Recently, I was encouraged by a message from 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 on the calling of the pastor. Here is part of the text:
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God… For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord… [2 Cor. 4:1-2,5]
In the verses that precede this text, Paul had given a wonderful description of the new covenant’s superiority to the old covenant; the former is characterized by the life-giving Spirit whereas the latter brought death.
But here, Paul begins to teach the Corinthian congregation that he and the other ministers that were with him do not lose heart. Why would they possibly lose heart when the new covenant is so much better?! As in our day, some, like the “super apostles” (2 Cor. 12:12), were using disgraceful methods to propagate the gospel and achieve greater outward results. Paul’s method was preaching, though, and he teaches in verses 3-4 that when the gospel is held forth plainly, those that are destined to perish will reject it. The problem isn’t with Paul’s method, and it doesn’t detract from the new covenant. Rather, it is the result of human sin and part of God’s sovereign plan.
A commitment to the open, clear proclamation of the Bible’s teaching is the pastor’s calling. It requires that he be sensitive to the culture; how can he communicate clearly to people he neither understands nor cares for? He must also be a specialist in the Bible; how can he declare something he does not understand? Open proclamation also requires that a minister honestly explain the Bible’s teaching, even if it may cause offense. Though this simple method of administering the new covenant may seem silly and be ridiculed, it is God’s method for growing Christ’s Church.