Gordon E. Johnson

DEVOTIONALS from Second Corinthians


A Challenge for Qualities for Apostolic Ministry

2 Corinthians 6:1-4 (KNJV)

Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute


In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul has set forth a powerful presentation of the apostolic ministry. His is a high calling indeed, and he reviews for us his motivation, message, manner of living and serving. We are seeing Paul's high calling through his own lenses. This is an example of the incarnation of the message in a man. In this sense "the man is his message" as Oswald Chambers has said.  Christ in the messenger is the Word made alive.

A Backward Look on a Magnificent Presentation of the Message

A brief review of chapter 5 will heighten its impact. Paul ever conscious of death – he lived on the edge of martyrdom - shares his deep assurance of  his exchanging his portable tent for a "building from God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (5:1-4). In the meantime he enjoys the Spirit´s guarantee and walks by faith and not by sight; his overriding passion is to please him (5:5-8).

Living with eternity's values in view, Paul anticipates the Judgment Seat of Christ, not with fear and trepidation but with assurance; nor is his motivation based on his reputation or personal gain. Whether viewed as sane or insane by his detractors, he answers only to his God (5:9-13).   

Now Paul comes to the heart of his motivation; it is his message grounded in God's infinite love,

in God's eternal love to  him measured by his son's death on the Cross. But now with what depth he sets forth its deeper meaning!  It is a two-fold death: vicarious for Paul but also Paul's own veritable death to himself and to sin in that once for all death.

Here also is our message, becoming our motivation that issues in a new zeal and passion to serve (5:14). ". . . then all died; and He died for all, that those live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again" (5:15).

From this vantage point Paul applies the radical nature of that co crucifixion with Christ. There are now no longer any relationships "after the flesh." The "ego" no longer dominates our actions and reactions. Every human relationship has a new locus, a new focus. Away with anger, wrath, self seeking, self pity, bitterness, lack of forgiveness, discouragement. Life becomes a new living in a new spiritual ambience (5:16).

But the radical nature of this death to self, death to sin in union with Christ makes all things new, a process, no doubt, but a steady movement toward the completeness of life whether in ministry or in the home (5:17).


Paul is now about to sum up the newness of our message. "Now all things are of God". With this statement he sets before us the wonder and marvel de God's magnificent plan of salvation as only devised and executed by God in Christ. God, the righteous Judge, caused his wrath because of our sin to fall on his Son. Now none can fall on us. On the contrary, we are declared as righteous as our Substitute. This offer should be irresistible. The forgiven sinner is now the mouthpiece of God to all: Be reconciled to God. But there is even more; as ambassadors we share the "exchanged life". His righteousness is made ours: we become the righteousness of God in him.

Our Message Challenges Us to Action   2 Corinthians 6: 1-3

There is no break in the argument of the preceding chapter, but rather the challenge moves us to take full advantage of the Now of our message. "We, then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain" (2 Corinthians 6:1).The little word, "then"' reaches back to the powerful commitment that God has made as he has only us to be his mouthpiece. Do we feel that urgency? But rather do we realize the honor to be a co worker with God himself? 

But ours is not the ultimate responsibility for the work. Paul had said earlier to the Corinthians: "So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. For we are God's fellow workers, you are God's' field, you are God's building" (1 Corinthians 3:7, 9). What a relief to know that he does his work through us! His is the burden and his is the glory. 

Paul has frequently urged his readers to not receive the grace of the Lord in vain. This by no means refers to God's grace as vain or powerless. It is rather an appeal that we take full advantage of its power and respond wholeheartedly to that efficient grace. No doubt he has in mind 2 Corinthians 5:10 or the Judgment Seat of Christ. To not respond will mean in that day our apathy or indifference to the available grace does not result in his glory and his church's good. What a loss!

Paul illustrated this truth in 1 Corinthians 15:9, 10: "For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am. And His grace toward me was not in vain: but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."

To underline that urgency Paul quotes and applies Isaiah 49: 8. This passage in Isaiah is a perfect fit with its context. It is a Messianic passage that addresses Israel as Jehovah's servant but in the background what looms much larger is the assurance that "I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth" (Isaiah49: 6). Jehovah himself is the doer and the Day will be a Day of salvation. This verse has been often taken out of context in personal evangelism. The Holy Spirit takes the context and the spirit of the passage and applies the truth of our being now workers together with God.

The Task and Timing Come Together to Stress the Manner of our Serving.  2 Corinthians 6: 3 - 5

We have seen the motivation, the message and now the manner of how we serve. Only in God's work must the messenger conform increasingly to his message. What a challenge! The weak hearted should not apply. Again in that sense "the man is his message." It is only through the indwelling Christ that we become viable workers together with God.

A staggering demand now faces the worker, never self appointed. "We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed" (6:3). Little wonder that Paul had said: "And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of  the letter but of the Spirit" (3: 4-6).With that statement Paul introduced the ministry of the Holy Spirit who equips the worker to give no offense. 

In Galatians Paul recognizes that there is a stigma, a scandal in the preaching of the Cross. He does not avoid that reality; he glories in that. "And I. brethren, if I still preach circumcision? Then the offense of the Cross has ceased" (Galatians 5:11). "But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness but to those who are called both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:22, 23). Never let the worker avoid the scandal of the Cross, but let the worker himself never be the offense to his high calling of being God's mouthpiece for reconciliation with God in Christ.

Notice the blame falls not so directly on the worker but on the ministry. Every aspect of our personal lives must be a reflection of the inestimable value of the ministry. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, adding nothing to the sun, but shedding its light in deeper darkness, so our lives must reflect the Son of  Righteousness (Malachi 4:2).  

The Worker's Badge of Honor    Much Patience   2 Corinthians 6:4

After a negative statement of not giving any offence in anything to anyone ever, Paul stresses the positive. "But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience  . . . ." Earlier he refuses to commend himself in defense of his apostleship. "Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you?  You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men" (2 Corinthians 3: 1, 2).When it comes to self commendation his calling reflects his humility. 

Our personal ministry verse chosen shortly after marriage 61 years ago is in keeping with Paul's calling. "For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake" (4:5).  To truly preach Christ Jesus as Lord puts him in his rightful place and we in ours, servants of others.  

What, then, is the badge of the worker: briefly stated but it takes a lifelong learning - much patience. I remember in the early days of my ministry at Rio Grande from 1957 to 1968, I was in charge of the men's dormitory. I asked my mentor, Dr. F.J. Huegel, a veteran missionary and recently retired from teaching at Union Evangelical Seminary (1931-1956) in Mexico City. My question in search of a profound response was simple. "Dr. Huegel, what advice would you give me in dealing with my men called to minister in Latin American? His response was straight forward. "First, I would say patience, second patience, third patience."

I had expected something more theologically profound, but he could not have said anything as difficult as  patience, patience, patience. God works on a different time table than we do.  Calmness of spirit, willingness to accept God's providence today, tomorrow and the next day become a badge of leadership in every area: letting God be God and waiting on his time table. We learn t o submit our impatience to his will and await God's sovereign work in others and also in ourselves.  "But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing" (James 1:4).

Yours in the Message of the Cross,

 Gordon E. Johnson