Today's Expositor's Quote comes from the third of three talks by Ray Stedman on Powerful Expository Preaching. This last talk is entitled "The Accountability of the Preacher:"
[Dr H.A. Ironside] told me when he was a boy in Los Angeles, 14 years of age, . . . he got a job as a helper to a shoemaker -- cobblers, they called them then. . . . [His boss was] a believer, a wonderful, godly man, whose name was Dan. And it was young Harry Ironside's task to take leather which had been soaked all night in a tub of water to toughen it, and then take it on an iron anvil and with a wooden mallet beat the water out of the leather. And by that process so toughen it and yet soften it so that it was both pliable and enduring. . . . But it was a tedious task -- just endlessly beating at leather until all the water was gone. And what made it even more difficult was that just a few doors down the street was another cobbler's shop run by a very godless man, a blasphemous, profane man. And one day Harry Ironside walking by noticed that this man didn't bother to beat the water out of the leather. He'd pick the leather up out of the tub and cut out a piece, and nail it on the shoe with the water splashing in every direction. And one day Harry ventured to stop, and said to him, "Sir, you know I work down the street at Dan's shop, and I noticed that you don't bother to beat the water out of your leather. Why is that?" And he said the man gave him a rather evil wink, and said to him, "Ah, they come back all the quicker this way." So Harry Ironside went back to his shop and he said to his employer, "Sir, why do we do this? It's such a hard job to beat all this water out, it takes so long! And the man down the street says if you just take it out you can put it on the shoe and the customers will all come back quicker this way." Well, he said the old man looked at him. And he didn't say a word. He just took off his apron, and he took him by the hand, led him over to a bench and sat him down. And he said, "Harry, I apologize to you for not having told you more fully what is involved. But you know, son, I expect to see every pair of shoes I've ever made in a big pile at the judgment seat of Christ. And I expect the Lord to take those shoes and go through every one, and examine the work I did. And then I expect, I imagine oftentimes, he'll take one and he'll look at me and say, "Dan, that's not up to par. You didn't do a very good job there." But others, he'll encourage me by saying, "Dan, that was a splendid job." You know, when I make shoes, I keep remembering that. And I want to so make shoes that every shoe I make will pass the judgment of the Lord at the judgment seat of Christ."
Harry Ironside said, "I've never forgotten that. And I resolved in my own heart that every sermon I preach will be able to pass the judgment of my Lord." I've never forgotten that story either. I think all my sermon notes and perhaps videotapes of how I've delivered them are going to be stacked up beside the judgment seat of Christ. And there the Lord is going to go through them and say to me, "Ray, you didn't do so well on this. You shirked your preparation time. You didn't really grasp this passage, did you?" And I'll have to say, Yes, Lord, you know all things. But what I really pray for, and what I really want, and what motivates my heart deeply, is that every message I preach in fear and trembling, with the realization of the poor human vessel the Lord has to work with will nevertheless pass the judgment of the Lord because I depend both in the preparation and in the delivery on the Spirit of the living God and am willing to work at it until I understand what He has to say.
Now I think that's what the apostle Paul is talking about. That's the accountability of a preacher. As underrowers of Christ, obedient to what the captain says, we do our work in view of the judgment seat of Christ.
Ray Stedman, talk delivered at the first Congress on the Bible, San Diego, 1982. A RealAudio recording of this presentation is available at the Peninsula Bible Church web site. A transcription of this talk can be found at this link.
[Will this week's sermon pass the judgment of your Lord? Are you willing to work at it until you understand what He has to say? May we approach this responsibility with fear and trembling this week. Coty]
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