THE QUESTION: WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE PASTOR?

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THE QUESTION:  WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE PASTOR?
 
"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind." (I Peter 5: 2)
 
The Situation
 
            As we near an election that many have called the most important presidential election in the history of our nation, we hear very little from the pastors of our churches regarding this upcoming election.  We have a Muslim for the Democrats and a Mormon for the Republicans.  "Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people."  Why is no one talking about the fact that no Christian is even being considered?  There may be many different reasons for this silence or reticence, nevertheless, it is apparent that many of our churches have already lost their way.  Pastors and Elders have ceased to "shepherd the flock of God. . . ."  (I Peter 5: 2)  It is reported that many churches across the United States have stopped preaching the Gospel of Christ as a policy.  It has also been reported that many churches are refusing to "preach doctrine" because they do not want to present anything controversial, and it is their stated purpose to increase the numbers in their congregation by ceasing to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and by ceasing to preach doctrine.  This is totally backward!  In fact, this is the reason why so many of our churches have lost their way.  It is the Lord who adds to the church today, just as He added to the church in the first century.  As we read in the Acts of the Apostles, "the Lord added to the church daily such as would be saved."  It is clear from scripture that those who are added to the church are those who have been "born again" by the Word of God.  As the Apostle Peter puts it, we are "being born again, not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever."  (I Peter 1: 23) 
 
The Gospel of Christ
 
            The Apostle Paul tells us plainly that it is the Gospel of Christ that is the "power of God unto salvation" to everyone that believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  (Romans 1: 16)  Jesus Himself said that He came for the sole and express purpose of "saving His people from their sins."  He came to seek and to save that which was lost and to give His life a ransom for many.  Jesus is the only Savior!  There is no plan "B."  The amazing thing is that so many men professing themselves to be "ministers of the Gospel of Christ" do not see that no one can be saved, indeed, that no one "can be added to the church" unless they are born again.  The Apostle Paul clearly states that being born again is a matter of creation.  Only God creates!  Paul, writing to the Church at Corinth, states in II Corinthians Chapter 5 that "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation . . . ."  (Verse 17)  A church cannot "grow its numbers" by ceasing to preach the Gospel of Christ.  They may, indeed, make disciples, but they are not disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ!  Paul had only one message.  That message was "Christ crucified"!  He disclaimed that he had been sent to baptize, and affirmed that he had been sent to preach the Gospel of Christ.  (1 Corinthians Chapter 1)
 
The Lack of Adult Conversions
 
            It is also reported by many churches that they average only "about one adult conversion per church per year," or less.  Of course, there are few conversions because there can be no conversions at all where the church has ceased to preach the Gospel of Christ.  In many cases, what has become the popular substitute is the so called "how to" sermon.  These sermons generally consist of a number of points to instruct one on how to be a "better husband," "better wife," "better parent," and even in some cases, "better business person," or "leader," or "better giver."  I recently attended one church, and the sermon consisted of some forty-five (45) minutes of a lecture on time management!  While many people probably need a lecture on how to better manage their time, this lecture did not consist of even remotely calling people to "redeem the time," as we see in Ephesians Chapter 5, nor did it contain a single scripture reference!  If it had been taught in a college class, it would have been an excellent lecture on how to more effectively use one's time.  However, there was no preaching of God's Holy Word, which alone "is able to make one wise unto salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." 
 
The Falling Away
 
            There clearly has been a substantial falling away, if not an outright abandonment, of any commitment to the sufficiency of scripture.  These churches seem to think that it is more important to be innovative than it is to be obedient.  Many of these churches have also abandoned fundamental biblical doctrine because they express a "fear" of being controversial.  We stand for Jesus!  Wherefore, preach Christ crucified while we still can!  We are controversial.  Jesus said that the Gospel of Jesus Christ divides husbands and wives, parents and children, and others.  It is a "stumbling block" to many, and they refuse to believe it.  The Gospel of Jesus is intolerant.  The very first commandment that the Lord God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai was "I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other gods before me!"  The Lord God is a jealous God.  He does not tolerate anyone having other gods, or anyone masquerading as God. 
 
Abandoned Doctrines
 
            Some of the fundamental doctrines which have been abandoned by one or more churches are as follows: 
 
"Let no man deceive you by any means:  For that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." (II Thessalonians 2: 3)
 
The preaching of the Gospel of Christ; the dual nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, to wit, that He is all God and all man; that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man; that Jesus is the "Second Adam," who came to destroy the works of the devil and to redeem fallen mankind; they also repudiate the Fall itself and the consequences thereof, that man died, He didn't just sprain His ankle; they deny the Great Doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement, to wit, that Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life and was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, who gave His life a ransom for many (He Himself bore our sin in His own body on the cross, that we might be dead unto sin and alive unto righteousness.  He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him); they deny God's judgment on the old world through the universal flood; they deny the truth of the sufficiency of scripture; they advocate that we should not preach about the cross of Christ nor the blood of Jesus.  There are other matters that are common among many of these weak and wimpy churches, however, this gives you a flavor of the plans and the policies that are actually being followed by many so called Christian churches today. 
 
Church Growth
 
            The man who many have called the Greatest Expository Preacher of the 20th Century, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, said when preaching about "the growth of the church," the following:
 
"Do you not see why the church is as she is today?  What has been happening in the Christian church for the last one hundred years?  We have already given the answer.  The church has been arguing about fundamental doctrines. . . . [They] debate . . . about the Person of Christ! – was he really the Eternal Son of God?  Or was He only a man? . . . They were arguing about foundations, about the foundation of the apostles and prophets!" [1][1] 
 
" No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus." (I Corinthians 3: 11)
 
            WHAT IS THE REMEDY?
 
            The real remedy is first, for men to repent from these pernicious thoughts and ideas.  Doctor Luke tells us in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles that in the first century, the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives and went up into the upper room after Jesus had ascended.  There, they continued "with one accord" in prayer and supplication, seeking to be in obedience to the command of the Lord that had been delivered unto them.  In the second chapter of Acts, Luke tells us that "when the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all 'with one accord' in one place when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit."  Peter preached Christ to these men, telling them that "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."  And Peter told them, "Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."  And the second chapter of Acts goes on to conclude: 
 
". . .They continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers. . . . And so continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."
 
            Notice that Peter preached Christ crucified.  As God quickened these men and made them alive in Christ, it is important to understand that the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.  Additionally, those who were added to the church were "of one accord."  They continued steadfastly in the Apostle's doctrine and fellowship.  They continued in the breaking of bread and in prayers.  It is equally clear that their actions were not "hit or miss."  This was done steadfastly.  So what is the content of the Gospel of Christ?  Paul sets out a concise statement of the content of the Gospel in I Corinthians 15: 1-11 as follows:
 
"Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.  For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.  Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed."
 
Is This a Matter That is Optional?
 
            Ask yourself if it is okay or optional to fail to preach the Gospel of Christ.  The Bible reveals that Paul had only one message.  He preached the Gospel of Christ and stated that he preached "Christ crucified."  Paul knew and stated that ". . . the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified; to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks, foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God." (I Corinthians 1: 22-24)  The Apostle Paul himself disclaimed any option that one may have to NOT preach the Gospel of Christ.  "For if I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to boast of:  for necessity is laid upon me.  Yea, WOE IS ME IF I DO NOT PREACH THE GOSPEL."  (I Corinthians 9: 16)  God's Holy Word repeatedly affirms for us this non-optional importance of preaching God's Word and the preaching of His Holy Gospel of Christ.  It is indispensable!  It is in the Gospel itself that God has chosen to reveal Himself to us.  We must, therefore, conclude in actuality that as scripture says, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God."  Jesus is the Living Word who abides in us.  He redeems us.  He is our peace.  He has made us accepted in the Beloved, and it can be said He has "highly favored us."  We are also called to walk worthy of the Gospel of Christ, to live according to the Gospel of Christ.  How can we unless we know it and hear it?
 
Christ is the Foundation
 
            There is no other foundation laid than that which is laid which is Christ Jesus.  In Paul's letter to the Church at Galatia, he begins with is traditional apostolic greeting, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age according to the will of our God and Father to whom be glory forever and ever.  Amen."  This traditional greeting from Paul clearly sets out that it is Jesus Himself who gave Himself a ransom for our sins.  He is our Redeemer.  He is our Savior.  Immediately following this greeting, the Apostle Paul admonishes the Church at Galatia as follows:
 
"I marvel that you have so soon turned away from Him who has called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the Gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema (accursed).  As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than that which you have received, let him be accursed."
 
            That is strong language.  It clearly does not leave open the option of not preaching the Gospel of Christ.  If one fails to preach the Gospel of Christ, one can only conclude that the one who is failing or refusing to preach the Gospel of Christ does not know the Lord Jesus Christ.  Otherwise, he would be zealous to tell others of Jesus who is mighty to save!  We are called by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself to make disciples of others, indeed, to make disciples of all nations.  That is His command to us who know Him.  Lord, it is my prayer that those who do know you would be on fire and zealous to tell others of Thee, Lord Jesus, who art mighty to save.
 
The Defense of the Gospel
 
            Is it necessary to defend this holy command, this absolute need to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to preach the whole counsel of God from the Word of God?  The Bible, the entire Bible, is a book about Jesus.  Charles Spurgeon is reported to have once replied that "we do not have to defend the Bible.  Would one defend a lion?  He does not need defending.  Just open the cage and let the lion out."  We need to open the Book and preach Christ crucified!  We must do so without reservation and without being timid or shy.  He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. 
 
            Alistair Begg said in a sermon preached around the year 2000 that the growing "emphasis on 'how-to Christianity' which seems so prevalent in our day results in a church that trembles on the brink of capitulation. . . ."  Well, more and more churches are no longer on the brink of capitulation, they have capitulated.  Begg says, "When the church is tempted to take on board anything other than the simplicity of the Gospel and the sufficiency of scripture, it will always be in danger of capitulation, and its missionary zeal will diminish; [and] its desire to see unbelieving people become committed followers of Jesus Christ will falter . . . ."  Begg stated in that sermon that the true remedy is "a renewed commitment to the sufficiency of scripture."  A need to preach the Word which results in the people saying, as they did in effect to Ezra, "We desire to hear the words of the Book.  We don't want to hear from you, Ezra, we desire to hear the Word of the Lord from His Book."  When we fail to preach the Gospel of Christ, and we fail to preach the truth of scripture, when we fail to speak of the Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the Bible speaks, Begg said, "We're done!"  He went on to say, "We are left with moralism and platitudes and religious ideas, and agendas and notions for the well being of a culture. . .We are devoid of authority, devoid of clarity, and have nothing to say to our environment." 
 
            In a sermon commenting on I Corinthians 1: 18-28, Alistair Begg said that we do not expect to hear from the pulpit the following:
 
"The bright ideas of men; their rambling thoughts; their theorizing or speculation; their sloganeering or manipulation; their tall stories or emotionalism . . . We expect to hear spirit filled, Christ exalting, Bible based, life-implanting instruction, and direction from God, through the words of a spokesman which impresses upon his listeners the power of the text and not the performance of the preacher."
 
            What are you hearing in your church?  Can you even remember what your pastor said last week?  These passages have been set forth by godly men who seek to proclaim the truth to assist me and to assist you in making decisions about the things which we are hearing.  The Gospel of Christ is a specific content.  It's not some vague idea or notion about somebody's thought that Jesus was a good philosopher or good moral man, etc.  Jesus is either the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind, or He's not.  He claims to be truth itself.  Begg concluded that a preacher "needs the unction of the Holy Spirit" so that the people may say not "what a great preacher he is," but "what a great God." 
 
Conclusion
 
            If you recognize that you are in a church that has a preacher who is not preaching Christ crucified and who is not preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ; one who is not proclaiming the whole counsel of God and who is not affirming the sufficiency of scripture, diligently and prayerfully seek the Lord's will for you.  You should seriously and prayerfully consider coming out of that church and finding a "spirit filled, Christ exalting, Bible based, life-implanting instruction, and direction from God, through the words of a spokesman which impresses upon his listeners the power of the text and not the performance of the preacher."
 
            "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen."
 
Your Brother in Christ,William Gray


[1][1]   Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, from commentary on Ephesians Chapter 2: 20-22.
 
 

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