By Harry R. Osborne
J.M. Gillpatrick was born on August 23, 1914, and passed from this life on February 17, 1988. The auditorium of the Central congregation in Pampa, Texas was filled two days later for the funeral services conducted by R.J. Stevens and Bob Price. It brought back many memories for me since my earliest recollections are of brother Gillpatrick preaching the gospel in that very auditorium. Of all the debts I owe to older preachers who have taught me the truth, none is as great as the debt I owe to J.M.
Brother Gillpatrick began his life of service to our Lord at the age of twelve when he was baptized into Christ in his home town of Tipton, Oklahoma, by A. Hugh Clark. J.M. did some preaching while growing up in Tipton and while attending Abilene Christian College, but began to devote full-time to preaching in 1937. For the next fifty years, he worked with congregations in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.
His book, Outline of Bible History, has been used in many churches across this country to aid in the study of the Old Testament since its publication in 1964. The companion volume on the New Testament was published in 1987 and is also an excellent overview study guide. J.M. was a diligent student of the text and both volumes are evidence of that close attention to its rightful dividing (2 Tim. 2:15).
Brother Gillpatrick’s influence on my life began even before I was born. He was preaching in Pampa, Texas when my parents moved there in 1952. Mom and Dad had never heard of “the issues” at that time. A few weeks after their arrival, J.M. preached a lesson on the orphan home question. He plainly declared the fact that no authority existed for the support of orphan homes and other human institutions from the treasury of the church. My dad, certain that he could straighten this poor preacher out, invited J.M. over for a study the next day. Dad quickly found out that he did not have any Scripture upon which to base his stand, but J.M. did. He worked with my parents for several years and helped them greatly in a fuller understanding of God’s Word.
As a child, I was always close to J.M. He was the picture of what a preacher should be to me then, and he still is. I spent a great deal of time at the Gillpatrick’s house and loved every minute of it. Katherine, his faithful and devoted wife, treated me like one of the family and fed me the best pies I have ever tasted. Their son Cary was my idol. And when I went to the living room, there was J.M. with a Bible in his hand. I remember so many times when he reached down and picked me up to sit in his chair as he read the Bible to me. Those were special times and treasured memories.
The Gillpatrick’s moved away in 1964 and we left Tampa in 1965. Our families kept in touch until 1974 when J.M. and Katherine moved to Corpus Christi, Texas where I was in high school. False teaching on marriage, divorce and remarriage had just been done by the preceding preacher and the work was hard. J.M. brought the needed stability with his keeping of the instruction by Paul: “and the Lord’s servant must not strive, but be gentle towards all, apt to teach, forbearing, in meekness correcting them that oppose themselves; if peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth, and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him unto his will” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
It was during this time that I made up my mind to begin preaching the gospel. He helped me get started preaching and provided good counsel for the years that have followed. I found J.M.’s teaching and advice to be some of the most valuable I received from that time until he passed away. Brother Gillpatrick had a training class for several of us and offered to help me with a more intensive weekly Bible study. The first time I came to his office for the study, I expressed my desire to study the Psalms because I was unfamiliar with most of them. J.M. launched right into the study with an overview of the different types of psalms, referring to a specific example of each type. As he referred to one, I would turn to it as he read aloud. About halfway through, I looked up to see that his Bible was not even open to the Psalms. He was quoting every passage from memory.
There was nothing showy about J.M.’s memory of the Scripture. It was a natural flow from his lips of that which abided in his heart – richly (Col. 3:16). Our family has commented many times that if every Bible in the world was destroyed, brother Gillpatrick could reproduce it from memory. That attention to the Word came through in his preaching. When people heard J.M. Gillpatrick preach, they went away with a full bucket of Scripture to reflect upon and impressed with the power and clarity of God’s Word.
I have never known a man that more closely paralleled the pattern of a gospel preacher laid down by the inspired writers (2 Tim. 4:2-5). J.M. Gillpatrick truly preached the word. His preaching did not change with the whims of the people. He endured many hardships because of his stand for the truth and refusal to compromise, but you could hear no complaining from him about it. The diet he fed in his preaching was balanced with reproof, rebuke and exhortation. All was done with longsuffering and teaching. If ever an evangelist fulfilled his ministry, brother Gillpatrick did! Those of us who preach the gospel would do well to mark him as an example that we might so walk (Phil. 3:17).
All of us who knew J.M. are comforted by the words of Revelation, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them” (Rev. 14:13). By the fruits shown in his life, we have confidence in the eternal destiny of brother Gillpatrick. As we look at the effect of his teaching on so many of us, we see that his works do follow him here as well as into eternity. We will, miss his wisdom, knowledge and help, but we hope to be reunited in a place with no death and no farewells before the throne of God.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 14, p. 440
July 21, 1988