On October 20th 1909, P. T. Forsyth delivered an ordination address based on John 17:6,
“I manifested thy name unto the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to Me.“
The sermon is very short and broken down into three parts, The Property, The Gift, The Use.
We conclude with part three….
“I Have Manifested Thy Name to Them.”
What a charge – to be the living man on whom men depend for the living God! The people say to you as Minister, what Philip said to Jesus, “Show us the Father” (John 14:8).
“I have manifested Thy name.” That means nature, and nature means presence and action – not truths about God but God Himself in action. It is not the Fatherhood of God you have to preach but God the Father. You do not have to preach about God to people, you must preach God into people. So true preaching is not telling people, but acting on people, making people.
No amount of telling will ever convince people of the Father; it has to be lived into them. Therefore yours must be a personal ministry. When the personal God revealed Himself, it was in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ; and when Christ is preached it is by men, by a soul. You cannot reveal the Holy One by talking about holiness. “That is true,” says someone, “You can only reveal the Holy One by being holy.” But he knows little of himself who can say that. If we cannot preach the Holy God except by being holy, who can preach him?
The holiness that fits you to preach about the Holy is not your personal sanctity and conduct, but your evident communion with the Holy Christ. It is a life faith you want more than a life conduct.
Why! Paul addressed such Churches as his by the name of Saints! Churches in which the grossest sins were evident. They were not saints by conduct but by faith.
Your goodness is not equal to your task as a minister but your faith must be. You must realise that “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:9). So it is! Not even your faith is sufficient, but only His grace, for you have to reveal Christ as Christ revealed, in this sense, that in both cases it is the soul that tells. But there is this difference: He revealed God to us by the resources of His own soul, while you cannot do it from the resources of your soul but only from His. Nobody was for Him what He is for you with God.
The greatest thing you can give any man is your God and your Saviour. The reason why some ministers are valuable for other things than preaching, even valuable in spite of their preaching, is that they preach about God, and about Christ; they do not preach Christ. They are only messengers, not Sacraments.
A favourite type of preaching today is to analyse your soul; it is subjective, psychological preaching. It is weak, it is exhausting, it is dangerous. Analyse the Gospel in reference to the soul. You are a minister of the Word, not of the soul.
And that Word will be selective. There is real truth in the doctrine of election. You will not appeal to all alike. To try to do so is to make your Gospel colourless. There will be some whom you will not touch. On the other hand, there may be some given to you whom others have never touched.
If your Church were smaller, it might be more powerful. If you could shed off people as Christ did, you might be stronger, like Gideon’s host. Christ alone has the promise and reversion of all men, and He only at the last. At first, all forsook him and fled.
You have but a corner of the vineyard, and cannot appeal to all men. Humility then is better equipment than ambition, even the ambition of doing much good. And remember as a last word: in the Christian ministry, all self-seeking is fatal.
*** With gratitude to Jason Goroncy in his excellent book containing published and unpublished sermons by Forsyth, the one I am posting (in three parts, part one here, part two here) is previously unpublished (p.352-355), and I whole-heartedly commend the book, as I have already done in a previous post, not least for an outstanding introduction (worth the book money alone)!