Jonesing for ministry
by Alipio Amaral
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As Christians we too are in the people business; Christianity is all about people and as Christians we are all in the ministry to minister to the body, which means our business is about ministering to people.
1 Cor 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2 On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. 3 When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; 4 and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me.
This segment is about a subject that nobody likes to talk about. Pastors often feel awkward when speaking of it and congregants often feel ashamed concerning it. What subject is it that causes such pain in people? MONEY! Every time the word money is brought up in any connection to the church people generally have the same response, ‘Here comes the pitch.’ Paul is neither giving a smooth pitch to raise some funds, nor is he being slick in his approach to the issue, he takes it very seriously and says, “Give support to the church that is proportionate to you're income.” What he is talking about is the tithe.
Malachi 3:7 "From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you," says the LORD of hosts. "But you say, 'How shall we return?' 8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. 9 "You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! 10 " Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. 11 "Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes," says the LORD of hosts. 12 " All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land," says the LORD of hosts.
God says to His people, “You have turned aside from me and are not obeying me concerning the tithes and offerings, and by doing that you are actually robbing me of what is mine.” According to the bible, 10% of whatever comes our way belongs to God. If we make one thousand euros a month, then we must live on a budget of 900 euros a month because 10% of anything that comes to us is already His; it is not ours to spend. God says that by keeping it we actually rob him. Let me suggest that if a person is disobedient concerning the tithe, that person is probably disobedient concerning other things. If someone is willing to rob God, I would bet that such a person is willing to do quite a bit more than that.
People will say, “Oh well that is the Old Testament Law, we do not have to give a tithe every Sunday and just give whatever we feel like.” Look at what Paul says, ‘On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections are made when I come.’ Paul is telling them that their weekly giving should be proportionate to their income. What is he talking about? He is talking about the tithe. The word tithe means a tenth, and Paul is taking for granted that the Corinthians know exactly what he is talking about. Remember from the last segment, everything they knew they had learned from Paul.
Paul is speaking about what is given to the saints; to the church. He says the church gives to the church and that it is to be a regular practice. You are to give proportionately to what you have been given. What is gathered is a gift. Paul directed all the churches to give, he wants them to be involved just like every other church. He says, “do not give because of me, give, because that is one of the church’s directives.” The church is all about giving. Now here is what gets me. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections are made when I come.
Proverbs 20:15 tells us, ‘There is gold, and an abundance of jewels; but the lips of knowledge are a more precious thing.’ Money and finances are great and it is good that there is a lot to go around, however, it is not as precious as the lips of knowledge. Proverbs 1:7 tells us, ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;’ What Solomon is saying is that someone developing fear of the Lord, that is respect and love as that of a son to a father, is far more precious than anything monetary. The purpose of the Church is to save lost sinners from going to hell for all of eternity. We are all about bringing the fear of the Lord into people’s lives and ministering to them that they might be saved and develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. Now what God says is, ‘Is people being saved and escaping Hell not worth tithing for? My goodness is it not worth dying for?’. It was for Him! So too Paul in the last segment said it was worth it everyday.
He says the money is going to Jerusalem. “If it is not fitting,” he says, “he will not go to Jerusalem with them and the gift.” In other words Paul wants things to be done in a manner that is decent and good, he does not want anyone to get a wrong impression. The bible tells us to avoid the appearance of evil, so at all costs where it is possible we are to conduct ourselves in a way that does not leave room for question. Paul is doing the same thing as it concerns this money on its way to Jerusalem.
Paul points out that the church is all about giving, but who are they to give to? There are so many benevolent causes, and so many good people going without. According to Paul, the church is to be giving to the church, and that is what Paul was collecting for. Paul was going to take money from the Corinthian church and bring it to the Jerusalem church. The church is supposed to give to the church.
1 Cor 16:5 But I will come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; 6 and perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way wherever I may go. 7 For I do not wish to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; 9 for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
Paul has plans to go on to Jerusalem if it is appropriate and he will visit Corinth after Macedonia, however, he says, “it is most definitely fitting and appropriate to come to you and spend time with you.” Paul sees it as an opportunity to spend time ministering to them and is saying that he wants to go where he can minister to people. Paul does not want to go where he is not able to minister. He says I will stay with you and you can send me out next. He will stay where he is for now because the opportunities to minister there are huge. For Paul, ministry is his directive and ministry is effective and valuable service. There are enemies and adversaries that we have as ministers and their goal is to cause service to be ineffective. Now someone may say, “I am not in ministry.” If you are a Christian, you are in full-time ministry. Paul’s life plans are contingent upon where he can effectively minister to people and he goes where doors open for effective service. He is saying that ministry is not measured by what you get but by what you give. We need to ask ourselves these two questions. What are we giving to ministry? What is dictating our life plans?
1 Cor 16:10 Now if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to be afraid, for he is doing the Lord's work, as I also am. 11 So let no one despise him. But send him on his way in peace, so that he may come to me; for I expect him with the brethren.
In the middle of Paul’s material about life plans and ministry there is a part about Timothy. He tells them to make sure to look after Timothy when he arrives in Corinth because Timothy, according to Paul, was doing the Lord’s work, meaning he was effectively serving the Lord.
As Christians we are going to have enemies. In the spiritual realm the bible says that we are battling against some pretty formidable adversaries and the deeper we get into ministry the harder our battle will become. Those who are in effective service have enough enemies to deal with, therefore the church is not to be another enemy or adversary but rather to esteem and appreciate those that are effectively serving. To allow Timothy to come to Corinth and do nothing to support him as he serves there, but rather cause him to go out and get a job would be just adding pressure on him. Paul says, “Timothy is worth a great deal and he is very effective in ministry”. Not helping Timothy financially would just add unnecessary pressure and not sending him out would be despising him and failing to show appreciation for him. Paul says do not despise those that are doing the Lord’s work, show appreciation for those that are in effectual service. How do you know who is effectively serving the church? Look in the church and it will not be long before you discover who is effectively serving there. Timothy was to be found with the church and if ever anyone was looking, that is where they could find him – busy about the Lord’s work with the Lord’s people.
1 Cor 16:12 But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity.
Paul had encouraged Apollos to go and minister to the church in Corinth but he declined. Now one would wonder ‘What is that all about?’
We already know that Apollos helped plant this church in Corinth according to the second segment, so Apollos already had a relationship and cared for the people there. He had effectively ministered at this church. The reason why he is not coming to Corinth is because he is being effectively used by God exactly where he was at that time. Similarly we, like Apollos do not need to keep on moving in order to find opportunity to minister effectively, we can be used by God to effectively minister to the church where we are at the present time. So many Christians lead anemic lives thinking that they must go where there is a need. If you are in a church there is probably as much of a need there as anywhere else. So get involved and start serving in some capacity or another, start ministering.
Surveys show that as much as 85 percent of church membership growth is made up of people who church-hop. Other surveys show that there has been no real growth in church membership in recent years; increases in some denominations is simply offset by decreases in others. Paul is saying that you do not have to be a contributor or a codifier of that statistic, once you become part of that statistic, it is a vacation that you do not return from.
1 Cor 16:13 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.
Paul tells us that all things are to be done in love. The implication is that there is something to be done, wherever we find ourselves we can be used there. Being used effectively in ministry really only depends on four things…
1. Staying on the Alert – If we look for opportunities to serve in the church it will not take long to find them, just look around you, all anyone has to do is look. Most people find it very easy to point out what is missing in the church, so, if you see a gap that needs filling, you do it. If I see a lacking that needs some attention, then I need to seek the Lord if He might just be leading me to attend to it.
2. Defending the faith – The message that we preach is one of servant hood. Our lives either substantiate that message or discredit it before others, we either defend the faith by not giving anyone the opportunity to argue that we might not be practicing what we preach, or we stand by as our examples are tarnished.
3. Being brave – This segment does point out that we are to be supporting ministry financially. Some might say that they can not afford to spare anything, however, remember that the Lord gave you all that you have, and He says that a tenth of what you have is His. So, if that means we are living above our standards then we need to rethink our household budget. If tithing is giving God what is His, then as Christians, we need to be brave and give him what is His even if it means sacrifice; because in the long run we do not want people to look at the church falling apart because of financial want, and give a foothold to the enemy.
4. Standing strong – Finding what niche to fill and doing so through serving and tithing must be followed with continual faithfulness. Coupled with faithfulness these are incredibly edifying and character building traits and are really just disciplines of godly people. One cannot be an athlete without having disciplines, so too one cannot be godly without being disciplined.
1 Cor 16:15 Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints), 16 that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors. 17 I rejoice over the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have supplied what was lacking on your part. 18 For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men.
Here is the focal point of this segment. Paul makes note of another group of people in addition to Timothy, and Apollos. How does he describe them? These men have devoted themselves for the ministry to the saints.
Think about this. Paul’s entire life plans were dictated to him by ministry, his life was contingent upon where he could be effectively used. Likewise Timothy was a man given to ministry; he went where there was a need. Apollos was committed to ministry where he was staying, serving where the opportunity was. Finally, these three brothers are described as devoted to the ministry. The King James Version of the Bible uses the word ‘addicted.’ These men in this segment were all addicted to ministry. Paul was addicted, Timothy and Apollos were addicted, and so was the household of Stephanus. They lived their lives to minister and their lives were dictated to them by the ministry. They gave the control of their lives over to God by saying, ‘Lord, show me the need.’ Addicting ourselves to the ministry is what our lives are supposed to be about.
The classic part about this is that Paul begins speaking about the tithe but then uncovers his real message about giving. Ministry is about giving. When we are in ministry we are giving of ourselves, of our time, energy, and effort. In addition we commit our finances to the church, which are representative of our time, energy, and effort wherever we have our job. Now if all God wanted was giving him the tithe, which is already His anyway, then that would really be easy. God wants our lives completely, and our commitment totally, He wants much more than 10%, because that is not giving anyway, that is just breaking even.
In verse 16 it says that we are to submit to those who devote themselves to the ministry, so if you are in a church, you had better submit to the leadership of that church, principally because God says that you should, but also because their lives are about investing in you. Remember that ministry is about giving. The church is to be giving to the church and those devoted to ministry are all about giving to the church, so it is wise for me as a member of the church to submit myself to those people.
There are huge implications here. What Paul is saying is that if you devote yourself to the ministry people biblically will begin submitting to you and that is the whole point here. Devote yourself to the ministry and people will begin devoting themselves to you, very much like ‘follow the leader’. When I devote myself to ministry biblically I cause others to devote themselves to ministry. Paul says, “The church is about addicting yourself to ministry.” Allow your life to be dictated to you by ministry. Say, ‘God give me eyes to see the opening and opportunity. God help me to serve and tithe, and to commit myself faithfully to ministering exactly where you have me.’
According to Paul, people who are devoted to the ministry supplied what others in the church can not. These three brothers supplied what was lacking. So do we when we commit and addict ourselves to the ministry, we supply what others are not by definition, because we are filling up a lacking. This is a fantastic and exciting segment.
In verse 18 he says those that were devoted to ministry brought refreshment; devotion to the ministry is where refreshment is found. By serving effectively we will be refreshed and in doing so we will bring refreshment to others.
If you are devoted to the ministry it means that you are serving valuably. Ministry is about giving and that means others are receiving which means that what you are doing is valued by people. God knows that deep down we all have such a need to be valued, we have this inherent and incessant need to be appreciated. God says, “Devote and addict yourself to ministry and you will be.”
Devotion to the ministry is where recognition is to be given. ‘Let us be clear,’ Paul says, “These people deserve to be supported.” Each person Paul speaks about had given his own life into God’s hands and allowed ministry and serving Christians (where God showed them an opening to serve) to dictate their life plans. Paul says, “Is that not worth supporting? My goodness, “Is that not worth imitating?”
1 Cor 16:9 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. 20 All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
Here Paul introduced another two people. Priscilla and Aquilla had opened up their house for a church to gather and subsequently devoted their home to the ministry. They had not just committed their finances but also their home. They were what ministry is all about. Do you want to cause your home and your family to be committed to the Lord? All you need to do is addict yourself to the ministry and watch God go to work.
1 Cor 16:21 The greeting is in my own hand-- Paul. 22 If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.
In this area of serving the Lord, Paul uses just about the strongest words he could find to describe those that do not love the Lord. He says they are accursed that do not love the Lord. The word there is ‘anathema.’ ‘Anathema’ means that they are damned to Hell for all of eternity. So what does that have to do with Serving? Everything! Those who choose not to have a relationship with the Lord in this life are choosing not to have one with him in the next; He is not sending people to Hell, He is letting them have what they have always wanted, ‘total separation from Him’. Those who have a relationship with the Lord love Him, love for the Lord naturally results in serving the Lord so how can we love him back in a practical way for all the love that he has shown us? Remember the first segment? Love the church, serve the church, and commit yourself to ministry. You can tell how much I love God by my service. Do you need to improve your serve? The old adage is right, PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!
Then Paul says, ‘Maranatha.’ Now Maranatha means ‘come Lord Jesus come.’ How does that fit in? Beautifully. The Aramaic word implies coming in divine judgment. As Christians we know that He is coming soon and we have that understanding biblically… if you will, divinely. So too we can use our biblical divine judgment to ask ourselves, ‘Are we devoted to ministry?’ According to the bible, we need to be, being a Christian means that we are in full time ministry; to your family, to your friends, at work, in church, everywhere.
‘My love is with you all in Christ Jesus,’ he says. He loved this church so much, and after this entire letter we do not doubt that. More importantly they knew that Paul loved them because he showed them. Do you love the church? Do you love God? SHOW ME!
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