After having explained the nature of the New Covenant ministry, Paul continues by pointing to the source of the ministry. It is as though he anticipates the obvious question: “If this ministry is so glorious, where can I get hold of it? Where does it come from?”
His answer is clear: We have this ministry “through God’s mercy”. It is not something we have fabricated, or something that originated because of anything we have done. We have no part in its creation or in the fact that it has been entrusted to us. It is given to us solely by the mercy and grace of God.
This is a very important principle, and it is is emphasised throughout the first few chapters of 2 Corinthians. Note the following verses which all underline our total reliance on God as ministers of the New Covenant, and the fact that the New Covenant ministry in all its glory is solely “from God”:
Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 1:9
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. 1:21
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in truimphal procession in Christ and through us spread the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 2:14
Not that we are competent to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 3:5
He has made us competent as ministers of a New Covenant. 3:6
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 3:18
Therefore, since through God’s ministry we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 4:1
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 4:6
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 4:7
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 5:18
It can hardly be clearer. The acting party in each and every case is none other than God Himself. Understanding the source of the New Covenant ministry is essential to understanding the nature of it. It is a ministry of reflecting the glory of God, and it is ministry designed, sustained and given by Him and Him alone. In short, it is His ministry!
One may think that nothing remains to be said after these two very important points have been brought to our attention. Yet Paul is not finished. He uses the rest of chapter 4 to expound the implications of having received this glorious ministry in the way just described.
(Next Post: The Method of the Ministry)