2 Corinthians (Program #9) – The Ministers of the New Covenant (2)
What should be the important criteria or qualities to be a genuine and proper minister of the gospel of the New Testament? We all might have our own ideas and thoughts about what are the most important qualities. But the Bible devotes several chapters to the subject in the book of 2 Corinthians and it’s there that we see several items that we likely would never have even considered.
First, the ministers must be those that are constituted with the life giving and transforming Spirit as chapter 3. This means that they are full of Christ and therefore able to minister this very Christ into people.
Second, as we will see today in chapter 4. They are those who conduct themselves in such a way that the glory of the gospel of Christ might shine through them and out from within them. In other words, their goal should not be just to preach the gospel, but to allow the gospel in its glory to be shined out through them for other to see. Oh, how we Christians today need such healthy, heavenly ministers.
2 Corinthians (Program #8) – The Ministers of the New Covenant (1)
All believers have their favorite verses, verses that just seem to minister particularly to us in our situation. But one verse that deserves to be on every list is 2 Corinthians 3:18, listen to the apostle Paul in this marvelous verse,
18 “But we all with unveiled face, beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit.”
Why is this verse so particularly important? Because it brings us face to face with the Lord Jesus in an intimate and personal way. But also in a way where by we are infused, transfused even transformed by Christ Himself as the very life giving Spirit.
2 Corinthians (Program #7) – The Ministry of the New Covenant (3)
You probably remember the story of Moses coming down from Mt.Sinai after having been in God’s presence when he received the ten commandments. His face was shining so brightly that he had to put a veil over it before he can encounter the rest of the children of Israel. That shining was the outward reflection of God’s glory. A shining reflected off of Moses face. But as marvelous as that shining was in 2 Corinthians Paul calls it a fading glory. And rightly so, because in a very short time it was gone from Moses face. Actually this shining represents the glory of the Old Testament ministry. A ministry of as Paul called it “death and condemnation”. No wonder this glory fades.
But the New Testament ministry that Paul declares to us in 2 Corinthians is more in glory, an unfading, eternal, surpassing glory, that shines not just upon us but even out from within us, as the New Testament ministers.
2 Corinthians (Program #6) – The Ministry of the New Covenant (2)
Metaphors play an important role in Scripture. Webster says a metaphor is the use of one set of words to describe or illustrate a similar point.
John uses the technique when he speaks of Jesus approaching him in the gospel. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Surely he wasn’t saying that Jesus was a literal “lamb”. But the metaphor or picture gives us a much richer and clearer understanding.
The apostle Paul was also very fond of metaphors, particularly when conveying his deepest thoughts in teachings. We see it used intensively in 2 Corinthians. For example in 2 Corinthians chapter 2:14 he says “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in the Christ” Here, the metaphor is the triumphant possession of captured and vanquished folks after a Roman battle. And Paul says that we, the believers had become such vanquished ones in the train of the victorious Christ.
Now, we come to another marvelous metaphor in the very next chapter, chapter 3 of 2 Corinthians begins this way:
1-3 “Are we beginning again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some do, letters of commendation to you or from you?You are our letter, inscribed in our hearts, known and read by all men,Since you are being manifested that you are a letter of Christ ministered by us, inscribed not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tablets of stone but in tablets of hearts of flesh.”
Living letters of Christ. This is our topic today.
2 Corinthians (Program #5) – The Ministry of the New Covenant (1)
When we consider what are the main qualifications to be an effective and useful minister of the gospel. We may list things like been an eloquent speaker or having a charismatic personality or been one in power with miraculous gifts that can perform mighty works of power in the name of Jesus. But the New Testament itself when presenting to us what’s the genuine ministry of the New Testament doesn’t uplift any of these things. Rather what we see in the genuine ministry of the apostles was the growth and maturity in the divine life. Paul the apostle himself was such a minister not relying on either natural ability or super natural gifts. He was the one spent years experiencing, enjoying and been constituted inwardly with the life giving Spirit, the very Christ in resurrection.
Have you ever noticed a married couple that’s been together for a long long time and they know each other so well that they seems to be an unspoken communication between them. It seems that the one can tell how the other feels just by a glance into their face. This is really a blessed state of marriage to arrive at. But more importantly it demonstrate a very special intimacy and knowledge of one another. It is just this kind of tender and intimate knowing that the apostle Paul was referring to in 2 Corinthians chapter 2:10 “But whom you forgive anything, I also forgive; for also what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, it is for your sake in the person of Christ;”
This phrase “in the person of Christ” can also be translated as “in the face of Christ” and it implies the most intimate knowledge of another person.
The apostle Paul after his strong rebuke and dealing with the Corinthians in his first letter had good reason to visit the city at his first opportunity. It would had given him the chance to answer first hand any misunderstandings and to sue any lingering stinging from his rebuke.
In the realms of public relations or human wisdom he surely would had taken this way. But Paul’s living was not directed by such things as “PR” in human wisdom. And though he was criticized by some of the Corinthians for delaying his coming after he told them of his desire to come. We see the real reason for his delay. The reason was the Lord Jesus Himself. And Paul’s first concern which was not to live just a Godly life, but to live Christ, to live in perfect oneness with Him. This is the pattern that Paul had become not just to the Corinthians but to all of us.
The apostle Paul was a remarkable person. He was used by the sovereign God to unveil much of the New Testament revelation. He also performed wondrous miracles and was a mighty evangelist. Yet in the book that had been understood to almost be his autobiography, he tells us that his only boast was in the singleness or sincerity or purity with which he and his co-workers lived and served the faithful God by living Christ. Listen to his words to the church in Corinth in 2 Corinthians chapter 1,
12 “For our boasting is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in singleness and sincerity of God, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and more abundantly toward you.”
Every detail of the Bible is under the sovereign arrangement of God. Not only the words themselves have God as their source even the arrangement of the Bible is significant.
Romans for example gives us a full and complete sketch of both the Christians life and the church life. Then immediately following Romans we 1 Corinthians. What we have is the illustration of the same church life in the Christians life. What Romans reveals 1 Corinthians illustrates.
As we begin the life study of 1 Corinthians, a book that on the surface seems to be mainly focus on the problems of this 1st century gentile church in the city of Corinth but actually we will come to appreciate there is a very positive message in this book that is critical in God’s economy.
The apostle Paul’s first epistle to the believers in Corinth was of sixteen chapters and was full of his strong rebuke and argument with the church there. In that letter he subdued them and defeated them. Now in his second letter just as a parent would spend a long period of to comfort and encourage a child that had received the strong chastisement. Paul minsters to comforting ointment and the encouragement of love. Listen to his opening words in his cherishing epistle :
1:1-3 ” Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy the brother, to the church of God which is in Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassions and God of all comfort;”
This is a very subjective book, 2 Corinthians, where by Paul brings the Corinthians back to the experience of Christ and is a book that can lead us to experience Christ as well.