“ I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom, preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine.” –2 Tim. 1v. 1,2.
I. Where faithful ministers stand—“Before God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” There is not a more awfully affecting situation in the whole world than that in which a faithful minister stands.
(1.) Before God.—This is true in two ways:
1st, As a sinner saved by grace—He was once far off, but is now brought nigh by the blood of Jesus. Having “boldness to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He has consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say His flesh,” He draws near. He stands within the vail—in the holiest of all—in the love of God. He is justified before God. A faithful minister is an example to his flock of a sinner saved, God says to him as He did to Abraham, “Walk before Me and be thou perfect.” He can say with Paul, “I was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious, but I obtained mercy.” A faithful minister is like Aaron’s rod that was laid up beside the ark of God and budded there.
2nd, As a servant—In the East, servants always stand in the presence of their master, watching his hand. The Queen of Sheba said to Solomon, “Happy are these servants which stand continually before thee, and hear thy wisdom.” So it is said of the angels, that “They do always behold the face of My Father, which is in heaven.” Even when most engaged in the service of His saints, they feel under His all-seeing, holy, living eye. So ought faithful ministers to feel. They should feel constantly His presence—under his soul-piercing, gentle guiding, holy, living eye. “I will guide thee with Mine eye.” “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous.” Ah! how often we feel we are before man. Then all power withers, and we become weak, as other men; but oh! how sweet to feel in the presence of God, as if there were no eye on us but God’s. In prayer, how sweet to feel before Him; to kneel at His footstool, and to put our hand upon the mercy-seat—no curtain, no veil, no cloud between the soul and God. In preaching, how sweet to say, like Elijah, when he stood before Ahab, “I stand before the Lord God of Israel.” To stand at His feet, in His family, in His pavilion, O believers, it is then we get above the billows. The applause of men, the rage and contempt of men, then pass by us like the idle wind which we regard not. Thus is a minister like a rock in the ocean; the mountain-billows dash upon his brow, and ye it stands unshaken.
(2.) Before Jesus Christ.—This also is true in two ways:
1st, The faithful minister has a present sight of Christ as his Righteousness. He is like John the Baptist, “Seeing Jesus coming unto him, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!” Or like Isaiah, he saw “His glory and spake of Him.” His own soul is ever watching at Gethsemane and at Golgotha. O brethren, it is thus only we can ever speak with feeling, or with power, or with truth, of the unsearchable riches of Christ. We must have the taste of the manna in our mouth, “milk and honey under our tongue,” else we cannot tell of its sweetness. We must be drinking of the living water from the smitten rock, or we cannot speak of its refreshing power. We must be hiding our guilty souls in the wounds of Jesus, or we cannot, with joy, speak of the peace and rest to be found there. This is the reason why unfaithful ministers are cold and barren in their labours. They speak, like Balaam, of a Saviour whose grace they do not feel. The speak like Caiaphas, of the blood of Christ, without having felt its power to speak peace to the troubled heart. This is the reason why many good men have a barren ministry. They speak from clear head-knowledge, or from past experience, but not from a present grasp of the truth—not from a present sight of the Lamb of God. Hence their words fall like a shower of snow—fair and beautiful but cold and freezing. The Lord give us to stand in the presence of the Lord Jesus.
2d, The faithful minister should feel the presence of a living Saviour. A minister should be like the bride in the Song—“Leaning upon her beloved.” This was Jeremiah’s strength (i.8), “Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.” So it was with Paul (Acts xviii. 10), “For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.” So Jesus told all the disciples, “Yet a little while and the world seeth Me not, but ye see Me. Because I live, ye shall live also.” And again He says expressly, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” Yes, brethren, Christ is as truly walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, as truly in this place to-day, as if you saw Him with your bodily eyes. His humanity is at the right hand of God—appearing in the presence of God for us. His Godhead fills all in all. Thus He is with us—standing with our right hand, so that we cannot be moved. It is sweet to know and feel this. Thus only can we be sustained amid all the trials of the ministry. Are we weary? we can lean, like John, upon His bosom. Are we burdened with a sense of sin? we can hide in the cleft of that Rock of Ages. Are we empty? we can look up to Him for immediate supply. Are we hated of all men? we can hide under His wings. Stand before the Lord Jesus Christ, and then you may smile at Satan’s rage, and face a frowning world. Learn here also the guilt of refusing a Gospel ministry, “He that refuseth you refuseth Me; and he that refuseth Me refuseth Him that sent Me.”
(3.) Within the sight of judgment—“Who shall judge the quick and the dead.”—Ministers of their flocks shall meet together before the throne of the Lord Jesus. That will be a solemn day. They may have many solemn meetings on earth. An Ordination day is a solemn day. Their meetings from Sabbath to Sabbath are solemn meetings; and sacrament days are very solemn days. But their meeting at the judgment-seat will be by far the most solemn of all. Then,
1st, The minister will give in his account, either with joy, or with grief. He will no more meet to plead with the people, or to pray with them, but to bear witness how they received the Word. Of some he will give account with a joyful countenance—they received the Word with all readiness of mind—that they were converted and became like little children—these will be his joy and crown. Of most with grief—that he carried the message to them, but they would not come—they made light of it; or perhaps they listened for a while, but drew back into perdition. He will be a swift witness against them in that day. “Depart ye cursed.”
2nd, Then the people will give in their account of the minister. If he was faithful—if he made it his meat and drink to do the will of God—if he preached the whole truth wit seriousness, urgency, love—if he was holy in his life—if he preached publicly, and from house to house—then that minister shall shine like the stars. If he was unfaithful—if he fed himself but not the flock—if he did not seek the conversion of souls—did not travail in birth—if he sought his own ease, his own wealth, his own praise, and not their souls—then shall the loud curses of the ruined souls fall on that wretched man, and God shall say, Take the unfaithful servant, and bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness. O believers, it is the duty of ministers to preach with this solemn day in their eye. We should stand, like Abraham, looking down on the smoke of Sodom; like John, listing to the new song and the golden harps of the New Jerusalem. Would not this take away the fear of man? Would not this make us urgent in our preaching?/ You must either get these souls into Christ, or you will yet see them lying down in everlasting burnings. O brethren, did I not say truly that the place where a minister stand is the most solemn spot in all this world?
II. The grand business of the faithful minister.—Described in two ways; First, Generally—Preach the Word. Second, More in detail—Reprove, rebuke, exhort.