How can a pastor who wants to be biblical in his life and ministry pursue such a calling in the third millennium?
He Must Hold to Reformed Theology for Himself.
Paul told Timothy: “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching (doctrine), persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16).
This means that the reformed pastor must believe the doctrines of grace for himself. A pastor must remember he was by nature totally depraved and without God in the world, condemned for his sins and rebellion against a good and holy God. He once deserved God’s unrestrained wrath eternally. But God in mercy unconditionally elected him before the foundation of the world to be His child, and sent His own dear Son to be the particular redemption for his sins with a bloody death, bearing the guilt of and punishment due to his sins. When Christ was preached to him, the Father and Son sent the Holy Spirit into his heart and caused him to be born again, granting him repentance from sin and faith alone in Christ alone for his salvation. Further, the only reason he has persevered in the Christian faith to this day is because God brought him to Himself and has kept him from falling away, preserving his faith daily in Christ, and truly causing all things to work together for his good.
This daily remembrance of God’s sovereign grace alone given in Christ alone and received by faith alone gives the pastor comfort, hope, and strength to live a holy life. It enables him to love Christ and keep His commandments, and to persevere in ministering the Word of God to poor sinners and imperfect saints like himself. This sovereign grace in his life gives him hope that any other heart can be conquered in evangelism, that any other struggling saint can overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, by the power of the Word of God as applied by the Spirit of God. This alone keeps his life and ministry centered on living and preaching Christ and Him crucified, risen, ascended, and coming again. This alone keeps him praying to his risen Lord for the conversion of lost souls and the building of Christ’s church, and for true revival. 2 Corinthians 4:1 reminds the pastor that “having received mercy, we faint not.” This alone keeps a servant’s spirit in the reformed pastor’s heart.
This daily remembrance of God’s sovereign grace to the reformed pastor keeps him from becoming an elitist intellectual, puffed up with knowledge. It keeps him from cultivating a haughty spirit and critical attitude toward officers, members, and other pastors who do not believe as he does with regard to the grace of God in the gospel. It keeps him from taking rejection personally, or becoming enraged with sinful anger, and makes him willing to be persecuted for righteousness sake as His Lord was for him. After all, it is Christ’s church, not his. Remembering God’s grace keeps his ministry centered on the gospel and the most important things, instead of emphasizing secondary, unclear, and disputed matters, and every new thing that comes along. It causes him to give thanks for any work of God’s Spirit in the human heart and to have patience and kindness toward that which is deficient and lacking, waiting upon God. It enables him to deal with temptations to sin in the ministry and with an angry spirit toward those who oppose him. As Paul said to Timothy:
Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will (2 Tim. 2:22-26).
The first thing the reformed pastor must do is to believe reformed theology for himself, that he might insure his own salvation and the salvation of those who hear him. As Paul said, “having received mercy, we do not lose heart.”