Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The "Darling of Heaven" and the Dignity of Gospel Ministry

Several years ago I learned a new song by Hillsong entitled, "Worthy is the Lamb." It is a simple declaration of the worthiness of our exalted Christ to receive our praise because of His crosswork. It has become a favorite of mine and one that our church has learned to sing with enthusiasm. Here is the chorus:
Worthy is the Lamb
Seated on the throne
Crown You now with many crowns
You reign victorious

High and lifted up
Jesus Son of God
The Darling of Heaven crucified
Worthy is the Lamb
Worthy is the Lamb
Some have stumbled over the words, "Darling of Heaven," believing that this betrays a sappy sentimentalism that is characteristic of our age more than of the Bible. I was never convinced by that critique and find the phrase, though uncommon, not inappropriate. I was heartened by a discovery I made sometime last year when I came across an address by David Bostwick, an 18th century Presbyterian minister, preached in 1758 to the Synod of New York. It is entitled, "The Character and Duty of a Christian Preacher" and has been reprinted in The Christian Pastor's Manual, edited by John Brown and recently reprinted by Soli Deo Gloria.

Bostwick argues in the last part of his message for the character of Christ forming the basis of the dignity of the pastoral office. Consider his words:
If the business of Gospel ministers is, to preach Christ, hence see the honour and dignity of their office. No other than a glorious Christ, the anointed of God, the darling of heaven (my emphasis), and the beloved of angels and saints, is the subject of their ministry; from him their authority and commission is derived, in his valuable interest they are engaged to speak, as "ambassadors in his name and stead." Their office is, therefore, honourable in some proportion to the dignity of the sovereign, from whom they receive commission; the grandeur of the court in whose interest they are employed as ambassadors, and the important errand they have to transact with guilty men. And as they are engaged for Christ, and employed by him to act as ambassadors in his name, he has declared that he will regard the treatment they meet with as if done to himself: "He that receiveth you, says he, receiveth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me, and him that sent me." Were we acting a part for ourselves, and speaking in our own name, and driving on our own self-interests, men might treat us a they pleased; but if we act as ambassadors for Christ, in pursuit of his interest, and in his name and stead, let them take heed how they despise the sacred character we sustain, or neglect the solemn messages we bring.
The authority which a Gospel minister wields is vested and not inherent. Remembering this will help a man resist the temptation to be authoritarian and overbearing (lording it over God's people). It will also embolden him to speak plainly, humbly and unwaveringly all that His Lord has given him in the written Word (declaring the whole counsel of God). When a God-called man stands to preach, he does so in behalf of Jesus Christ--"the glorious Christ, the anointed of God, the darling of heaven, and the beloved of angels and saints." Our desire should be to represent Him well and to deliver His Word accurately and with a passsion and dignity that is commensurate with His own person and work.


pastorleap said...

Thanks Tom...yet another interesting and inspiring post.

Wondered if anyone else has seen the newest issue of Christianity Today yet? I got mine in the mail late yesterday. The cover story (featuring a photo of a T-shirt that reads "Jonathan Edwards is my homeboy") is titled "Young, Restless, Reformed...Calvinism is making a comeback- and shaking up the church!"

The article is rife with praise for Dr. Mohler and SBTS, and emphasizes the impact of the seminary (of which I am a PhD Student, so I am somewhat biased! :-))as well as the impact of Pastor Mark Dever, J. Ligon Duncan, and others.

It only goes to further reinforce in my mind that God is doing something great among this new generation. It is taking place steadily and often silently, but reform IS taking place. This is exactly why the "old guard" is so shaken up. They know something is happening too.

Thanks for your diligent work, may God continue to bless you and the impact you have.


Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. A,

"vested and not inherent" is a very important concept, and one which we as pastors typically forget, or miss altogether. Thank you for sharing that.

Love in Christ,


Joe Tolin said...

Dr. Ascol,
Can I say you hit the nail on the head? I read often but comment little. Preachers should develop and understand the attitude of John the Baptist. Speaking of the Lord Jesus he said, "He must increase, I must decrease." John 3:30. These words should be chiseled into every pulpit.


Joe Tolin said...

Dr. Ascol,
I read often but comment little. Thanks for your work. All preachers, especially we reformed preachers, should develop and feed the attitude of John the Baptist. Speaking of the Lord Jesus he said, "He must increase, I must decrease." (John 3:30) This should be chiseled on every pulpit.


cyd said...

Dear Dr. Ascol:

Jonathan Edwards also used this wonderful phrase in his writings. Here is a favorite example from his sermon titled:


"Consider not only how much the angels set by the glory of Christ, but how much God himself sets by it; for he IS THE DARLING OF HEAVEN, he was eternally God's delight; and because of his glory God hath thought him worthy to be appointed the heir of all things, and hath seen fit to ordain that all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father. Is he thus worthy of the infinite esteem and love of God himself? And is he worthy of no esteem from you?"

I always enjoy reading your blog and appreciate your graciousness.

Cindy B.

WriteDaddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WriteDaddy said...

I used that phrase in my blog - and had one of my readers respond with a bit of uneasiness, too. I see where he is coming from. Doesn't sound too manly. I sure didn't mean to make Jesus seem sappy or feminine. I am a sports fan, and have often heard a popular athlete called "the darling of" this or that.

It does point out how great a responsibility we carry when representing Christ in this world.


kiramethyst said...

Thanks for sharing this!

My church is also uneasy with the phrase "darling of heaven" and decided to change the lyrics to "lamb of heaven". Though I understood their stand, I just felt that they missed the point. And I'm glad that this phrase isn't just something from this generation, but existed from centuries before.