The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another # 19
The Nature and Dynamic of Ministry and the Nature and Purpose of the Church
What more can we say and how better can we say that: more of Thyself. O show me hour by hour more of Thy glory. O my God and Lord, more of Thyself in all of Thy grace and power, more of Thy love and truth. Incarnate Word, answer that prayer in this hour. We ask in the Name of the Lord Jesus, Amen.
In our consideration of the great transition from one humanity which has been exposed, discredited, judged, and set aside to Another Humanity which has been tested, perfected, and installed in glory in our Lord Jesus Christ, we have come at length in the closing hours of this time together to the all-governing vision in the light of which this transition becomes both clear and very practical. And we saw yesterday that with the Apostle Paul to whom this vision, this "heavenly vision" as he called it, was the secret and key to his whole life ministry when he saw the Lord Jesus risen and glorified, four things became clear to the Apostle Paul in that vision. These four things we have mentioned: Firstly, the place and destiny of man in the Divine economy. Secondly, the nature and dynamic of ministry in this disposition. Thirdly, the nature and purpose of the Church now and in the after ages. And fourthly, the immense significance of Jesus Christ crucified, risen, and exalted, all this in these three things.
Now yesterday we were occupied with the first of these four things. This morning we proceed to the second, the nature and dynamic of ministry in this dispensation, and whether we shall get to the end of the fourth is with the Lord.
The Apostle Paul said: "It pleased God...to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the nations." Now we must stay for a moment to ask and answer one question: "What do we mean by ministry?" Perhaps we need a revised version on this matter of ministry, for, immediately, when the word "ministry" is mentioned, people's minds automatically think of someone with a Bible in their hand standing up and teaching out of the Bible or someone preaching the Gospel to the unsaved or someone having been shut up with their Bible, studying it and making some notes and coming out into public and giving the result of their Bible study. Something like that is usually associated with the word "ministry." As I speak of ministry in this dispensation, some of your minds at once may think of someone with Bible in hand upon a platform or in a group, teaching and preaching. I trust the Lord is going to revise that concept for you entirely before we are through this morning.
The New Testament has two things to say about this matter of ministry. It does speak in Ephesians about special personal gifts for ministry in the Church. He gave, the ascended Lord "gave some apostles; some prophets, and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." These are specific personal ministry gifts in the Church, and please put a circle around that word "in." There are these personal ministry gifts in the Church; however, the New Testament has much more to say about the ministry of the Church itself, and the Word says that these personal gifts in the Church are for the purpose of enabling the Church to fulfill the ministry - to do the ministry, to be the minister of Christ.
Now you remember the passage: "and He gave some, apostles, and some, prophets, and some, evangelists, and some, pastors and teachers;for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of the ministry." Do not put any break in your sentence: "the perfecting (of the Church, the 'making complete,' of the Church) unto the work of the ministry." I heard Dr. Campbell Morgan once say in this very connection in this passage: "and God help the minister whose Church does not fulfill the ministry..." And it is with this second thing, the ministry of the Church Itself, that we will be occupied this morning.
I am not going to talk about apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, these specific ministers, but about the ministry of the Church; and the two letters with which we have been mainly occupied this week (the two letters to the Corinthians) have to view, very clearly and emphatically so, the ministry of the Church. All that the apostle is saying is with this background of the fulfillment of the Divine ministry in Corinth, and as those letters are a vehicle down through the whole dispensation to our own time, it is what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church about its ministry.
In the First Letter of Corinthians, the apostle is dealing with all those things which either frustrate or spoil the ministry of the Church. In the Second Letter, he comes out very clearly and emphatically on the matter of the ministry as he uses these words: "seeing then that we have this ministry"; and you must remember that the apostle is writing to a church, a local church, he is not just talking about his own ministry. Paul has much to say about that, but here is is speaking of the Church's ministry and the "we" is the Church at Corinth: "we have this ministry"; and the associated phrase is: "we have this treasure in vessels of fragile clay" - is that only Apostles? No, the "we" is corporate; it is all of us. We shall come to that again presently,for what we are really concerned with this morning is the ministry of all believers, or the ministry of the Church.
The Nature and Dynamic of Ministry - Part One
Now having said that, we can proceed to a consideration of the nature and dynamic of ministry; and once more referring to the apostle, a particular apostle who is writing these letters, let us remember that Paul is a representative or example ministry. That is how he speaks of himself throughout these letters, and what was true of him as to ministry, he was saying, has got to be true of the Church. He did not put it in just this way, but this is very clearly what he is saying: "What is true in my ministry, as to its Source and its Nature and its Power, has to be true of all believers, and of the Church." He is a representative minister, not an exclusive one; he may have dimensions beyond anyone else's, but he is just his representative character. The Lord is saying by this man Paul that here you have an example of what ministry is and how ministry is produced and what the principles and laws of ministry are, and, inclusively, what the background of ministry is. That is how you must look at the apostle (as a great minister quite true) but as in principles, a representative minister.
(continued with # 20)