By Joe Slater
“The paradox of the pulpit is that its occupant is a sinner whose chief right to be there is his perpetual sense that he has no right to be there, and is there only by grace and always under the spotlight of divine judgment.”
Scottish preacher A. C. Craig spoke those words back in 1953 in one lecture of a series entitled “Preaching in a Scientific Age.” His lectures were printed in a book by the same title the next year.
While we could find much about which to disagree with this preacher from the Church of Scotland, the above-quoted statement is right on target. Christians are redeemed sinners, and that most assuredly includes the preacher. The great apostle Paul considered himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Any preacher who supposes that he is “better” than his audience, or that his own personal goodness somehow entitles him to speak the oracles of God, ought to sit down and be quiet!
What right do I have to preach? That question nags at me. Just who do I think I am? Actually, I know all too well who and what I am – a flawed, broken creature who upholds a divine standard that I did not set, and that I fail to meet. As Craig said, I have a perpetual sense that I have no right to be doing what I’m doing.
By God’s grace, I have the opportunity to preach Christ. Since we have established that I do not merit this privilege in any way, and since it is, indeed, a privilege, the only alternative is that it is by grace (unmerited favor).
As usual, however, privilege comes with responsibility. Craig correctly observed that the preacher is “always under a spotlight of divine judgment.” Paul
told Timothy to take heed to himself and to his teaching, for in doing so he would save both himself and those who heard him (1 Timothy 4:16). A faithful preacher must preach only the truth and all of the truth. Paul emphasized that he had declared the “whole counsel of God,” and was therefore innocent of the blood of all men (Acts 20:26, 27).
- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.