The third and fourth session of Cubao Reformed Baptist Church Pastors’ Conference 2021 was led by Pastor Noel A. Espinosa of Grace Baptist Church Los Baños. He shared another reality in the ministry, and the servant of God must always watch himself in how he responds to this reality. Let me share to you the outline and brief summary of what I learned from the sessions (please note that the outline and summary below contain Pastor Noel’s words and points in verbatim or paraphrased).
God’s Servant Fighting Fearsome Foes
Pastor Noel’s passage in the first session is 2 Corinthians 10:1 – 6. This portion of Paul’s letter commences his change of tone from a pastorally tender section in chapters 1-9 to a sharp words of rebuke in chapters 10-13. This second part marked with fierce languages appears to be for the rebels who remained adamant. We know that 2 Corinthians was written after a ‘painful visit’ (2:1) and a ‘sorrowful letter’ (7:8). The rebellious party are false teachers (11:5; 12:11) and must be faced with firmness by the servants of God.
In fighting against them we are triumphant since God’s servant is prepared for spiritual warfare by confidence in the spiritual weapon. Pastor Noel pointed out that Paul uses the figure of warfare, not in physical but in the realm of the Holy Spirit. In this reality, the minister of the Word must acknowledge his sinful limitation, his confronting ministry, and sufficient weapon. Pastor Noel provide three realities in fighting fearsome foes: acceptance of limitation, ministry of confrontation and equipment for subjugation.
Acceptance of limitation
Paul is being judged ‘according to the flesh’, and in his letter he concedes that he is ‘in the flesh’. In this side of glory God’s servant must remain conscious of his human weakness and remaining sinfulness. This truth about the ministers of the gospel is what keeping him humble. We are, as Martin Luther once said simul justus et peccator, simultaneously righteous and sinner.
This is the way to start our spiritual battles. Pastor Noel gave a sobering challenge that as God’s servant, we must cultivate meekness and gentleness even in our battles. Paul describes his approach in verse 1 urging them by the meekness and gentleness of Christ. Humility comes from knowing your human limitations; and sinner still (1Tim 1:15). In spiritual warfare, the humble fights the battle with more conformity to Christ
Ministry by confrontation
Paul received another charge against him as someone who is humble face-to-face but bold when far away (v.1). In his letters, we see Paul’s boldness for he knows that he was given a ministry that confronts error (v.5) and confidence in the truth and the right gives boldness to confront sin and error. As ministers of the Word we must never lose sight of the issue: truth vs. error in teaching; right vs. wrong in conduct. But we should not confuse boldness with aggressiveness (power of personality; dominance).
Pastor Noel lift the challenge that as God’s servant, we must desire the truth for those in error, and the right for those in the wrong. The Scripture is profitable not only for teaching but also for rebuke and correction (2 Tim 3:16). So we must earnestly and humbly confront any belief, action, and attitude that is not in accord with the gospel of truth. When we fight we are not out for triumph for ourselves, and humiliation of our foes, but that we may win them and subject them to the Lord of all that God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to knowledge of the truth (2Tim 2:24f ).
Equipment for subjugation
In Paul’s idea of spiritual warfare, the strongholds are thoughts contrary to Christ (v.5). We must embrace the fact that God’s servant has a sufficient equipment in God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring contrary thoughts to subjection to Christ.
However, sadly, Pastor Noel correctly observes that evangelical churches today are marked with low if not lack of trust in the sufficiency of the Word. Most evangelical churches have been penetrated with worldly methodologies and fleshly operations. But as God’s servant, we must reject fleshly methodology, but increase in the wise use of the Word of God. This is our only weapon, and we must seek to increase in knowledge and ability in using the Word? We must master the Word so that we will be mastered by the Word. We need servants who know how to fight – with humility; with conviction and power
God’s Servant Facing Friendly Fire
The second part is a reality that I think if not embraced will cause depression and unnecessary struggle in the ministry. This is about the hindrances that every servant will face in the ministry whether we like it or not. Those hindrances do not come from outside the church but from within her and apostle Paul emphasizes that we are to expect obstacles coming from those we expect to be supportive. Pastor Noel calls it friendly fire, and for Pastors it may come from members of the church or colleagues in the ministry. Pastor Noel speaks to this reality by bringing a message from 1 Corinthians 16:10 – 18 that God’s servant meets obstacles from brethren with loving firmness as under Christ’s rule.
Paul appeals concerning Timothy’s visit that …let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers (16:11). He told Timothy to anticipate this (4:18). This is a sad picture of the church but it is the reality. Pastor Noel mentioned that arrogance is driven by possession of knowledge, without the grace of love. The word for arrogant is similar to the word Paul used when he said knowledge puffs up; but love edifies (8:1). Paul sees that what is being compromised by such arrogance is peace in church and knowledge not tempered with love will result in arrogance. But arrogant people do not put much value on peace. They thrive in conflict.
But the challenge in this is to do all things in love. Pastor Noel puts it this way, as God’s servant, love will temper your dealing with the arrogant even with disrespecting brethren. There were quarrellings (plural in Greek) reported to Paul (1:11) and a quarreling church is a sad spectacle and many times, it is rooted in disrespect of ministry. When this happens servants are tempted to fight back which may reciprocate or provoke disrespect of brethren. Pastor Noel reminds us that God’s servant must watch this attitude. Instead of fighting back and acting with disrespect, apostle Paul in verse 13-14 exhorts the Corinthians church to do all things in love, referring to the words “be watchful… stand firm… act like men… be strong…” Indeed the rule of love is do not be overcome by evil; overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).
A party in Corinth requested Apollos’ visit. Here pastor Noel note that he is presumably a favorite (Acts 18:24). But partisan allegiance (blindly loyal to one party) is unmindful of the unity of the Church, and the sovereignty of God. Paul reminds them throughout his letter of the reality of partisanship in the ministry (1:10, 11:17). But in spite of this we need to recognize God’s sovereignty (3:5).
It is the Lord who assigns, so every servant must be respected in light of that. Partisan allegiance will gradually destroy the structure of the church. As God’s servant, avoid the praise of man as motivation for ministry. We struggle with ego-loving sinfulness. You cannot be an effective servant of God when you fear criticism and when you are drunk with praises of man. We must heed to Paul’s words to the Thessalonians not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts…(1Th 2:3f). The antidote is to be a man of secret prayer for the ministry of the Word.
Paul appealed to them that they may be subject to every fellow worker and laborer who devoted themselves to the service of the saints (1Cor 16:16). Here we see that Paul anticipates a defiant members of the church. We learned that defiance is forgetful of the rule of Christ which includes His gift of ministry. The defiant refuses this grace of a fruitful ministry. Thankfulness means acknowledging God’s gift of a faithful minister. But as God’s servant, the challenge is seek to win subjection by the testimony of our labor. We should not rule the church with tyrant authority but as ministers called by God we should pray that the flock may subject themselves faithfully as we faithfully do the work of the ministry. What commends us to the people is their readiness to submit to the rule of Christ as we herald His Word.
Pastor Noel closed the session by a comforting remark that it is a beautiful spectacle in the kingdom of Christ to see comrades laboring together in Christ. May we be faithful in spite of fearsome foes and friendly fires from without and within the church which God sovereignly decreed that we may grow in faith and trust Him alone during troubled times.
What ministerial and spiritual warfare are you currently facing? Whether it is from outside or inside the church of God, rest in the fact that the victory is won and the glorious gospel of the LORD JESUS CHRIST is our weapon and comfort as we faithfully serve Him and His church in the midst of this sinful world.
SOLI DEO GLORIA.
3 thoughts on “God’s Servants: Fighting Foes and Facing Fires”
Minister’s self-watch with our sinfulness and also handling friendly fires from believes is important. Good post, good message from the pastor
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