The Hardships of Paul’s Ministry

Guest post by Rob Ventura & Jeremy Walker


Have you known any martyrs? Church history overflows with examples of sterling Christians who have given their lives for the sake of Christ. One of Western Protestantism’s most enduring and effective works of literature is Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, a compilation of histories of Christians suffering in the service of Jesus. Modern times have supplied us with more names, including some that have— in the eyes of sodownloadme Christians—already become almost glamorous at a slight distance, such as those of Jim Elliot or John and Betty Stam. However, while many in the modern West know the stories, few of us have known any martyrs. Few of us have holes in our lives, gaps in the ranks of friends or families, created by our loved one’s death in the service of King Jesus. In some parts of the world, death at the hands of the enemies of Christ’s kingdom is all too common.

It was our privilege to know two of Christ’s martyrs. Since 1999 Pastor Arif Khan and his wife Kathleen (Kathy to her friends) had faithfully labored in Islamabad, Pakistan, where Pastor Arif had planted a church. In August 2007, three people—a disaffected ex-member of the church, his wife, and a gunman from an aggressively Islamic region—made their way by deceit into the Khans’ home and shot our friends dead.[1]

Our friends. The believers. The martyrs.

Why were they there? What had carried them from the comfortable confines of the United States, away from friends and family, children and grandchildren? Why leave their home church? Why stay in Pakistan when reaction to American foreign policy and activity made their existence there increasingly dangerous? Why remain in the face of threats to their lives? Why teach and live so as to seal their testimonies with their life’s blood?

How do you reach this point? Not necessarily the point of martyrdom, but the point of willing and entire consecration, of being sold out for the one living and true God, ready to give all that you are and have for His sake and for His cause?

What would the Khans have said? At least part of their answer—a great part of their answer—would have been for the sake of Jesus Christ’s body, the church. They had a consuming desire to see the church built up so that through those who have been redeemed the manifold wisdom of God would be known to others (Eph. 3:10). They saw the importance of spreading the gospel to a lost world. This man and woman “loved not their lives unto the death” (Rev. 12:11). One of their own pastors said of Arif Khan, “He was a marked man. He talked of dying for Christ as though it was having a mole removed.”[2]

It is not often that we meet people who are willing to spend their energy and even give their lives for the sake of seeing the church of the Lord Jesus Christ established and strengthened. This was the mind of the Khans; it was also the mind of the apostle Paul.

Paul gave his all for the people of God. He loved them at great personal cost. As he writes his letter, Paul tells the Colossians that he rejoices even in his prison sufferings because of his love for them. Now he specifically points to the nature and purpose of those sufferings, saying, “I…fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church” (Col. 1:24). What does he mean, and what must we understand?

So what does Paul mean? First, we must consider the words of the sentence itself. The word that has to do with “filling up” appears only here in Scripture. It carries the idea of completing something for someone else. The present tense of the verb and the immediate context in which it is used tell us that this was something that Paul was continually doing. When Paul speaks of something “behind of the afflictions of Christ,” the language suggests something lacking, that which still exists or is left over.

Then there is the word afflictions. This word speaks of oppression, tribulation, trouble, or persecution. It is, however, crucial that this word is never used in the Bible to refer to the sufferings that Jesus underwent on the cross for our sins.

Second, we must put this declaration in the context of the whole Colossian letter. The whole point of the letter so far has been to establish Christ’s supremacy as the saving and sovereign head of His people (contrast Paul’s self-owned label in verse 25 of “minister,” not mediator or redeemer).

So, in Colossians 1:14, Paul speaks of Jesus as the one “in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” The present possession of redemption and forgiveness is based upon the precious blood of our Savior, and not the sacrificial work of any sinner, even one who was an eminent apostle.

Paul says again with reference to Jesus, “It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (Col. 1:19–22).

There is nothing lacking in the Lord Jesus Christ, either in His person or in His work. All saving fullness dwells in Him, and He is the means by which the Father reconciles men to Himself. Specifically, the terms of that peace He secured are written in the blood that Jesus shed on the cross for His people. It is the bloody death of Jesus alone that saves.

In these words there is neither room nor need for any other but Christ. If all fullness dwells in Him, what shall fallen mankind add to Him or His work? If it has pleased the Father to reconcile people to Himself solely by means of the crucified Christ, how can any suggest that Christ is in any way insufficient, especially after His glorious resurrection vindicated all that was said about Him (Rom. 1:4; 4:25)? If peace was already secured through the blood of Christ upon the cross, once for all (Eph. 2:13–14), what place is there for any other grounds of peace?

Indeed, Paul will not let this theme lie: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:13–14).

To take the perfection of Christ and His work and to say that people somehow must add further to it completely misunderstands and undermines the profound nature of what God has accomplished through His incarnate Son. It fails to take account of the complete inability of anyone to please God, let alone save himself, apart from the glorious Jesus.

Would it not be both foolish and blasphemous to seek to insert human effort, positively or negatively, into the divine plan of a gracious salvation? Did Christ not say, “It is finished” (John 19:30)? Paul would surely be the world’s most incompetent debater if he were now to state something that runs directly or even tangentially counter to all that he has just established. He is a wiser man than that.

Third, we must also take into account the comprehensive and consistent testimony of Scripture. The plain teaching of the Word of God is that Christ alone accomplished all that was required for the salvation of His people when He suffered once and for all in their place at Golgotha (see, for example, Isaiah 53:4–6 or Hebrews 1:3; 10:14). There is no deficiency of any sort in Christ’s sacrificial death, and to suggest otherwise opens the door to a host of other empty possibilities, including the notion of works of supererogation (the idea that unusually holy people have a surplus of merit that others can benefit from), the veneration of Mary the mother of Christ, and the concept of penance for sins.

It is already clear that the atoning interpretation is entirely incorrect. Christ’s sacrifice for sin was in no way deficient. The sufferings that Paul underwent had no saving merit: the apostle did not contribute in any way whatsoever in redeeming the people of God. Jesus Christ alone has suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). Our Bibles make plain that it is Christ alone, through His saving sufferings, who brings us into a right relationship with God the Father.

However, there are other lines of thought in Scripture that we must take into account when working out what Paul does mean. In 1 Corinthians 12:12 Paul states that the saints are many members of one body, the head of which is Christ. The same unity of identity is plain in Matthew 25:34–40, where the works done for Christ’s people are considered as done to Christ Himself (or not, vv. 41–46). This involves unity of mission. In Acts 13:47 Paul appropriates language that Isaiah uses of the Lord Jesus to assume the same gospel role in setting forth the Christ: “For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.” This further implies unity of suffering, and Paul had this ground into his consciousness from the beginning of his ministry: “And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks…. For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:4–5, 16).

In summary, the sufferings of the body of Christ—the church—are the sufferings of Christ Himself (1 Cor. 1:5; 1 Peter 4:13), not in a redemptive, but nevertheless in a real, sense.


Note: This article is an excerpt from chapter three of A Portrait of Paul, by Rob Ventura and Jeremy Walker, with permission from Reformation Heritage Books. The general topic of suffering will be preached on by Derek Thomas at Pastor Ventura’s church in North Providence, Rhode Island, May 27-28, 2016. For more information about this event, click here.


[1] See Daniel Bergner, “The Believers,” The New York Times Magazine, December 30, 2007, for more information about the Khans (accessed June 28, 2010).

[2] Ibid.


Steps for Personal and Family Revival

  1. Pray the prayer of the psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
  1. Be totally honest as you answer each question.
  1. Agree with God about each need He reveals in your life. Confess each sin, with the willingness to make it right and forsake it.
  1. Praise God for His cleansing and forgiveness.
  1. Renew your mind and rebuild your life through meditation and practical application of the Word of God.
  1. Review these questions periodically to remain sensitive to your need for ongoing revival.


A. Genuine Salvation (2 Cor. 5:17)

  1. Was there ever a time in my life that I genuinely repented of my sin? Yes or No
  1. Was there ever a time in my life that I placed all my trust in Jesus Christ alone to save me? Yes or No
  1. Was there ever a time in my life that I completely surrendered to Jesus Christ as the Master and Lord of my life? Yes or No
  1. Is Christ lived out in my home and have I physically confessed Him Lord at home. Yes or No


B. God’s Word (Ps. 119:97 &140)

  1. Do I love to read and meditate on the Word of God? Yes or No
  1. Are my personal devotions consistent and meaningful? Yes or No
  1. Do I practically apply God’s Word to my everyday life? Yes or No
  1. Do we as a family discuss God’s Word often? Yes or No


C. Humility (Isa. 57:15)

  1. Am I quick to recognize and agree with God in confession when I have sinned? Yes or No
  1. Am I quick to admit to others when I am wrong? Yes or No
  1. Do I rejoice when others are praised and recognized and my accomplishments go unnoticed by men? Yes or No
  1. Do I esteem all others as better than myself? Yes or No
  2. Do I rejoice when others in my family succeed? Yes or No


D. Obedience (1 Sam. 15:22; Heb. 13:17)

  1. Do I consistently obey what I know God wants me to do? Yes or No
  1. Do I consistently obey the human authorities God has placed over my life? Yes or No
  1. Do I consistently obey and honor my parents? Yes or No


E. Pure Heart (1 John 1:9)

  1. Do I confess my sin by name? Yes or No
  1. Do I keep “short sin accounts” with God (confess and forsake as He convicts)? Yes or No
  1. Am I willing to give up all sin for God? Yes or No
  1. Do I repent and confess my sins to others in my family? Yes or No


F. Clear Conscience (Acts 24:16)

  1. Do I consistently seek forgiveness from those I wrong or offend? Yes or No
  1. Is my conscience clear with every man? (Can I honestly say, “There is no one I have ever wronged or offended in any way and not gone back to them and sought their forgiveness and made it right”?) Yes or No
  1. Is my relationship right with each family member? Yes or No
  1. Do I go to bed at night with unresolved conflict with others in the family? Yes or No


G. Priorities (Matt. 6:33)

  1. Does my schedule reveal that God is first in my life? Yes or No
  1. Does my checkbook reveal that God is first in my life? Yes or No
  1. Next to my relationship with God, is my relationship with my family my highest priority? Yes or No


H. Values (Col. 3:12)

  1. Do I love what God loves and hate what God hates? Yes or No
  1. Do I value highly the things that please God (e.g., giving, witnessing to lost souls, studying His Word, prayer)? Yes or No
  1. Are my affections and goals fixed on eternal values? Yes or No
  1. Are Biblical values reflected in my selection of music and T.V./movies? Yes or No


I. Sacrifice (Phil. 3:7-8)

  1. Am I willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary to see God move in my life and church (time, convenience, comfort, reputation, pleasure, etc.)? Yes or No
  1. Is my life characterized by genuine sacrifice for the cause of Christ? Yes or No
  1. Do I have a servant’s heart at home? Yes or No


J. Spirit-Control (Gal. 5:22-25; Eph. 5:18-21)

  1. Am I allowing Jesus to be Lord of every area of my life? Yes or No
  1. Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to “fill” (control) my life each day? Yes or No
  1. Is there consistent evidence of the “fruit of the Spirit” being produced in my life? Yes or No


K. “First Love” (Phi. 1:21-23)

  1. Am I as much in love with Jesus as I have ever been? Yes or No
  1. Am I thrilled with Jesus; filled with His joy and peace, and making Him the continual object of my love? Yes or No
  1. How would others in my family view my love toward God on a scale of 1-10?


L. Motives (Matt. 10:28; Acts 5:29)

  1. Am I more concerned about what God thinks about my life than about what others think? Yes or No
  1. Would I pray, read my Bible, give and serve as much if nobody but God ever noticed? Yes or No
  1. Am I more concerned about pleasing God than I am about being accepted and appreciated by men? Yes or No


 M. Moral Purity (Eph. 5:3-4)

  1. Do I keep my mind free from books, magazines, or entertainment that could stimulate fantasizing thoughts that are not morally pure? Yes or No
  1. Are my conversation and behavior pure and above reproach? Yes or No
  1. Do mom and dad approve of my friendships? Yes or No


N. Forgiveness (Col. 3:12-13)

  1. Do I seek to resolve conflicts in relationships as soon as possible? Yes or No
  1. Am I quick to forgive those who hurt or wrong me? Yes or No


O. Sensitivity (Matt. 5:23-24)

  1. Am I sensitive to the conviction and promptings of God’s Spirit? Yes or No
  1. Am I quick to respond in humility and obedience to the conviction and promptings of God’s Spirit? Yes or No
  1. Am I sensitive to my parent’s desires? Yes or No


P. Evangelism (Luke 24:46-48; Rom. 9:3)

  1. Do I have a burden for lost souls? Yes or No
  1. Do I consistently witness for Christ? Yes or No


Q. Prayer (1 Tim. 2:1)

  1. Am I faithful in praying for the needs of others? Yes or No
  1. Do I pray specifically, fervently and faithfully for revival in my life, my church and our nation? Yes or No
  1. How much time do we spend as a family in prayer?



From George W. Noble’s Book of 750 Bible and Gospel Studies (1909)

Family Revival Uncategorized

What Are You Like as a Father?

In his book Making Peace With Your Father, David Stoop lists eight types of fathers that negatively affect their children.

  1. The workaholic father. This father works at the expense of his relationship with his children. His work is his priority over his family. He loves his job more than his children. He will show love to them through giving money but he thinks all they need is money not time.
  1. The silent father. He is home with his family but he acts as if he was alone. He does not dialogue with his children unless he disciplines them. He does not get involved in his family activities. He is “present physically but absent in virtually every other aspect” of his family life.
  1. The emotionless father. He simply does not care about the feelings of his children. He fails to demonstrate his love to them both in words and in deeds. Consequently, his children wonder if he really loves them, since they don’t see and feel his love.
  1. The alcoholic father. As soon as he is under the influence of alcohol, he changes from being nice to nasty. “Many fathers, while not addicted to alcohol, nevertheless use alcohol as a way of eluding the family. If they’ve had a bad day…having a drink or two becomes not just a convenient way to relax and unwind, but also a convenient way to retreat from others. Any possibility of meaningful connection with spouses or children ends when the drinking starts.”
  1. The tyrannical father. This father demands too much from his children. He often expects his children “to carry on some family tradition, such as excelling in a sport or pursuing a particular career. The rage comes when the child does not seem to be measuring up or is not achieving quickly enough to suit Dad.” For him, nothing his children do is ever good enough.
  1. The abusive father. David Stoop once asked a certain child if he had any happy childhood memories of his father. “No,” he said. “Only the beatings. That’s all I can remember. That, and the terror I felt in my stomach every time Dad came home.” This father has no idea that he has damaged his child’s life psychologically and emotionally.
  1. The seductive father. “It is important to distinguish seductive fathers from sexually abusive fathers. ‘Seductive’ refers to a set of behaviors that do not include molestation. The key feature of a seductive father is that he is fuzzy regarding personal boundaries… He exhibits a higher degree of intimacy toward [his children] than they are comfortable with, or than is appropriate, and often expects the same in return.”
  1. The competitive father. “This type of father was frequently abandoned by his own father, prompting him to overcompensate in his attempts to be manly [or macho]. His male identity is quite fragile and must be protected at all costs, even from his own children. This often shows up in the way he plays with them: There must always be a winner and a loser, and the winner must always be Dad.”

Fathers, do you find yourself in any of the above descriptions? Although perhaps many of us strive to avoid these qualities, the truth is we all fail and are prone to falling under any of these categories. That’s why we need to pray earnestly to God for his grace as we raise our children in the fear of the Lord. It should be our daily prayer that we may model God’s character to our children, always pointing them to our perfect heavenly Father. And when we fail in our calling as fathers, let us not despair. There is always forgiveness in Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9).


“Defending Marriage and Religious Liberty in Perilous Times”

By Annemarieke Ryskamp (guest blogger)


From left to right: Richard Ryskamp, Annemarieke Ryskamp, Jordan Lorence, Brian Najapfour


On October 16, 2013 my husband (Richard) and I along with our pastor (Brian Najapfour) attended a meeting hosted by Michigan Family Forum. Given the ongoing discussions on marriage and religious freedom, the theme of the meeting was very relevant— “Defending Marriage and Religious Liberty in Perilous Times.” The guest speaker was Mr. Jordan Lorence, senior counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom. Mr. Lorence is known for his passion to defend religious liberty, sanctity of life, and marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

An expert in First Amendment right and marriage litigation, Mr. Lorence explained the troubling effects of the legal redefinition of the family. For instance, he told the story about the photographer Elaine Huguenin who was sued by a lesbian couple for refusing to photograph their same-sex commitment ceremony. Elaine declined to take pictures because she believed that the ceremony would only promote the practice of same-sex marriage—a practice that she thinks is wrong.

The lesbian couple wanted Elaine to tolerate them in their practice, but they were unwilling to tolerate the exercise of her religious belief. Also, why did they single out Elaine and demand her to take pictures of their ceremony? She was not the only photographer in their area. There were other photographers who would gladly take pictures of same-sex commitment ceremonies. Where was the respect here on the part of this couple for Elaine’s religious conviction? Mr. Lorence rightly observed that madness was a strong factor behind this couple’s decision to sue Elaine. Those who reject the Bible are simply mad at those who uphold it. This attitude should not surprise Christians at all. Haters of Jesus Christ will also hate and even persecute those who follow Christ. But Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).

Nevertheless, while the legal redefinition of the family has caused difficulties among Christ’s followers, it has also produced positive outcomes. First, it has challenged Christians to study and defend their views that are under attack. Those who were once lax are now forced to know what they really believe and why they really hold to their belief. Second, it has brought Christians closer together. In fact, the people who attended the meeting came from various Christian backgrounds. Yet, these Christians of different persuasions work together for the advancement of the biblical principles of marriage.

At the end of the meeting the speaker entertained some questions. When asked what Christians could do in response to persecutions, he admonished everybody to be courageous in the Lord. We need to be willing to step forward and fight for the biblical principles of marriage.

Dear reader, will you join us in defending marriage as defined by God? Satan is actively seeking to destroy our marriages. He knows that once a marriage is destroyed, it will also affect our church, community, and ultimately our country.


Note: A member of Dutton United Reformed Church, Annemarieke Ryskamp is wife to Richard and mother to their two sons (Sam & Tom). She would like to acknowledge Pastor Najapfour’s editorial help for this post.

Alliance Defending Freedom Marriage Michigan Family Forum Uncategorized

Eight Truths about the Lord’s Supper Based on 1 Corinthians 11:23-30

The Lord’s Supper is a:

1. Celebration with thanksgiving: “and when he had given thanks” (v. 24a).  If Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with gratitude to His Father, should we not also celebrate the Lord’s Supper with gratitude to Jesus for what He has done for us? Through the finished work of Christ we have received eternal life.

2. Commemoration of Christ’s death: “Do this in remembrance of me” (v. 24b & 25b). In the Lord’s Supper we remember Christ, specifically His atoning death. Christ died that we might live forever.

3. Command: “Do this” (vv. 25-26). It is an ordinance; and thus, believers in Christ must participate in this sacrament. A person who claims to be a Christian and constantly refuses to partake of the Lord’s Supper is living in disobedience to God.

4. Consecration: “Let a person examine himself” (vv. 27-30). The Lord’s Supper is sacred. Hence we also call it Holy Sacrament or Holy Communion. For this reason God asks us to examine ourselves to make sure that we come to the Lord’s Table with a clean heart, a heart cleansed by the blood of Christ.

5. Communion: “When you come together” (vv. 17-22). In Holy Communion we are given a special opportunity to fellowship with our triune God and with our fellow-believers.

6. Covenant: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (vv. 23-25). It is new in contrast to the old covenant. In the new covenant we have the blood of Jesus Christ—the blood that has the power to cleanse us from our sins.

7. Communication of the gospel: “you proclaim the Lord’s death” (v. 26). It is an acted proclamation of the gospel. Here the gospel is proclaimed not through the written word but through the sacred sacrament. In the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the gospel of Christ is communicated to us.

8. Contemplation of the coming of Christ: “until he comes” (v. 26b). While in the Lord’s Supper we specifically contemplate on Christ’s death, we also meditate upon His Second Coming. Therefore, as we come to the Lord’s Table, let us not stop at Calvary. Let us also look forward to Christ’s glorious return. The Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of our heavenly banquet with Christ.


Click here, to listen to this message, “Truths about the Lord’s Supper,” delivered at Dutton URC on December 9, 2012.



Folklore Rules In Writing

In his book Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace, Joseph M. Williams talks about correctness in writing. Our work should not only be clear, but grammatically correct as well. And, of course, for us to have a correct writing, we need to keep certain grammatical rules. But unfortunately, according to Williams, “some grammarians have invented a handful of rules that they think we should observe—call them ‘Folklore’” (10). These are some of the folklore rules in writing:

  1.  Don’t begin sentences with and or but.
  2.  Use the relative pronoun that—not which—for restrictive clauses.
  3.  Use fewer with nouns you count, less with nouns you cannot.
  4.  Use since and while to refer only to time, not to mean because or although.

For the author these rules are not absolute: “When [we] violate these ‘rules,’ few careful readers notice, much less care. So they are not rules at all, but folklore [we] can ignore (unless [we] are writing for someone with the power to impose these rules on [us])” (11). There is another set of invented rules called Elegant Options:

  1. Don’t split infinitives.
  2. Use whom as the object of a verb or preposition.
  3. Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.
  4. Use the singular with none and any.

Like folklore, these rules are not fixed. However, for the sake of style and since these rules “create a slightly formal tone” to our writing, it is commendable that we observe them. But we should not be slaves to them.