Life-Study of 2 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 2:12—3:11 Paul covers the ministry of the new covenant, and in 3:12—7:16, the ministers of the new covenant. The section in this Epistle on the ministers of the new covenant is much longer than the section on the ministry of the new covenant. The reason for this is that God cares much more for the ministers than He does for the ministry. In other words, God cares more for what we are than for what we do. This means that what we are is much more important to Him than what we do.
Today both in the Christian world and the secular world more attention is given to what people do than to what they are. Christians mainly pay their attention to work or ministry, yet neglect the being of the person who does the work. They pay attention to the work and the ministry much more than to the worker and the minister. But according to the Bible, God pays more attention to what we are than to what we do or to what we can do. He cares for the kind of person we are and for the kind of life we live. Therefore, in 2 Corinthians Paul first presents the New Testament ministry. Then he goes on to show that this excellent, marvelous ministry needs excellent ministers with an excellent life.
We need to be deeply impressed by the fact that God cares much more for what we are than for what we do. What we do must be measured by what we are. Furthermore, our being must match our work; that is, what we are must match what we do. Our being must match our doing. Thus, our being and our doing go together. If we care only for what we do and not for being the right kind of person, then what we do will not be very weighty. Our doing will be weighty only when it is matched by what we are in our being.
In 6:1 Paul says, “And working together with Him, we also entreat you that you do not receive the grace of God in vain.” “And” here indicates a continuation. In the last part of chapter five (vv. 16-21) the apostle told us that they, as the ministers of the new covenant, are commissioned with the ministry of reconciliation for the Lord’s new creation. From this verse to the end of chapter seven, he continues by telling us how they work. They work together with God by a life (not by any gift) that is all-sufficient and all-matured, able to fit all situations, able to endure any kind of treatment, to accept any kind of environment, to work under any kind of condition, and to take any kind of opportunity, for the carrying out of their ministry.
Some who read this may say, “This is a good word for co-workers and ministers, but it does not apply to me. I am a layman, not a minister.” But in the Lord’s recovery there are no laymen. Everyone is a minister, a co-worker, and even has the potential and the capacity of becoming an apostle. Elsewhere we have pointed out that the apostles are examples and patterns of what all believers should be. In Ephesians 3 Paul says that he is less than the least of all saints. Moreover, the name Paul means “little.” If Paul, who thought of himself as less than the least of all the saints, could be a minister and an apostle, how about you? We all have the capacity to be ministers of the new covenant. Concerning this, our emphasis should not be on what we do, but on what we are. Our capacity is not primarily a capacity for doing but for being.
I would say that in 6:1—7:16 we can see that the apostles work together with God by an all-fitting life. This portion of 2 Corinthians does not indicate that they work together with God by an all-sufficient power or by an all-wonderful gift. Today’s Christians, however, mainly devote their attention to power and gifts. Some may inquire, “Do you have power? Don’t you know that Dr. So-and-so is a powerful preacher? What gifts do you have? Oh, Dr. So-and-so is very gifted.” But among Christians today there is very little talk about life or about living. Those who do not have genuine power may pretend to be powerful. For example, in a presumptuous way they may pray, “In the mighty name of Jesus I bind all the demons!” But it is most interesting that in 2 Corinthians Paul does not talk like this. Actually he says very little about either gifts or power. As used in 2 Corinthians, gift does not refer to miraculous gifts, and power does not have the connotation commonly given by Christians today. If you read carefully through the entire book of 2 Corinthians, you will see that Paul’s concentration is on life. Hence, in 6:1—7:16 we see that he worked together with God by an all-fitting life.
Being a minister of the New Testament does not depend on gifts or power; rather, it depends on having a life which is able to fit into any kind of situation. To be sure, in 6:1-13 the word all-fitting is not used. But if you consider what is contained in these verses, you will see that they describe a life which certainly is all-fitting. As we shall see in a later message, here Paul mentions eighteen qualifications, three groups of items, and seven kinds of persons. Paul, therefore, was qualified to be a minister of the new covenant in all these ways.
In 6:1-13 Paul does not list among the qualifications such things as philosophy or psychology. If we would be proper ministers of the new covenant, we must have the eighteen qualifications mentioned by Paul and three groups of items, and we need to be seven kinds of persons. Only in this way can we be qualified to be a co-worker with God for His New Testament ministry.
In 6:1 Paul does not say that the apostles work together with one another. No, he says that they were working together with God. The apostles were not only commissioned by God with their ministry, but they also worked together with Him. They were God’s co-workers (1 Cor. 3:9). Paul and his co-workers were working together with God.
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