The Self-Ordained Preacher!
God does not want His people to be taught by self-commissioned preachers! He disapproved the teachings of such men among the ancient Israelites – “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied” (Jeremiah 23:21). God warned of their ministry as unprofitable and treacherous – they “… cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:32; cf. 14:14; 27:15).
One such preacher was Hananiah. To him, God’s servant Jeremiah said, “Hear now, Hananiah; The LORD hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie” (Jeremiah 28:15). The preaching by a man who is not equipped by the Spirit of God would cause his hearers to “trust in a lie”. For this reason, Jeremiah squared up to Hananiah. Like Jeremiah, every faithful servant of God recognises the necessity to contend with him who is not sent by God, for that man will not only be ineffectual but will also pose the grave danger of misleading the people into error. Such vigilance and conflict may cause some, especially simple-minded Christians, to become weary. Nonetheless, it must be emphasised that it is necessary, as in the case of “Jeremiah vs Hananiah”, that any “self-ordination” to the office of a preacher must be opposed!
It is to protect the church from such men that God’s Word gives us this condition: that if a man were to come to the office of a preacher (or any other leadership office of the church), evidence of the Spirit-endued qualities and abilities must be found in that man whom God calls into the preaching ministry. Moreover, God’s Word commands the leaders of the church (i.e. pastors and elders) to scrutinise and examine individuals who desire to come to the offices of the church. Even after the appointment of such men to the offices of the church, vigilance must continue so that those who are not of God but had somehow made their way into the offices of the church may not be allowed to start their vile efforts to corrupt the church.
The God-Ordained Preacher!
The God-sent preacher is not one who prepares a sermon and delivers it in an academic fashion. The God-sent preacher preaches from a divine impulsion and enablement. He says with Paul, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
God first calls and adequately prepares the preacher before He sends him to preach His Word. Hence, the preacher will not only have a deep desire to preach but also all the necessary qualities and abilities to do the work of a preacher. Only those whom God has called, prepared and equipped to preach His Word will He commission and send as preachers. When God equips a man with all the required spiritual wisdom, character and giftedness, which are outlined in the sacred Scriptures, the leaders and members of the church would be able to witness them.
The preacher is a witness to God’s message and His equipping of him. He is not assigned to be a mere heralder of the divine message, but also to be a living testimony of the message. By faith, he receives the message not just for his hearers, but also for himself, and yields himself to live daily according to the Biblical truths. The preacher is first of all a witness of the truth, then its heralder. His life must be regenerated, renewed, and ratified by the truths of God’s Word.
He must acknowledge the authority of God’s Word. It is not enough to merely believe in the authority of the Word; there must be evidence that he is living under the authority of the Word. He who has not experienced the power of God’s truth in his life cannot share it boldly with others. He must be submissive to what Scripture says, even when his own heart’s desires and feelings are contrary to it.
A servant of God is one whom God has deployed for the service of His kingdom. God will prepare him and place him according to His providential plan in the work of His church. The service of God is a divine deployment, not a voluntary service. Whatever be the office, God’s Word is clear that no man who is not specifically called and prepared by God should enter therein. This principle is clearly mentioned in passages like Hebrews 5:4 – “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” This principle is corroborated by John the Baptiser’s words: “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven” (John 3:27).
There are a thousand ways in which God may use His people to serve in the church. But to be in the office of the ministry of the Word (such as teaching and preaching), their giftedness is very different from all other services in the church. When it comes to the office of a preacher, it is non-negotiable that a man shows all the evidence of divine equipping for that honourable task. He must have the humility, integrity, giftedness to expound the Word, co-labouring spirit with other preachers, wisdom, discernment to give counsel to God’s people, etc. Until all these qualities and abilities are evident and confirmed, no one should be appointed to the office of a preacher. Certainly, it does not mean all preachers will be equally capable and effective. Nonetheless, the divine enabling for the task must be evident in a preacher.
Let no one rush to be a preacher. Let no one seek to be a preacher anyhow. Let the man who says that he is called to be a preacher follow the Biblical instructions concerning the appointment to that office. God will not fail to fulfil the call He has given to His servants (cf. Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 1:11; 3:3). God has not allowed any man who is not evidently proven by the Spirit of God (before the church and her God-honouring leaders) as having the divine calling and enablement, to take to himself the office of a preacher. If the church, especially the pastors and elders, do not sense your giftedness and affirm your ability to preach, then you should not take it upon yourself to be a preacher. No one should discredit the advice of God-appointed men in the church, for they watch over your souls (Hebrews 13:17)! Like Timothy, every preacher must have the affirmation of the presbytery (1 Timothy 4:14). For if a man takes to himself the office of a preacher by going against and neglecting the counsel of those whom God has appointed in the leadership of the church, why should he think that his hearers would hear him?