November 18, 2017

Ichabod in the Pulpit?

By Mike Vestal

The name "Ichabod" means "without glory" or "the glory has departed" (1 Sam. 4:20-21). How we should all pray that Ichabod never enters the pulpit! After all, preaching Jesus Christ necessitates proclaiming a message that glorifies and exalts him as Lord, and that remembers what he has done for sinful man (1 Cor. 1:18, 31). Every man who ever has the privilege of preaching the gospel should deeply relate to what Paul said in Galatians 6:14, "But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and Ito the world." The focus of our preaching must be to glorify Christ. In a very real sense, all other ground is "Ichabod"  without glory.

Those who preach and teach the word of God dare not be guilty of a conflict of interest as it relates to whom goes the glory and praise. It all goes to God, not to us! "I am the Lord, that is my name; and my glory I will not give to another" (Isa. 42:8). Everything we do as Christians ought to be done out of an intense desire to glorify God, and in nothing should this be more true than when we are communicating the very message of God (cf. 1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17). But this is where the ideal con-fronts reality, for it is all too easy to allow our pride, comfort, and lust to supersede the preeminence of Jesus. It is then that Ichabod enters the pulpit.

Ichabod enters the pulpit when sermons and Bible classes are filled with jokes, stories and secular philosophy instead of with the clear bringing out and application of God's word (1 Cor. 2:1-5; 2 Tim. 4:1-5). Scripture is dealt with superficially from too many pulpits, if it is actually dealt with at all. Due to this misguided approach, classes and sermons have come to be judged more for their entertainment value than for the edification of the saints, evangelization of the lost, and glorification of the Lord. In real exposition of God's word, truth does indeed meet life. And it changes those lives who lovingly and humbly embrace the will of God (Jas. 1:21; 1 John 1:4).

Ichabod enters the pulpit when through "smooth and fair speech," false doctrine is taught and brethren are led astray (Rom. 16:17-18; 2 Pet. 2:1-3). Those who pro-claim the gospel must be constantly aware that Satan wants to take God's servants and to make them his own. The devil will seek to tempt us to become self serving rather than Master driven, and the strategies he uses are both ingenious and insidious (2 Cor. 2:11 ). Whatever may prompt one to teach false doctrine and to lead others astray, one thing is certain: Satan has been at work. If the devil gets a foothold in the life of a person who preaches and teaches, it is only a short step to Satan's getting a foothold on the pulpit!

Ichabod enters the pulpit when an evangelist lacks the boldness and conviction to deal with sin as he should. On one occasion, Paul withstood Peter "to his face, because he was to be blamed" (Gal. 2:11). Such action on the part of Paul was doubtless neither pleasant nor easy, but it was necessary in order for the gospel of God's grace to be vindicated (cf. Gal. 2:12-14). Men of God must have the strength and courage necessary to deal with sin. It is interesting to note that in 1 Timothy 4 Paul first mentions sins such as unfaithfulness and hypocrisy (vv. 1-5), and then goes on to deal with the character qualities that are a must for servants of God (vv. 6-16).

Ichabod enters the pulpit when one manifests a harsh, vindictive, uncompassionate spirit completely out of harmony with the Lord whom we are supposed to be lifting up before others (Eph. 4:15). Are we truly motivated by a sincere love for God and for the souls of others? Without such motivation, we accomplish nothing of lasting value (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1-3). Our logic may be impeccable, the force of our arguments unavoidable and our will indomitable, but if the love of Christ does not constrain us (2 Cor. 5:14), we are robbing God of his glory.

Ichabod enters the pulpit when a preacher refuses to declare "the whole counsel of God" out of fear of repercussions (Acts 20:20, 27). It seems that some individuals sadly fear so much a loss of income, friends, security and popularity that they can rationalize their silence on matters pertaining to eternity. Could it be that the only one who finds our preaching and teaching offensive is God? Gospel preachers are not mercenaries; we are not hired hands to merely tell people what they want to hear so as to fill our pockets. We are ministers of Christ. We are ambassadors of the King and soldiers of the Lord (2 Cor. 5:19-20; Eph. 6:10-24). It is God's will, God's pleasure, God's way and God's blessing we must seek. Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 9:16 are especially appropriate: "For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!"

Ichabod enters the pulpit when preachers and teachers allow a short fuse to take the place of patience and longsuffering. Second Timothy 2:24-26 lists qualities such as gentleness, ability to teach, humility and patience as qualifications for a servant of the Lord. Those who proclaim God's word are to "convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" (2 Tim. 4:2). If we are prone to "fly off the handle," how does such an attitude manifest the glory of God? True, there is such a thing as godly anger (cf. John 2:13-22; Eph. 4:26), but that is not what is under consideration here. The proper exercise of self control and the manifesting of a Christlike character must not be underemphasized lest Ichabod enter the pulpit (cf. Gal. 5:22-23).

Ichabod enters the pulpit when preachers care more about themselves and self-promotion than their Savior and the souls they are trying to reach (1 Cor. 9:22). As often as we may have heard and read Philippians 1:21, its message still needs to be appreciated and applied: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Some grunt and groan to climb 'the brotherhood ladder of success," but shouldn't the privilege of preaching Jesus and touching the lives of people for eternity be enough? Won't the greeting from God, "Well done, good and faithful servant," be more than we could have ever comprehended? Self-promotion is not what preaching Christ is about; it is about praising the glorious Savior (cf. Phil. 3:7-21).

There really is no glory when Ichabod is in the pulpit. John the Baptizer struck at the heart of effective minis-try centuries ago when he said of Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). When the Lord is so glorified, so magnified and exalted through our proclamation of the word of God, that people are drawn closer to him, that is glory enough. Gospel preachers should rejoice to be little servants of an illustrious God!

(From The Restorer, September 1994, via The Knight Arnold News, October 21, 1997.)

Guardian of Truth XLI: 24 p. 16-17
December 18, 1997

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