8 – The Ministry Abounding with Glory (1)

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

Paul’s Ministry Abounding with the Glory of God

Because it is in resurrection, the ministry of the new covenant abounds with the surpassing and eternal glory of God (cf. Luke 24:26, 46; Acts 3:13, 15). In 2 Cor. 3:10-11 Paul indicates that the glory of the apostolic new covenant ministry surpasses the glory of the Mosaic ministry of the old covenant, for the former was temporary and has been done away with, whereas the latter is eternal, remaining forever. In describing the ministry he and his fellow apostles had received (4:1), Paul says, “We all with unveiled face, beholding and reflecting like a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord Spirit” (3:18). The ministry of the new covenant is nothing less than beholding and reflecting the glory of the Lord to be transformed into His image from one degree of glory to another through the enjoyment of the Lord Spirit. For the new covenant ministers to behold the glory of the Lord is for them to see the Lord of glory themselves, receiving an infusion of Him as the Lord Spirit into their inward parts for their transformation into His image; for them to reflect the glory of the Lord is to enable others to see the Lord through them, infusing others with the Spirit so that they also may experience this transformation. As Paul and his co-workers had turned their heart from everything to the Lord Himself, they were constituted sufficient ministers of the new covenant, filled with the resurrected and glorified Lord as the Spirit to impart Him into others (vv. 16-17).

According to 2 Corinthians 4, Paul and his co-workers, who had the ministry of the new covenant (v. 1), proclaimed “the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God,” so that the illumination of this gospel might shine on others (vv. 4-5). The gospel of the glory of Christ preached by the apostles is not theology or doctrine but a wonderful, attractive person, Jesus Christ, in whose face we see the glory of God. Hence, those who receive this gospel enter into face-to-face fellowship with Christ and obtain an inward, subjective knowledge of the glory of God. In verse 6 Paul declares that the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness shined in the hearts of the apostles to illuminate “the knowledge of the glory of God” in the face of Jesus Christ. The illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in verse 6 corresponds to the illumination of the gospel of the glory of Christ as the image of God in verse 4, indicating that God shined in the apostles’ hearts so that they might likewise illuminate others. In other words, the apostles as new covenant ministers preached the gospel of the glory of Christ not merely by relaying the facts of the gospel but by shining into others the very God in Christ who has been shined into the depths of their being.

Paul then immediately states, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not out of us” (v. 7). According to the context, this treasure in earthen vessels refers to the Christ of glory, the embodiment and expression of God, who dwells in the believers as the Lord Spirit (3:18; 13:5; 1 Cor. 2:8). In themselves the apostles were weak, fragile, and poor earthen vessels. However, when God shined into their hearts, He dispensed the Lord of glory as the precious treasure into them to make worthless vessels ministers of the new covenant with a priceless ministry. This treasure, which supplied them to carry out their ministry in the midst of unrelenting pressure and affliction, increased in them through their sufferings (1 Cor. 2:4; Eph. 1:19; Col. 1:29). Their momentary lightness of affliction wrought within them an eternal weight of glory, such that the more the ministers underwent “the sufferings of the Christ” (2 Cor. 1:5), the more they shone as “Christ’s glory” (2 Cor. 8:23).

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