Commendation to the work
Acts 16:1-3; Phil 2:19-23; 4:10-18.
The subject before us is one that needs to be dealt with carefully but plainly, lest a sensitive, godly, exercised soul should be discouraged on the one hand, and that the bold and forward who lack qualifications should be restrained on the other.
There seems to be an idea abroad in some quarters that every man, young or old, who takes a notion to go preaching, should be commended unless there is some definite thing against him.
Certainly, no matter what good qualities a person has, one stain on the life or character would debar that person from a public place, as in the case of a priest in Israel (Lev 21:16-24). Physical defects then would speak of moral or spiritual blemishes today. But though one is free from moral or spiritual blemish, still there are other qualifications needed.
1. He must be well reported of by godly, overseeing brethren. If he has not conducted himself in such a way as to give joy to the godly in the home assembly, it is not likely that he will do so in a larger sphere of service.
2. Has he been a help in the assembly, and shown a willingness to do any work that should be done? A shirker in the assembly will be a shirker in the work of God.
3. Has he been one that the brethren felt like asking to preach on the assembly platform?
4. Has he shown a godly exercise about souls? If it is a love for preaching rather than a love for
souls, he will only be a disappointment.
5. There should be a real exercise about a particular area of need.
Many go preaching without this, and stand idle, looking for some older man to arrange meetings and take them by the hand. We must not think that to be commended to the work is the same as being “ordained to the ministry.” God speaks of His servants as laborers. The laborer’s work is the most ordinary work, and God would have us to be workers, not professional preachers.
Paul and Barnabas were the two great pioneers who carried the gospel to many parts of Asia. Later, Paul, Silas, and Timothy were the great trio to go into Europe. We know that the first two were unmarried men, and the absence of any mention of a wife or family with reference to the latter two, would lead us to believe they were the same.
It is most commendable for a young man who has an exercise about the work of God to put that first and not tie himself down to family responsibilities before he has proved himself. Every young man who goes into the Lord’s work should get into new places, see souls saved and led on in the truth and new assemblies planted. This will develop the man and prove that his call is of God. The absence of this should cause deep exercise of soul.
Gideon’s noble three hundred, whom God used to deliver Israel, were so whole-hearted in the war, they would not take time to stoop down to take a comfortable drink of water. This may seem a small matter, but it was the test that revealed the heart.
A letter of commendation to the work from his home assembly is necessary, and it is better still when more than one assembly joins in it. But that does not demand that every assembly must receive the ministry of the man, and minister to him. It leaves them free to do so, but it is only as that man gains the confidence of each place, by the edifying character of his ministry, and by his godly life in the assemblies and homes where he is received, that they can be hearty in their fellowship. Every assembly should look for this in every preacher that visits it.
Fellowship with the Work
Every man that goes out in the work of God should do so as the result of a real conviction that God is calling him to do that work. Then if God is sending him, his eyes should be on God alone for his supplies. He should let his needs be known to God alone. Anything like begging, or throwing out hints, or putting on a poor mouth, is beneath the dignity of a servant of God. What a delight it is to see God answering prayer and meeting the need in His own way and time!
But those who commend to the work should not feel that that is the end of their responsibility and leave him to live on faith rather than by faith. In Israel, God provided four wagons and eight oxen for the Merarites, and two wagons and four oxen for the Gershonites, but no wagons for the Kohathites. Thus we see that God took into consideration the weight of the burden each had to bear.
Some men do little else than run around from one assembly to another for a night or so in each place, and rarely if ever have even two weeks of meetings in a place. Naturally, each assembly they visit has fellowship with them, which is very nice, but if such visitors are frequent enough, all the assembly’s fellowship is used up, and the faithful man, plodding on in some new places is forgotten. His expenses are greater, so he should have a special place in the fellowship of God’s people. What a cheer it is to one who is in a new place, to get a letter with an expression of fellowship, and the assurance of the prayers of the saints!
The giving of fellowship only when a preacher calls for a visit has a tendency to restrain the getting into new ground, rather than encouraging it.
God’s money should not be allowed to accumulate unless it is for some special need that is expected. The elders in every assembly should, at regular intervals, as a rule once a month, get together and decide where the fellowship should be sent. The Lord condemned the steward who buried the pound in the ground
It is only to be expected that those to whom fellowship is sent, will be exercised about giving such an assembly a visit when free to do so. It is better that a visit be given as a result of a gift sent, than a gift sent as a result of a visit paid. It will give more joy to the receiver, and show more exercise on the part of the giver. What a cheer was the gift sent by the church at Philippi to the apostle Paul!