7 – The Ministry Bearing the Mark of Death and Resurrection (1)

From chapter seven of The Ministers in the Lord’s Recovery – Genuine Ministers of the New Covenant

The Mark of Death and Resurrection on the Ministry of the Apostle Paul

Perhaps the most essential characteristic of the new covenant ministry revealed in 2 Corinthians is that it bears the mark of death and resurrection. In 4:7-18, Paul confirms the genuineness of “this ministry” (v. 1) by presenting what amounts to a description of the apostles’ living—not their work. In other words, the proof of an authentic ministry lies not in great accomplishments, such as saving crowds of sinners or establishing churches, but in living a crucified life for the manifestation of the resurrection life. This is because the apostles’ life-imparting ministry was fully based upon a life in which they were constantly put to death for the sake of Jesus. In verses 10-12 Paul declares, “[We are] always bearing about in the body the putting to death of Jesus that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who are alive are always being delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death operates in us, but life in you.” The expression the putting to death of Jesus refers to “the working of death, the working of the cross, which the Lord Jesus suffered and passed through.”35 Before the Lord was nailed to the cross at Golgotha, He spent thirty-three and a half years living a crucified life, denying His human life and living by the divine life moment by moment. The cross was at work not only through the persecution by His opposers but also through the troubles caused by His disciples, His mother, and His brothers (Matt. 2:7-12, 16-18; John 2:3-4; 7:3-5; Luke 9:54-55). It was through this killing of the cross that the Lord lived and manifested the resurrection life in His human living. In the same principle, Paul and his fellow apostles always experienced the killing work of the cross for the sake of Jesus, which continually issued in the manifestation of His resurrection life within them. And because they were members of the organic Body of Christ and “members one of another” in a corporate union in the divine life, this resurrection life was spontaneously imparted into all the fellow members of the Body (Eph. 5:30; 1 Cor. 12:27; Rom. 12:5; Col. 3:4). Therefore, Paul and his fellow apostles ministered the resurrection life of Jesus to the believers not merely by speaking messages but even more by living the resurrection life under the continual killing of the cross. This is the genuine work of the new covenant ministry.

Immediately after speaking concerning His life-releasing death as a grain of wheat in John 12:24, the Lord issued a call to the believers to participate in this aspect of His death, saying, “He who loves his soul-life loses it; and he who hates his soul-life in this world shall keep it unto eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there also My servant will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (vv. 25-26). Just as the Lord hated His soul-life, remaining under the shadow of the cross throughout His earthly sojourn, and died and resurrected in order to impart life to the believers, so also the believers should hate their soul-life, take the way of the cross throughout their Christian life, and die to themselves in order to dispense life to others (Luke 14:26). As a reproduction of Christ, Paul continually lived a crucified life in resurrection, allowing the death of Jesus to consume his outer man for the renewal and resurrection of his inner man, so that the divine life in his spirit might be imparted to others (2 Cor. 4:16).

Only a crucified and resurrected person can be a genuine minister of the new covenant. This principle is illustrated by God’s vindication of Aaron’s priestly ministry in Numbers 17:1-10. There Aaron’s rod, a dead and dried-up piece of wood, budded overnight, producing blossoms and bearing ripe almonds. The budding rod signifies the believers’ experience of Christ in His resurrection as their authority in the God-given ministry, and almond blossoms signify the resurrection life coming out of death (Heb. 9:4). This indicates that God “only recognizes those who have passed through death and resurrection as His servants”; “hence, the mark of ministry is resurrection.”36 In other words, “all services to the Lord must pass through death and resurrection before they will be acceptable to God,”37 and “God approves, commissions, and uses only those who are in resurrection.”38 In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 Paul testified concerning the afflictions that befell him and his co-workers in Asia: they were excessively burdened, beyond their power, so that they despaired even of living; they had the response, the sentence, of death in themselves so that they should not base their confidence on themselves but on God, who raises the dead. After he realized his utter hopelessness and extreme weakness, Paul no longer trusted in himself but in the God of resurrection. Therefore, he attested that his sufficiency and power as a new covenant minister was not from himself but from God (3:5; 4:7). Paul’s life was a mysterious yet harmonious spiritual paradox in which he simultaneously experienced the operation of death and the manifestation of resurrection life: “as dying and yet behold we live; as being disciplined and yet not being put to death; as made sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as poor yet enriching many; as having nothing and yet possessing all things” (6:9-10); “I am filled with comfort, I overflow with joy in all our affliction” (7:4); “when I am weak, then I am powerful” (12:10); “we are pressed on every side but not constricted; unable to find a way out but not utterly without a way out; persecuted but not abandoned; cast down but not destroyed” (4:8-9).39 As a result, Paul could feed the believers with “ripe almonds,” ministering to them the God of all comfort, the Father of compassions, and the resurrected Christ as the life-giving Spirit, and blessing them with the love of God, the grace of Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (1:3-4; 3:6; 13:14).

35 Holy Bible Recovery Version of the Bible, 2 Cor. 4:10, note 1

36 CWWN, vol. 47, p. 245

37 CWWN, vol. 47, p. 249

38 CWWL, 1960, vol. 1, p. 280

39 CWWN, vol. 56, pp. 450-452

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