Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Your Pastor Will Be Judged" Sermon: Hebrews 13:17

“Your Pastor Will Be Judged”

[Hebrews 13:17]

April 27, 2014 Second Reformed Church

            When we last looked at the book of Hebrews, we considered that we are to remember the faithful preaching and teaching of pastors and teachers.  We saw that we are to imitate the life and faith of faithful pastors and teachers, because they are given as examples to us, as well as those who proclaim and preach and teach the Word of God.  Pastors and teachers who are faithful to the Word of God are gifted and used by God that we would be able to understand what the Bible says – and particularly the Gospel message – and, as they faithfully live out what God has commanded – as we see how they take the Word of God and live it out in obedience – showing their love of Jesus – we are given examples as to how we may live out the Word of God faithfully in our lives.

            From there, we went on to look at another aspect of how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament Sacrificial Law – seeing Jesus not merely as our High Priest and the Perfect Sacrifice, but also as the Altar on which the Sacrifice was offered.  Look on our blog for the March 2nd sermon, if you don’t remember.

            And we saw that Christ calls us to leave everything behind and pick up our cross.  And we are to respond as people seeking a permanent city.  This world, as it is – sin-filled and broken, is not the world we expect to inherit and live in in the Kingdom – this world will be purged and restored to its pre-Fall state and glorified.  Until then, though we shouldn’t seek out suffering, we ought to consider suffering for the Gospel to be the normal state of the Christian life.

            So, the author of Hebrews explains that we should look to our faithful pastors and teachers as examples of faithfully living out the Word of God and imitate them, and we ought to hear and do what we need to do to remember what our faithful pastors and teachers have taught us from the Word of God, so we will remember what God has said and commanded us, such that we will live this life for Christ and in the sure expectation of the Kingdom which is to come.

            The author of Hebrews completes his explanation of Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Sacrificial Law – remember that is the point of the letter – “Is there reason to hang on to Jesus and His Gospel amidst persecution when we can just go back to observing the Old Testament Sacrificial Law and be left alone?” – and He has explained at length how Jesus fulfills all of the Old Testament Sacrificial Law and how returning to it would be to abandon the only hope of Salvation there will ever be.

            And then he writes, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

            Here we see:

            First, we are to obey our pastors and church officers when they preach and teach the Word of God faithfully.

            Second, we are to respect our pastors and church leaders for the offices they hold.

            Third, we are to respond to the faithful preaching and teaching of pastors and church leaders in a way that gives them joy.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

First, we are to obey our pastors and church officers when they preach and teach the Word of God faithfully.

Persons who faithfully hold an office in the church and preach and teach the Word of God faithfully are to be obeyed, because they are faithfully preaching and teaching the Word of God.  That is, if these persons are faithfully preaching and teaching the Word of God – if they are presenting and explaining what God has said, we ought to obey what they are saying because it is what God has said.

Understand, the author of Hebrews is not saying that we must absolutely obey anything and everything that an officer of the church says.  Normally, officers of the church have no authority to tell you what color carpet to have in your home or to command you to vote for a certain candidate or to invest your money in a certain bank.  Officers of the church are sinners and make mistakes and also may purposefully distort God’s Word at times.  It is only when officers of the church are preaching and teaching the Word of God Alone that we must obey them, because what they are doing is acting as heralds of God’s Word – they are acting as God’s messengers to deliver God’s Word to us.

The question then becomes, why should we believe the Word of God?

Peter explains:  “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19-21, ESV).

Notice, Peter affirms that the Scriptures were written down by men – by humans.  However, he states that humans didn’t make up the information that was recorded – even though they wrote it in their own words and in their own language and in their own grammar and spelling – what we have in the Scriptures is what God has said – and God the Holy Spirit has overseen the writing down of the Scripture so it is wholly accurate, without mistakes or errors, in the original documents.

Paul writes:  “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV).

Paul confirms what Peter wrote – since they both penned the Word of the One God, we would expect them to agree – all Scripture is breathed out – it is inspired – it comes from the mouth of God.  It is not dictated, but the writers of the Scripture were enabled to write what God wanted us to know – and do so without error in the original documents.

And then the question is, do we have the original documents?  No.  Then how can we be sure what we have is accurate?  Because we have more copies of the books of the Bible than any other ancient manuscript, and they almost exactly agree, and the places where they don’t agree do not affect the meaning of what God has said in His Word.

So we ought to obey the officers of the church when they faithfully preach and teach the Word of God Alone because it is God’s Word – not their own.

We ought not to consider ourselves unneedful or too wise or too great or too good to learn from an officer of the church who is faithfully preaching and teaching the Word of God.  Ultimately, the officer is a tool that God uses – the preaching and teaching of the Word of God is not about the officer – and if it is, that officer is not faithfully teaching and preaching the Word of God.

            Second, we are to respect our pastors and church leaders for the offices they hold.

            The offices of pastor, elder, and deacon are not to be entered into lightly or taken lightly.  Persons who receive the call to serve in these offices have been called by God to a specific service in the church.  Pastors and elders are given the oversight of the preaching and teaching of God’s Word and the discipline of unrepentant sin, and deacons are given the oversight of the physical needs of the church, maintenance, and care for those in need.

            Whatever else we may think of church government – and there are several different views of how to divide up church government – the Bible clearly teaches that there are elders and deacons.  We see this division of labor in the early church:

            “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’ And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:1-6, ESV).

            In the early church, the twelve apostles were preaching and teaching and ministering to the physical needs of the people, and as the number of disciples grew, it became too much work for them.  So the distinction was made between those who spent the bulk of their time reading and studying, and praying, and preaching and teaching, and those who spend their time seeing that the needs of the people are met by the church.

            Paul later explains the type of person who may be called to these offices:

            Elders he describes in this way:  “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:1-7, ESV).

            And deacons like this:  “Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3:8-13, ESV).

            As offices given by God for work in God’s church, we ought to respect officers of the church for the offices they hold.

            But that is not the only reason to respect office-bearers:  “for they are keeping watch over your souls.”  Those who hold offices in the church are called to watch over you – to care for your spiritual health – to do those things to help you mature in the faith and become strengthened in the faith.  They are to be available to you for spiritual help and seek after you to make sure you are well.  They are the spiritual guides – the shepherds – of the church.  They have been called to lead you in holiness, knowledge, and faith.

            They have a call to make sure the Word of God is being preached and taught faithfully – and the Word of God Alone.  They have a responsibility to correct false teachings and root them out of the church.                       

            We ought to also recognize that those who hold office in the church and faithfully preach and teach the Word of God have a heavy burden and engage in dangerous labor.  They answer God’s call on them to preach and teach God’s Word – speaking to us as those who are to be trusted to faithfully deliver and instruct us in God’s Word.  The officers of the church are required both to teach and preach God’s Word Alone and to assist in the spiritual health of all of us.

            “as those who will have to give an account.”

            And for this call, they will be judged more strictly on the Day of Judgment.  James warns:  “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1, ESV).

            Who is he talking about?  The “teachers” are the “didaskalos” or the “rabbis” of the church.  This is primarily talking about pastors and elders, but refers to anyone, and especially those who hold church office, who say they are speaking for God.

            For example, I, as your pastor, am explaining what this verse in Hebrews means and how we ought to respond to it – how to obey this part of the Word of God – as Christians.  As the office bearer of pastor, I will be judged more strictly for what I tell you the verse means and how to apply it than if you just read it on your own and came to conclusions, because I have been trained and called to this office and should have a better knowledge and skill in preaching and teaching God’s Word.

            This verse in James frightens and humbles me – and it’s one of the reasons it took me so long to enter the ordained ministry – I was not willing to enter the ordained ministry unless I was sure I was called and willing to take on the burden and the judgment of being a pastor.

            Now, remember, we will all be judged – not for salvation – salvation is the gift of God as He is pleased to give it, but for what we have done:    “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15, ESV), And, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10, ESV).

            And so, those who serve as officers in the church – and especially pastors – will be judged, both for what they did and said in this lifetime, and for the care they gave your souls – and they will be held to a higher standard based on the call and the gifts and the training they have received.

           “Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Third, we are to respond to the faithful preaching and teaching of pastors and church leaders in a way that gives them joy.

Why do we come to worship?  Why do we come to Bible study and evening study?

Here’s why we ought to come:  to hear what God has said and to respond in worship and obedience.  A worship service is about acknowledging the worth of the person or thing we are worshiping.  And if we deem someone or something worthy of worship, we should want to hear from that object of worship and follow in obedience.  And if we have come to worship the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Judge of the Living and the Dead, the One and Only God, the Giver of Salvation, wouldn’t we be pleased to hear from Him – and believing in Him and finding Him worthy of worship, wouldn’t we obey Him?

And, if God chose to send His Word through humans and have His Word taught and preached by humans whom He calls to be preachers and teachers of His Word, wouldn’t we desire to hear what they have to tell us – at least so far as they are faithfully reporting the Word of God and helping us to understand it?

And, wouldn’t it give the office bearer who is preaching or teaching the Word of God and watching out for our souls joy to have us hear the Word of God and believe the Word of God and obey the Word of God?  Wouldn’t it give the office bearer joy to see you living out the Word of God and professing it to others so that more people would know – especially as we share the Gospel with those we come in contact with?

This is not just saying, “good sermon, pastor” – which is fine, if you really mean it, but if it’s just something to say so I will get out of your way – not so much.

I have joy in people telling me they understand the Scripture and are doing something about it.  I have joy when people want to learn more about something.  I have joy when people tell me they have invited their friends and family to worship, because they want them to hear the Gospel.  I have joy when people tell me that they were able to tell someone else about what was preached or taught, and they were drawn to God through the conversation.

What the author of Hebrews is saying is that when an officer bearer preaches or teaches faithfully, we ought to receive what has been said – having come to worship or study in a teachable frame of mind and heart – and then we ought to do something with the Word of God that has been put before us.  We ought to find a way to apply it to our lives – whether or not it is one of the ways brought up in the preaching or teaching.

What is not helpful is telling our office bearers that the Word of God is wrong.  Understand, there is nothing wrong with asking questions and making sure that the person teaching or preaching has not made a mistake.  What’s not helpful is after being taught something God commands, our response is, “Well, I’m not going to do that – you don’t know my life.”  That’s possibly quite true – do you think God has any idea about your life and what you are able to do as a Christian indwelt by God the Holy Spirit?  If we say, “Yes, I understand what you said.  Yes, I believe it is what God said.  No, I’m not going to believe and obey” – the person preaching or teaching will be left “groaning,” rather than being filled with joy.

And maybe someone is saying, “Who cares?”

The “who cares?” is this:  refusing to be taught and refusing to obey the Word of God Alone clearly taught, will result in the teacher or preacher becoming weary, grieved, disheartened, less diligent, and, perhaps event cold.  If we continue to throw up our hands and say, “We don’t care what the Word of God says – even though it is faithfully preached and taught – we have our own ideas, and we are committed to being troublesome, disobedient, fruitless, and faithless,” we will be unprofitable to the ministry of Jesus Christ and cause our preachers and teachers to be groan-full and possibly give up the work that God has called them to.   

Please understand, the author of Hebrews is not talking about our personalities – some of us are naturally, odd, eccentric, nuts, pains in the backside – what have you.  What he is talking about is a person who refuses to receive the Word of God clearly and faithfully preached and taught.  Such people are detrimental to the ministry and to the health of those preaching and teaching.

Hopefully, we have no one like that here.

We are to obey our pastors and church officers when they preach and teach the Word of God faithfully.

We are to respect our pastors and church leaders for the offices they hold.

We are to respond to the faithful preaching and teaching of pastors and church leaders in a way that gives them joy.

May we all be faithful and obedient sons and daughters of God, our Father.

Let us pray:


Almighty God, we thank You for giving us Your Word, and we thank You for giving us preachers and teachers to proclaim Your Word to us and help us to live it out.  We thank You for Your call on their lives to serve and to watch over our souls.  Help us to be respectful, teachable, and joy-giving as we worship You together and seek to obey You in all that You have said.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

1 comment:

Steve Finnell said...

SALVATION WITHOUT FORGIVENESS

Is it possible to be saved without having your sins forgiven? Was Saul saved by faith alone before his sins were forgiven?

If Saul was saved on the road to Damascus, then he was saved without having his sins forgiven.

Saul believed in Jesus on the road Damascus, but his sins were forgiven three days later in Damascus
Act 9:1-19......9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank....

Saul sins were forgiven in Damascus, three days later, not on the road to Damascus.
Acts 22:1-16.....10 And I said, 'What shall I do Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.'.......16 Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins,calling on His name!

Saul was not saved by faith only. Saul was saved by believing and being baptized in water.

Jesus did not establish faith only salvation on the road to Damascus. Jesus confirmed what He already had said "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved"... (Mark 16:16)

You cannot be saved unless your sins have been forgiven.

In order to support the doctrine of faith only men have offered many reasons why the Scriptures cannot be trusted.
REASONS.
1. The Bible is not the inerrant word of God, it has many errors and contradictions.
2. You have to be a Greek scholar to understand the Bible. If you understand the original Greek language, then you would know water baptism is not essential for forgiveness of sins.
3. You need to use extra-Biblical writings to understand the plan of salvation.
4. The Bible has been mistranslated, therefore men are saved by faith only and not the way it is presented in the Bible.

If God is not smart enough to give men an accurate translation of His plan for salvation and Christian living, then why would anyone trust in Him for salvation or for anything else.

God has given us His plan of salvation in many translations, in different languages. You do not have to know Greek.You do not have to have a Greek dictionary. You do have to be Greek. If men had to be able to read and understand original Greek to understand the Bible, then all Bibles would be in Greek.

GOD IS INTELLIGENT ENOUGH TO GUIDE MEN TO GIVE A TRANSLATION OF THE BIBLE IN THE LANGUAGE THAT YOU READ! JUST READ IT AND BELIEVE IT.

Men are not saved by faith only and there is no verse of Scripture that states men are saved by faith only. Men are saved by faith, but not by faith only.

YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com