What does God-centered and God-glorifying gospel ministry look like? Who better to consult than the apostle Paul, who was used mightily of God for the advancement of the gospel among the nations in the 1st Century. There are of course many passages in Scripture that we could consult for our answer to this question. However, I want to take a specific look at a passage that I believe to be of central importance when it comes to defining the gospel ministry (whether that’s serving as a pastor, church-planter, or evangelist). This passage is Second Corinthians 4:1-6. The text reads as follows:
1Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, 2but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
My purpose here is not to provide a full-blown commentary on this passage, as desirable as that may be. What I have done instead is simply draw out and summarized a handful of truths regarding a God-centered and God-glorifying gospel ministry from this text. Here they are:
- A recognition that gospel ministry is a gift of God (v. 1). It is only because God has shown us mercy through the gospel that we can then be entrusted with taking the gospel to others who are in need of such mercy. We have not appointed ourselves, but it is God who has called us through His mercy. Having this understanding will guard our hearts from becoming boastful. It will also free us from worry, knowing that God has a purpose in this ministry calling.
- A commitment to integrity (v. 2). We must not cave into the ungodly mores of our society. We must not water down the gospel for the sake of numbers or the respect of the world. Rather, in boldness and sincerity, we are to hold out the word of truth to the lost world around us, remaining faithful to the God who called us and watches over us. The word of God is just that, the word of God, not our word. Neither compromise in our actions nor in our teaching can be allowed.
- A recognition that we can’t force people to believe in the gospel (vv. 3-4). Though we desire to see sinners come to repentance and faith, it is not ultimately in our hands. We are to expect hostility from many. We are to expect that many who encounter the gospel through our witness will never come to see and savor the glory of Christ. This is simply the reality of the situation. Having this understanding will prevent us from using man-made schemes in our ministry. This, however, should not hinder us from being obedient in evangelism, for while many may be blinded to the truth that we hold out to them, there are yet many, by God’s grace, who will have their eyes opened. So we must press on.
- A commitment to preaching Christ Jesus as Lord (v. 5). Evangelism is not about us. It is about the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. Our message must always be centered on Christ. We must have a Christ-fixation. What is more, we must not refrain from proclaiming Christ to be what He is—Lord! He reigns, having all authority in heaven and on earth (Mtt. 28:18). The lordship of Jesus is not an option for people; it’s a reality, regardless of whether or not they humble themselves before Him. The lordship of Jesus Christ is the backbone to our call of men to repentance and faith.
- A recognition that the salvation of lost souls is by the sovereign grace of God (v. 6). When a person is saved they come to the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. This light is something that you and I cannot cause to shine in the hearts of spiritually dead sinners; only our sovereign God can perform such a work (just as only God can create the universe). This power is not of ourselves, but it is the enduring word of God. Like the third point, this also guards us from using man-made schemes in our ministry. Further, it also encourages us in the gospel ministry, knowing that our labor will not be in vain. God will certainly accomplish through us in time what He has purposed from eternity.
There is of course much more that could be said, but I believe these are five essential truths from our text that is descriptive of God-centered and God-glorifying gospel ministry. If we take these truths to heart and meditate upon them, I truly believe our ministerial labor will have a mighty impact on the world around us, and all to the glory of our gracious and merciful God.
(This post was slightly updated on 04/28/2014.)