Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Goodness of God (The Ministers of God, Part 3)

" all things we commend ourselves as the ministers of pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the weapons of righteousness on the right hand and the left...." II Cor. 6: 4a, 6-7

Paul established that we, as new creations, are now the ministers of God, i.e., those who proclaim the gospel of reconciliation with God. Next, he established the hard truth that we are to be such ministers in the midst of every situation, especially times of personal, social, or ministerial distress. Such a truth can seem highly depressing in its negativity, but Paul immediately follows it up with another truth, a great and comforting truth: we are to prove ourselves to be the ministers of God in every situation by the might of good things, of which he lists three kinds: the good for ourselves, the good for others, and the good for battle.

" pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering...." This is what is good for us: neither naivete nor mere factualness and fortitude, but rather an innocence that is both wise and patient. Evil, in all its horrible depths, is understood fully, but as a concept and not a practice. Its presence has no place in us, but its presence also does not surprise us. We know that it exists, and we are not ignorant of its devices. Such a state of innocent, enduring wisdom is not in our power to create; it is all the gift of God who alone purifies (Titus 2:11-14) and gives both wisdom and patience (James 1:5, 17). And it is in such a state that we prove ourselves to be the ministers of God: by His goodness we have been freed from evil's snares, and yet He teaches us its ways so that we may walk carefully and effectively and wisely without weariness or fear amidst a perverse and crooked generation. In short, we prove ourselves to be ministers of the gospel by living out its direct effects: innocence, wisdom, and patience.

" kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by love unfeigned...." This is what is good for others: a genuine affection that is produced by God and produces acts of genuine goodwill. This world is full of lost and broken people, and they need neither our moralism nor our activism. What they need is a sincere love that finds its source in the God who is love (I John 4:7-8) and leads to acts of love (Matt. 22:37-40; I John 5:3). In short, we prove ourselves to be ministers of the gospel when the indwelt Holy Spirit of God lives and acts out through us the very heartbeat of the gospel: love (Rom. 5:5-8; I John 4:7-10). He who does not love does not know God and can never be a minister of His gospel.

" the word of truth, by the power of God, by the weapons of righteousness on the right hand and the left...." This Christian life is a battle. Walking in a dark world amongst fallen people who cannot see their true affliction (II Cor. 4:3-4) and thus do not desire their true salvation (Rom. 3:10-11) is perilous, for we are surrounded by and continually engaged with great spiritual evil (Eph. 6:12). We are "in the thick," and this is what is good for it: God's truth, God's power, and God's righteousness. These things are all at our disposal, for God has given us His truth (John 16:13) and His power (II Tim. 1:7) and His righteousness (I Cor. 1:30; II Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:8-9), and it is by the might of these things that we fight the good fight. We battle against ugly lies and the blinding dark, not by our wits and cleverness, but by the all-piercing truth of the Lord of Light (Heb. 4:12-13). We battle against all the guile and malice of Hell's temptations, not by our own strengths and talents, but by the all-consuming power of the God who loves us (Rom. 8:31-39). We battle against all the vain and wicked ways of the world, not by our own pious moralizing, but by the working out of the inward righteousness of God, which is Christ in us and we in Christ (Rom. 13:12-14; Col. 3:3; John 14:20, 17:23).

In sum, we prove ourselves to be the ministers of God's gospel because we are living proof that that gospel is true. It has made us innocent of evil and yet wise to its ways and patient in its presence. It has indwelt us with the Spirit of love who works in us a genuine affection producing genuine kindness to all. And it has given us all that God is, so that we may fight the damned dark, not as mere men and women, but as new creations, born of God by faith in Christ through the hearing of the gospel of reconciliation (Rom. 10:17). By the might of God's goodness, we are saved; and by the might of that same goodness, we prove ourselves to be the ministers of so great a salvation. We best show our allegiance when we live like the gospel is real.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

No comments:

Post a Comment