By Lonnie Skiles
The very necessity of this article indicates a “falling away” from the basic truth of Scripture today. As ministry moves more and more toward professionalism, the need for and belief in a divine call seems less and less relevant to the average “minister” or church member. Nevertheless, the Bible does teach that God does call, by divine selection, ministers to preach the unsearchable riches of God.
Old Testament Model
When dealing with this subject, two illustrations of the divine call—one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament—will be used. In Jeremiah 1:5, God declares, “Before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”
No doubt, the knowledge of this divine calling motivated Jeremiah to proclaim the work of the Lord without compromise in the face of such violent and unfair opposition.
On the verge of quitting because of the persecution, Jeremiah cries out in 20:9, “But his word was in mine heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.”
It seems logical that today’s awful departure from the proclamation of the truth stems from too many hirelings in the pulpits, and not enough God-called preachers.
New Testament Model
The second illustration of a divine call comes from the New Testament. The Apostle Paul was saved and called by God on the Damascus road. In 1 Corinthians 9:1, 17, Paul declares that his call to preach was totally God’s choosing; it had nothing to do with his own choice or desire.
Furthermore, in 1 Timothy 1:12, he expresses thankfulness to the Lord for “putting me into the ministry.” He further indicates in 2 Timothy 1:6 that Timothy’s ability as a minister was a “gift of God.”
With these illustrations and others from God’s word, there can be no doubt that ministers are divinely chosen and called by God.
The purpose for this divine calling of God is succinct, laid out clearly in 2 Timothy 4:1. “Preach the word.” This is the primary function of every God-called preacher. It is based on the premise that for anyone to be saved they must hear the gospel (Romans 10:1417).
God has ordained that people be saved through the “foolishness of preaching” (1 Corinthians 1:21). Paul declared to the Corinthians that he was determined “not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
lt follows, that if the preaching of Jesus Christ is the only avenue through which salvation is conveyed to a lost world, then the preaching of God’s Word (and only God’s Word) must be the paramount duty of every divinely-called preacher.
Qualifications to Preach
God calls men to preach through the same method by which He calls men to salvation. The Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, speaks to men and impresses them with the need to preach. The Scriptures teach (1 Corinthians 1:26-29) that God calls unlikely people to fulfill His ministry here on earth. This is simply because God, in His Sovereignty, has chosen to do this, in order that He alone may obtain all the glory for it.
That is why “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” The qualifications of a divinely called preacher are also clearly defined in the Bible. Paul wrote to two young pastors (Timothy and Titus), and to both of these he outlined specific qualities God requires in preachers (or pastors).
In 1 Timothy 3: 1-7, he gives no less than 15 qualifications that are binding on anyone who is called to preach. Space does not allow a full explanation of each of these, but certainly they are all important.
Many times, the only qualification insisted on by ordaining councils is that the prospective preacher be the husband of one wife. However, the other fourteen are equally important as the first and should be equally considered when considering a candidate for the ministry.
-Sober (or sober minded)
-Of good behavior
-Given to hospitality
-Apt to teach
-Not given to wine
-No striker (not violent)
-Not greedy of filthy lucre
-Not a brawler
-One who rules well his own house, with children in submission
-Not a novice
-Have a good report of them who are without.
It is reasonable to conclude that God does not call any individual who does not meet these qualifications. It is also reasonable to conclude that many “preachers” who fill today’s pulpits are not called by God.
Preparation to Preach
The God-called minister also has a God-given responsibility to adequately prepare for the ministry. Paul told young Timothy (2 Timothy 2:15) to “study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” He also admonished him to “give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13).
Inherent in these challenges is the important need to prepare. In fact, as one carefully studies the Pastoral Epistles, the challenge to prepare for the ministry becomes very evident throughout these letters. This preparation may be obtained through attendance at a Bible college or seminary (this is the recommended method), or it may be obtained through a personal, thorough study of the Bible and related books. However one prepares, preparation must be adequate for an effective ministry.
A minister of the gospel should be divinely called to preach. If he does not meet the biblical qualifications, he will not be called. If he is called, he must make a concerted effort to prepare himself for ministry.
About the Writer: Reverend Lonnie Skiles spent many years as a member of the Commission for Theological lntegrity.