Models of Ministry, Part 1
Models of Ministry, Part 1 4.19.20
How’s everybody doing out there? I am thankful for the technology we have. I’m glad that we can meet together virtually. It’s better than not having it. But I’m starting to get tired of this. Aren’t you? I feel like when this first started, I was like, “Well, this will be interesting. Let’s see how this goes.” Kind of like a wait and see approach. I’ve waited and seen enough. When we are getting back to normal? That’s how I feel. How do you feel? Stay in touch with me, Pastor Jesse, and the elders. If you are willing, please e-mail me, Jesse, or one of the elders and let us know how you’re doing and how we can pray for you. We want to serve you during this time. Please let us know how we can do that.
This morning we are transitioning to a new min-series within the book of Philippians. Last week we took a brief pause from our exposition of Philippians for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. This morning we are back in Philippians. If you have a Bible this morning, open with me to Phil 2:17.
In these next coming weeks, we are going to exploring several helpful models for ministry. Look with me in Phil 2:17. In 2:17–18, the passage we will be diving into this morning, we will look at Paul and the Philippians as models of ministry. Both Paul and the Philippian church were engaged in ministry. We will look at their example this morning to see what we can learn how to better minister ourselves. Now look very closely in your Bible in between vv. 18 and 19. Do you have a section heading there? I do. I have an ESV. My section heading says, “Timothy and Epaphroditus.” The ESV is telling us what is coming. Paul has some extended discussion about these two men, Timothy and Epaphroditus, in vv. 19–30, the end of the chapter. After this morning’s sermon we examine Timothy and Epaphroditus as models of ministry that we should emulate. After this morning’s sermon, we will explore Timothy in Phil 2:19–24. And after our exploration of Timothy as a model of ministry, we will look at Epaphroditus in 2:25–30. So, we’re tackling Paul and the Philippians this morning as models of ministry, and then we will move onto Timothy and Epaphroditus. Okay? If you said OK, hit the like button.
Now ministry is something we are all called to do as Christians. In the church there are those who are uniquely called to full-time vocational ministry. In our church that is me and Pastor Jesse. We are called by God to spend all of time ministering the bride of Christ. We know that and we strive to fulfill that mandate. Ministry, though, is not just for us. It’s not just for the elders, deacons, Sunday school teachers, the other Christians who are involved with this church. God calls all Christians to be engaged in ministry. Ministry is not just for the few who are called to it full-time. Ministry is a universal calling from God for all Christians. Ministry is not something we just outsource to the Pastors.
I can prove that to you. Turn with me to Eph 4:11–13. Listen to what Paul says,
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
I’m not going to spend a long time unpacking this text, as this is not our main text for this morning. I just want you to see something. Paul says in this text that God has given to the church certain offices. Look in v. 11. The offices Paul specifies here are “apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers.” Pastor Jesse and I are “shepherds and teachers.” That is our calling. Now why did God give “shepherds and teachers,” why did God give Jesse and I, to this body? The answer is at the beginning of v. 12. “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Our job as pastors according to Scripture is to teach you and train you so that you engage in the work of the ministry. We are to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” That’s you. We serve you so that you go and serve this body and the lost world around us. What this means is that we all, all of us, are called to be ministers of the gospel. No Christian gets a pass-free card for ministry.
As we work our way through the rest of Philippians 2, as we examine these models of ministry found in Paul, the Philippians, Timothy, and Epaphroditus, I will apply insights that Paul gives us into their lives and their ministries and apply those insights to us. Paul’s example, the Philippians’ example, Timothy and Epaphroditus’s examples are models for how we should pursue ministry. Every Christian is called to ministry and these examples of ministry in Phil 2 provide us models for how we should engage in ministry.
That’s all introduction. Let’s go ahead and turn back to Phil 2:17. I am going to be interpreting what Paul says in Phil 2:17. Let’s go ahead and read the passage. I will read through v. 18. Paul says,
Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise, you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
There are two points of truth that I want you to see this morning as it pertains to ministry. Two truths.
Ministry is Costly
The first point is this. Ministry is Costly. Another way to put this is that ministry entails sacrifice. Ministry entails sacrifice. When we engage in ministry, when we seek out others for the glory of God, it usually costs us something. To engage in ministry is to give us one’s self for the sake of others. That sacrifice is costly to us. It costs us something. This point arises from v. 17. We see this truth in both Paul’s and in the Philippians.
First, beginning with Paul, look at what he says at the beginning of v. 17. Paul mentions of himself in this passage, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering.” The key to understanding what Paul means here is to understand what “to be poured out as a drink offering.” In Greek this is just one word. The ESV here does a good job of capturing the meaning of this verb.
The idea refers to the notion of a person pouring out a drink on the ground to honor some person or deity. This practice of honoring some god was prominent the Greco-Roman world. In the Greco-Roman world, some person would pout out their drink to honor a god or some fallen hero or friend. It was done to honor a person or a deity.
This practice of pouring out a drink offering was also present in the OT. Listen to what God commands in Num 28:6–7.
[The lamb that you offer] is a regular burnt offering, which was ordained at Mount Sinai for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD. Its drink offering shall be a quarter of a in for each lamb. In the Holy Place you shall pour out a drink offering of strong drink to the LORD.
As you can tell from this passage, the OT taught that one of the ways the Israelites were to offer sacrifice to God was through a drink offering. V. 7, “You shall pour out a drink offering of strong drink to the Lord.” Notice the type of drink that specified here. It is a “strong drink.” A strong drink was the costliest type of dink that could be offered. It was the drink that had fermented the most and took the longest to make. It is the costliest drink that the Lord called the Israelites to offer.
In Phil 2:17, when Paul says, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering,” Paul is referencing his very own life. It is even more costly to pour out one’s own life for the Lord than it is strong drink. But that is what Paul does here. The testimony of the gospel will ultimately cost Paul his own life. Although not recorded in the Bible, the strongest early Christian tradition is that Paul goes on to be beheaded by the Emperor Nero. The ministry cost Paul his very life. A truly costly endeavor.
The Philippians Sacrifice
The Philippians, too, engaged in ministry that was costly. Paul mentions their “sacrificial offering of your faith.” Paul is specifying here that the Philippians offer to God a sacrifice of ministry as well. See that “sacrificial offering?” Paul is highlighting the Philippians sacrifice for the gospel.
In our exposition of Philippians, we’ve already covered some of the difficulties that the Philippians have experienced because of their stand for the gospel. Look at Phil 1:28. Paul alludes to the Philippians “opponents” in this passage. Paul says,
and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is aa clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.
These opponents opposed the gospel. Because the Philippians stood for the gospel, these people therefore opposed the Philippians. And then look at the next two verses, 1:29–30.
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Paul explains for us here, at the end of chapter 1, what exactly he means when he mentions their “sacrificial offering” in 2:17. The Philippians had offered to God a costly example and witness in the world. This witness was sacrificial because it cost them their security, comfort, and ease in the world. They were persecuted for their witness.
The passage specifies further that that sacrificial offering was their faith. Look with me again at v. 17. Paul mentions this small phrase, “of your faith.” Paul is further modifying the Philippians sacrifice. The sacrificial offering came from their faith. It originated in their faith. Faith produces in the Philippians and in us the notion of sacrifice. Faith is powerful and transforms us to make great sacrifice for Christ in this world.
Paul Pour Onto the Philippians
Bringing these points together, what Paul is saying in this passage, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith,’ is he is saying that he, Paul, will pour on top of the Philippians sacrifice his sacrifice. The Philippians offer a sacrifice of service to God which is produced by faith. Paul pours his sacrifice upon their sacrifice. He compliments their sacrifice with his.
Another way to translate this verse with what I am saying is this: “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering along with your sacrificial offering that comes from your faith.” Paul offers his sacrifice in addition to the sacrifice that the Philippians have offered.
To sacrifice is a very difficult endeavor. As sinners, we are prone towards selfishness. Sacrifice for others is what we often want to avoid. We naturally long for self-preservation, ease, comfort, and relaxation. We naturally avoid sacrifice. This is true of us as sinners as well as just people. This is true in my life.
I’ve shared with you before my love for cookies. I love cookies. There is not a night that goes by that I do not have a craving for cookies and milk. So delicious. If you were able to see in my mind, you would see a constant debate going on about whether to have cookies after dinner. One way I often justify having a cookie is by saying to myself, “Well, I’ll go for a run today or something.” That’s how I think. I know your smiling because that’s how you think, too. So if I go for a run, I’ll be able to eat a cookie. That’s hard but it’s not that hard. What’s harder than that is saying, “I’m not having a cookie at all today.” I would much rather go for a run and have a cookie than not have a cookie at all. It is harder to go without than it is to still get what you want even if it requires a bit of effort. To go without, to truly give something up that you enjoy, is the hardest of all. We would rather do something else painful and get what it is that we want instead of having to go without what it is that we want. Sacrifice is the hardest of all.
Sacrifice is exactly what the Christian life is all about. The Christian life is routinely, daily, repeatedly denying one’s self for the sake of Christ and for the sake of others. These are Jesus’ words. Listen to them. They come from Matt 16:24. Jesus says,
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Part and parcel of the Christian faith is sacrifice, is a giving up of one’s life for the sake of the gospel and the good of others. Ministry is the same. Ministry is hard. It is hard to sacrifice for others.
One tendency that I believe is prevalent at this church is the tendency to throw money into ministry rather than engage in ministry. This is a wealthy church. We have an abundance of monetary resources. In our wealth, we give out of our abundance. We give and it doesn’t have much consequence for us because we have so much. We give money, which is a blessing and something we should do, but we neglect to enter people’s problems and truly sacrifice for others. We would much rather throw money at people than actually engage with them and sacrifice our time for them.
These are tendencies that we need to repent of. What Jesus demands of us is sacrifice for others. That is what ministry is. There’s no getting around that. What Jesus is calling us to do, all of us who claim the name of Christ, no one is excluded, is to sacrifice for others. To pour out our lives as a drink offering for the sake of the gospel. To repent of our selfishness, our seeking of ease, and comfort, our seeking to minister to people in the ways that we find easiest. Ministry is costly. Yet that is exactly what Jesus demands of you in this world.
The Cost Should Be A Delight
Jesus also demands that as we sacrifice for others, our sacrifice is accompanied with joy. That is what Paul’s example teaches us. Look at the end of v. 17. Paul says,
I am glad and rejoice with you all.
Even though ministry costs Paul his very own life, he does not regret this. He is not angry about this. He is not down in the dumps, sulking, and having a pity part. Rather, he says, “I am glad and I rejoice with you all.” Paul finds joy, gladness in the sacrifice of ministry. It please Paul to be able to give up his life for the Philippians. He takes joy in the endeavor. This is truly an outrageous idea. Paul delights in the cost that ministry requires of him.
One commentator says this of Paul in this passage,
Nowhere else in his letters does Paul so pointedly emphasize joy in the midst of suffering for the gospel.
Wow. What a statement. At Paul’s lowest in life, when the gospel leads him into suffering, death, misery, and persecution, Paul is the happiest. Incredible.
Out of this joy, Paul commands the Philippians to have joy. Paul says in v. 18.
Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
Paul is commanding here, this is a command in v. 18, Paul commands the Philippians to have joy in their suffering and sacrifice and in Paul’s suffering and sacrifice. Paul says to the Philippians, “You must have the joy in your sacrifice and in my sacrifice that I have in your sacrifice and in my sacrifice.” Paul is commanding the Philippians to follow along in his emotion state of joy.
Having Joy in Difficulty
Dear friends, the calling of Christianity is to have joy in all circumstances. I want you to see that v. 18 is a command. Do you see that. We are commanded by the apostle as a representative of Jesus Christ that we should have joy. We are commanded to “be glad.” Jesus’ reign and rule in our lives extends to our emotional lives, our emotional state. We are to have joy. We must have joy.
I believe in our day there is a strong tendency towards not having joy. Due to this pandemic, our lives are thrown for a loop. Our tendency, dear friend, is found in 2:14. Look with me there. Our tendency during this time is “to grumble and dispute.” Our tendency is to express the frustration that we have with what’s going on with thanklessness, complaining, and bickering. This pandemic reveals what truly in our hearts. It reveals our immaturity and sin. It reveals our thanklessness and selfishness. That’s what trials do. It’s very easy when things are going well to obey 2:14—to not grumble or dispute. It’s very easy when things are going well to obey 2:18—to be glad and rejoice. Paycheck is in the bank. Kids are acting well. Work is easy. Anxiety and stress are low. O yeah, Lord, you are good, we say. What about when things are not going well? We gumble, we complain, we dispute, we throw pity parties and sulk. Dear friend, these are sins. The Lord tells us to not be this way. We are to have joy in difficult, gladness in trials.
Having Joy in Sacrifice
This joy extends even to the notion of sacrifice. Let’s say that you become convicted that your selfishness prevents you from sacrificing, and so you now want to sacrifice. So you do sacrifice. You find a ministry opportunity and you sacrifice for others. And let’s say that ministry opportunity doesn’t go as you had planned. It’s hard. So you respond with irritation and anger. Have you done this? I have.
Another story from my life. My wife loves to run. Her love for running probably rivals my love for cookies. It’s that high. I know that my wife loves to run. I know that she needs time away form the kids. And I know that Jesus demands that I sacrifice for her. So I do. I regularly let my wife run. There are times, though, when I serve out of duty and not delight. This is a normal occurrence.
Let’s say I get home from a busy day of work, my wife wants to run, I let her run, and the kids and I stay home. I’m tired from work and just want to do my own thing. The kids ask me to do something. Play with them, wrestle them, something. So I do. As I’m doing it, I’m thinking I’m tired, I don’t want to do this, etc. The kids demand my attention but I don’t want to give my attention. So I have a bad time with the kids. And when Kathryn gets home, rather than be encouraging and joyful that she got to run, I have a bad attitude. I nitpick. “Your five minutes
late.” “You were gone too long.” “I’m hungry. When’s dinner going to be ready.” I know y’all are laughing. You do it to.
Dear friend, what is wrong with this? I don’t have joy. I’m selfish. I’m not focused on Kathryn, I’m focused on myself. I’m complaining, bickering, and nit picking. Dear friend, this is sin. I’m sinning. That’s what it is. Paul commands me in this situation, “Have joy! Take delight in the sacrifice! Be thankful that Christ is at work in you and your are bearing his image.” I don’t do that. I sulk and complain.
Dear friend, what it is that I need, what it is that you need, what it is that we need is emotional sanctification. We need the Lord to reach deep down into our hearts and touch our emotions, touch our feelings, touch our deep heart attitudes. We need the Lord to produce in us sacrifice and to produce in us the emotional maturity to have joy in the sacrifice. We need emotion sanctification.
The Lord’s purposes for us, dear friend, are to model Paul and the Philippians. The Lord wants to use us. The Lord wants to use this church and produce his grace in us. That grace for us revealed in this passage is a sacrifice that is accompanied with joy. Ministry is hard but Jesus is good. The Christian calling is a weighty one, and we see that in this passage. Jesus calls us all to sacrifice with joy. Who is enough to produce in us these deep and marvelous truths? Christ alone. It is his example we are ultimately following. Don’t despair that you are not doing this. Christ is enough for you to produce in you this fruit. He is able and willing.