Read 2 Corinthians 3:13-4:1
How do we as people seeking to spread the fame of God at Grace keep from the mire and mud of life when seeking to minister to others? Or, as Paul says, how do we not “lose heart” (see 4:1, 16). How do we push off the attitude that drives us to wonder if ministering to others is really worth it? How do we insulate ourselves from being mentally set adrift on the sea of “no-heart.”
Paul begins his antidote in v.13 of chap. 3 by comparing His ministry to the ministry of Moses. Moses had a ministry that relied on man’s ability to intrinsically love God, and therefore, produced frustration and sporadic joy in the observance of the sacrificial system and left a crater of longing for an eternal hope to remedy spiritual need. The ministry of Moses had only a standard that drove the people of his day to realize their need. It was a type of spiritual bulimia – consume yourself in spiritual activity only to realize that the activity does not solve your problem, it simply points to a deeper issue. Ministry that day-after-day echoes need soon becomes a spiritual anchor that either drowns us or determines us to do better. But Paul says that we have better things to hope in since when a person abandons trust in themselves and “turns to the Lord” (v.16), the veil of obligation is removed and replaced with the “freedom” (v.17) of serving a satisfied God because of Christ. This satisfied God then moves from convincing us of our need for Him, via the law, to transforming us to look more like Him and thus, spread His fame. This is the type of ministry we have. A type of ministry that Moses could only dream about and yet never imagine that God would put on skin and do what He did! Moses talked with God at the tent of meeting periodically, but the disciples camped with Christ everyday! Then, after three years of modeling and mentoring, Jesus became of “tent of meeting” so we could have confidence of a constant conference call with God. Our type of ministry today, unlike Moses’ ministry, does not look for a day to come, but looks at an event that happened. A ministry that says to people, “we offer you a life of freedom” – a life that enjoys the relationship of a God (Father) satisfied through the act of a God (Son) who became the satisfier, both the “just and the one who justifies” (Rom. 3:26).
How does this relate to not losing heart and why would Paul use it as a backdrop? Paul begins to defend himself from the attacks of people who say, “you’re not a very good speaker” or “you know if you did this, then your ministry would be really alot better’ or “are you sure you are as good at this as you think you are?” All of these types of emotions were being produced in Paul through the “advice” of certain people at Corinth. It drove Paul to evaluate why is he doing ministry and what is it really about and the first thing Paul does is examine the freedom that the Gospel brings with it to Himself and those who wrap their lives around it. In chapter 4:1, Paul reveals the bedrock reason why he does not “lose heart” – the basis of all of his “ministry” finds it’s foundation in the person and work of Christ and stands head and shoulders above anything he could imagine in the ministry of Moses. Paul’s ability to not lose heart is directly related to his ability to remember the activity of God Gospel and not his performance within ministry. Let’s step back from activity achieved and be encouraged today over a ministry we have received and lock arms with the Apostle Paul by affirming the essence of the Gospel – that it is worth it and let that encourage us to not lose heart.
Original posting Oct. 2004