CHRIST GAVE PASTORS AND TEACHERS
Notes of a sermon by R. M. M’Cheyne preached in 1842.
`And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.’ Ephesians 4.11-13.
These words lead you and me to inquire into the end of the ministry. It is for this reason that I have chosen this passage, that we may look into it, as into a mirror, and see ourselves.
I. Let us notice first, that the gospel ministry is a gift from Christ, verse 11; ‘And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.’ It is Christ who sends them. ‘He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.’ It is quite true that He gave some of them before He ascended on high. He gave some before He left, as we are told by Mark Â— 3.13, 14, ‘And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach.’ And yet, brethren, it is as true, that it was not till He ascended up on high, leading captivity captive Â— not till He shed forth the Spirit on the Church Â— it was not till then that He gave them; before they had little or no strength. We will just take the example of Peter; he trembled at the voice of a woman, but after Christ had ascended on high, and shed forth His Spirit, he stood before kings and rulers, and testified of Christ. So that it is quite true, when He ascended up on high, ‘He gave some, apostles,’ etc.
It is quite true that pastors and teachers are chosen, not in an audible manner now; and yet it is true that every faithful pastor is raised up by Christ, and is His gift to the Church Â— ‘I will give you pastors according to mine heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.’ He often calls weak men to be ministers of Christ. And it is quite true that He chooses them before they are born. He said to Jeremiah, 1.5, `Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee; and I ordained thee a prophet of the nation.’ And what was true of Jeremiah, is also true of Paul; for he says, Gal. 1.15,16, ‘But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen: immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.’ And just as it is Christ that calls them before they are born, so He converts them for this very end. And it is also Christ that furnishes
His ministers. He walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, supplying all the branches with oil. And He places them.
It is the same hand that guides the stars above, that guides the stars below.
From this let us learn, first of all, to esteem ministers, as ministers a) Christ. I believe you will come one day to know that the ministry is one of Christ’s best gifts. You know a gift is not valued on account of its intrinsic value, yet they are to be valued as being the gifts of Christ. I do not know, but I think that the ministry is not esteemed among you as it ought to be; I may be wrong, but I think it. You are like the horses that have got so much hay that they pull it down among their feet and trample on it.
Another lesson to be learned is, if these are Christ’s gifts, then you ought to ask for them. Just as an affectionate father loves to be asked by his child for these things that he is willing to give, so ought you to ask Christ. ‘Pray ye the Lord of the harvest that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.’ Brethren, it is a great blessing that the calling of the ministry is put on a scriptural footing in this place; but remember. you must ask it, and just as it should be asked from Christ, so Chris( should be thanked for it. ‘Were not ten cleansed, but where are the nine?’ Ah! this shows that unthankfulness is in our nature.
Another lesson we should learn from this is that, as Christ gave pastors, so He may take them away: `The Lord gave,’ Job says, `and the Lord hath taken away, blessed he the name of the Lord.’ He that gives children can take them away, and, in like manner, He that gives pastors and teachers, can withdraw them. If it is true that Christ is to withdraw his ministers in Scotland Â— if it is true that three hundred and forty pastors in Scotland are to be withdrawn, ah! then, you will see that He can take them away.* Ah brethren, though I feel that I have beer unfaithful, far more than I can bear, yet you have been so too. Scotlanc has abused the ministry for a long time; many come to hear, and go away displeased Â— many come to hear and criticise. Ah! think if Goc take away your candlestick, it will be righteously done.
II. I come now to the second thing, and that is, the use of the gospe ministry, verse 12.1 observe from these words, that the use of the gospe ministry is twofold: it is for perfecting those that are saints, and then fa the edifying of the body of Christ.
1. To perfect the saints. This is one great half of the work of the ministry. It is the same that Christ spoke of to Peter, `Lovest thou me? then `Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.’ It is the same as what Peter wrote `The elders which are among you I exhort. Feed the flock of God whirl is among you.’ It is the same which Paul spoke of to the Ephesian elders `Take heed to the flock over the which the Holy Ghost bath made you overseers, to feed the church of God which he hath purchased with hi:
* Referring to the impending Disruption of 1843. own blood.’ Now, this is one great half of the gospel ministry, to feed the lambs and the sheep. I feel, brethren, that I have greatly omitted this part of my ministry among you because of the cry of the wicked, they are so many. Often in my secret retirement, when poring over my Bible, I have been driven past those texts which are for the perfecting of the saints, to be made a son of thunder. Observe, brethren, that the pastoral work is twofold: we are to perfect you in knowledge, and we are to make you perfect in practice.
We are to perfect you in knowledge. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he told them that they came behind in no gift. Ah! I feel that this does not apply to us. I fear that the words of Paul to the Hebrews are more applicable: `For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God.’ How little knowledge believers as yet have of their own hearts Â— how little knowledge you have of Christ Â—how little knowledge of the wiles of the devil Â— how much need have we to become more fully acquainted with the Word of God. The other half of the pastoral work is to make you perfect in practice. Many among you think that it is not desirable to be complete Christians. Now, this is a great mistake; the great object of the gospel ministry is to get you entirely like Christ Â— is to get you entire Christians Â— Christians in public and Christians in private.
2. Let me speak now of the other half of the work the ministry, that is, the edifying of the body of Christ. Now, the word `edify’ is used in two ways in the New Testament. First, it refers to the work of a mason; he polishes and prepares stones, and then puts them on a building, so that it grows higher and higher. This is exactly the work of the ministry. See 1 Peter 2.5: `Ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house.’ Then `edify’ also means `to sanctify.’ See Acts 9.31: ‘”Then had the churches rest throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.’ In our text, the word seems to have the first of these meanings Â— that is, of bringing stones to a building. But perhaps both ideas are intended. The use of the ministry is not only to bring stones to the building, but also to raise it; this has been where I have failed, and yet I think I can say, I have never risen a morning without thinking how I could bring more souls to Christ. It is not the work of a minister to wear a peculiar garb, or to baptize; nor is it the work of a minister to marry. This is not the work of the ministry. The great use of the ministry Â— engrave it on your hearts, tell it to your children Â— that the use of the ministry is to convert your soul. Ah! brethren, if we part, and you are not saved, then you will wish that we had never met Â— that you had been born in Africa, whose woods never resounded with the glad tidings of salvation. I am deeply persuaded that you do not believe this, that unless you are saved, our ministry is of no
use to you. You may think you have got some good, but, if you are not converted to Christ, our ministry has been in vain for you. ‘I beseech you, brethren, that you receive not the grace of God in vain.’
III. I now come to the third and last point and that is, the great end and consummation: verse 13. This verse is difficult, and I therefore request you will give your attention to it. There is a glorious time coming, and it is described in three ways. First, it is described as being one Â— one in faith, etc. Then it is described as the time when the man will be perfect. And lastly, it is described as reaching unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. It is described as a time when all believers will be one, one in unity, one in faith, one in knowledge. At present we are different; we do not all believe the same thing, but the time is coming when we will be all one; we will not be all one in experience Â— that will never be; but there is one thing in which we will be the same, that is, faith; every man and woman will see a oneness in Christ.
And then it is called the time of a perfect man. You know, brethren, a man is not a perfect man if he wants anything, if he wants a hand, or an arm, or a finger. But when the last sinner is saved, then the man will be perfect; and this is explained fuller in what follows. We are told in the same epistle that it is the fulness of His body, the Church; so that Christ is not fully complete until all are brought in. Now, this will be seen when we will be brought to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
Learn from this:
1. That the ministry is an ordinance of the Lord Jesus Christ, till He come.
2. That when Christ’s body is completed, then there will be room for no more. At present ministers are sent to say, ‘Yet there is room.’ But there is a day when Christ-mystical shall be complete, and Christ will never want another added Â— Christ’s body will be saved. Ah, brethren, what a thought it will be if you perish, that it is Christ’s glory that you should perish, and that His body should be complete without you.
3. To pray for oneness, till the day come when Christ will reach to perfection, when all shall see eye to eye. I am assured that there are times coming when there will be rents in the Church, when the question will be, Who have a right to sit at the Lord’s table? And therefore, as long as I have a voice to speak, I will plead still that there he oneness of the body of Christ. Amen.