The second essential to success in the gospel ministry, as set forth in the statement on which this series is based, is consecration. This is necessary if we would make the proper use of book knowledge. Information, or knowledge, may be dangerous if it is not under the control of a godly character. It is for this reason that character building is the most vital element in the educational program.
The necessity of consecration in order to make the proper use of scholastic training is well stated in the following quotation: "The time demands greater efficiency and deeper consecration. . . . Send forth messengers filled with a sense of their responsibility, messengers in whose hearts self-idolatry, which lies at the foundation of all sin, has been ,crucified."—Testimonies vol. 9, p. 27. It has been said that efficiency is best defined by the word "ephesiancy," the Christian experience set forth in the book of Ephesians.
Efficiency is the result of training, education, and the acquirement of knowledge, and this is not merely suggested but demanded by the very time in which we live. But increased training also demands an ever-increasing consecration. In fact, the greater the knowledge and efficiency, the greater is the demand for the consecration, without which scholastic accomplishments m;serably fail. The two must be combined and properly balanced in order to fulfill the purpose of God. The three greatest leaders in sacred history were Moses, Daniel, and Paul, and in them the qualities of efficiency and consecration were properly balanced. They possessed the finest education available in their generations, but because of their consecration they were free from selfishness, or self-idolatry, the root of all evil and that which nullifies the greatest scholastic attainments.
The paramount need of this type of worker in these last days is emphasized in the following statement: "Those who have trusted to intellect, genius, or talent will not then stand at the head of rank and file. They did not keep pace with the light. Those who have proved themselves unfaithful will not then be entrusted with the flock. In the last solemn work few great men will be engaged. They are self-sufficient, independent of God, and He cannot use them."—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 80.
It is evident that this prediction will be fulfilled chiefly during the latter rain, as is clearly indicated on page 300 of Testimonies to Ministers. Here we are told that unless certain leaders "are aroused to a sense of their duty, they will not recognize the work of God when the loud cry of the third angel shall be heard. When light goes forth to lighten the earth, instead of coming up to help of the Lord, they will want to bind about His work to meet their narrow ideas. Let me tell you that the Lord will work in this last work in a manner very much out of the common order of things, and in a way that will be contrary to any human planning. There will be those among us who will always want to control the work of God, to dictate even what movements shall be made when the work goes forward under the direction of the angel who joins the third angel in the message to be given to the world. God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reins in His own hands. The workers will be surprised by the simple means that He will use to bring about and perfect His work of righteousness." In those through whom the Lord will "finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness," efficiency will be the instrument of consecration.
To consecrate is to make or declare sacred, hallowed, or holy; to set apart, dedicate, or devote to a holy use. The Lord blessed and sanctified the Sabbath when He instituted it at Creation, and thus made it different from the other days of the week. Likewise, the consecrated believer is different from his fellows. He is set apart for a holy service. He obeys the counsel given in Hebrews 12:14, R.S.V., which says: "Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." This is an absolute essential in a minister—he must be a "holy man of God."
'While justification is the work of a moment, sanctification, or consecration, is a spiritual growth and the gradual work of a lifetime. Beginning with the spiritual birth, we go on through stages of spiritual development until we grow up into "a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." The apostle again describes this process thus: "But all of us, as with unveiled faces we mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same likeness, from glory to glory, even as derived from the Lord the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18, Weymouth).
We are to strive for holiness, or consecration, because without it "no man shall see the Lord." Jesus emphasized this when He said, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." Another important reason for attaining holiness is given in 1 Peter 1:15, 16 as follows: "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." The Revised Standard Version puts it this way: "Be holy yourselves in all your conduct." Paul in his counsel to Timothy said, "a bishop [minister] must be above reproach" (1 Tim. 3:2, R.S.V.).Only a life of purity and devotion to the cause of God can bring success to the minister. These attributes will inspire faith and confidence not only in the preacher but also in the cause he is propagating. Tennyson put the following words in the mouth of Sir Galahad: "My strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure." A member of the French court once said to the chaplain, "Sire, your sermons terrify me, but your life reassures me." Confidence is built on character and is the minister's greatest asset. Members who have implicit confidence in their spiritual leaders will go the second mile and even beyond the call of duty in service and sacrifice.
In his book Preaching Without Notes Clarence Macartney says: "At the right hand of every young minister . . . stands the adversary, ready to accuse him, to soil his consecration, sift him of his character, steal away his enthusiasm, and quench the light of faith. . . . Likewise every evasion of duty, every indulgence of self, every compromise with evil, every unworthy thought, word, or deed, will be there at the head of the pulpit stairs to meet the minister on Sunday morning, to take the light from his eye, the power from his blow, the ring from his voice, and the joy from his heart."—Pages 177, 178. In other words, the life of the preacher during the week accompanies him into the pulpit Sabbath morning to enforce or devitalize his message.
The counsel of Paul to "abstain from all appearance of evil" is especially timely for ministers in this age of suspicion and gossip, when as in the days of Noah "every imagination of the thoughts of his [man's] heart was only evil continually." Regarding the morals of a minister, Raymond Calkins says:
"Let the minister in even minor degree err in such matters and his career is automatically and finally ended. He must acquire and hold the reputation of an absolutely clean and incorruptible life. Even suspicion concerning it is fatal. What is lightly condoned in others is neither forgotten nor forgiven in him. . . . He must avoid in every detail in life the lightest breath of scandal. . . . A ministerial scandal of any kind is so rare that it is front page news. . . . People as a whole think of their ministers, and have a right to think of them, as being incapable of immoral conduct in any form. Therein lies the essential dignity of the ministry. Clean hands, righteous lips, and a pure heart. These then are the visible characteristics of the man of God."—The Romance of the Ministry, pp. 36-38.
At a service of ordination to the gospel ministry, Dr. William Barton said to the candidates: "By what this counsel is about to do to you, it is vastly increasing your power for harm. Yesterday as laymen, you might have committed any possible sin and been sent to jail for it and not much attention would have been paid to you. But tomorrow any one of you can get your name on the front page of every newspaper in the United States. Not many of you have the ability, perhaps, to achieve high distinction or to bring to the church great honor, but the least conspicuous of you for ability can bring the whole church to shame."—Quoted in Some to Be Pastors, by Peter Pleune, p. 152.
How true it is that "the power of preaching and the preacher lies in the depth of his spiritual life." We cannot exalt ourselves and Jesus Christ at the same time.
We shall close with the Lord's description of a true, pure, consecrated priest and minister of the gospel: "For my compact was made with the priest of Levi, says the Lord of hosts; my compact was with him, life and peace I gave him, ay and reverence —he did revere me, he did stand in awe of me. True instruction came from his mouth and no wrong issued from his lips; in peace and honesty he lived close to me, and he turned many away from evil. For the lips of a priest ought to treasure wisdom, and men should seek direction from his words, since he is the spokesman of the Lord of hosts" (Mal. 2:4-7 *).