The Net Pastor's Journal, Eng Ed, Issue 7 Spring 2013
Spring 2013 Edition
Produced by ...
Dr. Roger Pascoe, President,
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
“Strengthening the Church in Biblical Preaching and Leadership”
Part I. Preaching: The Preparation Of The Preacher
“The Preacher and the Work of God”
By: Dr. Roger Pascoe, President
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
In order to have credibility and authority, church leaders must be godly men and women. Preachers in particular must be men of God in order to be biblically qualified to preach. What does it mean to be a “man or woman of God?” How do you prepare yourself to be a man of God?
I am indebted to my mentor, colleague in ministry, and friend, Dr. Stephen Olford for making today’s topic so real, vital, relevant, and powerful for me. This is an area in which he had a profound impact on my life. I am indebted to him for materials that I have gleaned from his writings, lectures, sermons, personal conversations, and his own example, which I have tried to inculcate into my own thoughts and practices, and some of which I have incorporated into this article today.
The very term “man of God” reminds us of our calling and responsibility and identity – we belong to God and serve Him. The man of God is prepared and equipped by and through the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17), which Scriptures we are called and equipped to proclaim. So, what are the qualities or characteristics of a man of God and how does a man of God prepare himself for the work of God? That’s what we want to try to answer in this article.
In 1 Timothy 4:16, the apostle Paul writes, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.” Notice that Paul stresses first the person (“Take heed to yourself) and then the message (“… and to the doctrine - i.e. the message).” He repeats that order again in 2 Timothy 2:15, first the person (“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God” ) and then the message (“Rightly dividing the word of truth”).
Thus, for Paul the order of preparation is: first, the preparation of the preacher, church leader; and second, the preparation of the message. Paul puts the preparation of the person before the preparation of the message because, as Dr. Stephen Olford puts it, “moral and spiritual rectitude is an indispensable preliminary to doctrinal orthodoxy.” (Stephen F. Olford, “Anointed Expository Preaching,” 53-54). So, before you can preach right doctrine you must first be right yourself.
To “be diligent” means to “do your utmost” – “do your utmost to present yourself to and before God as one who has been tested and found to be genuine” (2 Tim. 2:15). Paul was urging Timothy, as a young preacher and church leader, to use every effort (to be diligent, to take heed) to present himself to God like metal that has been tested and marked “approved.”
Clearly the diligence and effort demanded in this exhortation is necessary because this is not something that comes easily or naturally, nor can it be taken lightly (cf. 1 Pet. 1:7, where the same expression is used in connection with the genuineness of faith - “tested by fire”). Be diligent, just like a soldier, athlete, and farmer (2 Tim. 2:3-6), in the presentation of yourself before God “as one that is tried and true” (William D. Mounce, “Pastoral Epistles” in Word Biblical Commentary, 521).
The preacher and church leader must be first and foremost a “man of God” (1 Tim. 6:11). In the O.T. this term was used to describe those who held divine office. Moses (Deut. 33:1), David (2 Chron. 8:14), Elijah (2 Kgs. 1:9), and the prophets (1 Sam. 2:27) were “men of God.”
Personal preparation should be a daily discipline in the life of everyone who wants to be a man or woman of God, particularly preachers and church leaders, in order for them to be ready, equipped, and qualified for the work of God.
Personal preparation begins with a daily quiet time with God. You cannot maintain moral purity and power without a daily encounter with God - a daily quiet time for the preparation of your soul (cf. Isa. 50:4-9). Your devotional life is the true barometer of spiritual health and holiness. Your devotional life must be disciplined and daily. If we are disciplined and diligent about our spiritual lives, God will approve us as those who are “tried and true,” tested and approved.
This process of “presenting ourselves before God” as those who are “tried and true” involves the daily discipline of “personal preparation” for your own spirituality in the work of the ministry. This personal preparation covers four main areas:
1. Guarding your moral life
2. Directing your home life
3. Nourishing your inner life
4. Disciplining your ministry life
In this edition, we start to look at what it means to...
I. Guard Your Moral Life
The moral responsibility of a man or woman of God is clearly outlined by the apostle Paul...
1. We must flee from sinful traps. “Flee (shun) youthful lusts (passions); but follow after (pursue) righteousness” (2 Tim. 2:22).
2. We must follow after godly virtues. “Flee these things (i.e. liberalism [1 Tim. 6:3-5] and materialism [1 Tim. 6:6-10]) and follow after (pursue) righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11).
3. We must fight spiritual battles. “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12 ).
A GODLY LEADER MUST FLEE SINFUL TRAPS – they can destroy your ministry. Flee has the sense of “run for your life; don’t look back; escape at all costs” – like Lot’s wife was told to do to escape from Sodom. What are these sinful traps that we are to flee from?
First, we must flee from the trap of false passions (i.e. unlawful sex; sensualism; the sin of lust). 1 Cor. 6:18 states, “flee sexual immorality” and our verse in 2 Tim. 2:22 says, “flee also youthful lusts”
Sexual immorality is one of the sinful traps we must flee from. Illicit sex seems to be seducing so many men in ministry today. Now, even though Paul isn’t speaking specifically about sexual lust here, nonetheless it is certainly one of those temptations and snares that creeps in to the lives of so many men in ministry.
Someone may say: “Well, that was written to a young pastor. I can see how young pastors need to heed Paul’s advice. But I’m older. I’ve got more experience. My urges are under control. Young women aren’t chasing after me.” If that’s what you think, you’d better start fleeing the trap of false passions right now, because you’re in danger.
Despite the fact this was written to a young pastor, at no age are we free from sexual temptation. So, “keep on fleeing” and “make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts” (Rom. 13:14; cf. also 1 Jn. 2:15-17, Gal. 1:4). At no time in history has sexual lust been so pervasive among pastors and church leaders. The trap of false passions is more likely to derail your ministry now than at any other time in history. Never has sexual perversion been so rampant and readily accessible than now – particularly over the internet. It’s so insidious, because it is so secret, so ubiquitous, and so addictive.
So, how do we avoid this sinful trap of false passions? We can only properly deal with temptation in the power of the Spirit, by putting “to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13), by “putting off the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22), by keeping “the flesh crucified with its passions and desires” , and by keeping in step with the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:24).
First, then we must flee from the sinful trap of false passions. Second, we must flee from the trap of false teachings (i.e. unbalanced truth; liberalism; sin of pride). The apostle Paul warns us, that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). False teachers have always existed in the church. Their approach to influencing others is usually a battle of words, the propagation of a false and misleading message - rather than sound doctrine and the true gospel. If you give up “wholesome words” (sound doctrine; the true gospel), you leave yourself open to the trap of false teaching, theological liberalism. When spiritual lethargy sets in, subversive liberalism takes over. False teachers manifest themselves in four ways:
1) False teachers preach “another gospel,” a corrupted message. That’s what (in my opinion) open theism is - “another gospel - a gospel of a different kind” (Gal. 1:6,9). That’s what the “health and wealth” message is – “another gospel,” a corrupted message. We need to beware of liberalism, which creeps in so quietly and is seemingly so innocuous. Let’s make sure that the message we preach is pure, sound, clear, accurate, wholesome.
2) False teachers display an arrogant attitude, a conceited mindset. “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing” (1 Tim. 6:3-4).
The spirit of the age we live in always wants something new. Some new doctrine. Some new practice. Some new interpretation. Whenever we encounter some “new thing” (Acts 17:21), let’s beware! There is nothing new under the sun, especially in theological matters. These new things are often rooted in pride, a conceited mindset, an egotistical attitude – “he is proud, knowing nothing.” Beware of pride of position – whether it be a doctrinal position or practice.
3) False teachers adopt an antagonistic approach, a contentious manner. “They are obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth” (1 Tim. 6:4-5).
Notice that the motivation for their behaviour is a flawed moral character – envy and jealousy; strife and quarrelling; reviling and insults and malicious talk; evil suspicions; useless wrangling and arguments and constant friction. In addition, they have a flawed spiritual character - “men (or women) of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth” (5). A flawed moral character and a flawed spiritual character often go hand in hand.
4) False teachers desire material gain, a commercial motive. They are “men (or women) who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim. 6:5). Material gain (financial greed - cf. v. 10 re greediness) is the characteristic of false teachers who teach that “godliness is a means of gain.” They use the cloak of religion for personal gain (cf. Balaam; Judas). They “peddle the word of God” (2 Cor. 2:17) to make money. They treat ministry as a business. Financial greed is one of those subtle, sinful traps that grabs the heart of many men in ministry. They see the lifestyle of other people who have money and they desire it for themselves.
If you are in ministry for personal financial gain, you are not a man of God! Departure from the truth (1 Tim. 6:3-5) is often accompanied by the pursuit of materialism (1 Tim. 6:9-10), claiming that material possessions are the evidence of godliness, or that godliness is rewarded by material possessions, or that godliness is a means to material increase. This is a fraudulent message – “another gospel” that is foreign to the truth of Scripture.
The love of gain is a deadly vice which preachers must do everything to avoid. It can distort your thinking, priorities, and motives. Don’t let it be your goal or become an idol. Flee the pursuit of riches. Be content with what you have. You need to live and pay the bills, but don’t worship money. Depend on God to provide – He always does and in ways we cannot imagine.
So, flee from the trap of false passions and false teachings. And that brings us to the third trap. We must flee from the trap of false values (i.e. unbridled greed; materialism). False teaching and false values often go hand in hand, for one often leads to the other. Paul has just been speaking in 1 Tim. 6:3-5 about false teachers and now false values – namely, the desire to be rich and the love of money, which cause some men to “fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish and harmful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:9-10). And then the apostle Paul says, “But you, O man of God, flee these things” (1 Tim. 6:11). So, in context, Paul is speaking about fleeing from the trap of greed, specifically, material gain, although there are other forms of greed. Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and mammon (earthly riches)” (Matt. 6:24).
Greed is basic to human nature. After all, the fall that was motivated by greed, wasn’t it? – the greed for something that Adam and Eve perceived could give them something they thought they lacked. That’s what greed is – the desire for something more, because of dissatisfaction with what you now have.
The danger isn’t the possession of money itself – it’s the “love” of money. The love of money (1) prevented the rich young ruler from following Jesus – “he went away sorrowful for he had many possessions” (Mk. 10:17-22); (2) caused the rich farmer to deceive himself into thinking that all was well when he was actually on the brink of eternity (Lk. 16:16-21); and (3) motivated Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the Holy Spirit and cause great distress in the church (Acts 5:1-11).
The sinful trap of false values starts with wrong desires (“Those who desire…” [9a]), develops into wrong deeds (“…fall into temptation and a snare” [9b]), and ends in the wrong destination (“…fall into…many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” [9b]). Wealth can be a trap because it feeds the desires of the flesh; it brings power; it attracts status.
Conclusion: The most seductive and subtle traps that Satan sets for preachers and church leaders are:
1. The Moral Trap – unlawful sex; false passions, sensuality, moral recklessness
2. The Theological Trap – unbalanced truth; false teaching, liberalism, unorthodoxy
3. The Material Trap – unbridled greed; false values, materialism
A godly leader must flee sinful traps - they can destroy your ministry. Second, a godly leader must follow after godly virtues – they strengthen your ministry. This second aspect of personal preparation we will look into in our next edition of the Net Pastors Journal, which will be issued in the summer 2013.
I hope that this short discussion of what it means to be a godly man or woman, particularly as a preacher or church leader, has been helpful to you in pointing out some of those sinful traps which we must avoid in order to be personally prepared for the work of God.
In the next edition of the NET Pastors Journal, we will continue this study of the personal preparation of the preacher as we consider the godly virtues to be followed and the spiritual battles to be fought.
Part II. Leadership: Being A Godly Role Model
“Your Personal Holiness” (continued)
By: Dr. Roger Pascoe, President
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
In the last edition of the Net Pastors Journal, we looked at one aspect of personal holiness – purity in sexual conduct. In this edition, we are going to look at another aspect of personal holiness - PURITY IN ETHICAL CONDUCT.
Those of us in church leadership must maintain the highest standard of integrity in our “business” ethics. That means reporting your income accurately and fully on your income tax return. It means dealing fairly and honestly with those with whom you do business. It means acting uprightly before God in all our endeavours.
Purity in your business ethics means being wise stewards of all the resources God has given you, whether it be time or money or possessions. What you spend your money on says a lot about who you are. If you spend it frivolously, you are probably irresponsible. If you live within what you can afford, you are probably well-disciplined, responsible. One way of controlling your spending is to have a budget. No one builds a tower without first counting the cost (Lk. 14:28). A budget takes into account your income compared to your expenses. Itemize them carefully for each month of the year. Make allowances for unforeseen expenses. Include savings in your budget. And periodically analyze your spending - the amount and your spending habits.
When you know how much you spend and what you spend it on, it will help to relieve worry about money – whether you’ll have enough to last until next pay day. This does not preclude unexpected expenses from time to time, which are often the hardest to deal with when you are on a tight budget. But it gives you a framework to deal with them. Develop good spending habits – it will save you a lot of financial grief.
And be very careful with debt. You can’t help owing for electricity and other household expenses, but you can control credit cards and bank loans. If you use a credit card, make sure you pay off the balance every month when it is due. Don’t borrow what you cannot afford.
Plan for the future by investing a certain amount each pay day. The parable of the talents (Matt 25:15-28) speaks to that. Not being anxious about tomorrow has to do with lack of trust in God (Matt. 6:25), not with financial planning. Financial planning is biblical and responsible. Have a long range plan for your money. If you can, start to save for retirement when you are young. A little saved each pay day will compound into much at retirement age. This is good stewardship.
For retirement savings, get yourself a good financial planner, preferably a Christian who can identify with your ethics and goals, including charitable giving. Don’t try “get-rich-quick” schemes. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Investing is not the same as hoarding. Don’t be a miser. Be generous and sensitive to others in need. But there is a balance between hoarding and wild spending, between saving for the future and irresponsible spending.
Calculate how much life insurance you need. Talk to your financial planner or a trusted life insurance agent. Life insurance is responsible financial planning for your family. Provide for your family’s needs (1 Tim. 5:8). They come first in anyone’s priorities of spending. And give to the Lord cheerfully and regularly as you are able (cf. 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:5, 7). There may be times when you cannot give (e.g. if you are unemployed), but to the degree that you are able (by wise use of the resources God has given you) give to the Lord’s work, even if it is only a small amount.
Above all, trust God. He will provide for you just as he does for the birds and flowers. But it’s your responsibility to manage what he has given you and use it wisely.
Maintain the highest standard of integrity in your “work” ethic. The apostle Paul’s work ethic was intended to be an example for the Thessalonians to follow: “You yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labour and toil night and day…not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us” (2 Thess. 3:7-9).
So, don’t be lazy; be diligent in your work. Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’ll do it. Don’t make flippant commitments that you don’t follow through on – this is a matter credibility. And make sure you work hard, give a full day’s work for a day’s pay – this is a matter of integrity.
In your work ethic, display a Christ-like, biblical attitude: “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your master according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. And you masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.” (Eph. 6:5-9).
A Christ-like, biblical attitude is an attitude of respect - “with fear and trembling” (5b). This doesn’t mean that you literally cower in fear before your employer like a scared puppy in fright. Rather, it means that you honour and respect them; you revere them; you acknowledge that the source of their authority is God.
It’s an attitude of sincerity - “in singleness of heart” (5c). Be undivided in your loyalty; faithful to your employer. Let integrity ooze from you – uprightness, purity of motive.
It’s also an attitude of Christian service - “as you obey Christ” (5d). This is the perspective that makes such obedience possible. Your obedience to your earthly master is actually obedience to Christ. Your work becomes an opportunity to work for Christ. This is the fundamental motive for Christian obedience - to obey Christ. It has nothing to do with the personality of your boss, or the treatment he gives you. It has everything to do with serving Christ. Christians ought to be the most obedient, upright, respectful, loyal, and devoted employees because they work “as to Christ.”
This will make your testimony very believable and powerful. If your work ethic is different from others - if you speak, think, and act differently - you can have a powerful testimony. But if you always arrive at work late and leave early, do poor quality work, and take long lunch breaks, then your testimony won’t be believable.
If your employer is a Christian, don’t think that you are entitled to special treatment. Christian employers are entitled to even more respect and obedience because they are brothers in the Lord. Give of your absolute best no matter who your employer is and in so doing you glorify God. If you can’t tolerate your work, find something else, but don’t slack off. So long as you work there, keep on working “as to Christ,” be punctual, reliable, co-operative.
A Christian work ethic also means, don’t procrastinate – do the things you don’t like doing when they need to be done. Do your work gladly, willingly – not as one under compulsion, nor begrudgingly (1 Pet. 5:2). Do your work efficiently – make the best use of your time, set priorities, and say “no” to things that are not a good use of your time.
Part III. Church History: “The Deity Of Christ”
By: Dr. Michael Haykin
Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky
The Letter to Diognetus, which is easily overlooked among second-century Christian writings, has been well described as “the pearl of early Christian apologetics.” In essence, this anonymous work is the joyous expression in Pauline terms of a man who stands utterly amazed at the gracious revelation of God’s love in the death of his Son for sinners and who is seeking to persuade a Graeco-Roman pagan by the name of Diognetus to make a similar commitment to the Christian faith. From the elegant Greek of the treatise it is probably correct to observe that the author had had a classical education and “possessed considerable literary skill and style.” Though the historical and geographical context of the work and audience is not known, it should probably be dated in the latter half of the second century.
Markus Bockmuehl has rightly noted that the theological centre of the Letter to Diognetus is found in chapters 7–9, where, among other things, an answer is given to a question asked of the author by Diognetus, “Who is the God Christians believe in and worship?” The author formulates his answer to the question in terms of a high Christology. He begins by indicating that the Christian concept of God is not the product of human thought or philosophy.
[I]t is not an earthly discovery that has been passed on to them [i.e. Christians]. That which they think it worthwhile to guard so carefully is not a result of mortal thinking, nor is what has been entrusted to them a stewardship of merely human mysteries. On the contrary, the Almighty himself, the Creator of the universe and the invisible God, has from heaven planted the Truth, even the holy and incomprehensible Word, among men and fixed it firmly in their hearts.
Here the author unequivocally affirms that Christian truth is ultimately not a matter of human reason or religious speculation. Rather, it is rooted in God’s revelation of himself. Before he revealed himself to the world of paganism, God was unknown.
This revelation, the author of this treatise now maintains, was made through the incarnation of his Son. God has not, he writes,
sent to humanity some servant, angel or ruler… Rather, [he has sent] the very Designer and Maker of the universe, by whom he made the heavens and confined the seas within their bounds; …from whom the sun is assigned the limits of its daily course and whom the moon obeys when he bids her to shine by night, and whom the stars obey as they follow the course of the moon. He is the One by whom all things have been set in order, determined, and placed in subjection—both the heavens and things in the heavens, the earth and things on the earth, the sea and the things in the sea, fire, air, abyss, the things in the heights and those in the depths and the realm between. Such was the One God sent to them. …In gentleness and meekness he sent him, as a King sending his son who is a king. He sent him as God, he sent him as [man] to men, he sent him as Savior.
Christianity, then, is ultimately not a human attempt to find God, be it by philosophical speculation or religious ritual. Rather, it is founded on God’s revelation of himself, and that in a person, his Son. Although the personal name of the incarnate Son, Jesus, is not mentioned in this passage or even in the treatise as a whole, there is no doubt that this is the Person of whom the author here writes so eloquently.
Now, when many of the pagans in the Graeco-Roman world stood outside of their homes on a cloudless night and looked up to the heavens they believed that the stars they could see were none other than divine beings. The long description of the Son’s sovereignty over the entirety of creation clearly indicates that Christian theism does not believe in such a multiplicity of divine beings. Yet, it does believe in the deity of the Son. For the Son is depicted in terms that one can only regard as fully divine. He clearly does not belong to the order of creation. Who then is this One whom God has sent to reveal himself? Well, he is “a son.” He is sent by God “as God.” As L.B. Radford has commented: “He is God so truly that His coming can be described as the coming of God.”
For the author of this letter, Jesus Christ was a divine being. This was the central conviction of the Church in the years since the Apostolic era. And this was the conviction of the Church for it ultimately derived from the Church’s foundational text, the New Testament itself.
Part IV. Devotional Thoughts
“Confidence in Ministry” (2 Cor. 2:14-3:6)
By: Dr. Roger Pascoe, President
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
This passage captures the essence of ministry - on the one hand, our inadequacy and extreme weakness; on the other hand, our confidence in God. The point of this passage is that “God ministers through those whose confidence is in him.” Up to this point in the letter, Paul has recounted many difficulties in his ministry - his affliction in Asia, criticisms of his integrity, pain over the offender in Corinth. This could be construed as a depressing account of his ministry - but such is not the case. So, to assure his readers that this was not in fact the case, Paul begins an extended digression (2:14-7:3) in order (1) to describe how God has always carried on an effective ministry, despite the difficulties (. This could be construed as a depressing account of his ministry - but such is not the case. So, to assure his readers that this was not in fact the case, Paul begins an extended digression (2:14-7:3) in order (1) to describe how God has always carried on an effective ministry, despite the difficulties (2:14 -3:6 links with
The stress of those days did not prevent him from triumphantly proclaiming the gospel. Hence the outburst of praise to God through whom alone such victory always and in every place is possible. The theme of this epistle is the victory of God’s grace over and through human frailty, specifically our inadequacy for ministry. Despite difficulties, God ensures the effectiveness of His servants and prospers our spiritual tasks.
The first principle for ministry that we notice in this passage is that WE CAN BE CONFIDENT IN MINISTRY WHEN WE FOLLOW GOD’S DIRECTION (2:14-16a). We can be confident in ministry when we follow God’s direction because His leadership is always successful - “Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ” (14a). The imagery here is of the splendour of a victorious Roman military procession returning home from battle.
Effective ministry is following the Leader. Christ is our leader and He leads us in victory. We are His warriors and enjoy the fruits of His triumph. Those who follow Christ triumph over enemies and obstacles. Jesus Christ waged the greatest battle of all at the cross and His triumph facilitates our triumph – we share in it with Him.
The victory procession is only for those who follow Christ’s leadership. Paul remembers how unfailingly he has been led in a progress of triumph and how the savour of the knowledge of Christ has been manifested through him in every place.
Those who follow Christ triumph over enemies and obstacles. They triumph because they are “in Christ” (14a). The believer has no other standing before God. Through faith in Christ’s perfect work of atonement the Christian is justified and incorporated into Him – made one with Him. It is only “in Christ” that God triumphs over and through us. Through this vital union with Him we participate in His victorious leadership in ministry. “In Christ,” God displays us to the world as his captives, subdued by the power of mercy and grace.
So, we can be confident in ministry when we follow God’s direction because his leadership is always successful. And, we can be confident in ministry when we follow God’s direction because his word is always powerful (14b-16c). It’s powerful in “every place.” God works through us to spread the fragrance of Christ in “every place” (14b). Just as the Roman triumphal procession of Paul’s day released sweet odours from the burning of spices in the streets, so too, God through us diffuses the gospel “in every place”, like an all- pervading fragrance. Everywhere His servants preach His Word, the “knowledge” of Christ spreads. That Christ should be known is the great end of preaching, isn’t it?
Notice that this ministry is wholly of God. His leadership is always successful because he leads us in triumph. And, his word is always powerful as he releases the sweet fragrance of the knowledge of Christ “through us.”
God’s word is powerful in every place and it is powerful in every person. Notice first the direction of this fragrance – it’s “toward God (15a). An effective minister is one who emits a pleasing fragrance first to God. Then notice the description of this fragrance – it’s “the fragrance of Christ” (15a). Just as perfume on our person fills the environment around us (see Jn. 12:3), so our ministry must spread abroad the fragrance of Christ. It’s not the results of ministry but the minister that is important, as we discussed in Part I of this publication. If we emit the fragrance of Christ, that is well-pleasing to God, whatever its effect may be. Our task is to manifest Christ to everyone - both to “those who are being saved” and to “those who are perishing” (15b).
The response of those who hear is God’s business. Our business is to be “the fragrance of Christ” to every person. Just as the incense of the ancient military procession flowed over to both the conquerors (to whom it was a sweet scent of victory) and to the captives (to whom it was an omen of impending doom), so the gospel is preached by God’s servants (those who savour of Christ) both to those who will receive it and to those who will reject it.
To those who “are perishing” we are a “fragrance of death leading to death” (16a). Just as the processional incense was a bitter reminder of imminent death to the captive, so for those who refuse the gospel, its proclamation is a warning of eternal death. It becomes the occasion of condemnation through their own choice. Thus, to them the gospel is the source of death, an aroma that condemns, a noxious fume, a sentence of death (see 4:10-12). But, to those who “are being saved” we are a “fragrance of life leading to life” (16b). Just as the odour of processional incense is a sweet reminder of triumph for the victors, so for those who believe the gospel, it is the good news of eternal life (Jn. 3:36). To them, the gospel is the source of life – a life-giving “aroma” which becomes effective in the heart and conscience of the hearer, who by it receives new life. To them, the preacher brings the essence of life in Christ.
Our ministry is to preach the gospel of Christ. Either it will be accepted, in which case it is life-giving; or, it will be rejected, in which case it is death-dealing.
Remember God ministers through those whose confidence is in him. But, the prospect of ministry is daunting, isn’t it? That’s why Paul asks: “Who is sufficient for these things?” (16c). Who is equipped and competent? How can I be such a messenger? is Paul’s question. Where does my ability, my confidence come from? The answer is this: We can be confident in ministry when we follow God’s direction (2:14-16), and WE CAN BE CONFIDENT IN MINISTRY WHEN WE TRUST GOD’S PROVISION (2:17-3:6). We can be confident in ministry when we trust God’s provision because he provides the results to those who are authentic (2:17-3:4). False ministers trust their own ability. They think their sufficiency is in themselves, but they are frauds, deceivers, who go about “peddling the Word of God” (17a). They cheapen and degrade the message by watering it down, like a dishonest merchant who profits from selling shoddy goods. They seek only their own gain by peddling their religious wares, making merchandise of the ministry for personal gain. They masquerade under the name and pretence of Christianity but their intentions are otherwise. They are unscrupulous, with no regard for what is at stake. They take advantage of the weak, the poor and the gullible. They are only interested in making a “sale” not in a soul. They are wholly unconscious of any insufficiency for the task. Ministry for them is a business.
False ministers trust their own ability, but authentic ministers trust God’s sufficiency. They serve “sincerely” despite their own failings and inadequacies. They serve with pure motives, without mixing in false philosophies. Their word can be trusted. They model the truth. They don’t corrupt the truth while making it look as though they are honest and genuine. They are “from God” - i.e. “commissioned by God” (17b). They speak as those whose authority is “from God” and they carry out their ministry “in the sight of God” – i.e. conscious of His inspection, in full view, humbly, self-sacrificially, not for personal gain but for spiritual conversions. Their ministry stands up under scrutiny. Their motives are pure as those who must finally render an account of themselves to God. Their ministry is “in Christ” - in communion with Christ as a member of His body, activated by His Spirit, for that is who is “sufficient for these things.” One with pure motives, faithful, qualified for the responsibility. One who doesn’t corrupt the Word nor uses it as a means for personal gain.
To genuine ministers of the gospel, God gives genuine results in their ministry (3:1-4) - not material gain, but spiritual conversions; not religious converts through following the law (3b), but “epistles of Christ” (3a) – i.e. those whose lives testify to the sincerity of the minister and the work of God through his Spirit.
We can be confident in ministry when we trust God’s provision, because he provides the results to those who are authentic, and we can be confident in ministry when we trust God’s provision because he provides the resources to those who feel inadequate (3:4-6). Paul had every reason for self-confidence (1-3). The Corinthian believers were his credentials. They were an epistle of Christ written with the Spirit of the living God. But in fact, his confidence was not in himself. His confidence was “through Christ toward God” (4). His confidence was that God had called him to be an able, fit, minister of the gospel. His confidence was directed not to self but “toward God,” a confidence that can endure God’s inspection.
Those who are sufficient for ministry feel totally inadequate. They “do not think anything of themselves” (5a). Confidence in self is characterized by pride, arrogance, indifference, contempt, but confidence in God is characterized by meekness, longsuffering, humility. Paul was not the source of his own sufficiency, ability, or adequacy. He did not have an inflated opinion of himself. In fact, he felt empty and powerless – fully aware of his own frailty and finitude. That’s why he asks “Who is sufficient for these things?” Now he answers. Those who are sufficient for ministry know that their “sufficiency is from God” (5b). God alone makes his servants competent to carry out the tasks assigned to them. Our fitness for ministry is from God (whether it be knowledge, godliness, or giftedness). It is neither self-acquired nor self-sustained. God is self-sufficient, we are dependent. “I am nothing” but, “God in me is everything” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:10).
God renders us sufficient for ministry. He calls us and equips us as “ministers” (6a), a position for which he makes us able, fit, and qualified. This is the root of our sufficiency - God himself. He calls us as ministers of the “new covenant” (6b). Not in the sense of a renovated Judaism, but a new chapter in God’s dealing with mankind. He has called us as ministers of the “Spirit” (6c), not ministers of the “letter” (the Law). “For the letter kills” (the law never was intended to give life but to show us our sinfulness and guilt before God, to drive us to safety in Christ) “but the Spirit (of God) gives life” (6c) to those who are washed and regenerated, who are saved by His precious blood.
Remember: God ministers through those whose confidence is in him. Our confidence in ministry comes from God, because his leadership is always successful and his word is always powerful. So long as we follow Him, his Word, his Spirit, his gifting, his direction, we can have great confidence in ministry because he provides the result to those who are authentic and he provides the ability to those who feel inadequate. In myself I am nothing, but through Christ “I can do all things” (Phil. 4:13). Fancy formulas aren’t the answer, glitzy productions don’t work, innovative presentations don’t impress anybody. The only effective ministry is that which is done through the power of the Holy Spirit - “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord” (Zech. 4:6).
Where is your confidence for ministry? Is it in yourself? Your abilities? Your program? Your financial resources? Your fancy church building? Or is it in God alone?
From the time that God arrested Paul on the Damascus road, saved him, imparted to him the Holy Spirit, called him to be an apostle, and set him apart for ministry as “a chosen vessel”, Paul never had any doubt about where his confidence, strength, and success in ministry came from. That God should have placed His hand upon him and commissioned him in this unique way never ceased to be a source of wonder and gratitude to the Apostle (1 Tim. 1:12).
Do you diffuse the sweet fragrance of Christ? In your ministry, do you affect everyone around you with the gospel, which to some will be the fragrance of life and to others the fragrance of death? Does the sweetness of Christ pervade your person, your attitudes, relationships, decisions, actions, and words?
Part V. Sermon Outlines
By: Dr. Roger Pascoe, President
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
In the last edition of the Net Pastors Journal I began to publish the next series in John’s gospel called, “Jesus’ Seven Significant Dialogues.” Last time I published the sermon outline for John 3:1-8, being part 1 of Jesus’ significant dialogue with Nicodemus. In this edition I will complete part 2 of Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus.
John 3:9-21, Jesus’ Dialogue with Nicodemus (Part 2)
Subject: Entering the kingdom of God
Point #1: Where does this concept of new birth come from? (9)
1. The concept of new birth is divine revelation (10)
2. Divine revelation has been rejected (11-12)
3. Divine revelation comes only from God (13)
Point #2: How is new birth possible? (14-21)
1. New birth possible because Christ was lifted up to die (14-15)
a) He was lifted up to die as a sacrifice for sins (14)
b) He was lifted up to die as the object of faith (15)
2. New birth is possible because God loved the world (16)
3. New birth is possible because God sent his Son (17-21)
a) He sent his Son to save us from condemnation (17-18)
b) He sent his Son to bring light into our darkness (19-21)
Related Topics: Pastors