A father has three sons and is proud of their future prospects. He boasts to a friend,
“Johnny is going into the military, Peter is going into medicine, and Jack is going into the ministry.”
Three boys are going into three professions. Ministry became a profession in the earliest days when the well of pure truth was contaminated by the poison of the “church fathers.” People treated the ministry, and still do, as if it were a profession you “go into.”
The ministry, however, isn’t a profession you “go into,” neither is it something you “retire” from. Service to God in this dispensation of grace is characterized by two things:
FIRST: “If I be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy…” Philippians 2:17.
Self-sacrifice is the first characteristic. Ministry is having willingness to be utterly spent on behalf of others. This only requires one thing – a love for people. The Greek word for love is “agape,” which is a “complex emotion arousing appreciation or delight in and desire for the presence of its object, as well as to please and promote its welfare. To be distinguished from affection…which is aroused by the qualities of its object, while love may go out to the utterly unworthy…to also be distinguished from passion between the sexes” (Greek Lexicon and Condordance).
SECOND: “You heard of and knew the grace of God in truth…As you learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow-slave, who is for you a faithful dispenser of Christ…a slave of Christ…always laboring fervently for you in prayers, in order that you may stand mature and filled in all the will of God…he hath a great zeal for you…” Colosians 1:7,8; 4:12,13
The second characteristic is that a “minister” dispenses Christ as revealed in the rightly divided word. Epaphras wasn’t an Apostle, that is, one who had a commission from God with the accompanying signs. He wasn’t a “pastor” of a “church” who gave “sermons.” He wasn’t a “sweaty preacher” who marched around on a stage making emotional appeals. He wasn’t a guy trying to make a name and an image for himself in the “ministry.” He was a simply guy who passed on truth.
Paul says the Colossians LEARNED the word of the truth of the gospel from Epaphras. He personally sat down with these people in their homes, one at a time, maybe ten at a time, and patiently and lovingly went over Scripture with them. Epaphras taught the Colossians about God, Jesus Christ, God’s plan for the future, their role in that future, and how they should live their lives in this dispensation of grace while waiting for that future Government to come. Ephaphras didn’t give them religion, ceremonies, or “church” membership forms, he gave them the Word of God rightly divided.
SUMMING UP: The only form of ministry that accords with this dispensation of Grace is a quiet, self-sacrificing, prayerful, patient, teaching ministry. Anyone who has a hunger for the word and a desire to pass it on can do it. You don’t need eloquence, stage presence, or a certain kind of public persona.
Ministry for today is:
1. A pouring out of yourself – the only qualification is love.
2. A dispensing of Christ – the only qualification is knowing what you’re talking about by daily diligent study of God’s word.
You never “go into” this service and you never “retire” from it. That’s the difference between service to God and a job.