The most sacred and most noble profession is that of a gospel preacher, yet it is considered as the poorest trade. The preaching of the gospel is so sacred and great that I am continuously reminded of my weakness and unworthiness to fill such a sacred position. I take comfort in the thought that Paul felt the same: “Unto me, WHO AM LESS THAN THE LEAST OF ALL SAINTS, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (Eph. 3:8) Paul considered preaching grace as a mighty and wonderful gift of God. I do not believe that a gospel minister can think too humbly of himself - nor can he think too highly of the Prince who called him into this noble profession. Our felt sense of unworthiness really graces us to bear great treasures to others. Many poor messenger-carriers have delivered great treasures to others. I may be an evil messenger but I know that I am not bearing an evil message. I may be as one of Noah’s carpenters who helped in building the ark but had no place in it when the floods came; yet, my comfort is that I have part in bearing the message of God’s love and grace.
I may be a castaway but I feel that I will be compelled to thank God for having blessed me to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the afflicted and poor people. When you see the despondent ones raised up to the point of rejoicing, it gladdens your heart to see that the Lord has graced your preaching to their comfort. A gospel minister could not conscientiously require a congregation to pay him for his preaching, because, if he has been given preaching grace, he has already received more reward of the Lord than he could possibly receive from the congregation. No true minister will ever complain of the sacrifice he has made in order to pursue this noble ministration. Paul said in 2 Cor. 12:15: “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” What great love Paul had for the Lord’s people!
Considering the sacredness and the success attached to gospel preaching, we are next inquiring as Paul did: “Who is sufficient for these things?” Read the last 6 verses of the 2nd chapter and the 3rd chapter of 2nd Corinthians and you will note the happy success which God gave to Paul’s preaching; as well as this success being wholly accredited to God. Paul says, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but OUR SUFFICIENCY IS OF GOD.” We are convinced that God’s ministers are called, qualified, sent forth, and used of God for the good of His people, as well as to praise the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The outstanding evidence that God has called one to preach is that he preaches the power of God, for a person will preach the power that sent him as the excellent power. Listen to one’s preaching for he will unconsciously identify his caller; whether it be money, man, the devil, or God. God qualifies his ministers in the furnace of affliction, and they come through great tribulations which burn the dross of pride, selfishness, vain-glory, and any other vice; which makes them beggars at the footstool of God’s throne.
God’s ministers experience to a greater degree all of the phases of Christian experience, both pleasant and unpleasant, in order to orient them properly for the profession they must fill. God sometimes suffers his ministers to follow the bidding of designing men, and to experience the consequences, in order to make them more willing to heed His commands. The minister must be well taught to go wheresover and whensoever the Lord sends him. God uses His ministers as message-bearers and they are ordained to go forth in the fear of God - not man; to please God, not as men pleasers.
His ministers must be of good report within as well as without. They may become victims of false brethren and outsiders who give bad report; yet, their lives and conduct should be so that the mouths of gain-sayers may be stopped without the minister having to come to his own rescue. True brethren are always ready to defend their elders from vile effects of erroneous and damaging reports. God blesses the ministers’ gifts to find room in the hearts of true brethren sufficiently that it is needless for ministers to use valuable time in self-defense. Offenses must come but the woe is pronounced upon the offender, not the offended. A minister must realize that his temptations are more varied, that he is more closely watched, and he is the target of more envy and jealousy than anyone in the church. How careful we should be in our deportment.
A minister should be “Apt to teach.” He should study to rightly divide the word of truth. He should be one who is given to use simple terms in explaining the scriptures and placing scriptural expressions in their proper settings. When one lifts a scriptural expression out of its context to such an extent that it has a very different meaning, he does violence to the right division. A minister should not take a few words and dwell upon them exclusively to get them all out of proportion, until they become vain imaginations which are foreign to their intended meaning. I have heard much of this, which results only in entertainment and arousing emotions, and the audience dismissed without being edified on the proper meaning of the expression. Sometimes we are tempted to use a few words to this extent in order that the hearers may talk about how wise we are, to get so much out of so little. Let us ask our hearers, who make such expressions, What did YOU get from it? I am convinced that the fact is the congregation was more entertained than edified.
Meandering preaching generally aims at nothing and hits nothing. I have heard people talk a long time, yet they never did tell me what they were talking about. I cannot tell what purpose they have in saying what they say. A true preacher preaches his convictions and attempts to support them with the scriptures. He does not emphasize his wisdom but his convictions. We read a scripture which says, “We also believe, and therefore speak.” (Read 2 Cor. 4:13.) I am becoming very conscious of how precious the time is which is devoted to preaching. This time must not be wasted by idle talking and vain repetitions. Some must travel a long journey to hear preaching and are not privileged to sit more than an hour or two under the audible sound of preaching each month. May God forbid that this precious time be ill-used by a careless person who seeks not to edify his hearers. This time should be used for the good of others and not for the speaker’s own vain-glory. None but those who are as diligent to sow the wheat of good doctrine, as the devil is to sow tares, should occupy the time allotted for preaching. We should seek to use only enough simple words to clothe our thoughts, and only thoughts which tend to promote truth and virtue should be emphasized. Preaching time is too precious to be wasted by saying things without a purpose for saying them. Time is too precious for long preliminaries or telling amusing stories. The profession is too sacred to treat lightly and to talk loosely and for any display of ignorance.
God’s use for preaching is so important that we should use proper dignity in the pulpit so that what we say may be properly enunciated. Our true hearers are interested in understanding every word spoken, therefore they listen carefully and appreciate it when every word is distinctly spoken. They are not so much interested in how we say things as what we say. Sometimes peculiar mannerisms of the preacher so attracts the hearer that he loses the thoughts expressed. Sometimes we become so emotional while preaching that our speaking is marred with incoherent sounds and our hearers do not distinctly understand what we say. If the things we are speaking are worth the time used in speaking them, surely they are worth being understood by our hearers.
Proper characteristics and suitable manners of God-called ministers are especially stressed in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. These principles. tempers, and proper conduct are minutely named and specifically defined in these books of the New Testament. It would be well for ministers to read them carefully and often as letters of instructions addressed individually to each one of us. Each one of you have Bibles to read so it is not necessary for me to include them in this treatise, but is necessary for me to request you to read both letters to Timothy and the one to Titus as a part of this article. Cataloging scriptures is not preaching. Hearers have Bibles to read, and the earnest hearer reads it often. They are more interested in hearing you expound the scriptures than your precise quotations of them. Interested hearers often check your scriptural references, and, when they get to themselves, read the scriptures which are before and after your quotations. Then, they compare your treatise on them with the context.
Some may ask, Why preach? I have heard it vehemently proclaimed that God saves His people wholly and completely in every sense without the necessity of preaching. I fear that some who fill the pulpit feel exactly that way about it, considering the carelessness manifested while attempting to preach. If our preaching be not necessary, Why preach? I am thoroughly convinced that Paul spoke rightly when he said, ... it pleased God by the foolishness of PREACHING to save them that believe.” God has use for preaching in saving the believer. What is the central text of Gospel· preaching? Paul says, “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Why preach Christ to a believer? Christ said, “ ... Ye believe in God, believe also in me.” The eunuch of Ethiopia as well as Cornelius believed in God before they believed in Jesus Christ. God was pleased to use a minister to effectually preach Jesus Christ to them. In each case God commanded the minister to go, and it pleased God that through these ministers’ preaching that these should also believe in Jesus Christ. Let us quote Romans 10:13-14, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things.”
Our reasons for preaching from the pulpits, by medium of writing, and in private conversations should be for God’s glory and for the benefit of hearers and readers. Sometimes it is to stir up pure minds by way of remembrance of the things they have heretofore been told and have experienced. Sometimes it is to inspire a desire for spiritual development that the auditors may pray the Lord to bless them. Sometimes it is to admonish one who has strayed from the becoming walk of the Lord’s people. Sometimes it is to unconfuse the confused so that the little bits of beliefs may be unscrambled and placed in an orderly manner to such extent that the hearer is more aware of what he believes. Spiritual stimulation and nourishment should be the aim of every minister.
Yes, preaching comforts the depressed ones, encourages the discouraged, and renews hope, as well as strengthens faith. No minister of God preaches for filthy lucre, nor to gain himself a reputation, nor to get a personal following. His purpose sometimes is to exhort his hearers to righteous and Godly walking; yet, while so doing he does not forget the sacred truths of sovereign grace. Should one treat upon vices and virtues only without the grand principles of grace and the mighty power of God, it would be like placing the wheels properly in a watch, setting the hands, and forgetting to put in the mainspring which makes the watch work. On the other hand, should you preach the sovereignty of God only, it would be as though you observed only the mainspring and paid no attention to the works in the watch, nor the position of the hands on the face of the watch. It is often a vital question to me, What should I preach in order to preach a complete gospel sermon? When I first began to teach in the schools I was told to stress three “R’s”: ‘Riting, Reading, & ‘Rithmetic. I am convinced now that ministers should stress five “R’s”: Ruin, Redemption, Regeneration, Righteousness, and Resurrection.
Ministers preach that all of Adam’s posterity was ruined through the sins of Adam to such extent that man could not reform himself to the original condition of Adam. All who were in the loins of Adam could hope for nothing but eternal death. All who were chosen in Christ were redeemed through the righteousness of Jesus Christ to such an extent that God’s chosen ones would be delivered from the clutches of eternal death. All who were in the loins of Christ could be assured of eternal life because of this redemption by His life and His death. All those who were redeemed by Jesus Christ are subjects of regeneration by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit. All the redeemed are born again, being regenerated by eternal life. True ministers preach that righteousness being manifested in the walk and conversation of the regenerated ones is the evidence and effect of regeneration. All who are regenerated and have the gift of the living faith will be careful to maintain good works. All God-called ministers will point out to his hearers the goal of the high calling which is the resurrection. The crowning work of God’s grace is the resurrection from the dead. We point forward to the change when this mortal shall put on immortality; when this natural body shall be raised a spiritual body. We point forward to the prize which will be the transition from time into eternity. When we are under the dew-drippings of God’s sanctuary and while feasting upon the gospel of Jesus Christ, we taste a little of Heaven. This makes it easier to endure the tribulations for a season.
Ministers love Jesus Christ and his people better than anything else in the world. The other day I read the first ten verses of 1st chapter of 1st Corinthians. I noticed that Paul mentioned Jesus Christ ten times in these ten verses. Even though I was alone I said aloud, “Oh! what love Paul had for Jesus Christ!” Dear Ministers, you are promised persecutions and you will go through great tribulations, but God has also promised to be with you unto the end. False brethren may turn their back upon you and attempt to do all the harm they can, but may God bless you to preach Jesus Christ as Lord of the salvation of His people. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.” This means to let him be accursed, suspended, and not worthy of attention.
May our ministration be blessed in our conduct and preaching that we may truthfully say, “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly, and unblameably we behave ourselves among you that believe: and ye know how we exhorted, and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men.” (1st Thess. 2:7-15) The afore-quoted is what Paul, Silvanus, and Timotheus said to the church of the Thessalonians. Can we truthfully say the same things to the churches of our pastorate???
Our sincere prayer is that God will so grace us as ministers to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called. E.J.L.
Elder E.J. Lambert
Signs of the Times
Volume 132, No. 7