Many Christians feel the call to gospel ministry is reserved for the theologically elite or pastorally qualified. So it is easy to point to pastors as the ones who do the work of the ministry. But what about the stay at home mom? What about the school teacher? What about the corporate executive? Is gospel ministry for them?
The apostle Paul, speaking to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 says, “The Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” This is a fascinating statement. Paul’s example of laboring as a minister of the gospel, both in Acts and elsewhere in the New Testament, is sobering, and we all—whether pastors or homemakers—have much to learn from it.
First, gospel ministry is not from man, but from God. The weight of this is massive. We, like the apostle Paul, are being entrusted by God with the ministry of testifying to the extravagant, scandalous grace of God offered freely and without cost to undeserving, wretched sinners. Who are we for such a task as this? We are but jars of clay in which eternal treasures have been placed. From the stay at home mom to the corporate executive, from the pastor to the school teacher, we all have received this call from the resurrected Jesus: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” It is God who bestows this call upon all of His people, and He is faithful to give us grace to complete our task—the grace of His presence with us: “Behold I am with you always even to the end of the age.”
The gospel is proven to be God’s and not man’s by the humble and faithful proclamation of the teacher as much as the missionary.
Second, the message of gospel ministry is not our own. This is God’s gospel. This is the good news as proclaimed by the eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, righteous God. Far be it from us to diverge at any point from the “faith once and for all delivered to the saints”—to soften its rough edges or to restrict its universal call to repent and believe, to tarnish its purity or hoard its blessings. The message of the gospel is not crafted by human intellect or forged in the halls of seminaries. No, our message is not our own. It is the good news of the sovereign and only wise God which to the wise of the world seems as foolishness and to the strong of the world seems as weakness. Therefore, the gospel is proven to be God’s and not man’s by the humble and faithful proclamation of the teacher as much as the missionary.
Third, there is great cost in gospel ministry. From the beginning of his life as a disciple and apostle of Jesus, Paul knew the sufferings and persecutions and hardships that awaited him. This is the story for all those entrusted to take up the banner of the gospel. Taking up the banner of the gospel comes at a high cost. Jesus himself says that whoever does not forsake all they have is unworthy of His gospel. While some will escape the physical persecution endured by Christians around the globe, obedience to Christ and His gospel will require a refusal of the comfort of the status quo. Every square inch of our lives, every second of our daily schedule waits to be commandeered by Christ for the sake of displaying and proclaiming His kingdom of life. Our dinner tables will evolve into neighborhood gatherings, our income redirected for the sake of blessing others, our selfish ambitions will fade away in favor of a single holy ambition to bring Christ and the blessings of His kingdom to our neighbors and the nations.
Every square inch of our lives, every second of our daily schedule waits to be commandeered by Christ for the sake of displaying and proclaiming His kingdom of life.
Yet, fourth, for all the cost there is even greater joy in gospel ministry. The afflictions that awaited Paul at every turn were as nothing to him compared to the joy of being obedient to the very end to the ministry of testifying to the gospel of the grace of God. There is a glory waiting to be revealed, a crown of life waiting to be given for those who fight the good fight, who stay the course and who finish the race. “If only I may finish my course.” There is a joyful anticipation in those words—anticipation of finding the joy hidden in paradox, the joy to be found only by those who forsake all other joys for the sake of knowing this one supreme and surpassing joy. No matter what befalls us, let us finish our course and drink from the eternally deep well of the joy of exhausting our lives for the sake of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace offered to sinners in Christ.
So whatever our stage in life, wherever our neighborhood, whenever our work schedule, whoever our family, we are summoned by God as ministers of the gospel of Jesus. All of our life is swept up together in this aim—proclaiming and displaying the kingdom of Jesus. We are ministers of the gospel together so that in all the places and among all the people God has sent His church Jesus will be known and treasured.