By Irven Lee
The world by its own wisdom does not find God or the proper level of behavior (Jer. 10:23). Carnality takes over when faith fails. When the gospel message went out in the first century of the church, most of the Jews stumbled at the message of a spiritual kingdom and the Greeks considered the idea of a crucified Savior to be foolishness. The atheists (humanists) who scoff at the Bible today count themselves wise as did the ancient Greeks, but God counts them foolish (1 Cor. 3:19). These who are wise in their own conceits would consider the work of gospel preachers to be worse than useless. They dedicate themselves to the effort to destroy the effectiveness of the work of men of faith.
There is a message that should be carefully delivered to every person in all the world. This enormous task is the work of preachers as God ordained it (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15,16; Luke 24:47). There is an urgency about getting the message delivered, and the preacher should grasp the seriousness of his business (2 Tim. 4:1-5). Paul used many expressions to remind the Ephesian elders of his attitude toward preaching: “what manner,” “humility of mind,” “many tears,” “temptations,” and of how he “kept back nothing that was profitable.” He could claim that he was pure from the blood of all men because he shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:17-35). He did not preach for the money at Ephesus. In fact, he earned his own money and funds for the care of his helpers while he was there. He knew that his work of preaching was important.
Paul and Silas “suffered” and were “shamefully entreated” at Philippi, but they went right on to Thessalonica and were “bold” to speak the “gospel of God.” It was this bold presentation of the truth in such a way as to be well pleasing to God, rather than flattery and other men pleasing tactics, that they depended on to get the job done. They were allowed by God to be put in trust with the gospel so there was a feeling that they were debtors to others (1 Thess. 2:1-13).
Paul’s feeling of debt toward others included Greeks, Barbarians, the wise, and the unwise (Rom. 1: 14). “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16). The apostles were chosen ambassadors to bind on earth that which is bound in heaven (2 Cor. 5:17-20; Eph. 3:1-12; Rom. 1: 15-18). It was the fact that Paul realized that “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation” that caused him to be “ready to preach.” If a man sees that his neighbor’s house is on fire, it is but natural for him to think of rescuing those people if they are asleep inside.
Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to God, and faith comes by hearing the word of God (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 10: 17; Mark 16:16). It was not just one or two apostles who knew of the importance of this message. The early church must have been impressed by the magnitude of the assignment of the great commission. “Daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42). Persecution scattered the Jerusalem church with its many members to the four winds, and “they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). The explanation of their zeal lies in the strength of their faith. They took the word in spite of any danger and proclaimed it unashamedly from the housetops. The Christ had taught the twelve to “fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” rather than to fear some one who could destroy only the body (Matt. 10:27,28).
It took amazing zeal to put the foundation under the work of Paul so that he could say “that from Jerusalem”, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 15:19). After this Roman letter was written, he did very much more. While he was accomplishing so much, others were also working with zeal and in spite of persecution (Acts 4:3,20; 5:29). Within one generation the gospel “was preached to every creature which is under heaven” (Col. 1:23). That generation did not have modern means of travel, printing presses, radio, or television. Governmental officials among both Jews and Gentiles fought the preachers as did religious zealots among Jews and Gentiles. Let the preacher stand up today if he supposes that he has a faith equal to that of those first gospel preachers.
What is a preacher’s work? How should he conduct himself as he goes about preaching the gospel? How much money must he have in order to stay in the work? What methods seem to be most effective in our modern world? These questions have their place, but the answers have less and less importance if we come to have more and more faith in God and respect for the gospel as God’s power unto salvation.
The lazy, selfish preacher does not have enough faith to preach. The church might hardly miss him if he should quit preaching and “go to work” at some secular job. The men who would make merchandise of the souls of men and speak things which they ought not for filthy lucre’s sake are not God’s servants (Titus 1: 11; 2 Peter 2:3; Eph. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:3,4). The hobby riding sowers of discord are not assets but liabilities to the work (Acts 20:29-31; Matt. 7:15,16; Gal. 1:6-10; 1 John 2:19). The preachers who become fornicators, drunkards, and who conform to the evil world in other ways cause the world to blaspheme the holy name of God. When faith, hope, and love fill a life they lead one toward the mark for the prize of the high calling. Men with these precious foundation principles add virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, and brotherly kindness.
Faith, hope, and love can lead to the gentleness, holiness, self control, soundness of doctrine, zeal, and other traits of the good soldier (See 2 Tim. 2:24,25; 1 Thess. 1:1-13; 2 Tim. 2:14).
Some men on the “mission field” or with well established churches may be more like semi-retired executives than like gospel preachers of the age of the apostles. Knowledge of grammar, skill as a public speaker, psychology and ability to discuss things of common interest may be of some help to the man of God. Reverence, Bible knowledge, great faith, and love for God and man are of much more importance.
Some who are called preachers may be bored because they may not see much to do. If some brethren stop by and find the preacher reading they may think that they have found him not busy. There is a great need for young men and older men who are of very great faith to preach. The time may be fast approaching when opposition to the word increases to the point when only those of the greatest faith will preach. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Organization of Women (NOW) are no more eager for the pure gospel to be preached than the Sadducees were when Peter and John preached in Jerusalem. There is a growing number of able preachers. Let us hope and pray that they may be strong and of good courage.
There is a lot of time that goes into two sermons and two or three classes per week. There is the special preparation for each of these lessons, and there is a lot of general reading and constant efforts to grow in background knowledge. Some who do not know that preachers work might benefit by going with one for a week and observing how many questions are asked on many different subjects. One never knows what subjects will be brought up. We are to be ready always to give answer (1 Peter 3:15).
Being vigilant or watchful is an assigned task (1 Pet. 5:8). We should not be ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11). His subtlety is remarkable (2 Cor. 11:3). In our generation we can learn in advance of the wind of doctrine, the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive by reading religious journals among us. Good men deal with these problems in these journals. This reading awakens to coming dangers so there can be advance preparation. This takes time and effort.
The faithful men among early Christians taught publicly and from house to house. This is also true today (Acts 5:42; 20:20, 29-3 1). Some of the greatest accomplishments are in these private efforts. This takes time. Words of exhortation to the tempted and deceived are also needed. Men of great faith, hope, and love see these needs and enter into doors of opportunity. Much of the work of preaching and teaching is done by Christians who are not full-time preachers. Are you doing your part in the effort to scatter the seed?
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 11, pp. 328-329
June 7, 1984