The apostle Paul, when considering the qualifications of the minister, wrote, “Who is sufficient for these things?” 2 Corinthians 2:16. He then went on to answer this question, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:5. “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. . . . For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. . . . But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:1, 5, 7.
Paul recognized the weighty responsibility resting on every minister and spoke directly about the caution to be exercised in choosing men for the ministry. (See Titus and 1 and 2 Timothy.) Every minister who grasps the solemnity of his work understands Paul’s solemn words, “I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.” 1 Corinthians 2:3. It is one of the great mysteries of redemption that God should choose to use sinful, erring, faulty men in the prosecution of His work.
God’s ideal for His ministers is the same today as in the time of the apostle Paul. Therefore, no minister need make any mistake concerning God’s will, nor should any church be mistaken concerning the men whom God would have as His ministers. In these last days, through His messenger to the remnant God has given many pages of instruction concerning every facet of the minister’s life. In this series of articles, we will examine a number of areas of instruction in this important topic.
In our approach to this topic, we will start with the counsels regarding the vital need for conversion in ministers and the necessity of their receiving of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, no sinner will be saved from any man’s preaching or ministry. (See Christ’s Object Lessons, 328.) Also, every worker should be praying to God for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (See Testimonies to Ministers, 170; Acts of the Apostles, 25–56.) “The endowment of the Holy Spirit is indispensably essential to success.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 320. “It is the absence of the Holy Spirit and of the grace of God that makes the gospel ministry so powerless to convict and convert.” Ibid., 378. With this in mind, we are going to look not so much at the cause (conversion, receiving the Holy Spirit into the life), but at the effects that this will have in our lives.
The Holy Spirit, working in a person’s life, has the effect of completely changing him in manners and conduct into the likeness of Christ, instead of the likeness of the world. We will now examine a number of inspired statements that describe what this change is and what it is not:
Ministers will not mix the sacred and the common.
“What is the object of the ministry? Is it to mix the comical with the religious? The theater is he place for such exhibitions. If Christ is formed within, if the truth with its sanctifying power is brought into the inner sanctuary of the soul, you will not have jolly men, neither will you have sour, cross, crabbed men to teach the precious lessons of Christ to perishing souls.” Testimonies to Ministers, 143.
“The whole sanctuary service was designed to impress the people with the fact that the things which God has set apart for Himself are holy. They were ever to observe the distinction between the sacred and the common. Holy things must be kept holy. ” Review and Herald, February 4, 1902.
“Ministers should have no separate interest aside from the great work of leading souls to the truth. Their energies are all needed here. They should not engage in merchandise, in peddling, or in any business aside from this one great work.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 470. (See also page 472.)
“We are nearing the close of time. We want not only to teach present truth in the pulpit, but to live it out of the pulpit. Examine closely the foundation of your hope of salvation. While you stand in the position of a herald of truth, a watchman upon the walls of Zion, you cannot have your interest interwoven with mining or real-estate business and at the same time do effectually the sacred work committed to your hands. Where the souls of men are at stake, where eternal things are involved, the interest cannot safely be divided.” Ibid., vol. 5, 530.
If self is not crucified, it will appear in the minister’s life and work. This is “strange fire.”
“The right performance of the solemn work for this time and the salvation of the souls connected with us in any way depend in a great degree upon our own spiritual condition. All should cultivate a vivid sense of their responsibility; for their own present well-being and their eternal destiny will be decided by the spirit they cherish. If self is woven into the work, it is as the offering of strange fire in the place of the sacred. Such workers incur the displeasure of the Lord.” Testimonies to Ministers, 260.
“Those who have stood as representative men are not all Christian gentlemen. There is prevalent a spirit that seeks the mastery over others. Men regard themselves as authority. ” Ibid., 260.
“No human being is to seek to bind other human beings to himself as if he were to control them, telling them to do this and forbidding them to do that, commanding, dictating, acting like an officer over a company of soldiers. This is the way the priests and rulers did in Christ’s day, but it is not the right way. After the truth has made the impression upon hearts, and men and women have accepted its teachings, they are to be treated as the property of Christ, not as the property of man. In fastening minds to yourself, you lead them to disconnect from the source of their wisdom and sufficiency. Their dependence must be wholly in God; only thus can they grow in grace.” Testimonies, vol. 9, 146.
Ministers will be kind, especially to those with whom they disagree.
“You may be true to principle, you may be just, honest, and religious; but with it all you must cultivate true tenderness of heart, kindness, and courtesy. If a person is in error, be the more kind to him; if you are not courteous, you may drive him away from Christ. Let every word you speak, even the tones of your voice, express your interest in, and sympathy for, the souls that are in peril. If you are harsh, denunciatory, and impatient with them, you are doing the work of the enemy. You are opening a door of temptation to them, and Satan will represent you to them as one who knows not the Lord Jesus. They will think their own way is right, and that they are better than you. How, then, can you win the erring? They can recognize genuine piety, expressed in words and character. If you would teach repentance, faith, and humility, you must have the love of Jesus in your own hearts.” Testimonies to Ministers, 150, 151.
“The truth planted in the heart will reveal the love of Jesus and its transforming power. Anything harsh, sour, critical, domineering, is not of Christ, but proceeds from Satan. Coldness, heartlessness, want of tender sympathy, are leavening the camp of Israel. If these evils are permitted to strengthen as they have done for some years in the past, our churches will be in a deplorable condition. Every teacher of the truth needs the Christlike principle in his character. There will be no frowns, no scolding, no expressions of contempt, on the part of any man who is cultivating the graces of Christianity. He feels that he must be a partaker of the divine nature, and he must be replenished from the exhaustless fountain of heavenly grace, else he will lose the milk of human kindness out of his soul. We must love men for Christ’s sake. It is easy for the natural heart to love a few favorites, and to be partial to these special few; but Christ bids us love one another as He has loved us.” Ibid., 156, 157.
“A lack of firm faith and of discernment in sacred things should be regarded as sufficient to debar any man from connection with the work of God. So also the indulgence of a quick temper, a harsh, overbearing spirit, reveals that its possessor should not be placed where he will be called to decide weighty questions that affect God’s heritage. A passionate man should have no part to act in dealing with human minds. He cannot be trusted to shape matters which have a relation to those whom Christ has purchased at an infinite price. If he undertakes to manage men, he will hurt and bruise their souls; for he has not the fine touch, the delicate sensibility, which the grace of Christ imparts. His own heart needs to be softened, subdued by the Spirit of God; the heart of stone has not become a heart of flesh.” Ibid., 261.
The spirit of kindness and humility will keep God’s minister from both sinful independence and making flesh his arm.
“The Spirit of Christ is grieved when any of His followers give evidence of possessing a harsh, unfair, or exacting spirit. As laborers together with God, each should regard the other as part of God’s great firm. He desire that they shall counsel together. There is to be no drawing apart, for the spirit of independence dishonors the truth we profess.” Review and Herald, February 18, 1909.
“It is right that brethren counsel together; but when men arrange just what their brethren shall do, let them answer that they have chosen the Lord as their counselor. Those who will humbly seek Him will find His grace sufficient. But when one man allows another to step in between him and the duty that God has pointed out to him, giving to man his confidence and accepting his as guide, then he steps from the true platform to a false and dangerous one. Such a man, instead of growing and developing, will lose his spirituality.” Testimonies, vol. 9, 280.
What example of kindness did Jesus give when He dealt with the minds of men?
“He who has paid the infinite price to redeem men reads with unerring accuracy all the hidden workings of the human mind, and knows just how to deal with every soul. And in dealing with men, He manifests the same principles that are manifest in the natural world. The beneficent operations of nature are not accomplished by abrupt and startling interpositions; men are not permitted to take her work into their own hands. God works through the calm, regular operation of His appointed laws. So it is in spiritual things. Satan is constantly seeking o produce effects by rude and violent thrusts; but Jesus found access to minds by the pathway of their most familiar associations. He disturbed as little as possible their accustomed train of thought by abrupt actions or prescribed rules. He honored man with His confidence, and thus placed him on his honor. He introduced old truths in a new and precious light.” Testimonies to Ministers, 189, 190.
What practical counsel is given about the spirit of a minister?
“The minister of Christ should be a man of prayer, a man of piety; cheerful, but never coarse and rough, jesting or frivolous. A spirit of frivolity may be in keeping with the profession of clowns and theatrical actors, but it is altogether beneath the dignity of a man who is chosen to stand between the living and the dead, and to be mouthpiece for God” Testimonies, vol. 4, 320.
“Souls have been lost through your lack of wisdom in presenting the truth and your failure to adorn your calling as a gospel minister by courtesy, kindness, and long-suffering. True Christian politeness should characterize all the actions of a minister of Christ. Oh, how poorly have you represented our pitiful compassionate Redeemer, whose life was the embodiment of goodness and true purity. You have turned souls from the truth by a harsh, censorious, overbearing spirit. Your words have not been in the gentleness of Christ, but in the spirit of E. Your nature is naturally coarse and unrefined, and because you have never felt the necessity of true refinement and Christian politeness, your life has not been as elevated as it might have been.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 460.
What mental abilities should the minister possess?
“The times demand an intelligent, educated ministry, not novices. False doctrines are being multiplied. The world is becoming educated to a high standard of literary attainment; and sin, unbelief, and infidelity are becoming more bold and defiant, as intellectual knowledge and acuteness are acquired. This state of things calls for the use of every power of the intellect; for it is keen minds, under the control of Satan, that the minister will have to meet. He should be well balanced by religious principles, growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Too much haphazard work has been done, and minds have not been exercised to their fullest capacity. Our ministers will have to defend the truth against base apostates, as well as to measure Scripture evidence with those who advocate specious errors. Truth must be placed in contrast with bold assertions. Our ministers must be men who are wholly consecrated to God, men of no mean culture; but their minds must be all aglow with religious fervor, gathering divine rays of light from heaven and flashing them amid the darkness that covers the earth and the gross darkness that surrounds the people.”
“Ministers should love order and should discipline themselves, and then they can successfully discipline the church of God and teach them to work harmoniously like a well-drilled company of soldiers. If discipline and order are necessary for successful action on the battlefield, the same are as much more needful in the warfare in which we are engaged as the object to be gained is of greater value and more elevated in character than those for which opposing forces contend upon he field of battle. In the conflict in which we are engaged, eternal interests are at stake. . . . All the efforts made to establish order are considered dangerous, a restriction of rightful liberty, and hence are feared as popery. These deceived souls consider it a virtue to boast of their freedom to think and act independently. They will not take any man’s say-so. They are amenable to no man. I was shown that it is Satan’s special work to lead men to feel that it is in God’s order for them to strike out for themselves and choose their own course, independent of their brethren. . . . Has God changed from a God of order? No; He is the same in the present dispensation as in the former. Paul says: ‘God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.’ He is as particular now as then. And He designs that we should learn lessons of order and organization from the perfect order instituted in the days of Moses for the benefit of the children of Israel.” Ibid., vol. 1, 649, 650, 653.
What health habits will the minister develop?
“Those who are employed to write and to speak the Word should attend fewer committee meetings. They should entrust many minor matters to men of business ability and thus avoid being kept on a constant strain that robs the mind of its natural vigor. They should give far more attention to the preservation of physical health, for vigor of mind depends largely upon vigor of body. Proper periods of sleep and rest and an abundance of physical exercise are essential to health of body and mind. To rob nature of her hours for rest and recuperation by allowing one man to do the work of four, or of three, or even of two, will result in irreparable loss.” Ibid., vol. 7, 247.
“Our preachers are not particular enough in regard to their habits of eating. They partake of too large quantities of food and of too great a variety at one meal. Some are reformers only in name. They have no rules by which to regulate their diet, but indulge in eating fruit or nuts between their meals, and thus impose too heavy burdens upon the digestive organs. Some eat three meals a day, when two would be more conducive to physical and spiritual health.” Ibid., vol. 4, 416, 417.
“It is necessary, in order to pursue this great and arduous work, that the ministers of Christ should possess physical health. To attain this end they must become regular in their habits and adopt a healthful system of living. Many are continually complaining and suffering from various indispositions. This is almost always because they do not labor wisely nor observe the laws of health. They frequently remain too much indoors, occupying heated rooms filled with impure air. There they apply themselves closely to study or writing, taking little physical exercise, and having little change of employment. As a consequence, the blood becomes sluggish, and the powers of the mind are enfeebled.” Ibid., 264.
“Your name was shown me under the heading: “Slothful Servants.” Your work will not bear the test of the judgment. You have spent so much precious time in sleep that all your powers seem paralyzed. Health may be earned by proper habits of life and may be made to yield interest and compound interest. But this capital, more precious than any bank deposit, may be sacrificed by intemperance in eating and drinking, or by leaving the organs to rust from inaction. Pet indulgences must be given up; laziness must be overcome. The reason why many of our ministers complain of sickness is that they fail to take sufficient exercise and indulge in overeating. They do not realize that such a course endangers the strongest constitution. Those who, like yourself, are sluggish in temperament, should eat very sparingly and not shun physical taxation. Many of our ministers are digging their graves with their teeth.” Ibid., 408.
“A few hours of manual labor each day tend to renew the bodily vigor and rest and relax the mind. In this way the general health would be promoted, and a greater amount of pastoral labor could be performed. The incessant reading and writing of many ministers unfit them for pastoral work.” Ibid., 264, 265.
What other habits should ministers develop?
“You have no inclination or love for the homely, daily duties of life. Your indolence would be sufficient to disqualify you for the work of the ministry were there no other reasons why you should not engage in it. The cause does not need preachers so much as workers. Of all the vocations of life, there is none that requires such earnest, faithful, persevering, self-sacrificing workers as the cause of God in these last days.” Ibid., vol. 3, 557.
“In order for a man to become a successful minister, something more than book knowledge is essential. The laborer for souls needs integrity, intelligence, industry, energy, and tact. All these are highly essential for the success of a minister of Christ. No man with these qualifications can be inferior, but will have commanding influence. Unless the laborer in God’s cause can gain the confidence of those for whom he is laboring, he can do but little good.” Ibid., 553.
“Punctuality and decision in the work and cause of God are highly essential. Delays are virtually defeats. Minutes are golden and should be improved to the very best account.” Ibid., 500.
If a minister finds that he does not come up to the divine standard, what should he do?
My brother, in doing the work of God you will be placed in a variety of circumstances which will require self-possession and self-control, but which will qualify you to adapt yourself to circumstances and the peculiarities of the situation. Then you can act yourself unembarrassed. You should not place too low an estimate upon your ability to act your part in the various callings of practical life. Where you are aware of deficiencies, go to work at once to remedy those defects. Do not trust to others to supply your deficiencies, while you go on indifferently, as though it were a matter of course that your peculiar organization must ever remain so. Apply yourself earnestly to cure these defects, that you may be perfect in Christ Jesus, wanting in nothing.” Ibid., 505, 506.
In this article we have looked at some of the general results in practical life, habits, and manners that should be in evidence in the minister of God if he has the presence of the Holy Spirit in his heart. Next we will look at what should be the standard for his personal and family life, followed by a study of his public life.