THE GOSPEL MINISTRY (PROCLAIMING THE GLORY OF CHRIST) IS TOO PRECIOUS TO GIVE IN TO DISCOURAGEMENT
Here is a simple skit to introduce today’s topic .. with apologies to C.S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters —
The Setting: Satan’s war room – He is discussing his battle plans with his top advisors –
The Topic: How to stop the rapid growth of the first century church
The Strategy: Get the Apostolic Leaders … especially the Apostle Paul who has proven really effective … to quit the ministry
Satan: I think we have the right strategy … Jesus might have made a huge blunder … all that time He spent in ministry and He only developed 11 key leaders to kick off his church … It’s easy to see where we need to attack … it was good we got our mitts on Judas and had an inside mole … at least we could track what was being planned
Demon1: Yeah, boss … but what about that Saul guy …. He came out of the blue … really surprised us … and look at how effective he’s been … I thought he was going to be a big time player for us … He had that persecution thing down real good … the disciples were so shook up they had a hard time believing he had flipped!
Satan: That WAS a shocker … but if he quit on us maybe we can make him quit on Jesus, too … maybe he just doesn’t have the perseverance to hang in there when things get tough … We have to figure out how to discourage him and make him back off his ministry .. We could just let him burn out on his own … a lot of people start off a ball of fire and just fizzle out after awhile .. but he’s too strategic a leader for us to leave alone … we need to go after him aggressively
Demon2: I don’t know if that’s going to work … we’ve already shot a lot of our best ammunition at him … Remember what we’ve tried already??
– The prison deal is usually a good tactic for educated folks like Paul … they don’t usually like being locked up with the riff raff of society … but he keeps turning it into another episode of “Unshackled” … preaching the gospel and sending out missionaries like prison is their home church .. plus all that singing and worship time … we were losing some of our best people . . . That Prison Fellowship Ministries has been a real pain in our side
Demon3: That’s why we decided to get physical with him
– The Jews didn’t need much encouragement to haul him into the synagogue and administer their Friday night special = 39 lashes .. but it didn’t seem to phase him … I thought we finally had him with that stoning incident … but somehow he lived through it
Satan: What are his weak points … What scares him the most … We need to do some more research and discover his Achilles heel
Demon4: We had a source that told us he was deathly afraid of the water … so we had him shipwrecked three times … but it turns out he was an undercover lifeguard … no problems there … we ditched that source …
Demon5: We found somebody else who had heard that he was terrified of snakes … but that didn’t seem to bother him either. . . he just shook it off . . . the natives ended up thinking he was a god … I don’t know what to try??
Satan: We’ve been going about this all wrong … He just gets stronger when he faces obvious evil … We need a more subtle approach … one that will sneak up on him and hurt him from the inside … Let’s plant some false disciples and attack him from inside the church… We will use some real leader types … guys with a lot of charisma and speaking ability … guys that are very persuasive … maybe some lawyers that we have sitting around just trying to get those Christians to sue one another and divorce one another
Demon1: But how can they say anything against Paul that the church would believe?? He’s beyond reproach … his character is well known …
Satan: Let’s infiltrate that Corinthian group … they have a lot of immature believers … it seems they argue among themselves about everything … For a lot of them, Paul’s not even their favorite speaker …
Here’s our plan
1) First, We will attack Paul’s character by saying that he is trying to profit by building up a kingdom for himself – at least the city government workers should understand what we’re saying
2) Secondly, we will attack his message – you know he keeps talking about that grace stuff like you don’t have to follow Moses and the law and you can live however you please …. We can really go after him there – We’ll call our legalistic message the gospel as well and use a lot of the same terminology … that should confuse them
3) Thirdly, we will accuse him of not being very productive or effective – I know some specific examples where he preached for an hour and no converts at all … that doesn’t look good for him
4) Finally, let’s question his fitness to be an apostle – we’ll have our guys claim to be apostles as well and muddy the waters – how can you tell the true from the false .. it will be just as easy as our campaign last year to pass off counterfeit denarii .. we made a mint off that scheme
That should finally discourage him … imagine all that sacrifice he’s made and now he has his own people turning against him and questioning his authority … Why wouldn’t he just throw in the towel and give up the fight???
Easy for ministers of the gospel to get discouraged and lose heart. Look at all that Paul was facing:
– attacks against his character
– attacks against the legitimacy of his apostleship
– attacks against the effectiveness of his ministry
In some sense all believers are ministers (small “m”) of the gospel – not just isolating some special paid clergy class; so these instructions apply to all of us
I. (:1-2) MINISTRY INTEGRITY PROTECTS AGAINST DISCOURAGEMENT
A. (:1) Giving Up is Not an Option in the Ministry
a. Stewardship of Precious Ministry
“Therefore, since we have this ministry”
Look back at chapter 3 to see the nature of this New Covenant Ministry – one of life, one of the Spirit, one of hope, one of confidence, one of boldness, one of glory
Concept of being a stakeholder – having some ministry niche that you own and are passionate about; not being pressured by others to meet needs in areas where you have not been called to minister
b. Safeguarded by Divine Mercy (against opposition to our ministry)
“as we received mercy” – Mercy both for salvation and service
Paul served in deep humility; not with a big ego
c. Staying the Course (when faced with discouragement)
“we do not lose heart”
Willmouth: Tenacity of Ministry — The way we view our ministries will often help determine how we will fulfill it. If it becomes a burden instead of a privilege, then it becomes easy to quit when things don’t go our way. Paul was overwhelmed by God’s grace and mercy, which grave him the tenacity to keep on serving Christ regardless of his circumstances, regardless of what others said about him, regardless if anyone responded the way he wanted them too.
B. (:2) Standing Up with Transparent Integrity is the Ultimate Safeguard
Or Personal Purity as well?? Which is in view??
You’ve heard the expression: “He’s a stand-up type of guy” = willing to shoulder responsibility; not trying to sluff the blame off on someone else
a. Aggressive Opposition to Deceit and Marketing Manipulation
“but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame”
Integrity is the best safeguard against discouragement.
Paul’s ministry and his life were an open book
b. Authentic Consistency with the Truth of God’s Word
a. “not walking in craftiness”
– Gospel Charlatans – deceivers = pretending to be other than what they are
– Gospel Politicians = men-pleasers; hidden agendas / No convictions
– Gospel Manipulators = playing on emotions
b. “or adulterating the word of God” – handling deceitfully …
– Using same terminology but changing the meaning
– Twisting the meaning; taking it out of context
– Adding to the Scriptures
– Subtracting from the Scriptures – this does not apply today; caving to cultural pressure (divorce, role of men and women, etc.)
“but by the manifestation of the truth” (John 3:19-21)
c. Accountable Conduct before the Supreme Authority
“commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”
Ritchie: Men intuitively recognize the truth. They do not need to be convinced of it. God has so constituted our consciences that we know truth when we hear it. When it is declared a sympathetic vibration is set up in side us. Truth does not really need to be proved to us. The reason people reject the truth is not that they do not sense it is true but because they choose to disbelieve. They would rather go their own way than respond to the truth.
Barclay: His enemies had leveled three charges against him. They had said that he used underhand methods, that he exercised an unscrupulous cleverness to get his own way, and that he adulterated the message of the gospel.
II. (:3-4) LACK OF RESULTS DO NOT DETRACT FROM THE PRECIOUSNESS OR THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE GOSPEL
A. (:3) The Light of the Gospel Will Never Penetrate the Non Elect
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.”
No human way to reach this target group successfully; takes the pressure off us;
No reason to get discouraged by a lack of response to the gospel;
Still we are responsible to make the offer available to all men
B. (:4) Spiritual Blindness Is a Powerful Reality
“in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see”
Reality of the spiritual warfare behind the scenes
C. (:4b) No Fault Lies With The Gospel Itself — Which Remains Precious and Glorious
“the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Stedman: So what hope is there that anybody who has been blinded by the devil will ever believe the good news? It looks hopeless, doesn’t it? If a veil lies over their minds, and if, as we have already seen in the previous passage, only when someone turns to the Lord is the veil removed — yet, in order to turn, men must see the glory of Christ that the veil obscures — what hope is there? It is very evident from this that men cannot remove the veil themselves. Only Christ can take it away. How then can men be saved? That is the question Paul is facing.
III. (:5) IT IS NOT ABOUT US — THE FOCUS OF GOSPEL MINISTRY IS THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GLORY OF CHRIST
A. (:5a) The Focus Should Never Be On Ourselves
“For we do not preach ourselves”
We are not capable of saving anyone; we are not looking for praise and attention
B. (:5b) The Focus Must Always Be On the Lordship of Christ
“but Christ Jesus as Lord”
What type of false gospel is it that presents Christ as less than Lord?
We are all accountable to our Creator
C. (:5c) But We Do Play a Critical Supporting Role
“and ourselves as your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.”
Gromacki: Paul served others; he did not expect others to serve him. He used his apostolic prerogatives as greater opportunities for ministry, not for selfish gratification.
Tasker: All the service Paul (and every true Christian missionary and pastor) renders to his converts is not done primarily for their sakes. He has a more compelling love and a more overriding loyalty. He is their servant, because first and foremost he is the servant of Jesus Christ, by whose love he is constrained, and the promotion of whose glory is his passionate desire.
Stedman: If you want to know where we fit in, here it is: we are your servants for Jesus’ sake. We are not your masters; we do not own you; we are not your bosses; we do not come to tell you everything to do and give you orders and be a little pope in every church we come into. No, we are your servants. We have come to help you. We have come to minister to you, to labor among you, to teach and instruct you, but we are not here to boss you.” The apostle is careful to make that plain.
IV. (:6) GOD CAN MAKE THINGS HAPPEN IN A BIG WAY ANY TIME HE WANTS — THE PRECIOUS STEWARDSHIP OF THE GOSPEL DEPENDS ON SOVEREIGN ENLIGHTENMENT
– Our testimony of conversion is one of Sovereign Enlightenment
– Our confidence in presenting the gospel to others is that God can also perform such a Sovereign work of Enlightenment in others
A. (:6a) Example of God’s Sovereignty in Creation
“For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’”
Some Christians argue that it is no big deal whether you believe in evolution or creationism; well it is a big deal to God. He has based many important doctrines on the foundation of His role in creation.
B. (:6b) Testimony of God’s Sovereign Enlightenment in Conversion
“is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
Jeffries: Consider for just one moment how differently you might approach every single “people” occasion — even the most hum-drum routine occasions — if you remained constantly aware that God desires that “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” should shine through you so that it can be observed by whomever He has brought into your life at that moment.
(:7) THE DANGER SHOULD NEVER BE DISCOURAGEMENT … IT SHOULD BE AVOIDING CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH – leads into rest of chapter 4
– Jars of Clay – good name for a Christian vocal group
What are our expectations of God?? Here Paul makes reference not just to His power … but to the surpassing greatness of His power …
This glorious ministry performed through vessels of weakness …. Great Paradox!
Outer man decaying … inner man being renewed
Read vv. 16-18 – same theme of Not losing heart!
Never forget that just as God has a plan for your life … so does Satan … We made fun of things in our little play … but make no mistake … Satan is the god of this world and is actively at work scheming how he might discourage each of us from fulfilling the personal mission that our Lord has laid before each of us
But remember today’s message:
THE GOSPEL MINISTRY (PROCLAIMING THE GLORY OF CHRIST) IS TOO PRECIOUS TO GIVE IN TO DISCOURAGEMENT
* * * * * * * * * *
1) The message of the gospel focuses on the glory of Christ.
2) Christ supremely reveals God as the image of God.
3) Any gospel that does not preach Christ Jesus as Lord is a false gospel.
4) We need to be gazing intently into the face of Christ.