I have the extraordinary privilege to pastor Briarwood Presbyterian Church. That singular statement evokes within me a torrent of emotions because my life apart from Christ was one of unmentionable blasphemy and rebellion. Amazingly, not only am I forgiven by God’s grace as a believer in Jesus Christ, but to the wonderment of my heart, the same mouth that uttered destructive blasphemy against the majesty of God is now called, allowed and eager to preach the Word of God and the excellencies of Christ.
That phenomenon of transforming grace is multiplied by the extraordinary privilege of serving a patient, growing and Christ-loving congregation as a Pastor/teacher. And wonder of wonder, I am actually supported by God’s people to serve in this privileged position and vocation. It has often crossed my mind that I am supported with God’s tithe to preach His Word while Achan lost his life when he stole the tithe (ITim5:17-18).
I believe that pastoral teaching and leadership in the church is the highest calling on this side of eternity. The Lord uses His tithe to support those who are called to “work hard at preaching and teaching” not because the preacher is more important; instead, it is because of the importance and primacy of the preaching of God’s Word.
This is why the Apostle Paul declares to the Corinthians, “I did not come to baptize but to preach the Gospel.” Paul is not demeaning baptism. He knows its importance as a sign and seal of the New Covenant and it’s placement in the Great Commission. But he also knows the effectiveness and authenticity of Christian baptism is dependent upon the true preaching of the Word of God. He knows that the blessing of baptism is downstream from the faithful preaching of the Word.
In addition, Paul knows that we are saved by faith and that we grow by faith. Therefore, he continues to elevate the primacy of preaching in Romans 10:13-17 concluding with the clear reminder that faith – which binds us to Christ and allows us to grow in Christ – “comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of Christ.” Beyond that, the Apostle Paul recognizes that God’s Word was designed to be preached, as he informs us in II Timothy 3:16-17 that Scripture did not come from man, but to man from God by the Holy Spirit. That same Scripture is “profitable” for “teaching, reproof and correction in righteousness” and “equips the believer for every good work”. By so revealing the design of Scripture, he also profiles the definition of preaching. Spirit-filled, Gospel-saturated, Biblical exposition and application which speaks to the hearts of His people follows the very pattern and design of God’s Word.
This clarifies why Jesus would say, “my sheep know my voice and they follow me.” Likewise the Apostle Paul’s announcement to the Ephesians that Jesus Himself had “preached peace to you” becomes clear and sensible. Jesus never traveled to Ephesus, so when did he preach to the believers there? When Paul came, filled with the Spirit, Jesus came and through the preaching of God’s Word spoke personally to their hearts.
This realization – the primacy of preaching God’s Word and the priority of prayer – compelled the Apostles to establish the ministry and office of Deacons (Act 6:1-6). When they said, “it is not good for us to neglect the ministry of prayer and the Word to serve (diakonos) tables,” they were not demeaning the diaconal ministry of administration, stewardship or mercy, but rather they were affirming the necessity and priority of prayer and the Word. Had those conduints of the faith been neglected, there would be no heart for mercy, no sacrificial giving and no need for administration.
Perhaps one of the most affirming statements in the Pauline epistles concerning the priority of proclaiming God’s Word is found in his last Epistle. On the verge of his martyrdom, Paul gives Timothy a heart-stirring and life-changing perspective as a preacher. He charges Timothy to preach the Word of God “in the presence of God” and “the soon appearing of His Son” and “the judgment seat.” In other words, every time Timothy mounts the pulpit and opens the Word to preach, he is to feel “the eyelash of God” upon him (His presence) – hear the “footsteps” of Christ (soon appearing) – hear the “gavel” of God (judgment seat). Timothy needed to know that the truthful and loving proclamation of God’s Word is pleasing to the Lord and used by the Lord. Not only does it exalt the Lord of Glory, but it also proclaims the one and only message that delivers people from the judgment of hell and will usher them into the unspeakable joys of eternity with Christ.
To my fellow preachers of the Gospel, I challenge you and me with the words of Paul to Timothy: “preach the Word.” Follow Christ with all of your heart and proclaim His Word as you fulfill his ministry by pouring yourself out as a “drink offering.”
To all my fellow believers in Jesus Christ – pray that preachers will be faithful and that preaching will be effective through the anointing of the Spirit of God upon both the preacher and the hearer. Sinners saved by grace, growing in grace and the preaching of God’s Word from the pulpit of His church will not only be a priority wrapped in prevailing prayer, but it will be delivered persuasively, precisely and passionately so that the voice of Christ will be heard. “Come and follow me the Savior of sinners.”