Our speaker at Chapel was Dr Oh Boon Leong, Associate Pastor at Mt Carmel BP Church and regular guest lecturer at BGST. He spoke on 2 Cor. 2:12–3:6, on the topic, ‘An Authentic Christian Life and Ministry’.
How, Dr Oh began by asking, did the Paul deal with all the challenges he had to face in the course of his ministry as Apostle to the Gentiles? How was he able to endure the frequent disappointments which were as much a part of his calling as the triumphs? How did he bear the burden he felt for the young churches that he had helped to found around the Aegean and Mediterranean? Paul’s own answer to such questions can be found at 2 Cor. 3:5: ‘our competence comes from God.’
Dr Oh treated the first part of his chosen text, 2 Cor. 2:12–17, under the heading ‘Triumph under Pressure’. Verses 12–13 describe a tremendous ministry opportunity which seemed to offer itself to Paul, an open door for the gospel in Troas. And yet Paul did not feel able to take this opportunity, because he was so anxious about what might be happening in the church in Corinth. So he left for Macedonia, wanting to meet up with Titus and learn about the situation in Corinth. We see in these two verses something of the strains that Paul’s ministry imposed on him. But his response to these strains was not to give up, but to give thanks to God. We are in a triumph procession, he declared (v. 14), and the one whose achievements are being celebrated in this process is Jesus. We preach the gospel: some reject the message of a dying and rising Saviour to their own loss, but for others this message is life-giving (vv. 15–16). It is a ministry that taxes us to our limits and beyond, such that we sometimes feel quite inadequate to the task. But we continue, because it is the word of God that we have been entrusted with.
We see here Paul’s vision of what some have called the ‘victorious Christian life’: it is not like a ride on a ghost train, where we can ride on calmly, knowing that the threats that seem to confront us (the menacing figures that loom from the darkness and so on) are all unreal; on the contrary, the opposition, hostility, threats, anxieties and disappointments that Paul faced were all real – and yet he sensed that the power of God was at work through him. For that reason he kept on proclaiming the message of Christ as honestly and as plainly as he could, not for what he could get out of it personally, but in obedience to God’s call.
2 Cor. 3:1–6 touches on another mark of authentic Christian life and ministry: spiritual transformation. What could Paul point to if challenged regarding his credentials as an apostle? Did he carry around with him letters of recommendation, as many did in the ancient world? Was that how he sought to gain acceptance when he entered a new city? He could point to a better testimony to his calling as an apostle – the transformed lives of those to whom he brought the gospel. That is why he tells the Corinthians that they are his letter of recommendation, letters written by the Spirit of God, and to be read by all (vv. 1–3). This is the true sign of an authentic ministry: lives that have been genuinely transformed by the ministry.
Where do our resources come from in the Christian ministry? From God alone, the one who makes us adequate for the task to which he calls us. He is the source of all authentic Christian ministry. Do we find ourselves asking, What will I do with my life? Shouldn’t we rather be asking, What will God do through my life? On that challenging note Dr Oh ended his message.