Today when we think of the term “minister” or “to minister” in religious circles, what often comes to mind is the clergy of any church, whether dressed in suits, robes, or casual wear carrying out preaching or teaching or running a program for the congregation. However, in the Bible the word has broader application given the contexts in which it’s used. When simplified to the basics, ministry or a minister in biblical terms has to do with serving the Lord in order to serve other believers.
The book of Exodus gives us an initial view of what is essential in ministering to fellow believers for the Lord’s sake. Exodus 28:41 tells us that when Aaron was chosen by God to be his minister for the people, in order for him to properly minister God’s way there had to be anointing, consecration, and sanctification. For the New Testament church, the anointing, consecration, and sanctification take place the moment when we confess and truly believe by God’s grace through faith that Jesus is Lord–God who appeared in the flesh to die for our sins and who was resurrected. We are subsequently given the Holy Spirit and his power to minister to our fellow saints.
In the letter to the Hebrews, we are shown that all believers, to some extent, are called to minister to our brothers and sisters in Christ. True ministry, according to Hebrews 6, is a godly work and a labor of love. Here’s what it says:
10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
This was written in the context of warning about those who “fall away” from the faith. Those who like Judas Iscariot pretend to follow Christ and do some outward works that look genuine, but whom Christ will eventually tell that he never knew them despite their claim of “many wonderful works” (Matthew 7:21-23). As a contrast to people like Judas, we are told what true ministers are about in the above verses and how God treats them. Because God is a God of fairness and justice, he never forgets any good work and labor of love done for his name by those saints who ministered at any time to other saints and continue to have a heart to minister. Such ministering covers a broad range of good deeds from clothing the naked, giving food and drink to the hungry and thirsty, visiting the imprisoned, etc. (Matthew 25:35-40) to sharing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to a whole host of other things, whether they are considered little or big.
In verse 11, the writer of Hebrews desired that they display that same diligence to minister as a labor of love with full assurance of their hope in Christ all the way to the end. He also hoped in verse 12 that they would not become slack in following other godly people who inherit God’s promises with faith and patience as they live this life. We know that when we are real ministers with the real anointing, consecration, and sanctification by Christ through the Holy Spirit, these godly qualities are sure to shine in our labors of love. When we see ourselves as God’s ministers in our godly works, we should be convinced that whatsoever we do in word or deed, we do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him (Colossians 3:17).