The Minister's List
2 Corinthians 6:1-10
What kinds of lists do you use? Grocery? To-do? Prayer? Hit?
Here's a list God gave for ministers -- what is expected of us, physically, mentally, and spiritually. How we should behave and what we should do and not do. Now, before you get too excited to watch me go thru this passage, let me point out that right from the top in v. 1 God says that we're all ministers, and He's talking to you tonite!
We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain [2Cor. 6:1].
You will notice in your Bible that "with him" is in italics, which means that these two words have been supplied by the translators. It should be "We then, as workers together."
There is a line that needs to be rubbed out, and that is the line between the clergy and laity. God gives a gift to each member of the body of Christ. There ought not to be the distinction between the pulpit and the pew that we make today. We are all workers together. If you are one who sits in the pew, may I say that you are as responsible to give out the word of God as I am. I have been given the gifts of prophecy and teaching. You may be a bank president or the president of a large corporation, a truck driver, a housewife, but you are responsible today to get out the Word of God.
"Shepherds do not produce sheep. Sheep produce sheep."
You see, many people think it is the business of the evangelist and the preacher to win people for Christ. May I say to you that it is your business. God has given teachers and preachers and evangelists and missionaries to prepare the body of believers so that those who are sitting in the pews might be equipped for their ministry of going out to witness for Christ. The shepherd doesn't produce the sheep. He feeds the sheep and he watches over the sheep. He shepherds the sheep, but he doesn't produce sheep. He can't. The sheep produce sheep. And yet he is a sheep himself, so he must set the example.
What are you doing today to get the Word of God out to others? You can do something that I cannot do and that no preacher in the country can do. There are some people who have confidence in you. They will listen to you but they won't listen to a preacher -- unless you encourage them to listen. Some here don't feel they can talk to someone directly but they do something nonetheless: they send them links to sermons and let me speak to them on their behalf. That is the least we can do!
Then Paul says, "We... beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain." How can one receive the grace of God in vain? God has been showering His goodness and mercy on us. To receive His great goodness and to rejoice in the salvation of the grace of God and yet to live carnal, worldly lives is what it means to receive the grace of God in vain.
(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.) [2Cor. 6:2].
"Have I succoured thee" means I have helped you.
Many people say, "Well, I won't accept Christ now. I will do it some other time." They postpone it. Now I don't know who you are or where you are right now, but if you are not saved, "now is the accepted time." Look at your clock. Whatever time it is right now is the time for you. Somebody will ask, "Can't I accept Him tomorrow?" Maybe, but you have no promise of a tomorrow. The important thing is that God says the time is right now.
Now, the following passage is for all the ministers present. Raise your hand if you are a minister of God. Shouldn't all the hands be up?
Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed [2Cor. 6:3].
We need to be very careful about personal behavior. We are to give no offense in anything. An offense here doesn't mean hurting people's feelings. I don't think anyone can serve in the church today without hurting the feelings of someone. Some folk are there for no other purpose than to get their feelings hurt. You have heard the old saying about carrying your feelings on your sleeve. Well, a lot of the saints do just that. Dr. Harry Ironside put it something like this: If you don't shake hands with them, they feel you intended to slight them. If you do shake hands with them, you hurt their arthritis. If you stop to speak with them, you are interrupting them. But if you do not, you are a little snooty. If you write them a letter, they know you are after their money. If you do not write, then you are neglecting them. If you stop to visit them you hinder them from their work and bother them, but if you do not visit them, it shows you have no interest in them.
"Giving no offence" means that you are so to live that no one can point to you and say, "Because of that man's life I have no confidence in the salvation he professes."
Now Paul lists things that should characterize the ministry. They are quite interesting...
But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses [2Cor. 6:4].
"In much patience." That is number one on the list. Believe me, I am bowled over by this very first one. I'll be very frank to admit to you that patience is something I have always lacked. My wife and my best friends say this to me: "If you ever preach a sermon on patience and I am there, I'm going to walk out because I don't think you are the one to speak on patience." So do you know what? I'm not going to speak about patience now. I just want you to notice it is number one on the list.
"In afflictions." This is something that a great many in the ministry today must still bear.
"In necessities." Folk who came through the depression or who were born in a poor home understand this.
"In afflictions, in necessities, in distresses." There are many living today who know what these are. Much of the younger generation doesn't know. That is what has made the generation gap.
In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings [2Cor. 6:5].
"In stripes." I have a notion that very few of us know what physical stripes are such as Paul experienced. "Stripes" consisted of forty blows with a rod. However, we have been cut across the face many times by some insulting remark made by some pious saint in a very holy voice. Then there are some of us who have had stripes on us literally, and it was for a good cause and dare I say, it is Biblical [the blueness of a wound].
Paul lists other things that he experienced in his ministry (which few men in my day have had to pass through): Imprisonments, tumults, labors, watchings, fastings -- all were familiar to Paul.
Now he goes on to give another set of identifications of the ministry.
By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left [2Cor. 6:6-7].
"By pureness." Believe me, it is important that a minister be pure in his life. Lack of purity is one thing that hits and hurts the ministry today. It is always tragic when a minister turns up as a bad egg and is found guilty of immorality and impurity. Pureness is important -- and it is important to God.
"By knowledge." I do not think that knowledge refers only to a knowledge of the Word of God. A minister of the Word should know a great many things, and he should keep himself abreast of the times in which he lives.
"By longsuffering." Here that comes up again. Longsuffering is patience in a different pair of pants.
"By kindness." Oh, how people long to have a pastor who has tender, kindly interest in them! I am trying to do better in that area.
"By the Holy Ghost." God have mercy on any preacher who tries to preach without the Spirit of God leading and guiding. I am more concerned about that than any other thing.
"By love unfeigned." Genuine love is so desperately needed today. We do not need pretenders quoting pious platitudes. We do not need phony professors of faith who tell you how much they love you and then put a knife in your back. We need real, genuine love. We need the love that the Spirit of God puts into hearts.
"By the word of truth." The "word of truth" means that a preacher should know his Bible. He should preach "by the power of God," which is possible only as a pastor spends time alone with God before he steps into the pulpit.
"By the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left" is right living in all areas.
Next Paul gives us a set of nine paradoxes which should characterize a minister of God...
By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things [2Cor. 6:8-10].
"By honour and dishonour." Some may approve and some may disapprove. This gives a well-balanced ministry.
"By evil report and good report." Although some people will say ugly things about us, we continue to serve the Lord. Flattery harms us more than criticism, by the way!
ill.--praise is like perfume--you can sniff it, but don't swallow!
"As deceivers, and yet true" -- we are called deceivers, yet we are giving out the true Word of God.
"As unknown, and yet well known." A minister of God may not be well known to the world, but he is known to God.
"As dying, and, behold, we live" -- Paul had taken the place of death, yet he had had new life in Christ.
"Chastened, and not killed." He often experienced persecution, beatings, whippings, stonings, and yet he lived on.
"Sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing." Sorrow was for the sins of the people and their rejection of the gospel, yet he was rejoicing in Christ.
"As poor, yet making many rich." Whenever you find a minister who is rich, watch out. We are not supposed to get rich in the ministry. As God blesses more we simply have more to give. Doesn't mean we can't have nice things, but that we make sure our treasure is truly in heaven and not on earth by having the right priorities.
"Having nothing, and yet possessing all things." You recall that Paul had said in his first letter to the Corinthians that all things were theirs. This includes things in the world, life, death, present or future. "...All are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's" (1Cor. 3:22-23) -- oh, how rich we are! And yet we are poor.
Paul has given us three sets of things which characterize the ministry. You will notice that the first set pertains to things which are physical, the second to things which are mental, and the third to things which are spiritual. All are important.
So, we're all ministers, and next time we'll finish the chapter and see how our group needs to relate to everyone else who isn't in our group. [separation in the true Biblical context]
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