Study on the Book of 2nd Corinthians

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Division 3 — “The Ministry & It’s Description”

Lesson 9: "The Ministry: It’s Call to Consistency and Endurance" - II Cor 6:3-10

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

II Corinthians 6:3-10, “Giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed: But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”


-Introduction: One of the greatest needs of the ministry is for consistency and endurance. Too often the daily activities and duties of the ministry are allowed to become routine and mundane. Purpose and zeal—the very reason for which God called the minister—are allowed to fade from memory. Lethargy, complacency, routineness, and professionalism are allowed to slip into the life of the minister and the spirit of fervency is dimmed. There is little zeal to help and reach people for Christ. The present passage speaks strongly to this problem: the call of God to the minister is to be consistent and enduring. Eight things we have to look at here.


          1.  Paul's great concern was consistency—to offend in nothing (v.3).

2.  In much endurance—the supreme quality of consistency (v.4).

3.  In physical sufferings and mental stress (v.4-5).

4.  In moments of overwork, sleepiness, and hunger (v.5).

5.  In spiritual growth and behavior (v.6-7).

6.  In disregarding the world's reaction (v.8).

7.  In social abuse and persecution (v.9).

8.  In being content—always (v.10).


#1) Consistency: Paul had one great concern, to offend in nothing.

II Corinthians 6:3 says, “Giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed.”


Paul had one great concern—consistency, to offend in nothing. Paul wanted his life and ministry to be so consistent that he would never give any reason for anyone to reject or to turn sour on the Lord Jesus Christ. The word "offense" used here means to stumble, to strike against.


Paul was careful; he guarded his behavior and conduct lest he cause a person to stumble and fall and reject the gospel of Christ. Note the reason: he did not want to be a poor reflection upon the ministry.

You see folks, Paul knew the nature of man, that people looked for excuses to reject Christ and to avoid the church. He knew that some people were always searching for juicy gossip to use against the followers of Christ and especially against the ministers of the gospel. He also knew that God had called him to the ministry of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and that no higher call could be issued. Therefore, Paul sought to bring only honor to the ministry and to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He struggled against the lusts of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. He struggled...

•  to avoid all temptation.

•  to keep from giving any offense.

•  to keep from being a stumbling block to anyone.

•  to conquer all trials.

•  to see to it that the ministry was never blamed because of a weakness or failure on his part.


*Thought 1. Every minister of the gospel must be aware of the great call God has given him. The ministry of Christ demands consistency—consistency in behavior and work. The minister of the gospel must strive just as diligently as Paul did to be consistent. He must be trustworthy and blameless before the Lord Jesus Christ.


"A bishop [minister] then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach" (1 Tim. 3:2).


"For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders [ministers] in every city, as I had appointed thee: if any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly" (Titus 1:5-6).


"Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless" (2 Peter 3:14).


#2) Endurance: Paul was consistent in endurance.

2 Corinthians 6:4, “But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses.”


Paul was consistent in endurance. "Patience" means steadfast endurance. Endurance is the supreme quality, the very backbone of consistency. Unless a man endures, he will never be consistent, not in a corruptible and sinful world. A corruptible and sinful world presents obstacle after obstacle and sin after sin that have to be endured and overcome if a person is to live a consistent life. Steadfast endurance is the basic ingredient that a person must have to live a consistent life for the Lord Jesus.

When trials, fatigue, temptations, or opposition confront the minister of God, he must do all he can to endure:

•  to continue

•  to stand fast

•  to be unyielding

•  to remain firm

•  to last

•  to overcome

•  to triumph

•  to bear

•  to conquer


Note four points here,

-The picture being painted is not that of a man who sits with folded hands and passively accepts whatever comes. It is the active struggle of the believer's spirit to confront the obstacle or sin and to conquer it.

-Also note the word muchmuch endurance is necessary if this world is to be overcome.

-Paul again says that his primary purpose is to live a life that will commend the ministry. "In all things" he sought to build up, to commend, and to approve the ministry.

-Paul's point is this: he has lived a life of endurance for the sake of the ministry. And he lists all the areas in which he has endured. They are covered in the rest of this passage. Note how the areas span all the areas of a minister's life and ministry.


"Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (James 1:3-4).


#3) Ministry: Paul was consistent and enduring in physical and mental suffering and stress.

2 Corinthians 6:4-5, “But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings.”


Paul was consistent and enduring in physical and mental suffering and stress. Six particular things are mentioned here,

          -1.  Paul endured "afflictions.” The word means pressure, strain, tension that comes both from within and without. Things often press in upon a man, weigh upon and burden down his heart. Sometimes the pressure is so heavy and tight that a man feels like he is going to explode or be crushed. The pressure may come from some lustful temptation or from some strong trial, but no matter, he is to stedfastly endure all pressing afflictions.

-2.  Paul endured "necessities." The word means inescapable hardship, difficulties, privation, and pain of life. William Barclay points out that the word literally means "the necessities of life." A minister is called upon to face the necessities of life: he has to eat and drink, clothe and shelter himself and his family; and he has to face the sorrows and struggles and pains of life, including death itself—sometimes beyond what the average citizen has to face. Only one thing can carry the minister through the necessities and experiences of life: endurance. He must stedfastly endure for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ and His ministry.

-3.  Paul endured "distresses." The word means straits, calamities, tight places, inescapable situations. It is the picture of being cornered and being unable to escape; a picture of having no room or place to turn, of being forced to confront the situation or else being utterly devastated and defeated. When the minister is cornered by temptation or trial—when there seems to be no escape—his only resource is endurance. He must stedfastly endure lest he offend the gospel and become a stumbling block to others.

-4.  Paul endured "stripes." The word means here scourging’s, beatings, lashings, and whippings. This was a savage, excruciating punishment. The whip was made of leather straps with two small balls attached to the end of each strap. The balls were made of rough lead or sharp bones or spikes, so that they would cut deeply into the flesh. Paul's hands were tied to a post above his head and he was scourged. It was the custom for the prisoner to be lashed until he was judged near death by the presiding centurion (Jewish trials allowed only forty lashes.) The criminal's back was, of course, nothing more than an unrecognizable mass of torn flesh.


Paul was scourged at least eight times—just imagine! Eight times—five times by the Jews and three times by the Gentiles. Tragically, believers all over the world are sometimes whipped and abused because of their testimony for the Lord Jesus. In such times, only one thing can give the believer a consistent life and testimony: steadfast endurance.

-5.  Paul endured "imprisonments." Paul was arrested and imprisoned several times: in Philippi, in Jerusalem, Cesarea, and Rome. The early church Christian, Clement of Rome (A.D. 96), says that Paul was imprisoned seven times throughout the whole span of his ministry. When the believer, minister or layman, faces imprisonment for Christ, the call of the hour is for consistency: he must endure despite the threat. He must not weaken lest he become an offense to the name of Christ and to the ministry.

-6.  Paul endured "tumults." This word means mob uprisings and attacks. Paul often faced angered mobs. He faced them at Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:50); Lystra (Acts 14:19); Philippi (Acts 16:19); Ephesus (Acts 19:29); and at Jerusalem (Acts 21:30). Mob uprisings present one of the most difficult and frightening situations imaginable for a believer, for a mob cannot be controlled by reason. The believer is unable to be heard, so speech is useless. Believers often face the abuse and ridicule of crowds because of the righteous lives they live and because they refuse to join in the worldly pleasures and indulgences of life. At such times the believer must be consistent in his testimony—no matter the temptation to go along with the crowd. The true believer, layman and minister alike, must stedfastly endure.


"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake" (Matthew 5:11).


"He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 10:39).

"And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my names' sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 19:29).


"But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me....for I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake" (Acts 9:15-16).


"For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake" (Phil. 1:29).


"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12).


"Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience" (James 5:10).

 

#4) Labor: Paul was consistent and enduring in moments of overwork, sleepiness, and hunger.

2 Corinthians 6:5 says, “In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings.”


Paul covers all three areas here,

          -1.  Paul endured "labors." It means toil, laborious work to the point of exhaustion. As we study the life of Paul, one striking characteristic about Paul's ministry becomes clear: he never stopped preaching, teaching, or ministering until he just had to have rest. He was not lazy, lethargic, slothful, or complacent. He got up in the mornings and put his hand to the plow: praying, studying, ministering, and witnessing—just as God had called him.

-2.  Paul endured "watchings." That is, sleepless nights. As stated, the record of his life indicates that he arose early and rested only as he needed. He spent nights in prayer, and sometimes found the weight of the churches on his mind so much that he could sleep little if any. The point to see is Paul's great concern for people and their needs: concern so great that it would keep him awake at nights praying and figuring out how to better reach and help people for Christ. Paul was steadfast in the ministry, even enduring sleepless nights for the cause of Christ.

-3.  Paul endured "fastings."  This means not only deliberate fastings, but being so involved in his work that he forgot to eat or else chose to keep working instead of eating.


*Thought 1. How many ministers honestly...

•  endure overwork—laboriously work to the point of exhaustion? And how often?

•  endure sleepless nights for the sake of prayer and figuring out how to better help and reach people for Christ?

•  endure missed meals in order to get more done for Christ?

#5) Paul was consistent and enduring in spiritual growth and behavior.

2 Corinthians 6:6-7, “By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.”


Nine areas in particular are covered here,

-1.  Paul endured in "purity.” It means innocence, cleanliness; free from the dirt, filth, and pollution of the world; free from immoral and unjust behavior and motive. Note that it involves both heart and acts, both motive and behavior. It means to be spotless and stainless, holy and righteous, godly and just. The minister of the Lord Jesus Christ is to live a pure life.


"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27).


-2.  Paul endured in "knowledge." This is the study and understanding of God's revelation and Word. Paul did not neglect the meditation and study of God's Word and revealed will. He learned all he could about how God wanted men to live, and he applied himself to living and teaching that way.


"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).


"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16).


"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge" (2 Peter 1:5).


-3.  Paul endured in "longsuffering." It means patience, bearing and suffering a long time with people, especially when they were wrong, unjust, abusive, slanderous, and injurious. The minister of God must always suffer and bear a long time with people, even when they are ever so wrong.


"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2).


"And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you" (2 Peter 3:15).


-4.  Paul endured in "kindness." It means goodness and benevolence of heart and behavior. It is being kind and good, gentle and sweet even when others are abusive and evil, severe and hurting, unappreciative and unthankful.


"Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another" (Romans 12:10).


"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephes. 4:32).


"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering" (Col. 3:12).


-5.  Paul endured in the "Holy Spirit." It means in the presence, power, and gifts of the Spirit. The great proof that he was a true minister of God was the fact that the Spirit of God worked in and through him. Paul was able to live for Christ and to build the ministry because he walked in the presence and power of the Spirit of God.


"And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Cor. 2:4).


"For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake" (1 Thes. 1:5).


-6.  Paul endured in "unfeigned love." It means a love that is not counterfeited or faked; love that is sincere, genuine, and pure; love that is unlimited, selfless, and sacrificial. No matter what a person does, unfeigned love forgets self and sacrifices whatever is necessary to reach out and help the person. The minister of God must always be consistent and endure in unfeigned love.


"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34-35).


"This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you" (John 15:12).

"Let love be without dissimulation [hypocrisy]. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good" (Romans 12:9).


-7.  Paul endured in the "word of truth." That is the preaching and teaching of the truth, that is, of the gospel, of the Word of God. The minister must always preach the truth of God's Word, not the thinking, philosophies, and ideas of men. The novel ideas of men are always coming upon the scene as the latest fashion of the day, but only the Word of God endures. God has called the minister to proclaim His Word; therefore, the minister must endure in proclaiming the word of truth.


"Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him" (Acts 28:31).


"And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 10:7).


"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15).


“Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life" (Acts 5:20).


"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2).


-8.  Paul endured in the "power of God.” The power of God was an absolute essential, for no human being could deliver men from sin, death, and judgment. Only God had the power to create men anew and give them eternal life. Therefore, Paul had to have the power of God upon his life and ministry if his labor was to be effective and bear genuine fruit.


"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).


"And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:33).


"And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:4-5).


-9.  Paul endured in "the armor of righteousness."  It means the righteousness or justification of Christ; the power to live a life of righteousness; the acts of righteousness to which Christ had called him. All of these meanings are probably meant here. No matter what the attacks were or against which hand they attacked, from the right hand or the left hand, Paul resorted to righteousness. He proclaimed...

•  that he stood in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

•  that he had committed his life totally to the Lord Jesus Christ, to live a life committed totally to the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

•  that he acted righteously for the sake of the ministry.


#6) Paul was consistent and enduring in disregarding the world's reaction.

2 Corinthians 6:8, “By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true.”


The world's reaction to Paul is covered in three sharp contrasts.

1.  Paul was honored by some and dishonored by others. Some showed respect; others did not. Some gave him the honor due a minister of God; others did all they could to dishonor him. However, Paul stood and endured all dishonor done him.

2.  Paul was talked about: some spread evil reports about him; others good reports. He was criticized and censored and had rumors spread far and wide by those who opposed him, but others loved and understood and stood by the good he was doing. Whatever the situation, Paul consistently endured and continued to minister for his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

3.  Paul was treated as a deceiver, yet he was as true as a person could be. The word "deceiver" means to be an imposter, a false teacher, a quack. However, he stood fast: no matter the charge, he endured and continued right on preaching the truth and doing all he could to help and reach people for Christ.


"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake" (Matthew 5:11).


"But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you" (1 Peter 5:10).


#7) Paul was consistent and enduring in the face of social abuse and persecution.

2 Corinthians 6:9, “As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed.”

          -1.  Some treated Paul as unknown; others as well known. The word "unknown" means to dismiss, ignore, disregard. Some just wanted nothing to do with the minister of God. But others loved Paul because of what he had done for them and was doing for people throughout the church. No matter the treatment, Paul endured for the sake of the gospel and people.

          -2.  Paul was treated as dying, yet he lived. Some looked upon Paul as reckless and unwise, as a man who courted the disfavor, anger, and rejection of men. They saw Paul as a "fool" who was doomed, who was rapidly walking the road to death. But others understood and knew the truth: he was a new creature in Christ, a man who had found eternal life, and he was compelled to share the glorious news with the world no matter the threat to his own safety. He knew the truth and he had to do all he could to awaken men to the truth—regardless of the consequences. Therefore, he endured the cross, dying to the world, in order to share the glorious news of eternal life.


"As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter" (Romans 8:36).


"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).


"It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him" (2 Tim. 2:11).


"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it" (Luke 9:23-24).


-3.  Paul was chastened, yet he was never killed. Being chastened means suffering. Paul was constantly suffering for the cause of Christ and he was willing to be chastened in order to help and reach people for Christ. No person and nothing could kill him until Christ was ready for him to depart for heaven. Until that time, he would endure any suffering, any chastening as long as he had breath to bear witness for Christ.


"Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (John 15:2).


"Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:6-7).


"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:12-13).


 

#8) Paul was consistent and enduring in being content—always.

2 Corinthians 6:10, “As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”


Three contrasts are again made here,

-1.  Paul was looked upon as sorrowful, yet he was always rejoicing. The worldly and carnal saw him as seldom if ever having fun. He never joined the crowd in their worldly pleasures and activities, nor did he seek the comforts and possessions of the world. He was viewed as an extremist in separation, a man who missed out on the pleasures and fun of living. However, Paul was filled with joy, true joy—the joy that comes from knowing where he had come from, why he was here, and where he was going. He was gripped with the utmost security, confidence, and assurance of life.

          -2.  Paul was considered poor, yet he made many rich. He was a travelling missionary, a man who in the eyes of the world was homeless and without worldly possessions. Yet, he possessed the true wealth, the only wealth that can really make a man secure—the wealth of God's presence and love and care. And Paul shared his wealth with others. He always shared how men could possess the eternal treasures of heaven.


"But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal" (Matthew 6:20).

 

"Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ" (Phil. 3:8).


"[Moses] esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward" (Hebrews 11:26).


-3.  Paul was looked upon as having nothing, yet he possessed all things. He had no worldly goods, but he did have the promise of God: he was to possess all things very shortly, as soon as Jesus returned. He was an heir of God, even a joint-heir with Christ.


"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:3-4).


*Next Lesson: The Ministry: Its Call to Separation and Consecration, II Cor 6:11-7:1



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