Sermon #1574 Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: Why Do We Need A Pastor?
Text: Acts 20:28-32
Date: West Harpeth Grace Church, Franklin, TN
Friday Evening — June 25, 2004
I am going to be a little presumptive in these meetings tonight and tomorrow morning. I do not think you will be offended by what I have in mind. Because this congregation is very special to me, because the Lord has allowed me the privilege of going through some tough times with you, I am confident that you will allow me some privileges that you might find offensive in other men. The same is true of your pastor and his family. Chris and Vicki and their children have been dear friends of mine for many years. In fact, Chris and Vicki were my friends before they were one another’s friends.
You have never had a formal induction service for Bro. Cunningham as your pastor. So I want to make up for that in these two services. Tonight, I want to answer this question ― “Why do we need a pastor?” In this message, I want to show you from the Scriptures the blessing and benefit of God’s great gift to his church of faithful pastors. Tomorrow morning, the Lord willing, I will try to show you how you can best assist your pastor in the blessed work the Lord has trusted to your hands together.
I believe the Lord has given me two messages of tremendous importance. I hope they will be blessed of God to your souls’ good now and for many years to come, as you labor together in the cause of Christ.
Let’s begin in Jeremiah 3:15. Here the Lord our God makes a promise to his church. ― “I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” In this promise, three things are clearly stated.
1. True pastors are the gifts of God’s own heart to his church. Indeed, the greatest blessing God can ever bestow upon any local church in this world is to give that church a faithful pastor, a man who preaches the gospel of his free and sovereign grace in Christ (Isa. 52:7; Rom. 10:15).
(Isaiah 52:7) “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!”
(Romans 10:15) “And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”
2. Faithful, God-given pastors, pastors according to God’s own heart, are men who feed the flock of God. They do not fleece the sheep, beat the sheep, use the sheep, or abuse the sheep. They feed the sheep! Their life work is the business of feeding the people of God, and they give themselves to their work ardently.
3. Those men God gives to his church as pastors feed the church of God with knowledge and understanding. Those who are called of God to feed his people have a God-given knowledge of divine truth and a God-given understanding of the needs of his people in this world, and they feed them accordingly.
In these dark days the church of God has suffered much abuse at the hands of unfaithful, self-seeking, self-serving pastors, who make merchandise of men’s souls and handle the Word of God deceitfully. But God promised to give his church pastors who would be faithful to their souls, and he does what he promised. When our Lord Jesus Christ ascended up into heaven as the Head of his church, one of his ascension gifts to the church was “pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). These men are the angels of God to his churches (Rev. 1:16-20). They are heaven-sent messengers of grace and truth.
The one thing the church must have in this world is faithful pastors. She cannot get along without faithful men, called, gifted and ordained of God for the work of the ministry. We do not have to have fine buildings in which to meet. We can meet in barns, or in the woods, if we must, but the church of God cannot survive in this world without faithful pastors, men committed to the gospel and gifted of God to preach it.
In the course of a year, I preach to a good number of congregations in the United States and in other countries. Some are just getting started; some have been around for a long time. But, for some reason, many of these churches have no pastor. God has not yet given them a man to speak to their hearts in his name. I am always anxious to do what I can to help these churches, and there is one thing I always try to impress upon them: the first priority of every local church must be to get a pastor, get him well established and make whatever sacrifices are required to do so. That is the first order of business for a local church. And I say anyone and everyone, without qualification, if God is not pleased to send a faithful pastor to you, you will be wise to sell out and move to a place where there is a man faithfully preaching the gospel of his free grace in Christ.
A church without a pastor is like a body without a head: dead, useless and decaying! Sheep must have a shepherd. They cannot survive long without one. It is not possible to over-emphasize the necessity for faithful pastors to the church of God.
Turn with me to Acts chapter 20. The apostle Paul knew the dangers he faced as a gospel preacher, and he knew the dangers God’s church would have to face in this world for the gospel’s sake. Therefore, when he called the elders of the church at Ephesus together for his last meeting with them, he gave them a most solemn charge. Luke records the event and Paul’s message to those Ephesian elders in this chapter. In the first part of his message (vv. 17-27) Paul told them how he had behaved as God’s servant among them, “serving the Lord with all humility of mind,” and preaching the gospel of Christ.
In public and in private, for three years, Paul had preached the gospel to the Ephesians. He had declared to them “all the counsel of God.” So plainly and faithfully had he preached the gospel to them that he called his hearers to be his witnesses and declared, “I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.”
Then, in verses 28-32, Paul addressed himself to the elders who would be left behind to carry on the work of the gospel after him. In these verses he shows us both the responsibility of and the necessity for faithful pastors.
(Acts 20:28-32) “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (29) For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. (30) Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (31) Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. (32) And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.”
Using Paul’s message to the Ephesian elders, I want to raise and answer three basic questions about the work of the gospel ministry.
I. What is the pastor’s responsibility?
Most people think that a pastor’s work is mostly that of a social worker, promoter and psychoanalyst. They see the work of a pastor in terms of hospital visiting, sipping coffee with old ladies, playing with children, involvement in community affairs, getting people to join the church, conducting weddings and funerals and counseling those with problems. But the Word of God never mentions any of these things in describing pastoral work.
It is every pastor’s responsibility to do the work of an evangelist, seeking the salvation of God’s elect and helping to establish local churches (2 Tim. 4:5).
(2 Timothy 4:5) “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”
The sphere of a pastor’s ministry is limited only by the providence of God. Every man who is gifted for the work of the ministry has a responsibility to preach the gospel to all men in his generation, in so far as God permits him to do so, exercising his gifts in the widest range possible for the glory of Christ. Every open door must be entered and every opportunity must be seized for the furtherance of the gospel. The local church has no right and should have no desire to place any restrictions upon the pastor’s ministry, and a faithful man will not allow himself to be hindered in the preaching of the gospel.
Illustration: Walter Groover’s Statement
Yet the principal sphere of a pastor’s ministry is the local church over which the Lord has placed him. He must not allow his responsibilities to minister to his own assembly to be neglected. We must not neglect the lost, or the needs of God’s church at large, but the primary concern of every faithful pastor is the congregation of believers God has trusted to his care.
In Acts 20:28 the apostle Paul shows us five things about the pastor’s responsibility.
A. The pastor must take heed unto himself.
Paul’s words to every pastor of every age are, “Take heed unto yourselves.” That simply means, “Pastor, be sure you do not neglect your own soul. Ever be mindful of your relationship with God and of your responsibilities as the servant of God (1 Tim. 4:16).”
(1 Timothy 4:16) “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
“Let nothing sidetrack you, interfere with your studies, your preaching of the gospel and prayer, and let nothing turn your heart away from Christ.”
The most constant danger God’s servant faces in this world is the neglect of his own soul, while endeavoring to minister to the souls of others. Therefore Paul says, “Take heed unto yourselves.” Bro. Cunningham, you and I must take heed to the gifts God has given us, to use them and improve them, and be careful not to neglect them.
· The pastor must take heed to his time, spending it wisely in prayer, in study, in preaching, not squandering it away.
· He must take heed to his own heart, his own spirit and his own life.
· He must ever be watchful over the motives of his heart, make certain that his spirit is not ruled by passion and see to it that his life exemplifies the gospel he preaches.
· He must also constantly take heed to his doctrine, making certain that his doctrine is the pure doctrine of Christ, the doctrine of the gospel, the doctrine of pure, free, sovereign, eternal, effectual grace in the Lord Jesus Christ, the sinner’s substitute.
To these things every pastor must constantly and carefully give his undivided attention (1 Tim. 4:12-16).
(1 Timothy 4:12-16) “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (13) Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. (14) Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. (15) Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. (16) Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”
The man who neglects these things is not fit for the pastoral office.
B. The pastor is a shepherd who must take care of and tend to all the flock of God.
He must take heed to himself “and unto all the flock.” The church of God is compared to a flock of sheep which is tended and watched over by faithful shepherds, gospel preachers. The word “pastor” simply means, “shepherd.” Christ Jesus is the Chief Shepherd to whom the flock belongs. Pastors are his appointed undershepherds, whose responsibility it is to take care of the flock (1 Peter 5:1-4).
(1 Peter 5:1-4) “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: (2) Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; (3) Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. (4) And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”
Remember the Lord’s people in this world, are, like their pastors (cf. John 21:15-17), fickle, sinful, helpless, defenseless, stumbling, falling sheep. Because they are sheep they need shepherds, pastors, to lovingly care for them.
It is the pastor’s responsibility to watch over the flock which the Chief Shepherd has committed to his care. He must watch over and care for “all the flock,” the weak and the strong, the immature and the mature, the foolish and the wise, the old and the young, the fallen and the stable.
He must watch over all the flock at all times and in all circumstances. It is the pastor’s responsibility to feed the sheep with knowledge and understanding, protect the sheep with his very life, lead the sheep by going before them, encourage and comfort the sheep with the gospel, help the sheep in trouble and sometimes gently carry the sheep in strong, loving arms; but it is never his responsibility to chasten the sheep. The Chief Shepherd alone has the wisdom and ability to do that!
C. It is every pastor’s responsibility to be an overseer over the church of God.
Carefully observe the language Paul uses: ― “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.” It is true, the pastor is himself one of the sheep, and he must not be a dictator, lording it over God’s heritage, imposing his will upon the church. The church belongs to Christ, not to the pastor. But every man who is called of God to the work of the gospel ministry is responsible under God to take the oversight of the church of God which he serves (1 Peter 5:1-3).
(1 Peter 5:1-3) “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: (2) Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; (3) Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.”
Bro. Chris, the care of the church is your responsibility, not Bob’s, or Al’s, or Bill’s, or Clay’s, or John’s. It is your responsibility. The pastor is responsible to rule the church of God in exactly the same way as a husband is responsible to rule over his own house (1 Tim. 3:4-5).
(1 Timothy 3:4-5) “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (5) (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)”
The pastor must rule by example, not by intimidation; by love, not by legislation; by the Word of God, not his own word; according to the will of God, not according to his own will. He must win the respect of men and women, so that they are willing to be ruled by him, but rule he must! His faith and faithfulness are to be followed, and his rule is to be obeyed (Heb. 13:7,17).
(Hebrews 13:7) “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.”
(Hebrews 13:17) “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
Someone has to be in charge, and the person ordained of God to take charge of his church is the man he places as pastor over his church. God does not trifle with those who refuse to submit to and obey his messengers (Num. 16:1-35).
D. It is the pastor’s primary responsibility to feed the church of God.
Everything else in this verse of Scripture might almost be read as a parenthesis. This was Paul’s message to the Ephesian elders and to every pastor today: ― “Take heed unto yourselves... to feed the church of God.” It is the pastor’s responsibility to feed the church with knowledge and understanding, with knowledge of pure gospel doctrine and understanding of the peculiar needs of his hearers.
Such knowledge and understanding can be obtained by the gift of God the Holy Spirit; but these gifts come only by diligent study and prayer.
· It is the responsibility of the church to see to it that its pastor’s needs are fully met, so that he may give himself to study and prayer, not having to worry about the earthly, material needs of his family.
· And it is the pastor’s responsibility to spend his life in study, prayer and preaching.
If he does, he will have that God-given knowledge and understanding required to minister to the hearts of God’s elect. If he does not give himself relentlessly to the study of Holy Scripture and prayer, he is not fit to be a pastor, for he has no food for the sheep. The sooner he stops pretending to be a pastor the better.
Fancy oratory may tickle the brain and tear-jerking stories may stir the emotions; but only plain gospel doctrine will inform the mind, convict the conscience, subdue the will and win the heart.
· The church of God can never be strong if it is ignorant. It can never accomplish anything of value if it is uninformed.
· All preachers called of God are doctrinal preachers, men who instruct God’s saints in divine truth. The preacher without doctrine is like a shotgun without a load: empty, full of air and useless!
Gospel preachers are preachers of doctrine, and the doctrine we must preach is Jesus Christ and him crucified. The doctrine of the Bible is the doctrine of the cross.
The doctrine of the cross is the revelation of God’s glory in redemption, the hope of helpless sinners, the motive for all obedience, the strength against all temptation, the comfort in every trial, the rule by which we live and the gate through which we enter into the kingdom of God.
Christ crucified is milk for babies, meat for men, ointment for the aged, fire for the cold, balm for the wounded, armor for the warrior, strength for the weak, help for the tempted, hope for the fallen and joy for all the redeemed.
E. The work of the gospel ministry is an awesome burden of responsibility, because the church which the pastor serves is “the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
The price of our purchase was the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-20).
(1 Peter 1:18-20) “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; (19) But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (20) Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”
The church, the multitude of God’s elect, like all other men, by nature were born under the sentence of death, fallen, depraved and guilty (Eph. 2:4), deserving of eternal ruin. Only the blood of Christ could remove the curse from us and deliver us from the hands of divine justice. And Christ, by his own life-blood, has effectually accomplished the redemption of his people (Gal. 3:13; Heb. 9:12).
The transaction that took place at Calvary between God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit was a legal purchase. Jesus Christ paid the price of our ransom to the offended justice of God. He died, “the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
Justice, being satisfied, has no claim upon those for whom Christ died, his elect bride, the church (Rom. 8:1). Having paid the price of our redemption, the Son of God obtained his purchased possession.
We belong to Jesus twice:
He has bought us with a price.
He is our Creator God,
And he bought us with his blood.
Notice the distinguishing character of God’s sovereign grace. The Lord Jesus Christ has done for his church what he does for no one else (Eph. 5:25-27).
(Ephesians 5:25-27) “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (26) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (27) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
· Christ loved his church with an everlasting love, as it was chosen for and given to him by God the Father before the world began.
· Christ purchased his church with a particular and effectual blood redemption.
· The Lord Jesus cleanses his church by the grace and power of his Holy Spirit in regeneration.
· He nourishes his church and cherishes it, ever preserving it by his grace.
· And he will present his church in the perfection of beauty and holiness in ultimate glorification.
The church of God, so precious to the triune God, is committed to the care of faithful pastors. We must never abuse it, but serve it with ardent love and diligent faithfulness.
II. Why are pastors necessary?
All of God’s saints are kings and priests unto God through Christ Jesus. We need no earthly priests, mediators, or intercessors. God the Holy Spirit teaches all his elect. Every believer has an unction from God and knows the truth. Why, then, is it necessary for the church to have pastors? Here are three answers to that question given in the Word of God.
A. Pastors are necessary because this is the purpose of God for his church (Jer. 3:15).
(Jeremiah 3:15) “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.”
God has ordained the salvation of his elect by the means of gospel preaching (1 Cor. 1:21-23; Rom. 10:9-17; 1 Pet. 1:23-25; James 1:18).
(Romans 10:9-17) “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (11) For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (12) For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. (13) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (14) How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? (15) And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (16) But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? (17) So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
(1 Corinthians 1:21-23) “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (22) For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: (23) But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;”
(James 1:18) “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”
(1 Peter 1:23-25) “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (24) For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: (25) But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”
The only way God speaks to men is through men, in the faithful exposition of Holy Scripture (“Understandest thou what thou readest? ― How can I, except some man guide me?” ― Acts 8:31). God does speak directly to the hearts of his people by his Spirit through the Word, but that personal understanding, given in private study and worship, comes as the result of and in conjunction with the public ministry of the Word, never apart from it. Sheep must be guided and fed by a shepherd. The Lord would not have given pastors to be teachers in his kingdom if they were not needed. God never gives what his people do not need. Gospel preaching is not a nice ornament that adorns the church. Your pastor and the gospel he preaches are things vital to your souls and vital to this assembly (Eph. 4:8-16).
(Ephesians 4:8-16) “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (9) (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? (10) He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) (11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (14) That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
Beware of any doctrine you learn on your own. It is a common saying among men, “The man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a lawyer.” And I assure you that the person who is his own prophet has a fool for a prophet. God teaches men and women his Word, his will and his truth by faithful gospel preachers.
B. God has given pastors to his church for the edification of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:12-16).
(Ephesians 4:12-16) “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (14) That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
The word “edify” simply means, “to build up.” Once God’s elect are converted by the preaching of the gospel, they are built up in the faith by that same gospel preaching. It is by the preaching of the gospel that men and women learn the truth, and it is by the preaching of the gospel that they learn to apply the truth of God to their lives and walk in it.
C. The Lord has given his church pastors according to his own heart to protect his people from the influence of error and heresy (Eph. 4:14; 2 Tim. 3:1-4:5; Acts 20:29-31).
(Acts 20:29-31) “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. (30) Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (31) Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.”
(Ephesians 4:14) “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”
(2 Timothy 3) “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. (2) For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, (3) Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, (4) Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; (5) Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (6) For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, (7) Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (8) Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. (9) But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was. (10) But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, (11) Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. (12) Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (13) But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. (14) But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; (15) And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (16) All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (17) That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
(2 Timothy 4:1-5) “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; (2) Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (3) For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; (4) And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (5) But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”
Pastors must ever keep watch over the flock, like diligent shepherds, lest grievous wolves enter in with their pernicious doctrines and by their cunning subtlety destroy it. The pastor must expose the wolves, sometimes calling them by name, as Paul did in 2 Timothy.
If he would be faithful to the souls of men, the gospel of Christ and the glory of God, the pastor must expose every doctrine that is contrary to the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ. He must nip it in the bud as soon as it appears. He must constantly, fervently and compassionately warn the people of God, expose every error of free will, legalism, liberalism and works religion. He must labor to build up the house of God upon the sure foundation of the gospel, the substitutionary atonement of Christ and the free grace of God in him.
III. What is the security of the church against every onslaught of heresy?
The only sure protection that God’s church has from the heresies that abound in this world is the Word of God. This was Paul’s final word to his brethren at Ephesus: ― “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).
The pastor must faithfully feed the church of God with sound gospel doctrine, endeavor to expose every grievous wolf who would turn them away from simple faith in Christ and expound the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ to all who hear him.
Bro. Cunningham, if we would be faithful pastors, we must constantly hold before our hearers the wonders of redemption and the glory of grace. But the security of the church is God himself (Matt. 16:18). Children of God, ever trust Christ and adhere tenaciously to the word of his grace (2 Tim. 1:13).
(2 Timothy 1:9-13) “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, (10) But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: (11) Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. (12) For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (13) Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”
· The Three “R’s”
The gospel of Christ will make you strong, and the gospel of Christ will bring you to glory.
I hope this helps you to see more clearly the necessity for faithful pastors. I want to send you home with two statements by the apostle Paul. I give them without comment. Take them home with you and meditate upon them, asking God to apply them to your heart for Christ’s sake.
(1 Thessalonians 5:12-13) “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; (13) And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”
(2 Thessalonians 3:1) “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you.”
 The bulk of the material in these two messages has been taken from my book, The Church of God ― What it means to belong, which some of you have, and I presume some of you have read. But these messages will not be a mundane repetition of the things written in the book, I promise.