“Paul, a slave of God, and Apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of the elect of God and the knowledge of Truth which is according to godliness, with the hope of eternal life which was promised by God who never lies from the ancient times,”
And why did God give Apostles? Paul would write that it is for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12) — which is the same reason that God gave the church prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Here, Paul speaks in a very similar way. He is an Apostle of Jesus Christ and a slave of God for the benefit of the elect of God and the knowledge of the Truth.
That seems simple enough, but this is a significant statement in many ways. First, Paul is not saying that he exists as an Apostle for the benefit of all mankind. He is stating that he exists for the elect of God. Does that mean that the reprobate do not receive any benefit of Paul’s ministry? Of course not, as the church grows and flourishes, all mankind benefits. What it does mean is that Paul’s first priority is to build and strengthen the faith of the elect of God. The model we are being given looks much like this: the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers of the church through the ages exist primarily to strengthen and equip the elect for the work of ministry — that’s discipleship — while the individual Christian, doing the work of ministry, becomes the workers of God’s mercy in the world. In Greek, the word in Ephesians 4:12 that Paul uses (which we translate as “ministry”) is διακονία (diakonia), which we ordinarily translate as “service” or “charitable aid.”
So, the ministry — a work assigned to the whole church, not just the paid employees of the church — is a work of service. It is the fulfillment of Adam’s responsibility to “work and keep” the garden of God’s creation (Genesis 2:15). We are to work and preserve the creation that God has made…something which includes people as well as the broader world. Herein is the heart of God’s commandment through the prophet Micah to do justice (Micah 6:8).
And how is this building up of the faith done in the life of the elect? Through truth. God’s word is the primary tool that he uses to build the faith of his own. How important it is that the Word of God is taught diligently in the life of the church. Yet, how many churches have shied away from careful Biblical exposition. How many churches focus on those passage that are comfortable and water down difficult ones. How sickly the church in America is because it has neglected the Truth of the Word of our God. And who will answer for this? Those pastors who have been guilty of diluting and disregarding the Truth. Yet, will there not also be a reckoning for those who knowingly choose to listen with itching ears to those who have forsaken the whole counsel of God? That is a sobering truth.