12:11, "The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails, fastened by the
masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd."
This morning, we desire to discuss the other side of ministerial conduct.
Yesterday we brought forth the thought that Christ is the focus, and the
preacher is not worthy of worship. However, swinging to another point, he is not
to be the subject of disrespect in God's house either. Just as we should not
value him too highly, nor should we value him to low either. Simply put, he is a
man with a gift and calling from God. That makes him unworthy of being praised
but quite commendable by utilizing what the Lord has given him in a profitable
way. So also, what he does that is profitable is many-fold, and while certain
aspects of his function are more desirable than others, yet all the functions
that the Lord has employed are edifying to His people, for the Lord does not err
in that regard.
Quite often, people talk about imbalance from preaching. Sometimes, the
perception is that too much doctrine is being sounded. At other times, too much
duty is complained about. From observation, I have noted that generally
speaking, people are "geared" more towards one or the other. In other words,
just as certain preachers enjoy preaching doctrine more than duty (and vice
versa), so also do certain people enjoy hearing doctrine more than duty (and
vice versa). No matter which way we lean, the fact remains that both are
needful, and neither should be neglected. Another interesting observation is
that the ministers that are most generally enjoyed by all - regardless of the
doctrine or duty preference - are the ministers that seamlessly discuss both in
a beautifully coupled fashion.
Solomon has just stated that the preacher sought acceptable words out of wisdom
(Verses 9-10). In other words, the preacher understands that there are many
things that need discussion and exalting. These things are described in our
verse. These acceptable words are like goads and nails. Each of those
descriptors can illustrate the doctrine/duty concepts we have just discussed.
When we are told what to do, it is much like a goad (cattle prod). When
something needs attention, we often refer to prodding to get the desired result.
Now, the preacher is not to whip, but a goad is certainly part of the teaching
that accompanies things like reproof, correction, and instruction in
righteousness. (II Timothy 3:16-17) But, the words are also like nails that are
fastened in place. When we are told what our Lord has done for us, it is much
like seeing the sure nails going up that everything else hangs upon. Without
these sure foundations, we would be lost and without any hope in the world. With
these foundations, we can take comfort and refuge in One that has loved us and
will love us forever.
So, the scope of a preacher's work is on display as goads and nails, but let us
also consider how the man of God was divinely inspired to illustrate preachers.
Just as duty and doctrine are illustrated as goads and nails, so ministers are
illustrated as masters of assemblies. Just as ministers should not be
worshipped, this language denotes that he should not be handled lightly. What
the Lord has given him (gift to preach - apt to teach) is something that is
needed in the church. The word "masters" has reference to those that can discern
matters or as a husbandman would tend a garden. "Assemblies" are denoted as
congregations where divine things are discussed.
Masters of assemblies are those that tend, watch, keep, and instruct groups with
discussion of divine things. Hardly a description worth neglecting. Now one
might say, "Why hit that point so hard?" Simply put, the root cause of preacher
neglect is the same root cause of preacher worship. Different results but the
same cause. What would drive someone to worship a man instead of the Lord?
Improper focus on the Lord. What would drive someone to neglect or take lightly
the man whom God has sent or raised up? Improper focus on the Lord. Whenever we
dis-value what God has given us, we fail to show trust and confidence in Him.
What is the man whom God called, raised up, and sent? He is a minister to our
needs that acts as a master of assemblies.
Now, he must put forth effort in this regard. Nails do not get nailed and set of
their own accord. Goads do not spring into action all by themselves. They must
be wielded in a wise fashion by one that has been called and placed by God to
utilize them. If he labours honourably, then the title of master of assemblies
is not out of line, for Solomon was inspired to use it. Paul described his own
labour as that of a wise masterbuilder. (I Corinthians 3:10) However, to lay
claim to such a descriptor, Paul was labouring to lay foundations when he
preached. He could not simply show up and say, "Well, I'm an apostle and
therefore a wise masterbuilder." Nor can a man today say, "Well, I'm an
ordained Old Baptist preacher and therefore a wise masterbuilder." There is
evidence of such by manifest labour.
These masters of assemblies actually goaded and nailed. They were not just
titled as such, but their actions demonstrated such. What made them worthy of a
title of master (teacher, husbandman, etc.)? They showed wisdom in teaching,
discernment in instruction, and good sense in labour. If a man does nothing but
goad or does nothing but nail, then he is not acting like a master of assemblies
(wise masterbuilder), but if his yoke is coupled up to these things and the
shoulder put to both of them as needed and when necessary, then he is
exemplifying what God has called him to do and instructed and impressed upon
Lastly, the final phrase shows just how solemn this vocation and position is.
Who is the Giver of these wise men? The same One that gives the man is the same
One that gives the goads and nails for use and instruction: One Shepherd. While
the masters of assemblies must, at times, behave much like shepherds, there is
but one Chief Shepherd that has given both the principles and the preachers. (I
Peter 5:4) This shows yet again how important it is for us to respect God-called
ministers and not lightly esteem them. The Great Shepherd of our souls has
called them and placed them amongst us for edification and instruction in the
ways of righteousness. They are sent to herald the grand story of the Lamb of
God, which never gets old in the telling. They are sent to minister to the flock
those spiritual things that are so needful - just as needful now as ever.
What happens if the One Shepherd withholds the giving of the masters of
assemblies? The logical progression shows a withholding of nails being driven
and goads being exercised. What happens if those things occur? Solomon states in
the Proverbs that the people perish for lack of vision. (Proverbs 29:18) If
there is no master of assemblies, there is not one to instruct in ways of
"vision" that see into the riches of the beauty of Christ and the Father. The
end result is that the people perish: lose the blessings of spiritual enjoyment
in this life. Therefore, even though we are not to worship the man, we should
encourage him in the Lord and thank God for him our lives. How many in this
world have not heard these blessed truths that our ears have heard and our eye
of faith has seen? May we thank the One Shepherd for giving us masters of
assemblies and giving them the right tools for our instruction and edification
in this life.