death (Acts 8:1a; 9:1-2, 14). Because of this, many were no longer brave enough to call on the name of the Lord.

The Apostles Remained in Jerusalem and Stopped Calling on the Name of the Lord In this way, in the church in Jerusalem, the practice of calling on the name of the Lord was gradually being lost. But some may have thought, “If here I can’t call on the name of the Lord, then I’ll go to another city.” So the name of the Lord started to be called on 19


Servants of God – Good, Faithful and Wise

in other cities. The Bible records in Acts 8:1, “At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” Who left there? The apostles? No, the other disciples. The first twelve apostles remained in Jerusalem. Who had started calling on the name of the Lord in Jerusalem? The twelve apostles who also taught others to do so. However, the ones who remained in Jerusalem could no longer call on the name of the Lord; otherwise, they would be arrested and killed. The disciples went to other places because they chose to keep calling on the name of the Lord. The apostles, however, stayed in Jerusalem. In that situation, they could no longer call on the name of the Lord in public because they would be arrested.

Apostles and Elders – A Poor Spiritual Coordination From the beginning, the church in Jerusalem was always under the leadership of the twelve apostles. They took care of everything. The ones who sold their possessions and offered the money would bring the money to the apostles (Acts 4:34-35). Who took care of the money and all other practical aspects of the church? The apostles. The situation was enough for them to say something like this, “We can’t take care 20


God’s Commission

of all these things; we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (6:4). Therefore, they chose seven men to be deacons; men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit, whom they might appoint over that business. These men were spiritual and they had authority. On the other hand, we read in verse 7 that “a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” This means that they were saved and started to have a position of leaders in the church. It is possible that they became elders in the church right away and started to take the leadership of the church along with the apostles (Acts 15:2, 4).

The Result of an Inadequate Leadership With this, the first twelve apostles were gradually losing the burden of the responsibility in the church and in the work of expansion of God’s kingdom on earth. Their abnormal situation became very evident in the letter they wrote explaining the decision they had made, in order to send it to the churches established among the Gentiles. As we read in Acts 15, they decided not to lay upon them any greater burden nor “trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God” (vv. 19, 28). They said that the Gentiles didn’t have to be circumcised in order to be accepted. It was enough for them to follow four crucial things: to abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from 21


Servants of God – Good, Faithful and Wise

things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If they kept themselves from these four things, they would do well (vv. 20, 29). In this way, the leadership of the church in Jerusalem ended up going astray. Instead of following the direction of the Holy Spirit, they set up rules for the saints to follow. The problem with rules is that by keeping them we can get a false impression that all is well. We then keep acting in a hidden way in our soul life, in our natural life, and we don’t care for the will of God.

Paul’s Conversion and Calling Going back to chapter 9 of Acts, we see the conversion and calling of Paul, who was formerly Saul, the one who became famous for arresting the ones who called on the name of the Lord. Starting from chapter 13, we see his experiences in journeys in the fulfillment of his ministry for the advance of the work of the Lord. We’ll see the details of his history in the subsequent chapters of this book.

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For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 13:47).

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Servants Of God