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Robert Gibson Rayburn was a native of Kansas. He was born and reared in the city of Newton, the son of a well-known evangelist, Dr. James Rayburn. It was under his father’s tutelage that he had his first ministerial experience, while assisting with his father’s evangelistic campaigns.

He was graduated in 1935 from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, and earned two degrees at Omaha Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1938 and 1940. After his first pastorate in Bellevue, Nebraska, where he served from 1938 until 1942, he next went to Dallas, Texas for graduate studies at Dallas Seminary where he received the Th.D. degree in 1944. At the same time he was serving as pastor of the Presbyterian church in Gainesville, Texas. He was also granted the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by Geneva College.

Dr. Rayburn’s ministry in Gainesville was cut short by his entry into the military chaplaincy, serving in the U.S. Army from 1944-1946. During this time, he served overseas in the European Theatre. Upon discharge from the service, he returned to the pastorate following the end of the war and was pastor of the large College Church of Christ (interdenominational) in Wheaton, Illinois from 1946-1950. However, he was recalled to military service during the Korean War and served as a chaplain with the paratroopers of the 187 th Airborne Regiment, 1950-1952. His experiences in that conflict he recorded in one of his books, Fight the Good Fight.

Returning again to civilian life, Dr. Rayburn accepted the presidency of Highland College in Pasadena, California, and served there from 1952-1956. A division of the old Bible Presbyterian denomination brought about the formation of Covenant College, and Dr. Rayburn was drafted to lead this new school as its president. One year later, Covenant Theological Seminary officially began, and by this time, the property in St. Louis had been purchased and both schools were situated on this property in St. Louis. Amazingly, it was during this very busy time that Dr. Rayburn was also pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian church in Hazelwood, Missouri, from 1958-1962. Growth in the two schools finally prompted the relocation of Covenant College to Lookout Mountain, Tennessee in 1964. Dr. Rayburn remained as president of the Seminary until his retirement in 1977. In all, he served as president of the College for eleven years and the Seminary for 21 years. Following his retirement, he continued to minister at the Seminary as professor of Practical Theology and as the Director of the Doctor of Ministry program. Following a long battle against cancer, Dr. Rayburn died on 5 January 1990.

Thus we have the biography of Dr. Rayburn. And here, excerpted from Koinonia: The Organ of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Roorkee, U-P, India, [vol. 4, no. 2 (April 1978), pages 1-3], is a short article of his on the place and value of preaching.  Something to think about in these troubling times.

The Place of Preaching
by Dr. Robert G. Rayburn

Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones in his recent book called Preachers and Preaching states in the opening paragraph his conviction that “the most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the church it is obviously the greatest need in the world also.”  He then goes on to say that the primary task of the Church, and of every Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God.

I would like to go a step beyond Dr.Lloyd-Jones’ statement and say that not only for the Christian minister, but also for every individual Christian the preaching (proclama­tion) of the Word of God itself is, next to his worship, his primary task.

We live in a day when evangelicals are placing more and more stress on the social implications of the gospel.  One cannot read the Scriptures without agreeing that those implications are there.  But such implications do not give us the direction for our primary emphasis.

Our Lord Himself has given us the great example and pattern for our lives.  He was deeply concerned with the physical and material need of men.  He performed many miracles of healing.  He never ignored the physical needs of those who came to Him for help.  But He did not come to heal the sick, to open the eyes of the blind, or to give soundness to the limbs of crippled men.  He came to save the lost.  His own words were:  “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19 : 10).  That which He considered primary is clearly evident when the four men brought their sick friend to Jesus and let him down through the roof of the house.  The Lord was preach­ing there; He was undoubtedly preaching about saving faith in Him.  When He saw the faith of the four men His first words to the paralytic were, “Son, your sins are for­given.”  This was the matter of first impor­tance.  Then, however, when questioned by the scribes about His power to forgive, He said, “That ye may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat, and go home,” and the man was healed.  Salvation was first; healing second.

Not only, however, do we learn of the primacy of preaching from our Lord.  It is evident in ths lives of the Apostles, and also in the practice of the early Church.  As soon as the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost they began not to heal the sick nor to aid the poor, but to preach the gospel of salvation.  Peter’s great sermon on that occasion is preserved for us in part.  It must be pointed out that as soon as people began coming to Christ and being converted by the thousands, the authorities did everything they could to stop these men from preaching.  There was not a word of complaint about the miracles of healing they had performed.  Thev were forbidden to preach!  “Speak no more henceforth in His name” (Acts 4:18 and 5:40)

In Acts 8 we read that there was a great persecution.  This came, of course, because of their preaching!  Then they were all scattered, except the Apostles, and “they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word”.  This was not the Apostles; it was the company of believers.  They were not preaching in a formal way from a pulpit as our pastors do today.  Theirs was the kind of preaching which every earnest Christian is responsible to carry on.

We speak a great deal about witnessing today.  We usually mean giving our own personal testimony concerning the Lord’s work in our hearts.  This is important, but something more than this is before us in Acts 8.  The believers were telling the good news of salvation through Christ. Every one of us must be equipped to convey clearly and forcefully the message from God which we call the gospel.

It is not enough for us just to study the Bible and learn what its message is.  To understand its fulness requires a lifetime of study.  But the very heart of the message is the divine program of redemption, of salvation from sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  To preach this message clearly, simply, appealingly, accurately and faithfully is the responsibility of every believer and we all should make sure we are prepared for this high task.  True preaching ought not only to instruct the hearers in Biblical truth, but it also should bring men and women face to face with their own need in the light of the realities of sin and guilt, salvation and eternal  life and then it should appeal to them to trust God and obey Him.  Many who read these words will never be called of God to be professional preachers.  However, if you are a true believer and are obedient to Christ you will have a great desire to obey Him with respect to preaching the gospel and you will take steps to perfect your knowledge of and ability to declare the gospel.

If you are concerned to please God in your preaching you will be careful to make your preaching pre-eminently evangelistic.  By this I mean that you will be continually presenting a Saviour to sinful men.  No ordained minister has a nobler function than this.  Jesus came to save sinner’s, to preach the gospel to the poor.  To be evangelical one does not need to be traditional, but he must be informed and intelligent.

Remember that the Gospel is not a nice message for some men.  It is an absolute necessity for all men!  Why?  Because of human sin, sorrow and suffering, not because of social inequalities and the frustrations and failures of human relationships.  That which is behind all social problems of every age is sin.  The message that we preach then must be a message which offers salvation from sin.  We do not need to prove that there is sin in the world.  Conscience, experience, and history prove that well enough.  What is necessary, however, is convincing men who want to deny it that their own sinfulness is so severe that their onlv hope is receiving the salvation God has provided through the shed blood of His Son.

In trying to convince men of their sin it is not wisest to pick out such sins as drunken­ness, dishonesty and adultery to get men to see their personal sinfulness.  Emphasizing such sins may leave some without any sense of guilt.  What we must show men is the secrecy, the subtlety of sin, its ability to appear attractive and harmless.  Our Lord’s most severe words were not addressed to the drunkaids nor to the adulterers, but to people who were respected for their outward moral­ity and religiousness, while their hearts were unclean.  To be more concerned with per­sonal success, prosperity and pleasure than bringing glory to God, that is sin!  To harbor in our hearts attitudes of antagonism and animosity for others, and a willingness to see them lose out if we can gain by their loss, this is evil!  Anything which is contrary to the holy character of God is sin.

Of course, if we are to be truly evangelical we must be able, having aroused men to a consciousness of sin, to make clear and win­some the nature of salvation by showing them the love of God the Father and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Because man is a helpless, hopeless sinner, salvation, if it is a true and adequate salvation, must make him right with God.  If he sees himself in his sin he must also see how completely God has provided the remedy for his sin through the blood of His Son. If you are going to be faithful to your task of preaching the Gospel, a few worn cliches will never serve adequately to present to dying men the wonders of God’s great salvation.  May you give yourself whole­heartedly to the task of being prepared to preach with power.

The Main Purpose for Life
by Rev. David T. Myers

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It seems there are noteworthy people and events to point to for every day of the calendar. But for this day of January 13, we would instead like to turn our attention to the magnificent answer of our Confessional fathers in The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question no. 1. — What is man’s chief end?  Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

The framers of this short answer were concerned about the ”chief” end of man.  There could, and should, be other purposes for both faith and life.  Indeed, every person, and certainly every Christian, should be aware of these purposes as they relate to life in the home, vocation, the church, and society at large.  When changes come into your life, such as a birthday, anniversary, a new calendar year, or even the anniversary of conversion, a time of self-examination is afforded to assess progress in fulfilling these purposes.  But in and through all of these milestones, this all-encompassing chief purpose should be your guide.

The first aspect of your chief and highest aim in life is “to glorify God.”  Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians, “whether, then you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NASB)  And that prince of Bible expositors, John Calvin, further defines this glory of God by stating that “the glory of God is when we know that He is.”  But beyond seeing the divine glory in the revelation of Who He is as Creator and Redeemer, we are also given an answer as to how are to respond in our glorification of God.

» Image, above right: An edition of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, published by the London Sunday-School Union.  J. Rider, Printer, Little Britain, undated [ca. 1803-1810], 63 p.; 10.3 cm. »

Jesus prayed in His high priestly prayer, “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou has given me to do.” (John 17:4)  Jesus reflects on his ministry, considering how He had fulfilled His eternal purpose in coming to earth.  Likewise, our chief end in glorifying God is to finish the work which God’s Spirit has called us to do, in the home, our calling in life, through the church, and in society at large.

Our other chief purpose in life is to enjoy God forever.  The psalmist Asaph meditates on this aim when he wrote, “Whom have I in  heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth.” (Psalm 73:25) We are to delight in our God on earth as we shall do in heaven.  That translates out to delighting in God’s Word, the Bible, by  worshiping Him publicly and privately, enjoying His day, the Christian Sabbath, set aside for Him, and fulfilling our calling as spiritual sons and daughters of God in the family, our calling in life, through the church, and in the world at large.

Words to Live By:  By memorizing this answer, the reader will be able to do a quick check of this chief purpose in the words, thoughts, and actions of his/her life.  Use this time of reflection in some meditation, then prayer, and then action to resolve to glorify God and enjoy him this day, tomorrow, the next day, and into the next week, month, and year.

A Sermon on the Virgin Birth
by Rev. David T. Myers

Preaching on a Communion Sunday on January 12, 1997, the Rev. J. Ligon Duncan, then senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi gave an interesting illustration from C.S. Lewis on the Virgin Birth of Christ.  Duncan recounts:

“There is a story that one day C.S. Lewis was sitting in his office in the English department when a friend, who was an unbeliever, wandered in.  There were carolers below in the courtyard singing Christmas carols, and as the two were speaking, they could hear them singing a Christmas carol that contained words about Jesus’ Virgin Birth.  His unbelieving friend said to C.S. Lewis, ‘Isn’t it good that we know more than they did?’  C.S. Lewis  said, ‘What do you mean?’  ‘Well, isn’t it good that we now know that virgins don’t have babies.’  C.S. Lewis looked at him incredulously and said, ‘Don’t you think that they knew that?  That’s the whole point.’”

Rev. Duncan continued by saying, “you see my friends, the fact that Jesus is born of a virgin is intended to surprise.  There is no example of this happening before in Scripture.  There is no precursor to this in Scripture.  It is intended to be completely unique to set forth who Jesus is.  The Virgin birth sets forth the divinity of Christ and His sinless humanity.  And without that doctrine of the virgin birth, these all-important truths are compromised.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that the doctrine of the Virgin Birth is unimportant.  It is taught in the Bible and it has always been believed by God’s people and therefore it is important.  It is important because it sets forth His divinity and His sinless humanity.”

Words to Live By: To deny the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ is to deny His divinity and His sinless humanity.  J. Gresham Machen wrote on this important doctrine back in the early part of the twentieth century.  What he wrote then is just as important today.  Machen’s final treatise on the subject is available on the web, here, or may be purchased in a print edition, here. This remains an important Scriptural truth that must be declared and defended in an unbelieving age.

« Dr. Machen’s earliest publication on the doctrine of the virgin birth appeared in The Princeton Theological Review, 3.4 (October 1905): 641-670. Click here to view the entire article. Part 2 was published in January, 1906, and can be viewed here.

Feed My Sheep!

Several years ago on this day, January 11th, we offered a post concerning the pastoral charge brought by the Rev. John Mathews in 1818, at the ordination and installation of the Rev. Wells Andrews as pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, Alexandria, Virginia. In particular, we focused on the concluding exhortation to the congregation to pray for their new pastor.

We return to that pastoral charge today, but now look at another section of this sermon, where Rev. Mathews examines, by way of contrast, the several types of pastors who are in reality wolves feeding on the sheep. In his charge to the pastor, Rev. Mathews begins with a quick summary of some of the chief requisites of one who would enter the ministry. He must of course be able to speak, and to speak well; he must exhibit sound judgment and common sense; he must be one who has the benefit of learning and particularly must be acquainted with theology. All these are requisite, but Mathews concludes that above all, piety is the chief requisite, and it is here that he then brings out the contrasting patterns of false shepherds—those who in reality feed themselves, not the sheep—and so Mathews provides us with a useful set of categories or types of that error. This section of the sermon concludes with a brief portrait of the true under-shepherd of the Lord’s people. A link to the full document is provided at the end of this post :—

The chief qualification, however, for usefulness, in the pastoral office, is piety; genuine, fervent. The powers of darkness never wielded, against the cause of Christ, a more dangerous weapon than an irreligious clergyman; especially if the garb of morality conceals from public view the base infidelity of his heart. His learning and talents only render him the more dangerous. His ministrations can only increase the torpor of spiritual death among the flock committed to his charge.

In him the love of religion can have no place; he must, therefore, be influenced by some selfish and mercenary motive. Perhaps the revenue of the church, his yearly salary, is all the reward he desires. Or if ambition should be his ruling passion; if he thirst for literary fame, then he will permit his hearers to sink quietly down to perdition, provided they depart with the language of adulation to his vanity on their lips. Or perhaps he claims to be distinguished as a man of zeal; then no sacrifices, not even compassing sea and land, will be too great to gain proselytes. His learning and talents will be employed in biting and devouring those on whom his efforts prove ineffectual. But if he can succeed in teaching the shibboleth of his party, and drill his followers in all the routine of external forms, then his work is accomplished, and he expects his reward.

From such a scourge, may the Lord, in mercy, preserve His Church! and send her pastors after His own heart, who shall feed her children with knowledge and understanding, whose experimental acquaintance with religion will qualify them to guide others in their passage from death unto life; whose temptations, and sorrows, and trials will qualify them to sympathize with their people when tempted, afflicted and distressed; whose acquaintance with the Saviour, whose hope in His mercy, will dispose them, in the most inviting terms, to recommend him to others as a willing and all sufficient Saviour; whose closets will often witness with fervor and humble importunity of their private devotions for the success of their ministry; whose people, though they perish in unbelief, will yet be constrained to confess that they were solemnly and repeatedly warned! to flee from the wrath to come!

Words to Live By:
Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?—Ezekiel 34:1-2

Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I the Lord have spoken.—Ezekiel 34:23-24

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. . . I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.—John 10:11, 14-15, KJV.

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.—John 21:17, KJV.

For Further Study:
The full pastoral charge can be accessed here:—
The duties of the pastoral office : a sermon, delivered in the Second Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, at the ordination of Wells Andrews, January 11, 1818, before the Presbytery of Winchester.

Good counsel in our post today, an excerpt from the diary of the Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway, a prominent Philadelphia pastor in the early 19th-century.

J.J. Janeway

Politics ran high, and Philadelphia was the headquarters of the excitement. The old federal party was fast losing its power. “War with Great Britain was advocated by one party, and deprecated by the other. The rancorous debates were unfavourable to religion, and the hopes of the pious were mocked then, as they have been since. Dr. Janeway would have been more than than human, not to have felt some of the influences around him. But we see from his journal, the jealous guard he maintained over his heart.

January 10, 1808, Sabbath.

“Praise to God for prolonging my life to another year. Oh! may this year be spent in the service of my God. Make thy grace, O my God, sufficient for me, and thy strength perfect in my weakness. At the commencement of the year I felt not right; may the latter end be better than the beginning. In conversing on politics, I am too apt to be too engaged, and to feel too keenly. May God give me grace to govern my temper and conversation, and preserve me from taking too great an interest in them. In the heat of debate, I am urged to say what is imprudent and unbecoming. Two instances of such behaviour have occurred last week. May no more occur. I fear lest our expectation of a revival of religion, may not be realized. O Lord God, let the blessing come, and bestow on us a spirit of prayer, that we may wrestle and prevail. Hope, still hope, my soul.”

LIFE OF DR. J. J. JANEWAY, pp. 130-131.

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