The Ministration of Life
Life and Light expressing itself in and through us as us is something that is capturing my attention. The following is from something I am reading from T.A. Sparks.
We pass to the second point, namely, the ministry of life. In the fourth verse of the first chapter of John's Gospel we read: "In him was life, and the life was the light of men." Mark the words of the second half of the verse: "the life was the light of men." The life was the light! That is the ministry of life. We might very well in this connection re-read that difficult passage from Acts 26:22-23.
"Having therefore obtained the help that is from God, I stand unto this day testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses did say should come; how that the Christ must suffer, and how that he first by the resurrection of the dead should proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles."
It is the closing statement that is so significant - "that he first by the resurrection of the dead should proclaim light..." The first proclaimer of light was Christ, and the ground upon which He proclaimed light was resurrection. That is but a different way of expressing the second half of John 1:4 "the life was the light." The resurrection is the basis of light.
The point to be noted is that the life expresses itself in a certain way. It is seen to do so as light. If you follow through John's Gospel you will note other things: for instance, the life expresses itself in liberty: "If the son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36). But here the inclusive thought is that life has its own ministry, and that ministry is a matter of life. As we have said, ministry is not first in word, but is firstly a question of life through the word: it is not doctrine. Ministry is not merely the imparting of truth, but the imparting of Christ through the truth. If the truth does not minister Christ then it is dead, it is valueless. All truth, all doctrine, teaching, must be a ministration of the living Christ, and not a ministration of information about Him. The test of everything is as to how far it ministers Christ in a living way. When any given bit of ministry has been concluded, the question is not as to whether it was interesting, edifying or instructive, not whether it was beautiful to contemplate, not whether it was orthodox - those may be important factors, but they are altogether apart from the issue - when all is finished the vital question is, Am I standing possessed of a further measure of Christ? Has Christ in a fuller measure livingly become available to me through that ministry? Am I confronted with the question of Christ as my life in a way that has not been so before? That is the test of ministry. Christ may come to us through explanations, through definitions, through truth, but when these things remain something in themselves then that is not true ministry. All must minister Christ, and that ministry is not just the ministry of certain individuals called ministers. The whole Church is called into the ministry or ministration of Christ. All the members are to minister Christ to one another, and when believers are gathered together it ought to mean life to all who are present. That place ought to be a place of life. Going to that gathering of the Lord's people such as are feeling spiritually, mentally, or even physically spent ought to go away saying, I feel wonderfully better! That has been life to me! This life we have in His Son.
You see what the ministry is. Is it not a very blessed thing that when the Lord has a company of His Own children gathered together in Himself and many of them come in tired, discouraged, disheartened, worn out physically, spiritually baffled, mentally bruised, and feeling they have no more resource to go on, He is able in the fellowship to minister life, which is a ministration of Christ, so that such go away lifted up and refreshed. It is wonderful to come together for that alone, apart altogether from expositions and addresses. And that is ministry. When the Lord's people are really together in living relationship with Him as the risen One they do fulfil ministry though perhaps in large measure unconsciously. Others coming in go away saying: Well, it was not what was said, but there was life! I do not understand the teaching, but I am better for being there! That is the ministry, and we are all in that together. Do not think of the ministry as something that is carried out from the platform all the time. You are all in the ministry, and it depends entirely upon whether the Lord's people are living upon the basis of this life as to how far they will fulfil ministry. The life was the light!