Many of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day were very proud! They wore special clothing so they would look important in the eyes of men. They chose the best seats when they came to worship God. They wanted everyone to see them and praise them. They especially liked to be called by special titles such as “Rabbi”, “Teacher”, and “Father”.
Jesus condemned these proud men. He commanded: “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matt. 23:8-12).
Many preachers and other religious leaders today are just like the proud scribes and Pharisees who were condemned by Jesus. They like to wear “uniforms” or other special clothing so they will stand out from other believers. They want people to see them. They think they are very important and deserve honor and praise from men. They especially like to wear religious titles such as “Reverend”, “Pastor”, “Doctor”, and “Father” to set them apart from their fellow believers. These vain people are guilty of the same sin the scribes and Pharisees were guilty of. They are condemned by the same words the Lord used to condemn the proud religious leaders in his day!
“Reverend”. The word “reverend” describes someone who is highly exalted and worthy of great praise. In the King James Version of the Bible, it is used to describe God: “Holy and reverend is his name” (Psalm 111:9). The New King James Version translates this verse: “Holy and awesome is his name.” Only a very foolish and arrogant person would claim to be worthy to be called “reverend” or “awesome” like God!
“Doctor”. Many religious leaders today like to be called “Doctor”. The word “doctor” originally meant “teacher”. Today it is used to describe one who is a physician or medical healer. It is also the name of the highest degree one can attain in education. But it is not a title to be worn by leaders in the church, whether preachers, teachers, elders, etc. Jesus said: “Call no man Teacher” (Doctor)!
“Father” is not meant to be used as a special title given to religious leaders. It is right for a child to call his male parent “father”. But it is wrong to use it as a special title for religious teachers. Jesus said: “One is your Father, he who is in heaven”.
“Pastor” is one of the most misused words in the entire Bible! The word “pastor” means “shepherd”. The Lord's church is often described in the Bible as “the flock of God” (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4). According to the Bible, pastors (shepherds) are the elders or overseers of the church (see Acts 20:17,28; Eph. 4:11; Phil. 1:1; 1 Peter 5:1-4). It is God's pattern for his church that each congregation will have overseers or shepherds who meet the special qualifications which he has given in his Word (Acts 14:23; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). There must be two or more pastors (elders, shepherds, overseers) for they are always plural when mentioned as leading a congregation (see Acts 14:23; Phil. 1:1).
Many people confuse the work of pastors with that of preachers or evangelists. Please note Paul's words to the church of Christ at Ephesus: “And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11). Evangelists are preachers of the Word of God. Their job is to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). Elders (pastors) are only over the local congregation where they are members (1 Peter 5:1-4). But evangelists may serve just one congregation in preaching the gospel or they may be sent out to establish new congregations. They are not pastors (elders) and do not have the authority to rule the local congregation. Neither “evangelist” or “pastor” is meant to be a special religious title. They simply describe different workers in the church.
Jesus said of his disciples: “You are all brethren”. It is sinful for a Christian to exalt himself above his fellow Christians by wearing special clothing to set himself apart from them. It is also sinful for a Christian to insist he be called by some special title such as “Rabbi”, “Father”, “Reverend”, “Doctor”, or “Pastor!” It is wrong for workers in the church to insist that special seats be reserved for them or that they be given special greetings. God is our Father. All Christians are brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Let us honor God as our heavenly Father and Jesus as our Teacher. Let us humbly serve them and take no pride in wearing man-made titles to exalt ourselves. Let us always remember Jesus' warning: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted!”
The preaching of Jesus Christ as Lord is basic to the life of the Christian community. Paul was a gospel preacher and he wanted to be sure that he did his preaching the right way. He wrote, "For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ" (2 Cor. 2:17). A lot of people try to get rich from preaching God's message. But faithful preachers are God's sincere messengers, by the power of Christ the message is spoken and they speak with God as their witness. It was the desire of Paul that no wrong attitude or any message foreign to the gospel be allowed to render the gospel void. Jesus said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mk. 16:15). The gospel only makes Christians only. Only the preaching of the gospel will make a Christian.
The gospel is to be preached in order for people to have the knowledge of salvation. The gospel is God's power to save. Paul wrote, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Rom 1:16). Apart from the gospel there is nothing that can be done or believed that will bring a person to salvation. Hearing the gospel must precede saving faith "So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Saving faith is faith in the gospel, faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The mission of the Church of Christ is to follow Christ's footsteps in "preaching the gospel of the kingdom to every creature" (Matt. 4:23).
Let us preach the gospel. And let us be sure we do it the right way.
THE RIGHT WAY TO PREACH IS TO PREACH THE GOSPEL SINCERELY. When Paul spoke of preaching the word he said, "As of sincerity" (2 Cor. 2:17). He viewed himself as a sincere messenger of God. Paul was true to God and also to his own personal convictions as he preached the salvation message. He preached the gospel with truth, power and love. He preached God's message and he would not allow himself to be swayed by the desires of others. He said, "For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). The right kind of preaching sincerely sets forth the fact that Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins. This gospel is the truth of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ that provides deliverance from the power and the penalty of sin. Let us sincerely ring forth the message that there is an antidote to sin and its deadly effects. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). Salvation can come only through Jesus.
THE RIGHT WAY TO PREACH IS TO KNOW THAT GOD SENT YOU. In a special way as an apostle, Paul was sent by God. He said, "But as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ" (2 Cor. 2:17). Paul looked upon his preaching as from God and in the sight of God. He was conscience of the fact that God saw him and heard each sermon that he preached. Gospel preachers should never pervert the message of the cross because (1) Souls are at stake, and (2) God is always listening. Gospel preaching as it should be must be the preaching of the story of all Bible stories; it is the story of redemption through Jesus Christ. The Bible is the story of redemptive history which culminates in Jesus Christ. The man that preaches the right way must understand that his preaching must be Christ-centered preaching. It must be the preaching of the whole of Scripture. The right king of preaching must be done with the understand-ing that the central message of Scripture is what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. The preaching is done with soberness and in the presence of God.
THE RIGHT WAY TO PREACH IS TO SPEAK IN CHRIST. Paul said, "For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ" (2 Cor. 2:17). He said, "Speak we in Christ." The idea is that in our preaching we must preach with the character and the spirit of Christ. One that speaks in Christ will never do so with selfish motives. The preacher that preaches the right way will never preach for popularity or fame if he is speaking in Christ. Paul preached the right way. He preached the gospel with sincerity. He preached the pure gospel of Christ. Human opinions and philosophies were never a part of his message. He preached the "will of God," nothing more, nothing less. He preached with himself in Christ, preaching the message of Christ, in the way that Christ would preach. That is truly preaching the right way! "So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel..." Rom 1:15
Our time here on earth is short. “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away”. (James 4:14) Since our lives on earth are so brief, we need to work hard at learning the gospel and preparing to meet God. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Jesus invites all to come to Him for salvation. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). The sinner prepares to meet God through hearing God’s word, believing in the Lord Jesus, repenting of all sins, confessing faith in Christ, and being baptized (Mk. 16:15-16; Matt. 10:32; Acts 2:38). God pleads with all to prepare for eternity. If we fail to prepare, we will be cast out to destruction.
Many were looking forward to 2021. It was anticipated with much hope, that is, desire and expectation. However, we are nine days into the year and hopes have faded for many. The reason hope has so quickly diminished in the minds of many is because we hope in the wrong things.
We hope for a better governing class.
We hope for a stronger stock market.
We hope for less violence in the streets.
We hope for the pandemic to come to an end.
We hope for people to have less pride and arrogance.
We hope individuals will cease the fight for power.
We hope the divisiveness will come to an end.
We hope lies and falsehoods will quit being told.
We hope the anger that fills many hearts will subside.
We hope hypocrisy will be set aside for genuineness.
These things have to do with the hearts, words, attitudes, and behaviors of sinful men and women. The world has hoped for these things for thousands of years, but the world never sees their hopes turn into realities.
My friends, we are hoping in the wrong things.
We need to be hoping for things that are far beyond this world.
We need to hope for the return of Jesus Christ (Tit. 2:13).
We need to hope for the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6).
We need to hope for our spiritual body (I John 3:2-3).
We need to hope for our eternal abode in heaven (Col. 1:5).
We need to hope for eternal life (Tit. 1:2).
These are things that are true and real. One day, they will become realities. When these things are our hope, we do not grow discouraged in a sin-filled, hate-filled world that makes bold promises, but never delivers on them.
"For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen: but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:1-4).