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Healing and Salvation in the Cross of Christ

It may be that the statement of Paul leaving Trophimus sick at Miletus was an assertion by the inspiration of the Spirit intended to keep the church from extreme teachings on healing. To add, in the light of the apostle’s teaching on holy communion, sin, and sickness (1 Cor. 11), “Paul not only believed God could use illness as discipline for believers who sinned (as in 1 Cor. 11:30), but he could also use it as a means to accomplish his will through the preaching of the gospel.”[6] To such mysteries Paul had one answer, “now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12). As renewal faith continues to carve out charismatic experiences into a balanced methodology (even with the prosperity gospel), the movement needs guidance by the full revelation in all the Scriptures. Most notably those texts concerning the cross would reveal the full counsel of God on this topic.

Nevertheless, the power of God in the life of the minister is indispensable for an anointed ministry. Joseph Fitzmyer testifies that “the gospel or the message of the cross is the power of God, because in that message the crucified Jesus is proclaimed as the one who brings God’s power to deliver human beings from the evil of sin and moral destruction.”[7] V.C. Pfitzner writes that “the Spirit does not work over and above the ‘word of the cross,’ but in and through the message.”[8] The power of God is the only answer to overcoming sin, evil and Satan in our modern world. As Gräbe writes “all power and all confidence entirely belong to God and may in no way be ascribed to human achievement.”[9]

 

The Crucifixion and Resurrection of Ministry by the Cross

Andrew Purves speaks about a pastor crucifying the ministry with Christ’s cross. In his reflective book The Crucifixion of Ministry, he invites ministers to allow Christ to crucify their personal façades of image and persona under the cross. Sustaining a vital and powerful service of ministry embarks that connecting with the source of power, found only in the cross. We must first die to our ministry before God can manifest his power in us. Purves writes that a pastor must “lay the theological foundation for understanding that in all things we rely on Jesus Christ, who offers to the Father in our place the life of faith, worship, and obedience that God desires, and who in the Spirit joins us to himself to share in his self-offering.”[10] Because numerous pastors suffer from burnout and exhaustion, Purves believes a healthy theology of the cross would undergird and strengthen one’s service to Christ. A theology of crucifying one’s ministry involves daily repentance and examination of motives for ministry.

Who are we serving? Christ or ourselves? Purves continues “you are called to a profound metanoia, to have a new mind, to adopt a theology more faithful to the ministry of Jesus Christ.”[11] Ultimately, crucifying our ministry reminds us that we do not cure people, cast out demons, calm anxious hearts, or heal marriages. The healing is not our responsibility. We must remember it is Christ’s ministry, not ours. He demonstrates his life and power through humankind. Purves’ repeated theme in his book states that “when we try to get our ministry into the center of things, that ministry must be crucified.”[12] Without a rich and grounded theology of the cross, a pastor will eventually fall away from his original calling and ministry vocation. David C. Steinmetz adds “it is humility for a minister to disavow that he has all the answers.”[13] Ministry is an ongoing crucifixion of self and ego. Robert Stamps, a pastor and former university chaplain writes “all that God does subjectively in the Church is understood to have its objective counterpart, its formal parallel in Christ’s vicarious work.”[14] Thus, the crucifixion of the ministry is the power of Christ in action.

Completing the theological praxis of pastoral work involves the other side of the cross, namely the resurrection. 1 Corinthians 1, 2 provides both the suffering and the power of the cross, through the work of the Spirit. Indeed, crucifying the ministry remains vital for effective service, yet, Jesus did rise from the grave. There is power which comes from suffering and weakness. Purves continues in his sequel, The Resurrection of Ministry that “the horizon of meaning is filled with hope and the expectation both of charismatic giftedness for the church and God’s ultimate triumph over the forces that make for death and evil.”[15] He utilizes the liturgical readings of Holy Week, drawing metaphors between Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Resurrection as representative ministry that is sustained by a theology of the cross. These events are the fundamental themes of the Gospel.

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Category: In Depth, Winter 2019

About the Author: Cletus L. Hull, III, M.Div. (Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry), D.Min. (Fuller Theological Seminary), Ph.D. (Regent University), has served as a pastor with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for 32 years and psychiatric chaplain for 30 years. He teaches courses in New Testament at Biblical Life Institute in Freeport, Pennsylvania. He has researched the growing Disciples of Christ churches in Puerto Rico and has an interest in the significance of the Stone-Campbell churches in American Christianity. His article, "My Church is a Mental Hospital" appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Healing Line. He is the author of The Wisdom of the Cross and the Power of the Spirit in the Corinthian Church: Grounding Pneumatic Experiences and Renewal Studies in the Cross of Christ (Pickwick, 2018). Twitter: @cletus_hull, Facebook, www.CletusHull.com

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