Peddlers or Prophets?

WHEN THE preacher-to-be is confronted by God's call to the ministry he must decide whether or not he is willing to accept that office on God's terms. He must be aware of the fact that, from that point on, his entire life does not belong to him, but to God. . .

-pastor of the Benton Harbor church in Michigan at the time this article was written

WHEN THE preacher-to-be is confronted by God's call to the ministry he must decide whether or not he is willing to accept that office on God's terms. He must be aware of the fact that, from that point on, his entire life does not belong to him, but to God.

In the experience of some, the call to be Christian and the call to the ministry are one and the same. For others this is not so. Their call to sacred office comes later. In either case, the minister's conception of the nature of his calling will determine whether or not his ministry takes on the characteristics of the peddler or of the prophet.

If he conceives of his office as being only a functional one, then he can legitimately consider giving it up when the going gets rough. However, if he views the office in ontological terms he has no other alternative but to become and remain a minister for life. This conception implies the unity that is to exist between a man's proclamation and his way of life. He is not called to do something. He is called to be something. The doing is a compulsive consequence of the being. But it is the being that is crucial if the doing is to have authority, authenticity, and credibility.

The ministry should not be considered a job we try out for a while, and, if things don't work out quite right, abandon for some other profession. The call to the ministry must be clear and certain in a man's heart and mind before he ever becomes a minister.

One does not have to read very far in the Pauline epistles to discover a vital relationship between the apostle's personal life and his apostolic office and calling. He states, "For to me to live is Christ" (Phil. 1:21), and clarifies this statement by recording, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20, R.S.V.).

Concerning the origin of the message he preached, Paul explained to the Galatians, "The gospel which was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ" (chap. 1:11, 12, R.S.V.).

Thus his life and his message had their origin in and were bound up with Jesus Christ. This is reflected in his admonition to the Corinthians, "Only, let every one lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him, and in which God has called him" (1 Cor. 7:17, R.S.V.).

To be sure, Paul speaks of the various offices and gifts God has given to His church (see 1 Cor. 12:28-30; Eph. 4:11,12), but not simply in terms of function. He speaks of them ontologically. He says: "And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers." Being and function are intimately related and inseparable.

Paul's ontological consciousness of his calling and office is dramatically illustrated in his salutations to the Romans and in the first letter to the Corinthians. In these passages he refers to himself as having been "called . . . to be an apostle," set apart by the will of God to live a life in harmony with the gospel he has been given to preach.

The ministry was not a job that could be abandoned at any time, or confined to certain working hours, or changed at will when boredom set in. Neither while making tents nor while in prison did the apostolic mantle ever drop from his shoulders. It would be well for ministers today to remember this when tempted to "let our hair down" and become "one of the boys."

There was never a time when Paul was not an apostle. There is never a time when a minister of the gospel is not a minister of the gospel. This is an integral part of the surrender we make to the divine call to be ministers. It is a call to be.

However, to be set apart for the gospel does not mean that we are set apart from our people. We do not minister to them from above them. We minister to them, with them, and among them. In this association and mutual ministry the life of the called and set-apart minister is to reflect the content and character of the message he preaches. His life must also demonstrate that Christ is author and subject of his message, as well as Lord of his own life.

The proof of Paul's ontological conception of his office is to be found in what he was willing to suffer in fulfilling that office. His life was at the mercy of his message!

Though his physical body was often attacked and he suffered the misery of torturous imprisonment, Paul did not lose heart. Of his imprisonment he said, "I want you to know, brethren, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel" (Phil. 1:12, R.S.V.).

Not only was his manner of life worthy of the gospel but his appeal was that all join in imitating his devotion to Christ and to His calling. He bids us imitate his total commitment to the will of God, knowing that if we are called to suffer, it will serve to advance the gospel. He rejoiced in sufferings. He fought the good fight of faith.

As he viewed his life and ministry, Paul's hope was centered in the soon-returning Lord, who would award him a crown of righteousness. He testifies, "The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for his heavenly kingdom" (2 Tim. 4:18, R.S.V.). The apostle's personality became absorbed by his office. In his case, and in the case of every minister of the gospel, it is not the man who makes the office, but the office that makes the man. Because the ministerial office is a gift of God to His church, having its origin in no human institution or will, it has a total claim on the life of a man.

One who decides to accept the office of the ministry on God's terms must, from that point on, view every aspect of life and all possible attachments and interests in the light of that calling to be a minister. Here's where Satan will hit us hardest if he can, tempting us to separate being from function. If he is successful we will lose the wonder of our calling. When that happens "we shall become like common traders in a common market, babbling about common wares." *

What a thrill it is as Seventh-day Adventist ministers to realize that the message we are to proclaim comes straight from the throne room in heaven! The same Lord who commissioned us to preach gives us our message. Moment by moment He exercises watchful, loving care over us, preparing us for the fullness of His salvation to be revealed in the last days.

For those who are called to be, Jesus gives courage to be. Courage to be prophets of His word, not just peddlers of the gospel.


* John Henry Jowett, The Preacher: His Life and Work (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1912), p. 21.


Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus
-pastor of the Benton Harbor church in Michigan at the time this article was written

April 1975

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

Memorials for God Through Faith

IT ALL started with two doctor brothers and their wives, who are both sisters and nurses. These couples are better known as Wendell and Gladys Malin, and Lawrence and June Malin. The four, working together, began a medical work that has expanded into three fine hospitals, employing 716 full- and part-time employees. . .

Sharing the Revival Experience

THE PHILOSOPHERS were right who said, "The validity of our being lies in our availability to God," and "Sequence and consequence are time's constituents." If this be true, then, under God, it is incumbent upon us to initiate those sequences that will speedily usher in eternal consequences. . .

Synod 1974---No New Sound in Rome

SOME OF the bright halos of hope that have caused many to anticipate an updating of the Roman Catholic Church as called for by Pope John XXIII have been tarnished in the past ten years. In no case is this more evident than in what has happened with the Synod of Bishops. . .

Rest in Peace, Richard

AFTER a refreshing, Spirit-filled five-day ministerial seminar at Camp Berkshire, I was returning to my home on Cape Cod. It was about 9:00 p.m., on January 10, and I knew my wife and three young sons would be anxiously waiting to greet me. . .

Pontius Pilate and the Caesarea Inscription

It was found by an Italian archeological expedition during its third season (summer, 1961) while excavating the Roman theater, situated in the southwestern corner of the city. . .

Music Is for the Heart

THE DIALOG over appropriate music for use in religious services and in the home on Sabbath will probably never end this side of eternity. Two principal views persist: the view of the trained musician, versus the untrained. Both of these are familiar to me, as a minister and the son of a minister, as well as a product of Seventh-day Adventist schools, from church school through seminary. As a nonprofessional musician, I would like to submit several personal observations for careful consideration. . .

Designed for Flight

"DOTH THE HAWK fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings to ward the south?" (Job 39:26). . .

"The Vision of Obadiah"

"THE IMPRESSIONS of the Holy Spirit if disregarded today, will not be as strong tomorrow. The heart becomes less impressible, and lapses into a perilous unconsciousness of the shortness of life, and of the great eternity beyond. Our condemnation in the judgment will not result from the fact that we have been in error, but from the fact that we have neglected heaven-sent opportunities for learning what is truth." --The Desire of Ages, p. 490. The Old Testament book of Obadiah clearly demonstrates the truthfulness of this statement. . .

The Story Behind the PREACH. Project

A pilot project intended to provide The Ministry magazine to the approximately 25,000 non-Adventist clergymen within the geographical limits of the Columbia Union has been approved by the General Conference and Columbia Union committees. This project, given the acronym PREACH, is slated to begin in the fall of 1975 and will provide these clergymen with a twelve-issue introductory gift subscription to our Seventh-day Adventist professional ministerial journal. . .

Let's Talk About It

THE basic ingredient of a relationship is communication. Relationships cannot be initiated or viably maintained without some level of communicative exchange. Many of man's needs go unsatisfied or, worse still, unrecognized without some medium to express and respond to these needs. . .

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - SermonView - Small Rect (180x150)

Recent issues

See All
Advertisement - SermonView - WideSkyscraper (160x600)