Sunday, September 18, 2016
2 Corinthians 4:1 "Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart."
In yesterday's post we considered what the Christian "has" in Jesus Christ. We first of all noted that the Christian has a position before God. 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 states: "Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God." Today's post wants to consider a second reality possessed by the Christian - namely "power to live for God".
Energy to run
I'll admit that I'm one of those crazy people who love to run. About every morning I lace up the shoes and go out for a good 5 mile run. Admittedly, when I crawl out of bed, my body is tired and tempted to crawl back into bed. However, I grab hold of a special can of power that, when mixed with water, provides energy. Such a mix is called "pre-work-out" powder. Once I have consumed that liquid, in 30 minutes the sleepiness is gone and I'm ready to hit the road or treadmill.
Whenever it comes to living the Christian life, we have a continuous power-source on the inside - the Person of the Holy Spirit. The Christian life is a marvelous life not only because of one's positional standing before God, but also because of the power to live it and proclaim it.
The need for power to live for God
Paul refers to the "ministry" he and his readers had a share in with respect to the great commission and the commonality of Christian experience. The question is: what was the ministry of which he spoke? When one traces back through 2 Corinthians 3, we come to 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit."
The ministry in which we all share is none-other than the Holy Spirit working in and through the Christian to point them and others to Jesus. Such a task is impossible in the flesh. However, whenever we think of how much the Holy Spirit works in the Christian to empower them, we find out the blessing of what we have - power to live!
As one goes back further to 2 Corinthians 3:6, we find Paul making the comment of how the Holy Spirit gives life. Indeed, we are reminded of the miracle of the New Birth granted by the Holy Spirit at saving faith. Then Paul traces through a comparison between what is called "the ministry of death" vs what will be the ministry of which he describes the Christian having.
Moses in the Old Testament represents what the Bible calls "the Old Covenant" and giving of the law. The Law of God, summarized in the Ten Commandments and their attendant subsidiary commands, ceremonies and rituals - was meant to express what God expected of His people. The Law of God demanded the people to be a holy people, demanded that the people forsake their worldly ways and demanded that the people worship God. The Old Covenant or law provided a context in which the Old Testament saint (saved by grace alone through faith alone in the promise of God) could live out their walk with God.
The problem was that the Old Covenant was never designed to impart life. Instead, whenever the Old Testament believer would interact with the Law of God or Old Covenant, all they could conclude was that they could not live out what God had commanded. Paul speaks of how the law of God was intended to show "sin-as-sin" and point to the need for grace. In Romans 7:7-12 we read:
"What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good."
The Old Covenant or law of God could only command and demand, but not deliver and create the power necessary to live the Godly life. Indeed, the Old Testament believer drew what they could from the promises and prophecies about the coming Messiah, as well as the Holy Spirit's ministrations in the Old Testament. Indeed, the saints of God did have "the Spirit of Christ" as described in 1 Peter 1:10-11 "As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow." However, it was very clear: the Old Testament's pattern for the walk of faith was in need of an upgrade.
My computer will once in a while have a little box pop-up, informing me that it wants to install "up-grades". Now I'll admit, whenever I'm working on something and that little box suddenly appears, I push it off until a later time. But do you know, once the computer has done its upgrading, it works better and is able to handle more demanding tasks.
Power to live for God
Paul's point in 2 Corinthians 3:7-4:1 is that the ministry which Moses had was no-doubt glorious. He had came off of Sinai with the glory of God on his face (Exodus 34:29-35). The problem was though was that the glory with which he had on his face would soon begin to fade. One writer has noted that the veil he placed over his face was not so much intended to curb the fear of the people in seeing his face glow, but instead, to prevent them from seeing what was the fading away of such glory. Whenever people buy flowers, the florist will sometimes spray the bouquet with a special solution that promotes longevity. The enjoyment of the flowers is prolonged. As we all know, after a week or so, the flowers fade and wither way.
But to think that for the Christian, there is no a limitation of power, but unlimited. Paul's point is to show us that unlike Moses and the people of the Old Testament, we can behold and enjoy the glory of God that won't fade. The Holy Spirit is the Agent of such power. Jesus describes Him as being likened unto a fountain of living water springing up inside the Christian (John 7:37-39). The Christian is commanded to be filled-by, led-by and influenced by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:16,25). We have the power of the Holy Spirit made available to us by obedience (Acts 5:32); prayer (Luke 11:11-13) and taking in of the scriptures (Colossians 3:16).
Thus when we arrive again at 2 Corinthians 4:1, we understand then the nature of the ministry we "have": namely the ministry of the Spirit Himself working in us and through us. The Holy Spirit's main task is to make me in experience whom I already declared to be in position by God. We tie together our position in justification and process of sanctification by the daily, living reality of surrender and obedience to the known will of God that welcomes the Holy Spirit to fill-us anew. He will empower-us with what we need to understand the Bible (1 Corinthians 2:10-13); excel in prayer (Romans 8:26); witness to unsaved loved ones and friends (Acts 1:8) and live out the daily realities, struggles and triumphs, disappointments and joys of this thing we call the Christian life. Amazingly enough, as we live by the power of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we discover that all along it is He living the life through us!