Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 20, 1962
NUMBER 33, PAGE 1,12a

The Preacher Of The Word

Robert H. Farish

Preachers are human beings! Proneness to forget this obvious fact is evidenced in a number of ways. One very dangerous practice which evidences that some have forgotten that the preacher is human, is the unquestioning acceptance of the preacher's pronouncements, without any concern as to whether those pronouncements are according to the word of God or not. When excellency of speech and worldly wisdom are the chief credentials required in the preacher, there will be a case where faith stands not in the power of God but in the wisdom of men. Another attitude closely kin to this is that of one who has come to the point where he thinks that his favorite preacher can do no wrong. When the favorite preacher does do wrong, his bad example can have a devastating effect upon the character of his admirer. There are those who fail to realize that the preacher has "feelings" and like other human beings, he is hurt by slights, digs and indifference toward him personally. What a fine thing if brethren realized that a preacher is human and, being human, is subject to the same temptations, trials, sufferings, etc., that other members of the human family are subject to.

The Duties Of The Preacher

Many of the duties which the average person thinks of as the preacher's work are not responsibilities which God assigned to the preacher, but rather are duties which belong to all Christians in common. The responsibilities of a Christian belong to the preacher, not because he is a preacher, 'but because he is a Christian. The disposition of some church members to shift their responsibilities by identifying them in their minds as preacher duties, if indulged, will result in a practical "pastor system" in which the preacher will find himself operating.

Visiting the sick, encouraging the weak, contending for the faith, rejoicing with them that rejoice and weeping with them that weep, provoking others unto love and good works, not forsaking assembling together, telling a brother of his sin, etc., are all duties of every gospel preacher, not because he is a preacher, but because he is a Christian. Conscious effort should be directed toward avoiding the sort of thinking that would identify these and many other duties as exclusively preacher duties.

Are There Responsibilities Which Belong Peculiarly To The Preacher?

There are some responsibilities which are peculiar to the preacher. These responsibilities all spring from his relation to the word as a public teacher or preacher. James comments on the greater responsibility of the public teachers of the word in his letter. He wrote, "Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment." (Jas. 3:1) The design of this teaching is to deter the irresponsible from presuming too casually and without due consideration take it upon themselves to publicly teach the word of God. The preacher should constantly keep before him the fact that it is the word of God with which he is dealing.

Faithful Men

Paul instructed Timothy to commit the things which he had heard from the apostle, to faithful men, who would be able to teach others also. (2 Tim. 2:2) Faithfulness as a Christian is a primary and indispensible qualification for one who is to be recognized as a public proclaimer of the word of God. It has happened in this case, as in so many other cases, that some men have reversed God's order. Cases are known where members of the church have suggested that some weak unfaithful member of the church be given a teaching responsibility in order to cause him to be faithful. Such a proposal disregards the divine order, manifests slight regard for the word of God and little concern for the eternal welfare of those who are so unfortunate as to be "taught" by such a person. It is not surprising that indifference toward the Bible should be the order of the day when those who are avowed friends of the Bible attach no more significance to who shall teach or proclaim it.

Able Men

Ability to teach others is a necessary qualification, yet strange as it sounds, the case often occurs that one is appointed to "teach" when he has no ability. Ability to teach, of course, demands a knowledge of the subject. The teacher must know the Bible and teach the Bible. The fact that one is a successful teacher of secular subjects does not mean that he will be a successful Bible teacher. The teacher's attitude toward secular subjects is different than that which is required in the teacher of the Bible. The Bible is the word of God and is therefore not subject to improvement. Such is not the case with secular subjects where the tastes of men can modify and new discoveries change the subject matter entirely. The fact that one has completed certain courses and holds certain degrees which qualify him to teach secular subjects does not guarantee that he is able to teach others the sacred Scriptures. In some cases, academic rating looms larger in the minds of church members than any other consideration. Just so a man has the academic degree, which is considered as the minimum requirement by the members of the particular congregation, other considerations matter very little.

On the other extreme is an attitude just as dangerous. This extreme seems to regard ignorance as a mark of spiritual soundness. These are like some people of former days who, upon observing the dangers of riches and perhaps reading some of the warnings of the Scriptures about the dangers of riches, came to think the word "Poor" as a synonym of piety. The lack of education is no more proof of soundness than is lack of this world's goods, proof of piety. In our day, lack of education is more likely proof of laziness than anything else!

Closely related to this mistake of holding formal education in contempt is the egotistical attitude which disparages the use of Bible dictionaries, commentaries, etc. This is not intended to encourage anyone to misuse these aids, but rather to properly use them in order to gain greater understanding of the will of God.

Brother T. W. Brents succinctly stated this matter in the preface to his book Gospel Sermons. "If you will show us a man who reads nothing but the Bible, we will show you one who reads and understands very little of that. He who is anxious to understand the Bible will want to read, not only the Bible, but everything else he can get that will help him to understand it."

The earnest gospel preacher will avail himself of every help in his reach in developing ability to preach the Word without perverting it either consciously and deliberately or otherwise. The "approved unto God" gospel preacher is grateful for the sincere efforts of scholars who have gone before and yet he will not blindly accept their conclusions simply upon the strength of their scholarship. No one dare be indifferent to his personal responsibility of deciding for himself on the basis of scriptural evidence presented.

Neither slavish acceptance of the conclusions of others, nor egotistical "independence" in thinking is becoming in any child of God, whether preacher or not.

— 417 E. Groesbeck, Lufkin, Texas