Our Stewardship of this Glorious Ministry - 2 Corinthians 4:1-6
The Apostle Paul is a great example of someone who never lost his sense of awe at the mercy and grace that he had receive from God. Like all of us Paul was born in sin, but unlike most of us his defiance against God became very public. Before God changed his heart Paul had given himself to persecuting followers of Jesus. So as Paul reflects on God’s mercy and forgiveness he stands in awe (1 Timothy 1:12-16). And, not only did God save him, but God called Paul to be one of the leading witnesses for Christ of all time – this too left Paul humbled and amazed (Ephesians 3:7-8).
While we can look at Paul and echo the amazement of what God did in his life, we must remember that our stories are no less surprising. All of us have been forgiven of our sins and spared from the wrath of God. And also, we have been called as witnesses of His salvation. It’s amazing, and also confounding.
In 2 Corinthians 4:7 Paul provides a vivid picture of the situation. He refers to Christians as jars of clay. He says that we are like common, household vessels in which God has placed His incredible treasure – the Gospel.
Paul’s Ministry as an Example
Throughout Paul’s letters there is much to be learned about what it looks like to be a faithful witness for Christ, but one of the best looks into his ministry of the Gospel is in 2 Corinthians 4-5.
In this letter Paul finds himself on the defensive. False teachers in Corinth have begun calling into question Paul’s authority and authenticity. As he defends himself and his ministry there is much for us to learn about the Gospel and what it looks like to proclaim it faithfully.
The Ministry that we have Been Given (4:1)
As Paul continues the defense of his ministry he begins chapter 4 acknowledging the incredible privilege he has of serving Christ.
- Entrusted though Mercy – Something Paul was sure of was that his ministry, even in its’ hardest moments, was a gift of God’s mercy.
- Encouraged in Heart – Paul is suffering in incredible ways for the sake of the Gospel, but he remains encouraged. As he considers the beauty of the Gospel (2 Cor. 3:12-18) and the mercy of God that allows him to proclaim the Gospel he declares that he does not lose heart.
- Application:Do you see the opportunity you have to proclaim Jesus as a gift and privilege or do you see it as a duty and burden?
The Way We Steward Ministry (4:2)
In verse 2 Paul really begins defending his ministry. He explains his methods, his motives and his message and through it all he provides an important example of what it looks like to be a faithful steward of the Gospel.
- The Integrity of Paul’s Ministry – Paul’s opponents were calling him a hypocrite and a fraud. They wanted people to think that Paul was manipulating them and that he was focused on his own reputation and success. But Paul makes it clear that he is serving from a pure heart and with pure motives, not for selfish gain (2 Corinthians 2:17).
- The Purity of Paul’s Message – While many were using the message of Christ, or a version of the Gospel, to gain a following Paul made this clear: He would not tamper with God’s Word. His message was the true, unadulterated Word of God. He offered himself to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God – he was willing to be tested because he spoke the truth.
The Message We Proclaim (4:5)
After making his claim for the integrity and purity of his ministry Paul offers a clear statement of his message: He proclaims Christ. We can go through all of Paul’s writings and see this over and over, his message never deviated from Christ, His cross and the need for sinners to repent and find forgiveness (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2:1-5; 2 Timothy 4:1-4).
Understanding the Results of our Ministry (4:3, 6)
As Paul defends his ministry he anticipates a question: If he is proclaiming the truth of God then why is he suffering and why aren’t more people coming to faith? In response he explains the condition of men and the work of God in salvation.
- The Blindness of Unbelievers (vs. 3) – What Paul makes clear is that the reason many don’t believe is because they don’t have sight. They don’t see Christ and their need for Him because they are blinded by sin and Satan. In fact, this is the condition we are all born into. We are all born blind, dead in sin and unwilling to turn to God for salvation (Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 3:9-12; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 4:17-18).
- The Sovereignty and Power of God in Salvation (vs. 6) – If all people are blind and dead how do any come to faith? Paul says in vs. 6 that God is the One who gives light and sight. He is the one who changes hearts, opens blind eyes and gives faith (Ephesians 2:4-9; Titus 3:5).
Our Responsibility in the Work of Salvation
While this passage is clear that God is sovereign in salvation, it is equally clear that the means that God uses to bring people to faith is through the sharing of the message of Jesus. God uses our witness of Jesus as the means of opening blind eyes and awakening dead hearts. God saves, but He has given us (jars of clay) the incredible privilege and responsibility of taking the message to the world (Romans 10:13-17; Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Corinthians 4:5, 7).