Peril or Power?

If you ever feel downhearted read Luke 10:1–24. Jesus sends out the seventy missionaries during His ministry and empowers them with a mandate.

Frequently we call John the Baptist the usher for the Lord Jesus Christ, but these men were ushers too. We read that our Lord “sent them ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go.” There is a sense in which all preachers of the Gospel have this same charge.

Christ’s Power

Many people talk of the power of sin in their lives and the might of the devil. Preachers warn against wicked forces in our world today, and we surely have to do that. But a preacher should never forget that Jesus has said, “All power is given unto me” (Matt. 28:18). When one as a herald goes ahead of Christ in this way, he has nothing to fear. These early missionaries had a big responsibility to speak for Jesus because He would be following them soon. It was important that they represented Him faithfully. In preaching Christ one can expect the power of the Holy Spirit if he declares so great a salvation.

But it is not always easy to speak the truth and to stand up for it. Some people do not seem to be bothered about their sins; as in the days of the prophets, people said, “Prophesy unto us smooth things” (Isa. 30:10), many express the same preference today.

Christ’s Ambassadors

The proper position of a preacher is that of an ambassador who comes in Gods’ name and acts in Christ’s place. Jesus said, “He who listens to you listens to me, he who rejects you rejects me, but he who rejects me rejects Him who sent me” (Luke 10:16). This text ties God, Christ and the preacher together. This same trio appears in the great ambassador text. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf; Be reconciled to God” (II Cor. 5:20). We often think of an ambassador‘s position as a political plum. He has an easy life living in a mansion, in some other capitol, in dignity and honor. But he has a grave responsibility. Speaking officially, he must know what and when to speak. If he says anything more or less than his government mandates, he will not hold his job very long.

At times he may be templed to say too much or to speak too quickly as he sees things happening. At other times he may be tempted to remain silent because of an embarrassing situation. Resisting such temptations, he must speak and conduct himself responsibly. That, says the Apostle Paul, a preacher too must do.

A Responsibility for People

A preacher must diagnose the ills of the people and then bring God’s remedy. As long as I live I shall never forget something that happened while I was serving with the Army in Germany during the Second World War. A man in our battalion came in on sick call and complained of pain in his chest. At that time I shared an office with the doctor. The doctor told him he probably had caught a cold. A corporal usually did not talk back to a captain, but this man told the medic he did not have a cold. The doctor sent him back on duty, and inside of a half hour he dropped dead. Then the doctor ordered an autopsy which revealed the bad condition of his heart. The least the doctor could have done was to put a stethoscope to his chest. The medical officer was there to diagnose rather than to judge. He judged the situation without a diagnosis, and then buried his mistake.

Listening to Christ

Luke 10:16 tells us it is a grave responsibility to preach the Word to people today. Maybe you would rather listen. But even when we listen, it is not always easy to do what we hear. When a preacher makes some truth plain and it is rejected, Jesus is rejected, and God is rejected. Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin” (John 15:22). It is also a serious responsibility to listen to God’s Word. The Word is powerful. It can save or condemn. What it does to us depends on how we hear it. “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects Him who sent me” (Luke 10:16).

Fred Van Houten is pastor of the Christian Reformed Church of Sully, Iowa.