PREACH THE WORD
The theme of this edition of Gospel Tidings will be immediately evident. It is the urgent command of Paul to Timothy, 2 Tim. 4.1-5,
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they reap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.’
Comparatively few of those who read these words will be involved in the regular preaching ministry and pastoral care of churches but all who value the Word of God and their own souls’ salvation will surely understand the vital importance of the Christian ministry. There is a constant need for believers to be urged to pray without ceasing for their pastors. The leaders of any army take the full weight of the enemy’s onslaught and have special need of the mighty help of their Lord and Master. Their great comfort is that when the gates of hell are opened, their Saviour gave the promise, I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’.
The seriousness of the task of preaching the Word today is closely similar to that of the prophets Zechariah and Malachi who bore ‘the burden of the word of the Lord’. Yet the sorrow of many spiritually discerning hearers is that their preachers have become second rate entertainers. The intense seriousness of the task is strongly emphasized by Daniel Dana in his article below and his words should guide both ministers and churches to see that only men who are ’eminently serious, spiritual, and holy’ are fitted for such a task.
The danger of compromise was recognised so clearly by men like Kenneth A. Macrae and the perusal of his Diary, as published by The Banner of Truth in 1980, will bring a serious minister often to tears and prayers over his own lack of diligence. He was a man who knew where he stood and stood firmly against some of the trends and popular movements in his own Free Church because he could see what they would eventually lead to. Faithful gospel preaching has both a negative as well as a positive message to bring to bear upon the souls of the hearers. Salvation is still salvation from sin, from sin which must be recognised for what it is and repented of with a godly sorrow. The church and the world are still to be seen as radically different and
separate. The positive message of the narrow way which leads to life and glory is still in utter contrast to the negative message of the broad way which leads to death and damnation.
In the inevitable trials and sorrows of the Christian ministry there is great need that churches recognise the simple fact that their preachers are but ‘men at best’ and fallen men too, who have been saved by the same grace and are completely dependent on the same Saviour and the same Holy Spirit as they are. It is a ‘means of grace’ to a faithful minister to be encouraged by his people. Moses well knew this as he commanded the people to encourage and strengthen Joshua, for he had sadly known much of the opposite experience with the wayward, ungrateful, and rebellious tribes, ‘But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see.’ (Deut. 3.28). Ministers may become ill, if they are loved they will be cared for;
ministers suffer from stress and its related consequences of physical,
mental, or emotional exhaustion, if they are loved they will be given rest and respite until strong again, and that takes time, very often a longer time than many realise. Many ministers have families to provide for, homes to maintain, and cars to pay for. All ministers deserve an adequate maintenance so that they can give themselves ‘continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word’, (Acts 6.4). ‘The labourer is worthy of his reward’, (1 Tim. 5.18), and, as Paul reminded the Corinthians, ‘If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?’
One of the special subjects for the churches’ intercession is expressed very plainly by our Lord, ‘Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into his harvest’, (Matt. 9.38). And again
by the Apostle Paul as he writes to Timothy about his concern for a new generation of preachers, ‘Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among
many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also’, (2 Tim. 2.1-2).
May God mercifully grant that we shall see a reviving of His work in every aspect of it; both in our personal lives and in the collective life of the churches who love the truth of the Word of God. Vitally important is a revival in the hearts of God’s commissioned ministers so that once again the churches may be taught by men of deep godliness and spiritual zeal, men of truth whose greatest concern in life is to ‘preach the word’, and who are willing to be ‘instant in season, out of season’ and to ‘reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine’.