Edification: The Difference Between “Preachers” and “Pastors”… And Why It Matters.

When dealing with preachers, particularly in the sense of an evangelist, it is true that other key biblical doctrines will take a backseat to Gospel preaching. The main purpose of preaching the Gospel is for the Gospel to be heard, hopefully with spiritual ears to hear.

I. THE ROLE OF THE PREACHER: Gospel preaching primarily entails revealing (a) our desperate natural state before God (as it relates to our sin, sin debt, and the fiery wrath due it); (b) our complete inability, by nature, to do anything about it; (c) our dire need for a Saviour, a Deliverer, one who can provide the necessary remedy, rescuing us from the bondage of sin, and from the just demands (and condemnation) of God’s law concerning it; and (d) how The Lord Jesus Christ is that perfect, divine Remedy… How He alone is the one who saves His people from their sin. This is the vital message that everyone needs to hear.

Thus, by God’s perfect omniscient and salvific design, the faithful preacher/evangelist/witness plays an absolutely vital role in the Gospel economy:

Romans 10:13-15 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

II. THE ROLE OF THE PASTOR/ELDER/BISHOP: The duties of a pastor (for short) are different! being greater and more diverse. A pastor is not merely a preacher, though such usually will preach, to some degree or another. The role of the pastor is to both (1) faithfully proclaim the Gospel and to (2) exhort God’s redeemed and quickened people unto godly living, in light of the Gospel preached, and the deliverance already received.

As fishers of men, and co-labourers with Christ, the faithful pastor preaches the true Gospel unto the salvation of souls. As under-shepherds of the flock, he preaches the true Gospel unto the continual edification (and comforting) of the saints. However, in light of the true Gospel being preached, and in light of true salvation, the faithful pastor also uses the word of God to bring forth the whole counsel of God. 

If, indeed, “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” [2 Timothy 3:16-17] — then it behooves the faithful pastor to be ever ready and willing to make use of truly all scripture, and not just the select few passages that they feel most comfortable with (or in some cases, wish to hobby-horse, unto the detriment of their regular hearers).

III. PROOF THAT A FAITHFUL PASTOR WILL OFTEN EXHORT TO MANIFEST UPRIGHTNESS: If anyone doubts this, then please, take an honest and holistic look at the instruction given to Timothy and Titus by the Apostle Paul, in his epistles to them.

Paul, by the Holy Ghost, is specifically telling them what they should be proclaiming in light of the Gospel message, and in light of true salvation. Notice that the large majority of these three epistles say little about “righteousness imputed” (as vital a doctrine as it is). Instead, the bulk of the text covers that which pertains to Gospel-driven character and conduct, as it is, in light of the Gospel.

The message to them (and to all congregational leadership particularly, and to all in the congregation generally) is this: ‘in light of your salvation, in light of your perfect righteousness and sanctification in Christ Jesus, here is how you should live, and here is how you should (in love) exhort, encourage, admonish others to live.’ Paul specifically states “These things command and teach” [1 Timothy 4:11].

Consider also,

Titus 2:11-12 “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Note: how “soberly, righteously, and godly” here is not talking about “Christ’s soberness imputed to us;” or “Christ’s righteousness imputed to us;” or “Christ’s holiness/sanctification imputed to us,” but rather, the “sobriety, righteousness, and godliness/sanctification” we should strive to manifest in our everyday life.

Also note how the passage starts with Gospel teaching (v11), then character and conduct in light of the Gospel (v12), then back to Gospel (13-14a), ending with character and conduct again in light of Gospel (14b). As you go through Scripture, this pattern, this back and forth between Gospel and life in light of Gospel, becomes all the more clear. And yet, there are far too many professing Christians who consciously/unconsciously think or say (in essence):

“No Lord! We see the test and pass! You know we can’t deny ungodliness and worldly lusts in this life. You know we can’t live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world… you know we can’t keep your commandments, do any good, or obey your spiritual law! So we’re not even going to try! We know that you only instruct us as such as a test, you know, so that we can see our complete inability to implement any of it, which should drive us to forsake any attempts to do so! And we know that if we cannot obey, we surely can’t be expected to teach others to do so. ‘Thankfully,’ we know that the only purpose for such passages, is to motivate us to declare that since Christ did it all, and since Christ is Perfect Righteousness and Sanctification for His people, we don’t have to do anything related to obedience! We are to have nothing to do with keeping/obeying/serving your (extant) commandments/law because Christ did it all for us! He is our obedience!” 

Such anomian absurdity never seems to end. All of it reminds me of the following passage:

Matthew 5:17-20 “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break [G3089, lyō, undo, dissolve, subvert, annul, do away with; demolish, destroy, deprive of authority, etc.] one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

[They would argue that righteousness in v20 is strictly Christ’s righteousness imputed, and has nothing to do with the uprightness spoken of in Titus 2:12; however, I would maintain both are in view. Christ’s righteousness is what saves, what is accepted before God, but we are to live uprightly in light of what the Lord has done for us. Far too many want a salvation wherein they can take all from Christ, but aren’t willing to offer anything, or give up anything, in return (except for “their own self-righteousness” they say). But this is grievous error. Clearly we do not offer anything, or sacrifice anything, in the sense of salvific merit or contribution, but rather, in the sense of an attitude of thankfulness that should substantially cause us to deviate from our prior vile and rebellious ways].

Many try to tidy it up by stating that they do not encourage disobedience, and that they do not themselves like disobedience. They will say that they agree that we should obey… and that they want to obey. However, they declare that they cannot ever obey, despite God’s promises to the contrary. They argue that since God requires perfect obedience (even from the true Christian they say), they have no hope of being obedient, and thus reject all exhortations/teachings unto such.

And yet what absolute blindness, concerning the matter, this is. It sets the Epistles of Timothy and Titus at naught, along with a vast multitude of other passages in Scripture touching on the right doctrine of adorning the Doctrine of God, in light of, already being justified, sanctified, quickened, and converted.

Note this passage from the closing of the second epistle to Timothy:’

2 Timothy 4:1-5 “I charge [thee] therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

In the Apostle Paul’s epistle to Titus, he speaks of those who claim to be true believers, who claim to both believe in and proclaim the true Gospel (seeing that they are in the midst of the saints), but that evidence otherwise via the course of their life: 

“They profess that they know God; but in works they deny [him], being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” [Titus 1:16].

Again, re-read Titus 2:11-15 below, but with a particular emphasis on the bracketed notes in general, and verse 15 in particular!

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men [GOSPEL], 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world [GOSPEL ADORNING]; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people [GOSPEL], zealous of good works [GOSPEL ADORNING]. 15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”

It should be abundantly clear that Paul, by the Spirit of God, deemed submission, obedience, upright conduct, and other aspects of living in light of the moral/spiritual law of God, to be of utmost importance… seeing that it was important enough to dedicate the bulk of three books of the Bible to it. Review Peter’s epistles, review the books of Jude, and James, and tell me that there is no place to preach/teach/instruct unto obedience.

IV. THE PREACHER REVISITED: But what of the preacher, who is not a pastor? What responsibility, if any, has he to these things? Even if his primary purpose is to preach the Gospel (as opposed to exhorting unto right conduct in light of the Gospel), what debt does the ‘non-office-holding’ preacher have to the word of God? I will tell you… he has an absolute obligation to not proclaim lies, distortions, half-truths, and other forms of sinful foolishness! He has an obligation to avoid minimizing, down-playing, denying, or refuting the importance of spiritual obedience (the serving of the law of God after the inward man).  He has an obligation to define his terms, and to support his positions not with soundbites, but with Scripture! He has an obligation to promote the truth… not undermine it in any shape or form!

So yes, absolutely! let the preacher who is not a pastor/elder/bishop serve as an evangelist, as a faithful witness, and proclaim the blessed Gospel of a perfect salvation grounded solely in the Person, Work, and Righteousness of Christ! Let him do so with zeal and fervor. However, let him likewise abstain from any and all errors that misrepresent either (a) the true Gospel, or (b) the liberty associated with it (i.e., by replacing what true Christian liberty entails, with deluded notions of lawlessness, which is what anomianism/antinomianism truly is).   

IV. PREACHER, DEFINE YOUR TERMS! If an otherwise faithful preacher were to say something to the effect of ‘if we desire to obey the Law, we will be judged by it,” I would have to ask the question? Who is the “we?” I would also have to ask “what is meant by the law?” If an unquickened soul “desires” (after the flesh) to obey the law, so as to establish a righteousness of their own, he/she will most definitely be judged by it. However, if a true Christian desires to obey the extant/spiritual/moral law… will he/she really be divinely judged by it? We know that no true Christian should be desirous of serving the Mosaic law or the law of ordinances. But what of the spiritual law, the extant collection of all of God’s imperatives/commands for the believer today? Would a Christian desiring to obey that law be judged by it? The answer is of course not! Consider,

2 Corinthians 10:5-6 “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.”

Ephesians 6:5-7 “Servants, be obedient to them that are [your] masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; 6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

1 Peter 1:13-16 “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [conduct, behaviour, etc.]; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Clearly, obedience is both precious to and expected by the Lord! And yet, what if the otherwise faithful preacher argues ‘but the Law is a ministry of death and condemnation to those under it!” Would we not have to remind him that the Christian, the true quickened child of God, is not under the law, and thus, this passage would not apply to them? Do we need to remind the preacher that Christ has (a) freed His people from being under the law, and thus (b) freed us to serve it after inward man?

Romans 7:6-25 “But now we are delivered from the law [i.e., from being under it, and under it’s demands and condemnation], that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve [i.e., this very same spiritual law] in newness of spirit, and not [in] the oldness of the letter [i.e., as born again believers, we serve the law in Spirit and in Truth, and not after the flesh, according to the mere words written, with no backing/application from the Spirit of God]… 14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. … 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: … 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve [men douleuō; G3303 and G1398; literally, “truly/verily do service to, serve, obey, submit to, am a slave to”] the law of God [even that same spiritual law of God spoken of in verses six forward];  but with the flesh the law of sin.”

Note: see also Galatians 5:17-24 and note the difference between walking in the Spirit (which is being led by the Spirit) and being under (subject to, held by, the judgment/condemnation of) the law. To walk in, or be led by the Spirit is not some mere notional thing, nor is it some vague mystical thing. Being led by the Spirit, and walking in the Spirit, does not occur in a vacuum. When one is filled with the Spirit, he/she is effectual led by the Spirit… and one cannot be filled with the Spirit, without being filled with the word of God (again, as effectually wrought by the Holy Spirit). Said another way, being led by the Spirit occurs when the Holy Spirit uses the word of God to renew/conform/transform the Christian to such a degree, that his/her or walk reflects the very word being used to grow and guide them. When one is subject (yes, made subject, but subject nonetheless) to the Spirit, and to the word (in light of already being in the Word), one evidences that they are no longer walking in a manner that evidences they are still unsaved, still under the law (as it relates to bondage to it or the condemnation associated with it).

What if they counter with ‘but the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, and it entered, that the offence might abound!” I would respond that we must not pit scripture against scripture… We must look at the whole of it… holistically. I would also advise them that they completely misunderstand what the lawful use of the law really is, and how they need to come to grips with the right understanding of it, all as God enables.

We must also remember that “the law” (even in the various biblical uses/definitions of that term) is incorporated into the fact that “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” [2 Timothy 3:16-17]. This is the very reason why, in giving instruction on how the Christian should be obedient, we read passages like these from the Apostles:

1 Corinthians 9:8-11 “Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? 10 Or saith he [it] altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, [this] is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, [is it] a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?”

1 Corinthians 7:39 “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 14:34 “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but [they are commanded] to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

1 John 3:4 “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” — 1 John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

[Note: if all have sin, including the Christian… but sin is the transgression of the law, what, precisely, is it to be called when God is merciful enough to keep us from a sin, to give us victory, to uphold us in a situation? Isn’t godly obedience tantamount (after the inward man) to not sinning. Isn’t disobedience (after the flesh, the motion of sin) tantamount to sinning? When one is obedient by God’s grace, one is not transgressing, they are not sinning in that instance. The problem is that far too many make the argument that since we are in this body of death, everything we do is sin (even as believers), and this is simply not true…, not in the eyes of God (not in light of what HE HIMSELF works out in/through His people].

What if, after all of this, the otherwise faithful preacher still maintains that he absolutely will not teach, exhort, or encourage anyone to “keep the law?” What then? I would again have to ask “which law?” I would again have to ask if by “law,” whether he is including the spiritual law? Or as some call it, the moral law (even the extant collection of biblical commands/imperatives for us today, in the New Testament era).

If he still maintains that he would not teach anyone to keep and observe, so as to obey (all as God enables), I must put him to the test (trying the spirits). I must ask whether his words are really so, with clear examples given to hash it all out. For instance, 

  1. If he saw a brother committing adultery, would he abstain from teaching, exhorting, encouraging, and/or admonishing that brother to repent of their sin (transgression of the law), and to cease from his evil way?
  2. If he saw a sister stealing, would he abstain from admonishing her, exhorting her to cease from her evil way?
  3. Should godly men not teach… to refrain from physical violence (if engaged in such unjustly)?
  4. Should godly women not teach… the immodest to dress more modestly?
  5. Should Christians not remind and exhort one another that we should study to be quiet, and to do our own business, and to work with our own hands, as the Apostle Paul (and others) commanded us per 1 Thessalonians 4:11?
  6. Should each and every one of us ignore verses like Hebrews 10:24 wherein we read “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works;” or like Galatians 6:1-2 wherein we read “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ..” 

We when consider these things, we should ask: ‘was the Apostle in error when he stated…’

1 Thessalonians 4:1-3 “Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort [you] by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, [so] ye would abound more and more. 2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, [even] your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication…”

It certainly sounds to me like Paul was not just teaching them, but beseeching them, to obey the law (when, and only when, “the law” is rightly defined as being the extant/spiritual/moral law of God, per Romans 7:25, as distinguished from other potential uses of the same term).

I repeatedly qualify all of this, knowing that some will twist my intent, but wondering if others are simply stumbling over semantical matters, rather than substantive ones. I say this, believing that many would readily admit that they would teach… brethren, in such cases, to repent — to turn from their sin (i.e., from their transgression of the law), so as to be obedient to the commands of God concerning the matters in the examples above.

Some would say they would encourage such repentance out of a Gospel motive, not a legal one; out of love and not out of law; out of thanksgiving and not out of duty. I would say, fine… but what are you basing it on? Is it ‘Gospel motive’ in a vacuum, (agape) love in a vacuum, or is there something more to it? Regardless of motive, the basis for ceasing from sin is that it is the transgression of the law, and therefore an affront to God. The reality of obedience is that it establishes/fulfils/affirms the law (manifestly speaking). You can encourage in love, and in light of Gospel salvation, to abstain from drunkenness… However, the only reason one would need to do so is that drunkenness is a violation of the extant/spiritual law. Yes, some may strive to obey legally, and some may desire to obey in love, but the underlying act (obedience) is still predicated upon the principle that we should walk, by the Spirit, in a way that is in harmony with God’s law. We all should agree upon right means and motive, but in addition, we should also all agree on the underlying reality that makes repentance and confession of sin necessary.

V. CONCLUSION AND WARNING: The Bible is clear on this. Christians are expected to obey God, to keep His commandments, and to serve His (spiritual) law. Anyone denying, refuting, or seeking to undermine this precept is not only engaging in a grave disservice to the body of Christ, but they are rebelling against Christ Himself (calling Him a liar, no less, by claiming inability to do what He says the Christian, in Him, can do). If you need proof of this, consider these words from The Lord Himself:

1 John 2:3-6 “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”

John 14:15-24 “If ye love me, keep my commandments…. 21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. 22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.”

John 15:9-14 “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and [that] your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye [agape/agapaō] love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

1 John 3:21-24 “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, [then] have we confidence toward God. 22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. 23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. 24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.”

Revelation 22:14-15Blessed [are] they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. 15 For without [are] dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

NOW NOTE THIS TRUTH, PARTICULARLY, IN LIGHT OF THE VERY DEFINITION OF [AGAPE] LOVE:

1 John 5:1-3 “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 FOR THIS IS the LOVE of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”

2 John 1:6 “And THIS IS LOVE, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.

 Let God be true and every man a liar.

To God be the glory,

Amen.

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