Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 5 months ago

How God Uses Ministers

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

First Corinthians Chapter Four. If youhappen 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 inthe church and Corinth and remain among us today, misunderstandings, particularly about whothe 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 usas servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, itis required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it isa 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 notaware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It isthe 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 indarkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receivehis commendation from God. I have applied all these things to myself and apolice for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not togo beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up infavor of one against another, for who sees anything different in you? Whatdo 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, youhave become kings, and would and would that you did reign, that wemight share the rule with you, for I think that God has exhibited usapostles as, last of all, like men sentenced to death, because wehave become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. WeAre Fools, for Christ's sake, but you are wise. In Christ,we are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, butwe in disrepute. To the present hour, we hunger and thirst,we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with ourown hands. When reviled, we bless. When persecuted, we endure, when slandered, we entreat. We have become, I'm and are stilllike, the scum of the world,...

...the refuse of all things. Ido not like these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you asmy beloved children, for though You have countless guides in Christ, you donot have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus, throughthe Gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That iswhy I sent I sent you, Timothy, my beloved and faithful childin the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as Iteach them everywhere in every church. Some are arrogant, as though I werenot coming to you, but I will come to you soon, if theLord 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 arod 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 pointand see if you can guess what the point is. The number one Ihave you ever bought something that you thought was nice but then fell apart muchmore quickly than you desired? Maybe it was a toy or a house carby us? Number One, I imagine you are at Bookman's and you seean old banner of truth commentary. It looks really cool, but you willget it some other day, only to find out the next time you goback it's not there, and it also turns out it's out of print andsuper 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 maybespit it out? Let's similar in all of these examples. The similar thingis 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 reallyare, to know what things really are. And in Corinth the problem wasn't thatthey misunderstood soda, but they misunderstood stewards and servants. They are misunderstoodwhat the Ministry of the word was and because they misunderstood that, because theythey thought of it wrong, their conception of it was wrong. It wascausing problems, it was causing missed opportunities,...

...it was causing boastfulness, divisions,all kinds of other things. And so Paul speaks to them the verypastoral, very strong sometimes words, sometimes with deep and dark irony, sometimeswith strong admonishments, sometimes with pleading, sometimes with teaching, and he tellsthem this, what he says in verse one. This is how one shouldregard us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Throughthe Apostle Paul, Jesus is instructing us. Jesus is teaching us how we aresupposed to think about his ministers. He wants us to understand that ministryso 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, aboutthe Apostolic Ministry and the Ministry that is founded upon that, and through menlike Timothy and Sosthenes and the Pauls, the Paul begins with this, andI think it's perhaps the most important thing that he says that the ministers ofChrist are not men unto themselves. They're not little islands of celebrity, ofstatus, of learning, of power, of influence, charm, of doctrine, whatever. True, ministers of Christ are always connected with Christ. Theirwork is his work. When we receive gifts from them, we are receivinggifts from Christ. That is their job. That's what happens. That's how itworks. It's not because they control the Lord, as though if aman who has called a minister does something, then the Lord is sort of forced, you know, with his hands tied behind his back, to nowact. No, he, the minister, does not control the Lord, butthe Lord controls him. He, the minister, is the Lord's servant. The Lord is a Master Over Them A. Paul Talks about this inthe book of Ephesians, if you would turn with me there, in Ephesianschapter four, if Thesians chapter four, verse eleven, it talks about Christ'sfirst it talks about Christ's ascension, and then is pouring out gifts on thechurch. And here's what Paul says there. He says and he that is Christgave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of Ministry, for the building upof the body of Christ, until we...

...all attain to the unity of thefaith and of the knowledge of the son of God, to mature manhood,to the measure of the stature, of the fullness of Christ, so thatwe may no longer be children tossed to and fro by the waves and carriedabout by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness and deceitfulschemes. Rather speaking the truth and love. We are to grow up in everyway and to him who is the head into Christ, from whom thewhole 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 itbuilds itself up in love. So you see what he says. He saysthat when the Lord Jesus, Christ ascended, he poured out these gifts, theseoffices 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 ofcourse, as the body builds up itself, it's being built up in its connectionto the head. But it's not this headless body sort of assembling itselfout there in the wilderness somewhere. It is a body that is connected tocry, ministered to Christ, being built up in him as he works inus. So this is what Paul says in effusions for and the some ofthe particular people that he has in mind come out in First Corinthians, forSosphanes, who has mentioned at the beginning of the book Paul, and Timothyand Apollos, these men, in other words, they don't just pop upout of nowhere and start teaching the things of God. Know, they arecalled 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 toa 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 whoreceives orders, one who is told what to do. A servant may bevery great, may be very important, but he is always, always,a servant to do as the master calls him. The word steward emphasize theemphasizes the particular kind of service that this servant gives. What does a stewarddo? A steward is one who distributes the resources of the master of theHouse, according to the masters will. Here steward is called to be stewardsof the mysteries and amazing thing that he...

...says, of the mysteries of God. These mysteries, as Paul talks about it throughout the New Testament, arethings that were once hidden but now have been revealed. So what are wetalking 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'splan of sending his own son to die on a cross to forgive us oursins and unite us all under him. These are the things that Paul isgoing to reveal and has been revealing. These are the things that Paul hasbeen 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 whata stuard does. The resources of Christ are sometimes material, a cup ofwater, a pair of clothes, of roof over the head given in Christname. This is part of Christ's ministry in the world to us. Butof course, the he also gives to US spiritual gifts, the forgiveness ofsins, hope in the resurrection and in Heaven, faith that can move mountainsand many other things. These are the resources, this is the treasury onthat God has and that the resources and things that are stewarded to us byhis servants. That, you might ask, how can a mere man, asinful man nevertheless, do things like that to distribute the gifts of graceof God? Answer is that it's not in the power or in the righteousnessof 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 receivethe gifts of grace, but even the means by which we receive those thingsare gracious means that God takes sinners like us, people that are broken,struggling jars of clay, as Paul calls himself, and God uses that kindof vessel to distribute his gifts. In any emphasizes the point that this ministrythat they are bringing, this Ministry of these gifts that God is pouring outto us, are gifts that we've not earned, but their gifts of hislove, his loving grace. Paul is not the one in charge. Paulis a sinful man like you and me. He gives these things because he isunder the control and the calling of our most gracious God. It isbecause 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 ourminds and thinking about the Apostolic Ministry and the Ministry of the word.That continues on after that. What is the minister? A minister is aservant, a minister is a steward. So if you want to understand whata minister does, you don't start with his work, but you start withhis relationship to his master. And I'll say to myself and to those ofyou here who may want to be ministers, you must also start with your relationshipto Christ it is from there that you can rightly think about and rightlyapply and do the work that he has called you to do. You mustreceive from him so that you may give to others. So what are theapplications of this? There are many, and Paul brings out many in thischapter and we'll just touch on a few and I trust that you will continueto think about these things and consider other ways in which this applies to ourlife. One way that this applies is it reminds us that be because thework of the minister is from the Lord. Ultimately, Paul looks to the LordFirst and last as his judge. Paul is not a people pleaser,and we get that very strongly from versus three through five. We read thisagain. He says, but with me it is a very small thing thatI should be judged by you or any human court. In fact, Ido 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, butI am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore, do not pronounce judgment before the time before the Lord comes, who willbring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes ofthe 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 istestifying to the Corinthians that he is essentially blameless, or basically blameless in hisactivity toward them. He's saying, look at my life, there's nothing thatI'm doing that is been wrong. I have been faithful in my service toyou. 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, ishe's encouraging and reminding the Corinthians of his character and of his integrity. Buthe also does a couple of other things.

When he it confesses that there arethings that are hidden and deep, maybe things even in himself, thathe is not aware of. When Paul says that he is he is blamelessor, as he says in verse four, I am not aware of anything againstmyself. It doesn't mean that he says I'm completely perfect and everything Ido he says I'm not aware of anything that I'm doing wrong. But it'sthe Lord who discloses things. The Lord knows my heart even better than Iknow. It is what he says, and in that he's teaching us abouthis ministry. He's teaching us that he doesn't go around waiting for everybody elseto tell him that he's okay before he's at before he acts, and eventhough he wants and does live a life of integrity before the people in sucha way that he even says imitate me, at the same time he does nottrust his own judgment to justify him before the Lord, and some ofus need them this reminder in our own lives. Some of you are wronglytry to judge yourself, to take the Lord's work on the Day of judgmentout of his hands and put it in yours. You decide whether or notyou 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'snot your job. The Lord doesn't say judge yourselves as I will judge youon 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 saveyou 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 judgmentover us more than our judgment, even over ourselves, and Paul does thatand exemplifies that here. It reminds us that, before all things, hesees himself as walking in the eyes of the Lord, and this helps usremember 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 thetemperature on everything before they act. There called to walk before the Lord faithfully, truthfully, with integrity and let the Lords will be done, whatever theLord'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 teaeach both by word and deed he receives. What he receives is not a bigold pile of money. Right, the Lord does use money to supplyand 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 isled 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 thingsare distributed. In other words, we don't come to receive the Ministry ofGrace simply by knowing about it, but by learning it, by hearing it, by being in the presence of the word, by see hearing the wordand seeing it applied and poor and acted out in a way in the livesof the people. Paul talks about this self. He talks about the thingsthat he has learned. He says he has applied these things to himself thatwe may learn not to go beyond what is written. That is in versesix. 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 fatherin 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 verseseventeen. That is why I sent you, Timothy, my beloved andfaithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ asI teach them everywhere in the church. You see how Paul, Paul istalking about these various aspects and various ways in which this teaching ministry comes numberthree. Another thing we learn about ministers that they sometimes suffer lack. Theywant things, material things. The Corinthians were doing well in many ways theywere had attained the things that many of them were after. Paul talks aboutthis in verse eight and following. He says, you have all you want. And remember what were the Corinthians wanting? They were wanting safety, they werewanting wealth, they were wanting influence. He says some ways you've got it. You have become rich without us or without us, you have becomekings. Paul could mean here that like, without our help, you have becomekings, 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 wemay rule share the rule with you.

And then he talks about his workand the work of other apostles. He says that they are like mensentenced to death, have become a spectacle to the world, to angels andthe Men Fools, for Christ's sake, and he goes on. Is thissomething, though, that Paul was trying to get out of? Is thissomething that Paul was afraid of, was trying to avoid? Of course Pauldidn'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 havein scriptures, to remove his his suffering and struggles. But at thesame time we know that Paul understands his calling is above the things in thisworld. Paul will later say that ministers deserve to be paid, but theminister's hope is not in wealth, it's not in power, it's not inriches, because he is a servant. He must be willing to do whateverwhatever, even if people think differently, even if that means suffering. Andthis is of course, true for all of us, isn't it? TheLord doesn't just call his ministers to give up everything for the sake of theKingdom of God. He calls all of us to do that, to bewilling to sacrifice anything in this world if it's for the sake of receiving thekingdom Jesus. Even goes so far as to talk about families, mothers,brothers, Father's, sisters, and wealth as well, and job security andreputation and friends. Why? Because there's nothing more valuable than the Kingdom ofGod that we receive in Christ Jesus, Our Lord. That's why Paul saysimitate me, because it's a good thing to imitate. If somebody came toyou 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 moneyin the future, imitate me buy it, and you would do well to doso. If they were right. Well, Paul is, of courseright 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 lightof this, stewardship and service, ministers ought to be people who are fullof love for the people they serve. Why? Because Christ loves the peoplehe calls them to serve. There his sheep, they're his lands. Youare God's precious lambs. He loves you, he cares for you, he guardsyou, he protects you, and he desires to do that through hisministers. Ministers are called to watch over...

...the sheep, to love them,as Peter is told by Christ, and love means knowing them, means knowingtheir needs applying the word. This is why myself and the elders and evenyou 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 canapply the word of God at the right time and the right ways. Thislove that comes, the love that we have for Christ fault, flows forthin the feeding of Christ sheep with the word. So these are different implicationsthat come to us. I'm through this passage as we think about as wethink 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 notafraid to say hard things to them in love. Right, we get thisa specially at the end. He's saying, I'm your spiritual father, you're mychildren. I love you. He says. Some of you are arrogant, and I say this to you as your dad. You need to stopbeing this way. This is not right. He says, I will come toyou soon again, if the Lord Wills, always in light of whatGod wills. And he says, what do you want? Do you wantme to come with a rod or with the spirit of gentleness? He talksto them, and sometimes hard ways and sometimes soft ways, not because he'strying to manipulate them or twist their arms, but because he loves them and he'sdoing that faithful work that that shepherds do. Well, how does allof 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 tothe status of God. We follow Christ. We receive things from his servants gravely, but ultimately our relationship was with him. They were doing this inCorinth. They were pitt pitting one against another, and in that they werebeing puffed up and boasting as Paul says, pauses. Why do you boast everythingthat you have given, been given, you have received? You have nothingto 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 aboutthe ways and the work of the ministers...

...of Christ, and in some waysthis is a duty list for those who are called to the ministry. Thereis an expression here, a reminder of WHO, of who ministers are supposedto be, what their job description is, what my job description is, whichalso means that it is a petition list or a prayer list for youto pray for me, to pray for your elders, your deacons, forother ministers of Christ, and to ask the Lord to build them up inthese things, to remind them of these things, to give them his giftsthat they might give it to others, to give them time to understand andreflect and spend time in the word, to give them insight and knowledge oftheir people, to give them strength and fortitude and courage against the things ofthis world and even the accusations of their own heart, that they might boldlyminister and Christ name and Christ name alone, to fill them up with love andzeal and passion for the law us and for the sheep that are beingbrought into the Church of Christ. This is your prayer list, even itis as it is mine, and the duties that God has called me andothers 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 everyone of us here who are have been brought into the body of Christ, are just weak vessels, jars of clay, and yet filled with thevery holy spirit of God for the building up of the body, to beparticipants 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 thathe pours out on us through the Work Accomplished for us in Christ, weought to raise our hands and raise our voices and give thanks to God forall that he is doing in us and continues to do. If we wereleft 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 preservesus 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 wecan trust him for all that. We ought to thank him for all thatand 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 behere 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. Thathas already happened among them. I'll finish with this just a few verses inchapter one, versus fourth through nine. This is Paul's heart, and letthis be our heart as well. Paul says, I give thanks to myGod always for you, because of the grace of God that was given youin Christ Jesus, that in every way. You were enriched in him and allspeech 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 therevealing 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.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (575)