The Motivation and Activity of Ministry with Integrity.

Paul's discussion of ministry with integrity permeates 2 Corinthians through chapter 7. 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 can be divided into 5 sections which we will study over a couple weeks.

  1. Motivation (verse 1)
  2. Activity (verse 2)
  3. Divine rationale or thought process (verses 3-4)
  4. Message (verse 5)
  5. Conclusion (verse 6)
Motivation (verse 1)

The word “therefore” immediately connects this new paragraph to 2 Corinthians 3. Paul's motivation to have a trustworthy ministry springs from all we learned in chapter 3. New Covenant life gives us great boldness and hope (2 Cor 3:12). Grace develops ministry consistency, character, longevity (2 Cor 3:1-6). Paul gives a humble but confident explanation to the church for his integrity in ministry among them.

Believers are motivated by their new life in Christ to be consistent. This is indicated by the present tense of the verb “having” this ministry. Judaizers did not have not a ministry of consistency but popularity. Experience today shows us that professing believers come and go inside and outside the church. Paul’s consistent ministry was accompanied by New Covenant character found in Christ alone. He had preached a singular message with authority and power since their first introduction. His love and availability to them also had not changed. Paul embraced being compared to Judaizers, because the contrast showed their motivation was impure.

Believers are motivated by God’s mercy to be humble. They regularly remember the moment when God’s grace miraculously transformed their heart. 2 Corinthians 1:1 tells who the “we” in 4:1 refers to. Paul wanted to direct the Corinthians to follow his and Titus' example of ministry.

Paul turns his readers' attention from God’s grace in chapter 3 to His mercy in chapter 4. Grace is giving something we don’t deserve, while mercy is withholding what we deserve, i.e. judgement for the brokenness of sin.

Paul evidences his humility elsewhere in his letters. (See 1 Timothy 1:12-16 and 1 Corinthians 15:9-10.) When Paul speaks of his apostleship, he is also speaking of his conversion, because they happened simultaneously as he became an eyewitness of resurrected Christ. Like Paul, we all are only worthy because of God’s grace, not in ourselves (Romans 5:6-11).

Religious people struggle with humility because they are consumed with themselves and their own ability. Anyone who tries to live Christian virtue without remembering what God has spared them from has not truly known Christ. Those who have are humble, always believing they are undeserving, and overwhelmed with such merciful love.

Believers are motivated to be determined. Paul would not lose heart while striving to accomplish a common goal, despite enduring horrific trials which the Corinthians knew. Some of these are described in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 4:17-18. His integrity was demonstrated in durability and persevering well under the pressure of conflict.

Divine Activity (verse 2)

Paul then turns to the activity of our personal ministry. Negatively, Paul talks about renouncing disgraceful, underhanded ways, referring to religious works (as described in 2 Corinthians 3 and 2 Peter 2). He refuses to walk in craftiness (2 Cor 11:1-6). Mixing truth with error may sound good, but it is a spiritually worthless message. No one must tamper with the Word of God and dilute its message by “mingling it with foreign ideas.” This refers specifically to the Gospel message. Beware of anyone who does not teach that Christ is exclusively enough to save a soul.

Positively, Paul speaks of a ministry of full disclosure and a comprehensive understanding. (He uses the same word in 2 Cor 11:5 to describe God's knowledge of everything when we stand before him, and in 2 Cor 2:14 to describe our testimony being noticeable and obvious.) Our speech and life display Gospel truth before others, both its message and its evidence in our character. This has an influence in daily life. Mere religious influence may impress some for some of the time. Every person made in the image of God has the ability to discern right and wrong and will see the difference in a Gospel life. For them to see this, we must be actively involved in their lives. We have to take time to know people so they can determine that the good we are doing is not of us.

God is watching the influence of our Gospel lives just as a loving parent watches their child in a game or performance. In Christ, God is proud of you and excited by the development of His Son’s character in you.

Application Points

  • As a new covenant believer, are you motivated by God’s grace to demonstrate consistency, humility, and durability?
  • Beware of those professing believers who exemplify inconsistency, call attention to themselves, and don’t endure well. Don’t be tempted to inconsistency in worship, service, or Great Commission living. Be careful of those who would cause you to be self-motivated and act pridefully or fail to persevere.
  • Are you a living manifestation of the Gospel in the content of your speech and the way you live? Every person you interact with – whether fellow students, teachers, coworkers, neighbors, or grocery clerks – will see the difference between your life and a merely religious life. They won’t know why you are different until they know you well. It takes time so that you can tell them that Jesus changed you, and they can determine that the good you are doing is not of you. Who are the people God has put in your life for whom you are this display? God will bring opportunity and fruit as we live in obedience.
  • Parents, do you teach your children to live the character of Christ before others as their friend?