“O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.” 2 Cor. 6:11-12.
In a stirring plea to the Corinthian brethren, the apostle Paul pleads the spacious hearts of God’s messengers. He passionately proclaims that the saints are not restricted, hemmed in, or cramped by the condition of their ministers’ hearts. While some may interpret these verses to be speaking primarily of the apostles’ affection for the saints, we feel that more than mere affection can be understood from this reading. In the preceding verses of this chapter, the apostle commends the true gospel ministry to the saints. In verse 4, he tells that “in all things” they “approve” themselves “as the ministers of God.”
What follows is a beautiful and inspiring listing of sweeping approbation, that deeply challenges every messenger of the gospel. The apostle makes his defense, and declares with ardor that any spiritual backwardness on the Corinthians’ part must surely be solely on their account. The purity, unction, power, and spiritual capacity, in general, of this morning-time ministry made provision for the most extensive spiritual advancement imaginable. However, in our day we see many poor souls deprived of access to spiritual prosperity. To be blamed, at least to a large degree, are their preachers and teachers who inhibit the spirituality of the laity by their own lack of it. Nevertheless, there is once again a ministry that is effective in “presenting every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:28).
As we survey today’s religious world, we see multitudes, who, in spite of honest desire, are severely handicapped by preachers who have failed to acquire from God the “largeness of heart” (1 Kgs. 4:29) which is one of the distinguishing marks of a true messenger. In fact, false ministers do more to bar the way to heaven, than do movie stars, bar-tenders, and drug-dealers. Jesus rightfully accused the Pharisees (the religious “elite” of that day) of not only refusing to enter the kingdom of God themselves, but also obstructing the way of those that were entering (Matt. 23:13).
There are “heaps” of false teachers and preachers who would surely decry Demas and his works, only to simultaneously advocate his spirit by loving the world, tolerating its influences in their congregations, and giving false hope and security to parishioners who have fallen prey to its vicious lusts. Thus we see false prophets’ hearts in the ever-so-tightly constricting “bond of iniquity,” and masses of “church-goers” finding themselves being crushed to spiritual death inside the confines of their minister’s sinful heart. They are largely incapacitated from living a holy life free from sin, because their ministers are void of holiness, and thus lack the rainbow of divine promise, which halos the head of every God-sent minister (Rev. 10:1). It is through these promises, which effectively operate through a divine ministerial calling and gifting, that men are made “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4).
Puny-hearted “preachers” are under the influences of “earthy” forces, which preclude their ascent to heaven on Christ the Ladder (John 1:51), to personally lay hold on the heavenly, life-changing gospel. Not only are they caged up in the “hold” of foul spirits, but their shriveled hearts have become a prison house to them and their congregations. Thus, downward pull and inward confinement keep them from being the ministry that “flies in the midst of heaven” defying the law of “earthy” gravity, and having the everlasting gospel to preach. Consequently, the people are subjected to the same base forces, and denied the life-changing power of the preaching of the cross.
The ceaselessly sinning, worldly-minded, back-biting, religious populace, which is erroneously believed to compose the ranks of Christianity, is a direct result of ministers who fell utterly short of divine experience, and thus were not able to generate congregations that would rise above the shabby standards of their preachers. There have been converted souls who have been stunted in their spiritual development and, at best, have been reduced to paralyzed dwarfs. Young people, once on fire for God, have been chilled to spiritual death, because of a transmission of their “pastor’s” spiritual (or rather unspiritual) frigidity. Truly, many are “straitened,” in their ministers.
In sharpest contrast to this degenerate condition of ministry, the apostle declares with heart-felt fervor, “O ye Corinthians…ye are not straitened in us!” In this time of restoration to apostolic fulness, true ministers have taken up the cry of the apostle. No longer must saved young people be suppressed by “seasoned” ministers, who have long ago lost the “salted by fire”-experience and now fear to be evicted from their life-less comfort zone, and therefore, belittle the effects of divine life and predict their transience. God’s ministers are challenging the saints to unprecedented attainments in the things of God. To be filled with all the fulness of God, is not only a possibility, but a requisite. Unrestricted radicalness in consecration and in separation unto God from all that defiles the soul, is a present reality. It thrills young and old alike. This is what makes Christianity exciting and intensely appealing. To be shut up in an icebox of “Christian” ministry is cause for boredom and intense dissatisfaction.
Jeremiah’s keen vision transpierced the ages and proclaimed under divine inspiration that God’s pastors would be “according to” His heart (Jer. 3:15). O the blessing! O the commodiousness of God’s heart. What wonderful implications there are for the children of God when the fulness of God inhabits the heart of His preachers, whereby their hearts are expanded to allow for the saints’ unbounded spiritual success. This wideness of heart in no wise denotes tolerance and accommodation of sin, ecumenicalism, or compromise of any sort. These are excluded, while radical heart-holiness pervades the heart, and preempts the being.
In Revelation 21, an end-time angel (messenger) invites John to view the “Lamb’s wife,” upon which John finds himself being “carried away in the Spirit” by the messenger. The symbolism of this passage implies vast spiritual dimensions. Only a true ministry “approved in Christ” is able to transport God’s children such spiritual distances. A ministry whose heart is inhibiting and confining, on grounds of worldliness and carnality, will never be able to provide the means for such essential spiritual mobility.
The reality of the church and the vision of it, had so pervaded this messenger’s heart, that he was able to say “I will shew thee.” There was a personal connection between the messenger and the substance of the vision. Like Peter to the invalid at the Beautiful gate, true messengers are able to say, “Such as I have give I thee.”
The capacity of his own heart gave the apostle Paul legitimate authority to require and demand expansion of heart from the saints. Thus he says, “Now for a recompence in the same, be ye also enlarged” (2 Cor. 6:13). It is never to be expected that the fruit of a gospel minister’s labors will exceed his personal experience in spirituality, etc. In effect, it is impossible for a minister to outpreach his own experience, though he may do so in word.
Dear reader, are you straitened in the ministry you are under? Do you long for liberty to be “changed from glory to glory”? There is room enough in the heart of God’s ministry.