Paul - The Man

Rev. Dale Linder

 

Will Rogers once said, ďI never met a man I did not like.Ē John Gerstner could have said, ďI never met a verse of Scripture I would not preach.Ē A serious scholar, a tireless teacher, Dr. Gerstner was also a passionate preacher, willing and ready to go anywhere to proclaim Godís Word. Many of his students were amazed at his acceptance of invitations to preach in seemingly insignificant and out-of-the-way places. Yet Dr. Gerstner believed that the Word of God is for the people of God. The pursuit of theology for intellectual stimulation alone was not something noble for the pastor who could not, or would not, distill and communicate the truth of God to the people of God from the Word of God, according to Dr. Gerstner.

While I had the privilege of sitting under Dr. Gerstnerís teaching, I rarely had the opportunity to hear him preach. And though much of what I learned from him in the classroom has shaped my thinking, it is the message of one of his sermons that has shaped my preaching.

Entitled ďPaul - The Man,Ē the sermon was a glimpse in the life and ministry of the apostle. In a memorable format, Dr. Gertsner used Paulís name as an acrostic to highlight four outstanding characteristics the Scripture teaches about Paul:

P  -

stands for polluted. Paul was well acquainted with his own sin and depravity.

A  -

stands for agonizing. Paul had a heart for the lost. He boldly preached to the Gentiles and agonized over the status of his fellow Jews.

U  -

stands for uncompromising. Paul would never compromise the truth of the Gospel or the truth of the character of God.

L  -

stands for loving. It was here that Dr. Gerstner challenged me in a way that still impacts my life.

In explaining the relationship between the last two characteristics, Dr. Gerstner said that Paul was not uncompromising and loving, nor was he uncompromising but loving, but that he was ďuncompromising therefore loving.Ē Declaring the hard truths of Scripture, declaring the whole counsel of God, was an expression of Paulís love for people. Avoiding controversy or watering down the truth of God was not Paulís style. His unwillingness to back down from the truth was a most loving thing to do.

Paul preached the whole counsel of God. He preached Godís sovereignty and Godís election. He preached of manís depravity and total inability to save himself. He declared Godís standard of righteousness and held all men accountable to it whether kings, Jews, Gentiles, slave, free or even fellow apostles. He loved men enough to confront them with the whole counsel of God.

Uncompromising, therefore loving. That characterized Paul. It also characterized John Gerstner. I never heard Dr. Gerstner apologize for stating the truth. I heard him proclaim some very distressing truths in the most loving way.

Uncompromising, therefore loving. That should also characterize those of us who have been ordained to preach the Word of God. Our challenge is to preach the whole counsel of God. We know that some truths are easier to proclaim than others. We know what it is like to shudder when, in preaching through the Word of God, our text addresses a hidden but real situation in the church, a controversial issue in the church or culture, or a particular sin with which we ourselves are wrestling. Do we declare it? We must. It has become socially acceptable, in order not to hurt someone else, to tell a lie. Yet, ultimately and eternally, failure to tell the truth and to stand on the truth of Godís Word is to do great harm to those to whom we preach.

We believe that God is truthful. We declare that Godís Word is true. Any discrepancy between our words and Godís Word only highlights our fallibility and error. If Godís way is the only way in which we will be reconciled with Him, know His blessing, and experience His peace, then we must declare that way boldly and without compromise. It is the only manner in which we truly show our love for one another.

Men may be moved by the words of other men. Human philosophy may intrigue our minds. Adoption of religious ideals may change the behavior of some. But the Scripture alone declares what is righteous. In the fullness of its exposition, Scripture reveals the righteousness of God. Conforming to Godís righteousness, whether that word is pleasing to us or not, is the only thing that counts.

To hold back, to skip over, or to waffle on the truth of Scripture is a terribly unloving thing to do to those in our care. Paul would not. John Gerstner did not.

Uncompromising, therefore loving. Do we love God enough not to shy away from declaring His truth even when it might prove costly to ourselves? Do we love our people enough to declare to them the whole counsel of God?

Uncompromising, therefore loving. John Gerstner said that. John Gerstner modeled that. He challenged us to share the richness of Godís character, Godís purpose, and Godís plan. Godís people need to hear it. Will we accept the challenge?


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