Peddlers of God’s Word (Zacharias T. Fomum)
Who is a peddler of God’s Word? He is one who thinks that by natural advantages, talents, etc, and by spiritual advantages, knowledge of the Bible, spiritual gifts, experience in dealing with men, etc., he can use the Word to minister life or death.
The apostle Paul then said:
“For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word; but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:17).
Who is a peddler of God’s Word? He is one who thinks that by natural advantages, talents, etc, and by spiritual advantages, knowledge of the Bible, spiritual gifts, experience in dealing with men, etc., he can use the Word to minister life or death. He is self-dependent. He has not come to the end of himself. He has so much in himself:
his Bible school training,
his membership of a good Assembly,
his spiritual gifts,
his past successes,
to cling to. He is not able to come to Christ and say to Him wholeheartedly, “Without you, I can do nothing.” Because he is too strong on his own, he will not surrender totally and unconditionally to the Spirit of God. He will do all he can to run away from the hard demands of the cross and the disciplining work of the Holy Spirit. In such a condition, in order to accomplish some ambition, he will force the Word of God to say what he wants. He will force his own ideas into it, take it out of context and go on. He will use the Word to justify himself, his motives and his methods, regardless of what they are. Such a one will often think that God is too slow, that His methods are outdated. He will shop for the most recent methods from the world and justify them by saying that they work to bring men into the Kingdom. Such ministers will do everything to avoid persecution. They will do all they can to evade the truth. The audience will decide what they say. They have no fixed position on anything or if they do, it is that which has been proven to give them:
popularity with man,
Such men will say one thing before you and another, totally different, behind you. The sad thing is that the apostle says that so many who think that they are serving the Lord are in this class. l ask you a serious question: “Are you like that? Are you serving the Lord for some selfish motives? Are your motives pure? Are your methods God’s or are they borrowed from the world? Do you seek the pathway of unholy peace? Do you count success by the applause of men and the number of people who have been manipulated, at the expense of truth, to become self-deceived like you?”
Many religious organizations today will not stand real apostles. If Paul were to pose as a candidate today, he would certainly be rejected by many missionary-sending bodies. He would not have a pulpit in most denominations. The following letter supports what l am saying. It is copied from “Christ the Liberator” pages 145-146, Intervarsity Press 1971. “l have in my hands a copy of what purports to be a very old, though possibly spurious, manuscript. It is addressed to the Rev. Paul Apostle, Independent Missionary, Corinth, Greece.
Dear Mr Paul,
We recently received an application from you for serving under our Board. We have made an exhaustive survey of your case and, frankly, we are surprised that you have been able to “pass” as a bona fide missionary.
In the first place, we are told that you are afflicted with severe eye trouble which is almost certain to be an insuperable handicap to any effective ministry. We normally require 20/20 vision.
Secondly, we take a dim view of a full-time missionary doing part-time secular work, but we hear that you are making tents on the side. You admitted in a letter to the church at Philippi that they are the only group supporting you. We wonder why this is so.
Further, is it true that you have a jail record? Certain brethren report that you did two years’ term in Caesarea and were also imprisoned in Rome.
Moreover, it is reported from Ephesus that you made so much trouble for the businessmen there that they refer to you as “the man who turned the world upside down.” We feel such sensationalism has no place in missions. We also deplore the “over-the-wall-in-a-basket” episode at Damascus. We are appalled at your obvious lack of conciliatory behaviour. Diplomatic men are not stoned or dragged out of the city gate or assaulted by furious mobs. Have you ever suspected that gentler words might gain you more friends? For your benefit we enclose a copy of Dalius Carnegus’ book. “How to win Jews and influence Greeks.”
Frankly, Mr Paul, there has been some criticism of your sermons as well. In a recent message you stated: “God forbid that l should glory save in the cross of Jesus Christ.” It seems to us that you ought also to glory somewhat in our national heritage, our denominational programme, the unified budget and our World Federation of Churches. Your sermons are repeatedly criticized as being much too long for the church-going public. We hear that at one place you spoke until after midnight, and a young man was so sleepy that he fell out of the window and broke his neck. You should know that nobody is saved after the first twenty minutes. Our advice to speakers is: “Stand up, speak up and shut up.”
Finally, Dr. Luke the physician reports that you are a thin little man, rather bald, frequently sick, and always so agitated over your churches that you sleep very poorly. He indicates that you pad around the house praying half the night. Our ideal for our applicants is a healthy mind in a robust body. We believe that a good night’s sleep will give you zest and zip so that you wake up full of zing.
We hesitate to inform you, Brother Paul, that in our experience we have never met a candidate so opposite to the requirements of our mission board. If we should accept you, we would be breaking every principle of current missionary practice.
Most sincerely yours,
J. Flavius Fluffyhead,
Secretary, Foreign Mission Board.”
If accepting Paul as a missionary would be breaking every principle of current missionary practice, then it becomes obvious that most of those who are accepted lack the crucial ingredients that are necessary. It does not take long to look at the lives and ministries of most of the modern missionaries, church leaders, pastors, evangelists, etc., to see that these are not the right people.
l have an even greater worry. We will soon send missionaries out of Yaoundé to the other towns, provinces and nations. Are people like Paul being prepared for that ministry or have we in the Assembly lovers of security, financial gain, popularity with man, worldly success, talking about “full time” service?
What is it like with you? Are you self-dependent or are you God-dependent? That is a serious question.