Calvary Church of the Nazarene Huntsville, Alabama
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In the NT, the churches of Christ are seen in vital contact with the world through the lives of its members. Although these NT churches were not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, they were conscious of the fact that Christ had committed His ministry to the whole church. The church was not viewed as a musical society which hired performers and then sat back to enjoy the performance.
They were aware of the fact that every follower of Jesus had a work of ministry in which to actively participate; in the family, in their neighborhood, town or city.
What was true of the first century church is equally true for us today. While everyone is obviously not called to be a pastoral minister, all are called to be Christian ministers. Again, Christ has committed His ministry to the whole church.
In fact, in II Cor. 3-4, Paul discusses the Christian ministry and its relation to the church. He presents that ministry from a threefold standpoint:
I It is a Ministry That is Spiritually Glorious
II It is a Ministry That is Spiritually Truthful
III It is a Ministry That is Spiritually Powerful
I IT IS A MINISTRY THAT IS SPIRITUALLY GLORIOUS
(3:5-18) - By way of comparion and contrast, Paul here stacks up the glorious components of Christian Ministry in the new testament over against the less glorious ministry in the old testament. In vs. 7, the old ministry of the law is said to be one of Adeath,@ and in vs. 9, it is called Athe ministry of condemnation,@ even though it also Acame with glory.@ However, it was one of Afading@ glory (vs. 7, 11, 13); i.e., it was only temporary or transient. The ministry of the law came and went, but the ministry of the gospel/Xn ministry has come to stay. Designated Athe ministry of the Spirit@ (vs.8) and Athe ministry of righteousness@ (vs. 9), the Christian ministry is set forth as being permanent. Vs. 11 says, AFor if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains [i.e., the ministry of the Spirit and righteousness] is in glory.@
In vs. 18, the Word of God says that as ministers of the new covenant, Awe all, with unveiled face [are] beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into that same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.@ I.e., the Xn life and Xn ministry is one of contemplation (Abeholding the glory of the Lord@), transformation (Abeing changed into His likeness@), and assimilation (Afrom one degree of glory to another@). The moon of the old covenant now casts a dim light after the sun/son of the new covenant has risen. Christ has put Moses in the shade! O how fortunate we are to be members of His church and ministers of His gospel; O how faithful we must be!
II IT IS A MINISTRY THAT IS SPIRITUALLY TRUTHFUL
(4:1-6) - Vs. 1: Asince we have this ministry,@ not Aif we think it would be nice to consider having it, or if we think it would be nice to employ others to do it in our place, or any other such diabolical deceitfulness,@ but Asince we have this ministry.@ This ministry of the new covenant, this Xn ministry, is not characterized by lack of courage and half-truths. In this Xn ministry which came to us on the basis of God=s Amercy@ (v.1), we are to exercise our various ministry roles & responsibilities apart from shame, craftiness, and adulterating the word of God.
I.e., there is to be no falsified or watered-down version of the truth. The truth of God=s word must not be adapted to fit man=s preferences. It is to be a ministry by Athe manifestation of truth@ (v. 4). Verse 4 says that the god of this world Ahas blinded the minds of those who believe not.@ He has blinded them with lies, not the truth, and has used Ashame, craftiness, and the adulteration
of the Word of God@ in doing so.
In fact, according to Jn. 8:44, Satan is Aa liar and the father of lies.@
But thank God we do not follow him. In fact, we do not even preach Aourselves.@ Just as
coal miners carry a lamp on their foreheads to combat the darkness of the mines, so Xns carry Athe Light of life@ (Jn. 8:12) in their hearts to combat the darkness of the devil. We bear witness not to ourselves, but to Him Who is Athe true light@ (Jn. 1:9), Athe light of the world@ (Jn. 8:12; 9:5). He is not only the way to God and the life of God, but also the truth about God. It is our privilege to participate in a ministry of spiritual truthfulness.
III IT IS A MINISTRY THAT IS SPIRITUALLY POWERFUL
(4:7-18) - Since Xn ministry is about Athe light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ,@ there is nothing about which to be shy, timid, or bashful. Tactfulness, of course, is AOK, but timidity is not necessary. After all, we have limitless Apower@ (vs. 7) at our disposal. And this limitless power is for the purpose of passing on the Atreasure,@ i.e., the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. Just think of it: Athe surpassing greatness of the power of God@ is stored and poured into us weak, fragile, earthen vessels.
Oh, Aflow through me, pour through me, rivers of mercy and fountains of blessing; let me see more of Thee: filled with Thy power and love.@ In fact, it is acknowleged here in vs. 7-9, that the transcendent power of God is at work in and through us expendable vessels. In vs. 8-9, four kinds of experiences are noted which portray the weakness of us Aearthen vessels,@ on the one hand, and the power of God, on the other:
(1) A afflicted@ (because of our weakness) - but Anot crushed@ (because of His power);
(2) Aperplexed@ (because of our weakness) - but Anot despairing@ (because of His power);
(3) Apersecuted@ (because of our weakness) - but Anot forsaken@ (because of His power);
(4) Astruck down@ (because of our weakness) - but Anot destroyed@ (because of His power).
Verse 15-16a: AFor all things are for your sakes, that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore, we do not lose heart.@ What encouragement! The ultimate cause, the overriding purpose, the final end, the overarching design, the consummate goal of this Xn ministry that is spiritually powerful is nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else than Athe glory of God.@ Can somebody say, AGlory!@
May we repeat the words of 4:1 as our personal and corporate testimony: ATherefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart.@ Let us look upward, not downward; outward, not inward; forward, not backward - and may we do so to Athe glory of God.@
Well, AHallelujah! Thine the glory! Hallelujah! Amen!
Hallelujah! Thine the glory! Revive us again!@
Dr. Morris Murray, Jr.
Content copyright July 2010 jmhall. All rights reserved.