As the Lord lives

One of the greatest responsibilities that one can be take upon himself is to stand and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. The act of preaching God’s Word carries with it the weight of eternity and should never be carelessly executed. When a man stands to preach the gospel, he is proclaiming “…the faith which was once for all handed down to all the saints” (Jude 3b). When the Bible is read/taught publicly, he is reading the “words of eternal life” and “the mind of Christ” (cf. John 6:68; 1 Corinthians 2:16). This is no simple task accomplished with minimal thought, but rather one that is cautiously warned against by the prophet James – “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgement” (3:1).

The task assumed by those who humbly choose to proclaim God’s Word can be summarized in this direct command – “PREACH the word” (2 Timothy 4:2a). Our lessons may be derived from life’s obstacles and trials, but the message and its power must rest solely in the Word of God. Our obedience to the apostle Paul’s admonition to Timothy should create in our minds an impenetrable barrier. Our sermons/lessons will not purely relate our desires and thoughts concerning “moral living,” but rather these will be set aside so the infallible Word of God can shine forth the manner in which we are to be walking with God. The simplicity of God’s message must not be confused by the thoughts of man, but rather as Peter wrote – “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God…” (1 Peter 4:11a).

The faithful prophets of God throughout the Bible found themselves in difficult situations, but this did not stop them from proclaiming the message of God. The prophet Jeremiah was ridiculed, persecuted, and once brought before the king to be murdered, but these things did not stop him from speaking the Word of God. Jeremiah wrote – “But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,’ Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it” (20:9). One thing is made abundantly clear throughout the prophecies of Jeremiah; his message did not originate in his own mind, but rather it was “thus says the Lord.”

At times the prophets of God were called to speak messages that would have been extremely difficult. The prophet Isaiah stood before the rebellious nation of Israel and cried out against their sins, but the grace of God was still being extended – “…In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away and His hand is still stretched out” (9:12b, 17b, 21b). The Lord’s grace and mercy were extended, but Israel’s continued wickedness and impenitent hearts gave no hope for their salvation. Isaiah understood this aspect of both the Lord’s holiness and justice –

1 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. 2 But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear (59:1-2).

The message of Isaiah contains numerous promises of the Lord’s coming servant, but these were never fully realized in the lifetime of Isaiah or his contemporaries.

The message of God cannot be changed to deflect responsibility, but rather with boldness, love, and sincerity it must be taken to all who are lost in their sins. The prophet of God, Nathan, was sent by the Lord to proclaim David’s guilt in the conspiracy and murder of Uriah (2 Samuel 12:1-15). The man of God, Micaiah, stood before the wicked king of Israel, Ahab, and prophesied concerning his death in the battle at Ramoth-Gilead (2 Chronicles 18:12-27). The prophet Balaam failed to obey God’s will by going to Balak, but he did not curse or do anything great or small, contrary to the command of the Lord my God (cf. Numbers 22:17-18). The apostle Peter stood before the audience in Jerusalem and said – “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).

The proclamation of the gospel will not always be popular among its hearers, but this does not eliminate the speaker’s responsibility. The apostle Paul further commanded Timothy – “…be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2b). When a man stands to preach the gospel, he is commanded to preach those things most needed in the world - the greatest being God’s grace! This requires the preacher/teacher to deal with hard and difficult situations, but he does not stand alone in this battle. Every prophet of God, apostle of Jesus Christ, and faithful minister of the cross has made the same valiant stand for the truth of God’s Word. May every faithful minister of the Lord never forget His promises – “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9b).