The Apostolic Ministry
2 Corinthians 1:24
Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith you stand.

I. APOSTOLIC TESTIMONY. Our religion is based on facts seen and known, abundantly verified and honestly related. Of these facts apostles were the chosen witnesses. When they spoke to their countrymen, the Jews, they showed how those facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled Old Testament types and prophecies of the Christ. But the real foundation which they laid everywhere was one of fact. Jesus had died and God had raised him from the dead. Of these things they were absolutely sure, and on their testimony the Church was built. On this it is well to lay emphasis. From one side there comes an insidious suggestion to cease from asserting the miraculous nativity and the actual bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ as historical facts, and to content ourselves with the elevation of ideas and sweetness of culture which are associated with his Name. To this we cannot listen, because we cannot live in a house without foundations, and we do not believe that the ideas and influences of Christianity can long remain with us if we part with the historical Christ to whom the apostles bore witness. From the opposite side we encounter another danger. The facts which were testified by apostles and prophets ere overlaid with masses of theological statement and niceties of controversial distinction. Not the Redeemer is preached, but the scheme of redemption; not the death of Christ, but the doctrine of atonement; not his resurrection, but the tenets of the schools regarding the results secured by his "finished work." Now, we do not for a moment disparage theology, systematic or polemical, or forget that St. Paul put much theology into his letters to the Churches; but it is a thing taught and argued, not witnessed. We must adhere to our point, that the gospel is a proclamation of facts, and the Church rests on a foundation of facts, certified by the apostles as competent and chosen witnesses - facts, however, not dry and barren, but significant, suggestive, full of profound meaning and intense spiritual power. St. Paul was careful to assume no higher place in regard to the gospel than that of a faithful witness. He delivered it just as he had received it, "by the revelation of Jesus Christ." He told the Galatians that, if he himself should be found at any future time proclaiming any other gospel, or if an angel from heaven should do so, he was not to be listened to - he was to be accursed. Any perversion of that gospel which had been delivered from the beginning would be sufficient to discredit an apostle as a false apostle, an angel as a fallen angel.

II. APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY. The apostles had authority to "bind and loose," to direct and administer in the early Church. On fit occasions they exerted such authority, and none of them more firmly or wisely than Paul. But they forbore as much as possible to press mere authority even in matters of order and discipline, and they disclaimed any right of dominion over the faith of their fellow-Christians, The Apostle Paul in par ticular is never found demanding attention or obedience to his teaching on the ground of his official dignity. Many signs and special miracles attended his ministry and confirmed his word; but he never posed as a worker of wonders in order to awe the minds and compel the submission of his hearers. His aim was to manifest the truth to the consciences of men. In founding the Corinthian Church he had "reasoned," "persuaded," "testified," and "taught the Word of God" (see Acts 18.). His own statement is, "I declared unto you the testimony of God" (see 1 Corinthians 2:1-5). The object of St. Paul in thus refraining from any assertion of a right to dictate was to build the faith of the Church, not on apostles, but on God. He would not say, "Believe because we bid you, and whatever we tell you." He was one of a hand of witnesses to Jesus Christ the Lord; but, once those facts were believed with the heart, the disciples in every Church stood for salvation on the same ground with the apostles themselves, and had the same confirmation of the truth by the Holy Spirit.

III. LESSONS FOR THE MODERN MINISTRY OF THE WORD. For the propagation of the gospel there must still be witnesses; for the edification and peace of the Church there must be teachers, helps, governments, overseers. But none of these have a right to "lord it over God's heritage;" least of all may they lord it over the faith of their brethren. If the apostles of the Lamb disclaimed such dominion, how much more should they who have ministries to fulfil in the modern Churches of God! It is preposterous to connect apostolic dignity or the glory of apostolic succession with pomp and lordliness and the assertion of official superiority. It is apostolic to serve diligently and suffer patiently, to preach the truth in love, and to teach the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, but seeking no honour or glory from men. The object of the ministry in regard to those who are without is to bring them to repent and believe the gospel The object in regard to those who are within the household of faith is to promote their joy and health.

1. "In faith ye stand." This is not submission to a human authority, but allegiance of heart to God in Christ Jesus. In emotions, opinions, anxieties, conjectures, there is no standing. Only by faith is the heart fixed, the mind established, in this world of change and disappointment, solidity imparted to the character, and calm courage breathed into the soul. Want of faith or decay of faith accounts for restlessness, weakness, rashness and inconstancy. The heart is "tossed and not comforted." The will is yielded to selfish desires and uneasy impulses. But "we have access by faith into the grace wherein we stand."

2. Those who minister to the faith of Christians increase their joy. The apostles were intent on this (see Romans 15:13; Philippians 1:25, 26; 1 Peter 1:8; 1 John 1:4). And every true minister of Christ will find, with St. Paul, that his own spiritual life is bound up with the steadfastness and liveliness of those whom he instructs in the truth. - F.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.

WEB: Not that we have lordship over your faith, but are fellow workers with you for your joy. For you stand firm in faith.

Helpers of Joy
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