(2 Corinthians 4:5)
This scripture is a great lesson and reminder for those of us who teach and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. It needs to be remembered, especially as there are many today who do not follow the teaching Paul is giving us here, which is to proclaim Christ first.
There are ministries today where the major focus of the ministry is not Jesus Christ but the “personalities” who run or work within the ministry. Some seem to be more focused on money, music, social activities, or other things and completely miss the point of Jesus Christ. This is not what Paul was teaching us here, and the big issue for us is that by NOT following Paul’s advice, a ministry can and will go astray from the truth.
It is simple advice too. Paul tells us that we need to proclaim not ourselves, but Jesus Christ with ourselves as His humble servants. Unfortunately, it does not always work that way.
The underlying principle in this scripture is one of humility. Look carefully at the words.
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. – (2 Corinthians 4:5)
When we stand on the platform, preaching, teaching and speaking the words of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is it that we are really promoting? Is it Christ as Lord or do we use the words of the Lord to promote our own position? Hopefully, it is Jesus that we are seeking to give all glory and praise and not seek praise and glory for ourselves.
But there are many who take the power that exists in the words of the bible and use them for their own purposes rather than teaching the truth of the gospel.
This is not a surprising thing. Power is a dangerous and intoxicating drug and many have fallen prey under its spell. Ministers of religion are not immune to this intoxication either. They are looked up to in the community and by their own congregations, and it can be easy to lose perspective, thinking it is what they are doing rather than what God is doing through them to bring His people to Himself.
Humility is the key to ensuring we in the ministry are truly promoting and teaching the truth of the gospel. Jesus Christ taught us that we all need to be humble as we walk in His ways, and not just those in ministry. But it can be a real trap for those in the ministry if they do not listen to these lessons and heed them well.
Even in the early church, this was already a problem where some did not proclaim Christ first.
Paul spoke of some whom he called “super-apostles,” and in other translations, “superlative apostles.”
3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. 5 Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. – (2 Corinthians 11:3-5)
Note that these “super-apostles” are not preaching the gospel of the truth, but are introducing different doctrines that are leading the people away from Christ. They are teaching a message that will not bring the people into freedom in Jesus Christ, but into the bondage of their own false teachings and so take people captive for their own ends.
They claim to be ministers of Christ but deny this in their words and deeds and prove themselves to really be enemies of Christ. Paul berates them and adds:
12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. – (2 Corinthians 11:12-15)
We see another example where this happened to the Apostle John who was being opposed by a man named Diotrephes. What is it that stands out about this man most? He did not proclaim Christ first but put himself first to take captive the people around himself for the purpose of personal power and gain.
9 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. – (3 John 1:9-10)
Diotrephes did not proclaim Christ first, and also he rejected the authority of the church. He put himself first and so showed his lack of humility and the taking of power for himself.
Proclaim Christ First
This is why we must, as teachers and preachers of the Lord, always and at all times remain humble and put Christ and His word and work first.
The power of God has been given to some of His people to preach and teach His words, and it is both a tremendous honour and blessing to be used in God’s work. But we must do so in humility. We must seek His will always so that we wield the sword of the Spirit and the words of God correctly.
The mindset of the ministers in the church is not about “what’s in it for me” but rather “How can I serve better.”
We are servants of God, entrusted with a message to deliver to His people, and this is a great honour. I personally do not want anyone to look up to me as anything other than that what I am…a servant of Christ, trying to spread the truth of His gospel so that all can learn to be free.
I will always seek to proclaim Christ first and serve Him where and when I can so that God is blessed and Jesus Christ is praised, worshiped and honoured as He deserves.
Ultimately it is His work and He will appoint His ministers as He sees fit. Those ministers must learn, walk and hold on to the humble path of the servant to proclaim Christ first and so do the work God sets before them.
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