There are only a handful of living pastors who I would trust to write on such an important topic as is the pastorate and the justification of the Pastor. Jared Wilson is one of these men, and he has given a tremendous gift to pastors, seminary students, and laymen alike in the form of his uplifting book on the topic of applying Christ atonement to the work of the pastorate. No other book I’m aware of on the market walks through the many different joys, sorrows, highs, lows, difficulties, obstacles, seasons of growth and excellence, and seasons of doubt and despair like Wilson’s book does. No other book I’ve read on pastoral ministry gives an exposition of 1 Peter 5: 1-11 that encourages, exhorts, and strengthens the resolve of, and admonishes the pastor the way that Wilson’s book does. In fact, he devotes an entire section of the book to this by walking through what he calls “The Pastor’s Heart.”
In the second section, he breaks down the Five Solas of the Reformation and attributes them to “The Pastor’s Glory” in a way that details how the pastorate reflects the glory of God in the day to day ministry struggles and successes. Wilson, an experienced church planter, pastor, teacher, and now leader at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, channels his inner Spurgeon with his love for helping pastors reclaim the joy of ministry throughout the course of their lives. He is gracious and understanding when he needs to be, but all the while carries a serious tone throughout the book that reminds me that pastoral ministry is not for the faint of heart.
In “The Pastor’s Heart” Wilson succinctly walks through 1 Peter 5: 1-11 giving exhortation after exhortation on how the pastor must find his justification in God alone, through Christ alone, and not in the remarks and condescending tone of people in the congregation. Wilson reminds all Pastors that they are free from seeking justification and self-worth from the deacon body.
Wilson reminds Pastors that they are made holy in the eyes of God by their confession of sin and daily repentance, and not in the many books or articles written or speaking engagements had. He reminds them that they are not on some lofty perch, but that they are made low like all of mankind is made low in comparison to the Risen Son. He encourages all pastors no matter how large or small their congregation may be that their confidence doesn’t rest in metrics or how quickly their church is growing, but on how God gives them the confidence and boldness to lead in any situation with gospel integrity and wisdom. This final paragraph from the very first chapter in “The Pastor’s Heart” section entitled “The Free Pastor” really sums up the premise of the entire book as a whole book:
“Pastor, will we seek justification in our reputations? In our church’s numbers and figures? In our retweets and links? In our podcast downloads? In a book deal or speaking engagement? In our own sense of a job well done? This is sand…Or will we look up and out, away from ourselves, away from the fickle fellowship, away from Satan’s accusations and insinuations, up to the right hand of the Father, where our righteousness sits, firmly fixed eternal?…There is your justification, there in Christ, and because in him there is no shadow of turning, you are utterly, totally, undeniably justified. Brother, you are free.
In the second section “The Pastor’s Glory” Wilson walks through how the Five Solas must influence the ministry of the Pastor and shape their understanding that any glory they receive in ministry is ultimately God’s and comes from God. Probably my favorite chapter of the book comes in the first chapter of this section, “The Pastor and the Bible,” where Wilson breaks down the Doctrine of Sola Scriptura and its importance in the ministry of the Pastor.
A Pastor who does not embrace Sola Scriptura is a Pastor who embraces a theology of self, which is not of God. A Pastor who does not preach the Bible, but instead preaches personal ideology infused with cherry-picked Bible verses are not preaching the inerrancy of Scripture but a false narrative and gospel. A Pastor who embraces the Bible, and preaches the Bible is a Pastor who loves the church tremendously despite all its faults. A Pastor, who preaches the Bible, embraces the belief that the means of salvation can only be found in the life, death, resurrection, and ministry of Christ as proclaimed in the Scriptures is a Pastor who is deeply concerned with the salvation of the people entrusted to him by the Chief Shepherd Jesus Christ.
The Pastor who embraces Sola Scriptura embraces grace and truth and not legalism and law in his preaching. Every ministry that a pastor starts hinges on the pastor’s belief in the Bible and grounding his preaching ministry in the authoritative Word. Whether it is a youth ministry, benevolence ministry, orphan care, widow care, missions; all ministries of the church flow from what the pastor preaches from and how he preaches it. Wilson closes out with the idea that when a Pastor gives the congregation the unadulterated message of the Bible heart change happens, lives are transformed, and people are set free from their sinful passions of their former self. The Bible has the power to change lives, and it’s the glory of the Pastor to preach the Bible so that this can occur.
Having had multiple preaching and pastoral ministry classes in seminary no book, I read in those classes comes close to how impactful this one has been. This is a book that I will go to time and time again when I need encouragement or a “check-up” on my heart. Young pastors read this with a teachable heart and mind. Older pastors read and reflect on your years in ministry and how you can still apply the simple truths Wilson draws out from 1 Peter 5. Be encouraged and take to heart the admonition and exhortation interweaved throughout these pages for when you do you will have a deeper love for the ministry and will know the justification of Christ more than ever before.
James Forbis is a graduate of The University of Arkansas, a former Jr. High and High School football coach, and American history teacher. He is completing his M.DIV at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Great Commission Studies and Expository Preaching. He’s a self-proclaimed sweet tea connoisseur and Tex-Mex addict. Most Saturday’s you can find him cheering on his Arkansas Razorbacks, hiking or fishing, or reading up on his favorite subject, the Revolutionary War, or spending time with his wife.