Preachers Going On to Perfection

Sixth and last in a series of addresses to the faculty and student body of the Theological Seminary.

CARLYLE B. HAYNES, Takoma Park, Maryland

In our most recent discussion of the great things of the Christian ministry, it was my privilege to present to you that the most powerful and convincing preaching of the Word of God is that which is supported by a life. Doctrine is not merely to be taught; it is to be lived. The truth taught is to be accompanied by the truth lived. Every truth we teach from the living Word of God is to find its form in a sermon, a public presentation; it is also to find its form in a vital, living experience. We teach men most effectively and most convincingly the great truths of salvation by the way we live more than by what we say.

There are phases of our great subject that would be of great benefit to us; there are none, in my opinion, of greater importance than the inner life of the preacher himself, the kind of a man he is, the sort of a life he lives.

I have emphasized the truth that the design of Christian doctrine is to be shaped into life and experience, and not to stop at being shaped into words and creeds. To hear what a preacher of this message says should be sufficient to make a man know what God would have him believe in these last days; to see the way a preacher of this message lives should be sufficient to make a man know how these beliefs will work out in living experience. If a preacher's life fails to do that, he cannot be a success as a preacher of truth. If he is content with preaching truth, and does not live it, he is only sounding brass and a clanging cymbal. To be a Christian preacher is not only to know truth, and believe truth, and teach truth; it is to LIVE truth.

This brings me to a consideration of two great words of our Lord bearing on this matter in which there are basic principles of supreme importance. The first was spoken by Him to His disciples on the occasion of the institution of the communion supper, at the time when Jesus was soon to leave them. You will recall the circumstances of the service of foot washing. The words I would explore with you are spoken in connection with that service.

"I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. . . . The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy [blessed] are ye if ye do them" (John 13:1547).

There it is—the statement of an eternal prin­ciple that always works; never fails.

Knowing—doing—happiness, or blessedness. It is as simple as that. Keep in mind that this was spoken by the most authoritative teacher the world has ever known, the Teacher sent from God. It was spoken in connection with the establishment of a Christian ordinance, but it is true of all knowledge of God's truth.

There is something about knowing that which is true, knowing the truth, that makes all life different, that alters our attitude and relation­ship to all aspects of human life.

No one who has ever understood and be­lieved the truth of God can ever again be the same. No one ever really gets away from, man­ages to free himself of, God's message of truth, having once believed it. He may not live it, may not do it. But it remains with him, a con­tinual ferment in his heart. Either he will be better for it, or worse. His life cannot possibly be the same as it would have been had he not known it.

And if, once knowing, he does not do, does not realize his ideal, does not reach his stand­ards fixed by his knowledge, his whole life will sink to a lower level from that time onward. If he knows, and does not do, he is not happy. He cannot be.

"Christian Life Begins With Knowledge"

The Christian life begins with knowledge: "If ye know these things." Knowledge is a primary necessity. It does matter what we believe. Knowledge is always one of the springs and sources of action. "Conduct," Matthew Arnold says, "is three-fourths of life." Very well, the remaining one fourth is the motive power of the three. A train is always much longer than the engine, but it is the engine that produces the motive power. Every building is larger than its foundation, but the foundation is more es­sential. There could be no superstructure with­out it. The tree may be much wider than its roots, but it is the roots that give life.

In all his writings Paul emphasized this basic need of knowledge, mature, right knowledge, "sound doctrine." It preserves us from error of every kind. A clear conception and perception of Christian truth will constitute our greatest protection from error. To know is to have a solid foundation, a motivating power.

What, then, coming to yourselves, do you know? Do you know that you are a Christian, that Christ has forgiven your sins, that every­thing is clear between you and God, that Christ is your Lord and Master? Do you know that Christ for you is your atoning sacrifice; that Christ in you is your living power; that Christ under you is your sure foundation; that Christ around you is your wall of fire; that Christ be­side you is your perfect pattern; that Christ over you is your blessed Master; that Christ before you is your everlasting heritage? Then, indeed, you are happy.

Knowledge Proceeds to Action

But the Christian life does not stop with knowing. It proceeds to ACTION. "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."

Christianity is more than a creed; it is a life. If knowledge is the spring of action, action is the end of knowledge.

It is just at this point that so many Christians fail, and fail, and fail. They are not doing what they know, all that they know. Consequently, habits are not forming, character is not being made. They know so many things that they do not do.

Will you stop here and ask yourself, how many things you know that you are doing, and, how many things you know that you are not doing?

If we do what we know, all we know, then action develops into habit, and habit becomes easy. In this way prayer becomes easy, or, as we say, habitual; meditation on the Bible, easy; making time for prayer and Bible study, easy; surrender, easy; obedience, easy; because of habit, the walk of life, the second nature.

And—it never fails—so doing, so walking, the Christian life culminates in happiness. "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." O the happiness, the blessedness, of spiritual peace, power, provision, permanence, obedi­ence, putting into practice what we know! What happiness it is to exert the influence of an obedient and right life!

What do you know? Many things, many truths, I am sure. Are you doing them? All of them? All that you know? If you are not doing what you know, elements of weakness and fail­ure are being built into your ministerial life and destroying your efficiency. If you are doing what you know, elements of strength and success are coming to you day by day. If you are not doing what you know, you are not happy; you cannot be.

Will you examine yourself just now? Bring into review what you know, and what you do. Do you know any duty to God, any duty, mind you, that you are neglecting? If so, God help you, for you are failing to get ready for the tasks ahead of you and you are bringing ruin to your ministry.

Let me now direct your thought to two Bible definitions of sin in addition to the one you already know, "Sin is the transgression of the law." This is the first: "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23). Here is the second: "To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (James 4:17).

Will you look closely at this analysis of sin, and then ask yourself the question, In the searching light these passages throw upon the matter, and with respect to the thing I know I should do and am not doing, am I committing sin?

Obedience Leads to Larger Knowledge

As you do this, I would bring before you a basic principle laid down by our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is set forth in John 7:17, and its words are: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."

Jesus was teaching in the Temple. The Jews were astonished at the profound truths He ut­tered. The reason for their astonishment was that He was not educated. Unlike the rabbis and scribes, he had never enjoyed the advantages of scholastic training, never been educated in their schools, was unlettered. They considered Him to be destitute of the mental discipline and power of address that come, ordinarily, only as the consequence of years of patient devotion to books and study. They put their amazement into words: "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?" (John 7:15).

Notwithstanding what they considered His lack of education, they discovered that He was the very prince of orators. His knowledge of divine truth surpassed that of their wisest and most renowned teachers. His manner of express­ing and proclaiming that truth was of singu­lar and thrilling power. Even those who opposed Him were forced to admit, "Never man spake like this man."

Amazed at this impressive display of wisdom and knowledge and truth regarding divine things, they exclaimed: How is this? Where does this Man get His knowledge? How does He know letters, having never learned?

Jesus answers their questions. He tells them there is no special mystery about it. First, He is divine, the Son of God, expressly come from God in order to reveal these great divine truths_ "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me" (John 7:16).

Being divine, He, of course, knows these great truths; and His very ability thus to speak of divine things, having never been taught, is itself proof of His deity, and authentication of His Messiahship.

But quite apart from all this, and considering Himself only in His human nature, as only a man, there is, He adds, a second explanation of His marvelous knowledge of divine things.

(And it is here I would have you pay the most scrupulous attention, for He proceeds to lay down a profound and universal law that applies to you as well as Himself. If you desire to enter into the fullness of the knowledge of divine truth and understanding of the divine will, this is the infallible rule for doing so.)

"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine" (John 7:17). This knowledge displayed by Him, so much astonishing them, has come to Him in His human nature, He declares, as the result and reward of His cheer­ful and constant and instant obedience to God. That is, insofar as He in His human nature knew the will of God, He also promptly did it. That, He says, is the whole secret.

As He had and knew His Father's command­ments He did them. He did not brace against them, or object to them, or advance arguments against them. He carried them out in His life, and conduct, and practice.

As He possessed the truth, He loved, cher­ished, spoke, and lived it. And by doing all this, by thus constantly putting and keeping Him­self in a receptive and obedient relationship to God, and to the revelation of His will that God was thus making to Him, He was always, also, as the moral result of it all, coming into clearer and clearer assurance of the truth, as well as into a fuller and firmer apprehension of God.

That is, obedience to God is the way by which in His nature, considered merely as a man, He had come into His deep and wonderful knowledge of God. It is the only way, the one certain way, by which you may more and more fully come into the secrets of the mysteries and knowledge of the Infinite One.

The words He uses in explaining His secret of divine knowledge constitute a universal law that will hold good in the experience of every human being who 'will avail himself of it and put it into practice.

Every person may know God, and the reve­lation that God has made and is making of Himself, by obeying God. In divine things obe­dience is the way of knowledge, of saving knowl­edge. Divine truth, if and when obeyed, as far as already divinely revealed to a soul, so far as already known, will authenticate itself, demon­strate itself, prove itself, to the soul as divine and as true, and will disclose itself to the obe­dient one and lead him out and onward into the possession of other and greater and larger and more important truth.

The soul that knows anything of God, and obeys what he knows, putting it into practice, living it, doing it, shall ever also know more of Him. Moreover, by obeying the truth that he knows, he shall ever, also, go on to a larger knowledge, an increasingly mature knowledge, thus advancing even eternally into greater and still greater knowledge and into deeper and still deeper apprehensions of the infinite pre­ciousness and fullness of divine and eternal things.

If any man, therefore, wants to know the truth, let him obey the truth he already knows, and let him put it to the one simple test of personal practice. As a result of such personal test of truth, as the witness of his own expe­rience with it, as he carries out the truth in his life, he will come to know more and ever more of God and of His infinite love and grace.

The great truth, or fact, then, which the Saviour of the world here teaches us, is that, in respect to spiritual or divine things, we attain our truest knowledge and certainty by doing them, or, in other words, obedience is the most direct, and best, way to knowledge.

Throughout all the Scriptures this truth is disclosed: "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his cove­nant" (Ps. 25:14). "He that hath my command­ments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that Ioveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will mani­fest myself to him" (John 14:21). "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12).

These passages—and there are many others like them—are God's declaration of this law of His spiritual kingdom, or rather of the fact that God is ever eager to reveal Himself to the seeking, humble, sincere, and obedient soul, to all whose eyes are turned heavenward, whose spiritual ears are divinely attuned, who listen and wait to hear what God, in His Word, and by His providence, says to them, and who then, instantly and fully and joyously, do what they believe to be the will of God, saying, as did the child Samuel who at midnight, talked to God in the darkness, "Speak, for thy servant heareth."

Obedience Results in Happiness

The Bible is more than a book of teaching, of doctrine, of truth. It is also a book of illustra­tions. It not only sets forth divine truth in systematic statements, it also illustrates these truths. And so the Bible illustrates this divine law or fact or principle that divine knowledge and blessing always come to us in the way of obedience. Such illustrations fill the Bible.

Consider the children of Israel as, in obedi­ence to God's command, they come trustingly right to the edge of the Red Sea. As in obedience they step into the waters, the waters recede, the sea opens, and they pass through.

The priests, in obedience to God's directions, step into the river Jordan. The waters part.

Abraham, in absolute and unfaltering obedi­ence, actually binds his son Isaac to the altar and raises his knife to make the sacrifice com­plete. God provides another victim.

Naaman, in obedience to God, was in the act of washing himself seven times in Jordan. He was healed.

The man with a- withered hand actually tried to stretch it out when Jesus told him to do it. In the very effort to do it he received divine strength to do it.

The woman who desired to anoint the Sav­iour, came in the gray dawn of the resurrection morning to do so. The great stone had been rolled away.

Peter was liberated from his bonds, led to the iron gate of the prison, and it opened of its own accord, moved by invisible divine power.

The Bible teems with such illustrations. That obedience is the way of blessing, of knowledge, of spiritual growth and development, is one of the great lessons which God, everywhere and in every way, and at all times, all through His Word, is seeking to teach us.

So we can now add another ingredient to the formula we have been studying: knowing­doing—happiness. This we found in the words of our Lord: "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."

From the further words of our Lord we now learn something more. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine." Not only does happiness result from doing what we know, but also greater and ever-enlarging knowledge. As we walk in the light that we have there is ever-increasing light. Knowing—doing—happi­ness—enlarged knowledge.

And to that there is no end. Knowing---doing --happiness—more knowledge—additional do­ing—greater happiness—ever-widening horizons of knowledge—and so on and on endlessly.

It is a never-failing law. It works. It comes from God. The sure road to happiness, to bless­edness, the way to knowledge of God's will.

I leave it with you. I would have you apply it soberly to your own life and to your own present condition. Are you doing everything that you know? Are you living up to all the light that God has so graciously given you? Are you living the truth? In this way, and this way alone, do you grow. In this way, and this way alone, are you qualified to preach God's Word. The message you preach is to be the message you live. Not only do you have a message to preach; you are to be that message.


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CARLYLE B. HAYNES, Takoma Park, Maryland

June 1955

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