Elder Jason Skipper
“What Is Expository Preaching, And Why Is It Necessary?”
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.
“Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” (Titus 3:1–8)
The text here presents us with a picture of ourselves. We were by no means good people. We were foolish. We were rebels. We believed the devil’s lies. We were slaves to the passions of the heart and of the flesh. We lived in envy and treated people in evil ways. We were hateful and hated others. That is by no means a good picture of us. It is not into our goodness that God’s grace appeared, but into our wickedness. We did not deserve our salvation, but He saved us, washed us from our sins, poured out the Holy Spirit upon/within us, gave us new life, and has counted us righteous in His sight. God freely saves us despite ourselves.
With this in mind, we are told that grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:11-15), and to maintain good works (Titus 3:8). We are taught that we are saved so that we might give glory to God (Hebrews 2:10) and for the purpose of good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Among the most important of good works that can be done is that of showing grace to others. Our text tells us that we should be obedient and submissive to those who are in authority to us. Grace will teach us that we should pray for our rulers and all who are in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-5-6), and that we are to obey those in authority over us (Romans 13:1-7). Often this is an act of grace, because we are not submitting and obeying because we agree with those in authority, but despite the fact that we do not agree. Considering that Paul wrote of submission and obedience to rulers when Nero, the enemy of all that is holy, was Caesar, we know that such must come from the grace of God.
Grace is also to be manifest in our treatment of our fellow men. We are told that we are to do good to all men, especially those who are our fellow brothers in the faith (Galatians 6:10). Not only so, but we are to not be brawlers, or contentious and strife filled people. Strife only occurs where pride is (Proverbs 13:10), and we know that pride and grace do not co-exist well at all (James 4:5-6). We are to humble ourselves to have good relationships with others rather than habitually striving with them. Furthermore, we are told to be gentle, or reasonable. That reasonableness is mentioned by Paul as moderation (Philippians 4:5). Our text also speaks of meekness, or gentleness. God’s people are not to be harsh, but loving and kind. Too many people act as if they have the right to show anger and wrath to those with whom they disagree. Such people know so very little about the grace of God. Had they known the grace of God, they would realize that God has not treated them as their sins deserve (Psalm 103:8-17), but has graciously forgives sinners who deserve His wrath. Grace teaches us to love even those who are our enemies (Matthew 5:44-45).
When Jesus would teach us about how to treat others, He reminds us of how much He cares for even the smallest of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:1-14), and sternly warns us that we dare not be an occasion of stumbling for anyone. He warns us that we would be better off dead than to be a stumbling block. He continues from there and calls us to seek reconciliation with our brothers when division arises (Matthew 18:15-18). Following up on that, Jesus gives a parable regarding forgiveness that demonstrates that those who truly know the forgiving mercy and grace of God will show the same to others (Matthew 18:21-35). We are commanded to forgive, or show grace, as we have been forgiven and shown grace (Ephesians 4:32). If we do not do so, we are warned about how judgment will be for us: “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13) The one who refuses to show mercy and grace gives evidence of not having known or experienced mercy and grace, and will receive neither in the day of judgment. Where grace is present in the soul, it will manifest itself in the way we treat other people.
This cannot be emphasized enough, because we are called to an unworldly godliness. We are called to show Christ in our behavior. Far too often we show bitterness, anger, wrath, and impatience, even to those we call our brothers and sisters in Christ! I will be quick to admit that I have failed in many ways in this respect. Sadly these things have not been taught among us as they should have been. That will be no excuse for us, however, when we stand before God. God’s grace is transforming grace. He will not leave us as we were before we trusted Him. God, in His grace, has shown us love, mercy, forgiveness, justification, sanctification, and much kindness, despite our sinfulness. If we are not careful, we will treat others as if they must earn our goodwill, and will tend toward a harshness with those who disagree with us or wrong us. This is not the way of grace. Grace will cause us to treat others with the same kindness as God treats us. God’s grace will not leave us hateful and hating one another, therefore let us yield to the authority and transforming power of His grace in order to show kindness and love to all with whom we come in contact.
God’s Grace To Abraham
“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:1–5)
“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,” (Romans 4:16)
We tend to think of our Biblical heroes as being bigger than life, and often above sin; but Scripture presents us men and women who needed and received God’s grace. Abraham is no exception. Note that our text tells us that Abraham was justified by faith so that his righteousness would be by grace. Abraham was not a righteous man who earned God’s favor: Abraham was a sinner who trusted God’s grace.
Let’s first consider Abraham’s sins, not for the sake of condemning him, but to demonstrate that he could have earned nothing from God.
Joshua 24:2 idol worshiper
Genesis 12:1-5 (11:31-32)only partially obedient, thus disobedient
Genesis 12:10-20 lied, saying Sarah was his sister
Genesis 16:1-4 bigamist
Genesis 20:1-18 lied saying Sarah was his sister
Abraham Received Grace
Our text tells us that those who work would have God in their debt (Romans 4:4), but God will never need anything from anyone, or be indebted to anyone (See Romans 11:34-36). Abraham believed that God would justify the ungodly, of whom he was one (Romans 4:4-5). Why is this so? Verse sixteen tells us that it would be of grace.
Grace gives God the glory. If we were to work, we could boast (Ephesians 2:8-9;Romans 4:1-3), but grace makes no room for works: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6) Grace and faith also leave no room for boasting (Romans 3:27). Why? Grace is to the glory of God (Ephesians 1:3-6) Far too many people spend their time boasting of who they are, what they have done, all of their accomplishments, etc. This is actually a sign of apostasy rather than an indicator of spirituality (2 Timothy 3:1-5). God has told us that He will not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8), and commands us to rejoice because we know Him (Jeremiah 9:23-24). God is jealous for His glory and forgives our sins for His name’s sake (Isaiah43:25 ;1 John 2:12). Grace is about taking honor out of our hands and God getting all of the glory and praise, which is His due.
Abraham had nothing in himself that was worthy of his boasting (Romans 4:1-3), and neither do we. We hear Paul saying, “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) God’s Word explicitly tells us that we cannot brag about the gifts of grace as if we had accomplished them ourselves. Abraham received grace when he believed God and was justified. It is the same with us (Titus 3:1-7). Pride causes so many troubles (Proverbs 13:10;Galatians 5:22-26) that we could avoid if we simply realized that we are the undeserving recipients of grace who are commanded to show grace one to another (Galatians 6:1-10;Ephesians 4:31-5:2). Brothers, instead of boasting, we are called to humble ourselves (James 4:1-10). Only when we recognize our sinfulness and God’s grace will we humble ourselves before Him.
Because of God’s grace to believing Abraham, he was called the friend of God (James 2:14-26). We, too, are called to live our lives to the glory of God by trusting His grace (Romans 5:20-6:1;Ephesians 2:8-10). Let us remember that Paul lived his life rejoicing in and trusting in the grace of God (Galatians 2:20-21). He was humbled by grace, and attributed all of his blessings and achievements to God’s grace (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). What a blessing it will be to us all if we will accept God’s grace, rejoice in that grace, and live our life boasting only in God’s grace. “But God 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. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” (Galatians 6:14–15)
Noah Found Grace
“And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” (Genesis 6:1–8)
“Noah found grace,” we read; but what is grace? Grace is the favor or pleasure of God that is shown to those who are undeserving. This should be our basic definition of grace as we study the Scriptures. We shall find, as we study the grace of God that this definition will be affirmed many times over in the Scriptures.
We often think of Noah as a great person, and in many senses he was; but Noah was also a recipient of grace. Scripture describes man in Noah’s day as being corrupt, violent, and meditating always upon evil. The whole of humanity was sinful, and Noah was included in that wicked number.
It was in the midst of all of this sin, wickedness, apostasy, and violence that God spoke declaring that He was going to judge mankind for their sins.
Only after God spoke of sin and judgment do we find that Noah found grace. Henry Morris said, “Grace is found, not earned.” This is true. Noah, because of sin, had earned wrath and judgment just as the rest of mankind. Yet Noah found grace.
Scripture tells us that Noah was justified by faith. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” (Hebrews 11:7) Noah was not righteous because of his good life. Noah was declared righteous because he believed God. Faith and grace go hand-in-hand and cannot be separated (See Romans 4:1-16;Titus 3:1-7). Some time in his life, Noah heard that God was gracious and forgiving and trusted Him. Having found God’s grace, he was saved.
Wonderful parallels exist between our text and Ephesians 2:1-8. In both we find sin, judgment, and saving grace. It is most certain that there is no difference between Noah and us, as we are all sinners under condemnation, and need the grace of God to save us. Thankfully, just as Noah was promised and given a new earth to live on (Genesis 8 &9), we are promised the same (Ephesians 2:4-7;Revelation 21).
As we consider this, we should also think about that long period of time that Noah and his family were in the ark: what a difficulty that must have been in many ways! Can you imagine being cooped up with your in-laws and thousands of stinking animals (Did I just repeat myself?) for months on end? How did Noah and his family survive without either killing one another or losing their sanity? Again, it was all God’s grace. Grace conquers sin and gives life and righteousness (Romans 5:20-21). As it was then, so it is now: all is of grace.
This is only the beginning of a series of articles on the grace of God, but it is important that we learn from the very beginning that grace is free. Let us look at Noah, the sin in his day, ourselves, the sin in our day, and consider the fact that Noah was not delivered because he was good: he was delivered because God is good. In like manner, we must realize that we cannot and will not earn anything from God: all is of grace. Sure, we shall find that grace produces change within us that will produce obedience to God; but we shall never find that we merit anything from Him. Let us rejoice in this grace by trusting God more each day.
How to Pray for Your Pastor
“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:”https://ref.ly/2Th3.1;av1873
Your pastor is human and cannot lead you by God’s Word unless given strength by God. He needs your prayers. Just as surely as Paul the apostle recognized his need of prayer, every godly pastor recognizes the same need, and echoes the holy plea, “Pray for us.”
How then must one pray for his pastor? Let us first look to our text.
We should first pray for his heart. The godly pastor longs for the Word of God to have free course. His passionate desire is that Scripture would not only work unimpeded among those who hear it, but also in his own heart. Pray that God would open his understanding, strengthen his affections for Christ, inflame his passion for God’s glory, and make him strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
Pray that the Word of God would have free course as your pastor preaches. Pray that his mind will be clear and free from distractions. Pray that his thoughts will be orderly, that he might preach plainly for the good of all who hear. Pray that he will have grace, wisdom, and boldness so that he can preach the Word of God correctly.
Pray that the Word of God would have free course so that God would fill your pastor with the Spirit and use him as an instrument of blessing. (See also Ephesians 6:17-20;Colossians 4:1-4.)
“From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”https://ref.ly/Ga6.17;av1873
Pray that your pastor would be freed from troublesome people in the church. Paul battled against false doctrine, and the battles sometimes became wearisome. Paul longed for people to repent and believe the truth. Every disturbance in the church can be connected to doctrinal error. Scripture teaches that right practice and godly behavior are the result of believing correct doctrines (2 Timothy 3:12-17). There are enough troubles in the world to face, when we serve Jesus.Pray that yourself and all other members of the church would humbly hear God’s Word and learn so that your pastor can be freed from church trouble. The peace of your pastor is also your peace and profit (Hebrews 11:7-8,17).
“Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.”https://ref.ly/Heb13.18;av1873
Here we find the apostolic writer asking again for prayer. It is crucial that we understand the context. Instruction is given in verse seventeen for the hearers to obey their pastors and submit themselves to them. Truly the only way you can pray well for your pastor is when you recognize the great responsibility laid upon him by God, submit yourself to his leadership (Remember, according to the Scriptures, his position places him as your elder, no matter how old you may be.), and strive to follow His instructions from God’s Word. Knowing his responsibility, and recognizing your own need of leadership, you can then pray earnestly and humbly that God’s power and wisdom would rest upon your brother who teaches you from God’s Word. If you believe it is your prerogative to get on the phone and gossip about him, criticize him, and even seek to rebuke him; remember that will not be to your profit (Hebrews 13:17). Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (1 Samuel 15:22-23), and you are courting danger if you do these things.
Pray humbly for your pastor. He loves you. He longs to help you. He prays for grace to be a blessing to you. You need him. You need his guidance and instruction. Be among those who make the ministry pleasant for their pastor. Pray for him!