God’s holy stewards of truth are what preachers have been called to be. The weight of the calling bears great responsibility. Dear preacher, are you ready?
God’s Holy Stewards Of Truth
“Preachers and teachers are stewards of the truth in the sense of being managers & keepers of the mysteries of God.
We must preach the word. We are not to preach stories we pick from newspapers or from books we may be reading, from our interaction and experience with the world, we must preach the word.
Topics & Timestamps
0:00 – Faithfulness in the ministry
2:03 – Faithfulness in preaching
6:42 – Preach the word
12:32 – Commit to being a holy steward
20:07 – Commit to preparation
26:25 – Have a God consciousness
32:57 – A preacher’s responsibility
42:14 – Faithfully apply the word of God
49:10 – Important reflective questions
Top Quotes: God’s Holy Stewards Of Truth
“Preachers and teachers are stewards of the truth in the sense of being managers & keepers of the mysteries of God.”
“There is no secret behind powerful preaching apart from secret prayer.”
“We are not to preach our testimonies. We must preach the word.”
Other Content On This Topic
Text: 1 Corinthians 4:2, 1 Timothy 1:18, 2 Timothy 4:2
Date preached: 6 January 2021
Location: Grace Ministers Conference, Johannesburg, South Africa
Faithfulness In The Ministry
We continue in this session in our reflection on faithfulness in the ministry. In our last session we introduced the subject, “Faithfulness In The Ministry.” And we saw in defining faithfulness that it refers to being reliable, setadfast and unwavering in the excercise of the misnisrty. We particularly noted that ministers must be faithful and they ought to particulalry be faithful in prayer. We saw that above all other Christians the pastor must be a man of prayer. All others, yes, need to be daily at the throne of grace but he more. He has to do it more. He deals in highly spiritual matters. He needs the spirit more. He needs to be at the feet of God more. Prayer should be his breath. About him it must be said, “He prays always.” Every one of his ministirial duties, yes, all that he does should. be concecrated by prayer. In this regard we saw that he must therefore be faithful in praying in private. Faithful in praying with his fellow elders. Faithful in public prayer. And faithful in prayer with the people of God.
Faithfulness In Preaching
We want to move on today and pick up yet another theme. And it is “Faithfulness In Preaching.” Before we delve into the matter of being faithful in preaching, there is an element tied to the idea of faithfulness that I think we should understand and appreciate. And it is the element of stewardship. And as that relates to preaching, the stewardship relates to the truth. Preaching the truth is a stewardship. Paul uses this word in 1 Corinthians 4:2 and he refers to himself and the other apostles and all who minister the word as stewards. And the word steward primary denotes the manager of a household or an estate. It is used used as such in Luke 12: 32-45. The manager doesn’t own anything in the household, the owner does. The owner puts all the affairs of his household into the hands of the stewards or the managers to manage according to his rules and according to his expectations.
Even so, metaphorically speaking, preachers and teachers are stewards. Stewards of the truth. And stewards in the sense of being managers and keepers of the mysteries of God. And by mysteries, Paul was referring to God’s revelation which includes all that God chooses to reveal as well as the gospel in particular. And the work of stewarding or managing or keeping the mysteries of God must be done according to God’s own rules and expectations. According to God’s commands.
Preachers and teachers are stewards of the truth in the sense of being managers & keepers of the mysteries of God.
Paul in 1 Timothy 1:18, in writing to Timothy says that he must carry out his stewardship according to Paul’s charge or command. And the word translated charge refers to the command to promote sound doctrine specifically in that context by confronting the false teachers and their doctrines. It’s a military word. A word therefore that means that an order that is given passes through the ranks from a superior to a subordinate. Paul received his orders from the Lord ,he passes them on to timothy who is to relay them to the Church. The word conveys a sense of urgent obligation. The matter of being stewards of the truth is a matter of urgency.
Donald Guthrie in commenting on this wrote, “Timothy is solemnly reminded that the ministry is not a matter to be trifled with but an order from the commander in chief.” The point is that those who are given the stewardship of preaching and teaching must prove to be faithful. That is to say they must be reliable, they must be steadfast, they must be unwavering in their commitment to keep the mysteries of god.
Preach The Word
But what exactly does this faithfulness look like? Faithfulness in the realm of preaching. We will once again turn our attention to Acts 6:4 and consider and open up what the apostles refer to as a giving of themselves continually. Not only to prayer but also to the ministry of the word. And i believe that faithfulness in preaching consists in a fivefold commitment.
Note, first of all, that it consists in a commitment to keeping the preaching. Paul said 2 Timothy 4:2 to timothy, “Preach the word.” Preach, preach. Preaching means proclamation, explanation, and application of the word of God by one who legitimately serves as a herald of god. That’s a quotation from Al Martin. It is to this cause of preaching that the stewards must prove faithful. And faithfulness in this regard will include never allowing anything to dislodge preaching. Things such as motivational speaking that have become very common these days, or tinkering to please people, or speaking in a politely correct way must not dislodge preaching.
I remember years ago attending a church somewhere in the United States Of America, big church. And we were all seated participating in the worship and of course expecting and anticipating to hear God’s word. But what I and my wife noted from the onset that there was no pulpit set on the stage. Rather there was a table and two chairs on either side of the table. And at the time of preaching two men walked over to the table and took the seats that had been arranged for them. And for 30 minutes they engaged in a conversation between themselves. Nothing wrong with what they said. Actually everything they said was sound, it was good, it was helpful it was edifying.
We thought that that was just something of an introduction and before long one of them would stand up and preach. But that never happened. We were staying with one of the elders of that church and he asked for my opinion of how things went. And I said to him, “Do you really want to know my opinion?” And he said, “Yes i’m interested.” And I said, “Well all went well except there was no preaching.” And he was surprised at that. And I explained what I meant by it. There was no authoritative proclamation, explanation, and application of the word of God by a man who would stand as the legitimate herald of God, the legitimate representative of God, wrestling with the souls of men and calling them to yield their obedience to the will of God. Nothing like that. They had removed that, instead we were treated to a nice conversation.
I believe faithfulness to preaching includes allowing nothing of that sort from happening, from dislodging preaching. But rather giving ourselves continually to the ministry of the word, to use the apostles language in Acts 6:4. Being strong toward preaching, persevering in preaching, holding nothing back from the call to preach. Proclaiming God’s word plainly. Commending ourselves to the consciences of man. A commitment to keeping the preaching.
Called To Be A Holy Steward
Secondly it is a commitment to keeping the life of the steward of the mysteries of God. Not everyone can be a steward of the mysteries of god. Not everyone can be a preacher of God’s word. Paul suggests that the men who would be stewards of the mysteries of god must be faithful men. 2 Corinthians 4:2, “Faithful men.” In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul entrusted the word to a faithful man, Timothy, who was also charged to entrust that same word to faithful men. He suggests that these men in 1 Timothy 3:1-8 must also be qualified in the home, in the home life. In their characters, in orthodoxy, in possessing a good reputation. They must be qualified. They must watch their lives. They must be holy man
To quote Albert Martin in his Pastoral Theology lectures and those lectures have now been turned into book, three thick volumes. But he writes there that men of God ought to be men who know God. They know him in the darkness of the night and in the brightness of the day. They know him in the fullness of his presence as well as in the absence of his presence. They have an experience of God. They don’t just know about God, they know God. They know what it is for God to smile at them and what it is for God to appear as if he had turned his back on them. They know what it is to experience joy in the presence of God and they know what it is to live under a frowning providence.
David Murray says, and I quote, “A holy will, a holy life will impart moral authority and spiritual power to a preacher’s words. He will have unction from on high that will impress and influence even the hardest of hearers.” End of quote. Dunby said, “The hearers apprehension of their master’s character is a most important element in the power of persuasion. The pastor’s character speaks more. It speaks more loudly than his tongue.” And then of course you know about the words of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, he was a very young minister even when he died. He is known to have said, “The life of a ministry is the life of a minister.” Now why is this important? Why must a minister prove faithful in maintaining his holiness even as he gives himself to preaching?
Let me quote David Murray here again. And he says, “No amount of theological substance or rhetorical skill will make up for a preacher’s lack of personal holiness.” It’s true if the pastor obviously does not practice what he preaches. However it is true when the inconsistency is not so public, where there is secret and public sin the spiritually discerning among god’s people can detect when the preacher’s life does not match his lips. They may not be able to put their finger on it and they may not be able to put their instincts into words, but they will have unease. A sense of something not quite right which fatally undermine much that the preacher says.” End of quote
A preacher must be holy because the ministry is more dependent on personal integrity than on a polished technique. Than on public and speaking gifts. Than the ability to hold a crowd. You may have all of those abilities, you may command the attention of any audience but if you lack holiness and personal integrity all that may amount to nothing. This is why a preacher must be holy. This is why he must be committed to maintaining that holiness. To maintaining his qualifications if he would be a steward of the mysteries of God.
Paul exhorts Timothy to keep faith and a good conscience. Timothy is to hold trust, he is to hold his trust in the truth of the gospel. He is to walk uprightly he is not to violate his conscience which is shaped by the word of God. He must live in such a way that he keeps his conscience true, pure. He must live in such a way that god is pleased. He must be faithful to maintaining his life.
Commit To Preparation
Thirdly faithfulness to preaching consists in a commitment to prepare to preach, to prepare to preach. By prepare I mean what a preacher does before he actually stands in the pulpit. In 2 Timothy 2:15 we have a suggestion as to what a preacher must be doing before he ever stands in a pulpit. Let me read that text first. 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul says to Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God. A worker who does not need to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Paul urges timothy here, the man of god, the preacher, to correctly divide the word of truth. To correctly divide means to cut correctly. That is to say to cut it open, to dissect its several parts and search and look into the inside and the bottom of it to find out every truth contained in it. To give the true sense of the scripture, not perverting it. And designing a way, having looked into it ,having discovered the meaning of it, to design a way of presenting them and eventually laying them open to others. That is to say distributing that spiritual food of the word to babes in Christ, to grown christians according to their capacities. And to present it in a manner that is suitable to their situations and circumstances and needs. Dividing or distributing to everyone what is proper for them.
Yes, he does eventually stand to present that word but the process would have begun long before he stood before the people of God. He will have engaged in hermeneutics and exegesis and homiletics. He would have prepared himself to speak the word of God. To speak it clearly, to speak it simply, to speak it pointedly. He would have prepared himself for that.
It must also surely imply a commitment to prayer and we spent a lot of time thinking about prayer in the last session. There is no secret behind powerful preaching apart from secret prayer. And the biggest mistakes preachers make is to think that they can learn to preach powerfully from books, and from conferences and seminars, from lectures on preaching. You can certainly learn something from a conference, from sitting under someone’s lecture but no preaching can be powerful which is not preceded by prayer accompanied with prayer and followed by prayer.
There is no secret behind powerful preaching apart from secret prayer.
Now the implication of all of this is that before a preacher presents the word to the people of God he must himself first receive it from God in a manner similar to the way the prophets of the old testament did. They received it from the word of God. God spoke to them. When they received that word through a vision perhaps, through a riddle, through a dream. Moses received that word mouth to mouth. And it was their duty having received it to transmit it to the people just as they had received it. Without adding anything to it or subtracting anything from it. What the author of those words meant, that is what they will go on to deliver without changing anything. To do that demands faithfulness. Faithfulness by way of preparation.
Have An Awareness Of God
Fourthly faithfulness in the ministry also consists in a commitment to preach the word. Let me remind you of that verse again from 2 Timothy 4:2. I’ll read verse 1 as well. “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom, preach the word.” We are not to preach our testimonies. We must preach the word. We are not to preach stories we pick from newspapers or from books we may be reading, from our interaction and experience with the world, we must preach the word. You are not called to preach your opinions or your own personal feelings and beliefs. Your own thoughts, they may have a place but they are irrelevant. What matters is the word. What matters is thus saith the Lord.
We are not to preach our testimonies. We must preach the word.
Furthermore what matters is who is watching and listening to our preaching and whether he is happy and approving. And that is god himself. As we preach we must do so with a consciousness of doing it in the presence of God. We must do so in the consciousness that God is watching us. God is listening to us. God is taking notes of what we are preaching. God is paying attention to what we are preaching. Listen to what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:15. It says, “For we are to guard the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not are so many peddling the word of God but as of sincerity. But us from God we speak,” he says, “in the sight of God.” In the sight of God. Our goal is to see to it that the notes God takes even as we preach are a reflection of what he actually revealed to us in his word. If after you’ve preached and God would come up to you and show you the notes he took, that there would be an expression an accurate expression of what he himself has revealed to you. This god consciousness, someone says, this consciousness that God is watching, God is there, God is listening. Even as we endeavour to represent him, this consciousness will also deal a hammer blow to all theatrics and hypocrisy on the one hand while cultivating dignity and seriousness on the other.
But what did Paul mean by the word? Preach the word? Well, he means the word of God he’s already spoken about the word of God in chapter 3 and verse 16. He says all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine for reproof for correction for instruction in righteousness. This that he refers to as all scripture which is God breathed, God breathed out the word and the men of God took down what he breathed out. And hence, scripture. So the word is scripture. The word is the word of god. And what Paul is emphasising about the word of God is that it is authoritative because it is God’s word. It is sufficient. Sufficient for doctrine, sufficient for a proof, sufficient for correction, sufficient for instruction in righteousness. It is sufficient. We don’t need anything else to guide our thinking, to help us formulate doctrine and practice. It is sufficient and it is final. The word of God.
A Preacher’s Responsibility
What is the preacher’s responsibility to the word of God? Well, a preacher is basically an administrator of the word. As a steward he is called to administer, to manage the affairs of a household. In this case to manage the word. To administer the word. And he administers it by preaching it. That is to say he must proclaim it. If God puts the mysteries of god in your hand and you claim to be a preacher but you don’t proclaim those mysteries, you are not a true preacher. You are called to administer it by proclaiming it. You are called to administer it by explaining it. Just as Ezra the scribe did with the other priests in Nehemiah 8:8. They opened the book, the word of god and explained it. They gave the meaning of it so the people could understand. You administer the word by explaining it. Opening up its meaning just as you had received it and applying it faithfully to the people of God. Bringing what happened those many years ago, hundreds and thousands of years ago, bringing that history to our times and making it a reality in the lives of the people you minister to today.
But what is the content of this word of God? It contains what Paul refers to in Acts 20 as the whole council of God. Whatever God has chosen to reveal to man is contained here. It contains the gospel. Paul says woe is me if I preach not the gospel. And in the gospel we preach the glory of the person of Jesus Christ. He is God of god. He is from everlasting to everlasting. He is the creator and sustainer of the universe. He is immortal he is unchangeable. He is infinite. He is one with god. He is man, the perfect man who knew no sin even though he lived in a world of sin and mingled with sinners, he knew no sin. There was no sin to be found upon his mouth.
We preach the glory of the person of christ. We preach, secondly, the work of christ. To preach the gospel is to be a master at preaching the acts of redemption. Preaching the life of Christ in which he was seen to have been righteous because he obeyed all the law of God and earned eternal life thereby. We must be skilled at preaching the suffering of Christ in Gethsemane. We must be skilled at preaching the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ. We must not be afraid of preaching the law and the gospel. We preach the law in its full vigour to make people guilty before God.
So many preachers today who are unwilling to preach the law, who are afraid of preaching the law. We mustn’t preach the law like it was the gospel. Preaching that doesn’t smite. Preaching that doesn’t condemn anybody’s sin. The type of preaching that has no imperatives only carefully chosen indicatives. Preaching that is not intended to offend and there is an offence that is out of place. I remember a preacher in Zambia who would offend not so much by the message he preached but by the things he said which had nothing to do with the message. Calling people pigs and calling them chickens and names like that. And people would rightfully take offence. That’s not what i’m talking about. I’m talking about the offence of the gospel.
Are you the kind of preacher who is afraid of offending by the word? Some people don’t know what sin is nor do they know anything about feeling guilty for sin because they have never had the preaching of the law. The law which Paul in Romans 7:7 refers to as holy and good and unrighteous. They have never been smitten by the law. Have your people never been smitten because you have never preached the law? We preach the gospel in its full sweetness to attract people to Christ to call them to be justified through him. We mustn’t preach the gospel like it was the law.
This is preaching where apart from mentioning a little word about Jesus and grace and faith here and there, much of what is preached is not the gospel. There’s no person of Christ, no glory of Christ, no work, no atonement. Christ is mentioned but in reality the message is about the obligations of a christian. The do’s and don’ts. Very little of the Christ who enables us to do. We must be faithful at preaching the law and the gospel. We must be faithful in preaching the word, the whole council of God.
Faithfully Apply The Word Of God
Fifthly and finally, faithfulness in preaching consists in a commitment to faithfully apply the word of God. To faithfully apply the truth of God. There is a sense in which this is the essence of preaching. Preaching or more precisely experiential preaching can be defined as application, application, application. Preaching from the heart to the heart. This is the most difficult and challenging enterprise. It calls us to use the following devices from 2 Timothy 4:5. Listen to Paul. He has already urged Timothy to preach the word but then he goes on to say… Now did I say verse five I actually meant to say verse two. Preach the word. And then he goes on to say be ready in season and out of season.
What should you be doing in season and out of season? The following things, the following devices must be used: convince, rebuke, exhort. Useful tools in application. First convince or as other versions would put it, reproof. It must be a convicting message. We shouldn’t be afraid to convict, to bring conviction. Why has God given you the word? Well, Paul says once again in chapter 3 verse 17, scripture is given for reproof. So use it to reprove use it to convict. Use it to correct the errors in certain beliefs in certain practices. To expose sin and evil. Use it, do it.
Next is rebuke. The message must would only be convicting, the application must not only be convicting, it must be confronting, confronting. The reproof exposes the sin, the rebuke exposes the sinfulness of the sinner. This is the personal side of preaching. Sin must be confronted. Sinners must be confronted. Our preaching must warn the sinner of the dangers of their sins. Do you preach like that? Are you prepared to apply in that way? In such a way that people feel their sins and are brought to a place of conviction and regret and repentance?
But we must also exhort. Must be a comforting message. The verb exhort can also mean to strongly encourage or urge someone to do something. We are to encourage, we are to comfort the people of god. We are to encourage the people of god to practice the word, to live the word. Not to merely have an intellectual interest in it but to live it out. To practice it, to do it. We teach all that we do and we proclaim and explain so that we may in the end move people to do the things we preach.
And this manner of preaching must be done with all long-suffering and teaching. With all long-suffering and teaching. Long-suffering has the idea of patience and endurance because sometimes we are called to preach in this applicatory manner even in the face of opposition from those who don’t like what you say. Sometimes it’s not about what you say but how you say it. They don’t like it. They don’t like to be confronted. They don’t like to be convicted. They feel uncomfortable and they come for you, they challenge you, they want to make life a little difficult for you for getting at them.
But in spite of knowing that you may face all those consequences and in spite of knowing that sometimes you will be preaching to congregations that may have heretics in them, congregations that exist in an atmosphere of error, and that you may be persecuted as a consequence, and you still decide to be faithful. To convince, to rebuke, to exalt, with all long suffering. Well, that is what faithfulness in preaching looks like.
Important Reflective Questions
Let me end by asking you a number of questions. Do people, even the people you serve, trust you to preach the truth because you are a man of integrity? And because you believe in preaching? They know god has entrusted the mysteries of his word to you and they trust you to keep those mysteries. To defend those mysteries. To preach those mysteries. Do your people trust you to do that?
Secondly do people trust you to preach the truth because you correctly handle the word of truth? It hasn’t just been committed to you, you actually correctly divide it, you correctly handle it. Do they trust you to do careful proper correct exegesis?
Do they trust you to formulate sermons that will be an expression of that exegesis that would be the means through which the word of god would be transmitted faithfully to them? Do they trust you to do that?
Do people trust you to preach the truth because you will give them what they need to hear in every season of their lives? That you will not be afraid of showing them their sins. Of challenging them to repent of their sins. Of challenging them to do ways of God. You will not be afraid you will tell them exactly not what they want to hear but what they need to hear because God has commanded you to go and tell them that.
Well, let me end on this note to encourage you dear brother to endeavour to be a faithful steward such that in that day when you stand before God to give an account of how you will have preached, how you will have proclaimed the word of god, that he would say to you, “Well done. Well, done good and faithful servant. You had been faithful in a little, I will now have you be a steward over much.”
Endeavour dear brother to be faithful in the ministry. Faithful in preaching for Jesus’ sake. Amen.