1. The ascension gifts of Christ are in most places in the New Testament endowments, abilities conferred upon men and women to magnify the Lord and to further the ministries of the church. They are sometimes called ta pneumatica (1 Corinthians 12:1) and sometimes ta charismata (1 Corinthians 12:4). But in one place the ascension gifts of Christ are called doma (Ephesians 4:8), a "gift, " a "present, " and here refers not to endowments but to chosen, elected people. The gifts, bestowed by Christ upon his churches after his ascension into heaven, are based upon his victory over Satan, sin, and the grave. Victorious, he has the right to distribute the spoils and to dispense these marvelous presents. Named in those glorious gifts of Christ to his church is the pastor-teacher. How exalted his calling! How marvelous his election! God calls the pastors and gives them, assigns them to his churches.
2. The call of the preacher is deprecated by many in the secular world.
At the beginning of this century a literary critic in a New York paper, after receiving a book about preachers of the day, including Phillips Brooks, added a derogatory remark that "it was a pity so much ability and labor were spent upon men whose work was entirely aside from the main currents of human interest. ''
When I gave my life to be a preacher, the remark was made to me, "What a pity to throw your life away!" The judgment of so much of the unbelieving world is that the influence of the pulpit has long since been rejected by thinking people, and that the ministry of the pulpit is irrelevant and insipid.
But in the judgment of God those ascension gifts of Christ are the most valued, the most precious, and (bless his name), the most lasting.
The riches of the churches are not found in monumental buildings and monetary investments but in the people God has called and given to be the ministers of his redeemed.
3. Christ from heaven never fails to bestow upon his churches those ascension gifts.
Through the centuries, and until Jesus comes again, these Christ-chosen, Christ-sent, Christ-given men do and will endow and enrich the churches of our Lord.
In the Apostolic Age were the great preachers of the Lord: Peter, Paul, Stephen, Philip the evangelist, Apollos the orator, Timothy, and Titus.
In the Ante-Nicene, the Nicene, and the Post-Nicene Age were Polycarp of Smyrna, Papias of Hieropolis (across the Lycus River from Laodicea), Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr of Samaria, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Augustine, Chrysostom, the "golden mouth. "
In the Pre-Reformation Age were Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe, Savonarola, John Huss, Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, Menno Simons, George Fox.
In the Reformation Age were Martin Luther, Melanchthon, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, John Knox, Balthasar Hubmaier, Felix Manz.
In the seventeenth century were John Bunyan, Richard Baxter, Samuel Rutherford, William Guthrie, Roger Williams, William Penn.
In the eighteenth century were John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd, William Carey.
In the nineteenth century were Christmas Evans, Charles H. Spurgeon, Joseph Parker, Thomas Chalmers, F. W. Robertson, Alexander Maclaren, Charles G. Finney, Dwight L. Moody, Sam Jones, John A. Broadus, Adoniram Judson, David Livingstone.
In the twentieth century were Robert E. Speer, John R. Mott, George W. Truett, Lee R. Scarborough, Robert G. Lee, Billy Sunday, and more yet to be added.
Always and in all ages the preacher is there, called of God and proclaiming to the world the truth of heaven.
There is a statue of John Bunyan in
A very great person hung against the wall;
and this was the fashion:
eyes lifted up to heaven,
the best of books in his hand,
the law of truth was written upon his lips,
the world was behind his back;
he stood as if he pleaded with men;
a crown of gold did hang above his head.
This is the preacher and he is God's gift to the world. We could not do without him.
Lloyd-George, British prime minister during the First World War, declared, "When the chariot of humanity gets stuck... nothing will lift it out except great preaching that goes straight to the mind and heart. There is nothing in this case that will save the world but what was once called, 'the foolishness of preaching. ' "
The preacher is sent on a heavenly mission. He is to declare the message of God to the world, "whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear" (Ezekiel 2:5, 7; 3:11).
1. Preaching was recognized as a gift from God in the Old Testament. Noah was "a preacher of righteousness" (2 Peter 2:5) by whose testimony the antediluvian world was condemned (Hebrews 11:7). The psalmist and the prophets delivered their messages of truth in pleading, exhortation, prophecy, and promises from the Lord. The prophets were the preachers of their day and the predecessors of the New Testament heralds of the gospel.
After the Exile the reading and
exposition of Scripture were from the beginning the chief feature of the
synagogue service, and is frequently mentioned in the New Testament.
Jesus, "as his custom was, " went to the
synagogue service on the sabbath day and there
delivered the wonderful message of hope recorded in Luke 4:17-22.
In Acts 13:15,
"after the reading of the law and the prophets" the rulers of the
synagogue invited the two preachers, Paul and Barnabas, to deliver this message
of exhortation. In Acts
15:21, James, the pastor of the church at
2. The New Testament church, likewise, moves on the feet of those who "preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things" (Romans 10:15). It was Paul who declared that faith in Jesus as Lord will save all who call upon him (v. 9), but "How... shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (v. 14).
This preaching of salvation that Paul referred to is the proclamation of the Word of God recorded in the Holy Scriptures and centered in the redemptive work of Christ. It is a summons of men to repentance, faith, and obedience before the Lord Jesus. It is God's appointed means for communicating the gospel of hope to the unbelieving world and for the strengthening of the faith of those who have found refuge in our living Lord.
The apostolic message (kerygma), the preaching of the men who first heard the Great Commission of our Lord, consisted of these seven things:
(1) It was a definite body of facts; it was "propositional truth. "
(2) It was not speculative philosophy but an announcement (you could say a heralding) of the intervention of God in human history for the salvation of those who would hear, heed, and accept.
(3) It was centered in the redemptive work of Christ, in his cross and atonement, and glorious resurrection.
(4) It was witnessed to and confirmed in the human heart by the Holy Spirit.
(5) It was historically and organically related to the Old Testament (it was the flower and fruit of which Judaism was the root and stem).
(6) It imposed a stern, ethical demand upon men.
(7) It was a vast eschatological dimension. It looks forward to a triumphant forever in Christ.
In God's economy, there is no such thing as the delivery of this glorious message of truth without a preacher. In the elective purpose of God his will and work are made known to us through a living personality. This is the essence of preaching and is the first, primary calling of the pastor.
Phillips Brooks in 1877 in his Yale Lectures on Preaching said: "Preaching is the communication of truth by man to men. The truest truth communicated in any other way than through the personality of brother man to men is not preached truth. "
Preaching is the truth of God mediated through a man's voice, life, heart, mind, in fact, his whole being. That is why Spurgeon preached from a "rail, " not a pulpit desk. He said a man preaches with his whole body and it ought not to be hidden.
The need for that living message is everlasting (Revelation 14:6).
For every congregation, through every continuing generation, the truth of God must be relived, re-presented, reincarnated by the preacher.
An article was published calling for a moratorium on preaching. The day is coming, a prognostication was made, when a half dozen famous ministers would deliver sermons by means of radio (now it would be television) for all the churches and their congregations. Local pastors would only be errand boys for the people. The saints would then listen to the great beacons and the lesser lights would be submerged in the greater glory.
Why did this prophecy miserably fail? No great lover can love for us; no one husband can father all our children. Each generation must experience falling in love, building a home, rearing children. So each congregation must have its living pastor. The truth of God must be made to live again and again. That is the calling of the preacher-pastor.
—Criswell's Guidebook for Pastors