pastor and his past: tying it all together

A Pastor and His Past: Tying it All Together

The last two articles have laid the foundation for the following truths:

  1. Ministry is a holy endeavor since a pastor is serving a holy God.
  2. Every pastor was and is a sinner who willingly marred the glory of God in himself.
  3. Yet, whom God has justified, we cannot condemn.
  4. In Christ, the Law that condemned a man is now dead to him and he is dead to it.
  5. Therefore, everyone, whom the Father has chosen for ministry, is qualified.

Today, we will expand upon item number five in our list and explain what is meant by that.

As was already mentioned, ministry to a holy, righteous, and pristine God necessitates a holy man. The ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4) is particularly the case because of the value of the Word preached and the people hearing. Therefore, it is imperative that the man be fit for that ministry. Can a man who, before he was justified, was a murderer, a thief, a homosexual, be a pastor or an elder? The answer we have tried to validate is “Yes.” But, the other side of this is the fact that he must be qualified once he is saved, and that is what I want to discuss today.

I would assume that the people reading this post are familiar with the list of qualifications that Paul gave to Timothy and Titus respectively. They are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9. In essence, Paul’s guidelines for God’s man are unbendable, irrevocable, and, more importantly, wise. They are wise. Why? Because, in addition to the reality of approaching a God who is consuming fire in ministry, it also protects the church from those who would harm her. This is true because of the reality that we have been discussing which is that only sinners can become leaders in the church. There is no one else to choose from. Therefore, what will you need in order to make sure that those sinners are 1) actually regenerate, 2) gifted for ministry, 3) will carry out their task until the end? They need validation. Let’s examine, in summary fashion, what this validation would look like in life of the man whom we referred to early in the series, the Apostle Paul.

Listen to him speak of life before he was converted:

Galatians 1:13–14

13    For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14    and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.

Acts 22:3–5

3    “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today. 4    “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, 5    as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished.

Acts 26:9–11

9    “So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10    “And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. 11    “And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.

In short, “Paul spoke frequently and graphically of his campaign of persecution against the Christians. He told of how he had pursued them, like a bloodhound, from city to city, arresting both men and women, throwing them into prison, voting for their execution, and further harassing them even to the point of death.”[1]

Had he had the power to execute Christians, he appears to have had no problem doing that. He was violent, hateful, mean, angry, murderous, and aggressive. This sounds much like ISIS of our own day, except, not in the name of Allah, but in the name of YHWH, the true God!

And yet, listen to him, many years later:

1 Timothy 1:12–16

12    I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13    even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14    and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. 15    It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16    Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

In fact, Paul understood that God had called him from his mother’s womb in order to preach the gospel (Galatians 1:15)! This man had to overcome his testimony from the start in order to preach in the churches. According to Galatians, it took about 3 years to gain a reputation, a testimony, that he had been redeemed (Galatians 1:17-18, 23; cf. Acts 9:10-25; 26:19-20).

Even then, however, there was tremendous hesitation to accept him among the church in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-30). It was not until Paul demonstrated his redeemed heart through preaching, suffering, and submission to the apostles, that he was believed! And that is exactly what needs to happen to any man who has a desire to preach or lead in the church from an obviously sinful background–he must be tested and validated by leaders in the church that he has been called to that ministry. And that is the point of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. These are the tests, the proofs, that God has called and qualified a sinner to preach the good news of the kingdom and to lead the church.

In other words, a man is called, gifted, and qualified by God and recognized by man in this manner: 1) temperament, 2) time, and 3) testing. If a man desires to lead, great. But current leadership must take that man, prove his temperament as having been created by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), give him time to show his heart (that it is indeed regenerate), and test him in his Bible understanding, love for the Lord Jesus Christ, and for His people. He cannot be entrusted with the riches of kingdom leadership until then. That might take three years, as in the case of Paul (and even then there was another number of years before he would take prominence in church leadership), or it might take longer. Either way, it is not leadership’s job to make him a leader, but to identify that God has called him to leadership and He will make him a leader.

In conclusion, just realize that if God could not use sinners to serve Him, no one could serve Him. The power of the true gospel is that God makes us acceptable to Himself for service from even the darkest backgrounds. To deny that to be true is to erect a fake Christianity that is bound by our own expectations and interests.

[1] Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 113–114.

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