Key Texts: Joshua 1:1
Paul was an outstanding Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ. He understood the mystery and majesty of what it meant to be an Apostle and a Pastor. He also understood the mystery and majesty of the Word of God and so he could say to the Corinthian Christians, “For necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel!”
Ministers of God are encouraged to be dedicated and committed to the discharge of their sacred responsibilities as good Ministers of the Gospel, good shepherds of the flock of God and to be committed to their charge particularly like Paul was, who could say, “If I do not do this work properly, may God judge me, woe is me. Let my inability to do it attract God’s displeasure.”
Thus, I can say like God did when He charged Joshua to succeed Moses, He gave him “This book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth but thou shall meditate therein day and night that thou mayest observe to do according to ALL that is written therein for THEN thou shalt make thy way prosperous and THEN thou shalt have good success.” (Joshua 1:8 In addition to the encouragement that God gave to Joshua, we are also encouraging our Ministers, in the words of Paul, who was committed to the task of preaching the Gospel “Woe is me, God forbid it that I cannot preach this Gospel.”
What is the Gospel?
Permit me to give you a bit of a background to this idea of the Gospel. In John 3:16 we read that “God so loved”. How do you know when somebody loves you? You cannot love without giving but you can give without loving. There is no way you can understand the love of God unless He does something. Thus, God so loved that He gave. Gave what? – His dearest, His best and His only Son.
That is the mystery of our Religion. To the end that all who believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Jesus Himself, when He came said, “Greater love has no man than this that a man should lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) The God who created us, created heaven and earth, the God of Israel, calls us His friends. To know more about His activities and who He is we should read the history of Israel where He calls Himself the “God of Israel’”. There is no other god in the history of any religion that gave Himself a name. All the other religions derive their name from men. It is only the God of Israelwho said “I am the God of Israel”. He is the God that came in human form to show who He is. He is the only God in the whole World that has shown who He is, because Jesus Christ is the visible representation of an invisible God.
“God so loved” – an illustration from the Book of Elders (a book not found in any library or internet) will give us a better understanding of this type of love. It tells about a widow whose only son was recalcitrant. The son got involved in armed robbery, met his waterloo on one occasion and was subsequently sentenced to death by firing squad. The distraught mother, in tears ran to meet her Pastor to break the news. The Pastor after obtaining some pertinent information from the mother about the son dressed up in his clerical attire and went to the prison to visit the young boy. After he was admitted in to the prison, he met the boy and exchanged his clerical attire for the prisoner’s uniform belonging to the boy. The Pastor then charged the boy, now dressed in the clerical attire, to go straight home to his mother without looking back. While Mother and son where reconciling in utter amazement, news came that the armed robbers had been killed by firing squad. Those who were killed included the Pastor. When the mother and son heard, they were completely broken and the boy repented in dust and ashes that the Pastor had exchanged his life not for a decent person but for a rebellious child. This story illustrates love at the human level and when considered on a Divine level, it tells of how God who created us, God who knew us in our mother’s womb, God by whose grace we are alive, our Creator, our Maker, our Redeemer, our Friend, our Fortress, our Helper, our Healer has sacrificed His only Son. He was crucified in our place, where we as sinners were to be crucified -“For even while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7
It is the Power that was generated by this kind of love that Paul refers to as the GOSPEL. You cannot separate the Gospel from this mysterious type of love that God has for you and for me.Romans 1:16 says, “The Gospel is the Power of God unto salvation for all them that believe.”
So what exactly is the Gospel? The Gospel is Jesus Christ. HE is the subject of the Gospel, He is the object of the Gospel, He is the life of the Gospel. It is preached by Him, it is preached by the Elders, it is preached by the Evangelist and is still being preached today by us. The Gospel then is a message of God’s love, the teaching of Christianity, the redemption by Jesus Christ who is offered to all mankind as a Saviour.
Some Facts about the Gospel
1. The Gospel is bound up with the life of Christ, His biography, and the record of His work and the proclamation of what He came to offer, all are gathered up in this single word “Gospel”. The gracious promise of the remission of sins to all mankind given by Christ. In the Gospel, we have a supernatural revelation, a whole message and doctrine of salvation, which is needed for faith, for justification, for renewal, for restoration, for reconciliation, for revival, for recreation, and for sanctification. All are embodied in this Gospel.
2. The preaching of the Gospel is accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is demonstrated through the miracles as Mighty works. Christians are meant to be those who have been touched, taught and transformed by the Gospel. They are meant to be those who have experienced the power of Christ in delivering them from both the power of sin and of Satan.
3. The Gospel was there before the Church came in to existence. Indeed, it is the preaching of the Gospel, which brought the Church into existence. The Gospel came first as the Word, for “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him without Him was anything made that was made.” (John 1:1) The Gospel came first as the Word and therefore borrowed nothing from subsequent Christian tradition.
4. The Gospel has the stamp, the seal, the hallmark and the character of God. No other “body” in heaven or earth has this authenticity. God’s authority is behind the Gospel. His majesty upholds the Gospel. The Son commends the Gospel. The Holy Spirit attends the Gospel. Neither the Ministry nor the Church can add or subtract from the Gospel. Therefore, the Gospel is superior to Apostles, superior to the Ministry that we carry out, superior to the Church and superior to evangelism. Only the Gospel can give these elements their true value, character and legitimacy.Without the Gospel, they have no legitimacy.
5. The Gospel is not subject to man’s alteration. What is required is that it should be declared, it should be proclaimed it should be practiced by the messengers, Pastors, evangelists who are set apart, who are commissioned by the sender as Paul was commissioned and sent. The Apostles were not in this sense the authors of the Gospel, but they are messengers of the author. God has spoken, not them. Theirs was to deliver the message that has been committed to them. The Almighty God has ordained the knowledge of His Son, of Himself, of His salvation by giving His spirit, through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel. There was no other means by which the Gospel was to be conveyed, particularly in the New Testament. That is why Paul could say in Romans 10:17 – “For Faith cometh by hearing and hearing the word of God.”
To preach and to teach was the essence of the Apostolic Commission. It was the method the early Church used to teach, and is the heritage of spiritual Ministry. Such a Ministry is therefore called of God, ordained by Christ and energized by the Holy Spirit. It is directed to the whole World and to every creature, to you and I. It comes from God not from man, from Christ not from the Church, from heaven not from earth and with the Power of the Spirit not with the deadness of the letter. The preparation of the Gospel was an anointed one. It was Divinely inspired not scholastic, Prophetic not pedantic, Spiritual not academic, Providential not financial.
What is the “Power of God”?
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is thePower of God unto salvation (Romans1:16). What is Power? Power is the ability to do work. There are several kinds of power – Political power, Financial power, Intellectual power, manpower (physical strength), and “woman power” as in the conquest of Sampson by Delilah.
Yet none of these powers can deal with the power of sin and can conquer both sin and Satan. The Power of God is not the most exalted of all observable powers, nor is it their sum total. On the contrary, the Power of God is completely different and wholly ordered. It is –
1. The Power which measure all other powers and by which they are pronounced to be something or nothing. Karl Barth refers to it as “The Crisis of Power”.
2. The Power sets all other powers in motion and directs their eternal destiny.
3. It is the original Power by which all other powers can either be dissolved or established (Karl Barth).
4. This Powers stands neither at the side, nor at the middle nor at the top of any other power rather it is a pure and preeminent power and beyond other powers. It is neither ranked with them nor can it be compared with them.
5. This Power of God is Jesus Christ.He is the deciding factor and the turning point in man’s consideration of God. This is what St. Paul communicates to the hearers as the Gospel. The Power of God unto salvation –
a) The Power that causes the dead to come to life.
b) The Power that can make the blind to see, the lame to walk and the deaf to hear.
c) The Power that causes five loaves of bread and two fishes to feed five thousand people.
d) The Power that restores the demoniac to his right mind.
e) The Power that quieten a roaring wind and a rumbling storm.
f) The Power that can cause the Red sea to become dry land.
g) The Power that can enable a shepherd boy to defeat and destroy a well-trained and armed professional giant soldier, David did that to Goliath.
h) The Power that was manifested by Jesus Christ to destroy all the powers of the enemy in 1John 3:8b. (For this purpose, the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil.)
i) The Power that renders all human impossibilities possible.
j) The Power of God that saves the lawless rebel.
k) The Power of God that saves the self-righteous moralist, both Jew and Gentile.
l) The Power that saves the self-righteous Jew who would call on the law to defend himself.
m) The Power that saves all mankind from their sin and from the power of Satan.
The proclamation, acceptance and practice of the Gospel is the whole activity which the Christian community is called to perform. It is the Powerthat has established the Christian community in its teaching, its ethics and its worship. God’s Power through the Gospel of Jesus Christ is available through faith and it brings total and complete salvation to all sinners who believe. Paul considered himself an agent for the proclamation and propagation of this Power of God called the “Gospel”. You cannot leave this sanctuary without knowing theMystery of the Majesty of the Gospel,‘The Power of God’. That power of God is the power by which He loves, not because we are worthy but because He is God. Hence, Paul was able to say –
“Necessity is laid upon me to preach the Gospel”. In other words, Paul was preaching this Gospel not because of what he had to gain from it, not because of the money, but because necessity was laid upon him and he could find no rest. He was also confident in his knowledge of this power, and was therefore obligated to preach. He could then say “Woe is me if I don’t preach the Gospel, if I am not able Lord punish me, release your anger on me.” This was the outcry of someone who is committed and determined to preach this Gospel.
“ I have become all things to allmen, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians9:22) Paul could also say that in preaching this Gospel he wants to be everything to everybody. Not that he was saying he was a two faced hypocrite. In effect, he was trying to get along with everybody. The man who can never see anything but his own point of view, who is intolerant, who totally lacks the gift of sympathy and never makes an attempt to understand the mind and the heart of others can never be a good Pastor, evangelist or a good friend. He can never succeed in his teaching or evangelistic Ministry; attain any type of friendship, without speaking the same language and thinking the same way as the people he ministers to. The profession of teaching, medicine and of Ministry has been described as the three “Patronizing professions”. So long as you make a point to understand people or establish a point of contact, it is then easier to get along. Paul the master missionary, who won more men than any other person, saw how utterly essential it was to become all things for all men. Therefore, for a minister of the Gospel, it is essential to learn the art of getting along with all categories of people – dancers, mechanics, farmers, doctors, lawyers, and teachers’ etcetera.
A Charge to the Ministers’
Today we charge the Ministers’ to serve as good shepherds and not as hirelings. In many of our Churchestoday, Pastors do not serve as good shepherds who are prepared to lay down their lives for their flock. Rather, they function as hirelings. -“What will you pay me if I pray for you?” We bid you in your preaching, be a good example in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith and in purity. Let your proclamation, your preaching, your conduct, always be with grace, seasoned with salt that you may know how you ought to answer every man as Paul said to Timothy (Colossians 4:6).
Again as Paul said, I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ who shall judge the living and the dead, “Preach the word, be constant in season and out of season, reproof, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” (2 Timothy4:2) Be a good shepherd of the flock of God that is committed to your charge. Be a servant not a master. Do not be greedy for money, but be eager to serve, not lording over them but being a good example, even as Christ Himself came to say “I have come not be served but to serve.” (Matthew20:28) Let that be the hallmark of our Pastors. Paul desired to preach this Gospel. Be strong and be of good courage, be not afraid neither be thou dismayed for the Lord thy God who sent you will demand an account of your stewardship as a Minister.
This message is not just for Pastors, but it also pertains to all of us because God has endowed each and every one of us with talents, time and treasures. How are we using these gifts, are we using them selfishly or are we using them to the glory of God? As God will judge a Pastor so will He judge us because of how we have used the time, talents and treasures deposited in us. Let it be our portion that at the end of the day we shall hear the Master say “Well done thou good and faithful servant enter thou into the Joy of the Lord.” (Matthew 25:23) Or else those who despise God and would not like to use their God given gifts, talents and treasure to the glory of God, their portion will be judgment.
The Scripture says, “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:30) Therefore, the issues are clear, for those who will use their time on earth (for our time on earth will expire one day) to the glory of God using their time, treasure and talent to appreciate God for His love will be honoured. Those who will not use their time, talents and treasure to the glory of God will end up like the “Rich fool” whose soul was required of him that night. Therefore let our Pastors arise and be like St. Paul. In 1 Samuel 2 :13, He rebuked Eli for what his children did, reminding him that He will honour them that honour Him and He will lightly esteem those who despise Him.
MAY WE LEARN TO HONOUR GOD SO THAT HE WILL HONOUR US. IN THE NAME OF GOD THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN!
BY HIS EMINENCE, MOST REV. PROF. EMELE MBA UKA