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A Gospel Minister (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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July 18, 2023 4:00 am

A Gospel Minister (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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July 18, 2023 4:00 am

What do you look for in a pastor? A gifted speaker? Someone with an impressive theological education? These are reasonable characteristics to consider, but what’s the most important factor you should seek? Find out on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at tfl.org thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!





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What should we be looking for when we're looking for a pastor, someone with an advanced theological degree, organizational skills, sense of humor, an entertaining storyteller?

All of these are characteristics to consider, but what's the most important factor you should be seeking? Alistair Begg takes us to Scripture. To answer those questions today on Truth for Life, he's teaching from Ephesians chapter 3.

We're focusing on verses 7 and 8. Paul is identifying himself very clearly as a minister of the gospel. God laid hold upon me, arrested me, brought me to such a deep-seated conviction, and when I shared it with those who knew me, although they were at first surprised, they recognized in the context of the local church the rightness of what was happening, and therefore that sense of internal call to ministry was ratified by the external affirmation and approbation of those who looked on me. And that is what we do in ordination.

That's why it is a sobering and a solemn thing. Interestingly, last Sunday was the fortieth anniversary of my ordination to the Christian ministry. I wore a clerical collar. Because my pastor told me, if you're going to wear a clerical collar ever, which you're going to need to, because you look so young no one will believe you're a minister, you'd better wear it on Sunday morning. Because if you don't wear it when you're ordained, you probably never will. It was very good advice on his part. And I tell you without word of a lie that when I stood up in that pulpit on that Sunday morning in October of 76, I would have felt no more vulnerable if I had stood there stark naked than when I stood there. And when those guys laid their hands on me and shut me up to this task, I knew this is my deal.

This is my life. I don't know what it means. I don't know where it goes. I don't know what happens next.

And I could have dissolved in tears instantly and run for my life quickly. What is this amazing thing that God does, setting apart to the ministry of the gospel? Identity. Secondly, humility.

Humility. Paul was overwhelmed by the wonder of God's dealings with him. To me, he says, I'm the very least of all the saints, and this grace was given. Paul, all the way through his writings, continues to marvel that the Son of God loved him and gave himself for him. He's humbled by the fact that God saved him, that God called him, that God had given to him all these gifts and resources that were necessary to fulfill the purposes that God had for him.

He never tires of this. He explains again and again to those who are prepared to read his letters, to Timothy particularly, who's under his tutelage, and to whom he's going to pass the baton of faith. He reminds Timothy very, very clearly. He says, I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointed me to his service.

I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, an insolent opponent. I received mercy, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me. The saying is trustworthy, deserves full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Notice what he says next, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost sinner, as the worst of the pile, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. You may be here this morning, you say, I can tell you right now that there is no more unlikely person in this congregation than me.

That's what you're saying to yourself that will ever come to trust this Jesus stuff. Well, you'd be right up there with the apostle Paul, perhaps. And he displayed his perfect patience, so that in and through the ministry of Paul, others would believe for eternal life. Paul would gladly have joined in singing so many of our songs—not least of all the one that has about twelve verses and begins, oh, how the grace of God amazes me, that loosed me from my chains and set me free.

What made it happen so? His own will, this much I know, and set me, as now I know, at liberty. The thing I love about Paul here is that he recognizes he was not an obvious choice.

It's interesting, because previously he was really good at the resume stuff, wasn't he? I mean, when he writes in Philippians, he says, you know, we're thinking back on it, I had a really good upbringing, I was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, I was a student of Gamaliel, I graduated from the right schools and everything else. But now he says, I am actually the least likely, and I am the least of the apostles. And actually, he's trying to scramble language in such a way as to say, I am at the bottom of the pile.

I am less than the least. I'm unworthy, he says in 1 Corinthians, even to be called an apostle. This is not him trying to redress the balance. This is Paul. This is what he actually came to believe.

Because the grace of God had so showered upon him and flowed through him that he realized that the thing that he had to say to people was not who he was or what his background was, but who Jesus was and who Jesus is. In fact, John Stott has a wonderful little section in his commentary where he says he wonders whether Paul is actually deliberately making a play on his name. Because his Roman name, Paulus, is Latin for little or for small. And historical tradition believes that Paul was a wee man, a little man.

And so Stott says maybe he's saying, quotes, I am little, little by name, little in stature, and spiritually littler than the littlest of all the Christians. So, to me. To me. You see, it's not to me. It's to me.

Isn't it interesting when you can take two words and the way in which the intonation comes and the way in which they're expressed, they can mean entirely different things? Surely he's saying, to me. The grace of God was given to me. I hated Jesus. I didn't believe in Jesus. I didn't want anything to do with Jesus.

To me? Humility. There's nothing worse than arrogant Christians, supercilious Christians.

Of all the horrible bits of pride, spiritual pride is the worst. Because anything that we have is a gift. So whatever it is, it wasn't us.

So then, we were gonna act like it was? The very faith that we have is the gift of God. His identity as a minister of the Word, his humility as a servant of the Lord, and then finally, his responsibility in the proclamation of this truth. What was it that he was to do? Well, he understood his audience was to be the Gentiles. He was the chosen instrument of God to bear his name before the Gentiles. That in itself, as I said last time, is just quite amazing, that God would choose someone who hated Gentiles to be the one to go to the Gentiles and to proclaim God's love for them and to them. You know, you might think that he would choose somebody who had a natural affinity with the Gentiles, sort of easy to get alongside. No!

He says, I'm gonna take you. You hate Gentiles, don't you? Yeah, I do. Absolutely.

Good. I'm gonna make you the apostle to the Gentiles. But, you see, that's the way God works. And God comes down into time, not on a chariot or in a palace or in a great university of learning, but to a stable, to a backwater province in the Middle East, to a no-name place, to an unusual couple, to bear his name before shepherds and disreputables. That's why those of us who are still on our resume values find ourselves recoiling from this gospel of Jesus Christ. No, we want a gospel that says, now, you're nice people, and this gospel is for you in your niceness. That's not the story of the gospel. The story of the gospel is that God comes to save sinners, and that when his grace shines into our lives, it shows us our need of him. So, his audience was the Gentile, and his message in a word was Christ.

Christ. He uses the phrase here, the unsearchable riches of Christ. But he was there to say, Christianity is Christ. The real test of somebody's pastoral ministry—and I suggest you can hold this out wherever you travel and start it here—the big question you want to ask of the person who has the privilege of opening up the Bible is, Does he proclaim Christ? Does he proclaim Christ? Does he press Christ upon me? Does he seek to convince me of the sufficiency and fullness of the work of Jesus? Does he, as Paul did, seek to know nothing save Jesus Christ and him crucified? Is he concerned, as Paul was concerned for the Corinthians, that my faith might rest not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God? So he does not try, then, to convince people of how clever he is, or how wise he is, or how much he knows about this and that and the next thing, because he knows that the very wisdom of God is actually foolishness to those who are perishing. And the only way that the wise man of the world will ever become the servant of Jesus Christ is when God by the Holy Spirit opens his or her eyes to the reality of who he is and of his need of Christ.

Then everything is changed. That's the question. Does this man preach Christ? And when you do seek to fulfill the role of pastor—I speak personally now to you—you will find that people have all kinds of ideas for you about what you should be preaching and when you should be preaching it and why you should be preaching it and so on. That's fine.

It goes with the territory. People are writing to me at the moment from the radio particularly—not, I think, out of the congregation—and they want me to pretty well just take on the whole political spectrum of America right now. And they would like me—in fact, I had an impassioned letter the other day saying, Pretty well, shut down what you're doing and spend the next five weeks doing what is absolutely necessary.

So, tomorrow morning, if you hear our radio program, you will know that I haven't paid a bit of attention to that exhortation. Because I do not have a political mandate. My mandate is Christ.

My responsibility is to preach Christ. Why would I be so arrogant as to think that I understand the way everything works? I don't know any better than most of you do, and you don't know. So why would you want to listen to me talk along those lines? It's not my job. I have a view. I'm not gonna tell you what it is.

I have a view. And I'm not here to tell you about ethics. I'm not here to give you ethical talks.

Paul didn't give ethical talks. He knew there were ethical implications to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but the Jews were full of ethics. They were full of morality.

The philosophers were full of ethics. You must do this, you mustn't do that, you must do the next thing. That's not the role of the pastor. The pastor's role is to preach Christ—to preach Christ and always Christ.

Christ in all of his riches, Christ in all of his unsearchable riches. You see, part of the challenge in being a teacher of the Bible is that you don't give people what they want, but you have to give them what they need. You've got—you're like a doctor, and you've got a prescription, and it's written down, and they need this prescription. But they don't like the idea of the prescription. But they need the prescription.

You're the physician. You know what they need. But that's not what I want. I wanted ice cream.

You're gonna have to have this. Oh, but it would be much nicer. Why couldn't you be an ice cream salesman? Why couldn't you be a nice guy? Why couldn't you smile all the time, like Joel Osteen?

He's so nice. Don't you realize you could have twenty-four thousand people if you would just take a leaf out of the guy's book? You keep the same stuff on and on and on again. Well, read your Bibles. You see, what I need this morning is the great symphony of praise with which Paul begins Ephesus, to be reminded that the Lord Jesus has blessed us, that the Father has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Well, there's something to chew on. I haven't been feeling so good lately. I was disappointed about this and that.

But here's something I do know for sure—that I've been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, that I've been adopted into the family of God, that I've been redeemed through his blood, I have the forgiveness of my trespasses, and he has lavished upon me all his wisdom and all of his insight. Look at all of this stuff! This is all my stuff! This is who I am!

This is what I need to know! See, people come and say, I need to know how to be a better husband. We'll get to that. I need to know how to be this, how to be that. You didn't tell me what to do. What do you want me to do?

Give you a list of ten things all the time? You don't need to know what to do. You need to know the unsearchable riches of Christ. And when that begins to become the predominating thought in our hearts and our minds, then the other things flow from that. They're not irrelevant. Ethics matters. Politics matter.

All of these things matter. But Paul was concerned to make sure that when the Corinthians reflected upon him, when the Ephesians thought about him, they would say the same thing. You know, he was crucicentric. He was back at the cross again and again. He loved to say, oh, Jesus and the cross, and he loved to tell us about all that is ours in Jesus.

With this I will finish. So that no human being might boast in the presence of God, he says, God has chosen the low and the despised, the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are. And because of him, you are in Christ Jesus.

Remember the whole question? Paul would not say, Are you a Christian? He would say, Are you in Christ Jesus? And because you are in Christ Jesus, you realize that he became to us—then he says four things—wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

I'll leave you to ponder on your own with just a comment or two. Wisdom from God. Wisdom from God. You may be here this morning, and the reason you've come is because included in your quest to make sense of your existence has been this notion of church, the Bible, maybe a friend has invited you. And you don't know where you're from, you don't know why you're here, you don't know where you're going. You don't know if there is a loving God, you don't know if that loving God can be known in any way, and you're in search of these things.

What do you need? You need wisdom. Where is this wisdom? In Christ. In Christ. You see, it is as a result of the wisdom which is ours in Christ that we can actually stand back from the political arena and rest in his grace.

He is not only wisdom to us but also righteousness. Righteousness. Well, you say, I'm not a very righteous person, I'm a sinful person, I'm afraid to approach God. I have people around me in the community here, I invite them to church with great regularity, and one lady in particular, she always says the same thing, the roof will fall in on everybody's head if I come there. Now I take it that she must think, somehow or another, she has to be cleaned up before she can be Christian.

And the fact is, she needs to become a Christian in order that she might be cleaned up. Now, you see, this righteousness in Jesus is a righteousness from God, Paul says in Romans 3, through faith in Jesus to all who believe. If you will believe on the Lord Jesus today, your sins will be forgiven, you will be clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and you will be able to stand faultless in his presence. Not only righteousness but sanctification.

What does that mean? Well, people say, well, I might be able to get the Christian thing started, but I don't think I could possibly keep it going. Well, the answer is that he who begins it will keep it going, that he will conform you to the image of Christ and also redemption.

We end at our service, I think, or sang last Sunday night, and when I face my final day, you will not leave me in the grave, for I will rise, you will call me home. The Lord is my salvation. He redeems our life from the pit. He crowns us with steadfast love and tender mercy. And Paul says, I am a servant of this gospel.

I'm humbled by the privilege entrusted to me. I'm clear about my audience, and I want to be equally clear in proclaiming the unsearchable, illimitable, infinite riches of Christ. Wesley wrote great hymns, none better than the hymn that contains the lines, And with this I close, Thou, O Christ, art all I want. More than all in thee I find. You raise the fallen, cheer the faint, Heal the sick, lead the blind. Just and holy is thy name, I am all unrighteousness, False and full of sin I am, Thou art full of truth and grace. And then the stanza that follows it is even better, but I won't quote it. It begins, Plenteous grace with thee is found, Grace to cover all my sin. All my sin. All my sin.

Do you know of any other place? Do you know of any other person to whom you may go who is able to deal entirely with you in that way? You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life with a message he's titled, A Gospel Minister. Alistair returns shortly to close today's program. As we just heard, the world doesn't need to hear a man's clever opinions about politics or ethics. What the world needs to hear is God's word. That's why our mission at Truth for Life is to teach only the Bible every single day and to teach it with clarity and relevance.

It's our prayer that other pastors will follow this important pattern that God will work through his word and that unbelievers will be converted, believers will be established, and local churches will be strengthened. With that mission in mind, we make it a practice to offer as many free or low-cost resources as we possibly can. Our desire is to provide clear teaching to anyone who wants to learn more about the Bible without cost being a barrier. We're able to do this because of our Truth Partners. These are generous listeners like you who pray for this ministry and who give each month to help cover the cost of producing this daily program and providing affordable quality resources. If you've been listening to Truth for Life for a while but have not yet joined this vital team of Truth Partners, why not sign up today?

It's quick and easy to do online at truthforlife.org slash truth partner or call us at 888-588-7884. When you do, we'll say thanks by inviting you to request a copy of the book called Knowable Word, Helping Ordinary People Learn to Study the Bible. This is a book that explains how to study the Bible on your own without having to rely too heavily on commentaries or sermon notes. When you read Knowable Word, you'll learn a three-step approach for interpreting Scripture correctly. This is a method that the author has been teaching successfully for many years. As part of this study method, you'll learn how to identify the audience for the text, the themes, and the structure of what's written. You'll be able to correctly conclude what the Bible passage is teaching.

To help put this approach to work, the book offers practical worksheets for each chapter. Ask for your copy of the book Knowable Word when you sign up to become a monthly Truth Partner or you give a one-time donation at truthforlife.org slash donate. Now here's Alistair with a closing prayer. Father, we thank you that we come to you in the middle of our increasingly fractured and broken culture. And we come to you to have our hearts and minds renewed by the truth of your Word so that we will not become ugly Pharisees talking down to people, but rather that we might, with Paul, say, I'm at the bottom of the pile when it comes to these things, but Jesus is so gracious and so good. Lord, help us to find our identity in Christ, as servants of your Word. Grant that our humility might be found at the foot of the cross of Christ. Forgive us our pride and remind us again of the responsibility to go out and not to talk about ourselves or our ventures or our achievements, but to basically say to people, you know, all I really have is Christ.

I didn't used to, but I do now. Hear us, O God, as we come to you, as we go out into the day that lies ahead. For Christ's sake, we ask it. Amen.

I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for being with us today. What's the role of the church in the world today? Is it different from the responsibilities of the early church? We'll find out tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-18 04:38:12 / 2023-07-18 04:47:16 / 9

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