January 5, 2016 at 4:56 pm #4777Jack Exum JrParticipant
Jessee P. Sewel back in 1957 during his last series of public lessons capped off his lessons with the following statement.
“Who is a Gospel preacher? He is a man, but he is a man redeemed by grace through faith, standing in Christ’s stead, under His authority, and by His command, proclaiming His Gospel, making it plain, strong, and urgent in such a way that responsible man can believe it, and accept it unto life, or reject it unto death.”
Dad was speaking at an encampment on one occasion, and of course they took breaks where they could just relax. one time he was in a gathering of preachers, and he asked them to give him ten words that are “important to us.” They gave these words, “GOD, CHURCH, BAPTISM, PRAYER, ATTENDANCE, LORD’S SUPPER, JESUS, OBEDIENCE, HOLY SPIRIT, GRACE.” Then (and he admits he was setting a bit of a trap), he asked, “Now list the top five that we emphasize the most.” By popular agreement here are the top five: “#1 CHURCH, #2 BAPTISM, #3 ATTENDANCE, #4 LORD’S SUPPER, #5 OBEDIENCE.” After this, he looked at them and asked if they minded if he sat down. He said, “You mean God, Jesus, Prayer, Grace and the Spirit did not make the top five?” Now we must be careful when dealing with this, and I am biased when it comes to preachers, being one myself. But if we are not careful we will lose much needed BALANCE. All of these are important, but where is our emphasis?
Referring to brother Sewel’s quote… “Who is a Gospel preacher? He is a man, but he is a man redeemed by grace through faith…” While much has been written on the subject of being REDEEMED BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH, not much has been said about having a genuine BALANCE in relation to other things in our preaching, and to the APPLICATION of grace.
It all begins with the man in the pulpit, before he comes to the pulpit. This is a personal thing, before it ever is preached to others, or it lacks the power and passion it so deserves. Preach it all you want, write about it, put it in neon lights over the baptistery… yet if this has not stricken the heart of the preacher, it lacks power. Like a fountain that pours forth water but never tastes it, often times we learn much on the subject yet never really come to experience it.
It took me 25 years, a pig pen and lots of slop eating before I appreciated God’s marvelous grace. The road back home took repentance, confession, and prayers, tears and the help of a godly brother and sister in Christ, and a Mom and Dad who “loved me anyway.” I had learned the passages, learned the right things to say, and yet it took more for me to experience it. Had I been baptized for the remission of sins? Yes. Was I sincere when I was immersed for remission of sins? Yes. It is kinda hard to explain, but it took the humbling hand of a loving God to break through with the discipline needed and help me understand what GRACE really means.
Now, I praise Him daily for the grace, mercy and love, understanding that without this, I could not go one day more.
“Preach it brother!” “Tell us about hell fire and damnation!” “Give us a good whippin this morning!”
Preachers are saved by grace too! We are men, fleshly, tempted like everyone else, fall like everyone else, need help getting up like everyone else. Yet we are afraid to preach about God’s marvelous grace. One preacher was fired for doing so. We mention it in passing, but we always have to make sure we give a heavy dose of “OBEDIENCE” lest someone thinks we believe in “grace only.”
Here are some thoughts by Dad (from his article in the Gospel Advocate, August 1986.) “Any scripture or teaching taken to an extreme can be made to teach error, support error, be error. Hold a quarter between your thumb and forefinger in each hand. Stretch them to arm’s length. Notice how you can see both the quarters and all that is around them clearly. Now begin to move them closer. See how the quarters become larger and more obstructive. Now press them near to the eye, and only the quarters are seen. The extreme is simple. The quarters have become larger than life for that’s all the eye can see. So it is with any teaching. When that one teaching is held so close to the eyes, all other truths seem insignificant, when in reality, the teaching is simply out of balance.
Take the example of the “grace only” man. “What do you teach?” one inquires. “I am a preacher of grace. I preach grace, grace, and then more grace.” “Do you know anything about sin or judgment or hell fire and damnation?” “No sir, I know nothing of those, for I am a preacher of grace. Grace is all there is; grace, grace and nothing but grace.”
Now consider the opposite extreme for a moment, the “Hell fire and damnation” man. “What do you preach?” one inquires. “I sir, am a preacher of hellfire and damnation. I preach hell, hell, hell and fire, fire, and in between a heavy dose of judgment.” “Do you know anything about grace or love or mercy or compassion?” “No sir, for I am a preacher of hellfire and damnation!”
Why would any preacher preach about grace if he didn’t know anything about sin? It is grace that (redeems) covers sin (Romans 6). Why preach grace if there is no judgment, or why offer freedom and deliverance (redemption) if there is no bondage or judgment to be delivered from? Who needs or wants grace if there is no hellfire or damnation?
On the other hand, why would any preacher speak of hellfire and damnation if he were UNACQUAINTED (emphasis mine) with the power of grace to deliver man from such torment? Hellfire and damnation alone simply leave man GUILTY, FRUSTRATED and in TOTAL DISPAIR (emphasis mine).Grace alone makes no sense at all, for if there is no standard of right or wrong, no fear of God or judgment to come, grace would offer salvation from nothing. Mercy and grace are offered because of sin and judgment. One makes no sense without the other. We don’t need more grace preachers! We don’t need more hellfire and damnation preachers! We need more preachers who know how these two things fit. BALANCE!
“Amazing grace, How sweet the sound,” cannot be understood or appreciated without the simple utterance, “HAVE MERCY O GOD ON ME, A SINNER.” Just as godly sorrow is the forerunner of genuine repentance, so the acknowledgment of sin is the forerunner of grace and sins forgiven. The “goodness and severity” (Romans 11.22) of God are not incongruous, but to the contrary, both are needed for balance and understanding in relationship one to the other.
The “grace only” man may feel his position necessary to offset the “hellfire and damnation” man, or visa-versa. Both positions are false. They mislead people for they are clearly out of balance. Both positions are essential to a clear understanding of truth, yet doctrines like quarters, seem to grow bigger and more important when held closer to the eye. It isn’t the quarters or the eyes, but the out of balance relationship they hold one to the other.
Jesus said, ” “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23.23)(ESV).
Grace preachers: Tell people about the reality of sin, its deceitful power and the hellfire and judgment yet to come (Acts 24.25). Tell them the “wages of sin is death (Romans 6.23) and how vengeance awaits those who “obey not the Gospel” of Jesus Christ (II Thessalonians 1.7-9).
Hellfire and damnation preachers: Preach clearly the message that we are “saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2.8-10) and tell people freely of the great love God had towards us when we were lost in sin (Ephesians 2.4-6).
Radical surgery is not needed – BALANCE IS!”
All of this, must first be realized in the heart and soul of the Gospel preacher.
“Who is a Gospel preacher? He is a man, but he is a man redeemed by grace through faith…”
Grow in grace brethren!
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