Summer 2013 Edition
Produced by ...
Dr. Roger Pascoe, President,
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
“Strengthening the Church in Biblical Preaching and Leadership”
“The Preacher and the Work of God” (continued)
By: Dr. Roger Pascoe
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
In the previous edition of this Journal (see the Spring 2013 Edition) we began to discuss the subject of the spiritual and personal preparation of the preacher, which subject we will continue in this edition. We noted that for the apostle Paul the order of preparation is first the preparation of the preacher and then the preparation of the message. In other words, before you can preach the Word with power, accuracy, and credibility, you need to be spiritually and personally fit and qualified to do so. The person who is fit to preach the Word is called by the apostle Paul a “man of God.”
A man of God is one who is approved by God as “tried and true” – tested and approved by God. Though this may sound like a daunting standard to achieve, Scripture guides us as to four main areas that we need to give priority to in order to be qualified for the unparalleled privilege of preaching the Word:
1. Guarding your moral life
2. Directing your home life
3. Nourishing your inner life
4. Disciplining your ministry life
In our last edition, we began to look at the subject of guarding your moral life, by studying two texts: 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Tim. 6:3-12. In these texts we find that to guard your moral life the man of God must...
1. ...flee from sinful traps – they can destroy your ministry
2. ...follow after godly virtues – they will strengthen your ministry
3. ...fight spiritual battles – they will attack your ministry
Last time we saw that the man of God must “flee from sinful traps”. This time we will examine the second and third characteristics of the man of God.
THE MAN OF GOD MUST FOLLOW GODLY VIRTUES – they strengthen your ministry. As we flee sinful traps…so we must follow godly virtues. The present imperative implies a continuous effort, keeping on “pursuing” or “following after” these godly virtues. Just as we can never say that we have finished fleeing from sinful traps, so we can never say that we have completed the task of following godly virtues. This is a lifelong occupation – fleeing one and following the other.
Our text sets out these godly virtues in three couplets. First, the man of God must follow after righteousness and godliness (1 Tim. 6:11).1 Righteousness and godliness are two sides of the same coin of godly character, for righteousness describes our relation to God and godliness describes our reflection of God.
The righteousness referred to here is not the righteousness of Christ, which is imputed to us at the time of our salvation and which we never have to pursue. The righteousness referred to here is the practical righteousness that we are to manifest by right living according to God’s word. That’s what a man of God does – live uprightly before God and our fellow-man. The man of God must follow after “righteousness” by…
1) Following after the “word of righteousness” (Heb. 5:13). This has to do with maturity in the Word of God. We must be skilled in and pursue the “word of righteousness” by studying it and mastering it so that we are able to explain it accurately and apply it practically. Without this maturity in the word of righteousness, we remain mere spiritual “babes”.
2) Following after the “practice of righteousness”. This has to do with conformity to the will of God. “Everyone who practices righteousness is born of him” (1 Jn. 2:29). Practical righteousness is the mark of all who are “born of God”. Their behaviour is right, honest, just, fair. As God’s children, they reflect his nature. This is the obligation of one who is born of God (1 Pet. 1:14-16).
3) Following after the “activity of righteousness”. This has to do with activity in the work of God, “the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev. 19:8). This means to be “zealous of good works” for which we were created in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10).
Stephen Olford writes: “All we say and do should be characterized by moral rectitude (rightness / correctness) and ministerial integrity, which result from a right relationship to God. Our preaching, like our living, should be a righteous activity.”2
A. W. Tozer writes: “I’ve heard all kinds of preachers. I’ve heard the dull, dry ones; I’ve heard the eloquent ones; but the ones who have helped me the most were the ones who were awestruck in the presence of God about whom they spoke. They might have a sense of humour, they might be jovial; but when they talked about God another tone came into their voice altogether; this was something else, something wonderful. I believe we ought to have again the biblical concept of God which makes God awful and makes men lie face down and cry, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.’ That would do more for the church than…anything else.”3
4) Following after the “way of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:21). This has to do with obedience to the life of God. Those who know “the way of truth” (2:2) pursue the “way of righteousness”. We must follow the “way of righteousness” by walking in total obedience to God in word, deed, and thought.
Thus, the man of God must follow after righteousness (our relation to God) and he must follow after its twin virtue, godliness (our reflection of God). Godliness has to do with our spirituality, the manifestation of God in our lives, our “god-likeness”, or, as D.A. Carson puts it, our connectedness to God. This is what we commonly call spirituality.
As 1 Tim. 3:16 points out, the “mystery of godliness” has been fully revealed in Jesus Christ. He is our pattern, our example of godliness. Thus, the man of God must pursue and manifest godliness by nurturing his spiritual life.
For our lives to be a reflection of God so that others can see God in us, we must, by definition, be like God. God says, “Be holy for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16), so that others conclude: “This is a holy man of God, who passes by us regularly” (2 Kings 4:9). That’s what it is for the man of God to pursue godliness.
So, then, the first couplet in this list of godly virtues that the man of God must follow after is righteousness and godliness. The second couplet of godly virtues exhorts the man of God to follow after faith and love (1 Tim. 6:11). Faith and love are internal virtues. The man of God must develop and demonstrate faith in our lives. This has to do with trust in God. “Faith” here means that “confident trust in God for everything, complete loyalty to Him, unwavering confidence in His power, purpose, and provision.”4
We live by faith (Rom. 1:17), pray by faith (cf. Matt. 21:22), fight by faith (cf. Eph. 6:16), win by faith (cf. 1 Jn. 5:4), and die by faith (cf. Heb. 11:13). Indeed, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). “The fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness” (Gal. 5:22).
Along with developing and demonstrating faith, the man of God must develop and demonstrate love. This has to do with goodwill toward others (cf. 2 Thess. 1:3; Tit. 2:2). Biblical love is not a sentimental feeling, but biblical love is always acting in the best interests of others (Phil. 2:4). This is the love of the great commandment – to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself (Matt. 22:37-39). “The fruit of the Spirit is love” (Gal. 5:22). “The love of God is poured out…by the Holy Spirit who is given to us” (Rom. 5:5). “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbour as yourself” (cf. Mk. 12:30-31). “Love the brotherhood” (1 Pet. 2:17). “Love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44). “Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies” (Eph. 5:28)
So, the man of God must follow after righteousness and godliness, faith and love, and, thirdly, the man of God must follow after patience and meekness (1 Tim. 6:11). Just as faith and love are internal virtues these two spiritual traits are external virtues. Patience is the exercise of strong discipline under the lordship of Christ. It is endurance for the sake of Christ in any circumstances. This is the endurance of a soldier, farmer, and athlete (2 Tim. 2:3-6). Meekness is Christ-likeness. He himself said, “Learn from me for I am meek and lowly of heart” (Matt. 11:29). This is an attitude of humility, esteeming others better than yourself (Phil. 2:3), treating people as Christ would treat them, with the meekness and gentleness of Christ (2 Cor. 10:1).
First, then the man of God must flee sinful traps - they can destroy your ministry. Second, the man of God must follow godly virtues – they strengthen your ministry. Third, THE MAN OF GOD MUST FIGHT SPIRITUAL BATTLES – they will attack your ministry. “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12-14).
Ministry is a spiritual battle in which we are constantly contending with the world, the flesh, and the devil, and against false passions, false teachings, and false values. This is not a fight against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places (Eph. 6:12). We not only fight against errors of belief and conduct, but we also fight for the truth, the faith once for all delivered to the saints. This is not “fighting” as in being contentious but as in …
1) Defending our Christian confession (12a). “Fight the good fight of faith” refers to the body of truth (Jude 3) which we are to defend and proclaim. So, don’t vary in your beliefs. Don’t compromise the truth. Contend for “the faith” – that body of objective, propositional truth that we believe and hold dear. This is our Christian vocation.
Just as Jesus never varied the truth even when cross-examined by Pilate and under the threat of crucifixion, but held onto his confession, so we must fight for what we know and believe. “Lay hold of eternal life to which you were called” – i.e. minister in the light of eternity. Preach the truth you boldly confessed when you were saved. Make these gospel truths a practical reality in your life and ministry. Stick with it to the end, until you obtain the prize with no variableness in direction.
2) Keeping the Christian Commission (13-14). “Keep this commandment without spot or blame until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing”. Or, as William Hendriksen puts it, the man of God must “keep his commission untainted and unsullied until the very day of his death, or, if the consummation of the ages should occur before that time...then ‘until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.’”5 Our ministry is to be marked by purity and perseverance. We must bring no reproach on the name of Christ in our conduct and we must not deviate from our ministerial occupation. Don’t vary your direction, stick with it until you cross the finish line, until the spiritual battles that will attack our ministry are won.
“Your Personal Holiness” (continued)
By: Dr. Roger Pascoe
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
In this section we are continuing our study of what it means to be a godly role model as a Christian leader. This has to do with your personal purity. In the last two editions of the NET Pastors Journal we have looked at personal purity in our conduct - our sexual conduct and our ethical conduct. In this edition we will look at one more aspect of purity in our conduct - PURITY IN OUR SOCIAL CONDUCT. This has to do with our interpersonal relationships.
As a man of God, your interpersonal relationships need to reflect honesty and straightforwardness, openness and transparency, and authenticity and humility:
1) Honesty and straightforwardness. This is ethical conduct manifested in our social relationships with others. Other people must know us to be men of God whose “yes” is “yes” and whose “no” is “no” (2 Cor. 1:17-20). Other people should not have to second guess what we really mean. People should never have to wonder if we are telling the truth. We must not hide behind a veneer, nor should our communication be cloaked in mystery. Let our speech be honest and straightforward.
2) Openness and transparency. Let us imitate the example of the apostle Paul, who told the Corinthians, “We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open...Now in return...you also be open...Open your heart to us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have cheated no one” (2 Cor. 6:11-13; 7:2).
Men of God must not be secretive or isolated. People that we deal with us should find us approachable and knowable, because we are open and transparent. I’m not talking about revealing confidential information or information that would not be wise to reveal. But I’m talking about our day-to-day social relationships where other people we deal with should be able to easily communicate with us because we are warm and friendly, men of God who have experienced the same disappointments, carried the same burdens, and faced the same temptations that they have.
Other people must be able to see that we are fallible and vulnerable, yet faithful and true to God. In other words, we build trust in our social relationships with other people precisely because we can identify with them in their life circumstances and, thus, can empathize with them. In this way we build relationships with people that give them confidence in us so that we can help to bear their burdens.
The apostle Paul admonished the Corinthians that his social, interpersonal relationships were the exact opposite of those fraudulent ministers who were “peddling the word of God” (2 Cor. 2:17) and who were characterized by craftiness and deceitfulness. That’s not who we are, he says. On the contrary, his conduct was marked by sincerity in the sight of God (2 Cor. 2:17). “We have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2). This is the standard for us all in ministry.
3) Authenticity and humility. Authenticity has to do with being who you truly are – not trying to look like one person in public and another in private. Hypocrisy is not to be present in men of God. We need to be men whose lives and relationships are exactly what they appear on the outside to others. That’s what it is to be authentic in our relationships – not pretending to be holy men of God, when in reality we are living a secret, double lifestyle. Remember, Jesus detested hypocrisy.
Humility goes hand-in-hand with authenticity. A humble person is someone who does not try to attract attention to himself. Don’t think that because you are a leader in the church that you are “somebody” and that you should always be the centre of attention. In fact, you are the servant of all (Mk. 9:35).
Pride is the opposite of humility. The apostle Paul warns us about those who are proud: “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions” (1 Tim. 6:3-4). The apostle James says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:5; cf. 1 Pet. 5:5). Again, Paul says: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).
Conclusion: Men of God must be known for their purity of conduct – sexual, ethical, and social. It is so easy to slip up in these areas and spoil your testimony or, at the worst, ruin your ministry. Satan is so active, trying to cause godly men to sin in their conduct and, thus, bring dishonour to the name of Christ. Satan does not like what we do and his primary objective is to attack our ministry and possibly destroy it. In so doing he not only causes havoc in our lives but in the life of the church as well, not to mention the ridicule and shame that may be brought to the name of Christ.
So, let us strive to guard our moral lives, being godly role models for those we lead and standing strong for Christ, so that we may finish our course with joy, having fought the good fight of faith.
Next time we will continue the subject of being a godly role model through purity in our thoughts, motives, and words.
“The Ministry of Earthen Vessels, Pt. 1: The Nature of Ministry” (2 Cor. 4:7-16)
By: Dr. Roger Pascoe
The Institute for Biblical Preaching
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
If this God of whom Paul speaks is so powerful as to command light to shine out of darkness and who has shined into our hearts to reveal his glory to us, why is it that the human vessels he uses in ministry are so failing and impotent? Why is there such a contrast between God’s power and glory and the minister’s human weakness and frailty? This is the paradox of ministry. God uses weak messengers to proclaim a powerful message so that there can be no doubt whatsoever as to the divine nature and source of the message.
We will find that the apostle Paul uses a series of paradoxes to describe ministry. This article will examine the first paradox: the weak messenger vs. the powerful message.
THE POWER FOR MINISTRY. The apostle Paul describes it as a glorious treasure contained in an earthen vessel. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels...” (4:7a). “This treasure” is what the apostle Paul refers to earlier as the gospel of Christ’s glory (4:3-4); the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ (4:6). The message we preach is the “treasure”. The “earthen vessels” are the ministers, the human agents, in whom the treasure is incarnated (i.e. embodied and displayed), and by whom it is proclaimed. This is the paradox of ministry - the sharp contrast between the glory of the message and the incredible weakness of the minister whom God uses to proclaim that message.
The picture here is of a fragile, breakable, cheap clay pot which contains a treasure. This picture portrays fragile, frail mortals who contain a divine treasure, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The contrast between the “treasure” and the “earthen vessel” is intentional – “so that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (7b). God has designed ministry in this paradoxical way, using human messengers to proclaim his divine message in order to enhance the source, power, the extraordinary character, and the supernatural effect of the gospel by the very means he chooses to proclaim and display it, namely, through weak human vessels. Since the gospel so radically transforms lives, it could not possibly be a merely human message; its author can only be God. God’s powerful message is not limited by man’s utter weakness – rather, it is enhanced by it. Such is the case for every minister of the gospel: we are weak just so that God’s power may be manifested in us. Thus it was with Gideon and his 300 men, who put to flight the Midianites by merely breaking their earthen vessels so that the light shone out (Judges 7:15ff.; Heb. 11:34). And such it is with us - in our confessed and evident weakness, God displays his power and glory.
This gives us a proper perspective on ministry. We can be thankful for our bodily weakness and mental limitations, because that is what God uses to bring glory to himself. The messenger is weak, dependent, and temporal, but the message is powerful, sovereign, and eternal. We are creatures formed from the dust of the ground, whom God in his grace has chosen to bear his name, his gospel.
That’s the paradoxical power for ministry. Then, THE PRESSURES OF MINISTRY (4:8-9). Paul gives examples from his own life of how he experienced the paradox of his own human weakness contrasted with God’s superabundant power. Despite the most crushing circumstances, God always delivered him. What humanly speaking looked like impossible straits were no challenge to God’s power. He experienced…
Pressure: “Hard pressed on every side...but not crushed”. Satan wants to overpower us with daily pressures, but he cannot crush us.
Perplexity: “Perplexed...but not in despair”. Situations occur in ministry that we cannot figure out. We don’t know what to do but we do not despair.
Persecution: “Persecuted...but not forsaken” (see 2 Tim. 4:16-17; 2 Tim. 3:12; Jn. 16:33; Heb. 13:5; Matt. 28:20).
Physical attack: “Struck down...but not destroyed”. Paul was struck down by stoning at Lystra (Acts 14:19f) and left for dead, but he was not destroyed for God raised him up again.
These are some of the paradoxical experiences of the weakness of the messenger through whom God’s powerful message is proclaimed.
So, we have seen the paradoxes experienced in the power and pressures of ministry. Now, THE PURPOSE OF MINISTRY (4:10-12). These verses are a summation of verses 8-9. The reality for authentic ministers is that, paradoxically, they die to live. The weakness of the human vessel is manifested in “always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus” (10a). But, the power of God is manifested in our weakness for the very purpose that “the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body” (10b). The servants of Christ are united with Christ so that his dying is ours and his life is ours. “For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (11). Any suffering experienced by the minister of Christ is not for suffering’s sake, but solely for “Jesus’ sake.” We do not wish for such experiences, much less inflict them on ourselves. Rather, as He suffered, so do we. As the world hated him, so it hates us. As we are identified with him, so we will experience what he experienced. We are “delivered to death for Jesus’ sake”, living as dead to the world and alive to God, for to live is Christ and to die gain.
In dying with Christ, his life is “manifested in our mortal flesh.” We bear the marks of Christ’s death in ourselves and we also manifest his resurrected, glorified life. “So then, death is working in us, but life in you” (12). In other words, through Paul’s death experiences (persecution, crushed, struck down etc.) he had brought the gospel to the Corinthians which produced life in them. For them to live in Christ, he had to die spiritually and metaphorically. Ultimately, that makes every hardship worthwhile. There is a purpose to being “delivered to death for Jesus’ sake” – viz. that others may live in him. Such was the case for Jesus himself. He died so that we could live. And that cycle is now reproduced in us and will continue to be until he comes again.
This is a biblical principle: life arises from death. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abides alone. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit” (Jn. 12:24). Thus men and women are giving their lives (spiritually and, in some cases, physically) in Christian ministry so that others can live.
Finally, THE PERSPECTIVE OF MINISTRY (4:13-15). Despite the pressures of ministry, we minister from a faith perspective. Faith prompts us to speak for Christ. Paul says, What the Psalmist in Psalm 116 said about his spirit of faith is true of me: “I believed; therefore, I spoke” (13). What we say expresses what we believe (cf. Rom. 10:9f.). Conversely, belief must be expressed in words.
Despite the pressures of ministry, we minister to others because of a future perspective. Christ’s resurrection is the first-fruits (precursor) and guarantee of our resurrection. Just as God “raised up the Lord Jesus” from the dead (cf. Eph. 1:19-20), so he “will also raise us up with Jesus and will present us with you.” One day, those who are the fruits of our ministry will be “presented” together with us before God (cf. Col. 1:22, 28).
The future perspective of our own resurrection, along with those to whom we have ministered, is our encouragement for ministry, despite our experiences, even suffering and death (cf. vv. 8-11). “All things” (15) – all experiences in ministry - are “for your sake” (those to whom we minister). What we suffer for Christ extends to what we suffer for his people, so that, paradoxically, through our experiences of suffering and hardship, the grace of God will spread to many and “cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.” That’s the right perspective of ministry.
“Therefore, we do not lose heart” (4:16a). Notice how this phrase bookends this passage in verse 1 and again here in verse 16. Everything that is said in between (vv. 2-15) is an explanation of why “we do not lose heart” in ministry. And this entire passage links back to the ministry described in 3:7-18 and links forward to 4:16-5:11, which views actual, physical death as the ultimate destiny to which present suffering in ministry leads.
So, the sequence of thought is this:
1. A picture of the glorious ministry of the new covenant (3:7-18).
2. This ministry causes us to not lose heart despite circumstances (4:1-16a).
3. Even if we physically die in the course of our ministry, we do not lose heart because of the prospect of future resurrection (4:16-5:11).
It’s easy to lose heart in ministry, but here is the proper perspective: let us live as those who are prepared to die for the gospel. Let us not allow circumstances, perplexities, or despondency to take us out of ministry. That’s the price of being a genuine minister of the gospel for Jesus’ sake and the sake of his people.
Title: The Master’s Approach to Evangelism
Subject: Overcoming spiritual and social barriers in evangelism
Point #1: Cross Social Barriers (7-9)
1. By ignoring cultural prejudice
2. By engaging in personal conversation
Point #2: Move to Spiritual Truth (10-15)
1. By moving from the physical to the spiritual (10-12)
2. By moving from the temporal to the eternal (13-15)
Point #3: Reach the Guilty Conscience (16-18)
1. By soliciting a voluntary admission (16-17a)
2. By speaking divine revelation (17b-18)
1 Adapted from Stephen Olford, Anointed Expository Preaching (Nashville: Broadman & Holman,1998), 43-44.
2 Olford, Anointed, 44.
3 A. W. Tozer, quoted by Austin L. Sorenson, in Pulpit Helps, April 1979.
4 John MacArthur, “The Man of God,” in The Believer’s Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991), 1866.
5 William Hendriksen, “Commentary on 1 Timothy” in Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1957), 205.