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The Essential for Ministry (Colossians 1:24-25)

January 22, 2010

Paul refutes the Colossians false teachers’ attack on the identity of Christ (1:15-19) and the ability of Him to save (1:20-23).  He could save because of Who He was, so the two build upon one another.  And Jesus Christ was Whom Paul served, to Whom he had given his allegiance.  He was a servant of Christ, the term “minister” at the end of v. 23.  Having used that word, Paul segues to a section about ministry as he so often does in his epistles.  He spends vv. 24-29 on what his ministry was all about.

Paul didn’t choose what he was doing—he was made a minister (vv. 23, 25).  So Paul wasn’t doing what He felt like, but exactly what God wanted.  When Paul got started, the first thing he asked was, “Lord, what will you have me to do?”  We’re ministers of God because we are called by God.  “Called” is salvation terminology and every believer is called to a new vocation (Eph 4:1), which is a minister of God.  And God has given to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18).

In v. 25, Paul calls his ministry a dispensation of God.  The word “dispensation” comes from a Greek word which speaks of a stewardship, the management of someone else’s possession.  Paul had been given a stewardship, something to manage; it was God’s and he didn’t want to blow it.  We have been handed something to take care of and we must be faithful to take care of this task.  It isn’t ours; it’s God’s.

Because this is such a great thing to be, that is, a servant of the Lord, we rejoice in it.  It’s not a bummer, even if it means suffering.  We’ve got a definite purpose, it’s Divine, and so it counts for eternity.  We’ve got a reason to go through afflictions, so we can go at it with the right attitude.  Paul was one joyful man, and that should set the example for how we go about stewarding the service that God has given us.  And the ministry will include suffering.  Paul characterized his job as one that would carry with it affliction.  Paul assumed that this came with the territory and kept the positive, upbeat outlook about it all.

Paul loved Jesus and so he loved the body of Christ.  His service was through, in, around, and for the church.  He paid the price to build up the body of Christ through evangelism and edification.  While he was out preaching, he faced opposition.  People tried to kill him and beat him in the process.  To Paul, to be a servant of the Lord was indistinguishable from being a servant to the church.  Ministry is about the church.   Ministry isn’t a camp, an association, a board, but the church.

The purpose of Paul in all of his ministry was “to fulfill the Word of God” (1:25b). I’m calling this the essential of the ministry.  We have joy in fulfilling the Word of God.  We have joy in managing God’s work according to the Word of God.  We go through affliction in order to accomplish the Word of God.   Ministers are not responsible to win the whole world to Christ.  They are not required to have a big church.  What they do need to do is fulfill the Word of God.   The Word of God tells us how ministry should be accomplished.  God’s faithful servants will not diminish the Word of God in order to cobble together alliances and associations.  Ministry was obeying the Word of God in, through, and for the church, enduring suffering with joy.  It’s God’s work and we keep it going by means of the guidelines He has given us in His Word.  Of course, to do that, we need to study to know it.  We won’t fulfill it if we don’t know what it says.

If someone asks you what you do, you could answer, “I fulfill the Word of God.  That’s my job description.”

  1. Frank
    January 22, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Good message but.. what suffering do we go through? What suffering do we endure? Do you really suffer for God in this nation? I hear these terms used often but see it very little. The young girl from Ohio should remind us that suffering exists but I think we should stop throwing these terms around so much. Our life is too easy to keep talking about how we should suffer for God.

    We all should fulfill our inistry and calling but should quit talking about how we need to suffer. I am gratefull that God has blessed me so much that I do not have to suffer. Christ suffered my sins for me.

  2. January 22, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Frank, the terms are in Scripture and were part of an exegesis of Colossians 1:24-25. I’m not saying I go through the same kind of suffering and affliction that Paul did, but we do go through affliction serving the Lord here in California. The book of 1 Peter says we will suffer. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:12 that all they who live godly will suffer persecution. He said they WILL SUFFER persecution if they live godly. What should we conclude from that about those who do not suffer? We must live by faith and make choices that might result in tangible loss—financial loss, loss of friendship, threats to our lives and freedom, ridicule, and more. These are types of suffering that I know people avoid and in so doing don’t do the work of the ministry.

    Thanks for commenting, Frank.

  3. J. Paul Hornick
    January 22, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Part of the suffering, indeed most of it in some places, will be in the form of slander and libel. Mr. Wesley said the thing that shocked him the most out of his suffering for Christ (which included being stoned and set on fire multiple times) was that it was said he dishonored Christ by claiming that He saves to the uttermost.

  4. March 2, 2010 at 11:35 am

    I was just reviewing this post, and felt an urge to reply to Frank here. Not that he is coming back to follow up on his comment. But I am often surprised and sorrowed by the way people misunderstand and disregard, sometimes even to the point of disrespecting the work of God’s pastors.

    Persecution is by no means the limit of the kind of suffering a man might face in the ministry. Who knows the anxious hours a pastor spends in prayer, struggling with a text, wrestling with a message, burdened for believers, bearing burdens, praying over his flock? Pastors often give the impression that preaching comes very naturally to them. This can be explained simply by the fact that this is something that they do often, so they have learned to deal with their struggles and not to put them out on display for everyone. But what layman knows or understands the way a pastor feels when he has poured out his heart and soul in preaching, and then feels his own insufficiencies in making God’s Word plain to the hearer. Certainly, we must rest on the Lord in our preaching. But we also struggle with doubts and disappointments. That is suffering. And a finer form of suffering we cannot find. We thank the Lord that He has given us this stewardship, even as we labor over it.

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