1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.
Chapter 4 is a continuation of the argument from chapter 3, the glory of New Covenant ministry.
Verses 1-6 assert the candor and character with which Paul’s team ministered. The glory of the New Covenant affects motivation for ministry. This glory leads to tenacity (4:1), candidness (4:2), Christ-centeredness (4:5-6).
1 Therefore [for this reason],
God gave Paul’s team their ministry as an act of mercy (previous chapter). They did not deserve to minister the glory of the New Covenant. They ministered from the liberty-giving Spirit of the Lord (2 Co 3:17-18).
since we have this ministry [service],
“This ministry” is the ministry of the New Covenant (2 Co 3:6), the ministry of the Holy Spirit and righteousness (2 Co 3:8-9)—the glorious news that Christ paid for our sins with His death and declared His righteousness as ours.
as we have received mercy,
Paul was once a persecutor of the church, capturing and killing many Christians. He was a religious zealot. But one day, he met the Savior on the Damascus Road, and the Lord radically changed his life. He saw himself as the chief of sinners but saved by grace, by God’s “mercy.” God was merciful toward Paul despite his past.
It is only by God’s “mercy” that a person ministers the gospel. There is no way possible that Paul’s gospel team was worthy of the task (2 Co 3:5). It was only through God’s compassion that they could serve Him. God gives mercy to those who do not deserve it.
Our attitude toward ministry determines how we discharge it.
People without a burning conviction that God’s Word is true give up easily. The splendor of our message transcends any problems that we might encounter.
The way we look at ministry helps determine how we fulfill it. If we look at serving Christ as a burden instead of a privilege, then we will grudge our service. To grasp the wonder of God’s mercy toward us gives us momentum to continue with tenacity. It will prevent us from quitting. Paul’s trials brought him to the point of despair (2 Co 1:8). Yet God’s mercy came with divine enabling; he knew God would see him through his problems. The glorious gospel was too great to give up. Because of the gospel, he would not allow himself to fall to the wayside (Ga 6:9; Eph 3:13).
No one deserves to be in the ministry. It is only by God’s mercy that any of us can minister to others.