What the Bible says about
Preacher, Importance of
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Here, God's people have rejected following His example in order to practice and live by lies that bring only destruction and death.
Notice the contrast to us as shown by Jesus in the New Testament. Revelation 19:11 testifies of Him, "Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war." Jesus says of Himself in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." This statement confirms the faithfulness of His nature: He is reliable, trustworthy, and of unwavering integrity.
What does being trustworthy mean in practical application? Who does God show are the most important persons to the overall welfare of the community, state, or nation? It is not the doctors, lawyers, politicians, or businessmen but the preacher and the king because they should teach, administer, exemplify, and provide the values upon which the community will function. God expects those values to be His.
What does God consistently show in His Word? Notice the context in which these verses appear. In both Deuteronomy and Revelation, a new culture, a new nation, is either being established or about to be established. God is indicating that the preacher has a slight edge in importance.
When God established Israel as a nation, He first appointed and sent the preacher—the prophet Moses. In the New Testament, Christ came first as a rabbi, a preacher to teach the way of God. Upon His resurrection, He became our High Priest, a post that has both religious and administrative functions, and He will return as King to administer God's Kingdom. This is why God's Word places so much importance on these two community positions. The preacher should exemplify God's values and deliver instruction containing them, and the king should live them and administer them to the nation.
Without true values, civilization will soon descend into revolution and anarchy. God's doctrine is true and faithful. It will produce gently and without corruption, or as Moses puts it in Deuteronomy 32:2, it will "drop as the rain" and "distill as the dew," whereas a hard-driving rain destroys. Any society or family built on God's doctrines will prosper and become great.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment
The entire nation—Jeremiah is reporting here on Judah around the time Nebuchadnezzar invaded in 607 BC—was spiritually and morally sick. "And the priests rule by their own power" means in more modern language that the priests were functioning on their own authority, that is, they had pushed the law of God aside.
The people loved it because in so doing, they allowed themselves to be deceived into thinking that the restraints and penalties of God's law would not affect them. "It will not happen to me." That is what God shows happened in the Garden of Eden. Satan said, "You shall not surely die," and Adam and Eve became convinced that the penalty for sin would not affect them if they disobeyed what God said. They fell for what Satan sold them.
Why does God concentrate on morals in His Book? There are many things He could have written about, but He chose to write a great deal about the morals of the people with whom He had made a covenant.
One reason is that morals are like a weathervane. They show the direction a nation, a church, or an individual is headed in.
A second reason why God concentrates on morals focuses on the prophets and the preachers. Why? Because He has appointed them to be the conscience of His people. Preachers tend to lead the people either into morality or immorality—one or the other. They are like the tip of the spear or the point of an arrow that points the direction of the nation. They are leading indicators. So it says in verse 30, "An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power."
Even if a minister is not doing his job, pointing out the sins of the people for whom he is responsible to God, we still, individually, have the responsibility to obey God regardless.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sin of Self-Deception
Israel's false religion, represented by the altars of Bethel, is at the root of her problems. The violence and injustice in Israelite society ultimately stemmed from the false teaching proclaimed from the pulpits.
For this reason, God shows that the preacher, not the civil authority, is the most vital part of the community. God set up the Levites within Israel to function as the teachers of His way of life, and He sent the prophets as watchdogs on the Levites and civil leaders. In many cases, when the king or the nation had wandered from the way, the prophets were sent to correct them (e.g., II Samuel 12:1-15; I Kings 18:17-19; II Kings 21:10-15).
At the foundation of every community is a way of life that its people live and teach their children. Does that way of life conform to the God of the Bible, or does it spring from the mind of men? If it is of men, it will not work very long. So it was in the northern kingdom of Israel after its division from the kingdom of Judah. The religion of Israel began with a man, Jeroboam I, who changed the true worship of God (I Kings 12:26-33).
- He established a feast in the eighth month to replace the true Feast of Tabernacles in the seventh.
- He may have replaced the Sabbath with Sunday worship.
- He replaced the Levitical priesthood with men of his own choosing.
- Lastly, he replaced God with golden calves in Bethel and Dan.
A religion with such a beginning was doomed to fail, bringing the nation down with it.
When religion is ungodly, its power is destructive, and every institution in the nation suffers. For instance, Amos 2:7 describes a deliberate act of ritual prostitution in a pagan temple: "A man and his father go in to the same girl, to defile My holy name." What was the rationale behind this perverse, immoral act?
Because Baal was neither alive nor a moral force, his worshippers felt they could communicate with him only by ritual actions that portrayed what they were asking him to do. Since Baal was, like almost all ancient deities, a fertility god, the human act of intercourse demonstrated that they wanted Baal to prosper them. But what was its real effect on the participants and the nation? Ritual prostitution only served to erode the family, eventually leading to the destruction of the nation.
Baal was different from his adherents merely in that he was above them. God's difference from us is that He is holy; He is moral and we are immoral. After we accept His calling, He commands us to become moral as He is.
The basis of all immorality is selfishness, the exact opposite of what God is. God wants to transform us from people who are bent on pleasing ourselves to people who show concern for others. This is the crux of our salvation through Jesus Christ. In those God calls out—those who, by faith, will voluntarily yield to Him—He is building character based on outgoing love.
Immorality lies in the desire of men to live self-centered lives independent of God, as when Adam and Eve took of the forbidden tree (Genesis 3:1-19). To become moral, we must kill our selfish egos through the use and guidance of God's Holy Spirit. When we see that our thoughts and ways are not His, we should reform and repent. By submitting to Him, we take a small step in being transformed into what He is.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)
This section's main subject is how a minister should approach preaching the gospel. But notice, when we distill His words down, Jesus is saying that, for a minister, preaching the gospel is non-negotiable. In the vernacular, He says to His ministry, "If you go into a town, and you find worthy people to stay with, preach the gospel to them. If they accept it, great. Stay there and preach for as long as you need to. If they reject it, great. Pick up your belongings, dust off your pants, and go to the next town. As a minister of God, you are not preaching for the sake of numbers, or to receive praise from the people, or to make money, or whatever. Preach the gospel. Period."
The minister's job is to preach the gospel. If the people accept it - wonderful. If they do not accept it - well, they will get their reward. The ministry does not have to waste its time in places where the gospel will not be accepted. God does not want His ministers to throw pearls before swine, as it were. He wants them to find those who accept the truth, who want to believe the truth, who are willing to support the truth, who want to help in getting the truth out. And if none are to be found in a particular place, they are to move on. Evidently, God has not called anyone there.
But the truth remains the same. The message must be preached, and it must not be changed. Jesus is pretty hard-nosed about this. A minister of God is not driven by numbers, nor by contributions. He should not be driven by anything designed to make him look "good" because he should not be in it for his own glory. He is in the ministry because he desires to preach the gospel and glorify God. That is what his Master has told him to do, and he is a man, a servant, under authority.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
1 Corinthians 1:18-21
We need a voice - a preacher, a true minister of God - to make the message clear.
By nature, our desires are likely to run amok. We think we know what we want, but we do not always know what we need. A minister's function within the church is to lead us from what we want to what we need.
A brief article excerpted from an old Fortune magazine article chided church pastors for following rather than leading their flocks. The result, it said, was a vicious, downward spiral of spiritual disillusionment in the congregates. The following quotation from that article is quite insightful:
There is only one way out of the spiral. The way out is the sound of a voice. Not our voice, but a voice coming from something not ourselves, in the existence of which we cannot disbelieve. It is the earthly task of the pastors to hear this voice, to cause us to hear it, and to tell us what it says.
This statement is backed up by Romans 10:13-17:
For "whoever shall call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved." 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? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah said, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
How can people call on God if they never heard of Him and do not know Him? Paul answers that they cannot hear without a preacher. A preacher cannot go unless he is sent, commissioned as an ambassador with a message revealed to him. Paul's summary is that faith - saving faith - arises from this combination of acts after the message is heard and believed. Faith comes by hearing the Voice of God spoken through a duly ordained messenger of God. This, in effect, means that only He who sends the message can designate who bears it!
In addition, Paul is not simply describing the beginning of faith, but its beginning and all of the progress made by faith throughout a person's conversion. The very strength of faith is by hearing and believing. Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Faith is the key that opens the door of salvation, but only to those who will hear and believe and redirect their lives accordingly.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 4)
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