(Encouragement for Pastors)
By Ward Fenley


Of course, as a Christian, I cannot help but dedicate these articles to the glory and honor of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: the immutable, omnipotent God. However, I must emphasize those to whom I direct these articles: certainly all those who sincerely desire truth in the inward parts (Psalms 51:6). Primarily, though, I direct this book to pastors and teachers of the word of God, for it is these men who are to be delivering the sword of the Spirit to the people of God.

It is my prayer that these articles would remind pastors throughout the world of their call to preach the truth. Preaching the truth first begins with a severe scrutiny of the heart pertaining to motives. As preachers, we must be honest. If we are to be honest preachers, we must be honest with the word of God.

The fear of God must be our compelling objective in being honest with the word of God and preaching the word of God. More often than not, it means preaching those things that the world hates. Therefore, if the world hates the word of God, they will hate us. It is usually the case that in churches where the truth is preached, the congregations are small. Pastors are frequently confronted with the temptation to conform their preaching to the desires of the congregation. This stems from a worldly theory that the number of members in a congregation determines fruit. Reliance upon this theory results in the fear of men. Because the fear of men is so powerful, it often can lead to doing whatever is necessary to conform and wrest the word of God to the congregation rather than doing whatever is necessary to conform and wrest the congregation to the word. This was a constant temptation that confronted the apostles and prophets. Beside the Lord Jesus, Jeremiah is perhaps most well-known for his controversy with the rebellious responses of his contemporaries to the word of God. God prepared Jeremiah for the opposition he would experience from the rebellious Jews of his day:

Jeremiah 1:4-10,17-19 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. 6 Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. 7 But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. 8 Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD. 9 Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. 10 See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant... 17 Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. 18 For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. 19 And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee. God gave the words to Jeremiah to give to the people regardless of their hardness against the truth. God essentially spoke the same thing to Ezekiel, i.e. to preach the truth regardless of the response of the congregation: Ezekiel 2:3-8 And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. 4 For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD. 5 And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them. 6 And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. 7 And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious. 8 But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee. Those who were the most rebellious were the prophets and priests. God did not hesitate to describe their sin: Jeremiah 10:21 For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered. Their chief sin was not seeking the Lord. These pastors and prophets claimed the name of the Lord yet refused to preach His word: Jeremiah 14:13-16 Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place. 14 Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart. 15 Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. 16 And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them, them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them. Not seeking the word of God is not seeking God. Rather, it is leaning on our own understanding. God's pronouncement of evil upon the wicked pastors of Jeremiah's day was primarily because of their idolatry in not seeking God and His word. To seek anything else is idolatry. To not study His word is, simply, idolatry. Jeremiah brought the truth to these wicked men, and they responded with mocking and deriding.

Jeremiah, however, remained faithful to his calling because he was ordained to this calling (1:5). Therefore, with certainty, he could declare his devotion to God and His word with a pure conscience:

Jeremiah 17:16-18 As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee: neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee. 17 Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil. 18 Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded: let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed: bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction. At first it may seem that the problem of the priests and prophets was that they did not accept the call to their offices. Jeremiah, however, exposed the real problem. They considered themselves pastors and prophets, but in practice they hastened from their calling (17:16). Jeremiah was not concerned with men being a terror unto him; he was concerned with God being a terror unto him (verse 17). The greatest Pastor of all taught this precept: Luke 12:4-5 And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Jeremiah did have his battle, however. His battle was not prophesying lies to the people, which, sadly, is the chief problem in today's pulpits. Rather, his battle was discouragement over rejection of the truth. At one time, he fell to this discouragement and ceased preaching altogether: Jeremiah 20:7-9 O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. 8 For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. 9 Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name... Ultimately, this conflict resulted in the fear of men. Jeremiah was weary of being derided and mocked. The burden of the reproach of the false teachers was heavy upon him. He succumbed to the fear of men and quit preaching...but not finally. Because he was truly called of God to preach, his fear of God and His word prevailed against his fear of men: Jeremiah 20:9 ... But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. The New King James Version states Jeremiah's rekindled obsession more clearly: Jeremiah 20:9 ...But His word was in my heart like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not. The pastor who is truly called by God cannot and will not hold back the truth. Paul, with a pure conscience, could tell the Ephesian elders he was faithful in preaching the word of God: Acts 20:26-27 "Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 "For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God." Earlier, he testified how he had kept back nothing from them: Acts 20:20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, Paul did not fear men. He taught them the whole counsel of God. He suffered for his adherence to preach the truth. This truth which he preached brought persecution from the enemies of Christ. Therefore, the question we must ask is: what truth was he preaching that created such contention? Why were his contemporaries so provoked against him? Paul speaks of the message he preached that caused contention. He declares his infirmities as well as the danger the Ephesian elders would experience as they, too, preached the truth: Acts 20:18-32 And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, 19 Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: 20 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, 21 Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: 23 Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. 24 But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. 26 Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. 28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. 32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. Paul taught true repentance from sin and unbelief as well as faith toward Jesus Christ (vs.21). He further testified of the grace of God (verses 24 and 32). Finally, he preached the kingdom of God. It was the preaching of true repentance, salvation by grace alone, and the preaching of the unseen kingdom of God that brought rage from the gainsayers. Paul had experienced this. He knew that as long as the Ephesian elders truly taught these things, they, too, would have to endure the fury of men.

Today it is the same. In the eyes of the world, the churches seem to be growing bigger and better than ever. From the perspective of Scripture, however, it seems that many churches are falling short in the area of the preaching of the kingdom and grace of God. Pastors have feared the faces of men rather than the face of Almighty God in the same manner as profane priests and prophets of old. As God promised Jeremiah, so He promises today:

Jeremiah 1:17 Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. As preachers, if we do not repent of our fear of men, God will confound us before them. Is this not already evident? Many wonder why liberalism has permeated the church. They wonder why atheism is so widespread. It is because the pastors and priests have gone astray. The same was true in Jeremiah's time: Jeremiah 23:11 For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD. Their profanity is not even necessarily overt sin as much as it is subtle indoctrination with heretical principles. Peter spoke of these subtle heresies: 2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. The prophets of the Old Testament and the prophets of Peter's time had gone a-whoring after other gods. It is still true today. These gods are not only the self-will but also the faces of other men. To fear men is to worship men. We have become consumed with how men view us as speakers and intelligent philosophers rather than being consumed with how God views us as preachers of His grace and kingdom. For this cause, the visible church is practically withered and emaciated. We cannot expect change until God sovereignly works in the hearts of pastors to fear Him and preach His word. Revival will come when true men of God come forth with boldness and preach the holy word of God, but it must begin with pastors being honest with the word of God in their own studies. We must not cater our interpretation according to the desires of the congregation, for not all the congregation is holy. As Moses said: Numbers 16:5 ...the LORD will show who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto him: even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him. Preaching the truth will inevitably bring the destruction of those who are not holy unto the Lord, sometimes resulting in a drop of attendance; yet Paul encouraged the true preacher of God's word: 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. 15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: 16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. God does not consider numbers. That which is sweet-smelling in the sight of God is His word not returning void but, rather, being the savor of death to death and life to life. In either case, the true preacher of God is being caused to triumph by the sight of God.

The true preacher of God's word must not corrupt the word of God but preach the word of God with sincerity, i.e. preaching what we know to be the truth, not what men want to hear. In doing so, we, as preachers, will be blessed with what church attendance could never accomplish-a clear conscience.

Much love in Christ,

Ward Fenley