The ending of Paul’s first chapter in the letter to the Colossians is rich for the one who wants to know how to minister the gospel. It should be made clear, perhaps, that I’m not here talking simply of “ordained pastors” who are ordained to an “office” in the Church. In fact, Paul’s words apply to each of us in our own ministries of the gospel and, in particular, to those who have the gift of ministering the gospel.
Paul has plenty to say about the manner of ministering the gospel. How do we go about the task? This will take two separate posts.
First, Paul sees a place for declaration. In 1:28: We proclaim him. It should not go unnoticed, and will not by those in the emerging movement, that Paul believes gospel proclamation is proclamation of Jesus Christ.
Second, Paul sees a place for warning. Following “we proclaim him” Paul says “warning everyone.” It doesn’t quite say what they are being warned about, but the close connection with “teaching” in the next clause ties the two together into admonishing people to live in Christ.
Third, as just mentioned, Paul sees a place for teaching. 1:28 again: “warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom.”
Which leads to my fourth and final point on this post: Paul sees a place for doing all this “in all wisdom” (1:28 again). This expression envelops the others, the way a mission statement is to envelop all a community of faith is trying to accomplish. The mission of a minister is wisdom — this word makes us stop in our tracks and pause to know that this is a goal that transcends time and gives everything depth and dimension.
After teaching at TEDS for 11 years, I was given the opportunity to teach at North Park, but the switch was more than schools. The real switch was from seminary students to college students. And this meant I got to teach the whole Bible, and not just exegesis of the NT. I think the one term that struck me the most in teaching the whole Bible is the focus of the center of that Old Testament on “wisdom.”
The minister of the gospel, however he or she might be, in whatever circumstance, whether it is a paid job or volunteer effort, whoever and whenever and whatever he or she does needs to be dipped into the deep cool waters of wisdom. Wisdom is that brilliant Israel notion being capable of sound judgment, knowing God’s will as well as how it works out in real life, and bringing all that to bear on a given situation.
Ministers of the gospel get to declare, warn, and teach, but whatever they do they need to do it “in all wisdom.” Learn, the text is tellling us, how to live aright.