(Published in The Journal of the International Correspondence Institute, Spring 1990)
Truthful! Honest! Honorable! Virtuous! Principled! Moral! Upright! Transparent! Loving! Approachable! Compassionate! Forgiving! Patient! Humble! Are these lofty ideals, or personal attributes of men of God? What are some of the qualities that make up a man of God?
The Call of God
Jesus’ call to His disciples was personal and direct: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Luke records that Jesus prayed all night before choosing his disciples (Luke 6:12-13). Looking over the list of His choices, I can understand why! There was the betrayer, the doubter, the outspoken, the fiery-spirited brothers, the political zealot, the hated government worker, the quiet, the timid, etc. Nevertheless, it was this group of men whom Jesus called who would ultimately change the world.
His call was first to be with Him, to know Him intimately and to receive from Him. Then, He would send them forth to preach and bring the Kingdom of God to men (Mark 3:14). They were first called to know the Shepherd’s heart and then to obey His voice (John 10; Philippians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 1:9). The calling remains the same though the form and place of ministry may change.
Paul had the same experience. First, the Son in revelation, then the proclamation (Galatians 1:15-16). Ezekiel 44 contrasts ministers who left off ministering to Him in their “ministry” with those who made it their priority to know and minister to the Lord in their “ministry.”
Christ’s call included power to cast out devils, heal the sick, and the authority by which to do these miracles. The call included the promise of Christ’s presence and provision. The call included a mighty baptism in the Holy Spirit—God’s answer to the weakness of His called ones. The call included the need for abandonment and commitment to Him alone (see Matthew 10:1-42, 11:28-30, 19:27-30; Luke 9:1-6,57-62, 24:49; Acts 1:8).
It follows that when a person is called to Christ, his life and ministry will reflect that personal relationship.
Love and Compassion
Jesus was unmistakably moved by His love for the Father and His love and compassion for His world (Matthew 9:36). He wept over Jerusalem (Luke 9:41). He ate with “publicans and sinners” that He might win them (Luke 7:34-35). He came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). The man of God must have such love and compassion (2 Corinthians 5:14-21).
The life of the called is one of a disciple—a learner, follower, and servant of Christ and people (Mark 8:34-38; Matthew 11:28-30; John 12:24-26, 13:1-17). Jesus taught that serving others in His name is serving Him (Matthew 25:40). He emphasized the truth that “the disciple is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord” (Matthew 10; John 13:16), even to death (Matthew 20:22; John 15:20).
Jesus emphasized prayer to His disciples and followers (Matthew 6:9-15). His life exemplified a life of prayer (Matthew 6:46, 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16, 6:12, 9:18-29). One of His last commands to His disciples was that they were to “watch and pray” (Matthew 17:21, 26:41; Mark 11:15-24, 13:33).
Holiness of Life
No one denies that ministers are to live holy lives. Separation from the world’s mores, lifestyles, goals, cares, and philosophies should be the norm (Romans 12:1-2). Jesus implicated “the cares of this world” as hindering fruitfulness (Mark 4:19). Soldiers do not “entangle themselves with the affairs of this life (2 Timothy 2:4).
Jesus’ teaching on holiness was not a morbid self-denial or life consumed by negativity, however. His example was a positive love of God and His neighbor with both deeds and words (Mark 12:29-31). This love of God would repel as well as expel anything that would defile the body, mind, or soul. Jesus spoke of a “heart holiness,” not just outward separations and religious acts (Matthew 15:10-20). “Sins of the spirit” were as much condemned as “sins of the flesh” (Mark 7:20-23; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Matthew 5-7, 12:35-37; Isaiah 52:11; Luke 12:33-48, 18:9-14; 1 Peter 1:15-16).
Jesus’ life was characterized by His dependence upon His father for His needs (Luke 8:3, 9:58; Matthew 17:27, 20:28). He gave charge to all His disciples to maintain the same principle of simplicity in ministry (Matthew 10:1-10; Luke 10:1-9; Philippians 2:5-8). His uncomplicated lifestyle did not obstruct either the poor or the rich from coming to Him.
Closely linked to and included with holiness is integrity. “Truth in the inward parts” (Psalm 51:6) is a way of expressing Jesus’ words of “doing the truth” (John 3:21) and worshipping God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). The first piece of God’s armor is “truth” as found in Ephesians 6:10-18. Jesus’ transparency with his disciples reflected the inward and outward integrity of His lifestyle.
Paul expresses his deep concern for those in the ministry in 2 Corinthians 4:1-2. “Dishonesty” is walking with hidden things or hidden agendas. “Craftiness” is living in a way to disguise one’s real purposes with guile or trickery, for power, money, or position (Philippians 3:18-19). Paul also warns about ministers that “handle the Word of God deceitfully.” This includes having impure motives and mingling the truth of the Word with false doctrines, emphases, etc., in order to promote oneself, one’s ministry, or for financial gain. “Simony” is still a forbidden character trait (Acts 8:9-24; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Paul’s life was an “open book” so that he could say that he had “always a conscience void of offense toward God and man” (Acts 24:16).
Let us walk “honestly” (Romans 13:13), “in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16,25), “in love” (Ephesians 5:2), “as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8), “in wisdom” (Colossians 4:5), “in the truth” (3 John 3), and ultimately, “as He walked” (1 John 2:6). Then the world will acknowledge the truth that Christ is surely in us—”living epistles” written on our hearts by the Spirit of God (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). Then the preacher will receive the full blessings of God in his life and ministry.
God help us all!