Preachers and Preaching Number (7)
God's Concept of the Preacher's Duties
To the Brethren-Number 3
James P. Needham
In Paul's letters to Timothy, he deals with the preacher's duty from numerous angles. In these articles we want to be rather thorough in studying these matters. We firmly believe that many problems with preachers come about due to a lack of understanding of the work of preachers on the part of both preachers and brethren. His responsibilities are many times and with many people determined more by tradition and denominational concepts than by a close study of the scriptures.
In this article let us survey Paul's instruction to Timothy concerning his duty to the brethren.
(1) "Put them in remembrance" (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 2:14). In Titus 3: 1, Paul told Titus to "put them in mind." This is a rather serious responsibility God lays upon preachers. It is one which is sometimes difficult to discharge. It is easy to grow weary of preaching the same old sermons; repeating the same old principles, but it must be done. It is the preacher's duty. Sometimes the brethren will complain, "I have heard these things all my life, I am getting tired of them." Or, someone will say, "I know what the preacher is going to say before he says it." I read and hear some talk about "repeating the same old clichés."
All of this may dampen the spirit of some preachers, but the "man of God" will realize that those who make such statements are evidencing their need to hear "the same old principles" even more. There is something drastically wrong when the grand old story becomes wearisome to a child of God. When Peter wrote his second epistle he said,
"Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance . . . . Moreover I will endeavor that ye may be able after my decease to have these things in remembrance" (2 Pet. 1:12, 13, 15). It is very noteworthy that Peter said he would put his brethren in remembrance of these things even though they KNEW THEM and were ESTABLISHED IN THEM. Even though this could be said of these brethren, they still needed to be put in remembrance - needed to hear them repeated. We all stand in danger of drifting away from the things we have heard and know very well (Heb. 2:1)
In all of this, therefore, we see a principle. That principle is that the purity of the faith of our Lord depends upon a constant repetition of every phase and facet of divine revelation. Let neither preacher nor member grow weary of hearing it. Let all understand that when they do they are witnessing a symptom of apostasy.
(1) "Be an example to them that believe" (1 Tim. 4:12). A preacher needs to realize that the eyes of both the brethren and the world are upon him. Whether we like it or not, the brethren are looking to preachers for guidance and an exemplary life. This is true of any person who is in the public eye as a teacher. I firmly believe that this is one of the things James had in mind when he said, "Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment" (James 3:1). I understand that the more responsibility one has the greater will be his accountability to God, but in view of the fact that James is speaking of the great difficulty involved in properly using the tongue, and the ease with which it may be used to offend, it seems that James very likely means that the teacher is subjected to "heavier judgment" from men - that is they expect more of the teacher Whether this is his meaning or not, we know that this is true. This is what Paul was telling Timothy. There are five areas in which Paul says the preacher's life should be exemplary, let us notice them:
(a) "In word." This would have to do with his conversation. The Greek for 'word' is 'LOGOS.' Vine says of this word, "The expression of thought - not the mere name of an object." I know some preachers who constitute poor examples "in word." Their conversation is coarse and borders on the vulgar. Their jokes are not "befitting" (Eph. 5:4), but are either downright filthy, or are susceptible to double meanings. Their minds tend to dwell in the gutter. Their off-color jokes become their trade mark. They seemingly fail to realize that "as he thinketh in his heart, so is he . . ." (Prov. 23:7). Our Lord said, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matt. 1j:34). All this means that one is no better than his worst thought. Show me a person who constantly thinks evil thoughts - who allows his mind to dwell in the gutter - and I will show you a person who will eventually crawl down into the gutter. I have seen preachers and other brethren fall, and fall hard, and I think I can say that in most cases their conversation (expressed thoughts) indicated that it would eventually happen long before it actually came about.
If one can control his thinking he can pretty well control his life. If we can direct our thinking toward that which is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, that which is virtuous, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8), we will be excellent examples to the brethren "in word."
(b) "In manner of life." This has to do with one's general course of life. It would include just about every phase of one's daily life. The preacher therefore, should be an example to the brethren in every aspect of daily living. He should be honest and upright in his dealings with all men. He must pay his debts, and honor all his obligations. He should demonstrate the height of dedication to the Lord, diligently serving Christ at every opportunity. He should not be a spendthrift who constantly lives beyond his income. These and many other considerations are involved in being an example "in manner of life."
(c) "In love." Love is an emotion which almost evades definition. The best definition
is that one given in God's word. "For this is the love of God that we keep his commandments" (1 John 5:3). The gospel preacher must possess this kind of love. He must exemplify strict adherence to God's commandments. He must not sanction the "smallest" departure therefrom. Love also has to do with one's attitude toward other people, particularly one's enemies. Gospel preachers have enemies partly because they tell the truth (Gal. 4:16), and yet they must exemplify love for these people. Jesus said, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good unto them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). All Christians must do this, but the preacher must exemplify it "to the believers."
(d) "In faith." We are all prone to have some doubts. Some are mental, others are emotional. Faith begets faith; doubt begets doubt. Nothing will strengthen the faith of the church like a preacher who manifests a firm, child-like faith in God's word. Paul told Timothy to exemplify faith. The pulpit should not be a sounding board for the preacher's doubts. He should make it a practice never to preach anything about which he possesses any doubt. He must believe what he preaches, and preach what he believes. Paul said, "But having the same spirit of faith, according to that which is written, I believed, and therefore did I speak; we also believe, and therefore also we speak" (2 Cor. 4:13) So let it be with every one who claims to be a gospel preacher. People have enough doubts of their own without a preacher's adding to the list. Some preachers use the auditorium as their thinking room. In an effort to impress their audience with their fairness and open-mindedness, they like to raise a host of questions which they never answer. Some think this is a mark of scholarship. The result is that many issues are left hanging in mid-air; difficult questions are unanswered, and people go away with more doubts than they came with. I have heard a great deal of this kind of preaching. It is dangerous. If one cannot present a positive, constructive treatment of a subject, he needs to change his subject. He should do his thinking out of the pulpit.
(e) "In purity." The gospel preacher should exemplify purity to the believers. There should not be any question in the minds of the believers as to his sincerity or his dedication to Godliness. We have all known preachers of whom it was said, "He is an excellent preacher but his personal life falls far short of what it should be." If one preaches the gospel, he will preach purity of life, but if his own life is impure, his preaching will be ineffective. We preachers need to be sure that we practice what we preach. If we are not doing so, we need to quit preaching until our practice catches up. Nothing harms the cause of our Lord more than, or is it quite as revolting as, an ungodly preacher.
Paul gives Timothy and Titus instructions as to their duties to specific classes of the brethren. He names them, and then tells them their duties to them. Let us note them:
(1) The faithful - teach. Paul commanded Timothy: ". . . the things that thou has heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful man, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). The Greek word here translated "men" is ANTHROPOS which "is used generally, of a human being, male or female, without reference to sex or nationality" (W. E. Vine, p. 32). The preacher has the duty to teach and train the faithful, both men and women, that they may in turn "teach others also." I firmly believe that many of us fail to discharge this duty. We are content to conduct the "regular" Bible classes in which one could hardly learn to be a teacher. There is a great need to give special instruction and training to the faithful, those who show signs of dedication and ability, that they may develop into gospel preachers and teachers. The rewards to the Cause are great when we give special training and instruction to those desiring it. Let us cease neglecting this duty.
(2) The erring -- correct. Paul told Timothy to, "In meekness correct those that oppose themselves . . ." (2 Tim. 2:25). To Titus he said, "Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith . . ." (Titus 1:13). The gospel preacher must not allow error to go unchallenged. This will not make him popular with men (not even some of the brethren) but he has a duty to perform. He may sometimes be called a "heresy hunter," "a mote picker" or "a fighter," but his duty is clear regardless of what men think or say. He who is seeking for worldly popularity had better do something other than preach the gospel. Paul commanded Timothy to "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." (2 Tim. 4:2).
(3) Older men - entreat as fathers. To Timothy Paul said, "Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father" (1 Tim. 5:1). We need to understand that Paul is talking to a younger preacher. We do not know how old Timothy was at this time, but evidently considerably younger than Paul. This is instruction that is especially applicable to younger preachers, but would apply to all. The Bible teaches respect for age. God said, "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old men, and fear thy God: I am the Lord" (Lev. 19:32). Rehoboam disregarded this part of God's law, and brought disgrace to his kingdom. Some young preachers are prone to be just a bit rebellious to older men. They feel like they have forgotten more than the older men ever knew, and they may be sincere in this. But as the years wear on they look back upon such youthful thoughts and say, "How could I have been so stupid?" We can save ourselves a great deal of heartache if we will heed this admonition of Paul.
This does not mean that the older men are always right - indeed not. It is often true, due to youth's greater opportunity that he advances beyond the aged but he must let it be known with caution and modesty. He must not make dictatorial demands of the elders, but entreat them as fathers. No doubt inspiration had this characteristic of youth in mind when he had Paul to say to Timothy, "let no man despise thy youth" (I Tim. 4:12).
(4) Younger men - entreat as brethren (1 Tim. 5:1). There is no place in the kingdom for a caste system. Those in the preacher's age group must be considered EQUALS - be entreated as brethren. It is very easy for a young preacher with outstanding ability to display a haughty spirit, and feel himself superior to those his own age. Paul cautions Timothy against this danger in setting forth his duty to "younger men." Let us all learn to manifest the proper attitude toward others, one may be smarter than others, but it ill befits a child of God to think such of himself.
(5) Older women - entreat as mothers (I Tim. 5:2). A woman's place in the church is clearly set out in the scriptures. Her duties are many, her responsibility great and her place prominent - much more prominent than some brethren are willing to admit. There is a tendency on the part of some to sort of trample them under foot; to disregard them. Many mothers in Israel have meant a great deal to me. They have given me sound advice, and motherly guidance. They have given me help that no man could have rendered. I found it very difficult as a young preacher to pay any attention to what the women said. I think this might have significance in the light of what Paul said to young preacher Timothy. So many of us like to neutralize the women folk by saying, "The women should not run the church." This is true, but it is often used as a rationalization to make us feel justified-in disregarding their wise judgment. Let us learn to do our duty toward the mothers in Israel.
(6) Younger women - entreat as sisters with all purity (1 Tim. 5:2). This is badly needed advice. Preachers, especially younger ones, need to carefully watch their relationship with the younger women. A preacher is a public man, and younger women have a tendency to be attracted by such. They may be perfectly innocent in their actions, and the preacher may be naive, but regardless of the circumstances, great harm can come to the Cause by allowing relationships to develop which arouse suspicions, and can lead to serious infractions of God's law. A gospel preacher must never let down his guard. He must be careful where he goes, what he does, and what he says. A good principle to remember is that it is much easier to prevent suspicions than to erase them. "Entreat the younger women as sisters IN ALL PURITY."
(7) Widows indeed - honor (1 Tim. 5:3). The widow question is dealt with on almost every page of the Bible. God has always been deeply mindful of the widow and demanded that his children be so. Paul goes on to define a "widow indeed": "Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day" (I Tim. 5:5). Paul instructed Timothy to "honor" these widows'. That means to help and encourage them. Every preacher with experience knows how they need it. Nobody is more deserving of help than a godly widow who is struggling to make a living for her children and who is devoted to the Lord. Not only are preachers and other individual members of the church to look out for these, but in 1 Tim. 5:16, Paul instructs the church to care for them. Let us be careful to honor widows indeed.
(8) The rich - charge (.1 Tim. 6:17). Paul did not tell Timothy to "play up" to them, but to charge them "That they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 1~ying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life" (1 Tim. 6:1719). Rich people will have a hard time getting to heaven (Matt. 19:23, 24). Preachers are charged with the responsibility to guide the rich to a proper use of his worldly goods according to God's word. There is a tendency on the part of some preachers to play up to the rich, rather than to warn them of the great danger in which they stand. May we charge them as Paul instructs us.
(9) The eldership: One of the greatest fields of neglect in the church is the development of the proper relationship between preachers and elders. The elders may not have the proper attitude toward the preacher, or the preacher may not think toward the elders as he should. All church members (including preachers) are inclined to think the elders are very well qualified until they disagree with them - then they wonder how anyone could have ever thought they were qualified! Preachers have duties to the eldership, and we need to study them.
(a) "Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses" (1 Tim. 5:19). This is a big order! Members have a tendency to think the preacher is the solver of all problems, so they run to him with just about every difficulty that arises. One of the most common problems people bring to the preacher is the eldership. They want to talk about the elders, not to them. They want to put the preacher in the middle - put him between them and the elders. They think if they can gossip to the preacher about the elders and turn him against them, he will then carry their ball for them, and they will not need to even be identified. Paul has protected the preacher against such an ungodly situation, if the preacher has the courage and faith to enforce it. Let him refuse to listen to the gossip unless the accuser has two or three witnesses and is willing to face the elder and make his charge. If the accuser is not willing this to do, let the preacher refuse to listen.
(b) "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear" (I Tim. 5:20). What Paul said in verse 19 is not designed to create a clique consisting of the elders and the preacher characterized by mutual protection against accusations. If accusers come to the preacher with a charge against an elder which can be proven by "two or three witnesses," then the preachers duty is clear: he is to rebuke the sinful elder "before all that others also may fear." I see no reason to misunderstand such plain language, but some seemingly do. There are those who have the idea that the voice of the elders is the voice of God. They think an elder has spiritual immunity. Some think there is just no way an elder can be corrected. Let such people study what Paul has here said.
(c) "Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure" (1 Tim. 5:22). In the same context of the above statements, Paul gave Timothy this instruction. No doubt he has reference to the duty of evangelists to appoint men to the eldership (Titus 1:5). The customary way of appointing one to an office was by the laying on of hands. The instruction therefore means that Timothy (gospel preachers) should not hastily appoint men to the eldership. They should be sure that such men meet the qualifications laid down in I Tim. 3. Not to do so is to "be partakers of other men's sins."
(d) "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine" (1 Tim. 5:17). Here Paul demands that Timothy give due honor to the elders, Preachers must respect and honor elders, One good wav to do this is to let the elders do the elders' work. There is an inclination on the part of some preachers to want to do the elders' work and let the preacher's work go undone. Some preachers get so busy doing the elders' work- that they get up at preaching time without anything to say. There are instances where elders are perfectly willing for the preacher to do it, so they think it is fine that the preacher does it. There are other cases where the preacher usurps the elders' work, perhaps because he does not know better. In either case, God's word is violated. We should honor the elders. We should pay them high respect, assist them in whatever way we can, but let them do their work while we do ours.
CONCLUSION: This concludes our studies of the preacher's duties. We trust you have carefully considered what has been said, and that you have profited there from. We shall continue next month with other aspects of these matters.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XI: 11, pp. 10-14