Preaching the Gospel: Moral Qualifications of those Who Preach

It should be obvious to all that an immoral person would not be fitted to publicly represent the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, that the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed (1Tim 6:1, KJV). We would expect there would be a close correlation between the man himself and the message he brings.

The Man and the Message

The gospel message calls for honesty of heart in the repentance of the sinner, and anticipates a converted life of obedience and sanctification, following the profession of faith in the Holy One of God. If the message he brings is to carry weight, the preacher himself should be transparent in emulating these virtues. Obedience to the Word of God produces a sanctified life. It is said of Haggai the prophet that he was “the LORD’S messenger in the LORD’S message unto the people” (Haggai 1:13, KJV). His ministry had a profound effect upon that remnant as they adjusted their lives to the work of God.

The Activity of the Apostles

John had heard in the upper room, without me ye can do nothing (John 15:5, KJV). This lesson was reinforced by the miracle of the net full of fish at Tiberias in John 21. How often we need to relearn this very lesson: that to be effective in service, we must abide in communion with the Lord.

In Paul’s defense of his ministry he states: “For though we walk in the flesh [the physical body], we do not war after the flesh [using carnal things]: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (2Cor 10:3-4, KJV). That which merely appeals to the flesh cannot accomplish anything for God, regardless of how it is promoted or approved by sincere men or supporting churches.

Peter drew a parallel with Israel’s past, teaching that believers today are part of a royal priesthood that is holy, called to be a testimony for God in the world, as those who are a people purchased by Him for this purpose. Isaiah 52 looks to a future time when Israel will be restored and regathered for effective service to God, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God (v10, KJV). Temple worship will be restored, and the enduring requirement of being clean is stated in verse 11. If we are to be effective today in our priestly testimony and service in presenting “the salvation of our God” to others, we must be clean before the Lord in our lives, not only positionally, but in every practical moral way.

The Perfect Preacher

Perhaps the greatest moral preparation for any servant of the gospel is to be like the Lord Jesus Christ as He served. Moral beauty was seen in the perfect balance of the Lord’s peerless character in all the stages of His life. All the graces that God as man could display are uniquely balanced in Him. When “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, the Lord Jesus personified the message that God gave to man. So, the preacher should personify his message by also living a life completely for God.

The Perfect Preacher did not come with an agenda to pursue other than to do the will of His Father. His preparation for public service meant much time in the background before engaging with the multitudes. The Lord Jesus was spotless, holy, and pure in every way as He advanced in age through the various stages of development: as a baby, as a boy, as a youth, and into the maturity of manhood. There was no jarring juxtaposition of the maturity of a man with when He was a babe, nor did He behave as a boy or youth when He became a man. (Sadly today, some never seem to grow up, and bring into their ministry childish fun and games, as if godliness is advanced by such means.)

Every stage of His development in human life before God was perfect, as it should be.  He was the “tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season” (Ps 1:3, KJV). As a boy, He was subject to His parents (Luke 2:51), but later in public ministry it was the season to disregard natural claims (Mark 3:32-35). How beautiful was His balance, as seen in His not overlooking His responsibility to provide for His mother Mary by acquiring John’s help (John 19:27).

He knew how to abound and how to be abased, like Paul in Philippians 4:12. He experienced both the Mount of Transfiguration and Gethsemane on the slopes of the Mount of Olives: heavenly glory, and humiliation in the dust – like summer and winter. It is lovely to see how He bore seasonable fruit to God, as he talked of “His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31, KJV), and later prayed “Not my will but thine be done.”

When irritating things came His way, He displayed balance between anger and acceptance. In the cleansing of the temple, He rose in holy anger to preserve purity in the House of God, but being rejected Himself by Samaritan villagers, He suffered it, and passed on. How easy for us to be discouraged by the frown of men, but we look to Him who had meat to eat that they knew not of (John 4:32), and see how nothing detracted Him from doing the Father’s will.

Though He came in compassion, He made a difference between the sinner and his sin. He was both accessible and aloof. What a distance He traveled when from heaven He came to us, expressing such intimacy, yet apart from sin. He did more than look on the misery that was around Him: He entered into it with a sympathy that was all His own. He did more than refuse the pollution that was around Him: He kept the very distance of holiness itself from every touch or taint of it.

We would love to be more like Him in all of our service.