Summary: If you’re a follower of Jesus then He has work prepared for you to do, exciting work because it will lead to the riches of glory, a sure and certain hope; the treasures of knowledge and wisdom; people coming to maturity in Christ; and hearts being encoura
Do you see yourself as one of God’s ministers? Are you excited by the thought that God might have some ministry for you to exercise in his church, or would you rather just sit back and let others do the work? Perhaps the idea of being a minister frightens you? Is ministry the task of those more spiritually able, those of a more godly character? Well let me encourage you, as we look at how Paul describes his ministry, to put yourself in the picture, to see how what he says about himself might also be a statement about you.
He begins on a note of rejoicing. Mind you it isn’t the thing you expect someone to rejoice in is it? He says “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake.” Most of us avoid suffering if we can, don’t we? It’s pretty rare that anyone rejoices when they suffer. I guess we all know that sometimes serving God will lead to opposition and suffering persecution for Christ’s sake. But we normally think we’ll just put up with it, persevere despite it. But Paul says he rejoices in his sufferings. Then he adds this strange statement: “I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” Does he mean that Christ’s death on the cross was insufficient? That more was needed? No, of course not. He makes it quite clear elsewhere that Christ’s death was all that was needed for our salvation. No, I think what he’s saying is that in this fallen world, the suffering that Christ endured hasn’t finished. If the church is to be served with the gospel then there is more suffering to be endured by those who represent Christ. As parts of the body of Christ we will continue to experience the suffering that he endured on our behalf.
So when that suffering comes how will we treat it? As something to be endured? As an imposition? Or will we think of it as binding us more closely to Christ himself? Perhaps that’s what’s in his mind as he think about his suffering.
But let me suggest that there’s even more than that. We’ll see in a moment that the reason for his suffering makes it all worthwhile.
But first listen to what he says about his role as a minister of the gospel. He says “I became the church’s servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known.”
Kim Beasley was wheeled into Barack Obama’s Oval Office last week in a wheelchair. I guess it was a fairly humiliating way to come before the US President for the first time, but despite that I’m pretty sure that he was feeling very proud of his role as he did so. He was there as the representative of the Australian people. The Prime Minister had given him a commission to speak on our behalf to the President of the United States. That’s a great honour isn’t it?
Well Paul is saying the same thing here, but for us the honour is even greater. God has commissioned us to speak to people on his behalf, to bring them the great good news of the gospel. No wonder he rejoices. It’s a great honour.
Do you understand the honour that you’ve been given as one of Christ’s ambassadors to the world? God has entrusted his message to you and me. He’s relying on us to pass that message on. If you think of it like that then you might find yourself willing to undergo all sorts of suffering and hard work to see the task completed.
But it doesn’t stop there. As they say in the classics “But wait, there’s more.”
He begins to expand on how he sees his role as an apostle of Jesus Christ. In fact as we go through you’ll see he actually says most of this twice, just to make sure we get the point.
The mystery hidden but now revealed
He says he’s become a servant of the church so he can make known a mystery. In fact this is the greatest mystery in history. This is a mystery that was hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. (v26)
This idea of a mystery was something well known in religions of Paul’s day. There were certain religions where the novice would be told some of the inner workings of the religion but other information was kept secret until they advanced to a higher level. This still happens today with religions like scientology and especially masonry. The point of these secrets, these mysteries, was that only those in the inner circle knew all the ins and outs of worship and that gave them great power.