I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: The Need for Good Ministers
In his book entitled 'The Growth Factor' author Bob Moorehead writes about the need for Godly men in ministry and states it in the form of a prayer. He writes:
"God give us men...ribbed with the steel of Your Holy Spirit...men who will not flinch when the battle's fiercest...men who won't acquiesce, or compromise, or fade when the enemy rages. God give us men who can't be bought, bartered, or badgered by the enemy, men who will pay the price, make the sacrifice, stand the ground, and hold the torch high. God give us men obsessed with the principles true to your Word, men stripped of self-seeking and a yen for security...men who will pay any price for freedom and go any lengths for truth. God give us men delivered from mediocrity, men with vision high, pride low, faith wide, love deep, and patience long...men who will dare to march to the drumbeat of a distant drummer, men who will not surrender principles of truth in order to accommodate their peers. God give us men more interested in scars than medals. More committed to conviction than convenience, men who will give their life for the eternal, instead of indulging their lives for a moment in time. Give us men who are fearless in the face of danger, calm in the midst of pressure, bold in the midst of opposition. God give us men who will pray earnestly, work long, preach clearly, and wait patiently. Give us men whose walk is by faith, behavior is by principle, whose dreams are in heaven, and whose book is the Bible. God give us men who are equal to the task. Those are the men the church needs today."
I agree with Mr. Moorehead. We indeed need men like this today who love the Lord, love the Lord's people and are willing to sacrifice for Christ and His cause on this earth. And if we were to look for someone in Scripture whom we can follow as a role model for ministry it would be the Apostle Paul.
Paul literally gave up his status and fame as a well respected Pharisee in the Jewish faith to be mocked. hated, imprisoned and eventually killed for the cause of Jesus Christ. He loved Christ, loved the gospel message that was given to him as a stewardship as well as the people whom he served.
In Colossians 1:24-29 we see the heart of Paul as he ministers by this letter to the people of Colossae. And by looking at this passage we can get a better understanding of what characteristics to search for in finding and becoming a good minister of the gospel. Let us begin by seeing Paul's sacrificial dedication on behalf of others.
I. Paul's Sacrificial Dedication
As we read the book of Colossians it is good to remind ourselves that Paul is writing from prison. He has been placed on house arrest for preaching the gospel, the good news of Jesus' death burial and resurrection on behalf of the sins of the world.
So, he is joyfully suffering for this good news and for the Body of Christ. That is the term Paul uses for the new humanity that is being formed from the people of this world who place their trust in Jesus' sacrifice on their behalf. This new group is made up of both Jews and Gentiles alike, who are not only united to Jesus but they are united to one another for eternity. And each member learns to live together in unity and in love both for Christ and for each other.
Paul's motivation for suffering is to give out that good news and to build up the Church, the Body of Christ. He talks abut filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions. By this he doesn't mean that Jesus' death wasn't complete. One of the things that Jesus' said on the cross before He died was "It is finished." The Greek term was tetelestai. It means that what our Lord did on the cross completed our salvation and there was no more to do. At times the term can mean 'paid in full.'
In ancient times when a promissory note was paid, the one holding the note wrote “TETELESTAI” across it. Also, a deed to property was not in effect until it was dated and signed, and when this was accomplished, the clerk wrote “TETELESTAI” across the deed. Further when someone had a debt and it was paid off, the creditor would write "TETELESTAI" on the certificate of debt signifying that it was "PAID IN FULL". In the same way, Jesus' death paid completely for our sins and there is nothing else to do but accept it by faith.
So what was Paul talking about here? What he was referring to is that the Apostle was experiencing the persecution that was meant for Christ. Despite what they did to Jesus on the cross, Jesus' enemies hated Him so much that they had not gotten their fill of inflicting pain on Him. They could do nothing to Him any longer so they turned their anger on His followers and those who preached His gospel. So it was in that sense that Paul filled up what was lacking in Christ's afflictions.
So, he was so dedicated to his ministry that he was willing to give all for it. He gave up his comfort, his freedom and, we know that ultimately, that he died for Christ, for His gospel and for Christ's Body, the Church.
Some minister's across the world are still sacrificing in these ways for the cause of Christ. By doing this they are carrying on in the footsteps of this great Apostle. Not all ministers will be asked to give up what Paul did. However, all should be willing to have a sacrificial dedication to the Lord by living for Him.
And the reason why the minister can do this is that he, like Paul, sees his ministry as a stewardship for Jesus Christ. This is the next characteristic of a good minister.
II. Paul's Ministry Seen as a Stewardship
A steward, in biblical times, was a slave who managed his master's household. The steward would supervise other servants, dispense resources and he also handled the master's financial affairs.
The King James uses the word dispensation here rather than stewardship. It is this term from which dispensational theologians get the name for their understanding of God's Word. The Greek Word is oikonomia. It comes from two Greek words, meaning 'house rule' and refers to the management of a household or household affairs. Oikonomia can refer to the management of another's affairs, or the office of manager or overseer.
Paul saw himself a the Lord's steward. God gave him this responsibility. And the church was God's household over which he had the oversight. The great Apostle was responsible for the spiritual care and feeding of the Lord's people. Further, he knew himself to be accountable to God for this service that he was doing. Needless to say, he took this very seriously.
Paul tells the Colossians that he was given this stewardship for their benefit:
"...so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the Word of God."
By this he was talking about his single-minded devotion to fully preach the complete counsel of God to those whom he'd been sent. And that full and total counsel was known as the mystery. It was a mystery in the sense that it was hidden until that point in time. The mystery was not something which had been revealed in the Old Testament. It was first revealed to Paul and through him it was manifested to the saints.
In order to completely understand what the Apostle is talking about here we need to summarize all of his writings on this subject. First of all, it involves Jesus.
Jesus is the center of the mystery. Earlier, in chapter 1 Paul told us who Jesus was. He is God who created and sustains all things visible and invisible. He is the head of the Church, the Body of Christ and the firstborn from the dead. In other words, His resurrection guarantees the resurrection of all those who accept Him as Lord and Savior by faith. And because of all these things Jesus has the preeminence over all things. God's fullness dwells in the incarnate Christ and in no one else. Further, through Him God is going to reconcile all things to Himself.
After talking about all of these things Paul continues by condensing the mystery into one sentence which revolves around the God-man, Jesus Christ. He states:
"That is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (1:26,27).
To flesh this out more, God's plan of bringing back sinful man from death and eternal separation from Him in Hell and bringing Him back into an an everlasting relationship, sharing in His glory was accomplished by His Son, Jesus Christ who died and rose again. He now lives in each believer today through the Spirit which He gave to us. He is our hope of glory.
Paul clarifies his thinking by calling this entire dispensation of God's Grace in which we are now living, the mystery. It is a time in which Jews and Gentiles are placed into the Body of Christ, the Church, by faith in Jesus.
For those unfamiliar with the term Gentile, this is the word used by Scripture to differentiate the rest of the world from God's chosen people, Israel. So Gentiles are everyone else besides the Jewish people.
Before, God was dealing exclusively with the nation of Israel and they were to be His people through which the Lord brought blessing upon the entire world. But they failed in this responsibility and were set aside temporarily. Now God is not dealing with only one nation. All mankind is now on an equal footing before their Creator.
Paul talks about this new phenomenon of Gentile and Jew being saved on an equal basis in Ephesians 3:1-7 by saying:
"For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles- Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power."
Paul talks about the fact that national Israel was set aside temporarily for their lack of faith, in the book of Romans. In Roman 9-11 he tells us this. And in 11:25,26 Paul states:
"For I do not want you brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery-so that you will not be wise in your own estimation-that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written: "He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. This is my covenant with them when I take away their sins."
As we can see, God still has a future for the Jewish people and will fulfill all promises made to them. However, the mystery includes the fact that God is not, at this moment dealing exclusively with them. Rather, He is dealing with the world as a whole, bringing salvation to all mankind alike by faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul speaks of another aspect of the mystery in I Thessalonians 413-18 when he talks about what has been called the Rapture of the catching up of those in this dispensation in the air. The dead in Christ first rise. Then those who are alive and remain will be caught up with them to meet the Lord in the air. And we will then be with Christ forever. That ends this stewardship or dispensation in which we now live.
Paul explains this same event in I Corinthians 15:51-53 in which he calls it a mystery. He states:
"Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality
And with the catching up of the Body of Christ and the end of this stewardship or dispensation, God will start again His dealings with national Israel. Until then, we, like Paul, must continue our mission of preaching the good news of salvation by grace through faith to the entire world which God loves and for which Jesus died.
This leads us to the final characteristic of a good minister, as seen in the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul. His ultimate goal was to help every person come to maturity in Christ.
III. Paul's Goal for Ministry: Maturity for Every Believer (28-29)
We see in verses 28 and 29 of this first chapter that Paul is not content just to see the people whom the Lord had placed within his stewardship to just believe in Christ. He wanted that faith to completely change their lives to the point that they would be complete or fully mature. The goal of every believer should not just be that they make it to heaven. If you love the Lord Jesus Christ and want to please Him in all that you do, your target is to be like Him.
The Apostle John said it very well in one of his epistles. John told us:
"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." (I John 3:2).
Paul saw it as his duty to help the ones under his care to reach that full maturity. He put it this way:
"We proclaim Him, admonishing every man with wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which works within me." (1:28-29).
We see in these final verses both Paul's love for his Lord and for the people under his care. And with these words he shows the heart of true servant leader.
As we come to the end of this section of Colossians we get the picture of a man whose heart is totally sold out to the work of Jesus Christ. Because of his love for the Lord Paul was able to give himself completely to the work of the ministry to the point of giving up his very freedom so that people would hear the gospel and be converted.
His work became a stewardship and he was God's slave working faithfully for his master on behalf of those in God's household. And he loved the people in his care so much that he was unwilling to allow them to be complacent about their walk with Christ. He, rather worked night and day to see them fully mature in Christ.
The truth is that most of God's people will not become professional pastors, teachers and evangelists. However, we are all servants of Jesus Christ. And we all should be concerned about what moves the heart of God.
We must all be dedicated to Christ and His work of salvation for all mankind. We should care about the mystery that Paul loved in which all persons on this earth, Jew and Gentile alike become part of the Church, the Body of Christ, who will worship and love the Lord Jesus for eternity and learn to live in harmony with one another.
Also, we must see the gifts and talents that the Lord has given us as a stewardship from Him in order to bring glory to God and share the good news of salvation with all persons in which we come in contact.
Finally, Jesus Christ should be the center of all of our lives, so much that we want to be like Him and do what we can to help others do the same.
In the Christian church, ministry has wrongly been allowed to become solely the job of the professional clergy. But we will begin to be powerful as the Church of Jesus Christ when we all minister to the world as servants of our Lord and take the responsibility to share the good news of salvation with everyone we meet.
It is my hope that we will all one day be able to pray like David Livingston:
Livingstone was a 19th century pioneer missionary to Africa, who walked over 29,000 miles. His wife died early in their ministry and he faced stiff opposition from his Scottish brethren.
He prayed, “Send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever any ties but the tie that binds me to Your service and to Your heart.”
If we can pray this prayer and mean it, we can truly change the world. And together we will bring millions of souls with us into His eternal Kingdom. And that is the greatest thing we can ever do on this earth.
© 2021 Jeff Shirley