Ministry Of The Word
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.(2 Tim. 2:15)
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17)
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Tim. 4:2)
Quotations were taken from the New International Version. Italics added.
The attitude of the ministry in the first century reflected a great respect for God’s supremacy; a deep respect for the Word of God; a realistic understanding of human nature and a proper knowledge of the role of the Lord’s assembly of believers in ministry.
One illustration of the deep respect for the word of God in ministry is found in the story of taking care of the needs of the Grecian widows in Acts 6. Racial tension rose between the Grecian Jews and Aramaic speaking Jews over the issue that Grecian widows were being left out of the daily food distribution. The story was unremarkable except for the response of the leadership of the Church when the issue was brought to them. The solution the Apostles reached was to select a group of men who would oversee the food distribution to the Grecian widows.
However, the statement that the Apostles made in selecting the group of coordinators reflected the attitude toward the word of God in ministry. They said in verse 2, "It would not be right for us to neglect to ministry of the word in order to wait on tables." Prayer was also a major focus as well.
The priorities placed on seeking the ministry of the word of God is clearly seen in Acts 6:7: "So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith." When the ministry of the word of God was paramount in the work of the church in the first 40 years, good came from conflict and phenomenal growth was common place.
How do we know that the word of God was a priority for the 1st century Christians? The scriptures tell the story. When speaking the first Gospel sermon, Peter and the Apostles spoke confidently from Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus Christ while declaring his death to convict the audience to whom they were speaking. As a result, 3000 people were converted on that day (Acts 2). At the very beginning of the Christian faith, Christians "…devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teachings" (Acts 2:42). After Peter and John faced the Sanhedrin Counsel and was warned not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18), after their release Peter, John and their fellow believers prayed to be able to speak the word boldly (Acts 4:19-31). In Acts 5, the Apostles were arrested but was later released by an angel and told to speak in the temple courts. Once again after being warned again, the Apostles "…spoke of Jesus in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ" (Acts 5:42).
Throughout the New Testament, confidence was placed on the word of God for the ministry of Christians. Paul told Timothy, a young minister at Ephesus in 68 A.D. that he should have special regard for the word of God:
The conclusion is that the word of God was considered as the power of God for works of ministry (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12). The 1st century Christians placed their confidence on the word of God for the mission they conducted. The ministry of the word of God was at the center of the work of the church at that time. And the ministry of the word of God was a tool to be carried by all Christians and not to be limited for the leadership alone (Eph. 4:11-16).
The same attitude for the word of God must be predominant in the minds of Christians today if true Christianity is to continue and survive. The question is—What does the ministry of the word of God involve for it to be the center of the work of the church? Another question might be—How does the ministry of the word of God affect the various ministries of the church? What predominance should it have in determining the validity of current ministries? How can the ministry of the word of God be a part of individual Christians’ lives?
The Character of the Ministry of the Word.
Paul instructed one of his preacher students the necessity of having character and integrity in his ministry with the word of God. "Be diligent to present yourself as one approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15, NKJV, italics added). The need for this instruction was very necessary of the time and is the same for today. Such a needed is reflected in statements throughout scripture.
Such references show that there was a need for integrity and character in ministry in the 1st century and the same is true for today in ministry. Perhaps due to the "coming of perilous times" Paul was careful to warn Timothy to be a minister of character and integrity.
Paul taught Timothy that it was important to be eager, enthusiastic or even passionate about showing himself approved and not be shy about it. Apart of the reason was that Timothy was commissioned by Paul to correct some at Ephesus on several things and to instruct the church on leadership matters. There was also a reference in the first letter to Timothy that he wasn’t to let those whom he served to "despise his youth" but be an example to keep his integrity intact (1 Tim. 4:16). The ministry of the word sometimes involves correcting others so they may follow the Lord with more integrity, which can only be achieved by someone who has credibility to do so.
Paul was definitely an example of strength in the face of persecution. From the onset of his conversion, Paul had to escape with his life due to the fact that he changed his "ministry plans" by defending Jesus as the Christ and the son of God (Acts 9:20-30). Paul also declared his confidence in the message of the cross several times throughout his ministry (i.e. Ro. 1:16; Ro. 16:25-27; 1 Cor. 2:1-8).
A part of credibility is to show strength and courage in the face of danger as it is founded upon God. The language throughout second Timothy suggested that the ministry of the word involved a kind of warfare. Today, those who take up the ministry of the word must keep in mind to stand strong in the Lord and in his mighty power rather than fighting on their own strength.
In his "ministry training manual" called 2 Corinthians, Paul instructed his readers the following:
Again in another letter, Paul stated:
For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain. But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict. For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit. But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness -- God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2: 1-12, NKJV ).
Both passages reflected the attitude that Paul, as a minister of the word, had toward the message he was presenting. The word of God did not need human help "to add a punch" to what they were saying. The word itself was powerful enough to accomplish God’s work. Ministers of the word must recognize that they must do their best not to get in the way of the message. Just as Paul told the Corinthians, "For Christ did not commission me to baptize alone, but to announce the good news, not with the wisdom of words, or else the cross of Christ loose it’s influence" (1 Cor. 1:17). (See also Synthetic Evangelism).
Christians must guard against a hostile use of the word. We can’t be ministers who go about hacking people to pieces as though they are on a search and destroy mission but we are on seek and save mission for those who are lost. This requires ministers (Christians) of character, who define themselves as those with the disposition that Christ himself would have toward those who needed God’s salvation.
So, those who take up the ministry of the work (which every Christian is to do) must; (1) Approach the ministry with an urgent eagerness to show being "approved to God and thus having a ministry of credibility; (2) Evaluate ministry methods ruthlessly by checking with the word of God so God be glorified by one’s actions, while a ministry of courage is built squarely on the word itself rather on worldly tactics that may utilize manipulation or deceit; and (3) Show respect for the word of God itself while being able to speak boldly while developing a ministry of candor.
TYPES OF MINISTRIES OF THE WORD
The word of God can be used in a variety of ways; however, there are two overall areas that the word of God is used; (1) For evangelism and (2) For spiritual growth of Christians. When Paul was instructing his protégés in the ministry of the word, he made a distinction between the two ministries. It is most evident in the letters Paul wrote to Timothy, thought the distinction can be seen across scripture. For more information on the distinctions between the types of ministries look in "Resources" for the booklet entitled A symposium on Gospel & Preaching vs. Doctrine & Teaching, by Johnny D. Hinton.
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©2001 Thomas L. Reed II
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