A Minister and his Ministry

A gift by definition is something obtained with no effort, with no charge. It is freely, graciously given. So when we speak of someone having a “gift” for speaking, or a talent of one kind or another, it is usually something that we can admire, maybe envy, but there is no way to imitate it or develop it.

In the world at large, we have a tendency to admire those with certain abilities and gifts. Sometimes these ones, as believers, will use their gift (whether spiritual or otherwise) on behalf of God. And to varying extents, God accepts and even blesses these ones in their endeavoring to be vessels of mercy useful to the Master. In the first epistle to the Corinthian believers, Paul addresses these ones who were desperately seeking spiritual gifts. Though the gifts do have their proper place and function in the church (12:4-11), and though there are greater gifts and lesser gifts (12:31), and though Paul encourages them to seek earnestly the greater gifts (such as prophesying, 14:1), when we compare the depth of this epistle with what is revealed in Paul’s second epistle to this same locality, we realize that there is something deeper than just the gifts that God has given to the Body. The apostle Paul may have been a very special and gifted member of the Body, but even more than that, he was a minister ministering the new covenant ministry. This ministry is one produced by gaining the experiences of the riches of Christ because only the riches of Christ can produce this ministry.

How are these experiences gained?

The only way that they are gained is through sufferings, consuming pressures, and the killing work of the cross.

A minister of the new covenant, therefore, is a person who through sufferings, consuming pressures, and the killing work of the cross has experienced the riches of Christ and has had this suffering Christ reproduced in him. Paul was such a person. In Colossians 1:24 he writes of making up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ for His Body. Paul’s suffering was a gaining not only for Paul but for the whole Body. As he suffered, he became the sorrowful grapevine through which others were able to receive the supply of cheering wine. Like Paul, so many other believers throughout the ages have been willing to be stripped of all their human glory, dignity, fame, and fortune so that from their experience of death the resurrection life would flow. Watchman Nee was another believer who was produced as a minister of this new covenant. We see his experience in Hymns #635,  “From the branches of the grape vine/ Sap and blood and wine doth flow./ Does the vine, for all it suffered,/ Lost, and yielded, poorer grow?/ Drunkards of the earth and wanderers,/ From it drink and merry make./ From their pleasure and enjoyment/ Do they richer thereby wake?/ Not by gain our life is measured,/ But by what we’ve lost ’tis scored;/ ‘Tis not how much wine is drunken,/ But how much has been outpoured./ For the strength of love e’er standeth/ In the sacrifice we bear;/ He who has the greatest suff’ring/ Ever has the most to share.” What channels of blessings these saints have been to the entire Body.

Today, there is a crucial need in the Lord’s Recovery for those who would be willing to be produced as ministers of the new covenant; for those who would be open to gain the riches of Christ in their experience through sufferings, consuming pressures, and the killing work of the cross.

Lord, make us persons full of grace in sufferings, persons filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, persons through whom others can perceive and touch grace even in the human phrases, in the most human way. May the suffering Christ be reproduced in us for the building up of the Body of Christ and the consummation of the New Jerusalem.

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