The Basics for Ministry
2 Corinthians 4:1-5:10
There has probably never been more confusion as to how churches ought
to carryout ministry. Style has become a substitute for substance. Faith
has been substituted with the thrill of emotionalism. The mentality of
Christ has been substituted with the mentality of the world. Authenticity
has been substituted with hypocrisy and dishonesty. Sincere ministry has
given way to egotistical pride. The result has been confusion and ineffectiveness
in carrying out the mission of the Christ. The confusion has led to a breakdown
in the personal integrity of Christians. The effect is that Satan is succeeding
in blinding the world to the true message of the gospel.
In the verses for this lesson Paul outlines the basics of an effective
ministry. When I speak of ministry, I am speaking about each of us, not
just to preachers. For each of us is a minister of God. Each one of you
is a priest of God built up into a spiritual house (1 Peter 1:4-5).
A Ministry of Mercy is Essential
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry,
we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways;
we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary,
by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's
conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is
veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the
minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of
the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves,
but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine
in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of Christ. (NIV)
The word "therefore" in the verses before us indicate that what
is said in these verses is dependent upon what has already been stated
in the previous chapters of 2 Corinthians. The summation of what was said
in the previous chapters is succinctly stated as Paul writes, "Therefore,
since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart"
(4:1). The foundation of Paul's ministry was the mercy of God. Paul's focus
was upon experiencing God's power in weakness and in impossible circumstances.
Paul's focus was on seeing the unseen things of God.
In the first three chapters Paul recognizes the mercy of God as the
sustaining force of his ministry. It was God's mercy that empowered his
ministry when he felt as though he was as good as dead (1:8-11). His ministry
was based upon the integrity of God's message (1:12-14). His ministry was
totally dependent upon what God was doing in the hearts of the Corinthians
(2:5-3:18). Therefore, Paul did not lose heart or become discouraged in
the most difficult and trying circumstances. He knew God's grace was sufficient
to sustain his ministry.
Are today's ministries built upon the mercy of God? Focusing
ministry upon the mercy of God means trusting the integrity of God's mercy
to accomplish his purposes. When we trust in God's mercy, we build churches
empowered by God. When we fail to do so the gospel becomes veiled as they
are prevented from seeing the glory of the gospel of Christ.
A ministry founded upon the mercy of God is one built upon biblical
principles. It seems as though biblical instruction is a rarity
today. Today we resort to everything but biblical instruction to reach
the masses. Often, the Bible is not even used as a basis for preaching.
Its principles are not expounded upon. It is not the standard by which
churches are built. Often, when the Bible is preached, the whole counsel
of God is not proclaimed. Ministries are often conducted in secret and
shameful ways so as to distort the word of God.
Many churches exploit and manipulate people to become members.
We use slick advertisement gimmicks to persuade people emotionally while
leaving their minds void of reason. "Rather, we have renounced secret
and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word
of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend
ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." Satan is
at work in churches around the world to blind the world to the light of
the gospel. If we want to be effective in ministry we must let God's light
shine through this darkness, by first letting it shine in our own hearts.
The world must see that we are persons of integrity.
A ministry of integrity is built upon the power of God and not
upon egos. Often our egos get in the way of God's ministry of mercy
as we seek to take credit for what God is doing. Paul says, "For
we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as
your servants for Jesus' sake." Nothing blinds others to the gospel
more than egos. Egos were flaring in Corinth, but Paul was pointing to
the mercy of God as the basis of a ministry of integrity. God's mercy was
the source of the light shining in their hearts. "For God, who said,
'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to
give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."
Human hearts are easily lifted through pride, so Paul gives special
emphasis in his life to prevent this from happening in his heart. We hear
a lot about burnout today, without the power of God the flesh will burn
itself out. When we serve God for the purpose of boosting our own egos,
it is an attempt to steal God's glory at the expense of God's power. We
may be impressive, but it will not empower us in difficult times. When
the glory is gone we will soon lose heart. When God gets the glory our
ministry is glorified with the power of God.
We get into deep trouble when we seek to steal God's glory for ourselves.
The Story of Saul and David warn us of the hindrance of egos.
1 Samuel 18:6-16
When the men were returning home after David had killed
the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet
King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines
and lutes. As they danced, they sang: "Saul has slain his thousands, and
David his tens of thousands." Saul was very angry; this refrain galled
him. "They have credited David with tens of thousands," he thought, "but
me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?" And from
that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. The next day an evil spirit
from God came forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while
David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his
hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, "I'll pin David to the wall."
But David eluded him twice. Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD
was with David but had left Saul. So he sent David away from him and gave
him command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns.
In everything he did he had great success, because the LORD was with him.
When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. But all Israel
and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns. (NIV)
The Story of Uzziah warns us about the destruction God brings to
2 Chronicles 26:17-21
"But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his
downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, and entered the temple
of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. Azariah the priest
with eighty other courageous priests of the LORD followed him in. They
confronted him and said, 'It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense
to the LORD. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have
been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been
unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the LORD God.'
"Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense,
became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before
the incense altar in the LORD's temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead.
When Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looked at him,
they saw that he had leprosy on his forehead, so they hurried him out.
Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the LORD had afflicted him.
"King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived
in a separate house- leprous, and excluded from the temple of the LORD.
Jotham his son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the
The Story of Nadab and Abihu warn us of the danger of not doing things
Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put
fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before
the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of
the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. (NIV)
God knows what motivates our service. Ananias and Sapphira
were struck dead because they couldn't lie to God about their motives (Acts
6:1ff). Simon the sorcerer learned that God's power couldn't be bought
or sold. Peter told Simon, "May your money perish with you, because
you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part
or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.
Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive
you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full
of bitterness and captive to sin" (Acts 8:20-23 NIV).
Essentials for a Ministry of Integrity
Paul continually points to God as the sustaining force of his
2 Corinthians 4:7-12
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that
this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed
on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted,
but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around
in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed
in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death
for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So
then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. (NIV)
The power for ministry must come from God's integrity. For
we have no power to resurrect our dead lives from the death grip of sin.
Paul writes, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that
this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."
God's power resides in the message from God. It is a power from
God and not from us that accomplishes his purposes. That power comes to
life when we can look beyond ourselves, and our accomplishments to the
life of Jesus Christ. The power for ministry doesn’t reside in the person
engaged in ministry. It resides in the integrity of God.
The power for ministry is found in the death of Christ. We
can look beyond ourselves when we are given over to death for Jesus sake.
Paul writes, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down,
but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who
are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that
his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work
in us, but life is at work in you." Our death in Christ becomes evident
when we are willing to die to the hardships ministry imposes. It is giving
ourselves over to death for Jesus sake that we see Christ's message come
to life in others. Paul's willingness to die for others brought Christ
to life through the message that was proclaimed to the Corinthians.
Paul defines what he means by "death." It is when we accept the
painful realities of ministry, which include perplexity . . . despair .
. . persecution . . . abandonment . . . and being struck down. It is when
we are being crushed beneath the load that we experience God's power for
ministry. This happens when we have delivered ourselves over to death for
the sake of Christ. When others see that we are not out to glorify ourselves,
the message of the gospel will seep through.
2 Corinthians 1:8-11
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about
the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great
pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of
life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened
that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He
has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him
we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us
by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious
favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (NIV)
Someone defined mercy as God's ministry to the miserable. When
we die, Christ comes to life in us. When we lose, he wins. When we are
weak, Christ becomes strong. When we are dependent, Christ is powerful.
That is the power of clay pots.
When others see Christ’s death in us, it changes them. Paul writes,
"So death is at work in us, but life is at work in you." When others
see what God does through our impossible circumstances, others see hope
for themselves. When they see God's power perfected in us despite our weakness,
they realize that God can do the same for them.
Egos blind others to their possibilities in Christ. An
egotistical ministry is self-defeating, because egos seek glory through
intimidating the weaknesses of others. Egotistical ministries leave others
thinking they cannot accomplish what the egotistical person accomplishes.
There is no way that we can accept the life Jesus offers, without facing
the fact that we must die his death. If you want to impact your personal
world for Jesus Christ, you must live out the death of our Lord in the
sight of those you come into contact with. Don't try to be sanctimonious,
and don't whitewash your weaknesses with egotistical pride. Let Christ
shine through the cracked clay pot. God loves to use broken pottery. When
others see God using your broken life, they will sacrifice their broken
lives to his power.
God's Promises the Basis for Ministry
Faith in God's promises is the basis for every ministry. You
can't give yourself over to death for Jesus without believing he can resurrect
your dead life for his glory.
2 Corinthians 4:13-15
It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken."
With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because
we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also
raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is
for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people
may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. (NIV)
Faith allows us to align our lives with God's purposes.
Paul aligned his life with the message he preached. He spoke God's message
because he believed in God's power to raise the dead. His ministry was
based upon the belief that God's power would allow the message of the gospel
to reach more and more people. He was confident that this would result
in thankful praise to God.
Faith motivates ministry through an attitude of gratitude.
Faith is built upon gratitude for what Christ has done for each of
us. When sincere gratitude is the motivation behind our service sacrifice,
becomes a joy. Gratitude makes it much easier to be given over to death
for Jesus sake, and for the sake of those who will be benefited. We discover
a great source of encouragement when gratitude motivates our service for
the benefit of others. The revelation of God's glory through us motivates
an attitude of gratitude, which encourages us, and others to do even greater
When our lives are properly motivated we discover the power for
personal renewal and encouragement. Paul writes, "Therefore
we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly
we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are
achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (4:16-17).
The word "renewed" in the original language has to do with our lives being
renovated as dead lives are transformed into the image of Christ.
Faith forces us to look beyond what is seen and felt to the unseen
eternal things of God.
2 Corinthians 4:18-5:5
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is
unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Now
we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building
from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile
we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when
we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent,
we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to
be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed
up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has
given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (NIV)
It is often impossible to see what God is doing through observation
of our temporary circumstances. But one thing we do know is that God is
at work in them. We may not see or understand, but we can choose to believe
in his eternal presence. And we can know that we will not be found naked.
This gives us confidence to make it our goal to please him, wherever we
are found. This focus encourages us to make the necessary sacrifices.
2 Corinthians 5:6-9
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long
as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith,
not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from
the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him,
whether we are at home in the body or away from it. (NIV)
The stench of death runs through almost every verse in this section
we are studying. Living for Christ is about dying with Christ. The aroma
of death is one sure way to know that we are living for Christ. In Christ
it becomes the fragrance of life. It indeed becomes a sweet smelling odor
The fragrance we give off reminds the egotists and non-believers of
2 Corinthians 5:10-11
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in
the body, whether good or bad.
"Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we
try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also
plain to your conscience." (NIV)
Is your ministry or service given over to death for Jesus' sake?