The Hearing of Faith
No other portion in the Bible shows us the matter of the ministry more clearly than 2 Corinthians 3 and 4. First, in these chapters Paul touches the matter of the ministry based upon God’s covenants, the new covenant and the old covenant. Without God’s covenant, there is no possibility to have any ministry. A ministry is to carry out what God has covenanted with His people. Without God’s covenant, we do not have any work to do. Without God’s covenant, whatever we may do cannot be considered a ministry. The ministry is just the service that we render to God to carry out God’s covenant. Whatever we may do to carry out our own preference or desires is not a ministry of God but is merely a human work....
The unique ministry of the New Testament comprises all the works (ministries) of all the apostles, the ministers of the new covenant. In 2 Corinthians 3 the plural ministers is used clearly in verse 6, and the singular ministry is used in verses 8 and 9. Then, in the first verse of chapter four Paul said, “Therefore having this ministry as we have been shown mercy, we do not lose heart.” Here Paul used the plural pronoun we. He did not say that he (singular) had this ministry; rather, he said that we (plural) have this ministry (singular). We here includes not only Paul but all the New Testament ministers. All this indicates that there is one new covenant ministry of many new covenant ministers.
There is one new covenant ministry of many new covenant ministers.
The first of the new covenant ministers were the twelve apostles. In Acts 1:17 and 25 Peter used the term this ministry. That ministry was the ministry of the twelve apostles, who were the first twelve New Testament ministers. The ministry is the service, the work, and the ministers are the persons who serve. The persons who serve are many. After the twelve apostles, many ministers, including Paul, Barnabas, and many others, entered into the ministry. Although the ministers were many, all these many ministers had only one ministry.
In 2 Corinthians 4:1 Paul used the pronoun we, referring to many ministers. Then in 2 Timothy 4:5 Paul charged Timothy to fully accomplish his ministry. In this verse Paul spoke of Timothy’s ministry, referring to an individual’s ministry. This was Timothy’s personal ministry, but this personal ministry was a part of the corporate ministry, “this ministry,” the unique ministry of the New Testament. The ministry in 2 Corinthians 4:1 is the corporate ministry of all the New Testament ministers. In this corporate ministry Paul had his portion, Peter had his portion, and Timothy had his portion. All the ministers have their own portion of the ministry. When we add all the portions together, we have “this ministry,” which is the New Testament ministry.
The work of the New Testament ministry is to accomplish God’s New Testament economy concerning the church (Eph. 3:9-10) in the building up of the Body of Christ. Ephesians 4:12 says that all the saints need to be perfected “unto the work of the ministry.” This means that hundreds and even thousands of saints can be perfected unto the work of the ministry. In this verse the term the ministry is used. No doubt this refers to the unique ministry of the New Testament to carry out God’s eternal purpose, which is contained in the new covenant.
The Ministry of the New Testament and the Teaching and Fellowship of the Apostles, pp. 8-11, by Witness Lee.
From Issue No. 78, October 2004