I never knew there was so much truth in so few verses. Rob Ventura and Jeremy Walker have mined the depths of Colossians 1:24 – 2:5 and have brought out to the light of day 10 wonderful chapters that not only paint a captivating portrait of the Apostle Paul, but of every faithful Gospel minister.
As someone who is about to begin teaching a course on The Minister and his Ministry, I’m so glad to be able to commend a book like this to my students. Most books on pastoral ministry take a thematic or topical approach and proof text their points from all over Scripture. The strength of A Portrait of Paul is its exegetical foundation; while referring to other Scriptures, it concentrates on expounding eleven verses in Colossians.
This enables us to follow the Spirit-inspired train of thought, while also enjoying a fine example of how to minister God’s Word. And contrary to what you might expect from such an approach, the authors manage to paint a beautifully rounded picture of a Gospel Minister, as you can see from the chapter headings:
1. The Joy of Paul’s Ministry
2. The Focus of Paul’s Ministry
3. The Hardships of Paul’s Ministry
4. The Origin of Paul’s Ministry
5. The Essence of Paul’s Ministry
6. The Subject of Paul’s Ministry
7. The Goal of Paul’s Ministry
8. The Strength of Paul’s Ministry
9. The Conflict of Paul’s Ministry
10. The Warnings of Paul’s Ministry
There are many “How to” books on the Ministry – and this book also has numerous practical applications – but not many build a theology of ministry on such strong biblical foundations as this one. And is that not what’s needed today? With record numbers of men leaving the ministry, having tried all the “How-to’s,” is it not time we actually stopped and went back to the Scriptures with the simple question, “What is a minister of the Gospel to be?” For only then are we in a position to ask, “What is a Gospel minister to do?” That’s what this book does so well; and it does it with lively, pacey, and contemporary language.
Another strength of the book is that it is not just for pastors and students for the ministry, but it’s for all Christians. Each chapter has a section of application to fellow-pastors, but also one addressed to fellow-Christians. Ventura and Walker see the importance not just of ministers being able to identify themselves, but of Christians being able to identify ministers. How many Churches would be spared so much trouble if – before calling a minister, criticizing a minister, dismissing a minister, or leaving a minister – people actually knew from the Word of God what a true minister of the Gospel looked like!
There’s one danger with a book like this, the danger of idolizing Paul. I’m reminded of one minister’s wife who became so exasperated by her husband’s over-frequent references to the Apostle that she exclaimed at the dinner table, “Remember dear, it was Christ who saved me, not Paul!” Ventura and Walker skillfully avoid this potential pitfall by continually taking us back to the Christ who not only painted the portrait of Paul but who perfectly modeled Gospel ministry in this world.
* Jeremy Walker blogs here.