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Sermon #40— Ephesians Sermons
Title: GodŐs Preachers
Their Authority, Their Attitude,
and Their Ambition
Text: Ephesians 3:7-9
Subject: Gospel Preachers and Their Work
Date: Tuesday Evening — June 7, 2016
Readings: Merle Hart and Mark Henson
I have an unusual subject tonight. It is not a subject commonly dealt with in a regular worship service. It is one of those things discussed by almost everyone who expresses an opinion about religion, but one about which very few people know anything. If you will open your Bibles to the 3rd chapter of the Book of Ephesians, you will find my text in verses 7-9 — (Ephesians 3:7-9). I want to talk to you about GodŐs preachers. ThatŐs my subject — GodŐs Preachers — Their Authority, Their Attitude, and Their Ambition — (Ephesians 3:7-9).
You may ask, ŇWhy is Bro. Fortner preaching to us about preachers?Ó That is a very good question. I would much prefer not to do so.
á I am aware of my failures and short comings as a preacher. My very soul cries out to God in repentance for my failures. I never preach without a terrifying sense inability and unworthiness as I prepare and of failure when I am done.
á And I am conscious of the general contempt people have for preachers, myself included. Gospel preachers I love and admire, and give thanks to God for them. GodŐs preachers are men of whom I think highly and speak highly. But preachers in general are utterly contemptible.
á I also recognize that you will be tempted the Devil to pay little attention to my words, because you are not yourselves preachers. I pray that God will prevent that.
I am bringing this message to you because we have come to it in the course this exposition of PaulŐs epistle to the church at Ephesus. —— Obviously, God the Holy Spirit intends for the churches of Christ to have a proper appreciation and high esteem for GodŐs preachers, those men who are ascension gifts of Christ to his church. He would have you to know as much as you can know about the men themselves and their labor for your souls, that you may Ňesteem them very highly in love for their workŐs sake, and be at peace among yourselvesÓ (1 Thessalonians 5:13).
á Churches who love and highly esteem their pastors are at peace. Laboring together for the cause of Christ, they just overlook things that might otherwise make it impossible for them to get along.
á Like soldiers in battle, they have something far more important than themselves that unites them — Christ! —— A Cause more important than themselves — The Gospel! —— A Nation more important than themselves — The Israel of God.
á Churches who despise GodŐs gift to them, churches who despise their pastors are never peaceful households.
In the light of these things, I ask your careful attention as I try to give you the message contained in these three verses of Holy Scripture.
(Ephesians 3:7-9) ŇWhereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. (8) Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; (9) And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.Ó
GodŐs Preachers — Their Authority, Their Attitude, and Their Ambition — ThatŐs my subject. There is no greater work in the church or in the world than that of preaching the gospel. It is an awesome thing to stand before men as GodŐs spokesman. I prepare every sermon with great fear and trembling before God. Each time I stand in the pulpit I stand here in the name of God to proclaim the gospel of God to immortal souls who must soon meet God in judgment. That is my greatest fear and my greatest delight, my heaviest burden and my greatest joy. Oh, what a blessing! Oh, what a joy! Oh, what a responsibility! To declare the unsearchable riches of GodŐs grace in Jesus Christ to eternity bound sinners!
The love of Christ my soul constrains
To seek the wandering souls of men;
With cries, and pleas, and tears to save,
To snatch them from the fiery grave.
My life, my blood, I here present,
If for my God they may be spent.
Fulfil Your sovereign purpose Lord!
Your will be done, Your name adored!
Give me Your strength, O God of grace
To run and finish well my race!
Your faithful servant I would be:
Your grace, Your constant grace I need!
The work of the ministry is great. It requires all of a man, and more. It is too great for a man. — ŇWho is sufficient for these things?Ó I want you to be aware of the great magnitude of this work. And I want you to pray for me, holding up my hands for the work, realizing that your pastor is but a man, a weak, sinful man.
á Pray for me.
á Pray of our brethren who labor in the LordŐs vineyard.
á Pray that the Lord will raise up laborers and thrust them out into his vineyard.
The history of GodŐs church is written around the men who have occupied her pulpits. When the pulpit has been strong, the church has been strong. When the pulpit is dry, dead, and weak, the church is dry, dead, and weak. The greatest blessing that God can give to a town, or community is a preacher, a man who boldly and plainly declares the gospel of his free and sovereign grace in Christ Jesus, a man who dares to preach the Book as it is, who dares to stand up on his feet and confront rebel sinners with the claims of Christ the King! And the greatest curse that can come upon a land is for God to silence his messengers. When John Bunyan was shut up in Bedford prison, it was not GodŐs judgment upon Bunyan. It was GodŐs judgment upon England.
Hear me, my dear friends, the greatest famine a people can know is a famine of gospel preaching.
(Amos 8:11-12) ŇBehold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: (12) And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.Ó
I hear from people all the time who live in huge, rich cities and others who live in small, out of the way places, who live in the midst of such famine.
á Church Buildings Everywhere!
á But no Place to Worship God!
á No Place to Hear the Gospel!
á No Place to Hear from God!
I pray that such shall never come upon you. The church can prosper and grow without her fine buildings, her beautiful music, her organized Sunday Schools, and her many programs. But, if a church does not have a man to proclaim the gospel of God under the anointing of God, she has nothing.
LetŐs look at the description Paul gives of his ministry, the description he was inspired by God the Holy Ghost to give us. Here we are not looking merely at a famous character in history. When we look for a pattern for the ministry, a pattern for preachers and preaching, letŐs not look at Calvin, or Luther, or Gill, or Spurgeon. Look rather at Christ and his apostles. Paul writes to us as GodŐs apostle. What he here records was given by the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit for our learning.
Proposition: Every true gospel preacher is made to be GodŐs preacher by the gift and power of God for the glory of Christ and the salvation of sinners.
Divisions: Here are three things that characterize every man called, gifted, and sent of God as a gospel preacher.
1. GodŐs preacher is a man under GodŐs authority (v. 7).
2. GodŐs preacher is a man whose attitude reflects his calling (v. 8).
3. GodŐs preacher is a man of great ambition (v. 9).
1st — Let me show you that GodŐs preachers are men under GodŐs authority. If there is anything that this generation needs to learn about preachers, it is this: — God alone makes a preacher, and GodŐs preachers are men under divine authority.
(Ephesians 3:7) ŇWhereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.Ó
Gospel preachers are made by God. Paul was made a preacher of the gospel, a preacher of the mystery of Christ (Ephesians 1:3-2:23), a minister of the dispensation of the grace of God by God.
Men are made preachers by the gift of the grace of God. There was nothing in Paul by nature that qualified him for the work of the ministry, and nothing that disqualified him. There is nothing in a manŐs past life that qualifies him to be a preacher, and nothing that forbids him from the work.
Gospel preachers are the servants of God.
(Hebrews 13:7) ŇRemember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.Ó
(Hebrews 13:17) ŇObey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.Ó
A pastor must rule the house of God; but he must do so with patience and gentleness (1 Timothy 1:12-16; 2 Timothy 4:24-26).
(1 Timothy 4:12-16) ŇLet no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (13) Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. (14) Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. (15) Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. (16) Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.Ó
(2 Timothy 2:1-3) ŇThou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2) And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. (3) Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.Ó
(2 Timothy 2:15-16) ŇStudy to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (16) But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.Ó
(2 Timothy 2:21-26) ŇIf a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the masterŐs use, and prepared unto every good work. (22) Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (23) But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. (24) And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, (25) In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; (26) And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.Ó
The pastor must rule the house of God firmly and boldly, just as a husband is required by God to rule his house (1 Timothy 3:4-5). — He must rule by the Word of God.
The Apostle Paul was gifted by God for the work of the gospel. So, too, is every true gospel preacher. A very great part of the call to the ministry is the gifts for the ministry.
John Gill wrote, ŇHe is a true minister of the gospel who is called of God to the work of the ministry, and is qualified by him with grace and gifts for it, and who faithfully discharges it according to the ability God has given.Ó
The Apostle Paul was not only gifted for the ministry, but he was qualified to be GodŐs servant by the power and will of God.
As Paul was a sinner saved by the grace and power of God, so every man called and sent of God to preach the gospel first knows the power and grace of God in the overwhelming experience of his saving grace in Christ. —— Before a man can preach to others, he must be himself a child of God; he must himself be born of God. In all things, this man, Paul, is held before us in the Book of God as an example of what a preacher ought to be.
If a man is GodŐs servant, then he is aware of the fact that he is a man commissioned from heaven, under GodŐs authority, doing GodŐs work. — GodŐs servants are not sent to be social workers. They are not sent to be counsellors. They are not sent to be ambulance chasers. They are not sent to be politicians. The servant of God is the messenger of Christ. — ŇAs my Father hath sent me, even so send I youÓ (John 20:21).
Here is PaulŐs testimony concerning his authority as a preacher. This is the testimony of every God called man. — ŇI was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.Ó
2nd — I want to show you the example that Paul gives to all preachers concerning their attitude toward the blessed work of the ministry. As GodŐs preacher, Paul had a great attitude regarding the work to which the Lord God had called him (v. 8).
(Ephesians 3:8) ŇUnto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.Ó
I am fully persuaded that, in a great measure, the success or failure of a manŐs ministry will depend on his attitude toward the work. This 8th verse shows us four things about PaulŐs attitude. — It is no marvel to me that God used this man so greatly.
1. GodŐs preachers, like Paul, think very little of themselves. — ŇUnto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given.Ó
This was PaulŐs own, truthful estimate of himself. He was not guilty of a false modesty. When he looked at himself, he saw less than the least of all saints.
Someone has pointed out that PaulŐs growth was like this: When he was a young believer, he said, ŇI am less than the least of all the apostles.Ó Later on, he said, ŇI am less than the least of all saints.Ó But just before he died, he said, ŇI am the chief of sinners.Ó — O Spirit of God, give me greater and greater revelations of Christ, that I may have a lower and lower opinion of myself. — ŇHe must increase, but I must decreaseÓ (John 3:30).
2. Like Paul, GodŐs preachers think very highly of GodŐs saints. — Paul had a very low opinion of himself; and he had a very high opinion of his brothers and sisters in Christ, a very high opinion of the family of God. — Those two things always go together — a low opinion of self and a high esteem of others.
Peter had a much more respectable audience. He was the apostle of the circumcision. He preached among the aristocratic Hebrews. James was pastor of that huge, big city church, First Baptist Church of Jerusalem. Paul was sent to preach to Gentile dogs.
I love to see preachers fall in love with the place of their calling.
Spurgeon said, ŇI never knew a man succeed among a people unless he preferred them to all others as the objects of his care. When ministers despise their congregations, their congregations are very likely to despise them; and then usefulness is out of the question. When a man thinks himself above his work, the probability is that he is in the clouds altogether, or stands in the way of some practical worker of a more commonplace kind, who would do the work he is despising.Ó
Paul loved the Jews, his kinsmen according to the flesh, dearly, but the Gentiles were his flock. — It is wonderful to watch God wed a man to his congregation and wed his congregation to him.
3. GodŐs preachers, like Paul, think very highly of their work. — ŇUnto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach.Ó
This man looked upon the work and labor of the ministry as a great gift from God, an honor bestowed, a favor granted. The greatest title he ever took to himself was ŇPaul, a servant of Jesus ChristÓ (Romans 1:1). He threw up his hands in grateful amazement that so great an honor could be bestowed upon him.
This man, this preacher, had a very clear understand of the work God had called him to do. — ŇThat I should preach.Ó — He was called to be a preacher.
This is the work of the ministry in every age and in every place. GodŐs servants are preachers. — Nothing else! — Just preachers!
Paul realized the seriousness, the weight, and the magnitude of his work. And he keenly felt his weakness before it. Yet, he calls the work of the ministry a grace. It was a grace given to him to enrich his own soul.
4. And here is the crowning attitude of Paul toward his ministry. — This man had the highest possible thoughts of his subject. — ŇThat I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.Ó
The unsearchable riches of Christ were his one and only theme. All that he had to say was contained in that one word — Christ. All he aimed at was to glorify him. And he did not feel restricted by this one subject. He realized that in Christ there were riches unsearchable (1 Corinthians 1:23-24; 2:1-5). He preached to men the unsearchable riches ofÉ
Here then is PaulŐs attitude toward the ministry. ŇUnto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.Ó
Gospel preaching is not defending points of doctrine, but declaring the boundless mercy and grace of God to poor, needy sinners in Christ. I think hell must roar with laughter when preachers stand in the pulpit and try to untie theological knots no one is aware of and argue debates no one cares about.
Until I find a message more glorious than Christ crucified, more needful than free grace, more delightful than infinite mercy, more comforting than absolute forgiveness, more assuring than perfect righteousness, more compelling than redeeming blood, more hopeful than heavenly glory, and more joyful than the infinite, immutable love of God in Christ, I am determined to preach nothing else, but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. — ŇGod forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.Ó
ŇThe flame of CalvaryŐs love is intense, and should cause a glow in the pulpit.Ó
— Christmas Evans
Every man who is sent of God to preach is sent of God to preach Christ crucified, always, in all places, in all his fullness (1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5).
Christ crucified is Ňall the counsel of GodÓ (Acts 20:27). — He is the singular subject of Holy Scripture.
Preaching is telling people about Christ. Anything else is not preaching. Call it what you may; but it is not preaching!
3rd — Just briefly I want to show you the great ambition of GodŐs preachers. They all have the same ambition. Paul declares it here in verse 9. Truly, every man who is GodŐs preacher has a great and glorious ambition.
(Ephesians 3:9) ŇAnd to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.Ó
GodŐs preachers have one glorious, all absorbing ambition. They want to make Christ known to all men.
We want to enlighten all men in the mystery of the Christ.
We want to glorify Christ in the eyes of all men, that all might see that God has made all things by him.
Matthew Henry wrote, ŇIt is true that both the first creation, when God made all things out of nothing, and the new creation, whereby sinners are made new creatures by converting grace, are of God by Jesus Christ.Ó
Has God enlightened your eyes, so that you now see the unsearchable riches of Christ? Then call upon him now for mercy. Trust him now for his grace.
Pray for your pastor.
á Let us all, both pastor and congregation, give ourselves to this work. — ŇTo make all men see.Ó
á GodŐs servant will not win the honor of men, but he will be honored with GodŐs presence; and God will honor his message (2 Timothy 4:7-18).
á I pray that God will revive the ministry to make Christ known and thus revive his church, that he will cause chosen, redeemed sinners to delight in those who bring them the gospel of peace (Isaiah 52:7).
(Isaiah 52:7) ŇHow beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!Ó