God’s Sovereignty in Ministerial Diversity

I Corinthians 12:4; I Peter 4:11
       Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit…
       If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): In my imagination, I sometimes fancy I could make a perfect minister. I take the eloquence of ———, the knowledge of ———, the zeal of ———, and the pastoral meekness, tenderness, and piety of ———: then, putting them all together into one man, I say to myself, “This would be a perfect minister.” Now there is One, who, if He chose it, could actually do this; but He never did. He has seen fit to do otherwise, and to divide these gifts to every man severally as He will.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Different persons have different gifts and graces.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Look at the flowers. No two are identical. It is in the variety within the fundamental unity that God displays the wonders of His ways. And it is exactly the same in the Christian Church. We are all different, our temperaments are different, we are all ourselves. That is one of the great glories of the Church. God distributes His gifts through the Holy Spirit in divers manners…Think of the difference in preachers preaching the same Gospel and living the same Christian life; yet their manner of presentation is different, and is meant to be different. And God uses these differences in order to spread the Gospel. He can use one man to make the message appeal to a certain type, while another person could not be used in that respect. Different presentations appeal to different people, and rightly so, and God makes use of that.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): It may sometimes happen that a man has heard Paul preach, but his clear doctrine, though it has enlightened his intellect, has not yet convinced his conscience. He has heard Apollos, and the glow of the orator’s eloquent appeals has warmed his heart, but not humbled his pride. He has still later listened to Cephas, whose rough cutting sentences have hewn him down and convinced him of sin; but ere he can find joy and peace in believing, he will require to hear the sweet affectionate words of John.

JOHN NEWTON: The Holy Spirit, who furnishes them all for the work He appoints them to, distributes to each one severally, according to His own will. He communicates a diversity of gifts, not all to one person, but each has a talent given him…and I would no more be tied to act strictly by others’ rules than to walk in shoes of the same size. My shoes must fit my own feet.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Moses was fittest of all to govern Israel, but Bezaleel was fitter than he to build the tabernacle. The common benefit is very much supported by the variety of men’s faculties and inclinations; the genius of some leads them to be serviceable one way, of others another way.

HOWEL HARRIS (1714-1773): I think I never saw the like of George Whitefield in some things; such as strong faith, brokenness of spirit, Catholic love, and true sympathy…And none are like the brethren John and Charles Wesley to press after holiness.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): A writer in the North British Review has well and forcibly described the difference between the two great English evangelists of the [18th] century: “Whitefield was soul, and Wesley was system. Whitefield was the summer cloud which burst at morning a fragrant exhalation over an ample trace, and took the rest of the day to gather again; Wesley was the polished conduit in the midst of the garden, through which the living water glided in pearly brightness and perennial music, the same vivid stream from day to day. All force and impetus, Whitefield was the powder-blast in the quarry, and by one explosive sermon would shake a district, and detach materials for other men’s long work; deft, neat, and painstaking, Wesley loved to split and trim each fragment into uniform plinths and polished stones. Whitefield was the bargeman or the waggoner who brought the timber of the house and Wesley was the architect who set it up. Whitefield had no patience for ecclesiastical polity, no aptitude for pastoral details; Wesley, with a leader-like propensity for building, was always constructing societies, and with a king-like craft of ruling, was most at home when presiding over a class or a conference.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: John Wesley. If ever there was a church disciplinarian it was that man! In his Journals, he records that one occasion he went over to visit a church—the class meeting at Dublin—and when he arrived there he found about six hundred people. Then he began to examine the church members one by one, and when he had finished a few days later, the church numbered three hundred. One wonders sometimes what John Wesley would do today if he returned!

JOHN WESLEY (Sunday, September 9, 1759): I met the society at seven; and told them in plain terms, that they were the most ignorant, self-conceited, self-willed, fickle, untractable, disorderly, disjointed society, that I knew in the three kingdoms. And God applied it to their hearts.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD: I love those that thunder out the word. The Christian world is in a deep sleep. Nothing but a loud voice can awaken them out of it.

HOWEL HARRIS: I see every day that each has his peculiar gifts and talents in the work.

C. H. SPURGEON: You go to one minister and are fed with plenty of good food: another has not enough to feed a mouse; he has plenty of reproof, but no food for the child of God. Another can comfort the child of God, but he cannot reprove a backslider. He has not strength of mind enough to give those earnest home strokes which are sometimes needed…One can wield the sledge hammer but could not heal a broken heart. If he were to attempt it, you would be reminded of an elephant trying to thread a needle. Such a man can reprove, but he cannot apply oil and wine to a bruised conscience. Why? Because God hath not given to him the gift.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): John [the Baptist] preached with much holy austerity, like one mourning; the Son of Man most sweetly, like one piping. There are some Boanerges, “sons of thunder,” alarming and thundering preachers; some Barnabasses, “sons of consolation,” sweetly comforting preachers.

JOHN NEWTON: Different men have different gifts and talents.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD: Some are called to awaken, others to establish and build up.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): God uses coarse wedges for splitting coarse blocks…I am born to fight against innumerable monsters and devils. I must remove stumps and stones, cut away thistles and thorns, and clear the wild forest―I am rough, boisterous, stormy and altogether warlike…but Master Philip [Melancthon] comes softly and gently, sowing and watering with joy.

JOHN WESLEY: How wise is God in giving different preachers different talents!

C. H. SPURGEON: There is Divine Sovereignty in all this, and we must learn to recognize and admire it.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): The ministers of Christ, though one be used in planting and another in watering, one in laying the foundation and another in building thereupon, yet are one; one in their office and work, one in their ministry, being all servants to Christ, who is one; all serving one and the same Lord.

JOHN NEWTON: It is the duty and privilege of Christians to avail themselves of these different talents, to profit by each, to be thankful for all, and to esteem every faithful minister very highly for his work’s sake. You will likewise find advantage, by attending as much as you can on those preachers whom God has blessed with much power, life, and success in their ministry. And in this you will do well not to confine yourself to any denomination or party, for the Spirit of the Lord is not confined.

BROWNLOW NORTH (1810-1875): Let no man, for the sake of denominational difference, lose the vital ministry of a man of God.


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