Summary: Those who serve through the difficulties of life & ministry find that God¡¯s grace produces dignity in them & glory for God.
2 CORINTHIANS 6: 3-10 [GAINING PERSPECTIVE Series]
THE TRIALS AND PARADOXES OF MINISTRY
[Romans 5:1-5 / 14: ]
With an outburst of passion, noble Christian service is described. For those who receive the grace of God, and allow it to carry out its intended working, there is a moving into ministry. God's grace makes us into co-workers with Him so that we live for His glory.
God's grace moves us into ministry, which most certainly will be difficult, but if we will faithfully perform it in integrity, there will be victory not only for ourselves but for many, many souls. For those who serve through the difficulties of life and ministry find that God's grace produces dignity in them and glory for God. They spent their life growing in the grace of the gospel by which they make many wise in this life and rich in the world to come.
[Here are twenty-seven categories divided into three groups of nine each in these verses. In verses 4--5 are Paul's trials; verses 6--7 focus on divine provision, and verses 8--10 focus on the victory over circumstances accomplished by endurance.]
I. HOLDING UP THE MINISTRY, 3-4a.
II. IN DIFFICULTY, 4b-5.
III. IN INTEGRITY, 6- 7.
IV. IN ENDURANCE AND VICTORY, 8-10.
Because of the importance and urgency of our calling, verse 3 reminds us not to allow anything into our lives or ministry that would give people a reason not to respond. "giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited,"
One of the greatest obstacles to the progress of the Gospel is the bad example of people who profess to be Christians. Unsaved people like to use the inconsistencies of the saints, especially preachers, as an excuse for rejecting Jesus Christ. Paul was careful not to do anything that would put a stumbling-block in the way of either sinners or saints (see Rom 14).
The message of the cross is enough of an offense to the lost. The Christian must be careful not to offend by self serving conduct that would discredit [m¨maomai from m¨mos -blemish], bring disrepute to God or be a spiritual stumbling to a fellow Christian (1 Cor. 8:9). The message of the cross has been made empty and powerless to too many people because of the behavior of those who profess to believe it.
I was witnessing on a college campus [University of South Dakota] to a student who understood the Gospel but strongly rejected it. So I told him the bad news, that unless he received the grace of God through Jesus Christ he would not only would he go to Hell but he would also be separated from our Loving God forever. He thought about it for awhile. Then he replied, "If this story is true and you Christians love people and don't want them to go there-why haven't any Christian ever told me this before? If it's that important that my eternal existence depends on it why haven't you Christians told me before? If I believed that I would walk on broken glass through fire to tell everyone."
Not only would Paul not discredit the gospel the first part of verse 4 says, "but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God,"
The life lived is the biggest commendation the gospel can receive. Paul is not simply commending his disciples, he is stating that everything they do, all their actions - commend them us as servants [diakonia] of God. This type of commendation is what the Corinthians should have required for authenticating their ministers (3:1, 5:12). In everything a disciple does we should consistently consider what are actions communicated about Jesus Christ.
If you are a believer, you are a minister or servant of God. In the course of each day, non-Christians observe you. Don't let your careless or undisciplined actions be another person's excuse for rejecting Christ. Don't let your actions be a stumbling-block or hindrance for someone's proper reception of the grace of God.
II. IN DIFFICULTY (4b-5).
What kind of life then should we live to commend ourselves and not cause people to stumble? Paul gives a summary about the dignity and glory of ministry under three aspects. He first lists nine trials which fall into three sets of three (4b-5), followed by nine inner qualities (6-7). He then records nine pairs of contrasts (8-10). Each word carries a story that Paul could fill from his life of ministry and hopefully we could by ours also. [His fervor though does not interfere with the careful choice of words. The balanced antitheses, the rhymical cadences and as/so/nances (like sounding vowels in words) pour forth eloquently Paul's experience.]
These verses constitute the second of three hardship lists penned by Paul in this epistle (4:8--12; 11:23--29). Christians who would please the Lord must conduct themselves in the midst of trials with patience and endurance, confident of the Lord's sovereign purpose in their lives. Starting in the second part of verse 4 Paul itemizes some of his hardships. "In much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses,"