Paul's Outline for Ministry: Grasping the Gift
In my previous post, I attempted to offer a Pauline outline for ministry. In reading Paul’s words to the Ephesians, which are actually in the form of a prayer (Eph 1:15-23), we see the apostle begin by expressing his gratitude for their faith. From there he moves on to mention two goals. The first goal, which I will address here, is grounded in the present, while the other one which I will address in my next post, is grounded in the future.
The near-term goal that Paul lays out for his Ephesian brothers and sisters, the substance of his prayer for them is that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph 1:17 ESV). Having expressed thanks for their past faithfulness, Paul is now addressing what needs to happen in the present so that they will be equipped for further faithful service. Their faith in the Lord Jesus and love for all the saints is a wonderful thing, but those laurels won’t bear the weight of Christians who seek to rest, thinking that the work is done.
One phrase I heard across the several sports I attempted to play growing up was that “you can’t coach speed.” You can coach someone to be faster, but the limit of how fast they are is ultimately determined by their God-given ability. Sometimes we forget that the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Christ is a gift given to us by God and, like speed, it can’t be coached. It’s as God-given as life itself, for indeed it is another, more glorious form of life, the spiritual life. Paul’s prayer is that the “God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,” because the eyes of faith are first and foremost a gift (emphasis added). It is no coincidence that this Spirit is referred to as a gift, just as the Holy Spirit was referred to as a gift by Peter in Acts 2:38. The Spirits are one and the same, it is the Holy Spirit which gives us wisdom and continues to reveal Christ, building up our knowledge of him.
This leaves us with a legitimate question. If this Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Christ is a gift from God, what role do we as ministers play?
While a track coach can’t coach speed, they can make sure that the God-given ability of the runners they coach isn’t squandered. They can help their runners maximize the gifts they have been given. The great American distance runner Steve Prefontaine once said that “to give anything less than your best is to squander the gift.” We can help our brothers and sisters in Christ to give their best by constantly holding up before them the person of Christ in our preaching, our teaching, and most importantly by our example. In The Pastor as Public Theologian, Owen Strachan writes:
Pastors can learn from the biblical model of the crucified king who leads not only by serving but also by humbling himself to the point of death. If the pastor does not live by this paradoxical calculus, the church will not understand the nature of the cross, and the world will not comprehend the glory and beauty of the gospel. (page 54)
In short, by failing to make use of the gift in our own lives, and modeling what it means to deploy this Spirit of wisdom and the knowledge of Christ in today’s world, we might lead others in the wrong direction. What a shame it would be if we failed to show those to whom we minister that the gift points to the Giver. To play off the words of Prefontaine, “to give them anything less than Christ, is to squander the gift.”