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Called to Preach
1 Timothy 3:1-7
How does a man know if he is called of God to preach the gospel? How does God put a man into the ministry? I have been asked those two questions many times by many men. Because the Scriptures give no precise answers to these questions, I cannot answer them with certainty. So my answers to those questions are just that — my answers. They arise from my understanding of the Scriptures and the observation of experience. But this is my best perception.
1. If God puts a man into the ministry, he first puts grace into his heart. No man is called by God to preach the gospel who does not know the gospel, both doctrinally and experimentally.
2. Before God puts a man into the work of the ministry, he proves him as a faithful servant in his church. No novice is called to preach the gospel (1 Timothy 3:6). No man will be faithful as a pastor who is not faithful before becoming a pastor. A man who puts other things before the worship of Christ, the cause of Christ, and the church of Christ will do no better because someone gives him some ordination papers. He may be more regular in outward attendance and in things seen and approved by men, but he will be the same, self-serving man he was before.
3. If the Lord God puts a man into the ministry, he gives him his message (Isaiah 40) — “All flesh is grass!” — “Behold, your God!” — Redemption accomplished! — Salvation free! — Christ crucified, risen, and enthroned!
4. If God puts a man into the ministry, he gives him the gifts necessary for the work. He makes him “apt to teach.” God called men are gifted with an understanding of the Scriptures and the ability to communicate their message clearly to others.
5. If God puts a man into the ministry, he gives him a place to preach. As one old preacher put it years ago, “God never made a possum without a persimmon tree; and he never made a preacher without a pulpit.” No man has been called into the ministry who is not in the ministry.
6. If God puts a man into the ministry, he gives him a hearing. God’s preachers never have to look far for a place to preach or for people to hear them. When a man is sent of God, he is sent to a people who want to hear his message. — “Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God” (Acts 10:33). God’s servants look to him to open doors before them and wait for him to do so. They do not make a way for themselves. A man’s gifts make room for him (Proverbs 18:16).
7. When God puts a man into the ministry, he gives him the support of his fellow-labourers in the gospel. All God’s prophets see eye to eye with regard to the gospel (Isaiah 52:8) and labour together as one in the cause of Christ.
8. A man put into the ministry by God knows “both how to be abased, and…how to abound.” He is “instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Yet God supplies “all his need, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:12-19).