The Message of Gospel Ministry.

God’s nature is unity (Deuteronomy 6:4). When we are baptized into Christ, we are one with Him and with each other spiritually (John 17:11, 20-22). David and Solomon both praised the importance of unity among God’s people (Psalm 133:1, Proverbs 6:17-19). Anyone who dismisses the unity God has created and spreads strife unnecessarily is considered an abomination. The job of believers in the church is to maintain the unity of the Spirit in peace (Ephesians 4:3, Philippians 4:2). God’s people love what God has provided and persevere in unity.

Religious unbelief invades the unity God provides by undermining Gospel messengers and diluting the message and power of the Gospel. It’s not always immediately apparent when someone is diluting the message; it is more evident when they treat the flock of God carelessly.

We have already studied the proper motivation and ministry activity of spiritual integrity in ministry. We will continue with our outline of 2 Corinthians 4:1-6:

Divine Rationale for Gospel Ministry with Integrity (verses 3-4)

Paul is seeking to gain back the confidence of the Corinthians from those who had undermined their trust in him and the Gospel he preached. If a relationship is destroyed, it can and will cause distrust of character and motive.

Paul's use of the word “veil” here must be understood in other contexts of this letter (2 Corinthians 3:12-14). Paul is addressing regenerate believers who are being disturbed by unregenerate deceivers whose hearts and minds are still veiled to the Gospel. Mere religion loves to measure success by size, but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). These teachers had been questioning Paul’s ministry based on his small numbers of converts, especially among the Jews.

Paul’s confident and humble response points out that the message being veiled was a testimony of the hardened hearts of those who heard. The veil is further exacerbated by “the god of this world” as they allow Satan to distort what they hear. One's mind, emotions, and will all have to be submitted to Christ in order to be saved. Religious people have no life change and thus no message to share. As Paul also wrote in 2 Timothy 3:5, these deceivers knew the Gospel message but denied its power. One who shows no life change does not yet have Christ as their Lord. A religious, unchanged life has no spiritual authority because they have not truly seen the light of Gospel.

Christ is the infinite image of God, His precise expression, His likeness in personality and distinctiveness. True spiritual success is not found in numbers, but life transformation. Paul urges his readers to ponder what they once were and what they have become in Christ. There will always be a distinct difference.

Message (verse 5)

Paul's ministry was not looking to self-promote but exclusively preaching Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). We live so that Christ can be seen. Gospel ministers are like their Savior, who came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45). They readily take a backseat to the power of the message and know there are no personal achievements in Gospel ministry. Any progress belongs to the Gospel and Christ.

In contrast, religious dictators exploit people to promote themselves.

Paul preached not himself but Christ as Lord. This truth convicts unbelievers but blesses a believer’s heart. Jesus' sacrifice as the Lamb of God demands the spiritual allegiance of His forgiven followers. He calls us to follow him in His person and disposition.

Conclusion (verse 6)

Paul asks the Corinthians to work out their own salvation, as he did another church in Philippians 2:12-13. His wording evokes the events of Creation week: God who spoke light into existence out of nothing did the same spiritually in our hearts. Now we are compelled to live and speak the Gospel as we pursue Christ-likeness. Paul's own salvation experience was an encounter with light as a physical demonstration of the glory of Christ. Paul saw God’s glory in Christ literally as we do spiritually. Salvation is of God, not human doing. Paul urges the Corinthians to stop looking around and remember their conversion experience. They should be amazed by that above anything else.

Application Points:

  • Are you being distracted from loving others by things that are not Christ? Stop looking around; and instead, remember your conversion experience. If you’re going to be distracted by anything, be amazed by that.
  • If you can’t remember the moment and the feelings when you were saved, the day is when your life began to change. The transformation is obvious.
  • Build relationships among the ones who have been changed by Christ. Be lovingly aware of ones who don’t love to build relationships around Christ and His Word. Pray that they would see Christ with unveiled faces. Our primary interest should be helping others become more Christ-like.
Cross References to Explore
  • Acts 13:16, 13:26-28, 13:44-45, 17:5-9, 18:1-6, 18:12-31, 19:8-9 – Rejection of the Gospel was common among the Jewish people.
  • 1 Cor 1:17-18, 15:3-4 – Paul describes the content of the Gospel.
  • 2 Cor 1:9, 3:1-5, 4:5, 4:15, Phil 2:7 – Paul’s portrayal of his ministry achievements.
  • Gal 1:15-16, Acts 9:3-9, 22:6-11, 26:13 – Paul's own salvation experience.
A Hymn to Encourage: “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”

Beneath the cross of Jesus
I find a place to stand,
And wonder at such mercy
That calls me as I am;
For hands that should discard me
Hold wounds which tell me, "Come."
Beneath the cross of Jesus
My unworthy soul is won.

Beneath the cross of Jesus
His family is my own
Once strangers chasing selfish dreams,
Now one through grace alone.
How could I now dishonor
The ones that You have loved?
Beneath the cross of Jesus
See the children called by God.

Beneath the cross of Jesus
The path before the crown
We follow in His footsteps
Where promised hope is found.
How great the joy before us
To be His perfect bride;
Beneath the cross of Jesus
We will gladly live our lives.