MINISTERS OF THE CHURCH
I Corinthians 1-4,9
The congregation at Corinth had many wrong conceptions of the ministry.
Their first minister was the apostle Paul. He had come from Athens where he had been scorned by the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers.
Paul had eloquently defended himself in Athens on Mars Hill. He met the Athenians on their own ground, and talked of their idols. He showed to them, in a brilliant way, the supremacy of God, and then came to the core of the gospel - the resurrection of Jesus.
At that point, Paul was interrupted with outbursts of derision. The dislike of the Athenians for the message of the Paul caused the dislike for the messenger.
Paul left Athens, feeling low and rejected. Paul founded no church at Athens, and it is never recorded that he set foot in Athens again. So, when Paul arrived in Corinth, he determined to preach the simple gospel message.
Today, in the same way, ministers are often rejected, and can become discouraged. They have preached their souls out, and their message, and their selves have felt rejection.
I Corinthians 2:1-4
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power."
At Corinth, they disliked the message of the gospel, but not as much as at Athens. The Greeks wanted more human wisdom. They wanted a gospel message that was more complicated and intellectual. The simplicity of the gospel did not satisfy many of them.
The Jews wanted a sign, a miracle, a prosperity gospel, a gospel that gives them all the blessings they crave, to confirm that the message was true. They wanted sensationalism.
The gospel did not satisfy either group. Those who want an intellectual message fail to be satisfied with the simple gospel plan of God. Those who want miracles and wonders, blessings and prosperity, find that the gospel is often met with rejection, persecution and afflictions.
Both groups are unsatisfied:
I Corinthians 1:21-25
"For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."
Paul reveled in the messages and sermons that God had him to preach. He called it the "foolishness of preaching", but he also taught that this same message was the "power of God." He said it may seem foolish to the world,
but it is the only message that saves, sanctifies, and guarantees a way to heaven. Therefore it is "wiser" than any wisdom man claims to have.
This simple gospel message will attract the foolish, the weak, the base, the despised, and the powerless. The ones who think themselves to be wise,
those who think they have some nobility, and those who claim strength will most often reject this simple gospel message.
Pride is a major stumblingblock to sinners. God often has to humble them, make them weak, or show them their foolishness to get them to accept the true wisdom of God.
"...in their affliction, they will seek me early (first)."
So the sermons that God gives His ministers will not be as mankind desires,
they will not be acceptable to many, and they will not "tickle the ears" of the listeners (as will the sermons of the false prophets). God's messages seems foolish, unspiritual, and unsavory to the world.
I Corinthians 1:26-28
"For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called; but God hath chosen the foolish ones of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak ones of the world to confound the ones who are mighty; and the base ones of the world, and the ones that are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and the ones who are nought, to bring to nought ones who are."
This simple gospel message still reached some of the upper class. Erastus was the city treasurer of Corinth, Sergius Paulus was the governor of Crete,
and Crispus was the head of the synagogue at Corinth. The simple, common persons hear the gospel gladly.
Paul describes his ministry in chapter two of I Corinthians. He says that "I came", not with excellent, well-polished sermons, but with weakness and fear. He continues, "I determined" to preach the simple gospel of Jesus the Messiah Who came, but was rejected and crucified. Then Paul says that "I demonstrated" a power of God with spiritual gifts, rather than a message that involved trickery of words and concepts to attract the people.
Yet, some people would rather have the excellent, well-polished sermons,
the more intellectual sermons that omit the mention of Jesus lest someone be offended, and the words of cunning and enticement to make men accept a gospel thinking it is different from the "taking up of one's cross and following Jesus to a calvary crucifixion" gospel. There are many who preach such gospels today. Many Christians are deceived thereby, and follow them.
Many people at Corinth began to follow a warped idea of what a minister should preach, and what a minister should be. Many problems resulted from such errors.
The true message of God to be preached by ministers is offensive to unrepentant sinners. After 2000 years the message of the cross is still offending sinners. Some ministers try to clothe it, cloak it, camouflage it, and it is still offensive. The wisdom of God is still better than the world's ideas, and the message of the cross is still the only way to find Christ and heaven.
Some who dislike the idea of sin will follow a heresy of the Christian Science cult and pretend that sin does not exist.
Those who want the thrill of the supernatural without repentance will follow the Spiritist Hall cult, and see demonic powers do signs, wonders, and deceive them to hell.
Those who want a gospel that does not involve persecution, affliction, and suffering for the gospel will follow the prosperity doctrine and seek for earthly "mammon," and lose Jesus.
Those who want religion without awakening the conscience, will follow a church that has a form and a ritual, but no powerful presentation of Jesus.
Those who want to hold onto unforgiveness, hatred, a critical nature, and a lying nature will find one of the churches which propagate judgmentalism, and seek to add thousands of commandments back into Christianity beyond the two commandments that Jesus gave.
The plain, simple, cross-bearing, Jesus-glorifying gospel message is offensive to these persons. Only the simple gospel message can turn their contempt into contrition. We must not apologize or alter the gospel. It is a real temptation for a minister, but it does not work.
Some ministers fear that the preaching of the simple gospel plan will make them not appear to be "deep", spiritual, and wise. They fear people will flock to hear the adulterated gospel, and leave their church. Perhaps some will, but we cannot alter the message, the true gospel, to hold onto people who desire anything, or anyone, other than Jesus. The true message of ministers is the "WISDOM OF GOD."
I Corinthians 2:6-8
"Howbeit, we speak wisdom among them that are perfect ( Greek = telios, = mature): yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."
This message still requires all a man can give intellectually, physically, and spiritually. The presenting of the simple gospel message can put a great strain on a man. Paul said he preached it with "weakness" (I Cor. 2:3). It puts a great strain on the physical man when he preaches the total dependence on God's gospel. It also causes a "fear" and a "trembling" on a true minister. For lest a minister grieve the Spirit of God, or bring reproach on the truth, he labors and strains to keep the message pure.
Many a minister has wondered why they feel the "weakness, fear, and trembling" as they minister. It is because they are preaching the true, pure, unadulterated gospel of the Lord. These ministers need the prayers of the saints, for they carry a burden almost too heavy to bear.
The message of God is almost beyond our comprehension. We cannot understand how it will help, how it will convict the sin-hardened sinner, how it will result in signs and wonders, and how it will ever be accepted by those deceived by false doctrines. God will reveal unto His true ministers all the messages they need to know to fulfil their calling. The Spirit is the teacher, and so a minister needs times of studying, praying, being alone with the Spirit to truly preach.
Too many congregations think a minister should punch a time clock, hold down a job in the world so they will not have to give in the offering for his support. These same people will criticize a minister if he is not running around visiting them, the sick, talking, witnessing. They think he is lazy if he retires to his study, and stays quietly alone with the Spirit and the Word of God. Paul preached the simple gospel, unadulterated by man's wisdom, because he had been alone with the Spirit enough to know the deep things of God. He preached according to the capacity of his hearers, and gave them the simple message for which they were ready.
Paul was intellectual, wise, well-educated. Yet, the people at Corinth thought Paul's gospel was not as intellectual as the one preached by Apollos. Yet, Apollos was not educated to even know about the baptism of the Holy Spirit until Aquila and Priscilla took him aside and instructed him about it. Paul had not gotten into depth with the Corinthians on many doctrines as yet, because they were not ready. They had to see the simplicity of the gospel, the milk of the gospel, before they could go on to the meat of the Word.
Many today have heard the gospel message, and before they were well-instructed in the simple Jesus-crucified gospel, they jumped into the meat... and choked on it. Many errors of doctrine have thus resulted. Doctrines of MILLENNIUM-NOW, SEEKING PROSPERITY IN EARTHY RICHES, and JUDGMENTAL, RULE ADDING, ABUSIVE congregations have resulted.
Some in today's congregations want only a devotional message, some want to be taught the deep mysteries, some want only doctrine, some want only exhortation. The church needs all of these! Some ministers flog their congregations with harsh, judgmental sermons all the time. Some feed, feed, and feed some more, all the time. Rebuke is sometimes needed, feeding of the flock is sometimes needed. Deeper revelations from the Word are sometimes needed. We need the WHOLE COUNSEL of God.
Paul says that ministers are workers together with God. We each are to our part in the ministering of the Word of God. We each receive our reward according to how we did our part.
I Corinthians 3:9,14
"For we are laborers together with God... if any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward."
God is the architect of the building of the Church, and we are to work according to His specifications. We each do a part, As a building needs carpenters, plumbers, electricians, bricklayers, painters, etc. -- in the same way, God uses different ministers to each do a part of building a church.
The pastors who want to single-handedly build a church, without looking for others to minister in their God-given ways... will have little churches, immature churches, church splits, and weak churches. Those who look for others to do what God has not given them to do, will find the saints will grow, the church will increase, the maturity of spirituality will be seen, and revival will flourish. Even in such churches, the different ones who aid God in the ministry need to be careful to make sure their work fits the blueprints given by God.
I Corinthians 3:10-11
"...But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
Ministers who preach the unadulterated, simple gospel will pay a great price for such a ministry.
I Corinthians 4:9-13
"For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle, unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour, we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labor, working with our own hands; being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it, being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world,
and are the offscouring of all things unto this day."
When Paul speaks of being "made a spectacle" the Greek word indicates the idea of a Greek parade, which at the end of such a parade were brought criminals, bound and fettered to make them suffer public humiliation before the crowd. In the same way, the ones who minister for the Lord are often subjected by some in the congregation to humiliation for their simple cross-bearing presentation of the gospel.
Paul also says that they are "fools" for Christ. The Greek word is "moros" which is the word from which we get "moron." A minister is often considered a moron by some in the congregation for the simple, cross-bearing gospel message.
Paul says that the minister is "weak", for it does take more energy to preach a half hour sermon, than it takes the average man to work an eight hour day. Ministering the Word of God with authority, with conviction, and with zeal is demanding, and drains all the strength of the minister.
The true minister is one who is "despised." There are many households where "roast preacher" is served for Sunday dinner. These people criticize the sermon, his haircut, his manner of delivery, his emphasis, and his not beating them to the door so he could shake their hand... Then this same group wonder why their children rebel, and do not seek counsel for waywardness from this same minister.
Paul also said the ministers "hunger", "thirst", are "naked", are "buffeted", and have "no certain dwelling place." This is because a minister is seldom overpaid.
If a manager of a department store, caring for trinkets, clothes, and furniture is paid many thousands, how can we think we are overpaying a minister who is charged with caring for the souls of the saints, the children of God?
The mayor, the congressmen, the senators are paid multitudes of thousands and they deal with the earthly things.
The true minister of the gospel speaks with the Almighty God, seeks His counsel and guidance. He is the under-shepherd of the flock that belongs to the Creator of the universe. They deserve all a congregation can give... and then some.
The true ministers "labor". This labor is too often a physical labor. The church congregations often think it is the minister's job to clean the church, fix the plumbing, change the light bulbs, and shovel the snow. Then they wonder why his spiritual being is weak and burdened. If Jesus came to next Sunday's service, would you expect Him to arrive early enough to shovel the snow, dust the pews, mop the floor, and still minister a fiery sermon?
Paul also stated the "being reviled, we bless, ... persecuted, we suffer it." This refers to the insulting abuse that ministers often receive. They are to present the gospel, so the true minister will not stand to weekly defend himself from the lies, innuendos, insults, and abusive treatment of the gossips, critics, and tares of the church. They need to attend to the faithful, and thus they do.
"Defamed, we entreat." The message of the true minister is often rejected. Often as ministers have tried to teach the truth of the Word, they have had attacks. The true minister will keep on entreating the people. The message will still be grounded in love and mercy.
The true ministers of the Word are often treated as the "filth" and the "offscouring". This "filth" refers to the sweepings of the house that one brushes out the door. Many a minister has felt pushed away, in that same way. The "offscouring" is a word that referred to the scrapings from a pan of burnt on food, charred and worthless, they are scraped off and washed down the drain. This is how a true minister is often treated. This is despicable behavior of so-called saints. They are evil when they treat a minister of God with such an attitude.
There was a custom in Greece to incarcerate certain worthless criminals, who in time of plague, famine, etc. were thrown into the sea in the belief that they would "cleanse away" the guilt of the people. In that same way, many a minister has been shunned, hated, criticized, persecuted, expelled, and fired by some who want to blame him (or her) for the problems of the congregation. Instead of searching their own judgmental, hypocritical, bitter hearts for the problem, it is easier to throw the true minister to the sea. Such congregations will usually do this to minister after minister. The reason is, the real problem did not leave when the last minister was thrown out as the "offscouring". The real problem is in the hearts of the abusers, and those who enable them to carry on this tradition.
I Corinthians 4:1-2
"Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards, that a man be found faithful."
True ministers of the simple cross-bearing gospel are "ministers of Christ." They are the servants of Christ, not of man, nor of the church, nor of the board of deacons, nor of the denomination. They serve Christ, answer to Christ, heed the message of Christ. He alone is their Lord. He alone does the true minister seek to please. Those who seek to please the people, please the congregation, please the board of deacons, or please the denomination will stray from the true message, and adulterate, pollute, and defile the true message of the Lord Jesus.
True ministers of the Lord are "stewards of the mysteries of God." They administrate the presentation of the whole truth of God. They show in the Word, how the Christian life should be lived. They have a grave responsibility to not add to, nor to take away from its message. They must faithfully preach it, not dilute it. They must preach it even when some will try to embarrass them for it. When others will want to contend with them, and hope the minister will change the message to avoid the confrontation, they must forcefully hold fast to the truth of the Word of God. This is their burden of responsibility given them by God.
Ministers need our prayer and support. God alone is their Judge, and they answer to Him. Ministers do not even always know how to judge themselves. Did they do all that they should have, or could have? Many a minister has condemned himself for not doing this or that better, or more often. We are told in the Word not to do that kind of self judging, for the Lord is the only One Who knows exactly what He wanted us to do. The congregation should not judge the man of God, nor should he be too harsh on himself. Allow God to judge... He alone can do it properly. We await His judgment on our ministry. Till then keep trying to do all we are told to do, by Him.
I Corinthians 4:3-4
"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment; yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but He that judges me is the Lord."
In chapter 9 of I Corinthians, Paul deals with the support of the ministry. Paul emphasizes the right of a true minister to be supported by the gospel.. At Corinth, Paul did not choose to be supported by the church. He worked as a tentmaker. To do as he should, a minister should have the time to sit at the feet of Jesus, and not to be distracted by a worldly job, in order to feed himself and his family.
Paul said that a soldier expects a soldier's rations and some pay besides. If we sent our soldiers to battle, but told them to have a secular job to feed themselves, buy their own bullets, etc. would we win the war? Many a church has lost loved ones to the devil, because they were too stingy to pay their minister a living wage.
A farmer expects to eat of his own labor. If he is not allowed to profit from his own farming, and he must go into town to find a secular job so his family can eat, the farm will not be properly tended. The wise will allow the farmer to eat of his labors, and allow him to spend more time weeding, plowing, and harvesting.
The shepherd expects to eat of his flock. The shepherd serves the flock, and faithfully protects those sheep, and should expect to profit from his labors. If the average congregation member was told by their boss that they were to continue to come to work, but the paychecks were going to cease, how many would still go to work? In the same way, the minister, labors, and should be able to pay his bill, feed his family, and have some recreational and rest time money. He should be able to have a retirement fund, just as the factory worker who demands such a retirement fund.
I Corinthians 9:8-10
"...this is written, that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope."
The priests of the Old Testament were partakers of the shew bread in the Holy Place, and a part of every lamb or ox given in sacrifice was to go to the priesthood.
Spiritual work is a higher calling than the secular jobs that many of us hold. It demands more pay, not less... because of its spiritual nature. Some think that if they are doctors, and minister to the physical condition of people, they deserve multitudes of thousands a year. Then these same people who feel that way want their minister, who tends their spiritual being, to barely pay his bills, drive an old - worn out - car, and dress in clothes bought at Goodwill. This is repugnant to God, and a perversion of His plan.
I Corinthians 9:11,14
"If we have sown unto you spiritual things, it is a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things... Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel."
Paul had chosen, while at Corinth, to not ask for payment. He explains his reasoning.
I Corinthians 9:12,15
"If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ... But I have used not of these things; neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me; for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.
Paul knew that he would be criticized by the congregation if he were to take pay from them. It is unfortunate that many today are so inclined. They think they can criticize what a pastor does with his money, if he receives pay from the church.
If he buys a new car, they will say he should have bought a used car. If his wife comes in a new coat, many try to find out how much she paid for it,
so they can criticize her. If your boss wanted an accounting of what
you did with your pay, so he could threaten to cut it, if you had more than just enough to get by, would you feel he was going to far? If you bought a new television, and the other one was not completely worn out yet, but would still run, though the volume did not any longer work, would you want him to feel he could cut your pay since you were obviously overpaid, if you could afford a nice television?
This is how many treat a man of God. If it is in a congregation's power at all, there should be no one in the church who is paid more than the minister of God. Shocking? Then give me scripture and verse for any other teaching!
Ministers of God, if they are truly serving God, will not abuse the pay. Like Paul, they will often work for nothing, knowing their heavenly reward is their true goal. But a wise church will try to get them to cease their secular work, and will strive to see that the minister is paid well for his spiritual work. Paul, when with more mature congregations, did receive pay from them. (Acts 16:15,40; Philippians 4:15-18)
For a true minister of God, who lovingly serves his congregation, and carefully listens to the Holy Spirit for guidance in preparing his sermons, who is ready to pray for you on a moment's notice is never paid a sufficient amount of money for such labor.
Any congregation that will allow their pastor:
to suffer financial anxiety,
to be late on his bills,
to suffer need of any thing,
to drive a car that he is never sure will run if he has to make an emergency visit to the hospital,
to not be able to take a well-deserved restful vacation,
or to wonder how to provide for himself and his mate after retirement,
is a foolish, immature congregation.
A true minister will preach, will minister to the congregation as charged by the Lord, even if the pay is insufficient, or non-existent. He will not be preaching so he can have a new Mercedes automobile, nor to get a full bank account, but he/she will preach even if it costs them their own sustenance. This is because of his high calling.
I Corinthians 9:16-18,25
"For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge,
that I abuse not my power in the gospel. ...And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible."