In Paul’s letters to the Corinthian church he desired the believers to be enthusiastic about the expansion of the gospel. In Paul’s time, Corinth was located in an ideal geographic location to spread the new faith. A vibrant and mission minded church located in Corinth could easily use the heavily traveled trade route to speed the gospel throughout the world.
Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth provided a clear missions parameter for both the young church and believers today. Paul called the Corinthians to send, train and provide for missionaries so they could spread the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere (2 Cor 2:14).
Call To Missions
The call to be a full-time servant and preacher of the gospel was not to be taken lightly. Paul told the Corinthians as Christ called them to share his wisdom to other lands, the Holy Spirit would empower them with the strength of the message itself.
The members of the young Corinthian church were concerned. How could these novices of the faith share such a significant message? Paul assured the Corinthians with the example of himself. He instructed the new believers they should imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Cor 4:16-17, 1 Cor 11:1-2).
Paul showed the Corinthians how God desired to work through their weakness for his own glory. Could God be glorified by the labors of the fractured church in Corinth? If God could use Paul and Apollos to work in conjunction to advance the gospel (1 Cor 3:5-15) he could certainly use the Corinthian church. As servants of Christ we are to go as we are called and proclaim God’s victory over darkness.
Instruction For Missionaries
The message the followers of Christ are to deliver is simple. It is outlined in scripture and is a perfect message prepared by God. Deliverers of the true gospel will lack in nothing they need to convey the message of salvation (1 Cor 1:7). Paul outlined to the church in Corinth the message is far more important than the messenger. The messengers may need to bend like a reed in the wind, but the truth must take precedence (1 Cor 9:19-23).
The gospel message is perfect and needs no help from us. The missionary should never preach more than what is written (1 Cor 4:6). In the first three chapters of his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul focused greatly on the point of the sufficiency of scripture. He warned the message barer to rely only on the message and not to become puffed up or conceited by their own abilities. It is a central point in preaching and teaching for us to recall we are only messengers and we should only focus on the humble deliverance of God’s perfect Word.
Care For Missionaries
The full-time minister of the gospel has given himself for the advancement and glory of Jesus Christ. It falls upon his brothers in the faith to care for and facilitate his service. A cheerful servant brings great glory to Christ as he serves without grumbling. So too, the brothers in the faith bring great glory to Christ as they give sacrificially to make possible that full-time service. While a laboring Ox should be fed and a temple servant should be cared for from the temple, so too a missionary should be aided by his brothers in the faith (1 Cor 9:8-14).
In Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth he became more insistent on sacrificial giving to support others in need and others busy in full-time service of God’s work. Paul told the Corinthians how their generosity to the believers in Jerusalem multiplied the grace of God in their lives. To the great glory of God, Paul also praised the generous giving of the Macedonian brothers (2 Cor 8:1-15).
Paul told the Corinthians they were not only to give financially in support of full-time ministers of the gospel, but they were to help through prayer. Paul desired to have many brothers praying for missions work (2 Cor 1:11). Praying in the name of God that missionaries would have all they need to glorify God greatly honors our Father.
The Corinthians were also instructed by Paul to rejoice in the coming of future servants of Christ and to give recognition to such men (1 Cor 16:17-18). This seemingly odd command is also echoed in other writings of Paul (1 Thes 5:12-13 and Phil 2:29). Indeed, the full-time servants of the gospel are worthy of our gratitude.
Hold The Rope
Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth indeed provided a plain instruction for the young church and also for believers today. Paul called the Corinthians to send, train and provide for the needs of missionaries, preachers and other full-time servants for the Lord. When William Carey, famed 19th century missionary, volunteered to serve in India, he implored those who sent him, “but remember that you must hold the ropes.” Paul calls missionaries to go, but he implored both the Corinthian church and modern Christian churches to hold the rope and support full-time servants of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Mike Pettengill is a full-time missionary serving in La Ceiba, Honduras, with Mission to the World (www.mtw.org). Mike is a team leader of a 12-person mission team. To learn more about the Pettengill’s work in Honduras visit Pettengill Missionaries (www.pettengillmissionaries.org).
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