Ministers and What They Do

There are six men listed in Colossians 4:10-14 as examples of ministers involved with Paul in one way or another. Today, when we hear the word minister in context of Christianity, the first picture our culture paints in our heads is preaching and teaching. However, to Paul a minister was much more than just the gifted ability to speak words. The Greek word Paul uses most commonly for ministers, or ministries is “diakonia. We see it used in 1 Corinthians 12 when Paul writes:

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.

The Lord gives a variety of ministries. While preaching and teaching are examples of two, we find that practical helping of needs is also included. Serving is another way this word is translated. We see just such an example of a serving type of ministering with Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:

25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need,

The man represented the Philippians in ministering to the Apostle Paul’s personal needs. The verse implies that if there were any physical issues with Paul, this man helped out the older gentlemen. It was a very different and difficult society they lived in. No doubt, within the rigors of travel, Epaphroditus carried bags, food, led donkeys; whatever the physically needs of those days were. He was a spiritual skycap to Paul as he journeyed—and doing so without expecting to be tipped. This was a minister!

Another way we see “diakonia” in action is the offering of finances to the church or God’s work. Paul uses this word in 2 Corinthians 9 when writing:

12 For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. 13 Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all,

Give of substance was a necessity for seeing the work, or even a church, continue. It takes money to do things. Folks realized this was a necessity and they ministered out of their abundance to help. There is an amazing example in Luke 8 of this type of activity in the Lord’s ministry.

“3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.”

These women were seen as ministers, they gave from their substance to help spread the Gospel. We’re told at the end of the gospels, as Jesus was condemned and walking the Via Dolorosa, these were women who followed Him at a distance, they once ministered to Him in Galilee[1]. And though we never read of them joining the Apostles—going out two-by-two to preach on treacherous journeys—they are considered ministers ministering to the Lord’s needs nonetheless.

In conclusion we can identify at least three ways ministers are recognized in the New Testament: communicators of the Word, comforters of needs and contributors of finances. All a very necessary and needed within the church.

J. Robert Hanson

[1] Matthew 27:55


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