Why You Need to Join Yourself to a Preacher Who is Reformed and Always Reforming
The Holy Spirit appoints elders for the local church (Acts 20:28). These are qualified men of God (1 Tim 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9), who are able to teach God’s Word to others (1 Tim 3:2; 2 Tim 2:2; Titus 1:9). They demonstrate their ability to rightly divide (handle) the Word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). They pass on this legacy to other men (2 Tim 2:2), who rise up to carry the mantle in successive generations. Being equipped and called by God, the man of God sets his heart to study the Law of God and to steward the Gospel of God’s grace (Ezra 7:10; 1 Cor 9:17).
Do you know this man? Have you heard his heart and that which occupies his mind? Growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18), his ambition is to please God (2 Cor 5:9), as he speaks the truth in love toward you (Eph 4:15). If a teacher does not tell you the truth, then his ministry is void of love, except maybe self-love. A true preacher of the Gospel will sacrifice himself for the benefit of his congregation. How does he demonstrate this sacrificial love for the little flock of God entrusted to his care?
Many people in church pews have no idea the risk a pastor takes when he tells them the truth of God’s Word. One Sunday the family who sits in the row of chairs in front of you, who have been there for years, is gone. Sunday after Sunday they are not there. The inquiry is made, and the answer is that they left the church family because the preacher had become too obsessed with sound doctrine. Does that seem strange to you? It should not surprise you because it is very common. It is also why lovers of truth, who pastor, are usually found in smaller church gatherings.
Sound doctrine is not popular, but it is biblical. The true man of God is not ashamed of what the Bible says about the sovereignty of God and the total depravity of humanity. What most people, who call themselves Christians want, is very different. They want to be their own pilot in life, with God as their co-pilot. They want to decide for Jesus, with no interest in what He has already decided for them. These “Christians” want Christianity to be about them and how Jesus helps them to be all they can be. They love and will flock to preachers of man-centered theology, who preach self-help psychology (how to be a better you) on Sunday mornings in church pulpits.
The true prophet of God, today, is a preacher of the doctrines of grace. With the sovereignty of God and total depravity of man in view, the man of God tells people about what God has done — not what they need to do — to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21). In theological terms, this man is called “The Reformed Pastor.” He teaches Reformed theology, as it is explained in creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the church.
A warning must be issued that just as there are counterfeit Bibles (The New World Translation), there are counterfeit documents of the church that bring heretical interpretations of the Bible. We all must be Bereans, searching our Bibles and doing theology in community.
A truly Reformed pastor, not in name only, is always reforming. What this means is that he knows and understands the drift away from the truth of the Bible. Sinners naturally gravitate away from the Bible and/or away from proper exegesis and interpretation of the Bible. The Reformed pastor wants the truth, which is how he became Reformed in the first place.
Pastors are (hopefully) students of the Bible just like you and me. Where they are different is that they teach and preach (hopefully sound) doctrine to the church. Fathers then go home and teach their children as pastors of their families. God ordained the local church as the safe place for His people to grow in the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus (Eph 4:21). Not all churches are the same (Rev 2–3). In this, the elders are integral to establishing and maintaining community life. The preaching of God’s Word, the sacraments, prayer, and church discipline regulate life together. The Holy Spirit is directing it all; therefore, we must not quench or grieve the Spirit.
There is a place where God is glorified and Christ is exalted, and this is where you want to be in worship and fellowship. Your pastor is just a man with his own limitations and sins, but he is the man of God for better or worse. The objective is the building up of the body of Christ to spiritual maturity (Eph 4:12, 16). The goal is conformity to Christ (Rom 8:29), in preparation for a glorious eternity with the resurrected, ascended, enthroned, and reigning Son of God at the Father’s right hand. The pastor says, “Follow me as I follow Christ (1 Cor 11:1).”
Sinners and sinful Christians will drift away from the Reformed pastor who is always reforming. They prefer the wide way of liberalism, which gives license to the man-centered ways of the world. Always reforming is a conscious realignment back to sound doctrine, and in this, it is like daily repentance for the Christian who sins. It must be taught over and over and over again because although the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak (Mt 26:41). It is realignment with the sovereign God who sits in the heavens and does as He pleases (Ps 115:3; 135:6).
Knowing the truth sets sinners free from bondage to sin (Jn 8:32, 34; Rom 6:6, 16–20); therefore, the Reformed pastor is an activist for holy living by grace (1 Pet 1:15–16). He is not a legalist, but one who preaches Christ as the justifier and Christ’s Spirit as the sanctifier of the saints. Reformed preachers insist that we put no confidence in the flesh, that we do not lean on our own understanding (Prv 3:5; Phil 3:3), but that we trust God in Christ to perform all our works for us (Is 26:12; Phil 2:13), as objects in the Potter’s hands (Jer 18; Rom 9:19–21).
Who will God send to your local church? Who has believed God’s report? Who fears God more than the approval of sinful men, desiring their ears to be tickled? He is the truly Reformed pastor who stands on the shoulders of the likes of the Puritans, the conveners of the Synod of Dordt, and the Reformers of the church at the time of the Protestant Reformation. He loves you by telling you the truth of sound doctrine, which makes much of God and puts man in his proper place…which is very near the dust of the ground.
Join yourself to that man. There are not many of this kind, but you will surely be blessed if you find one and stay with him on your journey home to heaven.
Spokane Valley, Washington
June 30, 2022