By P J. Casebolt
” We then, as workers together with him … Giving no offense in anything, that the ministry be not blamed” (2 Cor. 6:1-3).
We cannot deny the fact that the apostles played a special role in the ministry of the gospel, as “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:18-21). But as beneficiaries of this “ministry of reconciliation” and “the righteousness of God,” we all become workers together in the cause of Christ. There may be “diversities of gifts” and “differences of administration” (1 Cor. 12:4, 5), but we must all work together if this ministry is to succeed. And if it does not succeed and this ministry is blamed, we must all share in that blame just as we do in its success.
There are different kinds of ministering. When the Grecian widows “were neglected in the daily ministration,” that neglect was corrected, but the apostles emphasized that “the ministry of the word” was not to be neglected (Acts 6:1-4). And once this matter was resolved, even some of those selected to expedite this ministry of serving tables were later found concentrating their priorities in “the ministry of the word.” Stephen was not stoned for ministering to Grecian widows, but for preaching the word. Philip left Jerusalem, preached to the Samaritans, the Ethiopian eunuch, went on to Caesarea, and was living there as “Philip the evangelist” when Paul went through that town several years later (Acts 21:8).
The house of Stephanas was “addicted . . . to the minis-try of the saints” and Paul included them with “every one that helpeth with us, and laboreth” (1 Cor. 16:15,16). Those widows “taken into the number” were qualified in part be-cause of their work in ministering to the needs of others (1 Tim. 5:9, 10). The Hebrew writer assures us, “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb. 6:10).
We should not be surprised that in the early church so much emphasis was placed on ministering of all kinds. Jesus taught that when we minister to others, we minister unto him (Matt. 25:35-46). Jesus himself came for the purpose of ministering to others, and he always gave priority to the ministry of the word and spiritual matters, when a choice needed to be made between the material and the spiritual.
The builder and head of the church equipped it with workers. “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry (the work of ministering, ASV), for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11, 12).
In order that we “receive not the grace of God in vain” and “that the ministry be not blamed,” the apostle provides a lengthy but simple and practical list of things to be observed by those who are “workers together” in the work of ministering. Under adverse conditions, he includes such things as patience, afflictions, necessities, distresses, stripes, imprisonments, tumults, labours, watchings, and fastings (2 Cor. 6:4, 5).
The ministry will not be blamed if we observe the qualities of pureness, knowledge, longsuffering, kindness, the Holy Ghost, unfeigned love, truth, the power of God, and the armour of righteousness on every hand (vv. 6, 7).
We should be desirous of “giving no offense in any thing” even in what appears to be contradictory things, such as “by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (vv. 8-10).
Paul was always careful to remind brethren that the work of ministering was for the benefit of all, not just for the apostles, evangelists, or special groups or individuals in the church. Paul and those with him always set an example that was above reproach, and one that would further the cause of Christ. He tried constantly to convince the Corinthians that they should do what he exhorted them to do for their own good, not just for the good of the apostles and others who labored in the word and doctrine. Even on this occasion when he exhorted them to pursue a course whereby “the ministry be not blamed” he assured them, “Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels” (v. 12), and further exhorted them, “be ye also enlarged” (v. 13).
It is ironic that preachers will lead the church away from its primary, spiritual mission, then wonder why brethren take a purely secular view of the preacher and his work. If the church isn’t going to emphasize its identity as “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), then why does the church need preaching and preachers? If we are “workers together,” then we stand or fall together.
The Gentiles blasphemed the name of God because God’s own people brought reproach on that name. Let us make sure that we are “giving no offense in anything, that the ministry be not blamed.”
Guardian of Truth XLI: 5 p. 20
March 6, 1997