Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 9 months ago

How God Uses Ministers

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

First Corinthians Chapter Four. If you happen to have one of these, I happen to have a large print version, both from the back part on my page, is one three. Three. Paul has been talking to us about a lot of misunderstandings that were in the church and Corinth and remain among us today, misunderstandings, particularly about who the ministers of the word are, what their job is, what they do, and he begins now to give us a positive description of what that is, of the Ministry of Christ among us, that through the through these men. Let's attend to that now, and that's the God would bless us. As we understand First Corinthians chapter four. This is how one should regard us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself, for I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore, do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. I have applied all these things to myself and a police for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another, for who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then, you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? Already? You have all you want already. You have become rich without us, you have become kings, and would and would that you did reign, that we might share the rule with you, for I think that God has exhibited us apostles as, last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We Are Fools, for Christ's sake, but you are wise. In Christ, we are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour, we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless. When persecuted, we endure, when slandered, we entreat. We have become, I'm and are still like, the scum of the world,...

...the refuse of all things. I do not like these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children, for though You have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus, through the Gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent I sent you, Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you, but I will come to you soon, if the Lord Wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people, but their power, for the Kingdom of God does not consistent talk, but in power. What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod or with love, in a spirit of gentleness, then maybe seated? So I'm going to give you three a little scenarios to make a point and see if you can guess what the point is. The number one I have you ever bought something that you thought was nice but then fell apart much more quickly than you desired? Maybe it was a toy or a house car by us? Number One, I imagine you are at Bookman's and you see an old banner of truth commentary. It looks really cool, but you will get it some other day, only to find out the next time you go back it's not there, and it also turns out it's out of print and super expensive and you lost opportunity while it waited on the shelf. Number three, have you ever picked up a glass of water and swallowed it really fast, only to find out it was clear soda and been really surprised and maybe spit it out? Let's similar in all of these examples. The similar thing is that you're expecting one thing and you get another, whether positive or negative. The point is that it's important and very helpful to know how things really are, to know what things really are. And in Corinth the problem wasn't that they misunderstood soda, but they misunderstood stewards and servants. They are misunderstood what the Ministry of the word was and because they misunderstood that, because they they thought of it wrong, their conception of it was wrong. It was causing problems, it was causing missed opportunities,...

...it was causing boastfulness, divisions, all kinds of other things. And so Paul speaks to them the very pastoral, very strong sometimes words, sometimes with deep and dark irony, sometimes with strong admonishments, sometimes with pleading, sometimes with teaching, and he tells them this, what he says in verse one. This is how one should regard us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Through the Apostle Paul, Jesus is instructing us. Jesus is teaching us how we are supposed to think about his ministers. He wants us to understand that ministry so that we might benefit from the gifts of Christ's to it Christ to us, and so that we might not neglect them or or pass them by. What do we learn? What does Jesus teach us through this apostle, about the Apostolic Ministry and the Ministry that is founded upon that, and through men like Timothy and Sosthenes and the Pauls, the Paul begins with this, and I think it's perhaps the most important thing that he says that the ministers of Christ are not men unto themselves. They're not little islands of celebrity, of status, of learning, of power, of influence, charm, of doctrine, whatever. True, ministers of Christ are always connected with Christ. Their work is his work. When we receive gifts from them, we are receiving gifts from Christ. That is their job. That's what happens. That's how it works. It's not because they control the Lord, as though if a man who has called a minister does something, then the Lord is sort of forced, you know, with his hands tied behind his back, to now act. No, he, the minister, does not control the Lord, but the Lord controls him. He, the minister, is the Lord's servant. The Lord is a Master Over Them A. Paul Talks about this in the book of Ephesians, if you would turn with me there, in Ephesians chapter four, if Thesians chapter four, verse eleven, it talks about Christ's first it talks about Christ's ascension, and then is pouring out gifts on the church. And here's what Paul says there. He says and he that is Christ gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of Ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we...

...all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature, of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness and deceitful schemes. Rather speaking the truth and love. We are to grow up in every way and to him who is the head into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. So you see what he says. He says that when the Lord Jesus, Christ ascended, he poured out these gifts, these offices and people who fill those offices, a path that apostles, apostles, prophets of vangelist shepherds and teachers and through this Ministry that Christ exercises. The body is built up. It even builds up itself in a sense, because those who belong to the body are part of that work. But of course, as the body builds up itself, it's being built up in its connection to the head. But it's not this headless body sort of assembling itself out there in the wilderness somewhere. It is a body that is connected to cry, ministered to Christ, being built up in him as he works in us. So this is what Paul says in effusions for and the some of the particular people that he has in mind come out in First Corinthians, for Sosphanes, who has mentioned at the beginning of the book Paul, and Timothy and Apollos, these men, in other words, they don't just pop up out of nowhere and start teaching the things of God. Know, they are called by God to be servants of God, as ministers of grace. Now, one way Paul helps us to understand that are through these two words to a servants and stewards. Right. That's how he wants us to understand. The Word Servants Emphasizes Paul's being under authority, Paul's not the master of the House. He is a servant of the House. A servant is one who receives orders, one who is told what to do. A servant may be very great, may be very important, but he is always, always, a servant to do as the master calls him. The word steward emphasize the emphasizes the particular kind of service that this servant gives. What does a steward do? A steward is one who distributes the resources of the master of the House, according to the masters will. Here steward is called to be stewards of the mysteries and amazing thing that he...

...says, of the mysteries of God. These mysteries, as Paul talks about it throughout the New Testament, are things that were once hidden but now have been revealed. So what are we talking about? We're talking about God's plan for uniting Jews and gentiles together, for God's plan of showering His grace throughout all of the world, of God's plan of sending his own son to die on a cross to forgive us our sins and unite us all under him. These are the things that Paul is going to reveal and has been revealing. These are the things that Paul has been talking about, this Gospel, this good news that is preached to us, these are the resources that Paul is in charge of distributing. That's what a stuard does. The resources of Christ are sometimes material, a cup of water, a pair of clothes, of roof over the head given in Christ name. This is part of Christ's ministry in the world to us. But of course, the he also gives to US spiritual gifts, the forgiveness of sins, hope in the resurrection and in Heaven, faith that can move mountains and many other things. These are the resources, this is the treasury on that God has and that the resources and things that are stewarded to us by his servants. That, you might ask, how can a mere man, a sinful man nevertheless, do things like that to distribute the gifts of grace of God? Answer is that it's not in the power or in the righteousness of the individual by which he is used, but by the grace of God, which is an amazing thing to think about. Not only do we receive the gifts of grace, but even the means by which we receive those things are gracious means that God takes sinners like us, people that are broken, struggling jars of clay, as Paul calls himself, and God uses that kind of vessel to distribute his gifts. In any emphasizes the point that this ministry that they are bringing, this Ministry of these gifts that God is pouring out to us, are gifts that we've not earned, but their gifts of his love, his loving grace. Paul is not the one in charge. Paul is a sinful man like you and me. He gives these things because he is under the control and the calling of our most gracious God. It is because he has been given God's power and authority and resources to do these things. So this is what Paul is after.

This is how we must frame our minds and thinking about the Apostolic Ministry and the Ministry of the word. That continues on after that. What is the minister? A minister is a servant, a minister is a steward. So if you want to understand what a minister does, you don't start with his work, but you start with his relationship to his master. And I'll say to myself and to those of you here who may want to be ministers, you must also start with your relationship to Christ it is from there that you can rightly think about and rightly apply and do the work that he has called you to do. You must receive from him so that you may give to others. So what are the applications of this? There are many, and Paul brings out many in this chapter and we'll just touch on a few and I trust that you will continue to think about these things and consider other ways in which this applies to our life. One way that this applies is it reminds us that be because the work of the minister is from the Lord. Ultimately, Paul looks to the Lord First and last as his judge. Paul is not a people pleaser, and we get that very strongly from versus three through five. We read this again. He says, but with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. Will come back to that in a moment. I'll finish reading, for I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore, do not pronounce judgment before the time before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive this commendation or his commendation from God. So Paul's doing a couple things in these verses. One, he is testifying to the Corinthians that he is essentially blameless, or basically blameless in his activity toward them. He's saying, look at my life, there's nothing that I'm doing that is been wrong. I have been faithful in my service to you. He's defending himself against false accusations of other people saying, Oh, Paul's in it for this or Paul's in it for that. He's saying, I'm not, I'm not. So that's one thing that he's doing, is he's encouraging and reminding the Corinthians of his character and of his integrity. But he also does a couple of other things.

When he it confesses that there are things that are hidden and deep, maybe things even in himself, that he is not aware of. When Paul says that he is he is blameless or, as he says in verse four, I am not aware of anything against myself. It doesn't mean that he says I'm completely perfect and everything I do he says I'm not aware of anything that I'm doing wrong. But it's the Lord who discloses things. The Lord knows my heart even better than I know. It is what he says, and in that he's teaching us about his ministry. He's teaching us that he doesn't go around waiting for everybody else to tell him that he's okay before he's at before he acts, and even though he wants and does live a life of integrity before the people in such a way that he even says imitate me, at the same time he does not trust his own judgment to justify him before the Lord, and some of us need them this reminder in our own lives. Some of you are wrongly try to judge yourself, to take the Lord's work on the Day of judgment out of his hands and put it in yours. You decide whether or not you have done well enough to stand before the Lord Youth, and you may, you may release yourself or you may accuse yourself. Either way, that's not your job. The Lord doesn't say judge yourselves as I will judge you on the day of judgments and on that basis decide how you will act. Know, the Lord says, put your faith in me and I will save you and judge your life based on that, on what I have done for you, on my justification for you. We are called to trust God's judgment over us more than our judgment, even over ourselves, and Paul does that and exemplifies that here. It reminds us that, before all things, he sees himself as walking in the eyes of the Lord, and this helps us remember also what these ministers, what ministers today, are called to do. They're not called to run around and check the wind on everything, check the temperature on everything before they act. There called to walk before the Lord faithfully, truthfully, with integrity and let the Lords will be done, whatever the Lord's will is. Here's a second implication of Paul's servant ship and Stewardship. He is called to take that and apply that through the word and to tea each both by word and deed he receives. What he receives is not a big old pile of money. Right, the Lord does use money to supply and care for his people, but ultimately...

...ministers are receive these spiritual gifts, spiritual gifts that come through the word. The Ministry of the Church that is led by the apostles we remember in the Great Commission is one of going, of Baptizing, of teaching. They were to teach and we are to learn, and that teaching was done in words and deeds. That's how these things are distributed. In other words, we don't come to receive the Ministry of Grace simply by knowing about it, but by learning it, by hearing it, by being in the presence of the word, by see hearing the word and seeing it applied and poor and acted out in a way in the lives of the people. Paul talks about this self. He talks about the things that he has learned. He says he has applied these things to himself that we may learn not to go beyond what is written. That is in verse six. Later, in verse fourteen, he's or fifteen, he says, for though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became a father in Christ Jesus, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel. I arge you then be imitators of me. I've noticed what how he continues this, what he adds to this in verse seventeen. That is why I sent you, Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ as I teach them everywhere in the church. You see how Paul, Paul is talking about these various aspects and various ways in which this teaching ministry comes number three. Another thing we learn about ministers that they sometimes suffer lack. They want things, material things. The Corinthians were doing well in many ways they were had attained the things that many of them were after. Paul talks about this in verse eight and following. He says, you have all you want. And remember what were the Corinthians wanting? They were wanting safety, they were wanting wealth, they were wanting influence. He says some ways you've got it. You have become rich without us or without us, you have become kings. Paul could mean here that like, without our help, you have become kings, but I think it's more likely that he means not with us, like this is something that they have attained while the apostles were suffering. You have become kings, you become rich. Would you that reign so that we may rule share the rule with you.

And then he talks about his work and the work of other apostles. He says that they are like men sentenced to death, have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and the Men Fools, for Christ's sake, and he goes on. Is this something, though, that Paul was trying to get out of? Is this something that Paul was afraid of, was trying to avoid? Of course Paul didn't want to be beaten. In some ways, Paul didn't want to suffer. In some ways he asked the Lord, in at least one case we have in scriptures, to remove his his suffering and struggles. But at the same time we know that Paul understands his calling is above the things in this world. Paul will later say that ministers deserve to be paid, but the minister's hope is not in wealth, it's not in power, it's not in riches, because he is a servant. He must be willing to do whatever whatever, even if people think differently, even if that means suffering. And this is of course, true for all of us, isn't it? The Lord doesn't just call his ministers to give up everything for the sake of the Kingdom of God. He calls all of us to do that, to be willing to sacrifice anything in this world if it's for the sake of receiving the kingdom Jesus. Even goes so far as to talk about families, mothers, brothers, Father's, sisters, and wealth as well, and job security and reputation and friends. Why? Because there's nothing more valuable than the Kingdom of God that we receive in Christ Jesus, Our Lord. That's why Paul says imitate me, because it's a good thing to imitate. If somebody came to you and said, I just found this really amazing deal on this this land, if you buy it now, it's going to be worth tons of money in the future, imitate me buy it, and you would do well to do so. If they were right. Well, Paul is, of course right when he tells us the Gospel, when he says cling to Christ, hold fast to Christ, know him above all things and you will be saved. And lastly, number four, the fourth implication about the ministry and light of this, stewardship and service, ministers ought to be people who are full of love for the people they serve. Why? Because Christ loves the people he calls them to serve. There his sheep, they're his lands. You are God's precious lambs. He loves you, he cares for you, he guards you, he protects you, and he desires to do that through his ministers. Ministers are called to watch over...

...the sheep, to love them, as Peter is told by Christ, and love means knowing them, means knowing their needs applying the word. This is why myself and the elders and even you among each other in a way. We spend time with each other, we get to know each other so that we can minister to each other, help and support and walk together with one another in Christ so that we can apply the word of God at the right time and the right ways. This love that comes, the love that we have for Christ fault, flows forth in the feeding of Christ sheep with the word. So these are different implications that come to us. I'm through this passage as we think about as we think about this service ship and the stewardship that is tied up with the ministry, and we see that love that Paul has for these people. He's not afraid to say hard things to them in love. Right, we get this a specially at the end. He's saying, I'm your spiritual father, you're my children. I love you. He says. Some of you are arrogant, and I say this to you as your dad. You need to stop being this way. This is not right. He says, I will come to you soon again, if the Lord Wills, always in light of what God wills. And he says, what do you want? Do you want me to come with a rod or with the spirit of gentleness? He talks to them, and sometimes hard ways and sometimes soft ways, not because he's trying to manipulate them or twist their arms, but because he loves them and he's doing that faithful work that that shepherds do. Well, how does all of this perhaps apply to us? Very quickly, here a few things. One, we certain certainly shouldn't be elevating this or that servant of God to the status of God. We follow Christ. We receive things from his servants gravely, but ultimately our relationship was with him. They were doing this in Corinth. They were pitt pitting one against another, and in that they were being puffed up and boasting as Paul says, pauses. Why do you boast everything that you have given, been given, you have received? You have nothing to boast him. A second thing we learn from the Apostolic Ministry, This word and deed ministry, is to not go beyond what is written. A third thing we learn is that we are not to depend on ourselves, but on the Lord for all things. A fourth thing we learn is about the ways and the work of the ministers...

...of Christ, and in some ways this is a duty list for those who are called to the ministry. There is an expression here, a reminder of WHO, of who ministers are supposed to be, what their job description is, what my job description is, which also means that it is a petition list or a prayer list for you to pray for me, to pray for your elders, your deacons, for other ministers of Christ, and to ask the Lord to build them up in these things, to remind them of these things, to give them his gifts that they might give it to others, to give them time to understand and reflect and spend time in the word, to give them insight and knowledge of their people, to give them strength and fortitude and courage against the things of this world and even the accusations of their own heart, that they might boldly minister and Christ name and Christ name alone, to fill them up with love and zeal and passion for the law us and for the sheep that are being brought into the Church of Christ. This is your prayer list, even it is as it is mine, and the duties that God has called me and others too, and I'll finish with this. It's also a prayer list thanks. As I mentioned earlier, this is God's Ministry of Grace to us. This is these are his gifts to us. Isn't it amazing that each and every one of us here who are have been brought into the body of Christ, are just weak vessels, jars of clay, and yet filled with the very holy spirit of God for the building up of the body, to be participants in the Ministry of God to the world and and to us as well? When we consider the Ministry of God and His grace, these gifts that he pours out on us through the Work Accomplished for us in Christ, we ought to raise our hands and raise our voices and give thanks to God for all that he is doing in us and continues to do. If we were left to ourselves, we'd constantly be hitting that autodestruct button, wouldn't we? Week after week, go over and over again five, four, three two? But the Lord preserves us even from the gates of hell. He preserves us against the devil, he preserves us against ourselves and our own flesh. The Lord keeps us and holds us together, leads us to streams of living water, walks us through the Valley of the shadow of death, and we can trust him for all that. We ought to thank him for all that and praise him for all that, as...

...hard as things were in corinth. And will consider more things in the coming chapters. I hope you'll you'll be here with me for that. Go back to the beginning, to chapter one, and we're reminded of the work of the Ministry of the word. That has already happened among them. I'll finish with this just a few verses in chapter one, versus fourth through nine. This is Paul's heart, and let this be our heart as well. Paul says, I give thanks to my God always for you, because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way. You were enriched in him and all speech and knowledge, even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless. In the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of a son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, let's pray.

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