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Saturday, 22 November 2014

How to preach the Word of God.

Another bus journey, yesterday - to Coatbridge - meant another opportunity to read a couple of chapters of my current reading material on the life and work of George Müller.  This time, the topic that spoke to, and encouraged, me was that of the proclamation of the Word of God.

In my mind, I went back (too!) many years to my time at the Bible Training Institute, in Glasgow.  It was during the summer between the two academic years that I received a very clear call to pastoral ministry.  This meant that, when students gave their testimonies as to what the Lord had done with them during the long break, I had to say that I would be going to University as I was going to be a minister, here in Scotland!

There were those who were not impressed!  They were going to leave all of the comforts of home, and go to foreign countries in which they would have to learn a language that was totally alien to them, and where they would not have running water, electricity, television, and a host of other items and utilities that we took for granted in our home countries.  My response to that particular criticism was that they would also be sharing the Gospel message with those who did not know it at all, and who would be more willing to acknowledge their own sinfulness.  I would be preaching before people who thought that having their name on a congregational roll was sufficient to ensure their eternal future in heaven!  I would have to convince them of their sinfulness, and of their actual need of a Saviour!

The second criticism came from, I confess, just one of my fellow students.   Tony was a Welsh Pentecostal.  He could not understand why I needed all of this university education that I was going to undertake.  All I needed, as far as he was concerned, was a Bible, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, I still possess a book that he gave to me in order to help me to 'see the light'!

My response to Tony was simple.  I explained that, if he was going to be preaching in a Mission Hall somewhere in the Welsh valleys, then that might well be all that he would need.  He might not have, under his ministry, many who were wise according to worldly standards, not many who were powerful, not many who were of noble birth. (see I Cor 1:26).  However, if I ended up in a parish ministry, I would not only have many who were unconverted, but unaware of the fact; I would also be more likely to have the local schoolteacher, the doctor, the solicitor, and others of similar educational background.  "Now," I would continue, "if I preach Christ crucified, 'a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles' (I Cor 1:23), such a person may look, with disdain, at my Diploma of the Bible Training Institute, and think 'If you had had the sort of education that I have had, you would not believe such nonsense'.  However, if that person knows that I am standing there with similar qualifications to those possessed by him/her then, at the very least, that particular argument/excuse is removed."

I still believe that.  I know that the Lord used uneducated fishermen to preach the Gospel.  However, I know that He also used Paul who, as Saul of Tarsus, was educated in Jerusalem at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).  Paul's intellectual qualifications were, in his day, beyond reproach!  Of course, I have always sought to remember that not everyone has had the privilege of the education that has been granted to me.  So, I have always endeavoured to use words that do not require a double doctorate in divinity and theology to be understood.  Indeed, that was the thinking behind the series of messages that I shared, in the late 1970s, with the congregation of Bellshill: St.Andrew's, and which became the basis for my first book (details at the head of the blog!).

All of this came back to me as I read these words concerning George Müller.  "He had yet to learn how the enticing words of man's wisdom make the cross of Christ of none effect, and how the very simplicity that makes preaching intelligible to the illiterate makes sure that the most cultivated will also understand it, whereas the reverse is not true." (op.cit., p.43).

May such a message be taken to heart by all of us who are privileged to minister the Word; and always, to His glory.

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