Paul and the "Sowers Club"
Glen Burnie, Maryland
While I was in college I was continually exhorted to attend the "Sowers Club." The teachers were vitally interested in helping young men who sought, some day, to be preachers. They freely gave of their off-time to provide an opportunity for interested young men to hear some good teaching done by Gospel Preachers on topics that directly related to their work as preachers. Unfortunately, I was never able to make it to one of these gatherings. There always seemed to be a test to study for. Also, I was a Science Major, not a Bible Major, and I used to get a lot of "static" from the "preacher-boys" as they were called. But, since I have started preaching I have sometimes thought how much good it might have accomplished if Brother Paul of Tarsus could have been persuaded to leave his meeting work to have addressed the "Sowers Club." One can almost see and hear the aged Apostle as he stood before all those smiling, expectant faces posed over their pencils. Paul was certainly a "college man" (Acts 22:3). You might even say he had done his post-graduate work (Gal. 1:14), though it might have embarrassed the young "preacher-boys" if they knew he considered all that intellectual and social achievement "but dung" (Phil. 3:8). Paul could have talked about nearly anything to those young men, but I think his lesson might have gone something like this:
"Let none of you young men be under any illusion about this education you're getting. If any of you thinks that he is wiser than his brethren, because he has what this world calls wisdom, then he would be better off a dunce lest his education prevent him from ever receiving the real wisdom of God. For all the clever 'wisdom' in this world is but stupidity in God's estimation. Scripture itself says, 'God uses man's own brilliance to trap him'(Job 5:13), and again, 'The Lord knows how futile the speculations of the wise are' (Psa. 94:11). Therefore, let none of you put your confidence in what you may get on a piece of paper here, for you already possess what God has given to you! He has given you Paul, and Apollos, and Peter as teachers--he has given you the whole world to use, and life and even death are your servants - you have the present and all flit future to bring you to the true wisdom. Because, you see, you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. (I Cor. 3:18-23).
"Some of you want to be great forces for good in the church. You desire to be well-known and admired for your knowledge and skill in the Word of God. This is true, or you would not be here now. But I encourage you to maintain a line between what you think you are and what has been given to you. After all, my young friends, who is it that gives one man preeminence over another? What power or ability do you have that has not been given to you? Now, if you have really received it all as a gift from God, why then should any of you puff out in pride as if what you may have were something you obtained yourself (I Cor. 4:7)?
"You may think that I am something because of my successes in preaching, or the writing that I have done. Let me dissuade you from that misconception as well. I am the least worthy of all the Apostles, and not really fit in my own sight to deserve the name Apostle because of my cruel attacks upon the church. But, whatever I am now is all because God poured out such kindness and unmerited favor upon me - and I could hardly let such mercy and favor be unprofitable to the Lord - so I have worked harder than any of the other Apostles. Yet, even then, the success was not so much a result of my effort as it was the grace of God working in and through me. At any rate, it makes no difference who worked the hardest, the important thing is that we preached the Gospel, and you, young men. are the result (I Cor. 15:9-11).
"Does that sound like I am patting myself on the back? Young men, I do not need that kind of thing. Some people have to exchange testimonials of themselves before they can be friends. But, you are my testimonial, written in an old man's heart, for all to see and each to read for himself. You are an open letter from Christ himself, penned by us, not written in ink but with the Spirit of the living God - not on tablets of stone, but written on the tablets of human hearts. It is in this that I rest my confidence in my work before God; Not as if I was able to do anything by myself for which I might take credit, for all of my ability comes from God (2 Cor. 3:1-5).
"I want you to listen to what I say, for there have been those who rejected what I advise - and my advice does not originate with me, but from God. I have been accused on occasion of being a different person face to face than I am in my writing. 'Don't bother about his letters,' some say. 'He sounds big, but its all noise. When you see him you will see that there is nothing great about him, and you have never heard a worse preacher!' Those people found out that my actions followed my words right down to the letter (2 Cor. 10:9-11).
"Of course, I wouldn't dare include myself in that class of preachers who toot their own horns and write their own testimonials - I wouldn't even compare myself to them. Their trouble is that they are content and foolish enough to compare themselves against one another, by their own shortened yardstick. You can't help but come off looking good by that kind of standard. But we must not boast of things that we really have nothing to do with. Our measure is the plan of God, and this plan is to be applied equally to all men, yourself included. I am not stretching credibility when I claim you as my fruit and my testimonial, for you were converted through my efforts. I do not claim credit for work that was done by other men, but my hope and prayer has always been that through you I can share in expanding the work that God gave me to do - that in your work I may be able to take the Gospel even farther than it was taken when it reached you. So, if any of us is to boast, let us boast about the Lord. For the Lord's approval of a man is not dependent on his opinion of himself, but of the Lord's opinion of him. (2 Cor. 10:12-18).
"Now, a little advice on your work as preachers: As you lay the truth before the brethren you will be doing your duty as a servant of God. Continue to feed your own soul and keep it nourished on the precepts of our faith and the sound instruction by which you have guided your life. Make it your habit to avoid worldly and silly traditions, and spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit. Physical training may have some benefit, but the benefits of Godly living are without limit, since it carries with it the promise of a good life both here and hereafter (I Tim. 4:6-8).
"You are all young. Don't let anyone look down on you because of your immature behavior. If you desire the respect that belongs to the message you bring, act like it. Become an example for the brethren in your speech, your manner of life, in your love, your faith, and in your chaste thoughts. Pay attention to your scripture-reading. Take time and prepare for your preaching and teaching. Do not neglect the abilities that God gave you, but use them to be a better preacher. Make these things your first concern, and devote all your energies to them, so that your improvement will be noted by all the brethren. Keep a critical eye on the message you bring, and see to it that your life is in conformance with it. And above all, stick to your work, for by so doing you will insure salvation not only to those whom you teach, but yourself as well (I Tim. 4:12-16).
"Now, if you want to get along in your local work with the church, and remain pleasing to God, do not be harsh or arrogant with those who are older in the faith than you, but plead with them as you would your own father. Treat the younger men as you would a very close brother. In a like manner, treat the older women as your very own mother, and the young ladies as sisters - always with the utmost propriety (I Tim. 5:1-2).
"Do not shirk your responsibility in standing for the truth in all things. Join the ranks of those willing to suffer abuse for the truth's sake as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. You know that no fighting man in an army divides his abilities, time, and attention between his duty and civilian business pursuits. A soldier must always be at the disposal of his Commanding Officer. If you enter an athletic event, you know you do not get a trophy unless you play by the rules. Any hard working farmer has a right to expect a share of the produce for his labor. If you reflect on what I have said, I am sure that the Lord will help you understand what I am driving at (2 Tim. 2:3-7).
"Finally, I want you to consider this analogy. In every household there are all kinds of dishes. The good wife has every-day, common plastic dishes, and she has her fine china as well. Some she uses for just any old thing - but the fine china she reserves for special and honorable times. In the same way there are all kinds of tools and utensils that God uses in working his will - some for ordinary use, and some for noble use. If you keep yourself noble and sanctified by avoiding any kind of evil contamination, God will prepare you as an honorable and useful tool in his service. So fly away from all the evil impulses your youth makes you so vulnerable to, and aim instead for integrity, faith, love, and peace with all of those who call on God with unsullied hearts. Avoid stupid and senseless controversies - empty issues - for you know that such never brings righteousness, but constant quarrels. The servant of the Lord is not to stoop to petty quarreling. On the contrary, he is to be known for his courtesy and humility. He is to be skillful in his teaching, patient when personally wronged, gently correcting his opponents who go against the truth. Our hope in rebuking sin is that God will provide those in error with a change of heart that will provide them with a way back to truth. We cannot close doors, but our duty is to help our brethren in darkness recover their senses to escape the trap of the devil, even though they are now entrapped by him to do his will (2 Tim. 2:20-26).
AI solemnly urge you, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ: Preach the Word! Take your position and stand for it zealously whether the opportunity is favorable for you or not. Convict people of sin, rebuke sin sharply, and encourage those you teach to rise to the better way. Preach the truth with all the patience that teaching requires. May the Lord bless your souls, and his grace be on you all" (2 Tim. 4:1,2,22).
Truth Magazine, XVIII:35, p. 13-14