The Pastor and Many Sins
By: Deji Yesufu
This Sunday, at Providence Reformed Baptist Church, Ibadan, I will be teaching a topic “Christ as Our High Priest”. The sermon will be part of a series I have been doing since December last year on the foundations of the Christian Faith. I recognize that our church is fledgling and I want to rest it comfortably on some core truths of the Bible. The subject of Christ as High Priest is key because it reveals a central truth of how Jesus Christ deals with the subject of sin in the life of the Christian.
When you have been in church long enough, you discover quickly that the people you associate with are sinful people. If you do not allow your self righteousness to send you away from church, you realize suddenly that you are just as sinful as these people.
This is where the job of the High Priest comes in: our Lord brings the benefits of his death and resurrection, applies it to everyone of us in church and there we find forgiveness of our sins. This is how John puts it in his Epistles: 1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” John equates fellowship with cleansing from sin. I think he simply assumed that we know that fellowship will breed individual sin, which should lead to individual repentance, mutual forgiveness and the overall cleansing by Christ.
As all of these is going on in church, one man oversees the process. That man is called the pastor. The Christian pastor, in a manner, will approximate to what a Jewish high priest is. The only difference is this: while the Jewish high priest oversees the process of animal sacrifices, by which the people find cleansing from sin, the Christian pastor reminds his congregation of the cross of Christ by which their sins have been forgiven. Hebrew tells us that the sacrifice of the death of Christ are better than all the sacrifices of bulls and goats the Jews used to offer (Hebrew 9:23). The Pastor takes the graces we have found in the gospel and presses them on the conscience of his people, while at the same urging them on the path of sanctification and holiness.
I had originally wanted to write on S. L. A. N. D. E. R, that grave sin that pervades the realms of many Christian communities but I relented and I will tell you why I did. A few days ago, in our family morning worship, we read the story of how David left his home as he fled from Absalom his son. While people flocked to the king to offer him succour in his time of need, Ziba, Saul’s servant, now working for Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, came to David with food for his household. David asked Ziba: where is Mephibosheth? Ziba said Mephibosheth is now rejoicing over David’s predicament: that now he can have his grandfather’s kingdom back. We will learn later that that was a lie. Ziba slandered Mephibosheth to gain acceptance with David and he succeeded.
Slander is giving a false report on a person so as to gain some advantage over another – which this other person could bring. Now, here is the real challenge: slander is not exactly always false reporting. Sometimes it is UNNECESSARY reporting. It is telling a matter which is true but not necessary; but we realize that by giving this report on that person, they reduce in the esteem of others; so that we may increase in the esteem of the people we are talking to. It was Peter Masters who, in the book “God’s Rules for Holiness”, while expounding the ten commandments, came to “thou shall not kill”, explained that slander was murder. I did not write on the subject of slander any more because I realized that as much as I have been slandered in many Christian communities, I have also slandered others. More than writing an article on slander, I needed to repent before God, even as the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sins – because of his great work as the High Priest, who now operates in a heavenly temple.
So, the Christian pastor can be equated to the Jewish priest. The priest offers up sacrifices for both his own sins and the sins of the people (Hebrew 5:3). The pastor’s greatest weapon in ministry is therefore not eloquence in preaching; it is not deft management skills; it is even not a pious life – as important as all these are. The pastor’s greatest weapon in ministry is a realization that his sins have been forgiven and he must bring his own congregation to a place of repentance, and to continue to press the need for holiness in the life of the congregation. It does not mean that slander will end in church; it only means that we all will increase in discerning it in both ourselves and others.
The picture attached to this article are those of Rev. Aniekan Ekpo. Most readers of this article will recognize him as the man who ordained me into ministry. Five years ago, I received a call from a dear brother in Christ, who spoke to me for three hours about Pastor Ani. Many of the things he said in that phone call were not false but most of them were unnecessary. They were information calculated to reduce the esteem of that dear man of God in my eyes. And while he didn’t say this, I kept my distance from Aniekan Ekpo. Until I also was slandered and I realized that it was all a vicious circle. Here’s the reality: the sins of God’s people are not only forgiven by God, they are also covered. And where love reigns, Christians will cover each other’s sins no matter how numerous they are. This is why Jesus Christ, our great high priest, call us to love one another. (John 13:34). If we love each other, we will forgive our individual sins and we will cover unnecessary information on each other; information when revealed reduces our esteem before one another. I believe this is what “one anothering” consist of.
I have a colleague in the office who is bent on letting everyone know that I am now a pastor. I try to explain to her that the office is a secular environment, where the title “pastor” is not necessary. She reminds me that as far as she is concerned, I am the “real” pastor. I understand what she is saying. She was witness to my studying hard during my seminary years; turning in paper after paper to my teachers. She has seen some of our missionary efforts; etc. She believes that one who pays the price for something should not be denied having it. If I have one person who is giving me positive publicity, in the midst of so many negative ones, I should thank God for it.
The work of a pastor is immense. It is doubly so in an environment of such deep lack of biblical truths. The pastor must teach the congregation knowledge. He must help them to realize the depth of sin in both society and in our individual lives. The pastor must then apply the balm of Gilead to the wound of the people’s sin, telling them that Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, still offers sacrifices for the sins of the people. When Christ has forgiven our sins, what sin is left for us to retain? Unforgiveness is a grave evil. And if Christ has covered our sins, what sins are there for us to tell? Slander is an equally great evil. The true pastor, after he has shown the people the way of salvation, must then remind them that the sacrifice on the cross was for both him and all the congregation. There is no pastor who does not sin. As the congregation prays for their pastor to succeed in ministry, they must also willingly and gracefully forgive him of his sin… so that the blood of Jesus will cleanse us all from sin.