The book of 2nd Corinthians reveals Paul’s heart for the ministry more than any other letter. In it he gives us some insight into his philosophy and motivation for ministry, which revolves around 3 recurring themes; the lostness of the lost, the toughness of the task, and the eternal consequences of what is accomplished by gospel work. What we do will be a result of what we believe (II Corinthians 4:13). So it is crucial that we seek God for a revelation of his priorities which will lead us to the right practices in our quest to make disciples of all the nations.
In II Corinthians, chapters 4 and 5 there are 3 revelations that we need from the Holy Spirit on God’s Word to be able to have a true heart commitment to the world.
1. Everyone is lost without Jesus
(II Corinthians 4:3-4)
The Scriptures teach us that people are blinded by Satan, and irretrievably lost unless they have been able to grab onto the lifeline of the grace of God revealed in Christ and His cross. Francis Schaeffer said shortly before he died that one of the chief needs of the church at the end of the 20th century is to have a revelation of the lostness of the lost. Do we really believe in hell? Do we really believe in eternal separation from God to those who refuse the grace of God in Christ? Do we really believe that Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and other religious and non-religious people groups are truly separated from God for all eternity? If we have this revelation it will surely give us a heart for the world.
2. Evangelism is a labor of love
(II Corinthians 4:7-12, 6:1-10)
We know from these lists of hardships that Paul went through, that evangelism is not just an activity, but a labor. This is why Jesus told us to pray for laborers. In evangelism, even though the rewards are great, seeing angels rejoicing over conversions and seeing people’s lives changed sometimes can be full of heartache, disappointment, and labor without much fruit. This is especially true with our workers among the un-reached. We can draw great comfort in the fact that Paul listed among other things, being “troubled on every side”. When we feel that way we can take comfort with Paul and realize that world evangelization and conquering the forces of darkness among the lost will not be a piece of cake. It is work. We need to be able to persevere.
3. Eternity is a long time
(II Corinthians 4:16- 5:10)
Someone has said, “It’s not that life is so short, but that you’re dead for so long”! Similar to #1, do we really have a revelation that this whole business of evangelism and living for Jesus Christ is just a preparation for all eternity? Paul told us in II Corinthians 4:16-18 not to set our focus on things that we could see because they are temporary, but on things that we cannot see which are eternal. He told the Colossians that we needed to set our affection on things above, not on things of the earth (Colossians 3:2).
Because of the above revelations that everyone is lost, evangelism is hard work, and eternity is a long time; I would suggest we make the following resolutions to obey the Lord. I would suggest we do these things verbally and out-loud.
1. I will, by the grace of God, preach Christ no matter what the cost (II Corinthian 4:5)
As the triplet enemies of liberalism, syncretism, and criticism hit the church with all of their forces in the last days we need to be able to stand strong and hold on to the fact that we will preach Jesus Christ and him crucified (I Corinthians 2:2). Liberalism makes light of heaven and hell, eternity, and the exclusiveness of the claims of Christ. Syncretism wants us to melt all the religions into one and realize we’re just one big happy family and that eventually we will greet all the Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. in heaven while God sits back on his throne as a jolly old man with a gray beard. Either that’s a true picture of God or the Biblical picture of God is the one that we need to believe. I’ll choose the Biblical one.
2. I will, by the grace of God, persevere no matter how long it lasts (II Corinthians 4:7-12, 6:3-10)
Again, as we meditate on these lists of the hard times that Paul went through in his ministry, we know that at the end he prevailed and that he had “fought a good fight and finished the race” (II Timothy 4:8). In much the same way we need to persevere with that apostolic perseverance that Paul spoke of in II Corinthians 12:12, Perseverance being the first sign of an apostle. If we are going to be truly apostolic and reach all the nations we must persevere.
3. I will, by the grace of God, persuade men no matter what it takes (II Corinthians 5:11)
We must not only proclaim Christ, but we must seek to persuade men. This is the most difficult part of personal evangelism, or confrontation with a person of another religion. We need to persuade them to receive the Lord. When Paul was standing before King Agrippa and reasoned with him of righteousness, judgment, and temperance to come, it was Agrippa who turned to Paul and said, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26). Paul said in chapter 5 verse 11, “knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men. Without being pushy or manipulative, we must be aggressive and persuasive when it comes to people who think lightly about their eternal salvation.
One Final Word:
The key verse is II Corinthians 4:13, “as it is written, I believed therefore have I spoken; we also believe and therefore speak.”
As a result of what we believe, we should have some action. The revelations have to do with what we believe, the resolutions have to do with what we will do as a result of what we say we believe. Let us resolve that for the rest of the short time we have on this planet that we will preach Christ, persevere, and persuade men simply because the Bible is true, and Jesus is who he said he was.
May the Lord continue to give you grace for the task and perseverance in the journey.