by Wayne Greeson
What is a "preacher"? What are the duties of a preacher? What exactly is a preacher supposed to do? Most everyone has a notion or opinion and will readily give it, but what does God say? The Lord's Herald
There are three terms in the New Testament that describe God's worker known as a preacher. These words are not only descriptive of the worker, but the work God expects of him. These terms are: minister, preacher and evangelist. "Minister" (Gr. diakonos), means one who serves, a servant. A preacher is a minister or servant of Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 4:6). His work is to serve the Lord's Word, the Gospel to all men (Acts 6:4; Rom. 15:16). A "good minister of Jesus Christ" must also "put the brethren in remembrance of these things..." (1 Tim. 4:6). A preacher is to "take heed to the ministry which (he) hast received in the Lord, that (he) fulfill(s) it" (Col. 4:17). The word "preacher" (Gr. kerux) which means a herald, a public proclaimer from the king who authoritatively declares the king's law to the people which must be obeyed. The Lord authorized (1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11) and sent out His preachers or "heralds" into all the world (Rom. 10:14-18). Their sole work is to proclaim His message, the gospel (2 Tim. 2:1-7; 4:1-5) and only His message (Rom. 10:15; 15:19; Gal. 1:6-10; 1 Thess. 2:9). An "evangelist" (Gr. euangelistes) is a messenger of good. Christ gave evangelists (Eph. 4:11-12) to bear His good message, the "gospel" which means "good news." Paul warned preachers to "do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry" (1 Tim. 4:5). A preacher is to "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2). Diverting the Lord's Heralds
The work of a preacher is short and simple in its description, but large and vital in its scope. Men dissatisfied with God's simple work, have devised many other roles and work for their "preachers." By this device, Satan delays, distracts and diverts the important work of the King's royal heralds into a thousand channels. Simply preaching the Word is not sufficient work for preachers, according to some men. As churches have expanded their work and mission beyond what the Lord gave, they have expanded the "job description" a preacher. Preachers are to be pastors or "shepherds" and counselors busy visiting, overseeing and guiding "the flock." Some want preachers to be caretakers and superintendents, managing and supervising the church building and facilities. This man-made work has become so bloated that in recent years it has been divided up among several specialties: the "Youth Minister," the "Singles Minister," the "Outreach Minister," the "Pulpit Minister" and more. A gospel preacher is not a "pastor," shepherd, elder or counselor. A pastor is a shepherd, the office of an elder, bishop or overseer. This is a different worker for the Lord with a different work. A pastor's work is to shepherd and oversee the flock, watching for their souls (Acts 20: 17, 28; Heb. 13:17). A preacher appoints men qualified to do the work of a shepherd, he does not do their work, as he has sufficient of his own (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Tim. 3:1-7). A gospel preacher is not a caretaker of the church property or work. A preacher is not to leave the Word to serve tables, but give himself continually to prayer and serving the Word (Acts 6:1-4). The Preacher And The Church
Much of the error concerning preachers and their work comes from a wrong view of the relationship of the preacher and the local church. Many consider the preacher as an employee of the church. As such the church is an employer that determines the scope and duties of his work. This view is expressed in the statement: "We pay the preacher and we tell him what to do." The Lord's command to pay preachers for preaching (1 Cor. 9:14) does not make them church employees. Such support is compared to that of God's priests (1 Cor. 9:13-14). The priests were supported by the people's offerings to the Lord as the Lord's servants, not the peoples' hirelings (Num. 18:1-20). A preacher is not an employee of any church, but a servant of the Lord (1 Tim. 4:6). He is accountable to the Lord, entrusted to do the Lord's work and not "entangle himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier" (2 Tim. 2:3-4). The Scriptural relationship between a preacher and the Christians that support him is that of fellowworkers in the Lord. The Lord commands the preacher to preach the gospel and those who hear him to support him in his work. Together they have "fellowship in the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:6-14; Phil. 1:5-7).
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithfulin Christ Jesus: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined usfor adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Adoption is one of the most profound realities in the universe. I say “universe” and not “world” because adoption goes beyond the world. It is greater than the world, and it is before the world in the plan of God, and it will outlast the world as we know it. Indeed it is greater than the “universe” and is rooted in God’s own nature. I have three aims this morning: 1) that all of us would consider and embrace the wonder of our adoption into God’s family through Jesus Christ, and 2) that all of us would support the ministry of adoption through the Micah and Lydia Funds financially, and 3) that many of you married couples would consider adopting children into your family as an overflow of the inheritance that you have in Christ from God, your Father. My assumption is that we need to understand and enjoy our own adoption by God before we can properly understand and enjoy what it should mean to adopt a child into our family. Adoption is mentioned in Ephesians 1:5. “In love 5he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace.” There are three things I want to point out from this passage about God’s adopting us. These three things are just what you would expect if you completed Romans 11 with us, or if you read Romans 11:36 which closes the first section of the book, “From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” All things, including adoption, are from God and through God and to God. That is what I see in Ephesians 1:5-6. Let’s read it again: “In love 5he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace.” 1. Adoption Is From God
First adoption is “from him”—from God. “In love he predestined us for adoption.” So adoption was part of a God’s plan. It was his idea, his purpose. It was not an afterthought. He didn’t discover one day that against his plan and foreknowledge humans had sinned and orphaned themselves in the world, and then come up with the idea of adopting them into his family. No, Paul says, he predestined adoption. He planned it. And if we ask when this predestination happened, verse 4 makes that plain: “He chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Before the creation of the world, and before we existed, God looked on us in our need, and he looked upon his Son crucified and risen as the all sufficient atonement for our sin, and because of that he chose us to be holy and blameless. And to that end he “predestined us for adoption.” It happened before the creation of the world. So the first thing you need to know about your adoption into God’s family through Christ is that God chose you and predestined you in love for adoption before the foundation of the world. God’s love for you and its expression in your adoption into his eternal family of joy did not start in this world. It reaches back to eternity. So when Paul says, “From him are all things” (Romans 11:36), he includes our adoption, and means that before the foundation of the world he predestined you to be his child. Therefore your adoption is not based on your fitness, your worth, or your distinctives. It is rooted in God’s eternal purpose and grace. And that means that your adoption is not fragile or tenuous or uncertain. God will not adopt and then find out that you are not worthy and unadopt. He knows we are unworthy. And he chose us and predestined us for adoption. This is firm and sure and unshakable. 2. Adoption Is Through Jesus Christ
Second, “All things are from him and through him.” This is true of adoption and you can see it in Ephesians 1:5. “In love 5he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace.” We are adopted through Jesus Christ. What does that mean? It means that to be adopted by God we had to be died for. Verse 7: “In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” Before the foundation of the world God saw that we would be sinners and planned the death of his Son so that our sins could be forgiven and God’s wrath removed. Through that we were adopted. Note two clear implications of this. 1) Not all people are God’s adopted children.
The blood of Christ covers the sins of all who believe (Romans 3:25). Therefore believers in Jesus are adopted, and no others. If we talk about God being the Father of all mankind, we speak very loosely and are not talking truly about those who are saved. The second implication of being adopted through Jesus Christ: 2) We were not cute little orphans that God was attracted to; we enemies in rebellion against God. That is who God decided before the foundation of the world to adopt. Romans 5:6, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:10, “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” So our adoption is not based on our being worthy or cute or attractive. It is based on the free and sovereign grace of God planned before the world and bought for us by the blood of Christ. 3. Adoption Is for God’s Glory
Third, “All things are from him and through him and to him.” Adoption, therefore, is “to him.” That is, it is for his glory. You see that in Ephesians 1:5-6. “He predestined usfor adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace.” The goal of your adoption is that the glory of God’s grace would be praised. God adopted us in our unworthiness to make his grace look great. You were adopted for the praise of the glory of his grace. God’s action in adopting us is radically God-centered and God-exalting. I know that many hear this and think it is not loving. How can God’s seeking to exalt himself be loving? The answer is that the glory of God is what we were made to see and enjoy for all eternity. Nothing else will satisfy our souls. Therefore if God does not exalt himself for us to admire and enjoy, then he is unloving. That is, he does not give us what we need. We are adopted by God not so that we will rejoice that God made much of us. We are adopted by God so that we will enjoy making much of God’s grace as our Father forever. We are adopted so that in this family the Father and the unique elder Son, Jesus Christ, will be the source and focus of all our joy. We are adopted “to the praise of the glory of his grace.” It will take an eternity for the glory of that grace to be fully displayed for finite people. Therefore, we will be increasingly happy in God for ever and ever. That is the final meaning of adoption. Five Implications
Now, consider five implications of this for adopting children and for supporting those who adopt by contributing to the Micah Fund and the Lydia Fund. 1. We adopt a child not for our own glory but for God’s glory. God adopted us for the praise of the glory of his grace. Therefore we adopt for the praise of the glory of his grace. The questions you ask as you ponder adopting a child who needs a family are not first questions of feasibility or affordability. The questions you ask first are: Is my heart fixed on glorifying the grace of God? Is my aim in this to make the grace of God look glorious? Is Christ the center and goal of this decision? Are all the factors being weighed in relation to Christ? We adopt a child not for our own glory but for the glory of God’s grace. 2. In adopting and rearing a child our goal is not to make much of the child, but rather to live and teach and lead in such a way that the child grows up to enjoy making much of God. Our aim is not to take a child’s low views of self and replace them with high views of self. Rather our aim is to take a child’s low views of God and replace them with high views of God. Our aim is not take a child with little sense of worth and fill him with a great sense of worth. Rather our aim is to take a child who by nature makes himself the center of the universe and show him that he was made to put God at the center of the universe and get joy not from seeing his own tiny worth, but from knowing Christ who is of infinite worth. We adopt to lead a child to the everlasting joy of making much of the glory of the grace of God. 3. In adopting we model for children and others the mercy and the justice of God. We model mercy because we freely choose to love this child, no matter what. Many adoptions happen sight unseen. The child passes no test. He is loved freely without meeting conditions. We don’t base our choice on what we see. We love because we have been loved. This is mercy. And when the child comes, chosen freely by mercy, we now fold that child into a pattern of firm and sweet discipline. We fold him into the mercy of justice. From the very beginning, within weeks, there are expectations and consequences when these expectations are not met. We raise the child in “the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (paideia kai nouthesia kuriou). And we know from Hebrews 12 that the discipline of the Lord is often painful because without discipline there will be no “peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). So we see in adoption the mercy and the justice of God mingled in wise and loving proportion. 4. Adopting will almost certainly bring heartache and stress and suffering, just like adoption cost God the life of his Son. We are adopted “through Jesus Christ”—through his suffering. I have letters from parents in my files describing the agony of adoptions that didn’t work or almost didn’t work. Cases of mental illness and profound physical disability and bizarre and inexplicable behavior. Of course this is not unique to adoption. It can happen—it does happen—with our biological children. The implication is this: we adopt with our eyes wide open. This will bring pain. And this may bring tragedy. We embraced it. And, if we are faithful, in the end, it will certainly bring joy. Because of implication #5: 5. We dare only adopt children if we have a firm faith in the all-sufficiency of God’s future grace. The pain of adopting and rearing children is sure. It will come in one form or the other. Should that stop us from having children or adopting children? No. The self-centered world “cuts their losses” by having few or no children. (And there is way too much of that thinking in the church.) In one sense we may be very glad that such people don’t tend to have children or at least not many children. Because it means that breed of selfish person will die out more quickly since they don’t replace themselves. But on the other hand, we grieve, hoping that they will see that the grace of God is sufficient for every new day no matter how difficult, and that there is more true joy in walking with God through fire, than walking on beaches without him. Letter to Noël
Perhaps the best way to illustrate this role of faith in future grace would be to read some of the letter I wrote to Noël on November 6, 1995 at 11:12 PM when God had brought me to the place of saying yes, at age 50, to the adoption of Talitha. Dear Noël,
With confidence in the all-sufficient future grace of God, I am ready and eager to move ahead with the adoption of Talitha Ruth. I want to thank you that during these years, when your heart has yearned to adopt a daughter, you have not badgered me or coerced me. You have been wonderfully patient. You have modeled faith in the sufficiency of prayer. You have always expressed support of me and my ministry even if we should never adopt. You have been reasonable in all our discussions and have come forth with your rationale only when asked. You have honored my misgivings as worthy of serious consideration. . . . . . . To my perspective it seems to be the path that will “spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.” . . . I believe it is the path of greatest love . . . And therefore I have confidence that God is pleased with it.
The Work of a Preacher In One Word
by Steve Higginbotham
Earlier this week, Neal Pollard, preacher for the Bear Valley Church of Christ in Denver, CO, and director of the Bear Vally Bible Institute asked several preachers if they would write a short article for his “Preacher and His Work” class. The assignment was to sum up the work of preaching in “one word.” Below was my offering… The work of a preacher could be summed up as “magnification.” Surely all of us have owned or used a magnifying glass at some time or another. The purpose of a magnifying glass is of course, magnification…that is, to make something larger than life. When I consider the work of a preacher, this is precisely what I believe a preacher should attempt to do. As a preacher, I want to magnify Jesus and His church. I want to make them larger than life! I want to magnify them to the point that everyone in my community can see Jesus and his church through my life and my work. One of the greatest failures of which a preacher can be guilty is not a failure to make converts to Christ, but rather to exist in obscurity in any given community. Many years ago, my father who also is a preacher, gave me some good advice when I first started preaching. He said, “Son, remember. You’re not a policeman entrusted with the job of enforcing God’s law. Rather your job as a preacher is to make everyone aware of God’s law.” In other words, “magnification.” Isn’t this very similar to the words of God given to the prophet Habakkuk when God said, “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it” (Habakkuk 2:2). The message was to be written so plainly that one who was running could read it. In order for that to occur, the words would have had to have been large – “magnification.” Satan has done an effective job of magnifying all the wrong things in life and making the right things seem microscopic. Entertainment, sensuality, wealth, power, pride, possessions, and social status have all been magnified to the point that some people think life is summed up in these things. The job of a preacher is to take those things of real importance, which have become overshadowed by worldly things, and bring them into focus. The gospel of Christ is too important to pass by and not see. Jesus, our Savior, is too beautiful to exist in obscurity. Therefore, as a preacher it is incumbent upon me to magnify Jesus so that all the world can see Him. It’s my mission to magnify His gospel of grace so that none pass by without understanding the gift that could be theirs. Whether or not one chooses to accept Jesus and His gift of salvation is up to them, but what is up to me is to make sure they see the choice before them, and that requires magnification. “…And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified” (Acts 19:17).
The Preacher's Difficult Work
John Venn (1759-1813) became rector of Clapham Church in South London in 1792 and served there until his death. He was the son of the better known, Henry Venn, also a minister in the Church of England, and a friend of William Wilberforce and Charles Simeon. He also served as chaplain to the Clapham Sect. After his death, a collection of his sermons was published by his son. The first message in the first volume is "The Importance and Difficulties of the Christian Ministry" based on 1 Corinthians 2:3. The whole message is worth reading. The following excerpt is taken from that sermon.
It is a difficult service in its own nature. Were the work of a preacher indeed confined to the delivery of a moral discourse, this would not be an arduous task. But a Minister of the Gospel has much more to do. He will endeavour, under Divine Grace, to bring every individual in his congregation to live no longer to himself, but unto Him who died for us. But here the passions, prejudices, and perhaps the temporal interests of men combine to oppose his success. It is not easy to obtain any influence over the mind of another; but to obtain such an influence as to direct it contrary to the natural current of its desires and passions, is a work of the highest difficulty. Yet such is the work of a Minister. He has to arrest the sinner in his course of sin; to shake his strong hold of security; to make the stout-hearted tremble under the denunciation of God's judgment; to lead him to deny himself, as to sacrifice the inclinations most dear to him--to repent, and become a new creature. Neither is the work of the Ministry less arduous in respect to those whoa re not open and profligate sinners. Self-love, the most powerful passion of the human breast, will render it equally difficult to convince the formalist of the unsoundness of his religion, the pharisee of the pride of his heart, and the mere moralist of his deficiency in the sight of God. In all these cases, we have to convey unpleasant tidings; to persuade to what is disagreeable; to effect not only a reformation in the conduct of men, and a regulation of their passions, but, what is of still higher difficulty, a change in their good opinion of themselves. Nay, further we have not merely to “wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” “Who is sufficient for these things?” For this office the Christian Minister may in himself “have no resources above those of any of his congregation,” their weaknesses are his weaknesses, he must therefore undertake his work in weakness, fear and much trembling, but knowing that it may yet be effectual, for it is in weakness that Christ’s strength is always made perfect.