“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1 NIV).
Corinth was a unique place and church for Paul. Paul understood the people, the culture, and the challenges the church faced. Corinth also provided a source of support for Paul. He was able to use his trade as a tentmaker for support. He spent more than a year starting and encouraging the church. Because of his concern over the church listening to false teachers, he wrote the letters of Corinthians calling the people to repent and turn from false teachings.
The culture of Corinth did not support salvation through the Cross. Paul summoned people back to a faith that was not self-serving, but Cross-focused. Paul suffered greatly for the gospel during his ministry; he was imprisoned, shipwrecked, chased out of towns, physically beaten, and spiritually trampled. Whereas the culture around Paul focused on self and carrying out the rules of a religion, Paul called the church of Corinth back to the gospel and continued to focus and point to the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. Upon meeting with Titus (who had delivered the letter) again, Paul rejoiced when he heard of believers repenting and turning to the Cross.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:1 (CSB), “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” The chapter begins with the word “therefore.” We should ask ourselves what it’s there for. “Therefore” points back to the previous portion of Paul’s letter. 2 Corinthians 3:5–6 (NIV) reads, “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
As believers, we have confidence from God and competency in the Spirit. Paul wanted all believers to understand that these strengths come from Christ, not from man’s strength or following specific rules. God gave Paul the ministry as an apostle of the New Covenant that came from the Cross. God took a man with a title and education, a persecutor of Christ followers, and gifted him a ministry of sharing Jesus’ love. Paul was “shown mercy”—from a worldly/cultural perspective to a Christ follower!
In the midst of adverse culture, Paul wrote, “do not give up” (CSB) or “do not lose heart” (NIV). Paul encountered persecution, was attacked physically, endured natural disasters, and had his authority questioned, but he still shared the love of God. He continued calling the church back to salvation through Christ. He spoke the truth and encouraged the Corinthians not to give up their faith.
Does this sound familiar? Today, our culture impacts our families and churches the same as in Paul’s day. Your students are impacted by culture in their schools and families and on social media. What message is culture throwing at your students? Do you ever walk away from small group conversations wondering what our culture has come to? I wonder if Paul ever thought the same.
Remember Corinth! You have a ministry as a Christ follower. No job title or paycheck from a church is necessary to have a ministry. As Christ followers, we are summoned to go and tell the gospel—to live a lifestyle of the gospel in actions and in words. The true gospel is that Christ came to earth to die on a Cross for our sins and defeated death through the Resurrection so you and I can spend eternity with God, our Father.
You are living out ministry by discipling your children and students as Christ followers. As Paul would say, “Do not lose heart!”
Charity Gardner-Taylor is married to J.D. Taylor. Charity and J.D. love hanging out with family and spoiling her nieces and nephews. She is also care-giving for family members. When not hanging out with family, she loves traveling the world and trying new foods.
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash.