When we minister to others, we participate in the movement of God’s empowering grace, grace that extends and abounds from one person to another.
In 2 Cor 1:15 Paul says he hoped to visit the Corinthians again, so that they “might have a second grace” or “have grace twice”. The translations tend to water that down and translate grace as benefit or favor. But Paul had no doubt that human beings are vessels and vehicles of grace. Grace moved with Paul; it came when he visited people. He wanted to visit the Corinthians so they might get a fresh measure of grace.
Maybe you know people like that. It reminds me of my grandfather. When he was around, grace also showed up. I could see it in his face. I could see it in how he talked with me and in how other people responded to him. When he was around, grace was contagious. The grace and joy in his life made me want to be a Christian.
Paul also believed a group of believers could extend grace together. In 2 Cor 2:7, when writing about a believer who had been disciplined by the church for his sin, he tells them, “So now you should show grace to him and comfort him”. This was so that the believer might not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. A group of believers can act together, in concert, to deliver grace. As Christ’s body, together we can embody grace for one another and for the outside world. Our actions can impart grace and leave people empowered to move forward.
Grace has a way of extending and increasing through people to others. One reason this happens is because it’s the nature of grace to be on the move. 2 Corinthians 4:15 says, “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”
When we obey Christ in ministry, we participate in the movement of grace.
We find some good examples of this in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9.
8:1 — “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.” That’s a really interesting use of the word “grace” in verse 1. Paul labels the Macedonians’ opportunity to serve believers in Judea as grace which God gave to the Macedonians. It’s an opportunity to participate in the movement of grace, and it’s a gift to them to have this ability and opportunity.
The word “grace” in Greek fills 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, even though the English translations don’t mention it as often.
For example, 8:4 – “They urgently pleaded with us for the privilege (grace) of sharing in this service to the saints.” In the original language, the opportunity of service, the privilege of service, is grace.The Macedonians pleaded with Paul for the grace of sharing in this service to the saints. When we minister, when we serve someone else, we are a vessel of grace. And when grace moves through us to others, we’re also receivers. We get touched by grace. This is one reason Paul can call an opportunity to minister a “grace” for the ones doing the service.
Acts of ministry and obedience are entry points for receiving grace and extending it to others. And so Paul can say in 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
This verse ties God’s empowering grace to us, and our abounding in good works, very close together. Grace gives us what we need to do good works. Good works and ministry place us right along God’s abundant supply chain of grace. And in the process, our lives are touched by grace as we minister to others. That gives us joy in ministry, and it changes us. That’s probably why my grandfather had so much joy.
Sometimes I think we really see this, and so ministry feels like a joy. We experience grace as we minister, and we see it transforming us and making us to be the people God has called us to become.
Other times, though, ministry and service are very hard. That may be because our attitude needs an adjustment. But there can also be something else going on, and that takes us to another principle of how grace works. The movement of grace tends to involve vulnerability and suffering on the part of the vessel (see next post).