Life-Study of 2 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 6:1 and 2 we see the work of the reconciling ministry and in 6:3-13, the adequate life for the ministry. From 6:3 to the end of chapter seven, the apostle depicts a life that is all-fitting for carrying out the new covenant ministry. In verse 3 Paul says, “We are giving no occasion of stumbling in anything, that the ministry may not be blamed.” The ministry here is the ministry of the new covenant (3:8-9; 4:1). In this message we shall consider the life that is adequate for such a ministry. This life is an all-fitting life.
In verse 4 Paul says, “But in everything commending ourselves as ministers of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses.” In verses 4 through 7 Paul gives us the first category of qualifications of the ministers of God, the ministers of the new covenant (3:6). When I read these verses many years ago, I was bothered by the fact that the first qualification given by Paul is endurance. I thought that in speaking of the qualifications of New Testament ministers, Paul should have begun with something great. Instead, he begins with the words “in much endurance.” If a believer today were to apply to be a medical missionary, surely he would mention his education. Would he instead claim that he possesses the qualification of endurance? Nevertheless, the first qualification listed by Paul is endurance.
Many translators agree that the Greek word rendered endurance in 6:4 implies patience. Some versions use the word patience instead of endurance. However, to render the Greek word as patience is not sufficient. There is a difference between patience and endurance. Of course, both patience and endurance are positive virtues. But patience falls short of endurance. Patience does not imply suffering, whereas endurance does imply suffering. If you talk to me for a long period of time, I shall need patience in order to listen to you. But if it is necessary to undergo some kind of suffering, I would need endurance in addition to patience.
The first qualification of a New Testament minister is the capacity to endure tribulation. Such a minister must be able to endure pressure, oppression, persecution, poverty, and any kind of trial. Brother Watchman Nee once said that the most powerful person is a person who can endure. Endurance requires strength. If we would endure tribulation, we need to be strengthened and become powerful.
Endurance was manifested in Brother Nee during the twenty years of his imprisonment. It is one thing to be an instant martyr; it is something very different to be in prison for many years. An instant martyr may be arrested, tried, and executed, all within a short period of time. For this, endurance is not necessary. But if one is cast into prison and then made subject to trial over a period of years, endurance is absolutely necessary.
Every minister of the New Testament must learn how to endure. The apostles, the elders, and the deacons all need endurance. Certain saints are very good at exhausting the elders. At this point let me say a word to those brothers who aspire to be elders: You must be ready for continual grinding. If you are put into the eldership, you will be placed between the grinding stones. Some brothers and sisters will grind you constantly. They seem to have a “commission” to test the spirituality of the elders. Through them you will be put on the test to see how long you can endure. But when we endure, we minister life to others. Those who have endurance are those who minister life.
Paul refers to his afflictions in 1:8: “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, as to our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were excessively burdened, beyond our power, so that we despaired even of living.” This is another qualification for him to be a minister of the new covenant.
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