In the past few days, I have been pondering all the places that I come to know and grow closer to God. Of course, it begins with prayer and study of His Word. But there are other places as well. One is my preacher, another devotionals and commentaries, and more prayer. Today I wanted to mention the preacher of the Word.
I have wrestled with this topic for a couple of days now (maybe three), but it is very important to me. I love the men that preach at my church. They all strive to be godly men, and their focus is to preach God’s Word.
As I think of these guys, I realize it is a very easy thing to put them as the head of the church rather than Christ Jesus and not even realize it our Preachers need our encouragement, but not our worship.
1 Corinthians 2
There are at least a couple letters where Paul talks about His preaching and his example of humility and an explanation of sorts of how he preaches.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (ESV)
1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Now I am not proclaiming that my preachers are Paul, but they do not use fancy words or express words of human wisdom. Their sermons and teachings come from God’s Word guided by the Holy Spirit. When you consider the audience that meets every Sunday, how could it be anything else? The congregation is such a mix of people from first-time visitors to seasoned followers, and our preacher must walk a fine line to keep everyone engaged.
1 Corinthians 1
I looked back to chapter one in the book and beginning in the chapter and saw one thing that is dangerous with a great preacher. It is when people start following the Preacher more than the word.
1 Corinthians 1:10-17 (ESV)
10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
This passage is a pretty profound caution in my mind. Paul is telling us not to get wrapped up in the messenger but the message. I love verse 17 of this warning. “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” Just let that soak in for a moment. I can think of half-dozen TV preachers where the cross seems to have been emptied because it is more about the preacher than Jesus. Paul never claimed any authority. He remained humble in all his dealings.
1 Corinthians 4
I like how Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 4:1-7
1 Corinthians 4:1-7 (ESV)
1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
Paul speaks of their role as “servants of Christ and Stewards of the mysteries of God.” Then he speaks of judgment by men and God and how he has applied these things to both himself and Apollos for the Corinthians benefit, “that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.”
Paul reminds us all that all that we have we received and nothing we have is worthy of boasting about.
I read all this and thought and prayed over what I had read. I also read a good part of Philippians two through four which speaks to me the example of Christ Jesus humility and Paul’s humility as examples for us to follow. As I pondered all this, I could not help but consider how much pressure the adversary must apply to my preachers to puff up his ego and at the same time knock him around for not reaching everyone in the congregation.
I had to stop and pray a prayer of thanks to God for my preachers. A prayer that the Lord be with them to stay in the Word and remain humble “not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. ” (1Cor4:6b)
I love my preachers, and I am thankful that every Sunday through them the Holy Spirit reveals something new to me. I am thankful that these men are willing servants who trust in the Holy Spirit and the Word of God as the only source of truth. I am thankful that they do not want blind followers that can only manage one meal a week but push us each Sunday to study and to test everything that they teach against the scriptures. I am thankful that they have no desire to boast in anything but Christ Jesus, “so that our faith may not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”(1 Cor 2:5)
Father, thank you for your bride the Church. Thank you, Lord, for the Preachers you have placed in positions of authority, in my home Church. Lord, I know that they, like all of us, are fallible men, but I know that they seek after you and trust in you and your Holy Word. I pray that you will bless them with humility and courage to lead our church and bless them with a heart for your Word and Prayer every day. Lord, I thank you in Jesus name, Amen!