2 Corinthians 6:1-10
There are two main points St. Paul is making that I want to draw together. The first is the blunt truth that every day is the day of salvation. One of the most serious mistakes the modern Church makes is in teaching and acting as if salvation is a momentary instant. So we like to ask “When were you saved?” This is a loaded question, if ever there was one! It reveals two falsehoods. The first is that salvation is a past event that is over with. The second, related to the first, is the idea that one can date the exact day of salvation. This in itself assumes that someone has come dramatically to Christ as an adult or older child.
If I were asked “When were you saved?” I’d answer in a few different ways. First, I might say, “I was saved just today . . . and yesterday . . . and the day before that . . . and . . . .” In my own case I’d also have to answer: “There has never been a day in my life when I was not conscious that I was a Christian.”
So Paul’s first truth is that Today is the day of salvation. Every day you need to wake up and put on Jesus Christ as you put on your clothes for the day. Every day God is applying the Blood of Jesus to your life to redeem it.
This leads to Paul’s second truth: because God has saved us and made us His ministers, let’s go out and minister in His name today. Let’s go out today and minister as though we are the very smell of Jesus Christ in people’s lives. Let’s act as though we are the only communication from God that some people will receive today. Let’s suffer with those who suffer and comfort those who mourn because we are, truly, the presence of Jesus Christ in people’s lives today.
God brings the whole process of salvation, day by day, to us through His ministers – not angels, but us. The rest of this morning’s passage is the second most shocking and inspiring picture of how we are to act as God’s ministers (the first most shocking and inspiring is in 2 Corinthians 11, so brace yourselves): we do it by offering ourselves as whole burnt offerings to God in which we totally give ourselves to God and His ministry, regardless of the cost to self.
Paul offers a most impressive list of how he had actually suffered as a minister of Christ, that is, as Jesus Christ among those to whom he ministered: tribulations, needs, distresses (most of us have already read enough, but Paul hasn’t even begun!), in stripes, imprisonments (“alright, I’m out of here!” we might be thinking by this point), tumults, labors, sleeplessness, fastings, etc.
I imagine St. Paul rattling off this list to others and then saying like Maxwell Smart (if you’ve ever watched Get Smart) “and . . . loving it!”
Paul doesn’t mention these things so that he can complain about them. He doesn’t mention them so that he can enlist our sympathy. This is the same Paul who will say in 2 Corinthians 12:10 that he takes pleasure in infirmities. Paul can only say this because He knows that it is Christ in Him that is able to accomplish and endure these things, the same Christ who suffered on the Cross for us.
How can Paul endure such a difficult ministry to which God has called him? Read verses 6-10. By purity, knowledge, longsuffering, kindness, the Holy Spirit, sincere love, the word of truth, the power of God, and the armor of righteousness. This is a long and formidable list and one by which God is able to meet the challenges of participating in the ministry of Christ. All things are possible with the power of God, who gives Paul and us all of these powerful gifts.
How is it, then, that we can act more zealously and faithfully as God’s ministers when we face challenges that, although not comparable to Paul’s, are nevertheless daunting to us? We face these challenges with the same list of gifts that God makes available to all of us. There is not one thing on this list that is not something all Christians are commanded to have. There is nothing on the list about having to have had a special vision from the physical resurrected Lord, no mention of having to be an apostle – only a list of the fruits of the Spirit that we are to seek and use anyway (see Galatians 5:22-23 for Paul’s famous list of the fruits of the Spirit.)
If you begin to use the gifts that God has already given you, without restraint or stinginess, and if you begin to seek and live out the fruits of the Spirit day by day, then you too will be able to say with Paul, in whatever God calls you to, that you are dying and yet you live; sorrowful and yet rejoicing; poor, and yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
God’s willingness to use us as His ministers is limited only by our degree of faithfulness and by the number of things we are unwilling to give up to serve Him.
Prayer: Father, thank You for saving me this day and every day, through the ministry of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You for recruiting me as a minister in Your Holy Church. Since I am unable by myself to do Your holy will, especially in the face of so many obstacles, I ask for Your grace; for the power of Your Holy Spirit; for the fruits of the Spirit in increasing measure; and that I might more faithfully use the spiritual gifts You have already given me.
Points for Meditation:
- What am I unwilling to give up to serve as God’s minister?
- Meditate on one thing God is asking you to give up to serve Him.
- Meditate on the challenges to ministry you face, and then meditate on God’s corresponding grace and gift that will enable you to act faithfully in the face of these challenges.
Resolution: I resolve today to act as if God has just saved me. I resolve to see myself as God’s minister in the world and to minister where I know I need to more faithfully serve.
© 2011 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day