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People Just Like Us -a Study of Biblical Characters No.6

Johan Smulders has a . B.A, B.ED and M.A in Education, Theology and Counselling. Works as an evangelist and counsellor.

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People Just Like Us –A Study of Biblical Characters – No 6 - God Uses Ordinary People

One of the amazing facts that is found in a study of the Bible, is that God sees the potential in ordinary people and puts them to work in his Kingdom.

Let me introduce you firstly to a tax-collector. Tax collectors in the time of Jesus were hated and despised. They worked for the Roman Government and not only collected the taxes that the Romans demanded to run their efficient control of the vast Roman Empire, but also local taxes. They were well known for abusing their position and lining their own pockets. They are listed in the scriptures with sinners as people to be despised. In Matthew 9:11 it is recorded that Jesus was accused by the Jewish Leaders of eating with Tax Collectors and Sinners. So we are amazed to find that Jesus calls Matthew, a tax collector, to be a follower and not just any follower but one of the twelve Apostles. It is Matthew who writes the Gospel that is placed at the beginning of the New Testament and which is obviously written with the Jewish people in mind. Matthew quotes more from the Old Testament than do the other Gospel writers. His writing shows that he was a well educated and skilled writer.

Many opposed the early church and none more so than Saul of Tarsus. He grew up in a strong Jewish environment so when he heard about the claims that Jesus was making to be the Messiah, he became a strong opponent of this new movement. So much so that when Stephen, one of the early disciples, was stoned to death it was Paul who was present at the stoning, probably in a leadership role (Acts 8:1). Renamed Paul, this fanatical opponent of the Christian Faith became one of the strongest proclaimers of that faith in the New Testament. Paul wrote the most number of books in the New Testament, and his life is a glowing testament to how God can bring even a strong opponent to his knees and make that person a valued worker in the Kingdom.

It is interesting to see that some of the early supporters of Jesus were women. Luke records in his writings that as the good news spread into the Gentile world, it was a husband and wife team who were tent makers who helped to support Paul. They were also actively involved in teaching others. Pricilla and Aquila took Apollos aside to correct some of the teaching that he was doing (Acts 18:26). Here are just common folk who hear the message and then use their craft to good effect to support the other workers in the Kingdom of God. They also move on to become teachers. While Jesus was preparing his disciples to take the message of the cross into the world, it was also group of women who supported him. After his resurrection it was women followers who first discovered the empty grave and told others what had happened. In a society where women were treated at the same level as slaves, Jesus recognized them and valued their assistance.

A New Testament writer who was in fact trained in a completely different skill, Luke, who wrote the book of Acts and the Third Gospel, was medically trained. In Colossians 4:14 Paul refers to Luke as a dear friend and doctor. As Luke writes about the missionary journeys of Paul in the Book of Acts, he often uses the personal pronoun “we”, indicating that he was also there. As a trusted historian, Luke’s writings have been carefully researched over time and have been found to be accurate and trustworthy. Luke in his gospel account emphasises the dealings of Jesus with women more than the other writers and he also takes an interest in children, the elderly and outcasts in society. This indicates a compassion that also possibly led him into his chosen profession (Baker Dictionary pg.1080).

A quick survey of Old Testament heroes makes an interesting addition to this idea that God uses ordinary people to achieve great things. Esther was an orphan; Moses and David were shepherds, Gideon a farmer, Nehemiah a cup bearer for the King, Daniel a refugee, and Noah a carpenter. No matter what you bring to the table God is ready to use ordinary people like you and me to do great things. Romans 12:5, 6 “So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given us” (NIV translation used with permission).

References:

The Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Longman.

NIV Translation of the Bible

Scriptures taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright 1973,1978,1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The "NIV" and "New International Version" trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

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