2 CORINTHIANS 4
1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;
The word “therefore” is a transitional word, leading to a concluding thought which is this. Because the light of the gospel is so clear, because the gospel reveals so many wonderful truths, because the gospel takes away all obscurity as to the way of salvation, there must be no hesitancy in telling others about Jesus Christ.
We have this ministry says Paul. It is a ministry that is in contrast to the ministry of Moses. We have a New Covenant in Christ. It stands in contrast to the Old Covenant.
Many people have never considered the concept that God is a covenant making and covenant keeping God, and yet, the story of the Lord’s relationship to His creation centers arounds the various covenants He has made.
To be clear, a covenant is a contract with three essential parts: there are two parties, there are promises, made, and there are provisions or obligations for each part with prescribed penalties if the contract is violated.
The concept of a covenant in society is well established. Our form of government has been called a “social contract” that involves the consent of the governed. If you want to read this “social contract”, read The Constitution of the United States which sets forth what the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of government can, and cannot do. This is accompanied by the Bill of Right, and other amendments.
Marriage is a contract between a man and a woman, with obligations for each person. Business contracts, called Industrial Contracts, are often in the news, as labor and management resolve differences.
What individuals do with one another, God does with humanity. Of the ten covenants in Scripture, we notice three covenants in particular.
The Covenant of Redemption
This covenant was made between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit from eternity past, regarding the plan of salvation. The Father planned redemption, the Son executed the plan of the Father, and the Holy Spirit implements what the Father has planned, and the Son has executed.
The Father’s Plan. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
The Son’s Execution. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32)
The Holy Spirit’s Implementation. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
The Covenant of Works
As the Covenant of Redemption is revealed to mankind, it takes its initial form in a Covenant of Works made with Adam, and his descendants, in the Garden of Eden. Created in innocence, Adam was to be confirmed in righteousness by obedience to the known will of God. If Adam obeyed God, he would live.
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:16)
Adam, as a Federal Representative of all humanity failed to keep the Covenant of Works, and so plunged himself, and humanity, into the depths of human despair. Adam’s act of disobedience is known as The Fall. Adam’s sin brought shame and death. The Bible says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Rom. 5:12)
Because the Covenant of Works has never been rescinded. Jesus came to fulfill the Law. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (Matt. 5:17)
By fulfilling the Law, Christ became a perfect Saviour and Substitute, to bear the pain and penalty of those who have not kept the Law. “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
By fulfilling the Law, by becoming a Substitute for sinners, the righteousness of Christ can be, and is, imputed to those who are the heirs of salvation. “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Rom. 4:23-25)
There is another reason why the Covenant of Works is still in force, and that is, this Covenant becomes the basis of condemnation for all who reject Jesus Christ as personal Saviour. The Bible declares that no man can be justified by the works of the law. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Gal. 2:16)
Nevertheless, individuals do not believe this, and sincerely think they can be saved by their own good works. Multitudes of non-religious people, and religious people in Judaism, Catholicism, Hinduism, and certain groups within Protestantism, demand that they be judged according to their good works.
One day God will allow that to happen.
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:12)
Any person who is relying on their ability to keep a Covenant of Works, and earn, or deserve salvation based on their own merits, will be judged on that basis. But their names will not be found in the Book of Life. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)
The Covenant of Grace
If all of humanity has been marred by The Fall, if no one within humanity can be saved by keeping the Covenant of Works, how is a person to be redeemed? Is there no hope? Is there no balm in Gilead? There is hope, and it is found in the Covenant of Grace. In matchless grace the love of God found a way to satisfy the justice of God, so that the grace of God could be made manifest. Paul explains.
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)
Every man, woman, and child, can be saved, not by the works of the law, not by trying to keep a Covenant of Works, but by faith alone, in Christ alone, through grace alone. The condition of the Covenant of Grace is met when a sinner bows before Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and places their trust in the Son of God.
The promise is given. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).
Every person must abandon all hope of entering into heaven through their works. Souls are saved by the mercy and grace of our great God through faith in His dear Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord.
While God did not have to make a covenant with Adam, and his prodigy, He did, and our hearts should bow in humility and thanksgiving for God’s graciousness.
The first sign of hope that God would be gracious to Adam, and his prodigy, who are covenant breakers, is found in the Garden of Eden. This is called the protoevangelium, or the first mention of the gospel. God promised a Saviour.
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:15)
Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of this promise given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Because of His good work, Christ, as the new Adam, the last Adam, accomplished what the first Adam could not accomplish.
“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Rom. 5:19)
While the Covenant of Grace is distinguished from the Covenant of Works, the two are not divorced, but united in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, so that in the end, the Covenant of Works is established.
Every soul that is saved, is saved by the alien righteousness of Another, Jesus Christ, who perfectly kept the Covenant of Works, in order to bring many souls to salvation.
All of the benefits of the Covenant of Works are received because of God, due to the Covenant of Grace, because in eternity past, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit united together to formulate the Covenant of Redemption. To God be the glory!
It is this ministry of the Covenant of Grace, which has been given to us in order to share with others. Because we have received God’s saving mercy, we must not faint to tell others. The word for faint (ekkakoumen) means, properly, to turn out to be a coward; to lose one’s courage; to be fainthearted, to despond in view of trial, and difficulty. (A. T. Robinson) The temptation comes to say only that which is politically correct and socially acceptable. We cannot be silent. God has entrusted us with this ministry of the gospel. We must find a way to share our faith with others, and, by God’s mercy, we will.
There are four marks of a witness:
- Firsthand experience of Christ.
- A witness must be able to express themselves verbally.
- A witness will have confidence in the power of God
- A witness will have compassion upon others.
If we fail to witness we shall be like that small country church which had an ivy plant growing up by the porch doorway. Over the doorway was a text carved in stone, “We preach Christ crucified”. Over the years the plant grew steadily and a branch gradually spread over the doorway. The first word of the text covered by the leaves of the plant was “crucified” which reduced the text to “We preach Christ”. As time went on the branch spread further and covered over the word “Christ”. No one seemed to notice, and the message of the church to the world outside was reduced to “We preach” – it had no message; the church was merely a talking shop.
We have this ministry, said Paul. We must tell others of the mercy of God in Christ.