The Pastor is Called to Defend the Flock

In Psalm 23, the LORD is pictured as a shepherd who will defend His sheep with His
rod and His staff. Similarly, the pastor as the under-shepherd must be prepared to
defend the flock from the attack of the enemies.

This picture of the pastor as the defender of the flock is alluded to by Paul in Acts 20:29
-30. Two groups of men are highlighted. The first group consists of fierce and savage
men from the outside who will attempt to destroy the church. The second group is
subtler. It consists of men who are false brethren who will attempt to subvert from
within. These men are extremely persuasive, fooling others with their sweet words and
teachings. In other portions of the Scripture, Paul warned of men who will give heed to
seducing spirits and teach the doctrine of devils (1 Tim. 4:1). They are men who are
energised by spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12).

How then is the pastor to deal with these foes and to defend the flock? The chief way to
do so is via the ministry of warning. Paul testified to the Ephesians elders, “Therefore
watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one
night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:31) A pastor then must be like a watchman,
warning others of impending danger. He must also indoctrinate the congregation with
sound teaching from the Scriptures, that the flock of God may not be blown by every
wind of doctrine, or deceived by the sleight of cunning men (Eph. 4:14). On the other
hand, he must be prepared to rebuke sharply all who deal falsely with doctrine. There is
no room for error in the church.

Another portrayal of the minister is that of the soldier (2 Timothy 2:3-4; Philippians
2:25; Philemon 2). Paul charged Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:18, “This charge I commit
unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that
thou by them mightest war a good warfare” (1 Tim. 1:18). This picture of the pastor is
a stark reminder that his work involves spiritual warfare, and that he must be brave and
hardy for the battle.

A pastor therefore must be ready to die for the flock, and to earnestly contend for the
faith that was once and for all given unto the saints (Jude 3). Reformation is an
ever-going battle.

The Pastor’s is Called to Pray

While there is much emphasis in literature on the pastor’s ministry in the Word, there is
sometimes neglect in mentioning his duty in prayer. In Acts 6, when the prototypes of
the deacons were appointed to minister to the needs of the Greek-speaking Jewish
widows of the church, the Apostles explained that their duty was to give themselves
wholly “to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). A pastor must therefore
pray without ceasing. Spiritual work can only be done by the enabling grace of God!
The Apostle Paul often set aside time to pray for the believers. This was true even when

he was in prison. “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not
cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge
of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” (Col. 1:9) “Wherefore
also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of
this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the
work of faith with power.” (2 Thess. 1:11)

The Pastor is Called to Minister the Sacraments
The Lord instituted water baptism and the Lord Supper as the two ordinances
which the church should observe. The pastor is therefore called to minister of
these sacraments to the benefit of God’s people.

The Holy Communion is instituted in remembrance of the Lord’s death till
Christ comes (1 Cor. 11:26). It is vital that the minister understands that the
Lord’s Supper is more than just a memorial but a spiritual exercise as well. The
evidence of this is seen in 1 Corinthians where those who abused the Lord’s
Supper were taken home by the Lord in judgement. On the positive side, when a
Christian partakes of the ordinances worthily in faith, the spiritual presence of
Christ is very much at work in his heart.

Lessons Learnt During Quarantine Order

The recent period during the quarantine order caused me to reflect on God’s
Word in Leviticus 13-14. These two chapters gives various instructions on how
the Israel was to deal with various contagious skin diseases, especially leprosy.
Firstly, while these two chapters deal with skin diseases, the emphasis is always
on the spiritual. The priests are called to make a judgment according to the steps
given by the Lord. This evaluation will affect the lives of those who had the skin
conditions. If they swayed from God’s Word, and had made the wrong
evaluation, the lives of the people will be gravely damaged. On the other hand, if
they made the right evaluation, it will benefit the lives of the people, and the
spread of the disease will be contained.

However, it is not an easy task to make a pronouncement on a person’s health
condition. If the evaluation is that the disease is contagious, the person will have
to be quarantined and be in exile, leading to the separation and breaking up of
the family. Yet, it is necessary to make this pronouncement in the promotion of
the health of the family as well as the nation. Partiality will ruin the nation. The
priest thus must have the spiritual fortitude and integrity to make the right
judgement, as this will affect the physical and spiritual health of the nation.
We must also understand that the right evaluation is always based upon God’s
Word. If the priests were corrupt, and let other passions hold sway, the disease
will spread, and this will destroy the witness of Israel. How will they be able to
witness for Israel if much of the nation is floored by the great skin plague?

This principle holds true for us today. As believers, we are all priests who are
called to be our brother’s keepers. It is our duty to make loving and careful
evaluations of one another, so that we can help one another be in good spiritual
health and strength. This assessment must not be based on worldly criteria, but
founded on the principles in the Scriptures. Do not be hypocritical in your
judgment (Matt. 7:1-5) but judge righteous judgment (John 7:24; Matt. 7:6). Let
us be one another’s keepers, and do it lovingly in the truth.

The need for good judgment is even more critical for those who are called to the
leadership of the church. Pastors and elders must base their judgment always on
the truth. They must not be partial, nor succumb to situational ethics. There may
be times where there is a need for discipline and separation. This will inevitably
cause hurt. Yet they must be aware that it is sin that has caused the hurt, and not
the decision that is based on God’s Word. It is only when sin is addressed that
restoration can take place. And when the sinner is restored, will there not be joy
in his heart, knowing that he is now in a right fellowship with God? Therefore,
the judgment of leaders must always be righteous and impartial. Otherwise, that
will destroy the people of God. And that is not true love.

With regards to the quarantine order, it all started when my wife had a little
sniffle. I am thankful that due diligence was taken to do a precautionary ART, for
it was discovered that she was infected with COVID-19. If it was just neglected,
would we ever know? It could have been too late, by which others could have
been infected. We should not ignore even a light sniffle. Is this also not true in
the spiritual sense?

I am also thankful for the procedure of the isolation. Even though we were
husband and wife, but the law cuts through all such relations. The impartial
decision is for the infected to be isolated in a room with a bathroom facility,
while the close household contact be quarantined in the rest of the residence. We
dearly missed each other. However, this was necessary to keep the rest of the
uninfected household clean and to prevent further community spread. This
principle of separation, which holds true for physical diseases, surely is more so
in the spiritual domain. We must always remember that a little leaven leaveneth
the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6; Gal. 5:9). Do not let spiritual impurity fester, even if
it is a little, or it can soon turn to a disaster. Biblical separation must be done
when necessary, and when done in the right spirit, will yield a good end.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew