Missionaries: Christ's Glory :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

Missionaries: Christ's Glory

Alan Patterson
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Winning athletes are now basking in 2021 Olympic glory. They trained incredibly hard and passed numerous tests to be allowed to compete at the highest level. We know that the pressure on some was more than they could handle. Olympic glory means everything to many of these athletes because most have made that pursuit the one goal of their lives. Some wept from relief mingled with joy, some glowed with satisfaction, and some did both as the gold medal was hung around their necks. They basked not only in personal glory but also in the national glory they brought to their homelands. Theirs was a worldwide glory, a glory beamed and streamed around the world by various media. But it was also a glory that fades and often vanishes quickly. An infinitely better and enduring glory exists, and it is not related to the Olympics. You can have it, not to show off, but to reflect the honor of Someone else. Here’s how.

Consider some historical background. What would you think if the next time you went to church, the pastor, the deacons, the choir, and others who normally minister were unable to do so despite being fully prepared? What if you and they were simply overawed by the manifestation of God’s glory in the sanctuary? What must that feel like? What must that look like? What must that do in the hearts of God’s people attending? This is a relevant question, for it has happened. The chronicler describes the scene:

“It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God” (2 Chronicles 5:13–14, KJV).

That manifestation of God’s glory seems awesome, but it should not be surprising, considering other occasions in the Old Testament when God showed His power and glory. But consider a fact that does surprise you. Not only are those awe-inspiring occasions manifestations of the glory of God, but God’s glory is also seen in much more humble, mundane, even tainted-with-sin creatures. It is seen in missionaries!

Consider what 2 Corinthians 8:23 states regarding God’s glory. It doesn’t say that missionaries see God’s glory but that they themselves are God’s glory! To be specific, it declares that the co-workers of Paul, called “the messengers (literally apostles—sent ones) of the churches,” are “the glory of Christ” (KJV). Knowing our numerous frailties and frequent failures, those of us who are missionaries are staggered by the thought that God considers us the glory of His Son!

This thought that missionaries are the glory of Christ is quite astounding, but it perfectly follows Paul’s teaching earlier in 2 Corinthians. As he fought discouragement, disappointment, and fear from what seemed to be a failed ministry in Corinth, Paul suddenly moved into a stirring exultation in the glory of the gospel ministry (2 Corinthians 2:12–7:5). He shows convincingly that even Moses’ ministry was a ministry of glory. When Moses came out from meeting with God in the tabernacle, his face radiated the glory of God. However, the glory radiating from Moses’ face faded. Paul revels in the truth that, in contrast to Moses’ ministry of waning glory, our ministry has an enduring glory. Let Paul’s summary text of Moses’ glory versus gospel glory sink deeply into your heart and mind: “For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious” (2 Corinthians 3:11, KJV). Here Paul “exults in the surpassing difference” and “boldly champions the permanence of the glory and service of Christ.”[1]

The service of Christ is indeed glorious—the most magnificent ministry in the universe that is available to man. Therefore, in the later text (8:23), to further emphasize God’s view of the ministry of His servants, specifically of His missionaries (“messengers”), Paul refers to them as “the glory of Christ.” Can you imagine the glory of Christ at the transfiguration? Then transfer your exalted view of Him at that time to His human messengers of the Gospel today. How amazing, how humbling, that those who serve as His sent ones are themselves reflecting the image, giving the message, and representing the person of the transfigured Christ. But they are more than a reflection of His glory; they are the “glory of the Lord,” who Himself is the Lord of glory. Olympic glory is invisible in the glow of the blinding brilliance of missionary glory!

[1] A. T. Robertson, The Glory of the Ministry (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1979), 68.