Qualified to Be Ministers
“Our being adequately qualified issues from God, who has indeed adequately qualified us to be ministers of a new covenant.”—2 Cor. 3:5, 6, NW.
1. What desired results are produced by adequately qualified ministers?
IN THIS age of materialism and of spreading communism mankind stands in great need of adequately qualified ministers. In itself, being adequately qualified means being suitable, being fit, having what is necessary for the ministry, being equal to the requirements of the ministry, in order to carry it out successfully and produce the results desired, namely, other real Christians able to meet the tests of the day, overcome all the faith-destroying, morals-corrupting influences, keep on imitating Christ and gain the approval of God for eternal life in the new world.
2, 3. (a) What are two prime essentials for one to be an adequately qualified minister? (b) In spite of what attainments was Saul of Tarsus not qualified, and why not?
2 Unless a person is ordained by God and has been sent out by him to carry on the ministry or service, he can never be an adequately qualified minister. Take the apostle Paul, for example; to begin with, he was named Saul of the city of Tarsus in Asia Minor, a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage, a Jew belonging to the nation of Israel that Jehovah God had chosen for his special people. He was a member of the tribe of Benjamin, a member of the sect of the Pharisees, zealously trying to live up to the righteous standards of God’s law through Moses, but thinking he had to persecute the newly begun Christian congregation in order to do so. From the Jewish standpoint Saul was blameless. As a student of the Mosaic law he attended school in Jerusalem and sat at the feet of the noted lawyer Gamaliel. Trying to have the law of Moses pronounce him righteous, Saul of Tarsus was trying to live under the old covenant that Jehovah God had made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai in Arabia. (Phil. 3:3-6, NW; Acts 22:1-5) Manifestly at that time Saul wanted to be a minister of God, a minister of His old law covenant with Israel, but did all these things adequately qualify Saul or make him suitable, fit, for God’s ministry? No! Why not?
3 Because Jehovah had abolished the old covenant with its Mosaic law and had begun a new covenant with the people of his choice. The old law covenant had had Moses as its mediator. It had its priesthood of the family of Aaron and its temple servants of the tribe of Levi. It had its material temple at Jerusalem and its animal sacrifices. It had its law, the Ten Commandments of which had been written by the “finger of God” upon two stone tablets. It put Jehovah God in covenant relationship with the twelve tribes of Israel, with whom there was associated a great crowd of non-Israelite sojourners or temporary residents. But that law was pictorial of greater arrangements by God; it foreshadowed good things to come. After 1,545 years of operation it had grown old and was due to be taken away when Christ died, was resurrected, ascended to heaven and appeared in God’s presence with the value of his human sacrifice. So on the day of Pentecost, A.D. 33, Jehovah God inaugurated the new covenant through Jesus Christ as his Mediator. Jehovah had already sworn by an oath in his own name that Jesus should be a priest like Melchizedek king of Salem, and he now made this Melchizedekian priest Jesus Christ the High Priest of the new covenant.
4. Ministers of Jehovah’s new covenant became such upon what conditions, and why?
4 The Christians on earth who accepted Jesus as their Mediator and High Priest were brought into this new covenant, their sins were forgiven them according to the terms of the new covenant, and they were made the people of the covenant, the spiritual “Israel of God.” They became the people of Jehovah, who were to know him “from the least of them unto the greatest of them,” and they bore his name. Faith in Jesus Christ rather than circumcision in the flesh was now the sign of their righteousness. (Jer. 31:31-34, AS; Gal. 6:15, 16) They were made Jehovah’s under priests, Jesus Christ their Mediator being their great High Priest, through whom they were to offer the sacrifices of praise and good works to God. So God was no longer qualifying ministers of the old law covenant, and the efforts of Saul of Tarsus to be a minister of that covenant proved him to be out of date. Jehovah God was now qualifying his ministers of the new covenant. Being a minister of God’s new covenant meant being one of the under priests of Jesus Christ the High Priest, one of the “royal priesthood” of Jehovah God. (Heb. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 5:9, 10) Saul’s dependence upon his fleshly works and upon what he himself was in the flesh no longer counted. By none of these things could Saul adequately qualify himself as God’s minister. Neither can any other man adequately qualify himself or qualify another man. But what we cannot do, God can do.
5. Saul of Tarsus, as a blasphemer and persecutor of Jehovah’s people, illustrates what encouraging result Jehovah can achieve?
5 Now, as illustrated in the case of Saul of Tarsus, how does God qualify anyone adequately and put him into the Christian ministry? Saul’s case shows there is hope for even persons who are now persecutors of Jehovah’s people if they are honest and willing to be corrected, for Saul too was a bloodstained persecutor of the Christian “Israel of God.” He needed God’s mercy. In mercy God stopped him in order to put him into the ministry of the new covenant. Says Paul the apostle: “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who delegated power to me, because he considered me trustworthy by assigning me to a ministry, although formerly I was a blasphemer and a persecutor and an insolent man. Nevertheless, I was shown mercy, because I was ignorant and acted with a lack of faith. But the undeserved kindness of our Lord abounded exceedingly along with faith and love that is in connection with Christ Jesus. Trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance is the saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am foremost. Nevertheless, the reason why I was shown mercy was that by means of me as the foremost case Christ Jesus might demonstrate all his long-suffering for a sample of those who are going to rest their faith on him for everlasting life.” (1 Tim. 1:12-16, NW) If anyone has been a persecutor of Jehovah’s people and now realizes his error and gross sinfulness, let him take courage. Look at Saul as a sample and have faith that you too can be shown mercy.
6, 7. (a) How was Saul, the interrupted persecutor, informed of Jehovah’s will for him? (b) By meeting what requirements did he then become God’s qualified minister?
6 Remember that the perfect human sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the Mediator put the new covenant in force. This allowed for God to forgive sin and iniquity according to his express promise in that new covenant. So Jesus the glorified Mediator of that covenant stopped Saul the persecutor on the road to Damascus by blinding him and sent him into the city to await the coming of a faithful Christian whom Saul had been bent on persecuting, Ananias of Damascus. When Ananias came to Saul on his third day of blindness, he explained how Jehovah God was adequately qualifying Saul for the ministry of the new covenant. “He said: ‘The God of our forefathers has chosen you to come to know his will and to see the righteous One and to hear the voice of his mouth, because you are to be a witness for him to all men of things you have seen and heard. And now why are you delaying? Rise, get baptized and wash your sins away by your calling upon his name.’” (Acts 22:14-16, NW) “And immediately there fell from his eyes what looked like scales, and he recovered sight, and he rose and was baptized,” and he was “filled with holy spirit.” (Acts 9:17, 18, NW) He washed his sins away in the cleansing blood of the Mediator of the new covenant by calling upon the name of the great Author of the new covenant, Jehovah God, who had covenanted to forgive iniquity and remember sin no more.—Heb. 9:14-26.
7 Saul, now baptized, forgiven and filled with holy spirit, felt adequately qualified and sent by God. Hence he at once took up the ministry for which he had been made fit. Note how he proved qualified: “He got to be for some days with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately in the synagogues he began to preach Jesus, that this One is the Son of God. . . . Saul kept on acquiring strength all the more and was confounding the Jews that dwelt in Damascus as he proved logically that this is the Christ.” Because of a plot to kill him, “his disciples took him and let him down by night through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.” He then came down to Jerusalem and got to be introduced to the apostle Peter and Jesus’ half-brother James. “And he continued with them, carrying on his daily life in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord, and he was talking and disputing with the Greek-speaking Jews. But these made attempts to do away with him.” So the Christian brothers sent him back to his home town Tarsus.—Acts 9:19-30, NW.
STEPS TOWARD QUALIFICATION
8, 9. What steps toward qualification as a minister precede removal of “the veil of unbelief”?
8 No one can be adequately qualified to be a minister of God in his new covenant unless, like Saul, he has the light from God through Christ shine upon him, repents of his sinful course, accepts God’s mercy, calls upon God’s name as the Forgiver of sins to have his sins washed away in the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice and gets baptized in water and thus shows faith and makes a public confession of that faith. The apostle Paul presses home these points to us when he discusses his qualifications for the ministry. He mentions the veil of unbelief that once blinded him and says:
9 “When there is a turning to Jehovah, the veil is taken away. Now Jehovah is the spirit; and where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom. And all of us, while we with unveiled faces reflect like mirrors the glory of Jehovah, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, exactly as done by Jehovah the spirit. That is why, since we have this ministry according to the mercy that was shown us, we do not behave improperly, but we have renounced the underhanded things of which to be ashamed, not walking in craftiness neither adulterating the word of God, but by making the truth manifest recommending ourselves to every human conscience in the sight of God. . . . For we are preaching, not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For God is he who said: ‘Let the light shine out of darkness,’ and he has shone on our hearts to illuminate them with the glorious knowledge of God by the face of Christ. However, we have this treasure [of the ministry] in earthen vessels, that the power beyond what is normal may be God’s and not that out of ourselves. . . . Now because we have the same spirit of faith as that of which it is written [Psalm 116:10], ‘I exercised faith, therefore I spoke,’ we, too, exercise faith and therefore we speak, knowing that he who raised Jesus up will raise us up also together with Jesus . . . Therefore we do not give up.”—2 Cor. 3:16 to 4:16, NW.
10. Jehovah’s glory had what effect upon the mediators of the two covenants, the old and the new, and upon Paul?
10 Paul here referred to Moses the mediator of the old law covenant. Moses, because of communing with Jehovah’s angel in Mount Sinai, became charged with a glory light, so that, on coming down from the mountain, “the skin of his face emitted rays” and he had to veil his face as long as he talked with the terrified Jews and until he returned to speak with Jehovah’s angel. (Ex. 34:29-35, NW) Now the apostle Paul himself was reflecting like a mirror Jehovah’s glory as it shone in the face of Jesus Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant. Paul was being transformed into the same image from one degree of spiritual glory to another, exactly as done by Jehovah the spirit whom he was coming to know more and more.
11. How did Paul ‘glorify his ministry’?
11 Certainly as long as Paul was thus reflecting glory light and was being transformed, he could not behave improperly in his ministry. He could not walk in craftiness nor adulterate God’s Word with any impurity. He had to renounce the underhanded things of which to be ashamed. By making the truth manifest in its purity he had to recommend himself to every human conscience in the sight of God. He could not veil anything from those to whom he preached as a minister of the new covenant. So if the good news that he declared was veiled, Paul was not to blame. Satan the Devil, the god of this system of things, had veiled it by blinding the minds of all who did not believe, “that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through.” (2 Cor. 4:3, 4, NW) Veiling nothing, Paul could not be a commercial peddler of God’s Word as the paid clergy of Christendom are. Paul had to speak sincerely the message with which God sent him. Knowing that he was “under God’s view, in company with Christ,” Paul had to “glorify my ministry,” not degrade it.—2 Cor. 2:17 and Rom. 11:13, NW.
12. Like Paul, whom must all ministers of the new covenant know, and why?
12 The new covenant of which Paul was a servant declared: “They shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Jehovah,” and in Hebrews 8:11 the apostle Paul quoted those very words. (Jer. 31:34, AS) Paul knew Jehovah God and was therefore one of Jehovah’s witnesses. All ministers of the new covenant must know Jehovah, otherwise they could not be adequately qualified to be in the ministry of his new covenant. They must be witnesses of what they know, hence be witnesses of Jehovah. With that in mind Paul said to his fellow ministers: “I entreat you, therefore, become imitators of me.” (1 Cor. 4:16, NW) In imitation of Paul all ministers of the new covenant must be witnesses of the One whom they know as the God of that covenant, Jehovah, the Forgiver of their sins. As God himself said to his typical people in the law covenant: “Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and my servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I [am] HE.” These words of ordination to be witnesses apply with more force now to God’s servant class who are in the new covenant and of whom he prophetically said: “This people have I formed for myself: they shall shew forth my praise.” (Isa. 43:10, 21, Da) Catching up the glory light from Jehovah as it is reflected in the face of Jesus Christ who has appeared to mankind, today’s ministers of the new covenant must, like mirrors, reflect that light of the knowledge of the glory of God to others that he may be praised and they may be enlightened. In this bedarkened age great is the need to do this.