(Vs. 1.) The ministry of the gospel of Christ is a work in which every believer is engaged, whether in preaching, teaching, praying, giving, or witnessing. It is a work which requires perseverance, faithfulness and diligence. We are not in competition, but work together in unity with one common goal the glory of God (Phil. 1:14-18). However, the meaning here is that we are fellow labourers with Christ. He is the Chief Shepherd; we are under him. He is the Master; we are servants (1 Cor. 3:5-9). Redemption is his work alone ('Salvation is of the Lord'); yet there is a ministerial part which lies in witnessing (Acts 1:8), preaching (Mark 16:15, 16) and teaching (Eph. 4:11-14). In this regard, we are "workers together with him". "We beseech you to receive the gospel we preach; believe it, embrace it and walk therein." For to hear the gospel, or to be exposed to it, or only to give lip service to it, or to profess to believe it and then turn back is to receive it "in vain"! (Heb. 10:38, 39; 2 Peter 2:20-22.)
(Vs. 2.) This is a quotation from Isaiah 49:7, 8, and these are words spoken by the Father to Christ! "I have heard thee." He heard him when he stood as our eternal Surety, the Lamb slain from the beginning; he heard him in his priestly prayer recorded in John 17; he heard him in the garden, on the cross and now at his right hand interceding for us. "In a time accepted," or in a time of peace and good will from the Father to men, for God was pleased in the fulness of his own time to send Christ to this world (Gal. 4:4, 5; l Tim. 1:15). "In the day of salvation have I succoured thee." While Christ was on this earth working out the salvation of his people by his obedience, suffering and death, he was helped, strengthened and empowered by the Father through the Holy Spirit. Paul cries, "Behold," before each sentence in order to get their undivided attention. "Now is the accepted time." It is the time of God's mercy and grace to men in Christ. "Now is the day of salvation." The work is done, righteousness is brought in and God is reconciled in God has purposed, promised and pictured this day throughout the Old Testament. It is all fulfilled in Christ (Heb. 3:6-12).
(Vs. 3.) To "give no offence" is to avoid actions, words, habits and conduct that might be a stumbling-block to others and hinder the success of the gospel preached. The words can be a general precept to all believers, as in 1 Corinthians 10:31-33, especially to ministers. There are persons who are awaiting all opportunities to reproach the gospel and discredit the ministry of the Word. Let us not give them reason to do so. The next verse seems to bear out the fact that Paul is speaking to ministers of the gospel.
(Vs. 4-5.) It is not only essential that a minister avoid words and actions that might be a stumbling-block and an offence to others, but that he should actively, by all means and ways, prove and show himself to be a true and faithful preacher of the gospel. This is done through "patience", under trials sent by God without murmuring, being gentle and kind in dealing with the infirmities of men and waiting on the Lord to accomplish his purpose. "In afflictions" let him be an example to the flock. Let him depend on God to supply his "necessities", for they who preach the gospel are to live by the gospel (Phil. 4:19; Gen. 14:22, 23). Even the minister must endure "distresses", both in body and mind, not knowing what to do nor which way to go (Ps. 37:5). Let him show courage and faith under persecution for the gospel, even in stripes (2 Cor. 11:23, 24), in prison or bonds for Christ's sake and in tumults or uproars and opposition from the people. It is essential that ministers show themselves to be his servants in constant labour. God will not own nor bless laziness. A true minister will be known for watchfulness, guarding the pulpit and assembly from error of doctrine or spirit, and he will be faithful in fastings, whether voluntary or involuntary!
(Vs. 6.) The apostle in the preceding verses exhorts ministers to show themselves to be such by way of life and conduct; he now deals with the inward or unseen attitude and spiritual behaviour. If any believers demonstrate "pureness" of motive, doctrine and heart, it should be those who teach others. Their "knowledge" of the Scriptures and the mysteries of grace and their wisdom in leading God's people come by prayer and study (2 Tim. 2:15; Acts 6:4). The minister must not easily be provoked to anger but by "longsuffering", patience and "kindness" must demonstrate the Spirit of Christ. Who is sufficient for these things? Who is able to produce such ideals? None in themselves; but by the Holy Ghost and by genuine, unfeigned love for Christ and his sheep it is possible.
(Vs. 7.) True servants of Christ are also revealed by preaching "the word of truth", the gospel of our Lord Jesus (1 John 4:1-3; Isa. 8:20). They are known by "the power of God" accompanying their preaching (1 Thess. 1:5, 6). "The armour of righteousness" probably refers to the whole armour of God, as in Ephesians 6:13-17, or especially to the shield of faith in the left hand and the sword of the Spirit in the right.
(Vs. 8-10.) The ministers of the gospel must expect to meet with many different alterations of their circumstances and conditions in this world. They will not be treated, received, nor regarded in the same way by all. They will be loved by some and hated by others. It will be a great evidence of their integrity and faith to behave properly under whatever conditions (Phil. 4:11-13). The apostle met with honour and dishonour, good reports and evil reports. He was a "true" minister, yet counted by some to be a "deceiver". He was "unknown" and unrecognized by most men, but "well known" to believers. He was a dying man, yet in Christ alive evermore; "chastened" by God and men, but not yet given over to death. Like his Lord, the minister is a man of great sorrow (Rom. 9:1,2) over his sin and the unbelief of others, "yet always rejoicing" in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). It is generally the lot of God's preachers to be "poor" in this world, but they are the instruments of grace to "make many rich" spiritually. They have left all to follow Christ and, therefore, have little or "nothing"; but in Christ pertaining to true life!