Autumn leaves in New Hampshire

The Preacher's High Calling

by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.

Summary: Where is the preacher of the Gospel today? Church pulpits are dominated by feel-good, self-help messages. And the city streets, the marketplace, and the great stadiums rarely hear the name of Jesus Christ except in cursing. The world today desperately needs a rediscovery of the Gospel preacher’s high calling.

Romans 10:14, KJV  How then 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?

•• The Bible prophesies that “in the last days ... evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse” (2 Timothy 3:1,12).

•• What hope, then, is there for our cities and nations? Are we doomed to steady, irresistible moral decline? No! It’s time for the Church to be done with affirming, feel-good, I’m-OK-you’re-OK-we’re-all-OK messages. In their place we need to see the restoration of biblical preaching done by godly, fearless, anointed preachers — men called by God, men who fear God rather than covet the favor of man.

•• How shall our nations hear and believe the saving Gospel without God-called and Spirit-anointed preachers?

2 Timothy 1:11  And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.

KJV:  Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.

•• I find it interesting that, when listing the ministries the Lord gave him to do, the apostle Paul first mentioned his call as “a preacher”.

•• The preacher declares the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. The preacher may be an evangelist. He may be a local church pastor. He may be a church elder conducting jail services, or functioning in some other ministry capacity. But in all cases, the preacher will be a proclaimer of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Acts 9:20  At once [Saul] began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.

1 Corinthians 1:23  ...we preach Christ crucified...

•• The message of Jesus is at the heart of preaching. The newly converted Saul of Tarsus (later known as the apostle Paul) immediately began to preach that Jesus is the Son of God. Decades later, in the fullness of his apostolic ministry, Paul was still declaring, “We preach Christ crucified.” His central, uncompromised message was that of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to save us from our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
• This is a message, sad to say, that is heard too infrequently today. How shall unrepentant sinners hear, believe, and be saved without a preacher?

Galatians 1:15-16  But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased [16] to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man.

•• There is a subtle but profound truth for preachers in the red text just above. The preacher cannot just stand and convince people to follow Jesus merely by passionate sermons. The preacher himself needs his own revelation of Jesus in his own soul and spirit. He needs a deep, personal, continual relationship with the Savior in order to preach the Savior effectively to others.
• I believe that is why Jesus’ apostles determined: “We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4, KJV). They knew that in prayer, they would have that continual encounter with the Lord that would bring great anointing to their subsequent preaching.

Matthew 4:17  From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Mark 6:12  [Jesus’ disciples] went out and preached that people should repent.

•• From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus preached, “Repent!” Likewise, His disciples went out and “preached that people should repent.” Jesus later warned a group of listeners, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish(Luke 13:3,5). Jesus came to earth, not to make us feel good, but to “save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). This requires heartfelt repentance, and that must be one of the preacher’s main messages.

Luke 24:47  ...and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

•• The blessing associated with the preaching of repentance is the associated result of repentance towards the Lord — that is, the forgiveness of sins. That’s why this is called “Good News” (for that is what “Gospel” means). The preacher brings a good-news message: Repent in your heart of your sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:30-31), and God will forgive your sins and make you a son or daughter of God! (2 Corinthians 6:18) That, preachers, is good news indeed, and should be at the very core of your messages.

2 Peter 2:5, KJV  ...and spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly...

•• Like Noah of old, the faithful preacher today will still call people to righteousness.
• Upon our initially coming to the Lord in repentance and faith, God “reckons” or “credits” His very righteousness to us (Romans 4:3, 23-25). This is one of the greatest truths the preacher can share.

• Our obedient and appropriate response to the gift of God’s grace and righteousness is to strive to live righteously (1 John 3:7,10). This must not be overlooked by the preacher, lest he fall into the trap of preaching what some call an “easy believism” that fails to emphasize God’s commands that we “live holy and godly lives” (2 Peter 3:11; see Ephesians 1:4).

Matthew 24:14  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Luke 9:2,6  And [Jesus] sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.... [6] So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.

•• Preachers, tell them about the kingdom of God. This glorious theme of God’s sovereignty, omnipotence, and loving but absolute Lordship over earth and heaven was of paramount importance to Jesus, Paul, and other prominent preachers in the Scriptures.
Matthew 4:17, KJV  From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Acts 28:30-31  For two whole years [in Rome] Paul ... preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
•• As preachers went forth declaring the kingdom of God, they would also be empowered to heal the sick”. As the apostle Paul wrote, the minister of God’s word should never be content just to speak that word. He should also expect to see it confirmed supernaturally, by the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the manifested power of God.
1 Thessalonians 1:5, KJV  For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost... Too many preachers today are “word-only” ministers. But the Lord’s power to heal is for us today, just as it was for the early Church.

1 Corinthians 2:4-5  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, [5] so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

1 Corinthians 1:17  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

•• Too much preaching in the 21st century is done “with words of human wisdom”. Paul wrote elsewhere: "The wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight" (1 Corinthians 3:19). Forgive me here for using myself as an example. I was a college English major almost a half century ago, earned an MBA, and have a Ph.D. from seminary. How much power and anointing do I think those things add to my preaching? — Zero! God forbid that I should ever depend on man’s “wise and persuasive words” to accomplish the Lord’s work. Even today, with four decades of preaching and teaching experience, I refuse to go into the pulpit leaning on my own supposed abilities. If I do, I will utterly fail. To do the Lord’s bidding as a minister of His word, I must depend on “a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” — both in the delivery of the Word and in its confirmation by manifestations of the power of God.

Luke 4:18, KJV  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor...

1 Peter 1:12  ...they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.

•• A wise pastor friend of mine once said, only half-jokingly, “That rooster had more anointing than most preachers have. As soon as he started crowing, Peter repented!” I laughed at the humor. But I am also stirred by the underlying truth — that is, if you are called to preach, it is absolutely essential that you never forget your utter need to be anointed to preach”, following Jesus’ example. As Peter said, it is all-important that we “preach the gospel ... by the Holy Spirit”.

•• Every person called by God to preach the Gospel must seek to be continually filled with the Spirit. The same Spirit who inspired the writers of Scripture is necessary for the anointed delivery of the Scriptures. Should the preacher study and prepare for his messages? Certainly. Should he pray for the Spirit’s anointing to deliver the mind of Christ, far beyond his own skills and ability to do so? Even more certainly!

2 Timothy 4:2  Preach the Word...

•• When I was pastoring a church in New York, I heard of a preacher in a nearby church who devoted some of his time in the pulpit to reading from the New York Times! Others impress their congregations with poetry, or with flashy audiovisual presentations. Yet Jesus and the early Church had none of these things. None! But they turned their world upside down with the Gospel. How? They preached the Word of God, all the while depending on the Holy Spirit’s anointing! For example, how did Jesus cast out devils? Here is His explanation: “...I drive out demons by the Spirit of God...” (Matthew 12:28). Preaching ... teaching ... healing the sick ... prophesying ... casting out demons ... it is all done “by the Spirit of God” mightily confirming the Word of God.

•• Preachers, our call is to preach the Word under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 20:20  You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you...

•• Not every sermon the preacher delivers will necessarily be a salvation message, although Jesus Christ will consistently be a major focus in his sermons. The apostle Paul was a great soulwinning preacher. But he also took the time to preach other topics that he believed “would be helpful to” his hearers. He did not hesitate to “preach anything” that might prove helpful to them.

•• As you prepare for preaching, pray and be alert to the Holy Spirit’s guidance concerning what theme He wishes you to share with the listeners.

2 Corinthians 6:3-4, KJV  Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: [4] But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God...

•• Preachers hold a sacred trust from God. Ours is a high and holy calling, one of great responsibility to both God and man.
1 Peter 4:11  If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.
•• Therefore, the preacher of the Word must, as Paul did, continuously and diligently “...exercise [himself] to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16, KJV).
“Charisma” is from God, and it is available to the preacher for the fulfillment of his divine calling. But first and foremost, the preacher must strive to be a man of blameless character, lest we bring reproach upon the ministry of the Gospel by sinful conduct.

Mark 16:15,20  He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.... [20] Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

•• Before ascending back to heaven, the resurrected Lord Jesus gave His church what many call “The Great Commission”. The field of ministry is the entire world. The call is to go and “preach everywhere”. And preachers will never be working alone, because the Lord will be always “working with them and confirm[ing] his word” powerfully.

Summary:  It is a high calling to be a preacher of God’s word. Consider the thoughts we have offered today:

• How shall they hear and believe without a preacher?

• It is an honor to follow in the footsteps of preachers like the apostle Paul.

• The preacher’s central focus is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

• He speaks often of Christ crucified for our sins, buried, and risen from the dead.

• Every preacher needs his own close, personal walk with Jesus.

• The preacher preaches repentance and forgiveness of sins.

• He preaches righteousness.

• He expounds on the kingdom of God.

• He has the privilege of seeing the sick healed in response to the preached word.

• The preacher does not depend on man’s wisdom or fluency, but on the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power.

• The God-called preacher is ever seeking to be continuously filled with the Spirit and to minister under that anointing.

• He focuses with laser intensity on preaching God’s word.

• He looks to the Lord for guidance to speak on various helpful topics in the Scriptures.

• He values character formation, both in himself and in his hearers.
 
• He is willing to preach anywhere the Lord leads. The world is his God-given harvest field.

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©2010, James H. Feeney. Copyright statement.