Partners in Ministry2 Corinthians 8:16 – 9:5Theme: Sharing.This week’s lessons teach us the blessing of carrying each other’s burdens.
LessonWhat Paul is really talking about is the character of Christ. In the brothers was found the love of Jesus, the peace of Jesus, the joy of Jesus, the kindness of Jesus, and so on for all the other fruits of the Spirit. Now, that is what he says about these brothers, these three men whom he trusted with this commission involving this large sum of money from the churches at Corinth.
I want you to see something else. In the ninth chapter, he talks more explicitly about this service, this collection. He writes about the Corinthians themselves and encourages them to carry on with the work, completing what they said they were going to do. Notice that when he turns, in these verses, and begins to talk about the Corinthians in their ministry, he uses not the identical words but terms that are somewhat the same as those he had used to describe the three men mentioned at the end of the preceding chapter. I think this was utterly artless on Paul’s part.
Sometimes Paul is very careful in his choice of words and as you study them, you can realize what he is doing. He is deliberately bringing back in the word that he used earlier to make an association. He was brilliant in his use of words. As he begins to write, his mind is on the Christians at Corinth, so he just inevitably begins to talk about them in the same way he had been talking about these three faithful brothers who served with him in the ministry. He writes about the service to the saints, verse 1, and their eagerness to help, verse 2, and their enthusiasm that has stirred them to action, in the latter part of that verse.
The ministry is not something that just ordained people do, or even certain outstanding or distinguished laymen laboring alongside those who are ordained. But rather the ministry is something to which all of God’s people are called. It is just another way of talking about spiritual gifts and saying, as Paul does when he talks about the gifts, “To each one of us a gift is given according to the fullness of the measure of Jesus Christ.”
Look at yourself and your own training. You may say, “I really do not know what I can contribute.” And that may be true. You may not understand now what it is you can contribute. But although that may be true, and you may say that, and say it justly, never say, “I have nothing to contribute,” because to say that is to make a liar of the Lord Jesus Christ and of Paul, who spoke for him in the pages of the New Testament.
We are told that we all have gifts. If we do not know what the gifts are and we do not know how to serve, then it should be our business–if we are serious about following Christ–to search out what that gift is and then begin to put it into use in this great work of the ministry and so become partners with those who labor in the local church.
There is a marvelous partnership in the local church. We know one another, and we share in the work. We call upon the gifts that particular individuals have. That is a marvelous thing. But not only that, it is a partnership that embraces the Church worldwide. What we are about is what they are about in England, and in Africa, and in the Far East.
We are doing the same thing. It is the same ministry. It is building the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Not only that, it is what the Church has been about in all ages going back to the days of the Apostle Paul himself and carrying forward throughout all of history until the Lord Jesus Christ comes again. It is just a way of saying that the Church is the one body of Jesus Christ. We not only have the privilege of being a part of it, but we have the responsibility of laboring within it for its good to carry the Gospel to those who do not yet know what it is to be a Christian.
What characteristics did the men entrusted with the money for the collection possess?
Key PointMinistry is something to which all of God’s people are called.