Preach The Word
By Sunday Ayandare
This is a solemn charge from the peerless apostle, Paul, to his son in the faith, Timothy. The solemnity derives from the fact that it is made “before God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” If Timothy was to commit the things he had heard from Paul “to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2); and since this solemn charge is part of those things committed unto Timothy, then, it follows that all preachers today, indeed, servants of God in every age and in every place are under this charge.
PREACHING THE GOSPEL IS A SACRED TRUST.
Contrary to the notion of many today, preaching the gospel is a sacred trust. Writing to the Corinthians, Paul declared, “And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant…” (2 Cor. 3:4-6). It is a job in which God, in His infinite greatness, condescends to make man His fellow-labourer: “For we are labourers together with God…” (1 Cor. 3:9).
“The Lord…is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9). And now, “the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16,17). But this gospel must be preached by man, not by angels or by any other creature. Cornelius, a man, had to send for Peter, a man, “who will tell you words, by which you and all your household will be saved” (Acts 11:14). Saul of Tarsus was told on the road to Damascus: “Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do” (Acts 22:10). Who was to tell Saul these things? An angelic being? No! Just “a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias” (Acts 9:10). Little wonder Paul said, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Cor.4:7). Paul was simply saying, as one writer has aptly pointed out that “God entrusted the gospel to men, to be preached by men, that men might know the power is not in the messenger but in the message.”
SOME PREACH OTHER THINGS.
But instead of preaching the word, it is distressing to see that some, and their number is not infinitesimally small, are busily engaged in preaching themselves. The posibility, nay, the reality of some preaching themselves is evidenced in 2 Cor. 4:5. Paul says, “For we preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord…” What do you think of some of our brethren who in the name of preaching the gospel are engaged in throwing their weight around, displaying intellectual prowess and telling funny stories? Yes, that kind of preaching, no, jabbering will succeed in tickling the fancy and vanity of the preacher-jabberer and his listener(s), but will sure be an abysmal failure as far as saving precious souls is concerned.
What about the practice of using the pulpit to sanction what one is, or is not, doing? There are copious cases of people who, when enmeshed in unscriptural divorce/remarriage, would resort to advancing theories to justify their adulterous state. Those who have turned themselves to slaves of alcohol are often seen adducing reasons (?) for the rightness of “small-small drinking.” How great would it be for us to remember is such cases that we are under a solemn charge to preach the word and not ourselves.
Following from this as a corollary is the fact that some are preaching other men. These sort of people have made heroes out of men. There is nothing wrong in this per se. Or is it not a biblical principle that we should give honour to whom it is due? (Rom. 13:7). Some people have been instrumental in shaping us to our present level of spiritual development. It is good to thank God for them and to express our appreciation to them too. But when we hero-worship and develop a penchant for whatever these mentors have to say, and consider ourselves as being under obligation to defend these things and these men, then, we are already thinking “of men above that which is written” (1 Cor. 4:6). A particular doctrine is not sound simply because “brother Big Name” propounds it. Remember, Paul warns, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you…let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8,9).
Moreover, there are still some who equate stealing the hearts of men with preaching Christ a la Absalom (Read 2 Sam. 15:1-6). When some preachers move to a new place, they are obsessed, not with “preaching Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1,2), but as it were, with undoing the work of a former preacher. They erroneously have the notion that they are in competition with their fellow-preacher who must be run down before they could be accepted. And so, in their diabolical schemes they resort to gerrymandering; and circumlocution becomes the hallmark of their preaching. Peter has long ago spoken of false teachers who “speak great swelling words of vanity” with the sole aim of enticing gullible souls (2 Pet. 2:18).
So, in the face of temptations here and there to preach other things but Christ, remember brother-preacher, you have a solemn charge: “PREACH THE WORD…”
(Words of Life, Vol. 8, No. 4, Oct – Dec. 2000)
Grace and Obedience
By Sunday Ayandare
The word of inspiration declares: “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9). From this passage, some of our friends have concluded, albeit erroneously, that our salvation is predicated on nothing else but grace. Therefore, as far as they are concerned, we do not have to be baptized to be saved.
First of all, what is the “works” under consideration in this passage? A careful reading of Eph. 2:8,9 shows that we are not saved by meritorious works. Nobody merits salvation. Our salvation is of God, “who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our WORKS but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim. 1:9). Moreover, we are not justified by the works of the law of Moses (Gal. 2:16; Acts 13:38,39). But we are saved by the grace of God WHEN WE OBEY HIS COMMANDS. This is the thrust of the argument of James:
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. Ye see then how THAT BY WORKS A MAN IS JUSTIFIED AND NOT BE FAITH ONLY” (Jas. 2: 21-24).
To be accepted of God, we must WORK righteousness (Acts 10:35). Noah was saved by grace (Gen. 6:8). How? When he obeyed God (Gen. 6:22). Certainly, the grace of God does not preclude obedience. Obedience to the commands of God, on the other hand, does not rule out God’s grace. Bro. Bill Hall puts this succinctly in his excellent article: “Two men err regarding grace. The first man preaches grace, but fails to recognize that God’s grace is linked to human responsibility. The second man preaches respon- sibility, but seldom speaks of God’s grace. The first man believes that salvation is solely by God’s grace. He contends that any required action on man’s part in obedience to commands would nullify grace and would constitute meritorious salvation. ‘It is absurd to believe that God’s grace could be linked to anything like baptism’, is the way one person stated it.
“The second man speaks well of the requirements of the gospel. He often preaches the necessity of baptism, faithful attendance, liberal giving, good morals, doing one’s part in the activities of the local church, etc. He speaks of Jesus as our perfect example and of His full submission to the Father in His death, but rarely of Him as the propitiation for our sins. Seldom does he bring his listeners to feel their constant need for God’s mercy and forgiveness and their absolute hopelessness apart from the cleansing blood of Christ. The first man would promise salvation without necessary diligence in learning and doing God’s will. The second man would place so much emphasis on learning and doing God’s will that he would focus the eyes of his listeners more on themselves than upon the Lord. The first man needs to learn the truth of Titus 2:11,12; “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness adn worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.” The second man needs to learn and appreciate the exhortation of Phil. 3:1: “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.”
“We would remind the first man of the nature of God’s grace as it is revealed throughout the ages. We would begin with God’s grace as it was extended to Noah at the time of the flood. “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). Noah, however, was given instructions to be obeyed. And Noah recognized the necessity of obedience: “Thus did Noah: according to all that God commanded him, so did he” (Gen. 6:22). Had Noah failed in his responsibilities, he would never have been saved from the flood by the grace of God. We would remind this man of God’s grace as it was extended to Joshua in the capture of Jericho. “See, I have given into thine hand Jericho” (Jos. 6:2). But God had instructions for Joshua; march, blow the trumpets, shout. When Joshua and the Israelites fulfilled their responsibilities the “wall fell flat, so that the people went up into the city” (Jos. 6:20). We would remind this man of the man born blind in John 9 whose eyes the Lord opened (vss. 14,17,21,26,30) when he did what the Lord commanded. Our first man should be able to see that: (1) God’s grace does not rule out instructions (law); (2) God’s grace does not rule out obedience and (3) God’s grace does not rule out strict obedience.
“We would remind the second man that good works without God’s grace can never save. We would begin with the message of Ephesians. Paul in Ephesians did indeed give instructions – practical instructions, instructions that must be obeyed, concerning morals, duties of wives, husbands, children, parents, servants, masters – but not until he firmly established God’s grace as the basis of salvation (chs. 1-3) and as the motivation for obedience to God’s instructions (observe the word “therefore” in 4:1). We would remind this man of the danger of being like the Pharisees who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Lk. 18:9-14). We would remind him that when one sins he has “nothing to pay” and therefore must approach God as one who is poor in spirit, mournigh, meek and hungering and thirsting after righteousness (Lk. 7:41,42;Matt. 5:3-6).
“We would not dare to say which of these teachers is the more dangerous, for they both err regarding grace. We find ourselves naturally recoiling at the teaching of the first man and greatly fearing the consequences of his teaching, but we never want to be guilty of the error of the second. We cannot preach grace without preaching responsibility, but we must not be guilty of preaching responsibility without preaching grace.”
(This article had been published in Words of Life, Vol. 8, No. 2, Apr-June 2000).