What a tremendous example we have placed before us! Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is very God of very God, Who came into our flesh, Who gave Himself willingly for our sakes, Who died that we might live, now reigns over the Church as its head. We have Him held before us as an example of how we are to live in this world in the calling in which God has called us. Moreover, with respect to the particular calling of the ministry of the gospel, the example of Jesus Christ provides us with the knowledge of how we are to be leaders in the Church. This does not mean that we are to be leaders in the Church in the same capacity in which Christ is the leader, that is, as the organic head of that Church, without which there would be no Church. Ministers ought never to take the attitude concerning the Church, that without them, God could not have a Church. Nevertheless, there are certain practical truths involved in Christ’s example which we can and must apply to ourselves as future ministers. In whatever circumstances they find themselves, these truths will take on the two-fold dimension of the life of the antithesis. The two-dimensions of this life are the negative and the positive dimensions. Just as Jesus Christ’s life and leadership is an antithetical one, so ours ought to be.
The negative side of this life of leadership is characterized simply by saying “No!” The minister must be firm in his conviction both with respect to false doctrine and to sin. He must not be afraid to say “No” to both of them. False doctrine is on every side and it will tempt him. The minister is tempted to deny the power and effects of sin. To preach that we are all sinners and that we all are worthy of God’s wrath and judgment is not very appealing. There is a real temptation to conveniently forget those truths. However, he must not fall into these temptations.
This negative side also deals with particular sins. The minister, though far from perfect, and though he is in the same condemnation with Adam as the rest of the congregation, must realize that God has placed him as an example to the Church; and therefore, he must fight his own sins very seriously. When he realized that this or that act is sin, he must avoid it like the plague. Otherwise he will find himself in a situation where the members of the Church engage themselves in these same deeds. Moreover, they will be justifying their actions on the basis that if the minister is doing it, so can they. The minister must watch his steps ever so closely so that he practices what he preaches. The congregation learns a substantial amount from the life-style of the minister. Therefore, he must say “No” to the temptation of sin.
There is also the positive side. The positive side of the example life of leadership of our Lord Jesus Christ is characterized by both humility and giving. Our Lord Jesus Christ was humble like no other man has ever been or will be. Our humility should reflect that humility. And we will be humble when we recognize both Who God is and who we are. God is the Almighty, sovereign Creator of every atom in this vast creation. He is perfectly holy and righteous. He demands the same righteousness and holiness from us. Then we look at ourselves. We are not creators; we are not perfectly holy or righteous; we are weak and frail and terribly sinful. Such weak and sinful people God has called to the office of the ministry. And before we boast, we better realize that we are neither better nor more able than anyone else. We, too, must fly to the cross and confess our sins and our dependence upon Him. We must rely solely upon God’s sovereign grace and not on ourselves.
This humility must show itself in relationships with the fellow members of the congregation. We must heed the exhortation of the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:3-5, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory: but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus….” Our calling to the ministry takes on a leadership which does not lord over the congregation. Rather, the minister leads the congregation with the attitude that each member in the congregation is to be esteemed over himself. The Church is not there to serve him, but rather he is there to serve the Church.
The positive side of Christ’s example also includes giving. Christ gave His life for the Church. So should a minister. A minister should devote his entire life to the cause of the Church. He must be concerned with her. He must be sympathetic and compassionate to her concerns. He must also be ready to help her at all times. The apostle Paul says to the Corinthian church that he “will very gladly spend and be spent for” them (II Corinthians 12:15). Every minister must have that attitude that willingly he will give himself to the cause of the Church.
Christ has placed before the eyes of the minister an awesome task. He knows that he will never be able to perform it. However, God promises that because He is also our covenant God and Father for Jesus’ sake, He will give us sufficient grace, not only will we be able to do it, but we shall also be successful. When we use ourselves as our examples, we fail: when we use Christ’s example by God’s grace, our labors will be fruitful.