Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Book Review: Remaining Faithful In Ministry

Remaining Faithful in Ministry: 9 Essential Convictions for Every Pastor. John MacArthur. 2019. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from the introduction: Four successive generations of my immediate ancestors included men who faithfully served the Lord as pastors.

First sentence from chapter one: Second Corinthians 4 begins with Paul saying, “Therefore, having this ministry . . .” (v. 1).

In John MacArthur's newest book--or booklet--he shares NINE essential convictions that every pastor true to the gospel of Christ should hold and hold dear. These nine essential convictions do not come out of thin air, nor are they the result of MacArthur's personal preferences. No, these nine essentials are taken straight from the Word of God--drawn from 2 Corinthians to be more precise. This booklet examines 2 Corinthians 3 and 4.

So what are these nine essentials?

  1. Convinced of the Superiority of the New Covenant
  2. Convinced That Ministry is a Mercy
  3. Convinced of the Need for a Pure Heart
  4. Convinced of the Need to Preach the Word Faithfully
  5. Convinced That the Results Belong To God
  6. Convinced of His Own Insignificance
  7. Convinced of the Benefit of Suffering
  8. Convinced of the Need for Courage
  9. Convinced That Future Glory Is Better Than Anything

There is a chapter for each conviction, each essential. One doesn't need to read the book to guess what "convinced of the need to preach the word faithfully" might mean. But some of the others you may need the book to clarify for you.

I would recommend this one. I love that it is biblical. MacArthur doesn't talk opinions, ideas, philosophies, world views. He speaks the Word of God--what it meant then, what it means now. And guess what--those two don't contradict shouldn't really contradict one another. I love that it focuses on teaching. Perhaps he's assuming that his audience wants to learn, but I think he's assuming correctly! I love that he introduces Greek words, shows how various translations translate the word in the passage, and then gives us his opinion on what the passage means--in this case, what Paul means.

For example,
As he unpacks his philosophy in 2 Corinthians 4, Paul gives us a detailed answer to the question of how he remained faithful in the midst of so much adversity. He begins the chapter with this triumphant declaration: “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart” (v. 1).  Modern translations typically say, “We don’t give up” (or some close equivalent). The Greek verb Paul uses (egkakeō) is a combination of two common words.The first is a form of the preposition en, which speaks of being at a state of rest or surrender “in” or “among” something. The main root is a noun, kakeō, meaning “wickedness” or “depravity.” So the sense of the expression is, “We do not give in to evil”—much stronger than if he were merely saying, “We don’t grow weary.” In other words, this is not only about resisting fatigue, discouragement, or cowardice. There’s a powerful note of holy defiance in Paul’s tone.
MacArthur is able to pack a lot of insight into this little booklet. He's concise. He has a point he wants to make and gets straight to it. Sometimes you have to love a no-nonsense approach.

Favorite quotes:

  • When you see the word therefore in Scripture, you have to ask what it’s there for.
  • To sum up, the old covenant offered sinners no hope.The new covenant offers “such a hope [that] we are very bold”(2 Cor. 3:12)...This is a powerful argument for staying focused on gospel truth—proclaiming the whole message of the gospel, studying the details of the gospel, defending the doctrines of the gospel, meditating on the promises of the gospel, encouraging one another with the precepts of the gospel, and singing about the glories of the gospel. We must never forget what a privilege it is to be called as ministers of the new covenant.
  • God doesn’t call us because of any aptitude or proficiency we develop on our own. We are not in ministry because we are somehow more righteous or more worthy than others. It is a mercy. Every good thing that comes to us is an undeserved mercy. By God’s great mercy he calls us, equips us, and surrounds us with men and women who come alongside to serve the Lord in partnership with us. It’s an undeserved privilege, and the moment any minister begins to see his calling any other way, he is on the road to disaster.
  • When declared with conviction and clarity, God’s Word is always profitable, even when the results are not immediately obvious. In fact, the supreme encouragement for making God’s Word the centerpiece of our ministry strategy is summed up in a promise that comes from God’s own mouth in Isaiah 55:10–11.
  • It’s never right to adjust the message or employ manipulative strategies in order to elicit a more positive response. Doing so suggests that the minister deserves at least partial credit for the results.
  • On the one hand we might say that the doctrine of human depravity is the most discouraging doctrine in the Bible. Unbelievers are spiritually dead, without the capacity to love God, obey him, or please him (Rom. 8:7–8)—much less believe in him by their own freewill choice or initiative. But in another sense, as we seek to share the gospel with a hostile world, we should be encouraged by the fact that it is outside the scope of our range or abilities to awaken dead sinners. It means our only duty is to be faithful, through the open statement of gospel truth, to appeal to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.
  • We speak what we believe. Paul is saying, “My convictions give rise to courage. If I truly believe something, I say it. I don’t edit myself.” 
  • I’m tasked with delivering a message, not with masterminding a compromise between human opinion and divine revelation. When I preach, I can think of one thing only: Is this true? I believe; therefore I speak.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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