Elder Darrin Webb: “Studying In Preparation For Preaching”
Elder Jason Skipper
“What Is Expository Preaching, And Why Is It Necessary?”
The Grace of Forgiveness
The context of our text is one in which there is both great sin and great grace on display. Israel, though having experienced an amazing and awe inspiring revelation of God, has chosen to commit the sin of idolatry. While doing so, they fell into gross immorality along with it. God’s wrath was kindled, Moses’ wrath was kindled, the people experienced much death and plague that day, and yet God forgave them. As Moses pled for the LORD’s continued presence with Israel, and the performance of His promise to lead them into the land of promise, he also asks for God to show him His glory. God responded that He would do so, and that He would be gracious to whom He would, and show mercy on whom He would (Exodus 33:17-20). It is soon after this that Moses ascends again into the mount sees the visual glory of God, hears the proclamation of His most excellent name, and learns that God’s glory is seen in His mercy, grace, forgiveness, goodness, truth, holiness, and judgment (Exodus 34:1-8). It is my desire to direct our focus to God’s glory in His forgiving grace.
First of all, let us always remember the nature of grace; because the nature of grace is essential to our understanding of the grace and nature of forgiveness. Grace is free and unmerited favor to those who deserve the wrath of God (See Ephesians 2:1-9). Grace will always be free, and it will never be earned or deserved (Romans 11:6). Furthermore, grace is never given to those who are dependent upon self (Romans 4:1-6) or the arrogant (James 4:6;1 Peter 5:6).
Forgiveness is a gift of grace: “in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:7) Forgiveness, being a gfit of grace, is by nature free. It is not given to those who forgiveness, or else it would not be forgiveness. Forgiveness is the free gift of God, and He is Lord of forgiveness, both in to whom He gives it and in the manner in which He gives it (Exodus 33:19). Note that forgiveness is through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7;Colossians 1:14; Revelation 1:5), which is the price paid once and for all for our sins (Hebrews 1:1-3;9:22-28;10:11-14). If we are ever to be forgiven of our sins, it will be through the merits of the eternal righteousness of Jesus who died for our sins and rose for our justification. This forgiveness is given freely to all who repent and trust Jesus (Mark 1:13-15;Luke 24:47;Acts 13:38-39;Romans 5:1-11).
Forgiveness is also the Divine prerogative, and God forgives that He might be glorified. Notice that Jesus recognized that it is only God who can truly forgive sins against Himself (Mark 2:1-12). We often hear people say, “Only God can judge me!” The reality is that God is the supreme judge and savior. Only God can save you! Only God can forgive and have mercy upon you. “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” (James 4:12) Apart from the God who gives mercy and forgiveness, mercy and forgiveness would never exist. Thankfully God does forgive. That is His glory, as we see in our text.
Notice that our text also closely relates forgiveness to mercy. Mercy is when judgment is averted. “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13) David also praises God for His mercy in delivering Him from hell (Psalm 86:12-13). One of the most emotional proclamations of forgiveness and mercy is seen in the Lamentations of Jeremiah: “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22–23) Rather than utterly destroying Israel, God was merciful to them. How wonderful it is to know that we are the recipients of the free mercies and forgiving grace of God!
Let us recall once more that forgiveness comes because of the intervention of a mediator. Moses prayed for Israel and God forgave them. Jesus is the one who mediates for us that we might be forgiven. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Timothy 2:5–6) Jesus, when He shed His blood, paid the price for our sins forever. “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10:11–18) Notice that forgiveness comes because a payment is made for sins, Jesus died to secure forgiveness, and God accepted that sacrifice as being worthy of His forgiving us forever. There is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood, which is the giving of the life of a substitute (Hebrews 9:22). Thankfully Jesus stood as that substitute for us that we might be forgiven.
As we consider all of the above truths, we have yet to truly define forgiveness. The word literally means, to take away. This is why John introduced Jesus as follows: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) We again read, “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;” (Hebrews 10:11–12) Forgiveness is the taking away of sin.
How is sin taken away? We still live with sin. We are told, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8–10) In this life we shall always be plagued with sin, it seems. Paul stated that sin was ever present with him (Romans 7:21), and that our bodies are dead because of sin despite our being saved by God’s grace (Romans 8:10). Sin is not literally taken away in this life as if we will never have to deal with it again. Sin is taken away in the sense of it never being held against us in the judgment. This is why we read, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1) And remember, “mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13)
We also read of sins being forgotten. Micah rejoiced in this (Micah 7:18-20), Jeremiah prophesied of it (Jeremiah 31:31-34), and the writer to the Hebrews spoke of it also (Hebrews 8:12;10:17-18). What does this mean? Does God literally forget our sins as if they are no longer in His memory at all? That would be impossible, for God is omniscient, knowing all things. In fact, the idea of God acting as if sins never happened at all minimizes sin and shows disrespect to the grace and glory of God. What is meant, then, by sins being forgotten? Sins are forgotten in that they will never be held against us in judgment: we will never be punished for them, nor pay for them by suffering God’s wrath. Notice how David speaks of forgiveness: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no guile.” (Psalm 32:1–2) The sin is not literally removed or forgotten, but it is covered: God does not see it on our record. God does not impute iniquity to us. That is, He does not keep the sin on our account as though we are still chargeable for it. The forgiveness of sin and the forgetting of it are judicial things. Our slate is clean before God. We have no sins on our account. They are forgotten. Paul spoke of this when he wrote, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” (Colossians 2:13–14) The account of my sins has been blotted out because Jesus paid the debt in full. This is what is meant by sins being forgotten.
Considering the truth that forgiveness is God’s prerogative, and freely given that we might glorify Him, there are two important things to keep in mind. First, the forgiveness of sins is not given to the proud, arrogant, self-righteous person who demands it. God resists the proud (James 4:6;1 Peter 5:6). He will not forgive those who will not confess and truly repent. It is the broken-hearted one who repents of his sins whom God will forgive (2 Corinthians 7:7-10). “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:16–17) Forgiveness can never be earned nor demanded. We must with a broken heart plead with God, trusting Him to give it to us. Finally, forgiveness is for God’s glory. “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.” (1 John 2:12) He forgives us for the glory of His grace (Ephesians 1:1-14), so we should worship Him because of being forgiven by Him. Moses worshiped the LORD when he saw and heard His glory. So, too, must we. Let us never forget our own sinfulness, and let us humbly seek to exalt Him in our lives because of His great forgiveness.
The Warning To Timothy
“This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (1 Timothy 1:18–20)
Paul has a desire for Timothy, and that is that Timothy retain and treasure faith in Christ and a good conscience, because a lack of these things leads to shipwreck. Shipwreck is a description of the destruction and ruin that can come upon one who walks away from God by not trusting Christ and not maintaining a good conscience.
When we know the truth, sin and error will work against our conscience. We will know and be aware of our wrong, and our conscience will bear witness to our error (See Romans 2:14-16;9:1-2). When we ignore the testimony of a conscience that is educated by the Word of God and moved by the Spirit, we know that we are persisting in sin. This can only lead to destruction.
Paul warns Timothy that shipwreck is possible. In no circumstance can we assume that shipwreck is a positive thing. Neither should we dare think that one cannot and will not make shipwreck if they ignore God’s Word, His Spirit, and the pangs of conscience. If one makes shipwreck, he cannot continue as he did before. Some shipwrecks may possibly be repaired. Some shipwrecks may be irreparable. Regardless, shipwreck means that life will not go on as if it were in good repair. Ministry cannot continue as if one’s life were in good shape. Shipwreck is destructive to peace of mind, one’s family, one’s conscience, one’s walk with God, and all else in the person’s life. Those shipwrecks from which one can recover are not things that will be fixed over night.
Some shipwrecks are large scale disasters. Paul spoke of two men who had been turned over to Satan that they would learn not to blaspheme. Paul was speaking of church discipline, or excommunication, when he said this (See 1 Corinthians 5:1-5). There is no way that we could ever put into words just how serious this is and how sobering it should be to us. When one is excommunicated from the church and left at the mercy of the devil, there is no knowing exactly what will happen when the flesh is destroyed as God allows Satan to plague such an one. The purpose of this is to bring the shipwrecked person to repentance. One thing is sure, and that is that while the person is turned over to Satan, God is still in control of the process, and “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)
Should the shipwrecked person refuse to repent and change their ways, we find that destruction can indeed be a final sort of destruction. We read of some whose sins led to death (1 Corinthians 11:17-34). Solomon was used of God to say, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” (Proverbs 29:1)
I am convinced that one can sin to the point that his life is taken. We are solemnly warned of this: “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” (1 John 5:16) Sin has no other end than destruction.
Shipwreck is a reality. Please do not minimize sin and shipwreck and act as if the consequences thereof are small. There are times that one must step down from the ministry. There are times that the time out of the ministry is permanent. Shipwreck, when minimized as if it has neither consequence nor impact upon the ministry, can only lead to more heartache and destruction. Please, let us not fall prey to the folly of minimizing shipwreck!
With the above things in mind, we must also address one argument that has been presented in the past regarding disqualification from the ministry. It is said that, since God said, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,” (Romans 11:29) that one cannot be disqualified. After all, God gives gifts that are eternal, and God does not repent of His calling.
First of all, let us realize how simply shallow and errant this interpretation of the passage is; because it ignores the context in which it was written. The question is asked whether God had cast off His people Israel (Romans 11:1-2), to which a negative reply is given. The apostle then proceeds to present his case based upon the fact that God had given many gifts and made many promises to Israel that He would forgive their sins and make them His people. Paul establishes this argument by appealing to a specific passage of Scripture to show them that God keeps His promises despite the sin of Israel: “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.” (Numbers 23:19–20) Balack the king of Moab desired Balaam the prophet to curse Israel. Balaam stated that, though he tried to do so, God had spoken a blessing upon Israel, and would not repent of it. God had given Israel the gift of being His people, and He was not repenting of doing so. Paul stated that, though Israel was temporarily blinded, their ultimate end and salvation was of God, who promised that He would save Israel and make them His people.
This text can be of great comfort to us when we sin, because we know that God will indeed forgive the sin of His people and not cast us away. It is what comforted Jeremiah when he looked around and beheld the devastation of Jerusalem that came because of their idolatry. He said, “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22–23) God’s faithfulness to His promises was the reason that He was merciful to Israel and refused to completely destroy them. This is also why He spoke to cold, callous, and careless Israel in Malachi’s day, saying, “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6) Despite our sins, God keeps His promises. That should indeed comfort us, because we know that those of us who are trusting Christ are securely safe in His steadfast, unchanging love.
What we cannot do, however, is rejoice that this verse tells us that a person cannot disqualify himself from the ministry. That is to disregard the context of the Scripture as God’s promise not to abandon Israel, but to also ignore the fact that people have disqualified themselves and lost God’s blessing upon their labors. Saul is a case in point: He was rejected from being king (1 Samuel 13:13-14;15:22-23), and God departed from Him (1 Samuel 28:15-19). Furthermore, if one could not disqualify himself, it nullifies the qualifications presented in First Timothy chapter three, and makes a mockery of God’s Word by presenting a Bible that conflicts with itself and has portions which are incorrect. This is absolutely unacceptable to any Bible believing person. In fact, this is sin, as we have seen in the previous two articles.
The above truths are hard truths, and they cannot be softened. Sinful men who insist that shipwreck and disqualification cannot happen, or that they are not so serious as many of us believe, must be warned. We must not act as if sin’s consequences are small. We must not act as if our sins will not affect us negatively and even destroy us. We are told that such must be rebuked. “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” (1 Timothy 5:20)
Finally, this series of articles should not be viewed as harsh, judgmental, and unforgiving. The fact is, we cannot present the forgiveness of sin, God’s mercies toward the sinner, and God’s restoring power unless we first present sin as destructive and damning. Those who desire to stand with God’s Word dare not treat sin lightly. They must present the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Only then can we see the glories of the grace of God. “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20–21) If you are a minister who has fallen and disqualified himself, please take sin seriously. I plead with you to be as David, who confessed his sin and accepted the consequences. Only then can you truly be restored in your walk with God. I do not profess to know your future. I do not know whether or not your ministry can be restored. Maybe it can, and then maybe your reputation is so greatly damaged that you can never again fill the qualifications of First Timothy chapter three. I do know that God will forgive you and restore you to a holy walk with Him, and that is what is of utmost importance.
What About David?
When a leader falls into immorality, it seems that many today are convinced that they can apologize and then continue in the position of godly leadership. One of the things that is often mentioned is the fact that King David sinned and was used of God. This is indeed true. David, a man after God’s own heart, sinned against God and continued as king of Israel. We can rejoice in the wonderful example of the forgiving grace of God; but does this present us with godly reason to believe that a person cannot disqualify himself from the ministry? Does this present us with Biblical proof that a confession of immorality and forgiveness thereof allows one to continue in the ministry simply because one has been forgiven? My response, based upon the Scriptures, is “No: emphatically, NO!”
First of all, let us remember that Scripture has a context. One or two passages can be taken out of context and used to teach and present a sort of proof for almost anything. This is why context is important.
John Wycliffe 1324-1384 – “It shall greatly help you to understand scripture, if you mark not only what is spoken or written, but of whom, and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goes before and what follows after.”
We find then, that we should read about David in the context both of the book in which it is written, and the Bible which is a library of books which are all in agreement one with another.
The first thing that we must notice is the biblical context of First Samuel and Second Samuel, remembering the history and the events that led up to David becoming king. Saul, if you recall was disqualified and rejected as king of Israel. While some say that only God can judge a person, that is not necessarily true. Jesus commanded us to judge righteously (John 7:24). We must be able to discern right from wrong. Furthermore, it was God who judged Saul as being disqualified as king. “And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.” (1 Samuel 13:13–14) “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:22–23) “And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Samuel 15:35) Here we see that, on two different occasions, Saul was informed by Samuel that God had rejected him as king. Not only so, but later Saul needed counsel to go into battle, so he sought a witch to call up Samuel to give him counsel. Here is what we read: “And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David: Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day. Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 28:15–19) Not only was Saul disqualified from the kingship, but God removed from him His guidance: Saul no longer heard from God because he had ignored the Word of God.
Next we must consider the context of David’s sin. David sinned by committing adultery, trying to cover it up, and having the husband of Bathsheba killed. David continued without repenting for about a year. Then Nathan the prophet came and rebuked him. David confessed his sins and received forgiveness. But let us hear the Word of the Lord: “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.” (2 Samuel 12:10–14) Notice that David was forgiven, yet still was going to reap some sad results from his sin. His own family would be divided. His newborn son would die. David would have cause to regret his sin for the rest of his life. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) David may have continued as king, but David reaped sorrowful consequences for his one night of pleasure with Bathsheba. Brothers, we cannot use David as an example that says one cannot disqualify himself from the ministry, or that one’s forgiveness immediately makes him qualified to be a pastor. David is rather an example that should serve to warn us that sin has consequences that will be with us even though God has forgiven us.
Another thing that we need to realize about the context of Scripture is that David was not a pastor. He is not the greatest of examples to use regarding the lives, morals, and qualifications of pastors. If we desire to speak of David and qualifications, we may need to even recognize that David did not consider himself worthy of being king: “Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain. Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.” (2 Samuel 23:1–5) God was gracious to David though David did not claim that his family was a righteous family. It is truly foolish to try to use such a man as David to speak to the morals and qualifications of a pastor. Furthermore, let us remember that the qualifications for a pastor are found in First Timothy chapter three, and that David was not a pastor; thus the qualifications for a pastor are not relevant to David’s kingship. It is imperative that we read Scripture in context.
Finally, we must recognize a very important issue that is before us, and that is the fact that using David to show that forgiveness can immediately make a fallen man qualified for the pastorate does violence to the Scriptures. The qualifications of pastors remain the same, whether the fallen and disqualified man is forgiven or whether he never repents and receives forgiveness. To try to use David to show that either cannot disqualify himself, or that he can be immediately qualified after receiving forgiveness is to deny the truthfulness of First Timothy chapter three. It is to present a view that there are texts of Scripture that disagree with other texts, which is very wrong. All Scripture is the Word of God and is correct. We do not pit one text against another as though they are enemies: all Scripture is true, and Scripture does not conflict with itself. It is a sad day when those who say that they are ministers and preachers of the Word of God will refuse to acknowledge the truthfulness of all of the Word of God. To such we can only say, “Repent. God has no pleasure in those who twist and distort His Word.” (See Proverbs 30:6;2 Peter 3:15-16;Revelation 22:18-19).
In conclusion, we must indeed rejoice in the forgiving grace of God to each of us. We must hold out the forgiving grace of God to those who have fallen. This is the gospel, and we must preach it. We are also duty bound to call upon those who profess Christ to live a life that is in harmony with the gospel (Philippians 1:27-29). We must also demand that those who say that they are called to the ministry be qualified according to First Timothy chapter three.
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1 Corinthians 9:24–27)
The text before us shows us Paul’s passion for preaching Christ. It shows us his desire to be a blessing to others. It shows us that Paul recognizes the need for temperance in order for us to be a blessing to others. Sadly we can fail to have the same passion and the same life as Paul did.
Paul compares the effort to be a blessing to athletic competitions. We are told that we must run if we are to win the prize. In the effort to win a competition, each competitor exercises self control. There are things we must deny ourselves, and there are things we must do in order to have a chance to win. Those who compete in athletics do so in order to win a prize that will not last forever. Our desire is an eternal reward. For this reason, Paul states that he runs with certainly, fights by landing blows instead of shadow boxing, and forces his body to yield and submit in order to win. Why? Because, if he does not exercise this self control, he may become a castaway, or one who is disqualified.
Not every competitor wins his event, and not everyone who crosses the finish line first is qualified. A few years ago, Lilly King competed in the Summer Olympics and won her race; however she was disqualified. King had broken the rules. For this cause, though she won her race, her disqualification caused her to lose the competition: she was not qualified to win. Sadly we can do the same thing in our Christian lives: we can fail in such a manner that, contrary to all appearances, we do not receive the crown. The salt can lose its savor, Jesus said (Matthew 5:13); and the best runner can be disqualified.
In our day we have those who are loudly and boldly asserting that one cannot disqualify himself from Christian service, that the minister can always fill the pulpit and carry God’s Word. This text belies such statements. Can one fail and be forgiven? Can one fall and be restored? Can one sin and be forgiven? The answer is, yes. The fact of the matter remains that there is great loss that goes with moral failures. First Timothy chapter three gives us a list of qualifications for pastors. If one must meet these qualifications to be a pastor, he who does not meet these criteria is disqualified, no matter how well he speaks or how much he is loved and forgiven. Forgiveness does not automatically qualify a person, if it did, the novice who has just been forgiven his sins is qualified. If forgiveness automatically qualifies one for the pastorate, then the qualifications for 1 Timothy 3:1-11 are useless and wrong. This is a grave mistake to make, when one decides to begin rejecting various truths of Scripture in order to maintain a Christian façade, or to retain an office. It is far better to acknowledge the truth, repent of one’s sins, step down from the ministry from which one has been disqualified, and uphold the veracity of God’s Word and the sanctity of the pastoral office.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:1–7)
We are in those days.
How do we respond to the ungodly and immoral who profess Christ? “From such turn away.” This may seem harsh, but we are warned that, “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”(1 Corinthians 5:6) The corruption of the immoral will spread. Their ungodly attitudes will affect others.
We must refuse them the opportunity to have leadership positions (1 Timothy 3:1-13). We must refuse them communion at the Lord’s Table, and all of the privileges of membership. When they repent, and only when they repent, should they be given a place in the Lord’s church. Even then, forgiveness does not automatically qualify one for the diaconate or pastorate.
Harsh? Not at all. It is a matter of holiness. It is a matter of protecting the Lord’s church from predatory people who are wolves that seek to lead people to follow them. It is to protect the church from those who would devour the flock by leading them into sin.
On top of it all, it is a matter of faithfulness to Christ, who calls us out of sin and calls us to be loyal to Him rather than to the world and the world’s ways.