God Uses Ordinary People
God uses ordinary people! Contrary to popular belief, the book of Acts is not a record of the apostles’ one-time special powers, but it is the story of God’s Spirit building his church through ordinary people.
Some people struggle with this idea that God can move miraculously through ordinary people because they believe that the apostles played a unique role in the church’s birth and that miracles served to authenticate their authority to write Scripture.
However, these three points can quickly correct this skewed understanding:
- Not all of the apostles wrote Scripture.
- Individuals who were not “apostles” wrote Scripture.
- God performs miracles in the Book of Acts through many ordinary people who were not “apostles.”
Consider this list of ordinary people:
Ananias (Acts 9:10-19),
Agabus (Acts 11:28)
Phillip (Acts 8:5-7)
Stephen (Acts 6:8)
Phillip’s four daughters (Acts 21:9)
Cornelius (Acts 10:1-8)
The Ephesian men (Acts 19:6)
Seventy-two people empowered by Jesus (Luke 10:1)
The believers in Corinth (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)
The believers in Rome (Romans 12:6-8).
Whether you believe it or not, God has always used ordinary people to advance his kingdom. He does not need superstars. The Apostle Paul deals with the issue of “superstars” in his first letter to the church of Corinth. God used Paul to plant the Corinthian church (see Acts 18:1-8). Sometime after its founding, the church was taken over by “super-apostles,” who convinced the young believers to question Paul’s authority (see 2 Cor. 11:5). Among other things, the super-apostles pointed out that Paul was not as impressive in person as he was in his letters (see 2 Corinthians 10:10).
Maybe the super-apostles were right because the only description we have of Paul comes from a questionable 2nd-century writing – the Acts of Paul and Thecla.
This writing says Paul was, “A man of middling size and his hair was scanty, and his legs were a little crooked, and his knees were far apart; he had large eyes, and his eyebrows met, and his nose was somewhat long.”1
This mental picture may not match most people’s image of Paul, the apostle who planted churches, preached the gospel, and wrote two-thirds of our New Testament.
Yet Paul himself tells us, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30). We read this verse yet wholly ignore what it says. Many churches today tout Paul to be the consummate super-apostle! They portray him as if he had no weaknesses even though Paul meticulously described how God used him, like everyone else, because of God’s grace and not his ability.
The Apostle James also confronted the idea of “spiritual superheroes.” James writes to Jewish believers concerning God’s desire to use them to pray for the sick and those bound by sin:
“And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” (James 5:15-17)
These verses are some of the most empowering verses in the entire Bible when we understand the context. To the ears of a first-century Jew, the prophet Elijah held a patriarchal status with no parallel. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter had a difficult time differentiating what position Jesus and Elijah should hold (see Matthew 17:1-4).
James encourages us to pray for the sick, but most Jews would have discredited themselves from God using them in such a powerful way as Elijah. How do they compare to such a great prophet of God? Yet James insists that no difference exists between them and the great prophet Elijah. By stating that “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours,” James effectively dismissed the idea that Elijah could perform miracles because he possessed unique abilities as a prophet.
We must change our thinking that some individuals possess superpowers because of their spiritual achievements and focus on Jesus and his finished work. Elijah, like all other biblical heroes, was marked by his weakness and not by his perfection. James tells us clearly that God responded to Elijah’s prayers, not his performance. As a Christian, recognize that you possess the same Holy Spirit who was active in the early church and expect nothing less than God moving through your life.
God uses ordinary people, and that’s incredibly good news. The book of Acts and the apostle James remind us that God uses ordinary people. If you want to learn more about how God may move in your life through spiritual gifts, make sure to take our free spiritual gift test.
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