The Preacher of the Word

A preacher is a messenger; he is sent forth with a report, and it is the Lord who sends him. This he must not forget, for "how shall they preach, except they be sent?" (Rom. 10). The man who keeps this in mind will be kept from self-importance and swagger. A great honour is put upon him certainly, but it is not he that is important but the message he carries. Being sent, his first thought must be the One who sends him. To "please Him who hath chosen him" (2 Tim. 2:4); to show himself "approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed" (v. 15), and a "vessel meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work" (v. 21): this should be his one all-controlling ambition. His first thought must be his Master, and his last thought too, for he must return from his mission to Him to give account as to the way he has carried it out and the success of it. "He commanded those servants to be called unto Him, that He might know how much every man had gained by trading" (Luke 19:15). But he must also keep his Master in mind during his mission, for it will be a complete failure if he loses contact with Him, and, moreover the Lord never withdraws His eye from His servants, and here is a marvellous thing, "A faithful . . . messenger refresheth the soul of his Master" (Prov. 25:13). We may be sure that Solomon knew what he was talking about when he said that, and he said it by inspiration of the Holy Ghost. The thought of the faithful messenger brings the Lord Himself to the mind, He is called "the faithful Witness, " and how perfectly refreshed was the heart of His Father as He looked upon Him.

Twice, we know, He publicly declared His delight in Him, but there was not a moment by night or day that the Lord had not the secret assurance that He always pleased the One who sent Him. "As My Father hath sent Me into the world even so send I you, " He said, so that He is the pattern as well as the Master of the preacher.

The true preacher comes from the Lord with a message to men. He comes to men, and he will always be ready to serve them, but they are not his master. "He is bought with a price and must not be the servant of men" (1 Cor. 7:23), in the sense of taking orders from them and being under their control. He is an ambassador of peace from God to the world and must know the divine conditions and terms of peace if he is to present them, and interpret them to men according to the mind of his Sovereign Lord. He is a bringer of good news to men from the Lord in heaven, and again we turn to Solomon who describes this very thing "As cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country" (Prov. 25:25). And if he is "a faithful ambassador he is health" (Prov. 13:17). He is in himself a witness to the delivering, healing power of the message he carries, for health and holiness are words derived from the same root, and a faithful messenger is a man who is in spiritual health, there is a wholeness about him: his Master, his Master's message, and his Master's interests absorb him; but there is a solemn contrast to this given in Solomon's terse words, "A wicked messenger falleth into mischief." "Wicked" is "wrong." This wicked messenger has wrong views of his Master, like the man who said to Him, "I knew that thou wert an austere man, " he has wrong views as to his message, and will substitute his own honeyed words for his Master's faithful message, and he not only falls into mischief himself, but causes others to fall into mischief also, for "a man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet" (Prov. 29:5). But "a faithful witness delivereth souls" (Prov. 14:25). His words, which are his Lord's words, are words of salvation, setting souls free from the snare of the great and subtle adversary, for his words are truth, and the truth makes free all those who believe it.

But again "He that watereth others, he shall be watered also himself" (Prov. 11:25). "It is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God care for the oxen?" Surely He does, but He would have us learn the deeper lesson, that in labouring for other's good there is a peculiar joy, and the one who carries the message of grace from God to men is refreshed and blest and enlarged in doing it. "There is that scattereth and yet increaseth: and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty" (Prov. 11:24). Whichever way the faithful messenger looks he will find joy and blessing for his own soul. What a joy for instance it is to be the messenger of such a Master. "My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things I have made touching the King." And what a wonderful message is the one to be carried; the three greatest words in human language are "God is love, " and that is the message. And how great is the joy when the message is effective, "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." And the faithful messenger has his own share in that joy.

It is a good thing to dwell upon the joy and the blessing, for these are great, "The faithful man shall abound with blessings" (Prov. 28:20), but warnings are also needed, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall, " "Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint." Paul preached with power, and the Holy Ghost, and with much assurance, but he never could have done it, if he could not have added, "Ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sakes." So we read in his letter to the Thessalonians. He followed the Lord in his living; he was like his Master. The man who carries the Master's message and yet falsifies it by his life is a false witness, and "a false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish" (Prov. 19:9). "No man, " said a wise old puritan, "preaches his sermon well to others if he doth not first preach it to himself." And certainly no man affects others by the truth he speaks except as he has been affected by it himself. "Who is sufficient for these things?" "Our sufficiency is of God, " and if any man thinks himself able for this service of preaching the word apart from dependence upon God, he is surely heading for a fall as great and terrible as that of Simon Peter's.