Saturday, March 12, 2016

The pastor's three grounds of confidence in ministry - first ground, the scriptures

1 Corinthians 2:1-2 "And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 

I can recall years ago watching a documentary of a man building a house on some beach-front property. The area of the beach where he was building was known for its scenery and it excessive beach erosion. The owner knew that simply placing a home on a normal concrete foundation would prove to be disastrous. So what he decided to do was sink 9-12 telephone poles into the ground. Then the man poured a very think concrete foundation that was reinforced with tempered steel rods. The show spent most of its time highlighting the foundations this man had in place for his beach-side property.

What are the grounds for confidence that any preacher has when he stands before any people? The weight that a preacher carries into the pulpit is immense. Apart from the grace of God, the preacher's task is impossible. The task of converting sinners and feeding the saints flows not from the preacher's skill nor story-telling abilities - but rather from a three-fold foundation: the scriptures, Christ Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. Today's post will consider the first of these.

The preacher's first ground of confidence - the written words of God - 1 Corinthians 2:1
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:1 "And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God." Adam Clarke, the great commentator writes concerning this first verse: 

"I declared to you the testimony, the Gospel, of God, not with excellency of speech, not with arts of rhetoric, used by your own philosophers, where the excellence of the speech recommends the matter, and compensates for the want of solidity and truth: on the contrary, the testimony concerning Christ and his salvation is so supremely excellent, as to dignify any kind of language by which it may be conveyed."

The scriptures - i.e the testimonies of the Lord (Psalm 19:7b) - are God's words. The Bible is God's voice in pen, paper and ink. When Paul came to the Corinthian church, he knew that his audience had most likely heard it all and seen it all. Corinth, after all, was a cultural center of the ancient world. Like any typical Greco-Roman city, Corinth would have had its share of professional orators who could have a crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. For the Apostle, the change needing to take place at Corinth would occur through style - but rather the substance of the Word of God. 

When we trace back through redemptive history in the Bible, we discover several men of God who learned their ground of confidence to not be in themselves - but in God's words. Exodus 4:10-12 records the following conversation between Moses and God:

"Then Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.”

Later on some 800 years later, the prophet Jeremiah and God have the following conversation in Jeremiah 1:4-9 - 

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6 Then I said, “Alas, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth.” 7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak. 8 “Do not be afraid of them,
For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord. 9 Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, 

“Behold, I have put My words in your mouth."

Then 600 years after Jeremiah, Jesus indicates that one of His chief tasks in His first coming was to preach the words of God in Mark 1:38 "He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.”

Closing thoughts
I admit today that this post is written mainly to preachers (however, even those who don't preach behind church pulpits can glean general application). Paul recognizes - like Moses, Jeremiah and Jesus - that when he came to his appointed people, that the first ground of confidence had to be the scriptures. What else will change lives, save the Word of God? As preachers of the word, we bring the Bible, Jesus and the precious Holy Spirit. May we not neglect this first ground of confidence in Christian ministry - the scriptures. 

More tomorrow.....

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