Harry Johnston - The Ministry in II Corinthians - Silverdale II, New South Wales - January, 1994

II Corinthians 1, Paul was very much involved in the joy and peace and homes of  these people. The first thing he wrote about is something that we all know, the comfort of the God of Heaven. Paul had been at Athens and the reason he came to Corinth was because Aquila and Priscilla were there. In the beginning, he preached in the synagogue but then the Jews opposed him to a magistrate named Gallio.

Gallio wasn't interested in Jewish problems and chased them away. Because he wasn't interested in it, the Gentiles took the chief ruler of the synagogue and beat him. I can understand how bitter some of those people were when the Gospel came because I still remember, even though I was only four years old, when the Gospel came into our community, how bitter people were.

One woman saw the two servants of God on the road one day and before she came close to them, she turned around and walked backwards so that she wouldn't have to speak to them. Then, as soon as she was past them, she turned around again and walked on. But don't give up hope, because ten years later she came to our home and wanted to know where the preachers were. They were too far away, but we were going to Special Meetings the next day and invited her to come along with us. We were to meet her at a certain place and time, and she was there a whole hour early because she didn't want to miss out. She decided that day and was a faithful woman to the end of her days.

Some of these people were very bitter towards Paul and he wrote, "We had the sentence of death in ourselves." God allows things that seem so difficult for us to accept but there was a wonderful spirit in Paul that he would accept anything if it was the Lord's will. I remember a young woman who developed a very bad sickness and became a wheelchair patient. We used to go and see her, thinking we would encourage her, but she always encouraged us. She didn't think about her situation though some days she would take up to twenty-five aspirin to keep the pain away. She always talked about what she had found in the Scriptures and she loved the Truth of God. You can't be living on the problems; you have to recognise that this is something that is meant to be and I have to
accept it because it is the Lord's will.

Sometimes we wonder how to preach to people. Paul described it this way, "In simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God." It means just being open to people in their deep need. When I was a young man in this Work, my companion was also young and we hardly knew what to preach about because we didn't know what the people were like. But it seemed that every might there was something that people could accept. Some who decided then have been faithful ever since, because of the Godly sincerity that was in our hearts.

We can find out more about people in ten minutes in a Gospel meeting than what the neighbours can find out in twenty years. There is something about this Word of God that is powerful, like a two-edged sword that reveals things what other people will never find out. People are very cute when it comes to hiding things, but with God nothing is hidden because He created man.

II Corinthians 1:17, "When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? Or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay? But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. For the Son God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea."

There seemed to be a feeling there that somebody was complaining about the way he was always travelling. That is possible, but you must remember that he was always guided by the Spirit of God and didn't go to any places without understanding that it was God's will. And today God's Servants go where they have a place to fill. They didn't preach anything to make people doubt. Jesus
talked about this matter of letting your communication be "Yea, yea: Nay, nay." James asked people to do the same thing lest they fall into condemnation. We are not to make any judgement until we are certain about it being "Yea" or "Nay."

So Paul's travels were not just as he wanted. He left it up to God to make the decision. That makes for a very healthy Ministry and a healthy people. These people had become healthy. In the first letter you get the feeling that it almost seemed hopeless. They were arguing about who they had professed through and who was the best preacher, very carnal things. Don't ever think that because you may like one of God's Ministers more than another, that there is a difference. Every one of them sacrificed the same things to be in this Ministry.

None of us should have favourites. You know what happens? Things develop and there become cliques and the whole spirit of the thing is spoiled. As soon as we begin to have that feeling it ruins what God has tried to do in our hearts. So many things Paul had to write to them about and it seemed like the whole thing just ironed itself out in this letter. They put things right and I sometimes wish this would be the case in some places where I have been. Sometimes when I go there, a problem has been there for maybe fifty years and they want us to straighten it out!

There has to be a real sorrowing to get rid of it. Generation after generation rises up in the world and they fight with each other and don't know what they are fighting about. It has nothing to do with today. There is a stubbornness in people that is so amazing to me, and I have to continually tell myself, "I am not on my own." Stubbornness is just like rebellion, and it will harm the testimony of God.

II Corinthians 4:1, "Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not ..... for God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." The light of the Ministry; we are glad that this Ministry has a light to it. Paul put himself in the right place and let them understand that he had been given the privilege of preaching this Gospel. When you go to Gospel meetings it is just like taking a look in the mirror. You see the glory of the Lord. You see what Jesus was able to do and reveal in His time and then you see where you stand in His sight.

When I was a child, my mother was always using a wash cloth on my face. There was one mirror in our home. It stood where my father could see himself in it, but I had to climb up on to a chair to see what I looked like. So my mother was always after me with a wash cloth and I always objected to it. I was so close to the old earth all the time that it affected me. That is the reason why some
of us have so many problems, because we are living so close to the old earth and God has to wash us so often. The Gospel is a good place to see what you look like, but if you go away and forget it there is no blessing.

II Corinthians 4:13, "We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe and therefore speak." It would be absolutely worthless to preach to people about something you didn't believe in yourself. A lot of people won't believe anything unless they can see it. We do believe a lot of things that we don't see. You know perfectly well that there is such a thing as gravity and you can't get very high up from this earth without some help because of it. You will never see gravity but it is there and it holds you. When I left Sweden to come here, I was told things like, "You will be standing on your head." But I said, "I have never done that and I believe they are all standing on their feet in Australia." II Corinthians 5:11, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart." It seemed as though some thought, "If it looks
good, it has to be right." But we don't want that. It has to be from the heart. There has to be a heart searching and after that a heart service.

When I was growing up there was a man and his wife who did a lot of singing at funerals. They adopted a girl who was thirteen years old, and she didn't like the union meetings. She had to sit too long. There were about sixty people who came and it was about three hours long. After a few meetings they didn't show up because they couldn't leave the girl at home and she wouldn't come. That was one of these problems with "Yea" and "Nay," you see. About six months later, they came and the lady of the home invited them to stay for dinner and that girl just sat and pouted the whole time. That was the last union meeting they were at. They disappeared because a little child didn't want to go to meetings. They liked a little "show" but had nothing in their hearts.

II Corinthians 6:1, "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain." This is a chapter about the Ministry. I don't think that I can explain all that it means, but we are always very careful that there would be no offence in anything. It is not only the servants of God that could do this, but you could do things that the Ministry would be blamed for.

The words "in," "by," and "as" occur several times in this chapter. There you have a recipe for a successful Ministry and a successful Church. The word "in" is used ten times. "In much patience, in affliction, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings." That was where Paul found himself. He had experienced all these
things he was involved in.

The word "by" is found eleven times."By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report." It is not all so easy but if we are true to God there is no blame on the Ministry.

The word "as" is used seven times. "As deceivers and yet true, as unknown, as dying, as chastened, as sorrowful, as poor, as having nothing and yet possessing all things." I am thankful that God is able to reveal this to us and that we can be in these situations and have these experiences and they are good for us. It wasn't all sunshine as far as life was concerned. Even at the Equator where it seems to be always the same kind of weather they have a winter period, and that makes it what it should be so that man can live. God created the earth for man.

In the last part of this chapter there are some very serious words. Verses 14-17, "'Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God.... Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate,' saith the Lord, 'and touch not the unclean thing.'"

What would be the unclean thing? It could be something that would make the Ministry blamed. Just be careful about how we think, what we do, where we go, and then this will not happen and we will be free from the unclean thing.

There seemed to be a feeling there that somebody was complaining about the way he was always travelling. That is possible, but you must remember that he was always guided by the Spirit of God and didn't go to any places without understanding that it was God's will. And today God's Servants go where they have a place to fill. They didn't preach anything to make people doubt. Jesus
talked about this matter of letting your communication be "Yea, yea: Nay, nay." James asked people to do the same thing lest they fall into condemnation. We are not to make any judgement until we are certain about it being "Yea" or "Nay."

So Paul's travels were not just as he wanted. He left it up to God to make the decision. That makes for a very healthy Ministry and a healthy people. These people had become healthy. In the first letter, you get the feeling that it almost seemed hopeless. They were arguing about who they had professed through and who was the best preacher, very carnal things. Don't ever think that because you may like one of God's Ministers more than another, that there is a difference. Every one of them sacrificed the same things to be in this Ministry.

None of us should have favourites. You know what happens? Things develop and there become cliques and the whole spirit of the thing is spoiled. As soon as we begin to have that feeling it ruins what God has tried to do in our hearts. So many things Paul had to write to them about and it seemed like the whole thing just ironed itself out in this letter. They put things right and I sometimes wish this would be the case in some places where I have been. Sometimes when I go there, a problem has been there for maybe fifty years and they want us to straighten it out!

There has to be a real sorrowing to get rid of it. Generation after generation rises up in the world and they fight with each other and don't know what they are fighting about. It has nothing to do with today. There is a stubbornness in people that is so amazing to me, and I have to continually tell myself, "I am not on my own." Stubbornness is just like rebellion, and it will harm the testimony of God.