The Nature and Dynamic of Ministry and The Nature and Purpose of the Church
In the First Letter of Corinthians, the apostle is dealing with all those things which either frustrate or spoil the ministry of the Church. In the Second Letter, he comes out very clearly and emphatically on the matter of the ministry as he uses these words: "seeing then that we have this ministry"; and you must remember that the apostle is writing to a church, a local church, he is not just talking about his own ministry. Paul has much to say about that, but here he is speaking of the Church's ministry and the "we" is the Church at Corinth: "we have this ministry"; and the associated phrase is: "we have this treasure in vessels of fragile clay" - is that only Apostles? No, the "we" is corporate; it is all of us. We shall come to that again presently, for what we are really concerned with this morning is the ministry of all believers, or the ministry of the Church.
The Nature and Dynamic of Ministry
Now having said that, we can proceed to a consideration of the nature and dynamic of ministry; and once more referring to the apostle, a particular apostle who is writing these letters, let us remember that Paul is a representative or example ministry. This is how he speaks of himself throughout these letters, and what was true of him as to ministry, he was saying, has got to be true of the Church. He did not put it in just this way, but this is very clearly what he is saying: "What is true in my ministry, as to its Source and its Nature and its Power, has to be true of all believers, and of the Church." He is a representative minister, not an exclusive one; he may have dimensions beyond anyone else's, but that is just his representative character. The Lord is saying by this man Paul that here you have an example of what ministry is and how ministry is produced and what the principles and laws of ministry are, and, inclusively, what the background of ministry is. That is how you must look at the apostle (as a great minister quite true) but as in principles, a representative minister.
As Paul begins, he goes right back to the Damascus Road, to the beginning of his Christian life and ministry, for you will remember that it was there, right at the commencement, when the Lord met him on his way to Damascus that the Lord gave him his commission: "to whom I send thee" (Acts 26:17). Paul goes right back to his conversion, to the beginning of his life in union with Christ, and he says this: "as to life, as to vocation, as to ministry, that I might proclaim Him among the nations, God revealed His Son in me." Here you have the Source of everything! It is this vision of the Lord Jesus that is the nature of the ministry, that is the Source of the ministry, that is the dynamic of all true ministry, for all true ministry in this dispensation issues and proceeds from an inshining of Divine Light revealing Jesus Christ. "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me." That gives us a secret.
Saul of Tarsus is on the way to Damascus, and on the way he saw a Light from heaven. That is objective, something that blinded him from without. That Light turned out to be the Glorified Lord Jesus, and Paul is saying here in this fragment to the Galatians that he not only objectively saw that Light and that Glorified Man, but also something happened inside of Him. Inside of him, he said: "Jesus of Nazareth Whom I am on the way to persecute and Whose persecution has become the one passion of my life - Jesus of Nazareth, that impostor (as I believe) that evil man, that deceiver - this is He?! He has been here amongst us walking the streets of Jerusalem, of Galilee, up and down the country, that same One has now appeared to me, that same One, not a different On - only in appearance and in knowledge, but the same One. What does this mean?!"
That inshining carried with it an overwhelming significance in the life of Paul, and so away to the desert he went to live and to dwell upon this; and that Light which has shone on him was shining in him, and he was seeing the significance of Who? - God's Son! True, but he was seeing Jesus of Nazareth, the Man Glorified - the Man having reached the ultimate of God's intention for man, whether I saw Him in the flesh or not, I knew Him - all about Him as a man amongst men; and human eyes could not discriminate between Him and other men, only there was something about Him that was different, but He is a Man amongst men, and this is that same Man - transfigured": this he had to think in the light of that inward revelation.
(continued with # 33)