As soon as a minister of the gospel reflects upon the fact of his ministry from the viewpoint of his choice, he is turned by the Word which (or, Whom) he serves to acknowledge “how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Rom. 10:15a). In this matter, it is imperative to “begin at the beginning” for God has reserved the “beginning” to Himself lest anyone, taking his eye off the gospel and staring fixedly at himself as the bringer of the gospel, rob God of His glory. The opening phrase of Scripture bears not only upon creation, but upon redemption and upon every phase and aspect of it, “In the beginning, God.” The minister of the gospel must begin with “be(ing) sent” because Scripture states in an emphatic way that that is the beginning and the Spirit binds that “calledness” on the heart. Nor does he want it any other way for then he could not comfort and encourage himself with Paul’s “woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (I Cor. 9:16). It is legitimate to publicly contemplate one’s choice to be a minister, not because “In the beginning, God” is succeeded by “afterwards man, as if God deistically withdraws into the remote confines of His ivory palace, but because He does not send His servants willy-nilly. His call does not leave them “Balaam’s asses” nor even “Balaams” but renders them, by grace, willing and when they are willing, they choose.
I chose to be a minister because Jesus said, “I am…the truth” (John 14:6) and because Paul asks, “how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they bear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14). Two things become plain when these words of Jesus and His apostle are considered together: God has made the ministry of the gospel of crucial importance in the gathering and preserving of His beloved Church and as that ministry consists exclusively in preaching Jesus Christ, it is the truth and the truth only, when preached and heard, which effects within the people of God that they believe in Christ so as to call on Him. Concerning this calling the apostle states, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom. 10:13). One need not debate on this statement: the salvation of the Church stands at the center of all things. It is the meaning of all history and of each historical moment and it explains the “working together” of all things. In other words, God declares that in the making spiritually free of His people, His glory is revealed and He is justified in all His works. The point to be stressed is that “the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)
God delivered the liberating truth to the apostles with the charge to preach it. The gift of the truth comes carrying this mandate so that the apostle Paul, rather than speaking in terms of choice, claims that “necessity is laid upon me.” (I Cor. 9:16) After a long period of tyrannical slave making by the Roman Church (but there were within the Roman framework, the lonely Gottschalks and Husses), designed by God to forcibly stamp upon us the fact that the lie means death, God committed His truth to the Church of the Reformation. That commitment spurred Luther to preach and Calvin and a host of others. They chose if you will, not to bury the “talent,” given by their Lord, but to put it to the exchangers that the Lord might receive His own with usury. (Matt. 25:15-28) Now, that line of the dispensing of the truth by God runs squarely over the Protestant Reformed Churches. To say less would not reveal modesty but cowardice. God calls for humility from those blessed by Him but not for timidity and false modesty which ends up in shame for the gospel. And with His gift comes His mandate to cherish the truth, not by burial, but by preaching.
When young men in our churches labor, some agonizingly, with the question whether they are called to preach, they ought not to limit themselves to a measurement of themselves by this or that standard of ability or certainty or feeling. Even to begin with these indefinite considerations lead to puzzlement and, which is worse, an easy escape from the charge God has laid upon the sons of our churches. The first and central consideration, around which all the other considerations find a place and in the light of which the others are to be viewed must be this, that God has committed His truth to our Churches, His liberating and glorious truth, which He delivered to be preached and taught. If the truth of God, which is Christ, is the starting point and the center of the reflective thoughts of our young men, I cannot believe that in the course of time our Churches will have to confess before God that there are none any more to proclaim the truth, that the truth must, as far as we are concerned, be silent.
Only a word about love. It was the point of this article that the lack of ministers could, perhaps, be traced to a nonchalant attitude toward the truth and God’s giving of it to our Churches. It was the intent of this article to rouse, God willing, one or two to consider the truth, the truth which lives, the truth which Christ is, the truth which only makes free, when they deliberate on the matter of the ministry. One could, with equal validity, direct our young men to God’s revelation of His love in our midst. God’s marvelous love and the gracious fact that He has revealed it unto us to be proclaimed may just as well be the central consideration in the thoughts of young men in our Churches. God reveals His love where He establishes His truth. The vehement boasting of those who spurn the truth that they treasure love and embrace it is a hoax. On a worldwide scale, at present, the smokescreen of apparent esteem for love rises to befog our senses to this bizarre fact that love no longer “rejoices in the truth.” (I Cor. 13:6) God is love; Christ is the truth. If love is united with the lie, God is joined with Antichrist, a blasphemous affirmation and an absolute impossibility.
Since the staff of Beacon Lights has at heart the need in our churches of ministers, they will not begrudge my stepping outside the bounds of my assignment to offer one suggestion. In the past our Churches have focused their expectant gaze upon youths in high school and college. Without drawing their gaze away from these youths altogether, our Churches might profitably give, at least, a fleeting glance to another segment of men, namely, the (relatively) young, married men. It sometimes seems that our Churches tacitly approve the notion of these men that the fact of a sizeable family, a well established business or a comfortable income is a guarantee that God passes them by with His call. This is shoddy thinking and our Churches might do more to root it out than they have in the past.