I cannot imagine the feelings associated with helping the Apostle Paul load his donkey and leave town after he had led you to the Lord and started your new Church. He came into your village, began teaching people about Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He gave in-depth lectures about the resurrection. His words were the most profound thing you had ever heard. You believed in Jesus and made Him your Lord and Savior. Then Paul connected you to other believers who were now a part of this group called The Way or Christians in some parts of the world. You never felt so alive in your soul.
The book of Acts and the letters of Paul describe a man who spoke profound words of faith, taught with incredible insight, and was full of the Holy Spirit. He had a deep love for the people he shared his message with, at times treating them like a caring parent. He built Churches, developed leaders, and created communities that would be a light into the dark world of the Roman empire. He was not afraid to say the hard things, willing to be persecuted, and endured hardships with a smile the only comes through a sincere faith. Wherever Paul went, the power of Jesus was present.
Then one day, he would load up and move to another town. He would leave behind one of his lesser companions like Timothy or Titus to carry on the work. Let’s be honest, they are good people, but they are no Paul. The worship, the lessons, the events, and the programs will never be the same. Is it even worth getting up to go on Sunday? The people seem divided now, and everyone wonders how they are going to replace Paul?
How did the early Church cope with the loss of Paul as their Church leader?
After years of leadership in the Church, I have come to one significant conclusion about these new believers in Jesus found in those first Churches. Here it is, are you ready? Those new believers placed their faith entirely in the Lord Jesus. They did not put the hope of their newfound faith in Paul. He was merely a messenger and leader. The foundation of all they believed was built on Jesus.
As a result of this trust in Jesus alone, they could have different leaders and keep their faith. They could still attend Church because it was a community of Jesus. They could keep growing in their faith because Jesus did not leave them; only Paul did.
Paul was a great man and a fearless leader. I have known several great men like him over the years. They preach dynamic sermons, lead growing communities of faith and made a significant impact on the world. Here is the thing, none of them are worth worshipping. None.
Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the most celebrated preacher but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock we must stand. Faith in all other people is sinking sand.