Gospel Ministry and Jars of Clay
Last Sunday, Christ Church celebrated God's provision by ordaining and installing a new group of elders and deacons. As a part of that service, I was given the responsibility of offering a charge, both to the new officers and to the congregation they will shepherd and serve. Copies of those charges are included below for your continued reflection.
TO THE NEW ELDERS AND DEACONS:
“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.”
2 Corinthians 4:5
My Dear Brothers,
The temptations abound. They come from the world, as we feel the temptation, or maybe the pressure, to compare and conform. They come from our own hearts, as we are tempted, in large and small ways, to seek out the glory that comes from man. It is the temptation to proclaim ourselves. Oh, we aren’t as overt as to proclaim ourselves the Christ. We’re more subtle than that. The temptation is to make our experience, our eloquence, our gifting the source of our authority. And some in the church will actually encourage and applaud this in us. Paul knows this temptation, and he speaks against it.
Let his words shape your heart until they are a reflection of your heart. After all, they are the Word of God. “We proclaim not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord.” You brothers are gifted and called, but you are not meant to be Saviors. You are meant to be servants who serve the bride of Jesus, for the sake of Jesus. That is a far more glorious calling to a far more glorious ministry.
When Paul describes this ministry that he has been given by the mercy of God, he is referring back to the ministry of the New Covenant he described in Chapter 3. You share in Paul’s ministry as you serve the same church. It is a ministry that is Spirit-led. It is the ministry of Grace that is marked by Freedom. This freedom, defined by Paul as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit is the freedom to look upon Jesus with unveiled faces, and thus to be transformed more and more into His image.
You cannot fulfill this ministry of grace unless you are looking upon Jesus yourself. Delight yourself in the privilege of access you’ve been given to the Savior by His grace. Soak yourself in His Word. Abide with Him in prayer. And above all, submit your heart to His transforming grace. In this way, you will not only proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, but you will also live in the light of His blessed lordship. This is what the bride of Christ needs above all else.
Then, and only then, having tasted His goodness, can you fully and powerfully proclaim Jesus. Then, and only then, can you serve Him in His power. My brothers, we proclaim someone far more glorious than ourselves. We proclaim Jesus. Having looked upon Him, let us shepherd and serve His bride…all for His glory.
Grace and Peace,
TO THE CONGREGATION:
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
2 Corinthians 4:7
Dear Christ Church Family,
Jars of clay come in all different shapes and sizes. They come in different colors and are used to serve a variety of different purposes. What they share in common is that they are made of clay, and that makes them all frail and fragile. Like you, the men standing before you who will serve this church as elders and deacons are also, according to Paul’s language, jars of clay. They are beautiful, varied, and frail.
No, that frailty doesn’t necessarily imply physical weakness. It refers to imperfection resulting from the fall. But also according to the Scripture, this frailty serves the purpose of focusing our gaze upon the surpassing power of God in Christ Jesus. As you look upon the men before you, I want to charge you with three points of application from 2 Corinthians 4:7.
First, pray for them. Their frailty, physical and otherwise, is no different than yours. They have families, obligations, and struggles, just like you, but they have responded to the call of God in their lives to serve the Kingdom of God, the Church of Jesus Christ, and you…His bride. At times, jars of clay chip away, leak, and even break. Pray for these men in their weakness, that our Savior will hold them in His steadfast grip.
Second, remember that the measure of their success is their steadfastness to the Word of God. They don’t proclaim themselves but Jesus Christ as Lord. So resist the temptation to measure them by worldly standards. Resist the temptation to place worldly expectations on them. Instead, look to them for the Word.
Third, never forget that these men are a gift from God meant to bring glory to God. As you pray for these men and their families, praise the Lord for them. The Father knows how to give good gifts to His children, and He has given these men as gifts to the church, to serve as elders and deacons. They serve according to God’s design and provision for the church. And though they are jars of clay, or rather, because they are jars of clay, the glory belongs to God. So submit yourselves to their leadership…and place your trust in the Lord our God.
Grace and Peace,