First off, notice this: the ministry of the new covenant that Paul had received was because of the mercy of God. How often do we look at our "ministries" as something to offer to the Lord and for him to say "thank you" for, rather than something for us to constantly be in anguished gratefulness because without God's mercy in giving it to us, we would not be involved in it. The reason I have anything that I can do "for" Christ is because of Christ.
Secondly, however, notice that Paul had standards in the ministry that he would be involved in. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. And then he gives two examples of these disgraceful and underhanded ministry practices.
- Cunning — | adjective | — having or showing skill in achieving one's ends by deceit or evasion.
Paul would not engage in this type of ministry. The goal was not to get people to raise a hand or say some prayer that someone else told them to say because they would only told the attractive parts of God. It was about making disciples — people who actually FOLLOWED Jesus because they had actually encountered him. So he would explain the truth to them. Which lead to the next one...
- Tamper with God's word. God's word is truth, even the parts that we don't like. This is the part that is fascinating to me. I'm convinced that pride is the catalyst in the hearts and minds of people when the validity of God's word is attacked instead of esteemed as perfect. We are all broken people, and yet for some reason we honestly believe that we can come up with a "healthy alternative" to the truth in God's word without the help of absolute truth, relying upon our own limited and short-lived experiences. We cannot see transformed lives if God's word is not used, for God's word is truth that shows us what is wrong with us, then introducing us to the One who can actually turn everything around for his own glory.
Am I above reproach in the ministry that I've been called to? Am I playing with the things that God has spoken about truthfully so that I feel better about my sin, or am I remaining sensitive to the hideousness of my sin, seraching God's word, listening for his Spirit, to diagnose the problem and to see the problem remedied?
I pray that my ministry would be done is such a way that you could describe it as graceful and honorable. I pray that you would continue to increase my faith in your word, and then anoint me as a proclaimer of your truth every time I open my mouth to preach.