Text: 2nd Corinthians 4:1-6 (NASB)
Dr. John MacArthur, Pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church, wrote a profound book on biblical leadership entitled, The Master's Plan for the Church. In the chapter titled "The Pattern of the Early Church" he makes this statement
The world cannot detect the invisible church of real Christians. They see only the visible church, which includes those who only profess to be Christians. The Lord intended to establish a visible church for a testimony (pattern) to the world. (p.82)
This statement makes the bold proclamation on the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ, reflecting his ministry and mercy. This is lacking in the contemporize church. The theory of the contemporize church is: we can do ministry our way. As a result you have people who will not submit themselves to the authority of the Bible. Furthermore, there are individuals who will suggest that the revelation of God, the bible is not enough to do ministry. We need something beyond that. However, I contend the word of God sets the standard of how we do ministry. The Contemporize Church makes use of methodology that gratifies them, but God is looking for people who will be submissive to the will & word of God.
Paul, the greatest scholar of the New Testament, writes this letter to a group of Christians who had elected to follow Jesus. However, they found themselves distant from the Apostle. The apostle had visited and wrote letters to this church, warning of some of the wicked practices that were in the church. It became apparent that these believers began to attack the credibility of the Apostle. To add salt to the wounds, there were a special group, calling themselves apostles (2nd Corinthians 11:11-15). These leaders were commending themselves as apostles of Christ, but in reality, they were ministers of Satan; because there wicked actions spoke louder than their words. Thus, the point of this letter is simply: to engender reconciliation and refute false teachers. This letter is apologetic in nature; because Paul gives a defense of his apostolic ministry.
In this section of the Pauline Literature, Paul recounts the experience of Exodus 34:29-35, where Moses speaks to the "sons of Israel." When he spoke to them, he would uncover his face, but when he would go and speak with God, he would put veil over his face. Paul uses this narrative as a means of making an exegetical point, that the former glory of the old covenant is not greater than the glory of the Christian Ministry, which finds its source in Jesus Christ. Paul makes this clear in chapter 3:7-9:
But if the ministry of death in letters engraved on stones, came with glory , so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how shall the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of Condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory (3:7-9, NASB)
The reality is: that which had glory has faded, and is not greater than the glory which abides forever. Thus, it is the ambition of the Apostle to make the gospel plain, to those who would be on the receiving end. Thus, the conclusion of this expository message offered by Paul is summarized in this manner:
Or faces, then, are not covered. We all show the Lord's glory, and we are being c hanged to be like him. This change in us brings ever greater glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (vs. 18, NCV)
With this in mind, Paul uses this exposition as a defense for his own apostolic Ministry. Apparently Paul was refuting some teachers who needed letters of recommendation (3:1-2). Furthermore, the leaders were speaking one thing, but living another. This is true of the contemporize Church; we have determined that ministry is about our glory rather than the (doxa) glory of God. However, Paul sets himself as the pattern of Spiritual Ministry. This does not indicate the idea of perfectionism, but rather, it demonstrates Paul's willingness to serve Christ in honesty. From this fourth chapter, we draw three points of consideration.
Commitment: (vs. 1) Paul moves forward in his defense by a transitional word "therefore", where he shall make practical that which was discussed in the previous context.
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart (vs. 1, NASB)
God, with his mercy, gave us this work to do, so we don't give up.(vs.1, NCV)
Note, Paul does not indicate any ability within himself, but he attributes his ministry to God, who has chosen him to be the Apostle.
First, note his High view of God: this is what is lacking in ministry. There are those who subscribe to the idea that ministry is about them. They fail understand that: "without God, they are nothing. Paul says, "God, with his Mercy” God, who has mercy on the depraved is responsible for our abilities. Who gives us the right to glory in anything? There must be a high view of God. That means, God must be in the perspective of those who perform ministry. The church has become too worldly that it has replaced proper theology with experience. We believe that God is what we believe he is rather then what his word has spoken. It has even crept in the Pulpit; Preachers no more have a high view of God; because they no longer hold to the validity of his word. Because we believe God is still revealing revelation. However, Paul suggests that God has given him Mercy, “not given man what he deserves.” Every Christian leader must understand his call in the framework of God's Mercy. That is, he doesn't have the right. When one fail to reverence God in his Call, he tramples upon the glory of God.
Note, his High determination "We Faint Not”, Oh, it is important that every Christian understand the reality of God's call, and continues in that motivation. This does not mean that there will not be times of sorrow, but rather, it suggests that in those days there is still a God who is at work in our life. Paul knew the reality of what he was saying; because he experienced the pains of ministry. Note at he says in chapter
Are they serving Christ? I am serving him more. (I am Crazy to talk like this) I have worked much harder than they. I have been in Prison more often. I have been hurt more in beatings. I have been near death many times Five times the Jews have given me their punishment of thirty-nine lashes with whip. Three different times I was beaten with rods. One time was almost stoned to death. Three times I was in ships that wrecked, and one of those times I spent a night ad day in the sea. I have gone on many travels and have been in danger from rivers, thieves, my own people, the Jews, and those who are not Jews. I have been in danger in cities, in places where no one lives, and on the sea. And I have been in danger with false Christians. I have done hard a tiring work, and many times I did not sleep. I have been hungry and thirsty, and many times I have been without food. I have been cold and without clothes. Besides all this, there is on me every day the load of my concern for all the churches. I feel weak every time someone is weak, and I fell upset every time someone is led into sin.
Feel the heartbeat of this Pastor, who had problems. Yet his proclamation, he doesn’t get dizzy and fall. In this generation, it is easy to fall at the pressures of the world. To the contrary, it takes courage to stand in the midst of hell, and still do ministry. The true test of ministry is your ability to stand when ministry doesn’t go your way. The question remains, "how well will you stand?"
Character (2-4) within this epistle Paul now lays the ground work for his ministry. That is, he declares: The proclamation against Deceit, the importance of the Word, and the Source of Spiritual blindness
Proclamation against Deceit :( vs. 2a) In the context, Paul is writing against his accusers, who have been boasting about their position, and have actually been living in double standard. These false teachers had a lot of content but no character. According to chapter 2:14
For we are not, like so many (as hucksters, tavern keepers, making a trade of) peddling God’s Word- Short-measuring and adulterating the divine message; but as *(men) of sincerity and the purest motive, commissioned and sent by God, we speak (His Message) in Christ, the Messiah, in the (very) sight and presence of God
These teachers were profiting off the word of God, deceiving the people with philosophical talk, but with no practical living. This is true of the church today, there is no high view of God. As a result, there is not a high view of God’s word. Thus Paul declares:
2but we have renounced the (D) things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or (E) adulterating the word of God,
These men did not openly declare the word; because they knew that the word would renounce their wicked character, but Paul was not ashamed to expose them for what they were. This is a day where people are ashamed to speak out boldly against sin. Thus, we allow any & everything to creep in the church. When the church fails to denounce wickedness, the church begins to corrupt the word of God. This is the enemy’s tactic: keep them singing, shouting, and dancing. Don’t let the word of God be preached; because the “truth will make you free.”
The Importance of Proclamation :(vs. 2b) Paul states openly his commitment to the word of God. Permit me to confess my displeasure of preachers who focus entirely on everything but God’s word. People want to hear from God so they can speak for him, but they never open up the book. Thus, they claim to have a “thus saith the Lord.” God has already spoken! He does not need prophets to speak what he has already revealed through the word of God. To be frank, those who negate the word of God are in actuality denying its authority; because they claim they have something better. Dr. John MacArthur states this situation clearly in his book Reckless Faith:
Neo-orthodoxy’s attitude toward Scripture is a microcosm of the entire existentialist philosophy: the Bible itself is not objectively the Word of God, but it becomes the Word of God when it speaks to me individually.(p.26)
What a horrific condition! How can one preach the word without believing objectively in the authority of the bible? Paul makes it clear that:
but by the manifestation of truth (F) commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God
The true test of a preacher of the Gospel is one who is able to have a clear testimony to a high esteem to God’s word. If there is no commitment to the revelation of God, then the message is faulty and the life is messy!
The Source of Spiritual Blindness: (3-4) Paul makes it clear that if the word of God has been openly declared. Thus, he proclaims resoundly:
3And even if our (G)gospel is (H)veiled, it is veiled to (I)those who are perishing,
The Source of this blindness comes from the veil that has been place on those, who are on their way to perdition. It would be something if the word of God was veiled to the reader, but it is open. Thus, there is no excuse for spiritual blindness unless that person just refuses to believe its message. This blindness is induced by Satan’s power:
4in whose case (J)the god of (K)this world has (L)blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the (M)light of the gospel of the (N)glory of Christ, who is the (O)image of God.
Thank God for an unveiled Gospel! Satan is the god of this world, and is wielding his influence in the minds and hearts humanity. Thus, when we do ministry, we must ask God to open the hearts of men and women that they may understand the glories of the Gospel, which reveals God the Father in Jesus Christ, his Son.
Content: (5-6) As Paul moves to the close of this section by declaring the content of his message. The reality is: the church only had one proclamation. The early Church knew nothing of a: deliverance ministry, slaying folk in the spirit, or of any such thing. They only knew this great proclamation:
5For we (P) do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake.
What has happened? We have come to the point where the Gospel declaration is to traditional. There are critics who suggest that it is not important to proclaim the: death, burial, and resurrection in every sermon. To the contrary, that is the source of our redemption. If there is no Gospel preaching, then there is no salvation. If you walk through the book of Acts, you will discover that they preached the Gospel in every message.
Acts 2: 36: 36"Therefore let all the (AU)house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both (AV)Lord and Christ--this Jesus (AW)whom you crucified."
Acts 3:26: 26"For you (AQ)first, God (AR)raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways."
Acts 4:10-12: 10let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that (M)by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom (N)God raised from the dead--by this name this man stands here before you in good health.
11"(O)He is the (P)STONE WHICH WAS (Q)REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone.
12"And there is salvation in (R)no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
Acts 5:42: 42(BG)And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and (BH)preaching Jesus as the Christ.
Acts 7: 52: 52"(BU)Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of (BV)the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers (BW)you have now become;
1 Corinthians 15: 1-4 1Now (A)I make known to you, brethren, the (B)gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, (C)in which also you stand,
2by which also you are saved, (D)if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, (E)unless you believed in vain.
3For (F)I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died (G)for our sins (H)according to the Scriptures,
4and that He was buried, and that He was (I)raised on the third day (J)according to the Scriptures
There is no doubt that the Gospel was part of the preaching of the New Testament Church; because in the Gospel the Love of God is revealed toward humanity. Paul further declares his ability to be a minister to the church. There is too much arrogance in the church of Jesus Christ. We have more folk who are hungry for position. They want a Honorium for doing what God has gifted them to do. However, you owe God your worship through service to humanity; because he chose you while you were in your mess. Finally, Paul reveals the source of his content:
6For God, who said, "(Q)Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has (R)shone in our hearts to give the (S)Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
God created the light in the midst of darkness, and this same God is able to shine in the darkest regions of our heart, and give us the light of the Gospel to share with humanity. The amplified renders this text on this wise:
6For God Who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts so as [to beam forth] the Light for the illumination of the knowledge of the majesty and glory of God [as it is manifest in the Person and is revealed] in the face of Jesus Christ (the Messiah).(A)
It is the mission of everyone, who does the work of Ministry to allow the knowledge of Christ to shine forth through them to give humanity knowledge of the saving power of God as revealed in the redemptive work of Christ.