Ministry That Endures
Pastor Tom Ascol continues in his exposition of 2 Corinthians, opening Chapter 6, verses 3 through 13, in a message entitled “Ministry that Endures.” Throughout this letter to the Corinthians the apostle Paul makes the point that a ministry true to the Gospel and God will endure. That ministry cannot be measured truthfully by appearances of success or prosperity. Following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ usually results in opposition, hardships, and trials. This result in the lives of believers accurately reflects the reality of Jesus’ suffering.
In today’s passage Paul lays out the various difficulties he has endured. Though his critics use these difficulties as reasons to doubt Paul’s ministry he cites them as proof of the veracity of his ministry. In fact, enduring hardship demonstrates authenticity. Paul describes these difficulties as three types of trials. First are the general trials, afflictions, hardships, and calamities. Next come the trial inflicted by others, beatings, imprisonment, and riots. These trials are evident throughout the book of Acts and come as the direct result of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Finally, self-inflicted trials are described. These include labors, sleepless nights, and hunger. These privations came about as a result of Paul’s conscious closeness, rather than a professional distance, and vulnerability to those to whom he ministered.
Paul was able to lead such a ministry though he does not claim credit such as, for instance, an iron will. He was empowered only by the grace given by the Holy Spirit. While the graces listed seem like actions of men they are all actually enabled only by the Spirit, that is the power of God. Paul endured only by this power. Nevertheless, an enduring ministry requires personal holiness evidenced in vv. 7 and 8. There are two kinds of righteousness in view here. First is declared righteousness which comes about as a result of trusting Christ. Our status, our standing before God, changes when Christ’s righteousness is exchanged for our sinful estate. The second type of righteousness, personal righteousness, reveals our character before God. It is progressive, developing as one grows and becomes more Christ-like. Paul’s very experience with the Corinthian church shows the importance of personal righteousness in withstanding the ups and downs of ministry.
This grounding in righteousness enables endurance even through deliberate misrepresentation. Paul illustrates the many ways he and his ministry have been misrepresented in our passage. He contrasts the misrepresentation with the truth. He reminded the believers of the way he really ministered, the way they knew him, not the way he has been misrepresented by the so called super-apostles besmirching his ministry to the church in Corinth. Paul kept his eye on the true goal, not merely the things which are seen. Paul’s point is that trials are not a disqualifier for ministry. On the contrary, persevering through trials can demonstrate authenticity in ministry. Paul discovered something, an enduring ministry for his Master, that was of greater value than ease, riches, comforts, and pleasure. This discovery comes from trusting Jesus, turning to Him in repentance and faith, and leading a life centered on bringing Him glory and honor.