A call, if you will, to prayer and discernment for the ministers of the gospel:
What do the greatest ministers of the gospel have in common?
Some may say brilliance. Others may say a stupendous work ethic. Still, others may compare them by their willingness to say boldly what must be said. Even still, there are those who will, no doubt, rightly point out that God’s hand was upon them all and in all their work.
While these common qualities are rightly attributed to men like Paul, Augustine, Luther or Calvin, for example, one trait they all share is that of a heartbeat for the gospel of Christ Jesus. One could say they brilliantly secured the heavens in their hearts whilst teaching others to do the same.
This behavior echoes back to a man who himself was afflicted for the sake of the gospel. The apostle Paul was beat with rods, almost stoned to death, shipwrecked, and at one time was lost at sea (2 Cor. 11:25). Despite these afflictions, Paul made four massive journeys, each to places he would not have been completely familiar with, in order to preach the gospel and strengthen the churches (Rom. 1:15; Acts 15:41). Amidst all this, he persevered to the end (2 Tim. 4:7).
Paul had a heartbeat for the ministry of the gospel.
Not only did he have a zeal to preach the things of Christ, but a desire to see those things protected (1 Tim. 1:14). Securing the heavenly things of Christ involves gripping onto the whole counsel of God with locked knuckles, embracing all truth revealed in the Scriptures, and giving one’s life to the accurate communication and proliferation of God’s holy Word throughout all the earth.
As we all should know, God is not a God of partiality (Eph. 6:9). Woe to us then if we ourselves or ministers of the gospel preach half-truths. James writes:
But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty (Jas. 2:9-12).
If, then, no believer ought to live contrary to the law (which one does in showing partiality), surely, those ministers we have already discussed were held to an even higher standard (1 Tim. 3:2).
The truth of Christ is much too precious for its handlers to allow corruption. Today, churches often take it upon themselves to neglect the things of God. Rather than asking, “What does God say?” many have started asking, “What works for me?” You may call to memory Paul’s words in 2 Timothy, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions (4:3).”
May the Lord protect us from such softness toward sin and wrongful thinking. How often men have shrugged at transgression while claiming to be a proclaimers of truth!
We must secure the gospel of God within our own hearts; we must know the God we seek to serve; and we must serve Him unwaveringly. Any man, family, business, or church that bases their actions upon their own passions is sure to perish in the way (Ps. 2:12; Rom. 8:13). Our knowledge of God must be principally applied to our lives. When we work, we work for God, not man. When we play, we play for God, not man. When we rule, we rule for God, not man. When we worship, we worship God, not man.
To work, play, rule, and worship to God’s glory, we must know who this God is and how He thinks about these things. How ought we work, play, rule, and worship for our great God and Savior? If we fail to ask this question, we fail to grasp the very end of our sanctification, which is, “to be conformed to the image of [the Father’s] Son (Rom. 8:29).”
If we do not hold the Words of the Most High to the uttermost priority in our hearts and minds, securing it with the chains of faith, we will become Satan’s food. We will trip on the rocks set out by the enemy before we ever reach the finish line! If this union with Christ is the end toward which our salvation moves, are we not to desire Christ in all that we do?
I hope this is a question we can all be reminded of (myself included), and a question we can attempt to answer by the power of the Spirit, as we progress through our own individual journeys of sanctification toward final justification and glory. The Lord’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and ought not be neglected (2 Tim. 3:16; Ps. 119:105).
Your brother in Christ,