In our last post, we looked briefly at how ministering the gospel is to take place. This post continues that. How are we to minister the gospel?
Two points today.
First, the work of ministering the gospel is hard, strenuous work and that means we will labor at it if we devote ourselves to it. Notice two expressions in Colossians 1:29: To this end I labor, struggling with all the energy … . Thus, gospel work is a work of “labor” (Greek: kopiao) and Paul works at it (Greek: agonizo).
What Paul is talking about here is not the toil of the curse of Genesis 3, nor is he talking about ministering being laborious and drudgery; a good look at Jim Martin’s recent post about what he likes about pastoring is a good reminder that ministering is not laborious.
Instead, he is speaking of the effort needed to get the job done. That effort, and I can’t develop these here, involves praying, yearning, striving, planning, anticipating, waiting, seeing plans fall flat and seeing plans come to pass, wondering, worrying, executing, teaching, guiding, preaching, leading, administrating, studying, reading, …. you get the picture. For Paul, the person who is called to minister the gospel will find a million tasks involved in both performing and proclaiming the gospel. Everything can get swallowed into the task.
Second, Paul knows that ministering the gospel involves suffering. Three times here.
1:24: suffered for you
1:24: I fill up in my flesh
1:24: for the sake of the Body
Paul, and no one has quite figured this one out, sees his own afflictions as part of what was measured out against Jesus Christ in his own suffering. He sees himself mysteriously connected to the sufferings of Christ in his own suffering. However difficult 1:24 might be, the point remains rather clear: ministering the gospel can involved suffering. What Paul has in mind is persecution and opposition and bull-headedness on the part of others who do not believe in the gospel.
I’ve been where Paul was imprisoned in Rome. It was a dungeon of two levels; it sat below the Capitoline hill and just above the Roman Forum. When Paul came out and stood there, he was between two powers: the political establishment and the political debate. He could see what made Rome tick — and it did not like what Paul was doing.
Never mind, that Roman power came to ruins, the gospel continues to be proclaimed and performed, and we are summoned, if it comes our way, to suffer for the gospel.