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God’s Greatest Blessing
“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!” (Romans 10:15)
The greatest blessing God himself can ever bestow upon any people in this world is to send them a man to preach the gospel to them, a preacher to tell them who God is, who Christ is, what he has done for sinners, and how God saves helpless, fallen, depraved sinners by his grace through the doing and dying of the Lord Jesus Christ. The greatest blessing God can bestow upon any local church is to give them a pastor who faithfully, boldly, and consistently preaches the gospel of Christ to them without compromise, without courting the favor of men or fearing the frowns of men. The greatest blessing God can bestow upon any town or community in this world is to establish in their midst a gospel church with a gospel preacher, holding forth in their midst the gospel of God’s grace and glory in Christ. And the greatest judgment, the greatest curse God almighty can bring upon any people, any church, any town, or any community is to silence or remove the voice of his prophet, to remove his candlestick, to silence his witness, and leave them to themselves, to grope about in darkness until they go to hell. — Nothing on this earth is so important, so absolutely needful to you and your family, as the preaching of the gospel.
Several years ago, I read an article in a religious periodical which made this statement: “Preaching is not to be the sum total of the activity, nor even necessarily the most important aspect of the assembly.” The article went on to suggest that one of the greatest problems in our churches is that we spend too much time preaching. What nonsense!
Our Lord’s last great command is, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel.” This was Paul’s dying charge to Timothy: “Preach the Word.” And preaching was the one business of the great apostle’s life. He wrote, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.” God calls men, whom he has gifted and qualified for the work, to preach the gospel. He sends them forth into the world for this one purpose. And he gives but one reason for doing so. — “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
Gospel Preaching Vital
According to the Book of God, gospel preachers are vital. All who know the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ appreciate those who preach it; but very few, I fear, understand that the preaching of the gospel is absolutely vital to their souls. This is the ascension gift of the exalted Christ to his church (Ephesians 4:8-11). Not only is it true that God sends his Word to heal his elect and to deliver us from our deserved destruction (Psalm 107:20), it is also true that all God’s works of grace in chosen, redeemed sinners are accomplished by the ministry of the gospel.
If God speaks to you, if God speaks to any sinner’s heart, if God teaches any man anything, if God reveals anything to any of us, he does it through the instrumentality of gospel preaching. Is gospel preaching really that important? Let the Word of God alone decide the issue. The Scriptures plainly tell us that the preaching is absolutely necessary for faith in Christ (Romans 10:17), for the new birth (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23-25), for understanding in the Word of truth (Acts 8:30-31), and for the edification of God’s saints (Ephesians 4:8-16).
Without the preaching of the gospel, there is no possibility of salvation, sanctification, spiritual growth, spiritual direction, or spiritual stability. God did not give his church the gift of the ministry for nothing. Gospel preaching is not an optional add-on, but a vital necessity to the worship of God. This ascension gift of Christ is not something a person may choose to avail himself of or despise without consequence. If God’s people could get along without pastors to guide them in and with the Word of truth, he would not have given them.
400 Silent Years
There was a time when God did not speak for four hundred years. His last word in the Old Testament was given by the prophet Malachi. After that, God sent no prophet into the earth. No angel was sent from heaven. No vision was granted. No word was spoken from the throne of God to anyone upon the earth. What was the result?
Israel had the law and prophets. The Lord had given them revelation after revelation for two thousand years. Throughout their long history, they alone had been given the Word and worship of God. God sent his prophets to Israel in abundance, and to Israel alone. Surely, that would be enough. Having the written Word of God would surely hold the nation in a steady path. Surely, there would be no need for a mere man to lead the nation in the knowledge and worship of God. Surely, they did not need a man to instruct them in the ways of God.
Think again. After four hundred years of silence, after four hundred years of men and women acting as their own prophets, the worship of Israel degenerated into utter abomination. Oh, no, they did not turn to the idols of the Gentiles. They did worse. They turned the law and ordinances of God into idolatry! Without the preaching of the gospel you cannot know God, hear from God, worship God, or walk with God.
Gospel preachers are God’s gift to his church in this world. In Jeremiah 3:15 the Lord God promised his church, “I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” A faithful, God-given pastor, a pastor according to God’s own heart, is a man who feeds the flock of God. He does not fleece the sheep, beat the sheep, use the sheep, or abuse the sheep. He feeds the sheep. His life work is the business of feeding the people of God; and he gives himself to his work ardently.
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, 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” (Ephesians 4:11-12). These men are the angels of God to his churches (Revelation 1:16-20). They are heaven-sent messengers of grace and truth. Without these God called, divinely gifted men, sent from God to his elect no one would or could ever know and trust the Lord Jesus Christ, no one would or could be saved. Without gospel preaching faith in Christ is an impossibility. That is precisely what God the Holy Ghost tells us in Romans 10:1-17.
If ever you come to see that the preaching of the gospel is absolutely vital to your soul, vital to your eternity bound sons and daughters, you will understand the meaning of Paul’s words in verse 15. Paul’s words here are an abbreviated quotation of Isaiah 52:7-10.
“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! Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”
With those words, God the Holy Ghost, by the inspired prophet of God, describes the attitude that ought to prevail in the hearts of God’s saints toward those men who are sent of God to preach the gospel to them.
The picture is of a city in captivity which begins to rejoice as she hears the sound of an army coming across the mountains to deliver her. The church of God’s elect is by nature in captivity, taken captive by Satan, held in the bondage of sin, and shut up under the curse of God’s holy law. God’s servants are an army of men, coming over the mountains, proclaiming deliverance by our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and they are highly valued by those who know their need of deliverance by Christ. Those men and women who have heard and experienced the salvation of God in Christ cherish the men who are sent of God to proclaim deliverance to their hearts. God’s servants are “watchmen.”
Yes, gospel preachers are divinely appointed watchmen over your souls. God’s servants are watchmen upon the walls of Zion – “Thy watchmen!” (Ezekiel 3:17-18; 33:7-16; Hebrews 13:7, 17), watchmen to be heard, submitted to, and obeyed as men who “have the rule over you” by divine appointment. God places the watchmen where he wants them. If the watchman fails to faithfully proclaim the Word of God, God will require the blood of men at his hands. Such watchmen are themselves lost men (1 Corinthians 9:16). But if the watchman faithfully proclaims to men the Word of God, if he faithfully preaches the gospel of Christ, he has delivered his own soul, even if those to whom he preaches refuse to hear him and go to hell (Acts 20: 26-27; 2 Corinthians 2:14-16)).
The very fact that God has placed watchmen upon the walls of Zion implies that those over whom they watch are in constant, immediate danger. The wrath of God is upon all who believe not, all who are without Christ. Satan, as a roaring lion seeks to devour you. The snares of Satan, the wiles of the devil, are real. The cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, the pleasures of life, and the countless temptations within and without, all are devices by which the fiend of hell seeks to destroy our souls, and all are snares into which we eagerly run, except God prevent us.
Added to these many devices, false brethren, false prophets, and false doctrine arise from within the church; and by these things Satan seeks to divide and conquer (1 Corinthians 11:19; Ephesians 4:8-16). It is the watchman’s business, as he cares for your soul, to unmask you, expose your sin to you, and point you to Christ (Song of Solomon 5:7).
See Eye to Eye
All of God’s watchmen see eye to eye. God himself tells us, “They shall see eye to eye.” Because they see eye to eye every watchman in Zion says the same thing. We all have the me message. The watchmen all see eye to eye. That simply means they all preach the same gospel, the gospel of God’s free, sovereign, eternal, sang grace in Christ. They are all watchmen by whom the Lord comforts his people, his redeemed, by whom he makes wasted souls fruitful. They are watchmen by whom “The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”
Read the prophet’s words in Isaiah 52:7 again. — By divine inspiration Isaiah speaks as the representative of God’s church. — “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!”
Obviously, these words do not apply to every man who calls himself a preacher and claims to come in the name of the Lord. False prophets, preachers of free-will, works religion, are not beautiful or desirable, for they do not bring good news. They are not to be treated with respect, but with contempt. They are not to be received, but shunned. Isaiah tells us plainly who those preachers are whose feet are beautiful, whose coming is desirable to the church of God. They are the men who are sent of God to preach the everlasting gospel of his free, sovereign, saving grace in Christ. And that is exactly what God the Holy Ghost tells us again in Romans 10:15.
Zion’s watchmen, gospel preachers bring “good tidings!” They bring good tidings from the heart of God to the hearts of needy sinners, declaring that righteousness is established and redemption is accomplished for all who believe by the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 10:4; Hebrews 9:12).
They publish “peace!” God’s servants never tell helpless sinners to make peace with God. How can a traitor, a rebel, a felon make peace with the sovereign he has offended? If peace is made it must be made by the sovereign. God’s servants proclaim that peace has been made for sinners by the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Isaiah 40:1-2).
They bring “good tidings of good!” God’s preachers do not offer good advice. They proclaim good news. Justice is satisfied. Atonement is made. Redemption is finished. Sin has been put away. God is reconciled. God forgives sin. God accepts sinners. God is merciful to the guilty. God saves graciously. God freely receives sinners as objects of his everlasting love through faith in the blood and righteousness of his dear Son, the sinner’s Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 3:19-28). The gospel of the grace of God is good news indeed, gloriously good news!
They publish “salvation!” Gospel preachers do not tell helpless, depraved, dead sinners what they must do to get saved, or to save themselves. We publish salvation, salvation purposed by God, purchased by God, and performed by God! We proclaim to the helplessly lost sons of Adam how that God sovereignly saves his elect by grace alone for the glory of his own great name, by blood atonement, perfect righteousness, and effectual power (Psalms 65:4; 110:3; Romans 5:12-21; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:1-10).
They say “unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” Every man who is sent of God as a messenger of grace to needy sinners proclaims, in clear and unmistakable terms, the glorious, absolute, and universal sovereignty of God in creation (Genesis 1:1), providence (Romans 8:28; 11:36) and grace (Romans 9:11-23). — “Our God is in the heavens; he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3). — “Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places” (Psalm 135:6). Every message from every faithful gospel preacher sets forth the glorious sovereignty of God.
Any man who does not preach these things is not sent of God and must not be received, heard, or aided in any way by God’s church (2 John 9-11). Any man who does preach these things is to be heard and received by the church of God and treated as the angel of God among them. He is God’s messenger.
“What glorious tidings of salvation must they be,” wrote Robert Hawker, “when the very feet of those who bring them, are accounted by the Lord himself to be beautiful!” Truly, this is indeed good news from a far country to the soul that hears the joyful sound and knows, by heart-felt experience, that God our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ “reigneth!” He reigns over all; and now we delight that it is so and rejoice that he reigns in and over our affections. This is “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
Not only are the feet of God’s servants beautiful in the eyes of those who hear the good news of gospel grace from their lips, the Lord Jesus himself holds the feet of his servants, those men he has sent out to publish salvation, in high honor as beautiful, so much so that he stoops to bathe them (John 13:3-5). If the Son of God so highly esteems the preachers he sends to preach his Word to you, you will be wise to so highly esteem them.
Christ Our Watchman
As I read these words in Isaiah 52 and Romans 10, I cannot help thinking of our blessed Redeemer, he who is the great Watchman over our souls. How beautiful his feet are, when we behold him coming over the mountains of sin in our nature, publishing peace in his blood! How beautiful his feet are in our eyes, as we see him on Mount Calvary, with his feet nailed to the cursed tree for us and for our salvation! Truly, our Lord Jesus Christ is the unequalled pattern of everything good, lovely, and beautiful!
God’s servants are to be highly esteemed in love for their work’s sake and conscientiously obeyed as they that watch for your souls (1 Thessalonians 5:11-13; Hebrews 13:7, 17) — “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings!”
Many mountains are in the way that must be crossed by the man God sends to preach the gospel: their own inward corruption and evil hearts, the opposition of false brethren, the opposition of those they serve, and all the false religion of antichrist. Yet, God’s servants are men whose feet are twice described in the Book of God as “beautiful.” Their feet are referred to, instead of their whole bodies, as being beautiful. — Why?
Their feet are defiled, yet beautiful. Though gospel preachers are themselves only sinful men saved by the grace of God, they are beautiful as the messengers of grace. Their feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. With their feet they run to and fro, from place to place preaching the gospel (Revelation 14:6, 8). Feet are instruments of travel and labor.
For these reasons, God the Holy Spirit tells us that every faithful servant of God ought to be honored by the church of God, by those for whom he labors as the servant of God, received as the angel of God to them, loved and highly esteemed for their work’s sake (Galatians 4:14-15; Philemon 19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11-13). Those who oppose God’s servants and fight against them oppose God and fight against him who said, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 105:15; 1 Samuel 8:7; Numbers 16:1-35; 2 Kings 2:23-24)
There is a day coming when every watchman must give account, not to you, not to church councils, not to the denominational board, but to God (Hebrews 13:17). I will soon give account to God of what I have done (preached and written). I will soon give account to God of every soul to whom he has sent me. For some, I will give account with joy. For many, I will give account with grief! So it shall be with every preacher, with every watchman set upon the walls of Zion
“Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” (Acts 20:26-27)