We Have a Ministry
Pastor Logsdon’s Installation Message Delivered Sunday Morning, January 14, 1951
The keynote of Paul’s message to the Corinthian believers reminds us of a great general who said to his soldiers, “The assignment before us is most important. We know our cause is just. Let US go forward.” After his premise was clearly established, this faithful leader laid his challenge upon the hearts of Christians, saying, “Therefore, seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not.”
A Potent Ministry
The Christian ministry has a throb of love which reaches to the utmost depth in pity; which goes to the greatest length in mercy; which lifts to the loftiest height in power; which keeps through the endless ages in faithfulness; and which gives the richest, most boundless gifts in grace. It calls when men are careless; invites when they are indifferent; and helps when all are helpless.
It is unique in its design. The uniqueness of the Christian ministry is proved in that it outshines the law, outweighs the wisdom of men and outlines the deliverance of God. Paul portrayed the Law as a pedagogue, leading children up to Christ in Whom they could put away childish things and become men. “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness,” he exulted. Christ absorbed the Law, taking all the force of its killing letter and fulfilling all its rigorous demands, now to present a glorious righteousness, without impossible exactions, absolutely free. Because this transcends human knowledge, Paul wrote, “The world by wisdom knew not God.” No ministry of human origin is capable of bringing men into vital reltationship with the Infinite. Reformation is valuable, but it cannot justify a sinner. Worldly wisdom may raise the living standard, but it cannot lift a soul to heaven. The Christian ministry alone shows the way. Step by step it leads men from sin and despair through the avenue of faith into the life and liberty of Christ.
It is united in its development. It is observed that there are diversities of gifts, differences of administrations, and a variety of operations. The varied gifts are evidenced in a multiplicity of engagements, all controlled by one Sovereign Force and all contributing to one glorious end. One may go “down to the battle”; another tarry “by the stuff.” One may speak; another sing. One may preach; another pray. One may go; another give. One may evangelize; another edify. One may counsel; another comfort. Each member of the body has its necessary place. The foot cannot deny its function; nor the ear, nor yet the eye. It was superb reasoning as well as sublime revelation employed by the beloved Apostle when he said, “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him.” It is the coordination of the many members in a blended effort which gives to the body the productiveness divinely desired. It is a united ministry.
It is universal in its delivery. This is most obvious in the scope of God’s planning. A world-loving God would not limit His affection. Nor could He be partial in His dealings. He is no respecter of persons. Paul made it clear that “Christ died for all.” It was in no wise difficult for his highly trained mind to accept this truth. The universality of his ministry is further revealed in the substance of God’s plea. He calls all ends of the earth to look unto Him. The Apostle was, without doubt, the brightest luminary in this global undertaking. He carried God’s offer of mercy, conceded His willingness to forgive, and conveyed a heavenly hope to all men everywhere. Today this ministry is being carried to the remotest corners of the earth through blood and sweat and tears—even to death. Through human lips God reveals His will, enunciates His invitation, urges an acceptance, and warns of delay. In a superbly gracious manner He announces to the whole world that it is not His will that any should perish, but that all should come to repentenance.
A Possessed Ministry
The eternal God has placed in our hands a ministry that does miracles. It is not of future bestowment; it is of present possession. We have it now. Whether clearly defined in our thinking or ill-defined, we have it. Whether actually accepted or mentally rejected, we have it. It is something from which we cannot detach ourselves. It is one of the practical accompaniments of our “so great salvation.” It carries a responsibility of incalculable weightiness, which, when discharged, produces a present joy and promises a glorious reward. If ignored, it will hound us to our dying day and visit us with loss at the judgment seat of Christ. It is the opportunity of heaven for others held in our trust.
This ministry is undeniable. The Christian may do little about it, but he cannot gainsay his Scriptural responsibility. No one ever seemed to question the fact that the Apostle was a servant of God. Everyone about him knew that he had a ministry. This was true of all those pioneers of the faith. It was definitely true of the martyrs. They were given the choice of denying or dying. They preferred death because their faith was their life. They could not give it up. Christ meant everything to them. They continued their ministry until the burning fagots brought their spoken testimony to a close, and then their martyrdom spoke for them, and speaks still. This is a testimony to an acknowledged responsibility that must be discharged.
The ministry is unalterable. The commission is the same today as of old. The things of the Lord do not change as the fashions of men. The lost are just as lost as ever. God’s love is just as wonderful. The Gospel is just as powerful. Heaven is just as alluring. Hell is unchangeably horrible. God still saves men by the foolishness of preaching. If this ministry were not of God, it might change with the fluctuations and innovations of men; but since it is of God, it is immutable—in keeping with His own unchangeableness.
This ministry is non-transferable. Each servant was responsible for his own pounds while the master was away. Each of us is likewise responsible to Him who said, “Occupy till I come.” We may think we have transferred our ministry by letting another do what the Lord has called on us to perform. But not so. The books one day will be opened. Paul had once planned to go on a journey into Bithynia, but the Spirit called for an expedition toward Europe. He might have sent Silas in his stead, but he could not have done so and have been obedient to the Lord. Nor can we evade our personal responsibility in Christian service.
“Somebody needs you somewhere,
Somebody needs me too;
Somebody needs a word you can say,
Some deed that you only can do.”
A Perceivable Ministry
Paul took for granted that the believers whom he was addressing had a clear vision of Christian responsibility, for he said, “Seeing we have this ministry.”
The definiteness of Paul’s perception. How much we owe to the clear-sightedness of the beloved Apostle we shall never fully know this side of the veil. One thing is most evident as we study his life, he furnishes a godly incentive. His was an accurate perception—an enlightened vision. If he could know God’s will, then others could; if others could, then we can. Perceiving God’s will for our lives is not the enigma Satan has led us to believe. To one who might have lightly said, “I do not know what God would have me do,” the Apostle would have impatiently retorted, “Preposterous!” In all those arduous and extensive missionary sojourns, Paul had to develop an accuracy in perceiving the will of God because he was an agent for Him. He never allowed his eyes to be dimmed by self-interest or his mind to be dulled through self-will.
The willingness of Paul’s perception. The very attitude of Paul’s Christian conduct gives credence to the fact that his was a willing perception. When it became clear that God was leading in a certain manner, Paul stood out almost singularly as one servant who did not make excuse. Nor did he plead inability or procrastinate before beginning the assignment. In acknowledging God’s way, one willingly and readily allows God’s plan to take precedence over one’s own desires. It is an admission, always, that God’s way is both right and best. Paul never saw anything but folly in raising a “why” or “wherefore” when the Spirit made the plan clear. He seemed to favor the fact that man has absolutely no right to his own opinion when once God has spoken on a matter. Otherwise, the authority of God would be in question. His own plans could easily be discarded in deference to God’s way.
A Particular Ministry
“Therefore, seeing we have THIS ministry,” the Apostle continued. Whatever else this grammatical demonstrative meant to others, it was freighted with the greatest significance in the mind of Paul. One can almost sense the unusual emphasis with which he enunciated the words, “this ministry.”
It contrasts the law. The word “therefore” in the text at once suggests some antecedent fact or factor, and thus carries us back to the preceding chapter; namely 2 Corinthians 3. There, the Apostle made a sharp differentiation. He drew a contrast between the old Covenant and the new. He showed that the former was of the letter; the latter, of the Spirit. The old was glorious; the new, transcendently glorious. The old had vanished; the new is still in vogue. Moses was prominent in the former; Christ fills the latter. He labored the point that “God had made us able ministers of the new testament.”
It concerns the lost. This is one prominent reason why it concerned Paul. This is why it should eminently concern every Christian. It is the ministry that brings to men the message of salvation. Thus, it is that which concerned God when He gave His only begotten Son. It is that which concerned Christ when He endured the Cross, despising its shame. This ministry is redemption’s release—the lifeline of hope to a world of men drowning in the deceitfulness of sin. To have a ministry of such transcendent importance seemed to overwhelm the Apostle. He was not a bigoted, biased and unbalanced individual because he was determined to know nothing among the Corinthians save Christ and Him crucified. He was merely giving evidence of the fact that his conversion had placed him in the very center of the most awe-inspiring, heart-subduing and soul-thrilling ministry. He was an able exponent of a message that spelled hope for all who were lost in darkness and sin.
It comforts the living. The aims, ends and processes of this ministry involve not only a hope beyond the grave, but also help for those who yet meet the vicissitudes of this life. To the tempted, Paul could say, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to men; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” To the afflicted he could testify that His grace is sufficient. To those bereft of loved ones, he could relate the facts about the blessed hope of Christ’s return, and then add, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” From every angle of vision this ministry is worthy of the approval and appreciation of every Christian.
A Propitious Ministry
In his masterful appeal Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that “we have received mercy.”
The Messengers of Mercy. What he was saying is not obscured. He was pleading for performance of Christian duty, the discharge of God-given responsibility. Of all that we have received of the Lord we have destroyed nothing. It has all been in the mercy of God through Christ by the work of the Spirit. And the very fact that someone brought us the message should prove a strong motivating force in our sending it to others.
The Message of Mercy. It conveys the knowledge of salvation which involves a full, unqualified, eternal forgiveness of sins—a freedom from the domineering, degrading and disastrous grip of Satan. It is a message of peace—the product of justification. Men are not only loosed from Satan’s grip but lifted into a position of fellowship with God. Peace is the pleasant assurance that all is well with one’s oul, condemnation having been withdrawn and sweet contemplations of glory filling the mind with a gladdening effect. We “tried in vain a thousand ways, our fears to quell, our hopes to raise” until we heard of Jesus Christ and His salvation. Then came peace through Him. It is also a message of power. It puts us in contact with the Source of supply. Nothing less than this could have made Paul the exemplary servant he was, so tireless and effective in his endeavors.
A Pressing Ministry
“We faint not.” The literal translation may make this declaration more practical—“We do not give up.” More freely, “We press on!” Such an expression was consonant with the Apostle’s very character.
The Undaunted Pressing of Paul. After he surrendered to Christ even kings and magistrates could not deter him. The devil tried in many disguised manners to stop him, but still he pressed on! Men were dying in their sins without God and without hope—with only a fearful looking forward to judgment. The message of salvation must reach them! As a Britisher would say, “The King’s mail must go through,” just so Paul felt about the King’s message—it MUST go through! “Press on!” is still the challenge. It comes to us down through the centuries with the freshness of those undying qualities of divine Trust, quick and powerful.
The Undeniable Privilege of All. We, too, have a ministry. It is like a ministry. It is the same ministry. It calls for the whole-hearted acceptance and faithful execution which were accorded it by the exemplary Apostle. His natural qualifications were by no means exceptional. He simply had a great heart of love for his Lord and a broken, bleeding heart for men without the Saviour. These two simple factors made him profoundly great. A little more actual love for Christ and a little more real concern for the lost, then we too will press on—on as we know we should—on as the call demands—on as would be pleasing to Him “Who loved us and gave Himself for us.” Let us press on!