A Tale of Two Ministries: Paul and the Peddler's (2 Cor 4:1-6)
A Tale of Two Ministries
1. Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.
a. What ministry? New Covenant ministry, see chapter 3.
i. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (3:4-6)
b. Why do we not lose heart?
i. Because it does not depend on our sufficiency—the ministry doesn’t come from us.
ii. God makes us sufficient for ministry.
iii. The Spirit gives life.
2. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways.
a. 2:17, “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”
b. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word,
c. but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God.
i. J.I. Packer: “Doctrinal preaching certainly bores the hypocrites; but it is only doctrinal preaching that will save Christ’s sheep.”
ii. John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
3. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.
a. Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (3:12-18)
b. Why does Paul bring this point up?
i. It sounds like he is answering an objection: if you are really a minister of the gospel, why do so many people reject your message Paul?
ii. Perhaps Paul is not as “successful” as the peddlers.
4. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
a. Why is the gospel veiled to those who are perishing? Satan had blinded them; a gospel blindspot.
5. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.
a. Why did Paul’s message get rejected? Was it because he wasn’t dynamic enough in his presentation? Paul admits that he is not a great public speaker in his last letter to the Corinthians:
i. And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Cor 2:1-5)
b. A shot at the “peddlers”—they proclaim themselves.
i. Preaching for popularity: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ,” (Gal 1:10). “They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them,” (Gal 4:17).
ii. Preaching to their own passions: For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Tim 4:3-4).
6. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
a. Paul’s only hope for gospel ministry: Sovereign grace to overcome spiritual blindness.
In Summary: Two Ways to do Ministry, Paul and the Peddlers.
- Paul’s Model
o Recognize that his sufficiency to do ministry comes from God alone
o So, he will rely alone on a simple, plain proclamation of God’s truth
o And trust God’s sovereign ability to remove the innate blindness
o Therefore, he refuses to use salesmen like gimmicks to hawk the gospel, or tamper with God’s Word to make it more palatable to the natural man
o Therefore, his ministry does not rely on his programming, creativity, charisma, leadership, skills, or personality. He does not proclaim “himself,” but Jesus Christ as Lord.
- Peddler’s Model
o Believe that God is involved in the ministry, but His work needs their assistance.
o They speak unclearly about the truth, a foggy message that aims to make no concrete declarations that might lose some of their hearers.
o They follow the model of the marketplace: whatever it takes to make the sale.
o Therefore, they are willing to downplay or ignore elements of God’s truth or even contradict it.
o Because they are unwilling to rely on the Lord’s sufficiency for their ministry, they “proclaim themselves.” Their ministry will succeed or fail depending on their skill and salesmanship.
What does this look like today?
- Protestant Liberalism
o The concern of losing the “modern man” with the miraculous that appeared to contradict science
o In time, as we shifted to a postmodern world, and the problem no longer became the virgin birth, but the moral teaching of the Bible, they quickly adapted as well
o Born out of a desire to keep the church relevant, not lose touch with contemporary audience
o What happened to these churches? They are dying
- Seeker Sensitive
o Started about 30-40 years ago within conservative Evangelicalism with the Willowcreek “church growth” model led by Bill Hybels and Saddleback and Rick Warren’s “purpose driven church.”
o Aimed at creating a church experience on Sunday that was “seeker sensitive” that is, a church that was designed, top to bottom, to be appealing and attractive to non-Christians.
o What was changed?
§ The Building
§ The professionalization of the ministry (programs, programs, programs)
§ Homogenous principle
§ The "cool" factor
§ Preaching—topical, short, funny, sermonettes that steer clear of doctrine.
§ “Try before you buy” mentality of discipleship
o Runs off of pragmatism and marketing
§ George Barna: “The Church is a business and must be run with the same wisdom and savvy that characterizes any for profit business. It must be marketed…we must direct the flow of goods and services from the producer to the consumer, to satisfy the needs and desires of the consumer and the goals and objectives of the producer.”
§ Joel Osteen can fill a stadium—there must be something he’s doing right. Right?...
What’s wrong with this?
- What you win them with, you win them to
- The consumer is always right!
- It robs the church of its supernatural engine