"I love the church of God."
For the Church. This phrase ought to be an inspiration, and consolation, to every local church pastor to keep on going, especially when ministry life gets tough. Indeed, it is necessary to remember that the building up of God’s church is one of the greatest goals of all. Spurgeon knew this too, so he exhorted ministers to “Labour, then, for God’s sake, for the Church’s sake for your own sake, to serve the Lord with all humility.” In all seasons a true minister must live life, for better and for worse, with the local church he is called to shepherd.
Furthermore, Spurgeon said, “If you plan to be lazy, there are plenty of avocations in which you will not be wanted; but, above all, you are not wanted in the Christian ministry.” Rather, “If you love the church of God, you will share her joys; but when she passes through the dark defiles of persecution, or the rushing waters of discord, you will mourn with her.” Thankfully, throughout history God has raised up men who were for the Church. Spurgeon was no exception. He loved the local church, and it showed in his ministry.
First, Spurgeon believed that being for the church required doctrinal teaching in the local church. In a day when doctrine was downplayed, Spurgeon stood as an immortal example of teaching and preaching doctrine in an accessible way. After all, he famously told his students, “The Lord Jesus did not say ‘Feed my giraffes,’ but ‘Feed my sheep.’ We must not put the fodder on a high rack by our fine language, but use great plainness of speech.”
Indeed, Spurgeon labored to make the great truths of the Bible understandable to the common man. In his day ministers were notorious for speaking with lofty rhetoric inaccessible to the lay people. Spurgeon objected to this practice, instead declaring, “Feed all classes, my brethren, that is your main work; mind that you not only act good food for the sheep, but feed them with it.” He knew that if he did not speak with plain language people would be ignorant of the Scriptural truths vital for spiritual growth.
Second, Spurgeon believed that being for the church demanded personal holiness. In fact, he loved holiness, and he both modeled and encouraged holy living for all in the Church. For Spurgeon, this was especially true for ministers. On the subject he said, “Recollect, as ministers, that your whole life, your whole pastoral life especially, will be affected by the vigor of your piety.” But this is also true for all believers, not just ministers. All believers are to strive after holiness. Spurgeon understood that “Holiness is truth; but sin is a lie,” and though sin “feigns a heaven” it “inflicts a real hell.” Charles knew that only through seeking holiness could the members of a local church live lives pleasing unto God. This was especially true for personal evangelism, as Spurgeon said, “If you would be a soul-winner…see that you live the gospel.” Furthermore, advocated for corporate “holy living,” he believed that “with your holy living as leverage, we will move the world.”
Finally, Spurgeon believed that being for the church meant leading the sheep from orthodoxy to orthopraxy. While some believed that doctrinal teaching would lead to cold, dead living, for Spurgeon nothing could be further from reality. He said, “Every truth leads towards holiness,” while “every error of doctrine, directly or indirectly, leads to sin.” Thus, sound teaching would lead to the joyous practice of doctrine. Correct doctrine rightly applied would change one’s life. And so Spurgeon exhorted his church to “Be dogmatically true, obstinately holy, immovably honest, desperately kind, fixedly upright.”
However, Spurgeon knew that simply learning sound doctrine was not enough. He warned, “Put no confidence in the mere fact that you hold to an orthodox faith, for a dead orthodoxy soon corrupts.” But while doctrine alone was not enough, it was still essential. Spurgeon’s solution, like many before him, was to tear down the “dividing wall” between doctrine, duty, and delight. For Spurgeon orthodoxy and orthopraxy came together in love for Jesus Christ. Indeed, as he said, “I love the doctrines of grace, I love the church of God, I love the Sabbath, I love the ordinances; but I love Jesus most. My heart never rests until I can glorify God personally, and give thanks unto the Christ personally.” By teaching doctrine well, striving after holiness, and modeling comprehensive obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, Spurgeon painted a portrait of a minister who was truly for the church.
Edward G. Romine is a Residency Ph.D. student in historical theology studying Spurgeon at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. He received his Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been a preacher of the gospel since 2007. He currently serves as a Research Assistant at The Spurgeon Library.