Paul’s Concept of Establishing Churches
Unit 1: Issue 1 – Project 1
Paul’s Concept of Sterizo
The word sterizo is Greek (according to Strong’s Numbers) for: set fast, that is, (literally) to turn resolutely in a certain direction, or (figuratively) to confirm: – fix, establish, steadfastly set, strengthen. Similar to (and seems to be a verbish version of) stereos which is: steadfast, strong, sure. Paul uses this word in a few different verses throughout his letters, of which I will annotate shortly. He uses the word mostly to describe the establishment process of churches he describes/addresses in these letters. The use of the word sterizo is very definitive of his strategy which I will discuss in the next section. Paul is very quick to act and has little time to waste in carrying out the task at hand: making disciples of all nations; the Great Commission.
First of all in Romans 16:25-27 he writes this to the church in Rome in closing: “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith– to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.” Here the word sterizo is translated strengthen. Paul was using this word as an indication of a certain person(s) in leadership at the church in Rome who is meant to strengthen, establish, and confirm them in their faith, while addressing the entire church as a whole. This could’ve been written to the churches in Rome in general as a way to define the unity that should be among the churches with the purpose of engaging their community, or specifically meant for one church in particular; of this I’m not personally sure. But it stands to reason that Paul means for their to be a distinction between someone who is capable of strengthening a church and who is not. This tells me that it is of great significance, the qualifications of a leader to Paul, to which he is willing to entrust the establishment of not only the faith of the congregation(s) individually, but also the establishment and process of unifying the church(s) for the very intentional expansion and drive of the Gospel. It tells me that it is a very demanding job, one that requires above average ability and endurance. In 1 Thessalonians 3:2 he writes: “..and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith..” And again in verses 11-13 he writes: “Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” Here Paul, by using this word, puts application and meaning to the duties of the people he has appointed to labor in the Gospel of Christ by expanding its influence. In this case one of those people who are specifically referenced is Timothy. Timothy is not only indicated as a qualified individual to carry out the work as identified through Romans 16 and its indications, but his work is also given meaning by the definition of him being what ultimately Paul’s tool is to reach peoples hearts with the Gospel in general at the time of His absence there in Rome.
Paul’s Establishing Process
The use of the word sterizo in Romans 16 and 1Thessalonians 3 also tells us of Paul’s concept of church establishment. He sees it as an end result. He has goals set in motion and a starting point. His starting point is entering a community and stirring the hearts of people there, by the Holy Spirit, thereby opening the door to the gospel. After doing so he develops that group of people to have leadership of its own that can self regulate and develop as he moves on to minister to other communities. In the process, these qualified men are also held accountable and strengthened (1 Thessalonians 3:2) by individuals such as Timothy in times of trouble when Paul himself can’t be there which Paul himself trains up and sends out. The goal of and reason behind this form of regulation and establishment with great haste is because people are constantly changing where God does not. These leaders are intended to keep these people focused on Jesus so they do not become confused about who he is; so they can continue to preach the good news of Christ; so they may become ever-stronger in their faith and effective in their labor for the gospel. The goal, the reason for this work, is so that people’s hearts can ultimately be established, blameless in holiness before our Father on the day of our Lords coming with all of His saints (1 Thessalonians 3:13); the goal is the Great Commission; the goal is salvation for all who will believe.