The Net Pastor's Journal, Eng Ed, Issue 9 Fall 2013
Fall 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” Pt. 3
By: Dr. Roger Pascoe
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
In the Spring and Summer 2013 editions of this Pastors Journal (published on this website), we discussed the spiritual and personal preparation of the preacher. We are continuing that subject again in this edition. What we are learning is that before you can preach the Word with power, accuracy, and credibility, you need to be spiritually and personally qualified to do so. The person who is qualified to preach the Word is called a “man of God” by the apostle Paul.
We also noticed that, in order to be qualified for the privilege of serving the Lord in ministry, the four main areas that we need to give priority to are: (1) guarding your moral life; (2) directing your home life; (3) nourishing your inner life; and (4) disciplining your ministry life. Last time we completed our discussion of “Guarding Your Moral Life”. In this edition we are going to look at the other three aspects of being a man of God.
Directing Your Home Life (1 Tim. 3:5)
A man’s true character, values, and lifestyle are shown at home. That’s where he is truly himself. John MacArthur says: “Since the pastor is to be a leader of the Lord’s church and a loving parent to the family of God, what better way can he qualify than by proving his spiritual leadership in his own family?” 1 If a man cannot relate well and properly to his wife and children, and if he cannot “rule” his household well, how can he lead the church? (1 Tim. 3:5). Godly leadership in the home is a pre-requisite for leadership in the church. The same sacrificial, servant leadership you would expect from someone leading the church must be evident at home.
Therefore, your family life must be characterized by balance, happiness, submission to the Word, discipline, obedience, love, spontaneity, service, sacrifice for others, mutual respect etc. So, devote adequate and meaningful time and attention to your spouse and family and take responsibility for the spiritual tone and direction in your home by setting the example of spirituality. You are responsible to set the spiritual priority and focus of your home. Since you preach and counsel the priority of the Scriptures and obedience to God in your ministry life, make sure you are an example of that in your family life.
If you do not set the example for, and command the respect of, your spouse and children at home, how can you do so in the church, or mission agency, or para-church ministry?
So let me encourage you to set aside adequate and appropriate time for your spouse and your children. Don’t put them in second place to your ministry or the church. You would probably criticize someone else in your congregation for doing that, so don’t do it yourself. Show your family that you are prepared to set aside other pressing matters because you value them highly. Be accessible to them, be available to them in your presence, your mind, and your emotions.
Take responsibility for the spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental well-being of everyone in your home. If you don’t take this responsibility at home, how can you do it in your ministry with any degree of credibility or success?
So men of God must be loving and faithful husbands and fathers.
1. Be A Loving And Faithful Husband (1 Tim. 3:2; cf. Eph. 5:22-33)
I would encourage you to let your wife develop and establish her own identity, exercise her own gifts, rather than deriving her identity from you and your vocation as a pastor. Nonetheless, she needs to be supportive of you in your role as a pastor and her life must enhance what you do, not detract from it.
There are so many sources of stress for pastors’ wives:
- They sometimes feel like they take second place to their husband’s ministry demands, and this may lead to resentment.
- They may feel isolated, with no close friends in the church, which can lead to loneliness.
- They may see their husbands receiving attention from other women in the church, which may lead to jealousy and suspicion.
- They often feel pressure to appear perfect, which leads to them trying to keep up a false appearance, attempting to please everybody.
- They live in a spiritual “fishbowl” at church, which can lead to spiritual fatigue.
- Sometimes pastors do not earn much money, which can cause their wives to resent the financial pressures.
- Sometimes, there is a breakdown of intimacy and togetherness in the marriage as well as lack of mutual support due to the demands of ministry, which can lead to coldness, anger, anxiety, depression, and sexual withdrawal.
All of these sources of stress can lead to marital difficulties. So let’s be loving, sensitive, supportive, and faithful to our wives.
2. Be A Loving And Faithful Father (1 Tim. 3:4; Eph. 6:4)
Be kind and gentle to your children (cf. 1 Thess. 2:7, 11). By your relationship with their mother and your Christian testimony show your children what it is to be a godly, consistent Christian. If you expect to be used by God to be the spiritual leader of the church, start by being the spiritual leader of your children.
Remember to never use your children as illustrations from the pulpit, not even if they agree to it. Children tend to easily agree to such things but when they are publicly spotlighted they may secretly resent it.
Don’t neglect spending time with your children. There is no such thing as “quality” time that somehow makes up for lack of “quantity” of time. What your children need is your time and attention.
Your family is of paramount importance. It’s a responsibility you are charged with when you have children. You can’t get out of it. So step up and take that responsibility as a godly leader.
Don’t ever let your children feel that they take second place - not even to ministry – or they will quickly resent it. If ministry and family responsibilities are in conflict on a regular basis, simply adjust your ministry schedule.
Give your children space as they grow up to become the individuals God has created them to be. Often, children raised in pastors’ homes feel pressured to be perfect. If your wife feels like she is living in a fishbowl, how much more do your children! So, let’s not add to that pressure by making them conform to other people’s expectations. We can help them deal with that by maintaining privacy in our homes and by helping them live as normal a childhood as possible.
Finally, let’s protect them from becoming cynical by not discussing church problems in front of our children.
Nourishing Your Inner Life
In ministry you expend a tremendous amount of emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical energy. Not only does ministry make its demands on the total personality, but it easily becomes all-absorbing. Before you know it, you have no life or interests outside your ministry. For this reason, you must discipline yourself to take care of your personal well-being, to set aside time for:
1. Spiritual Restoration
If you are a local church pastor, you are giving out to your congregation all the time – encouraging, exhorting, warning, counselling, preaching, teaching. If you do this long enough without being fed spiritually yourself, you will eventually run dry. On one occasion Jesus told his disciples to come apart into a desert place for a period of rest.
You need to be fed spiritually. How can you do this? One way is to have someone else minister to you. Listen to other preachers, read devotional books, attend conferences, or invite guest preachers on a regular basis to preach for you - it’s good for the church and for you. Whatever way you decide to receive spiritual restoration, discipline yourself to engage in it regularly so that your spiritual batteries don’t run down.
2. Mental Rejuvenation
A healthy mental life requires mental relaxation as well as stimulation. Mental relaxation may take different forms such as regular vacations, walks with your spouse, an evening of good fellowship with friends with whom you can relax and be yourself. And don’t forget to schedule time to be alone – solitude is good, especially for mental relaxation.
The opposite is also needed - mental stimulation. The apostle Paul wrote: “Whatever things are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8). “These things” stimulate your mind with good thoughts and challenging subjects that will edify you.
Don’t become lazy or defiled in your thinking. You can keep your mind alert and stimulated by:
- Reading good books on a variety of subjects
- Associating with like-minded people with intellectual ability and spiritual maturity, who can engage in stimulating conversations about topics that have substance
- Listening to good music that can minister to you
- Listening to or reading good sermons
- Continuously upgrading your professional skills by attending seminars and courses – particularly those on preaching and church leadership
3. Physical Recreation
In 1 Timothy 4:8, the apostle says: “Bodily exercise profits a little” – i.e. it is of some value. Every pastor needs to take time out for manual and physical recreation to compensate for the mental and spiritual demands of preaching. Make no mistake about it, preaching and pastoral ministry are hard work. Spending all day in meetings, counselling, administration, and study means that you must schedule time to do something active.
Physical activity is good not only for your body but also for your mind. Looking after our bodies is a stewardship that is just as important as the stewardship of our money, time, and spiritual gifts. Paul taught that the body is to be dedicated (Rom. 12:1); preserved (1 Thess. 5:23), exercised (1 Tim. 4:8), and disciplined (1 Cor. 9:24-27). And remember, “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Therefore, we must take care how we use it. We must keep it pure for the glory of God. We must maintain its health. And we must “glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20).
Part of the process of taking care of our body is engaging in some form of physical exercise in order to keep it fit and healthy. Try to discipline yourself to do this. As you get older you will be glad you did.
4. Emotional Recuperation
Pastors are very visible and audible – everyone sees what we do and hears what we say. Some things we say and do will generate:
- Criticism from those whose consciences react to what we say
- Conflict and perhaps condemnation from those who disagree with us
- Concern for those whom we care for physically, emotionally, and spiritually
Conflict and criticism take a great toll on us emotionally. Therefore, from time to time we need to recuperate emotionally. How can we do that? Some suggestions are:
- Enjoy fellowship with friends who encourage you and help you to laugh
- Meet with other pastors who can give you counsel on how to deal with difficult situations
- Read books on pastoral ministry – you’ll find that you are not alone; even the prominent preachers suffer from conflict and criticism
Disciplining Your Ministry Life (2 Tim. 2:1–6, 15)
A godly leader / preacher has the solemn responsibility to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15)
This standard for biblical preaching is described earlier in the chapter through three word pictures of disciplined endeavour - the daily discipline and commitment of a soldier, an athlete, a farmer (2 Tim. 2:1-6). The pictures that are drawn in these verses depict discipline, duty, and devotion, which, when displayed, bring reward.
1. Godly Leaders Must Have The “Singular Focus” Of A Soldier (2:3-4)
Firstly, the singular focus of a soldier is to always be willing and ready to suffer (2:3) – to “endure hardship.” Suffering is to be expected in ministry because of spiritual warfare (cf. Eph. 6:1-20) and ill treatment.
Secondly, the singular focus of a soldier is always to be willing and ready to sacrifice (2:4a). You cannot be preoccupied with the “affairs of this life” in order to be always on duty and available. This is a call to sacrifice – to disentangle yourself from any other duties that would distract you from your main task. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the “affairs of this life,” but if they have the tendency to entangle us, they must be cast aside. Anything that would rob us of the necessary time with God (in prayer and the Word) and time for God must be sacrificed.
Thirdly, the singular focus of a soldier is to always be willing and ready for service (2:4b) - “to please him who has enlisted (you) to be a soldier.” As soldiers of Jesus Christ, we must be ready to serve the One who has enlisted us in his service. We are always on duty.
A genuine soldier is marked by wholehearted devotion to duty, complete commitment, nothing held back. A soldier’s reward is the approbation of his superior officer. That’s what we work for – the Lord’s approval.
2. Godly Leaders Must Have The “Strenuous Effort” Of An Athlete (2:5)
An athlete displays strenuous effort in training and competing. In order to win an athlete must strive toward three objectives:
- Strive for excellence. This involves exertion, exercise, effort, training, diligence, commitment, competition, doing it well. Preachers need to do their task with excellence and diligence.
- Strive lawfully. This refers to obeying the rules, honesty. Knowing the rules and following them, even when no one is looking. Preachers must have such integrity.
- Strive to win. The reward is to be crowned, to be victorious, seeking only the Lord’s approval. The preacher’s reward is the Lord’s approbation now and his crown then. An athlete must have wholehearted discipline in order to compete and win lawfully. And the reward is to be “crowned” the victor.
3. Godly Leaders Must Have The “Steady Perseverance” Of A Farmer (2:6)
The farmer labours long and hard without any sign or assurance of success. This takes great self-discipline, steadfastness. After preparing the soil and planting the seed, then he must wait for the crop. This takes trust – trust in God, for only God can make a seed grow and produce a harvest. Farmers need wholehearted labour and dependence.
Godly preachers can prepare the best of sermons and Bible lessons and deliver them with great fervour but the results belong to God to bring to life those who were dead (Eph. 2:1).
Only through hard work, wholehearted commitment, and self-discipline can we present ourselves “approved to God” workers who do “not need to be ashamed” (2:15). It is so easy in ministry to become lazy, lose commitment, and become discouraged.
Let’s discipline ourselves to put in the time and the energy necessary to get the job done well. Let’s conduct ourselves so that people see that we are committed to our Christian testimony and ministry. Don’t be half-hearted about your Christian life or satisfied with mediocrity in your ministry. Preaching and church leadership are hard work! All that we do must be done for God’s glory and that means we do it with all our might and with excellence.
At a personal level, the measure of Christian ministry for the man of God means on the one hand, being diligent to present yourself approved to God, and on the other hand, being a workman who does not need to be ashamed.
At a practical level, the measure of Christian ministry for the man of God means accurate, appropriate, and authoritative preaching and teaching – rightly dividing the word of truth.
Part II. Leadership: Being A Godly Role Model
“Your Personal Holiness”
By: Dr. Roger Pascoe
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
We continue the topic of personal holiness from our last edition of the NET Pastors Journal. Last time we discussed purity in our social lives. In this edition, we are going to look at purity in our thoughts, motives, and words.
Purity In Thought (2 Cor. 10:5)
Our thoughts can be so subtle and sinful, can’t they? Sometimes you wonder where certain thoughts come from. Undoubtedly they spring from our sinful nature, prompted by Satan and the temptations he puts in our way.
To maintain purity in our thoughts we must be careful what we think about. We need to discipline our minds in order to control the thoughts that we entertain. When our thoughts are uncontrolled, fantasies can so easily take over. And fantasies that are uncontrolled tend to become reality. The Bible says, “As a man thinks, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Our thoughts shape our character and our behaviour. Every action or habit begins with a thought.
So, let’s be careful what we think about. If you find yourself thinking unhealthy or sinful thoughts, pray for God to banish them from your mind. It works! God delivers us from evil, for the power of God is greater than Satan or any earthly temptation.
Our thoughts are often generated by things we have read or seen. So be careful what you look at, because what you look at enters your heart and impacts your desires. “When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is full-grown, it brings forth death” (James 1:15). That’s the pattern if our thoughts go unchecked.
Probably what goes on in the mind is the most dangerous of all (more so than even outward actions) because nobody can see your thoughts. No one can hold you accountable for what you are thinking because they don’t know. But remember what Jesus said: “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man” (Matt. 15:18-20). What goes into your mind will come out – whether good thoughts or bad. And those thoughts will form the basis of who you are and what you do.
Purity In Motive
Impure motives are when we do the right things for the wrong reasons - doing something to achieve a desired result but for the wrong reason. So, let’s ask ourselves: Why do we do ministry? What is our motivation? We must do the right things and for the right reasons.
In Rev. 2:2-3 the church at Ephesus did the right things but with an impure motive - namely, they were not doing it out of love for Christ. The warning is that if they would not repent of their impure motives, God would remove their lamp-stand (their public testimony as a church). What do we do ministry for? What are we living for?
Do we do ministry for our own self-glory like those who “commend themselves,” who, measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12)?
Are we living for our own personal gain, like those who “suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim. 6:5)?
Are we seeking our own self-promotion? Jesus said “I am among you as one who serves” (Lk. 22:27). Paul said that he had “served the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials” (Acts 20:19).
In his book, “Shepherding the Church,” Joe Stowell writes: “Those who serve for His glory and His gain find their greatest joy not in the affirmation that may come at the door after the sermon, but in a life that, over time, is functionally changed through the ministry of proclamation. In a life that now brings more glory to God than in days gone by. In a life that gives credit to God – not us – for what God has done in their lives through us.” 2 Yes!
Pure motives cause us to serve for Christ’s glory and the benefit of his kingdom. Paul’s motive for ministry was that “Christ be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die gain” (Phil. 1:20). Paul said, “I am the last of the apostles and do not deserve to be called an apostle” (1 Cor. 15:9). John the Baptist’s motive was that Jesus Christ “must increase but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30).
Let’s check our own hearts for what our motives are as leaders of God’s people.
Purity In Word (1 Tim. 4:12; Tit. 2:7)
Our speech is an area that can be the most dangerous and the one most easily slipped up on. What we say (the words and phrases we use) and how we say it (body language, tone of voice) can either empower our leadership role or immobilize it. You can give totally different meaning to the words you use just through emphasis on different words or body language.
We need to be careful about our choice of words. I’m noticing more and more inappropriate secular words and expressions coming from Christians (and preachers), that once would never have been used by believers. I have heard pastors and Christian leaders say things that make me cringe. Sometimes they use expressions that are common in our society but which ought not to be part of our communication. I hear leaders in the church using slang words all the time that are derivatives from curse words (and I don’t think they even know it).
Words slip out so easily and they cannot be retracted. When they come out, they are like water spilled on the ground – it can’t be gathered back up (2 Sam. 14:14). When the wrong words are said, it’s too late, the damage is done.
Words are the stock-in-trade for Christian leaders. Our craft revolves around the use of words. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to be experts in their use – not only in the pulpit but in all our interactions. We are to be wordsmiths, carefully choosing the words we use so that they accurately convey what we want to say.
But accuracy and truthfulness are not sufficient. “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6). “Speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). “Be slow to speak and swift to hear” (James 1:19).
So, try to avoid vernacular or slang – it will get you into trouble. Don’t use harsh or coarse words (Eph. 5:4) – it’s not Christ-like. Try not to use words with double meanings. Wherever possible, be conscious to use polite, positive, constructive, well-chosen words.
Beware of gossip, slander, lying, deceit, inferences, innuendos, seduction, murmuring, complaining, boasting, exaggeration. They all stem from the wrong use or application of words (cf. Eph. 4:25, 29, 31; 5:4; Col. 3:8-9; 4:6; Matt. 15:11, 17-20). Stay away from words that can have impure connotations.
Let us use “sound speech”(Tit. 2:8) that is a testimony to others of the “gracious words” that proceeded out to the Lord’s mouth, of the purity of speech that we want others to adopt, and of the kind of words that point others to Christ.
Teachers used to say to us: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me” - not true! Words spoken in anger, jest, teasing, criticism can hurt a lot longer than physical hurts and cause untold hurt in Christian relationships. The words we use are important, so choose them carefully.
Part III. Devotional Thoughts
“The Ministry of Earthen Vessels, Pt. 2: The Motivation for Ministry” (2 Cor. 4:16-5:9)
By: Dr. Roger Pascoe
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
In the Summer edition of this journal, we began studying the subject of “The Ministry of Earthen Vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7-5:21). We looked at 2 Corinthians 4:7-16, which deals with the topic of “The Nature of Ministry.” Now we continue with the next section, 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:8, which deals with the topic of “The Motivation for Ministry.” The apostle points out three motivations for ministry: (1) the motivation of future transformation (4:15-5:8); (2) the motivation of accountability to God (5:10-13); and (3) the motivation of Christ’s love (5:14-17). In this edition of this Pastors Journal, we will cover only The Motivation Of Future Transformation (4:16-5:9).
The apostle develops this subject of the ministry of earthen vessels around four paradoxes of ministry. Last time we noticed the first paradox of ministry: the weak messenger vs. the powerful message. Now, in connection with the motivation for ministry (specifically, the motivation of future transformation) we have the next three paradoxes.
The second paradox of ministry is: outward decay vs. inward renewal (4:16-17). For the Christian the paradox is that “Even though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is being renewed day by day” (16b). There is a difference between the outward and the inward – the outward is decaying and the inward is being renewed. On the one hand, we suffer from the progressive decay of our physical being. Our “outward man” (i.e. what is visible - our physical body and faculties) is “decaying” (i.e. steadily and irreversibly heading toward death). On the other hand, our inner being is progressively being renewed in God’s image. Our “inward man” (i.e. what is invisible - our new life in Christ, our spiritual being, our Christ-likeness) “is being renewed day by day” (i.e. being sanctified, transformed into Christ’s image).
The reality for the non-Christian is petrifying. They experience only outward decay without any inner renewal, because they have no spiritual life. “For” introduces the explanation of this paradox of outward decay vs. inner renewal “our light affliction which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (17). Note the contrasting elements of the Christian paradox:
- Present suffering for Jesus’ sake = light and momentary troubles
- Future glory in Jesus’ presence = an eternal glory that far outweighs all our present suffering or troubles
Paul is not teaching that physical suffering is rewarded with spiritual merit. He is not endorsing asceticism. Rather, Paul is still dealing with the issue of how the glory and power of God are displayed in earthen vessels (7); the issue of spiritually (and perhaps physically) dying with Jesus (10a); the issue of the life of Jesus manifested in us (10b); the issue of being delivered to death for Jesus’ sake that the life of Jesus may be manifested in us (11).
“Paul’s theme throughout this epistle is that the frailty of the human frame and the affliction which it sustains in the cause of the gospel magnify, by reason of the astonishing contrast, and provide the opportunity for experiencing, the all-transcending glory and power and grace of Almighty God.” 3 No matter how severe our physical suffering may be “for Jesus’ sake” (i.e. suffering that is endured and incurred for Jesus’ sake in the cause of the gospel), it is “light” and “momentary” compared to the “eternal glory” which is reserved for us in heaven.
The third paradox of ministry in this passage is: the visible vs. the invisible (4:18). The eye of faith is not preoccupied with what is seen but with what is not seen. “We do not look at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen.” We do not focus on our human weakness, suffering, dying (i.e. the decay of our outward, physical existence), and difficult circumstances, but rather, we look at “the things which are not seen.” The non-Christian is focused on the physical, the outward, and the present (treasures on earth, perishable things), but the Christian is focused on the spiritual, the inward, and the eternal. We are focused on spiritual realities (e.g. truth, life in Christ). We are focused on inner power, the renewal of the Holy Spirit. We are focused on eternal glory – a future, heavenly perspective, when we will be fully and finally like Christ. We are pressing forward not looking back (Phil. 3:14). We endure the present in the assurance of the future. We know that the transient will give place to the permanent. We look for the temporal afflictions to be replaced by eternal glory.
The fourth paradox of ministry is: our earthly tent vs. our heavenly building (5:1-8). The explanation for the previous paradox now follows: “For we know…” The basis of our perspective on present suffering and decay is our knowledge of future glorification, the redemption of our bodies as well as our souls, the certain hope of glory. The only uncertainty is whether we will die before Jesus comes – “…if our earthly house, this tent (lit. our tent-dwelling on earth) is destroyed…” (5:1).
The body in which we now live is temporary and transient, not our permanent dwelling place. But even if it is destroyed in death, “…we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” The imagery of a “tent” vs. a “building” is an allusion to the Israelites’ tabernacle in the wilderness vs. the permanent temple in Jerusalem (cf. Heb. 11:8ff.). Like them in the wilderness, we are pilgrims and strangers on the earth, just passing through - our citizenship is in heaven. And when we get to heaven, we will have bodies suited to that heavenly existence - “not made with hands” (not this-world, earth-bound creations), not temporary, not subject to decay, not affected by sin, but permanent, eternal, glorified, resurrection bodies like Christ’s glorious body (Phil. 3:21).
“For” (explanation of v. 1) “in this (body) we groan (cf. Rom. 8:23) earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven...” (2). In our present earthly tent-dwelling we groan (because it is subject to decay, suffering, pain). That’s why we long for our glorified bodies (our habitation which is from heaven), which are viewed as being put on like clothes over our earthly bodies (cf. 1 Cor. 15:53) so that there is both continuity and transformation – our earthly bodies will be covered and changed by our glorified bodies. What we really long for is the possibility (“...if indeed”, v. 3) of receiving our glorified bodies without dying (“...having been clothed”) - to be alive at Christ’s coming so that, “having already been clothed” with our glorified bodies, “we shall not be found naked” (3). The hope expressed here is that we shall not be stripped of our bodies at death, that we never experience a disembodied state at all, that we do not die before we receive our glorified bodies, “clothed with our habitation (dwelling) which is from heaven” (2b).
“For” (further explanation) we who are in this tent (this temporary, decaying physical existence) groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but (because we want to be) further clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life” (4). We groan because of the burden of our present bodies, not because we want to die (i.e. be unclothed and our bodies go back to dust) but because we want to be further clothed by our glorified bodies (bodies suited to glory), so that our mortal bodies (our present, decaying bodies) may be swallowed up by (taken over by, absorbed in, clothed with) eternal life at Christ’s return, so that we never die and experience corruption.
This is what will happen to those who are alive at Christ’s coming. We will not be “unclothed” (naked, disembodied) but “further clothed” by putting on our glorified bodies over our mortal bodies. When that happens, our mortal, earth-bound bodies will be instantly absorbed by and transformed into our glorified state, so that our mortal flesh (our living, earthly but mortal bodies) will be “swallowed up” (disappear inside, absorbed, integrated into, digested) “by (what will be really) life.”
So, the imagery in 5:1-4 is that our mortal bodies are like a garment that covers the soul, which at death becomes naked because it will be separated from the body. On the other hand, our immortal bodies are likened at Christ’s coming to a garment that re-clothes (or covers) our souls, or, for those who are alive at that time, “further clothes” us - i.e. is put on over top of our mortal bodies.
“Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God” (5a). God himself has fashioned us for the reception (clothing) of our glorified bodies. This final transformation into our glorified state is entirely and solely the work of God. This gives us assurance because it is not dependent on us but God and thus it will surely come to pass. What God has begun, He will complete (Phil. 1:6), for He “…also has given us His Spirit as a guarantee” (5b). Not only do we have the apostle’s instruction on this future certainty that God will accomplish our final transformation, but right now we have the internal deposit (the down payment) of the Spirit as the guarantee that God will surely do it (cf. Eph. 1:14; cf. Rom. 8:11ff.). The Holy Spirit constantly and continuously reassures us that the power that raised Christ from the dead will raise us up in glory (Eph. 1:9-20).
What confidence and motivation this gives us, particularly in suffering and old age! Our outward bodies are decaying, we suffer from our mortality, but more specifically for Jesus’ sake. But all that is lost in the assurance and hope of our future transformation into Christ’s likeness, for it does not compare to the glory which shall be. “So” (as a result of this assurance that God will do it and has given us his Spirit as our guarantee), “we are always confident…” (6a) – our confidence in God’s fulfillment of our transformation is unshakeable and constant – “...knowing that (confidence is based on knowledge) while we are at home in the body…” (living in this earthly tent) “…we are absent from the (presence of the) Lord. For (because) we walk by faith, not by sight (cf. Heb. 11:1). We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body (i.e. to die) and to be present with the Lord” (6b-8) – i.e. when sight will replace faith. Though death is our final enemy, it does not cause us to fear. Rather, we are full of confidence and motivation.
God is in control both in life and in death. The Spirit of God gives us inner assurance that God will complete our transformation. Our temporal life is our constant reminder that we are not yet in the presence of the Lord – indeed, in this state we live by faith not sight. Our desire is to leave our present earthly life and be with the Lord even though we would enter a period of nakedness, waiting to be clothed with our new bodies. This is not a death wish but an expression that the desire to be with Christ overshadows the obstacle of death (cf. Phil. 1:21).
But the best of all circumstances would be to be alive at his coming, transformed and translated to be with Christ without death (cf. Phil. 1:21-13).
Conclusion: “Therefore, we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him” (9). No matter what happens, whether we are here at home in the body at the time Christ comes or absent from the body at the time Christ comes, our aim and the motivation for our ministry is to be well-pleasing to the Lord.
Part IV. Sermon Outlines
John 4:19-42, Jesus’ Dialogue With The Samaritan Woman, Pt. 2
Title: The Master’s Approach to Evangelism, Pt. 2
Subject: Overcoming spiritual and social barriers in evangelism
(Continued from point #3 in the last edition of this journal...)
Point #4: Point the person to God (4:19-24)
1. Through an awakened response (19-20)
a) About who Jesus is (19)
b) About finding God (20)
2. Through an enlightening reply (21-24)
a) About where God is found (21)
b) About how God is worshipped (22-24)
Point #5: Reveal Jesus’ Deity (4:25-26)
1. By finding out what they know about him (25)
a) About his coming again
b) About his revelation of truth
2. By revealing what they don't know about him (26)
Point #6: Develop faith in others (4:27-38)
1. Develop faith in others through your personal testimony (28-30)
a) By demonstrating that God changes lives (28)
b) By inviting others to see for themselves (29a)
c) By declaring what Christ has done (29b)
d) By pointing to who Christ is (29c-30)
2. Develop faith in others through a proper theology (31-42)
a) That God’s work in the world is Christ’s mission (31-34)
- to do God’s will
- to finish God’s work
b) That God’s work in the world is an “unlikely” mission (35)
- spiritual harvest spring up at the most unlikely times
- spiritual harvests spring up in the most unlikely places
c) That God’s work in the world is a team mission (36-38)
- God’s team is composed of sowers and reapers
- all members of God’s team are equally important
- all members of God’s team labour for the same result
Point #7: Conclusions - the results (4:39-42)
1. Some will believe through your personal testimony (39-40)
2. Many more will believe through God’s word (41-42)
1 John A. MacArthur, Rediscovering Pastoral Leadership (Dallas: Word, 1995), 91.
2 Joseph Stowell, Shepherding the Church, 233.
3 Philip Hughes, 2 Corinthians in “The New International Commentary on the New Testament,” 157.
Related Topics: Pastors