In a prior post we’ve considered how there appears to be some grave problems with the church in America. Our culture has entered a steady descent into depravity, which the church has not been able to stop. We thus concluded that in order to revive our culture and our nation, we’ll first need to revive ourselves, the church.
This means that we need to go beyond just ministering the gospel to the lost, and also minister God’s word to those within the church as well. In this post, we’ll outline the Biblical foundations for such a ministry to the body of Christ in addition to the general ministry of the gospel to the world. We’ll do this by taking a look at 2 Corinthians 5 and 6, where Paul describes his ministry as an ambassador for Christ.
Ambassadors for Christ #
2 Corinthians 5:20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
So Paul ends 2 Corinthians 5 by summarizing the ministry of the apostles of Christ: they are to share the good news of how Christ has taken our sins and offers us his own righteousness. And so they admonish all sinners to be reconciled to God.
This is in some degree the calling of every believer: to aid in the fulfillment of the Great Commission by proclaiming the gospel to the world. This is the most basic and essential calling of the church and its ministers. So much so, that it should be a given.
Workers Together with Him #
But as Paul goes on in the next chapter, we find that this is not where a man of God’s ministry ends, it is only where it begins:
2 Corinthians 6:1 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
Just as he has called them to receive God’s grace through the gospel, Paul has also now called on them not to receive that grace in vain. He speaks to them now, not as an evangelist, but as a pastor and teacher. And he’s seeking that, now that they have heard the word of God, they would be transformed by it.
Paul is here making a defense to the church at Corinth of what he has written them in his epistles, in which he has given them admonition and exhortation. It is clear from Paul’s tone in 2 Corinthians that not everything he had said in his previous letter was well-received, and that his authority to even dare to write such things to them was being questioned by some.
But here Paul explains to them how this ministry is a natural outgrowth from his work preaching the gospel to them and others. He is just continuing to beseech them to receive the grace of God—only now that they have believed in that grace, he but encourages them to live it out. After all, what good does it do for him to preach the gospel, if it is not effectual in the daily lives and walk of his hearers?
A Time Accepted #
2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)
And this is the accepted time to receive such an admonition. They have received God’s message of salvation, and been made partakers of his grace. Why should it be unexpected for a minister of that gospel to now exhort them to live out that grace that they have received? This is the acceptable time, the day of their salvation.
Approving Ourselves #
Now having defended this ministry in general, Paul makes a defense of his own legitimacy to carry it out:
3 Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed:
4 But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,
5 In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;
6 By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,
7 By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,
8 By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true;
9 As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;
10 As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
Even under the worst of circumstances, Paul and his companions have continued to behave as ministers of Christ should. Their legitimacy is evident in the kindness and true love that they show to all men, their pureness and knowledge in the word of truth by the Holy Ghost, and by the honor and even dishonor that they receive. They have indeed been given an evil report, and called deceivers. They have been dishonored and despised by some, and described as poor, sorrowful, chastened, and dying. And yet even in this, they are demonstrated to be the ministers of God, based on their continued kindness and longsuffering, and the true nature of those who make these accusations, which Paul will expose in a moment. But first, he pleads with his readers.
Our Heart is Enlarged #
11 O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.
12 Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.
13 Now for a recompence in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged.
Paul urges his readers to understand that if they do not feel love toward him and his fellowlaborers, it is not because they are unlovable. These ministers of God are not unworthy of love, nor do they fail to show love to the church at Corinth, as manifest by their continued ministry to them in these epistles. Rather, the Corinthians have failed to respond properly with love to this ministry, and it is because they have become restricted in their own hearts, and thus also in their love for God’s faithful ministers.
And what has caused this?
Be Ye Not Unequally Yoked #
It is false apostles and unbelievers who have taught them to despise the true apostles of Christ:
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
It is an affinity with the world that has caused them to question God’s word by his ministers. Paul therefore exhorts them not to be yoked together with unbelievers, but to be separate, as the children of God.
The church at Corinth had apparently become followers of false apostles and men of the world. But God has called us to be his people, separate from the world. We are to be his own sons and daughters, and not children of world. And as his children, we should be joined to one another as brethren, and receive admonition from God’s word from each other. We should not be joined to the world, as this will only separate us from God and our sisters and brothers, and will lead us to reject the word of God in favor of the counsel of unbelievers.
In addition to the ministry of the grace of God through the gospel, it naturally follows that the church should be exhorted not to receive that grace in vain.
Such a ministry is not always acceptable to the church, just as even Paul’s motives and legitimacy were questioned by the church at Corinth. But it is the duty of those who have found wisdom and understanding in the word of God, who, as modern day “ambassadors for Christ”, have been given a message for the church, to speak that word faithfully.
The church sometimes rejects such admonition, seeking instead to walk in the counsel of ungodly men. But those who exhort them should continue to approve themselves, even in dishonor and persecution from those with whom the church may have allied itself. This is the calling of those to whom God has committed his word. And this is the ministry which we exhort the church to receive, to carry out, and be revived by.