This morning Alistair Begg continued the message he began yesterday. In the first message he covered the first point and today he covered the final two.
The tools of the trade are words and the ministry we exercise is a ministry of the Word, proclaiming Christ as the living Word, by using words. Even a casual survey of church history shows that whenever the church has lost sight of the importance of the Word, it has been destructive to her mission.
There is a staggering ignorance of biblical truth in evangelical churches today. At the very heart of this is the absence of biblical, expository, teaching ministry in the pulpits of this country. There is a preoccupation with images, senses, intuition; these things are so predominant in the minds of people that while we could never imagine this being the case, a generation is growing up that is fascinated by sitting in a basement with a number of candles and documents from the Middle Ages and some kind of music playing in the background and a variety of sensual experience…and what is missing is some kind of didactic, helpful proclamation of the Bible. The message of the gospel cannot be proclaimed without words.
Begg offered two points dealing with the message of the gospel:
Do not peddle the Word of God (2:17). The word “peddle” in chapter 2 and verse 17 refers to a person who bought something, fiddled with it, and sold it for a higher price. Certain men would buy wine, dilute it with water and otherwise tamper with it, and then resell it—they would make it more appealing and more profitable. They were masters of deception. But the gospel minister is not to be like this. He is to bring the gospel pure and undefiled. It is not that pastors today do not believe that the Bible is not God’s revelation but rather that people tamper with it a little bit, adding to it or taking a little bit away from it.
At this point Begg referred several times to The Courage To Be Protestant by David Wells (a book he has mentioned often at the conference).
We preach Jesus Christ as Lord. Pastors are the servants of God and are called to make much of Christ in all the Scriptures. This involves setting forth the truth plainly. There is to be nothing fraudulent or crafty. He is to be removed from any kind of double-dealing. We preach Jesus Christ as Lord and preach Him clearly. He spoke of the three “c’s” of gospel preaching—candidly, clearly, courageously. Paul resisted every inclination he had to play the rhetorical game that was so popular in that culture. Paul preached only Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And this is the model for pastors today.
God is pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. The task of gospel preaching is not just difficult, but impossible, because God has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see who Christ is. In our preaching of the Bible we preach to those who are perishing and blind to the truth. The problem does not lie in the gospel or in the clarity of God’s proclaiming of the gospel, but in the condition of the listener. It takes God’s revelation to even show the listener that he is blind.
What is to be the character of the individuals who are to be the communicators of this truth? Here, with time running out (actually, with time long gone) he mentioned four things:
Self-effacing. We do not preach ourselves. Paul was being accused of doing just this kind of self-promotion and he was willing to acknowledge this as a problem. Self-promotion and pride is the cause of the vast majority of the moral collapses of ministers.
Servants. As a servant of Jesus the pastor is also a servant of the followers of Jesus. Yet he must remember that the followers of Jesus are not his master.
Saved. This is no case of academic theorizing; a gospel minister must be truly saved. Here Begg paused to give an evangelistic call since it really is possible that even in this assembly there are men who are pastors or in church leadership for whom the story of the gospel is as a light shining right into their souls revealing the absence of personal, living faith in Jesus.
Fragile. Human frailty is not a barrier to usefulness. Weakness is an advantage because of the dependence it brings about. Pastors are to be expendable messengers who bring an indestructible message.
We must then be clear about the message, its source in God and its substance (a gospel of grace); clear about the message, saying no about peddling and yes about preaching Christ; and asking God to make us men who are entirely dependent and men who are utterly disposable.