A sinner sent by the grace of God
Paul not only speaks of being saved by the grace of God, but also of being called and sent by the grace of God. “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).
This is not the place to go into detail about the “call to the ministry”. Suffice to say that the preacher should have two calls—the one internal and the other external. The exact nature of these calls varies from person to person. But, in general, we can say that the internal call is a burden or longing to preach based on right motives: the desires to obey God, to edify God’s people, and to save souls. The external call is the church’s confirmation of the internal call and involves the church’s examination of the preacher’s motives, gifts, character and Christian experience.
The preacher must work to maintain a constant sense of the divine call—when preparing to preach, when preaching, and when reflecting on the results of his preaching. This will set another pendulum swinging in his heart. It will swing from humility (resulting from the knowledge that it is divine mercy not human merit that has made him a preacher), to authority (resulting from the knowledge that God has commissioned him).
A sinner supplied with the gifts of God
Not only is the preacher saved by God’s grace, and sent by God’s grace, but he is also gifted by God’s grace. A man can be gifted without being called and sent, but a man cannot be called and sent without being gifted. God supplies both the calling and the gifts to fulfill that calling.
What kind of gifts will be present in the preacher?
a. A strong self-discipline
As the preacher has no “boss”, no supervisor, or manager, he is able to do as little or as much as he desires, in whatever areas that interest him. Hence why so many lazy and undisciplined men have been attracted to the ministry. But when a man is truly called of God to the ministry, he is divinely equipped with an ability to organize and discipline himself to do his duty, even when there is no one to check up on him.
b. A love of studying
Paul admonished the young preacher, Timothy: “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine … Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 2:15). As the core of the preacher’s task is the study of God’s Word, God will usually bless the preacher with a love of studying.
c. An ability to communicate
As the preacher must not only understand the truth but also be able to communicate it clearly, God will usually give the preacher a clear mind and a clear voice, resulting in a clear message from God to men. God does not send messengers who confuse and bamboozle his people with displays of their learning—or their lack of it.
d. A love of people
There are many preachers who love their studies, but wish they never had to come out of them! They love preparing sermons, lectures and addresses, but seem to wish that they did not need a congregation to deliver them to. The God-sent messenger loves the people God has given to him. He enjoys visiting the flock and feeding the flock.
The gifts summarized above, and others, must be sought, cultivated, stirred up and developed (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6). J. W. Alexander warned: I fear none of us apprehend as we ought to do the value of the preacher’s office. Our young men do not gird themselves for it with the spirit of those who are on the eve of a great conflict; nor do they prepare as those who are to lay their hands upon the springs of the mightiest passions, and stir up to their depths the ocean of human feelings.
A sinner summoned to the bar of God
“Preach the word!” (2 Tim. 4:2) was Paul’s last charge to Timothy and it was given in the context of the final judgement (v. 1). Paul’s whole ministry was conducted in the awesome shadow of the last day. Knowing he would one day be called to give an account of his life and ministry he said, “This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offence toward God and men” (Acts 24:16). Al Martin writes:
Next to the presence of Christ, there is no greater companion to the minister than that of a good conscience. To have the Lord at your side and a peaceful conscience in your breast—these are the preacher’s two greatest companions.
A constant awareness of the final judgement will help us to shun ignorance, dishonesty, laziness, vanity and self-seeking; and it will make us studious, honest, energetic, sober, prayerful and faithful.*