Commended in Every Way2 Corinthians 6:3-13Theme: Commending the Gospel.This week’s lessons teach us how to endure in all circumstances.
Lesson2 Corinthians 6:1-13 has two parts, one negative and the other positive. The negative portion is shorter. In verse 3 Paul wrote, “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.” I do not know precisely what Paul had in mind as he wrote that. But I think it is quite possible that Paul, undoubtedly having meditated on the words of our Lord, was thinking of that occasion when Jesus himself spoke about causing someone to stumble. Jesus was thinking of children when he said, “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matt. 18:6).
Those are powerful words. Paul may well have had the word stumbling in mind when he wrote this letter to the Corinthians. He would have recognized that, in the ministry especially, it is a very serious thing to mislead another person, either by teaching or by conduct. Unfortunately, that is all about us. I think that we would have to say that the various ministries that are popular in the world today, the kind that draw so many followers after them, are misleading. Many of those ministries put forth messages that go out in America through the printed media, television, and radio. Many of those messages are misleading, though not always intentionally.
Sometimes when that occurs it is just a case of Christians’ using the world’s theology to gain the world’s approval. Other times, unfortunately, it is intentional. There are popular gospels today that are not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, such as the prosperity gospel and the gospel of self-help. Those gospels contain the kind of teaching that says, “You have to do your own thing and prosper in your own way. God is not going to help you. The way to live is to think that you are God yourself.”
That is a very serious thing. It is exactly what Paul said he did not want his ministry to convey. A ministry like that causes people to stumble. And if it is true that it is dangerous to cause a person to stumble so that they are misled to enter upon a path of sin, which brings suffering, it is certainly infinitely more serious to preach a gospel that causes people to stumble eternally. In this life, you lose your life, but, in the life to come, you lose your soul. Paul said that when we presume to speak for God, we have to be very careful that it is, in fact, God’s message that we are speaking.
That’s why, speaking directly now to those who are seminarians preparing for Christian ministry, I say that you must be sure that you are called into the ministry by God. I believe that God does issue particular callings. He calls some into secular vocations to be doctors or lawyers or businessman. But there is also a sense in which one can choose between those things; it is not all that crucial. But I think the ministry is in a separate category, because there we are dealing with eternal things. Lives are at stake – the eternal lives of men and women. If you dare to speak for God, you had better be sure that it is God who has called you to speak.
If God calls you into the ministry, then you can speak, because you believe that through it you are being faithful to him. If you search the Scriptures and pray for help, then God will undergird the message and will preserve you from the kind of error that can lead people astray. But if you just say, “I think the ministry is a nice vocation; I think I would like to do that,” or if you say, “I think I’d like to be a Sunday school teacher,” but you are not sure that God is really leading you to do it, then you do not have the guarantee that God is going to be with you and guide what you say. You’d better be sure before you proceed. Paul was sure of his calling.
What are some of the popular “gospels” of today?
Why is a call to ministry a very serious thing?
Further StudyStudy Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:1-9. What principles is Jesus establishing here?
PrayerDo you know your own personal calling? If not, ask God to clearly reveal his path for you. Pray also for a willingness to do the work to which God has called you.