Pastors face some interesting temptations in ministry. Few are greater than the pull to find their acceptance with God based on “successful” they are in ministry. A Sunday with a high attendance leads to a great afternoon of the pastor felling like he did a good job. Then a low attendance the next week results in feelings of insecurity and frustration.
Jared Wilson knows these temptations well and seeks to address them in The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Pastoral Ministry. He is the Pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. In the last few years, I have greatly benefitted from his books Gospel Wakefulness and Gospel Deeps.
Jared introduced his work by describing his own call to the ministry and the increasing insecurity that he faced in his early years in ministry. He understands that this tendency towards insecurity is an occupational hazard in the ministry and shares statistics that show many of the difficulties that pastors face. Instead of turning to some kind trick or tip to help pastors conquer this problem, Jared points to the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross as the answer for the temptations that pastors face.
The first half of The Pastor’s Justification is an exposition of Peter’s injunction to elders in 1 Peter 5:1-11. His exposition of the passage looks at the commands in the passage through the lens of the Gospel and applies them to the heart and life of a Gospel minister. In doing so, he shows the tremendous work to which the pastor has been called while helping him to understand that he has not been called to be superman. The pastor is a Christian first. He is a man who has been justified before God by faith in Jesus, but he is not Jesus. He leads the congregation, but he is under no pressure to be it’s savior.
The final five chapters examine the work of pastoral ministry in light of the five solas of the Reformation. Pastors do ministry with the Scriptures feeding our growth as Christians and as the only authority for their preaching. They do ministry relying on God’s grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. This is a freeing truth because pastors are not saving themselves through the ministry. Instead, pastors get to lead their churches as fully justified men. Finally, pastors pastor for the glory of God alone. They do not labor for the praise of men, but for the praise of God alone.
There is much to commend in The Pastor’s Justification. Jared Wilson writes as a pastor who understands the difficulties and temptations that go along with being a pastor. He also recognizes much of the silliness and moralism that gets shoved down pastor’s throats. What he offers instead is an invitation to bask in the grace of King Jesus, and then to shepherd his flock faithfully from our justification and not from our justification.