The word minister as used in the New Testament means "a servant." Because of his God-given call and his ordination by the church, he is to serve the church, the lost world, and his God.
Responsibility to the Church
The church is God's property, bought with His own blood when Christ became our sacrifice. It is in His sight of inestimable value. He gave His own life, literally, living and dying in service to it. When He ascended, His ministers, those whom He had ordained, were left to continue that service as His representatives. What a privilege and what a tremendous responsibility to serve as He served! That is our work to give our life caring for, and if need be dying for, God's precious heritage.
We are to "feed the flock of God" (1 Peter 5:2). In these words Peter is but passing on the responsibility laid on him by Christ Himself, who just before His ascension three times solemnly commanded him to feed His sheep and His lambs. This means more than just to put food in front of them. It is not merely to pasture them but to pastor them; not simply to feed them but to nourish them; to see that all the elements of spiritual food they require to make them strong and healthy Christians are provided at the right time and in the proper quantities, having regard also to the peculiarities of each person.
I remember many years ago hearing my father give advice to a young worker who had criticized him for not putting enough doctrine into a sermon. He said, "Son, we are shepherds. The other day I watched a shepherd feed his flock. There was a hayrick, and the shepherd took a forkful of hay at a time and put it right where the sheep could get it, giving the very best of it to the lambs. He did not try to cram the whole hayrick down the throat of the sheep at once. They would have choked. We are commanded to feed the sheep, not choke them." Just as a modern mother watches her child and his diet with the greatest care, so it should be our constant study to provide God's flock with that which will supply all its needs and keep it growing and healthy.
Christ is the church's example, and we as His representatives have the duty to be examples to all. It is part of our responsibility to translate the Christ life into terms of modern living, going before the flock and showing it the way.
Our responsibility includes the constant endeavor to reclaim backsliders. The parable of the lost sheep teaches that the good shepherd searches most earnestly for the one lost from the flock, "till he find it."
shepherd once said that the best way to have a healthy, happy flock was to love the lambs. I believe he was right, for the lambs are soon the flock, and if the bond of love is tied fast while they are gathered in the shepherd's arms and carried in his bosom, it will never be broken. The true minister as a shepherd will be found spending much of his time and effort in understanding and cherishing the young of his flock.
Another phase of our responsibility to the church is that of jealously guarding its reputation. Our Lord is very jealous of the good name of His bride, the church, and He has placed her in our care trusting us to cherish her good name. Things sometimes go wrong, there are troubles and difficulties, but no word of this should ever be heard where it would do harm.
Responsibility to the World
As ministers we have more creditors than any other men in the world. Paul said he was a debtor to all men (Rom. 1:14). We owe the dear Lord a tremendous debt for what He has done for us. Should we spend our lives fully in service to the world, we would be able to make but a token payment on that great debt. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40). It is in service to the lost that we are most truly Christ's representatives, for in that service we continue the work He came to earth to do."The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10), and He Himself tells us, "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you" (John 20:21).
The prophets of old spoke of "the burden" of Tyre, or Nineveh, or Moab, or Egypt, or Arabia, but the minister of Christ today must ever feel the burden of the whole wide world that lies in wickedness. All around us are souls the Master valued so highly that He gave His own life for them. We should feel a responsibility for every sinner we meet, * and not only feel this responsibility, but also do something to discharge it. Sometimes here in these heathen lands the passage of time rather deadens our keen sense of responsibility to the poor folks about us, but the responsibility remains, and we in whose hands Christ's unfinished task has been left must never allow that sense of keen and dire responsibility to fade.
"Some ministers who profess to be called of God have the blood of souls on their garments. They are surrounded with . . . sinners, and yet feel no burden for their souls. . . . Some have died in their sins and will in the judgment confront with reproaches of their guilt those who might have saved them, but who did not." Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 506. "What a responsible position, to unite with the Redeemer of the world in the salvation of men! This work calls for self-denial, sacrifice, and benevolence, for perseverance, courage, and faith. ... A minister of Christ has no right to be at ease." Ibid., p. 635. (Italics supplied.) "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required" (Luke 12:48). "Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" (1 Cor. 4:2).
Responsibility to Himself "We are ambassadors for Christ" (2 Cor. 5:20). I have had the privilege of seeing some ambassadors. They bear themselves with a certain noticeable dignity. That dignity is the measure of their esteem and respect for the greatness of the government they represent. As ambassadors of the King of kings we owe it not only to Him but to ourselves to maintain a Christian dignity commensurate with our high calling.
We represent One who said, "I am the truth." Not only do we teach the truth; we are to live the truth, be the truth. The one thing above all others the minister owes to himself is absolute integrity, in word, in deed, in thought; in his life, his teachings, his business affairs, and everything he does. This one thing is what in the end makes or breaks a minister. How can one teach the truth if there be in him anything that is not absolutely sincere? How can any man represent Him who is the truth if he lives a lie? The flock of God soon discovers what manner of man he is who serves them. Only if they know us to be absolutely sincere and our integrity incorruptible will they give us their confidence, and only if we have their confidence can we lead them as a shepherd should. With Joseph's brothers we should be able to say, "We are true men" (Gen. 42:11).
The greatness of our task is overwhelming, and the shortness of time should spur us on. "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4). We owe it to ourselves to do all that lies in our power while we have the time. We owe it to ourselves to do the very best that is in us.
"There is no place for the slothful in this great work, no place for the self-indulgent, ... no place for halfhearted men who are not fervent in spirit, willing to endure hardness, opposition, reproach, or death for Christ's sake. The Christian ministry is no place for drones." Ibid., vol. 5, p. 582.
Not only does God expect us to do the best we can; He also requires us to be the best we can. We shall be brought into judgment not only for what we are but for what we might have been.
"God holds us responsible for all that we might be, if we would improve our talents. We shall be judged according to what we ought to have been, but were not. . . . For all knowledge that we might have gained but did not, there will be an eternal loss." Testimonies to Ministers, p. 147.
"Never think that you have learned enough. . . . Your education should continue during your life time." Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 561. To ourselves as well as to others we owe the duty of being an example. Paul speaking to Timothy said, "Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim. 4:12). "How much is required of the minister in his work of watching for souls as they that must give an account! . . . What elevated piety should be seen in his life and character!" Ibid., vol. 5, p. 380. "Above all other men, ministers of Christ . . . should be free from selfishness. . . . They should be patterns of piety." Ibid., vol. 2, p. 548.
"An example ... in purity." Although this comes last in Paul's list, it is by no means of least importance. James gives it as the first part of heavenly wisdom (James 3:17), and as ministers we should remember this. Perhaps more than other men we are at times brought into circumstances that try us on this point. Paul repeated this warning to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:22, where he says, "Keep thyself pure." He must have felt a need of this repeated warning. The need is still with us today. How many promising men have had to be dropped from our ranks because of failure here! What a pitiable loss to themselves and to the cause of God! We owe it to ourselves, as well as to God and those who love us, to maintain our integrity in this matter with the strictest caution and prayerfulness. And let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. "Again I urge upon you the necessity of purity in every thought, in every word, in every action." Ibid., vol. 5, p. 599. Notice that thought comes first. May God bring even our thoughts into subjection as He has promised to do if we will let Him. "There is an exalted platform for us to stand upon. . . . Holiness of heart will never lead to impure actions. When one who claims to be teaching the truth is inclined to be much in the company of young or even married women, when he familiarly lays his hand upon them, ... be afraid of him; the pure principles of truth are not inwrought in his soul." Ibid., p. 593.
Responsibility to God
To God we owe the duty to see that His name is first hallowed in us, that we do not misrepresent Him in any way. "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain" (Ex. 20:7). We are responsible for honoring the great name of God in all our contacts with the world.
God has one purpose in our world today, and that is to save men. He loved us so that He came as a man and gave Himself to save us. We are here to take that message to the whole wide world and persuade as many men as possible to accept it and be reconciled. What a responsibility is ours! We are responsible to God for carrying to completion the work for which He gave His life. This is the last period of time. We have the last message, "the everlasting gospel." "I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach" (Rev. 14:6).
We have to preach. "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:16). Our great and principal responsibility to God is evangelism pure and simple. All other things that fall to bur lot to do are but auxiliaries, and must contribute to this prime objective or be discontinued. Someday we shall have to stand before Him in the judgment and answer for what we have done, or not done, with this duty to which God and all heaven are dedicated. What shall we say when He asks us, "Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?" (Jer. 13:20).
We have the responsibility in Christ's stead to beseech men to be reconciled to God, to preach the everlasting gospel, to give God's message of God's love, in God's name; to give God's warning against sin, faithfully, unafraid, but with the same love in our hearts that is in His and that caused Him to give Himself a willing sacrifice on Calvary. We are responsible to God for warning and pleading with the souls for whom He died. And it is a matter of life and death for us and for them: to him who turns from his wicked way, life; to him who does not, death. "To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Cor. 2:16). Well may we ask with Paul, "Who is sufficient for these things?" To discharge our solemn and sacred responsibility, we need an outpouring of the Spirit of God such as fell upon the apostles at Pentecost, for it is only the Spirit of God who can do the work of God. If we are to discharge our Godgiven responsibility, we must pray earnestly for such an outpouring.
"The ministers of Christ need a new anointing." Ibid., vol. 2, p. 506. We need the anointing promised by God through Joel and Zechariah, that promise of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit which had its first fulfillment at Pentecost, but which, we are told, is to have a much mightier fulfillment in the giving of the latter rain in these last times.
Let us pray earnestly for this promised anointing. And may God hear and answer our prayers.
Unchangeable of the Sabbath
MAX TRIMMER, National City, California
In here are many strong texts in the Holy Scriptures, in the Old as well as in the New Testament, which show that the seventh-day Sabbath is God's appointed day of rest for His church today. However I have found in my mission work that the most convincing single text is the record of the making of the first Sabbath, as given in Genesis 2:1-3.
Our Creator chose to make our wonderful world in six days. This was, indeed, a marvelous display of the "depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God" (Rom. 11:33), as well as of His limitless power. "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." Adam was placed as a steward in this newly created Paradise, "to dress it and to keep it" (Gen. 2:15). To be able to meet God's ideal, our first parents had need of frequent communion with their Creator, and for this reason the Infinite One created the seventh day a holy day.
After laying this foundation, we are now ready to present the God-given claim of the all enduring, ever-present holy Sabbath:
First, since it was God who made the Sabbath, this day is His (and not ours), just as is all the earth and the "fulness thereof." Second, God ended His work on the seventh day. Thus the Sabbath was just as much a part of creation as what God created during the six previous days. Is it for the clay to say to the potter, "What doest thou?" Third, since God is perfect, every thing He does is perfect. What a great dishonor puny man would bring upon himself, should he attempt to change God's holy Sabbath! Fourth, the Sabbath, like the marriage institution, comes to us from the Garden of Eden, where everything was in a state of perfection and innocence. Hence, if we want to become holy and perfect, we want to keep God's holy and perfect Sabbath. These four reasons will persuade any sincere soul to embrace the Sabbath, the crowning day of God's creation.
Notwithstanding, let us add three associate texts of Scripture that will show forth the glory of the true Sabbath still more. In Exodus 20:8-11 our heavenly Father honors the Sabbath commandment with the seal of His holy and eternal law. In Ezekiel 20:20 the Catholic version of Archbishop Torres Amat (in Spanish) says the Sabbath was given as a memorial, that we might know who is the Lord our God. In Isaiah 66:22, 23, we are told that after God makes a new earth, the redeemed of all ages will keep God's original Sabbath to the praise and glory of the Lord God, forever and ever.
The Promise of Power
HOWARD E. KERSHNER, Editor, "Christian Economics"
One of the most unsatisfactory things about our lives is our lack of power. We are so easily fatigued. We no more than start some important work till we have to stop to rest, to eat, to sleep. Our bodies grow tired and are beset with aches, pains and infirmities of all kinds. Our minds grow weary and we can no longer think. Our little engines sputter and cough on the hills, showing how limited and feeble we are.
All of us crave more power, power of mind, power of body, and spiritual power. We are vaguely aware of the fact that we are in some way close to great reserves of power and we long to have access to it.
It is not the will of our Father that we should be so weak. Jesus promised us almost unlimited power. Hear His words in one of the greatest promises in the Bible. "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you" (Luke 10:19). This power is seeking us even as we seek it. Between God and man, there is a double search. God is trying to lead us and to instruct us, all the time. He cannot do this, however, unless we also are seeking to find Him. The most distinguished professor in the world cannot teach a student who does not want to learn. For knowledge to pass from the mind of the instructor to the mind of the student, requires a receptive attitude on the part of the student, a desire to learn, a willingness to put forth effort to accomplish that objective.
God is no doubt willing to bestow His blessings and His power upon us in far greater measure if we would seek it more diligently.
Who of us living in a mud hut but having the power to erect for himself a mansion with all comforts and convenience, as well as beautiful and artistic decorations, would fail to exert himself to the limit until the beautiful new structure had been completed? Yet, how many of us are content to live in shabby spiritual habitations when we might erect for ourselves a glorious spiritual mansion. . . . But to come into possession of ... spiritual riches, earnest, persistent and continual effort to find and do the will of God is required of us.
When I was a boy, I used to watch tiny chicks hatch out of the eggs. I could hear the tiny "Peep, peep" of the chick and feel its motions within the shell. On the outside was sunlight, food, and fresh air, a great new world, but the chick was imprisoned on the inside of the shell. The only way to get out was by its own efforts. I could feel its struggles. As it pecked away at the shell, tiny cracks would appear. These would widen. Eventually, the tiny bill appeared, then two bright eyes and finally a little downy head. If the chick had given up the struggle, it would have died imprisoned in the shell. By its own efforts, however, it finally freed itself and stepped into the great, new and beautiful world.
I am interested in a ranch in one of the deserts of California where an irrigating ditch carrying a volume of water, some four feet wide and two feet deep, crosses a ravine in a galvanized iron flume. The flume is about six feet above the level of the ravine. Occasionally, a vagrant will come along and tempted by the cool water in the hot, dusty desert will punch holes in the flume and stand under it for a delightful shower bath. The cool refreshing water is rushing overhead, under pressure to get out and refresh the man standing below, but it cannot do it until he breaks the barrier. Initiative, the effort, the struggle, must come from the one who would participate in these blessings.
God's refreshing showers of mercy, blessings and power await us if only we will make the effort to break through the barrier that separates them from us.
Sometimes, I find myself in the condition which Caesar described during the Gallic Wars, when he said he had to do everything at once. It may be four o'clock in the afternoon with a big pile of mail to sign, visitors waiting to be seen, the telephone ringing and other urgent matters pressing for attention. Weary from a long day that began probably at six o'clock in the morning, I sometimes feel unable to carry on. Pressure, tension and nervousness begin to mount. Sometimes, I have had the experience of leaning back in my chair and stretching my hands high over my head, imagining that they are electrodes and that I am reaching up to plug them into God's great power line. At times, I have felt a real flow of energy coming from unseen sources, sweeping away the aches and pain, the strain and the tension and substituting for my wheezing, inadequate, little engine, the smooth flow of water, bringing with it the sensation of relief that always accompanies a great reserve. After a few minutes of this, with all tension gone, relaxed and calm, I have found the strength to carry through for additional hours.
"Behold, I give you power," said Jesus. We need to be more aggressive in accepting and using the power that He has thus promised us.