Enduring Ministry - Riverside Indonesian Fellowship

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Bible Study 2022
Enduring Ministry
“Who is the model of an enduring ministry?” The apostle Paul because he is my spiritual hero. I have tried to draw out of his life everything that I could squeeze, to understand the nature of the spiritual life, my life with Christ; to follow him as he follows Christ. And going to the apostle Paul is right because he said at the end of his life, “I have finished the course; I have kept the faith.”

It is a battle. You can finish the course; you can keep the integrity of your life to the very end, even though there was immense struggle. Faithfulness through the most relentless difficulties and triumphant at the end, even though nobody was celebrating anything. They were about to kill him. But still he said, “Lord, I’ve been faithful to the end. I’m now ready to be offered. Take me home.”

And you have to ask the question, “How did he get there, in that triumphant fashion?” Without the accolades of the world, without winning any popularity contests, without even the celebration and affirmation of his own churches, how did he get there? And the text that opens that up best is 2 Corinthians 4:1-18. This is Paul’s second epistle that he wrote to the Corinthians.

Paul lets us in on the certainties that drove him to a ministry that persevered and endured triumphantly to the very end. He uses twice the verse, “we do not lose heart.” What he is saying is in the middle of all the disappointments and persecution, he never defected spiritually. He never became cowardly with regard to the gospel. And so, he says, “In spite of it all, we do not defect.

We do not defect doctrinally; we do not defect morally; we do not defect in any fashion. He’s talking about being faithful to the end. In verse 5, you have the way Paul viewed himself. “We do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your doulos.” That means slave, and always slave. The power of the Holy Spirit brought him to the triumphant end.

The Holy Spirit does His work but not apart from us. Verse 1, “Since we have this ministry.” He was always overwhelmed with the privilege of being a part of this New Covenant, by grace, and the privilege of proclaiming this New Covenant. He never lost his sense of wonder. He can hardly contain his joy over the significance of knowing and proclaiming this glorious New Covenant.

Paul was certain about the mercy of his calling. He was certain that he hadn’t earned the ministry, and he didn’t deserve it. None of us are worthy to be called into this gospel ministry to preach or to evangelize. And this mercy that has implications. God uses us to bring the message of salvation and transform people. He uses us as instruments by which the Spirit of God produces sanctification.

Paul says, “I’m the chief of sinners; I’m unworthy.” And so, when he didn’t get much, he wasn’t surprised. And he was certain about the need for a pure heart. He knew God expects His children to be holy. Verse 2, we have renounced all hidden, secret, shameful sin. And if you want to have an enduring ministry, you can’t have hidden corruption, because your sins will find you out.

Paul’s duty was to preach the Word of God accurately. He understood that if you want to last a long time in the ministry, you must understand the priority of a ministry that is truthful with the Word of God. Paul says this, “We have never tried to manipulate you and deceive you for our own ends by some twisting of Scripture.” But now the twisting of Scripture is everywhere.

On the other hand, by the manifestation of truth, the open, clear exposition of Scripture and sound doctrine is given and by that it is commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. Paul was relentlessly faithful to the truth. And even though there were many who hated him, no matter what trials he had, no matter what hardships, he never watered down Scripture.

Because he knew that every person has the Law of God written in their heart. And he has a conscience accusing or excusing. And if you are a Christian, that’s your ultimate accountability to God. If you’re a preacher or teacher, that’s your ultimate accountability also. And he knew that in doing that over the long haul, the truth would come through to men’s consciences, even also to his enemies.

Paul was certain of his responsibility to preach the true interpretation of the Word of God without selection. That is to give the whole counsel of God and to rightly divide it all, sentence by sentence. And he kept doing it. And his integrity was unassailable, and the truthfulness of what he said commended him even to his enemies. Many of whom were converted to become believers.

Paul believed that the results didn’t depend on him. Verse 3, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the God of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.

God 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. That is one of the most powerful passages of Scripture on divine sovereignty in salvation. The factors were innumerable and out of my control. It was a new beginning for me when I began to focus on the effort and not the outcome. And therein lies the integrity in ministry.

Paul understood that in gospel ministry he faced an impossible task; he couldn’t save anybody. He, on his own, couldn’t convince anybody to be saved. He couldn’t reason them into salvation by the sheer force of his mental powers. He couldn’t scare them into salvation by the threat of hell. He couldn’t pull them in by the offer of comfort. Because our gospel is veiled to those who are perishing.

He says in verse 4, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving.” They’re in a perishing condition. Paul, in Ephesians 2, says, “They’re dead in trespasses and sin.” Says the same thing in Colossians 3. Later in Ephesians, he says, “They’re alienated from the life of God,” which is another way to say they’re dead. Here he says, “They’re blinded by Satan, who is the god of this world.

Paul knows, we are not in control of the outcome. We’re calling people to become slaves of Jesus Christ, not to fulfill their own personal dreams and whims and ambitions and desires. We’re calling them to acknowledge Jesus as Lord. We’re preaching a message of repentance, self-denial, brokenness and submission, which is not a popular message at any time.

It is the same God, the Creator, who spoke light into existence, who is the One who has “turned on the light in our hearts that is the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” If God doesn’t turn on the light, there never will be any light. Paul says, “All I’m mandated to do is preach not myself, not my own ideas, not my great insights, but to preach Jesus as Lord.

Jesus made this point also in the parable of the sower. You remember that parable. “A man went out and sowed seed,” Jesus said. “Some fell on a hard path; some fell in stony ground; some fell in weedy ground, and some fell on good ground.” The first three produced no fruit, and the last one, in the good ground, produced thirty-fold, sixty-fold, a hundred-fold. How many sowers? One.

It’s not a story about sowing technique; it’s a story about soil. You only have one seed: that’s the gospel. And there’s only one way to sow it: that’s to tell it. We cannot reduce consumer resistance. It is so profound and so inherent in the total inability of the sinner, that all we can do is preach the gospel of Christ Jesus as Lord, realizing that Satan has blinded their perishing minds.

We’ve got dead people who are also blind. No technique is going to overcome that. But at the end of 1 Corinthians 1, Paul says, “Consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God has chosen the weak of the world to shame the things that are strong.

And God has chosen the things that are not, that he might nullify the things that are. And he’s talking about us. So, you’ve got that compounding factor. You’ve got people who are dead and blind. You’ve got a message that is folly, and it’s being propagated by nobodies. How is anybody going to respond? Look at verse 30, “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus.”

Verse 31 says, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” That’s the most encouraging doctrine in the Bible. If I thought I was responsible for the salvation of sinners, I think I’d be in a mental institution. I’m responsible before God for being faithful to the message; that’s all I can do. But I rejoice in the fact that through that message, “faith comes by hearing the message concerning Christ.”

Enduring ministry never gets discouraged, never bears an unnecessary burden, as if God isn’t doing His part or I’m not doing my part. Enduring ministry is faithful to the truth of the gospel and rests in divine, sovereign grace. Paul says, “We just preach not our own ideas, but Jesus Christ as Lord. Because it is by the preaching of that message that God in his sovereign power turns on the light.

Verse 7, Paul was certain about his own insignificance. I look at the apostle Paul as my hero. There are men that have continually impacted my life as I expose myself to what they wrote. But there’s a common thread that runs through the hearts of all these men that are legendary in the life of the church, and that is that they never saw themselves as significant or important.

Paul says, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, in clay pots.” This is a startling contrast. And the false teachers in Corinth said terrible things about him. “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech is contemptible.” They said, “He is a lousy speaker, and he was ugly.” So, they just blasted Paul’s person and speech.

An enduring ministry can’t be a constant effort at self-promotion. The power of the gospel is not the product of human genius. All of us are weak, fragile, breakable and dishonorable clay pots. “But such weakness does not prove fatal to the gospel because the power is not from ourselves,” Paul says. It’s never the messenger; it’s always the power of the message itself.

Paul was certain about the benefits of suffering. Verse 8, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” Afflicted, put under tremendous pressure, but not crushed. We are perplexed, despondent but not despairing in the final sense. We are persecuted, but not abandoned. God is always there protecting us.

These are all severe terms; but through it all he endures. He says in verse 9, “Therefore, I will boast about my weaknesses that the power of Christ may dwell in me. I am well-content with weaknesses, insults, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Because suffering tears down his self-confidence and makes him dependent on God.

He says, in verse 10, “I’m always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus.” What did he mean by that? He means that they can’t kill Jesus; He’s already gone. So, they’re trying to kill me in his place. All his suffering was expression of hatred of Jesus. He took the blows that were meant for Jesus. “I bear in my body,” he said to the Galatians, “the marks of Christ.”

Verse 11, he says, “We who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake.” There are all kinds of plots among the Jews and the Gentiles to kill him. All of this again is so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So, death works in us, but the result is life which works in you. He risks death to display the transforming power of Christ.

Paul was a man of unwavering commitment. He was certain of his convictions. He’s never bitter about his suffering; he accepts it. It is God’s way of humbling him, making him weak so that he can become strong. No matter what hostility comes his way, he will never change his message because he is certain of the need to be faithful to his own convictions.

Enduring ministry, belongs to people who have long-term, unwavering convictions. So, he quotes Psalm 116, “I believe, therefore I speak.” And he says, “So we speak.” This is integrity. And integrity belongs to long-term Christian ministry. What he believed is exactly what he said. If privately you say you believe something, but on publicly you’re unwilling to say it, then people will not trust your integrity.

Verse 18, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” The spiritual is more important than the physical. The eternal is more important than the temporal. The heavenly is more important than the earthly. So, he says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Let us pray.

© 2017 Ferdy Gunawan

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Denver, CO 80211

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