Herein is the last portion of the article based on Jeremiah 23, calling the church to stand up and be counted as “the pillar and ground of the truth”.
In the next 2 verses, we note how intensely God expressed His anger to the unfaithful prophets and people: “Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly” (vv. 19-20). Indeed, who could withstand such fury of the LORD? Before such consuming wrath, we can only plead, “O Lord, have mercy, hide Thy face against our sins.” The LORD again reiterated His strong displeasure of the prophets of Israel in verse 21, “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.” The LORD was upset with the prophets for taking the office without being called and appointed by Him, hence His damning denunciation: “I have not sent these prophets”!
A similar phenomenon of an increasing number of false teachers and pastors is seen in Christendom today. Is there a preacher or missionary in this conference who is not sent by God? Is there a preacher who has come by his own will? Is there one sent by the devil? Is there a man here who is considering the office of the church without having a clear calling from the LORD? You might think me to be uncharitable, ill-natured and hurtful in raising these questions. But recall how Jeremiah had to proclaim the LORD’s scathing pronouncement that “I have not sent these prophets”. It was Jeremiah versus the entire association of prophets! It is imperative for all of us to understand that a divine call is indispensable to be a preacher of God’s Word. God must first beckon him, equip him with the necessary gifts and qualities, and then train him in His Word to be a preacher. No one should try to become a preacher, without the LORD’s clear appointment. No one can say, “Trust me, I am confident that I will make it.”
One who is called by the LORD will not only have an inner conviction of God’s call, but also the external evidence of spiritual qualities (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:7-9) and the necessary spiritual gifts (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6). Bible colleges cannot make one a preacher. Rather, Bible colleges can only aid those who are called to gain knowledge through godly and faithful teachers. In this respect, pastors are to be careful not to lay hands upon a man who has not proven his calling. “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22), so wrote Paul to Timothy. I dread the possibility of unwittingly ordaining a person whom God didn’t ordain. Beware of men who rush to become pastors, men who quickly want to put on the “clergy cloak”, even though there is little to prove that they are called. None should pretend that he is called.
Dear Gethsemane churches, let us not delight in the number of preachers we have, but pray that they are called and equipped by God. I would ask all the preachers and missionaries present, to examine whether they are truly in the ministry in obedience to God’s call. Is it because the Lord has called you that you are a preacher? Is your heart led by the Spirit? Or is it your own carnal and materialistic thoughts that teach you what to do? If your heart is not guided by the Blessed Spirit and Truth, you had better step down from your post. Let us also pray that God will prevent us from ordaining a man who is not called by Him. May our “sweat and blood” not go into supporting a man who is not called by God. Do not rush to ordain men into the ministry. Your heart will be broken, and you will be dragged into places and situations that you should never be in. Pretentious, ungodly men cannot lead you into righteousness and truth. They will corrupt you; you will then cry and weep, and howl in great misery. May God be merciful to protect our churches. Let His Word defend us!
My dear friends, let me tell you how we become defenders of God’s Word. When we allow God’s Word to defend us, we naturally become the defenders of its truth. We are not supposed to fight the battle with fleshly means; we fight the battle with the spiritual armour God has given. You do not go up to God and say, “Count on me God, here I am. Look at my strength; look at my intellectual ability. Why don’t you enlist me?” “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (2 Corinthians 10:4). If God has not called you, if God has not given you the armour, if God has not equipped you with skill and ability, how can you defend God’s Word? Unless we let God’s Word defend us, we cannot be defenders of God’s Word. May God save us from the folly of human pride that assumes that we are capable of defending His Word by our own human devices and wisdom! If Gethsemane is ever to be a church that defends God’s Word, then her preachers must be moulded by the truth of His Word, and hence unreservedly yield to it.
Likewise, worshippers and church members must also live according to His Word. In this respect, be watchful! Analyse what you hear in the church, whether it is of God. Many false prophets have gone out! 1 John 4:1 admonishes us, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God”. Having heard from one of our conference preachers about an American pastor caught in an adulterous relationship after being in the ministry for twenty years (how tragic!), we can never let our guard down. Anyone who disobeys the Word and does evil is not a defender of God’s Word. By acting against its counsels and living a compromised life of worldliness, he has instead ridiculed and maligned it, and “thrown it away” for the world. “But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings” (Jeremiah 23:22). It is the duty of the church – even every Christian’s duty – to make sure that the preacher is following God’s Word. This cannot be assumed.
O, may Gethsemane churches arise; repent of our unbelief and disobedience; and pray: “LORD, I am prone to wander. O LORD, defend me, deliver me.” May God defend us, that we may be defenders of His holy name and His truth. Defenders of God’s Word are those who stay under its truths, trusting everything it says and appropriating all its counsels by faith and obedience. They believe, preach and affirm it; they do not question it.
Finally, we do well to remember Paul’s reason in giving Timothy advice on the orderly governing and conduct in the local church: “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Blessed be His name! We are not the church of any heathen statue or idol; we are the church of the living God. Just how do we prove that? By being the pillar and ground of the truth! The church ought to show the world the magnificence of God’s Truth by yielding to its authority. God’s Truth rules over us as we submit to its counsels. We in turn, like a pillar, hold up the Truth. In so doing, we are deemed to be defending God’s Word.