Installation Sermon for Tyler Williams

(The following is a sermon I preached today at the installation service of Tyler Williams as pastor of the church of which I am a member, Greenfield Baptist Church. For those who are not local, I note that Tyler is a former colleague of mine at Taylor University College and Seminary. Tyler taught Old Testament and other biblical courses in the university college. He is an outstanding biblical scholar, and I believe he will prove to be an amazing pastor. It was an honor for me to be asked to deliver the sermon for his installation service. With his permission, I am posting the transcript of this message to the blog. I post this because it is an example, however imperfect, of a sermon that relies heavily on biblical theology, or, at least, one way of doing biblical theology. May the Lord richly bless the ministry of Greenfield’s new pastor, Tyler Williams.)

There are two texts that form the basis for the message this morning: Psalm 68:1-4, 17-20, 32-35, and Ephesians 4:1-16.

Psalm 68:1-4, 17-20, 32-35

1May God arise,
may his enemies be scattered;
may his foes flee before him.

2As smoke is blown away by the wind,
may you blow them away;
as wax melts before the fire,
may the wicked perish before God.

3 But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God;
may they be happy and joyful.

4 Sing to God, sing praise to his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds—his name is the LORD—
and rejoice before him.

* * * * * * *

17 The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands;
the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary.

18 When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train;
you received gifts from men, even from the rebellious—
that you, O LORD God, might dwell there.

19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.

20 Our God is a God who saves;
from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.

* * * * * * *

32 Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth,
sing praise to the Lord,

33 to him who rides the ancient skies above,
who thunders with mighty voice.

34 Proclaim the power of God,
whose majesty is over Israel
whose power is in the skies.

35 You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary;
the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.
Praise be to God!

Ephesians 4:1-16

1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—

5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;

6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”

9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?

10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,

12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.

15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Psalm 68 rehearses the way in which God, after he led his people out of Egypt, then led them through the wilderness and into the promised land, and goes on to tell how subsequently God established himself as king over all Israel, setting up his holy throne in the temple in Jerusalem.  The psalm recounts how God accomplished this by defeating his and Israel’s enemies all along during the history of the people of Israel.  Though the psalm provides us no specific names, dates, or locations, we should probably understand that God is praised here for all the great victories he has won, defeating all his enemies, and establishing Israel securely in the land, and then ultimately providing a home, a temple, a royal palace, for himself in Jerusalem, where he might symbolically dwell among his people.  So the enemies referred to in this psalm probably include the Egyptians whom God drowned in the Red Sea, the Amalekites and Amorites and Midianites whom God defeated in the wilderness, the Canaanites whom God drove out by the hand of Joshua in the promised land, the Midianites, Moabites, Philistines, and other peoples whom God defeated during the days of the judges.  And it probably also refers to all the nations David defeated as he accumulated gold, silver, precious metals, and all kinds of plunder from that warfare to be used in the construction of the temple that his son Solomon would build.

At one point in the psalm we come across these words:

18 When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train;
you received gifts from men, even from the rebellious—
that you, O LORD God, might dwell there.

The picture here is one of God, ascending Mount Zion, leading a procession, with captives from the conquered nations following along behind him, and the tribute he has received from those same conquered nations.  The Lord is coming into his holy temple.  He has defeated his enemies, some of whom he is now parading through the streets of Jerusalem, and he has received from these nations which he has conquered both plunder and tribute.

In Ephesians 4 the Apostle Paul talks about how Christians in the church should strive for unity.  They should do this because God has established them as one body.  As Paul says, there is a sevenfold one-ness:

one body
one spirit
one hope
one lord
one faith
one baptism
one God and Father of all

Paul goes on to say that, even though we are one body, yet we have a diversity of gifts, gifts that have been given to us by Christ himself.  He starts off by talking about how all of us in the body of Christ have been gifted.  But then he goes on to more narrowly focus on certain gifts, or offices, in the church.  Christ gave to his church:

apostles
prophets
evangelists
and
pastors and teachers

And then Paul says that Christ has done this so that the body of Christ might be built up, that we might come to unity in the faith, that we might become mature, attaining to what Christ wants us to be as a church: strong, mature, solidly grounded in truth and love, every member doing what every member is supposed to do—in short, a well-oiled machine.

Now, you might be wondering, what in the world does Psalm 68, with all its talk about God as the divine warrior defeating all his enemies, leading captives in a triumphal procession, receiving plunder and tribute, and coming to dwell in the temple on Mount Zion, have to do with Ephesians 4 and all its talk about unity, oneness, the body of Christ, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.

Well, interestingly, the Apostle Paul himself is the one who provides the connection.  Notice what he does.  Part of his argument in Ephesians 4 is that Christ’s descent from heaven to earth, and his ascension from earth to heaven is what is being talked about in Psalm 68.  Look at these verses from Psalm 68 and Ephesians 4 again:

18When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train;
you received gifts from men, even from the rebellious—
that you, O LORD God, might dwell there.  (Psalm 68:18)

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?
10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers . . .  (Ephesians 4:7-11)

So, you see here, in the middle of his argument, in verse 8, Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 and says that it is about the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven after his having come down from heaven to earth in his incarnation, and after his life on earth, his death, his burial, and his resurrection.

Now, you’ll notice that Paul has changed the wording somewhat.   He has changed it from second person to third person.  The psalm addresses God directly and says “you ascended,” “you led.”  Paul changes it to a third-person reference to Christ—”he ascended,” “he led.”  But, even more significantly, he has changed “you received” to “he gave.”  The psalm says that God received gifts; Paul quotes the psalm and says that Christ gave gifts.  Now, I’ll tell you that the changes Paul makes in his quotation, as well as a number of other issues in this passage,  have brought about a lot of scholarly discussion.  Indeed, lots of trees, yea, entire forests, have lost their lives to provide the paper for scholars and commentators to give their opinions on what’s happening here.  Doctoral dissertations have been written on these issues.  I don’t have the time this morning to go through all the various options for understanding what Paul is doing.  I’ve been given a 25-minute time limit.  So all I have time to do is simply tell you what my own opinion is, which also, amazingly, just happens to correspond precisely and perfectly with the correct opinion.

I believe Paul is simply making a logical deduction, without giving us all the steps in that deduction.  When ancient kings received the spoils of war, the plunder, and the tribute from the conquered enemy, they then turned around and shared those spoils with the people of their kingdoms.  So Paul is reasoning that in the ancient context of the psalm, the king, in this case the God of Israel himself, who received plunder and gifts and tribute from the conquered peoples, would have shared the spoils of war with his commanders, his armies, indeed, the entire nation of Israel.

When Paul applies this idea to the person of Christ, his idea is that Christ, by his death and resurrection has conquered all his enemies.  He has triumphed over them by his death.  As Paul says in Colossians 2:15, Christ “disarmed the powers and authorities; he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”  And earlier in the book of Ephesians, in chapter 1, verses 20-21, Paul says that “God raised him [that is Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion.”  We should understand this “rule and authority, power and dominion” to be hostile powers.  Christ has triumphed over these powers, and now he has sat down at the right hand of God to continue his rule over them.

Now, Christ doesn’t actually receive literal plunder, spoils, or tribute from these enemies.  However, the New Testament does, in fact, portray Christ as receiving one particular gift when he ascended to heaven.  Listen to what the Apostle Peter says in his first ever recorded sermon on the day of Pentecost:

32God has raised this Jesus to life. . . .   33Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. (Act 2:32-33 NIV)

When Christ sat down at the right hand of the Father, the Father gave him a gift, the promised Holy Spirit, and on the day of Pentecost, Jesus gave, shared that gift with his church.

So, in Ephesians 4, when Paul talks about the gifts that Christ has given to his church, these gifts are all seen as flowing out of what God the Father gave Christ at his ascension, the Holy Spirit.  And when Christ poured out the Spirit on the Church, he also gave the church other gifts—namely, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.

Pastor Tyler Williams, now I don’t want you to get a swelled head or anything, but I am here to tell you this morning that you are God’s gift to Greenfield Baptist Church.   You know, one of the things girls used to say about guys in high school and college who always went strutting around, trying to look like Joe Cool, using worn out pickup lines, and trying to act like the Big Man on Campus, was, “He thinks he’s God’s gift to women.”  Well, who knows?  Maybe somewhere down the road, Pastor Tyler will do something that won’t be all that popular, and when he does, you might be tempted to think, or even say out loud to someone, “Who does he think he is, God’s gift to the church?”  And the answer to that question will be, “Yes, that’s exactly right.”

You know, Tyler, the official minutes of the search committee will record that the committee voted to recommend to the congregation of this church that they should extend a call to Tyler Williams to become the pastor of this church.  And the official minutes of the congregational meeting will note that the congregation did, indeed, accept the committee’s recommendation, and voted to call Tyler Williams to come as pastor of Greenfield Baptist Church.  Perhaps, in the minutes you keep in your head, you will note that after much prayer and consideration, you decided to accept the call.  Somewhere in the church records there will be a notice that the church received news of your decision to accept the call.  And, somewhere in the church records, it will be noted that on October 6, 2013, Tyler Williams was officially installed as pastor of this church.  All of this constitutes a perception of what has happened in this process.  But, here’s the reality.

Christ descended from heaven to earth and became incarnate, became a man.  He came to destroy the works of the devil.   He went about doing good, healing the sick, casting out demons, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom.  He lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father, obedience even unto death.  He was crucified and was buried.  He rose again from the dead.  He ascended to heaven.  He sat down at the right hand of the Father.  When he ascended, he came into full possession of the Holy Spirit and poured that same Spirit out on his church.  He gave the church other gifts.  One of those gifts is pastors.  And one of those pastors is the one he has given to Greenfield Baptist Church, Pastor Tyler Williams.

Tyler, your pastorate, your role as pastor in this church does not have its foundation in the work of a search committee, the vote of a congregation, or even in your acceptance of a call that was extended to you.  Your pastorate, your role as pastor of this church has its foundation in the incarnation, life, obedience, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

True, the search committee did recommend you, and the ministry council accepted this recommendation, and the congregation did call you, and you did accept, and now the church has indeed hired you, and they have even promised to pay you exorbitant amounts of money for your work as pastor.  But these facts, as true as they are, should not be allowed to take away from the most important factor in this whole process.  You are the pastor of Greenfield Baptist Church because the crucified, risen, ascended, and exalted Jesus has given you to this church.

Tyler, as God’s gift to Greenfield Baptist Church, you have certain responsibilities.  I know you know them, but let me remind of you of them:

Keep watch over yourself, and all the flock of God of which Christ, by his Holy Spirit, has made you overseer.

Be the shepherd of this church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

Be on guard against, and protect this church from, savage wolves, who would like to come in destroy the sheep, those who would wish to arise and distort the truth in order to form their own group of disciples.  And remember that these savage wolves do not normally come from the outside.  The Apostle Paul reminds the Ephesian elders that the savage wolves may very well arise from their own number.

Remember, that your role as pastor is grounded in the triumph of Christ over his enemies by his death and resurrection.  You must protect the flock entrusted to your care from those very same enemies; to fail to do so would be a betrayal of your office.

Continue to train yourself to be godly.

Keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.

Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching, and to teaching.

Do not neglect the gifts which God has given you.  Indeed, fan these gifts into flame.

Watch your life and doctrine closely.  Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Do nothing out of partiality and favoritism.

Guide the church in taking care of the widow, the orphan, and the poor.

Guard what has been entrusted to your care.  Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you, by the power of the Holy Spirit who is in you.

Endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I charge you:

Preach the Word
Be prepared in season and out of season
Correct, rebuke, and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction
Keep your head in all situations
Endure hardship
Do the work of an evangelist

In short, my brother, my friend, my colleague, my pastor—Discharge all the duties of your ministry.  Be faithful in your ministry as the under shepherd of this flock.  And if you do carry out these responsibilities faithfully, then I assure you, on the authority of the word of God, that when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of glory that will never fade away.

And, members of Greenfield Baptist Church, let me remind you, that is, let me remind us, that we must receive this gift that Christ has given to us responsibly.

Obey your pastor and submit to his authority.  Remember that Tyler has been charged by Christ to watch over you as one who must give account.  Obey him so that his work will be a joy, not a burden.

Remember your pastor, who speaks the word of God to you.  Consider the outcome of his way of life, and imitate his faith.

Pray for him, that he will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.

Pray for him and his family, that God will keep them from the evil one.

Treat him with respect and honor.  If he does his job well, treat him with double respect and honor.

And remember that Pastor Tyler, just as much as any member of this church needs to receive encouragement.  If he says something incredibly stupid in one of his sermons, let him know about it.  But if he says something incredibly wise and helpful, or even moderately wise and helpful, don’t take for granted that he knows it.  Tell him.  Let him know how you have been blessed by his ministry.  Pastor Tyler, just as much as any member of this church, needs the encouragement that comes from meeting together and being spurred on toward love and good deeds.

Psalm 68, as well as other psalms and accounts in the Old Testament, rehearses for us how God triumphed over all his enemies, and having done so, ascended Mount Zion and dwelled among his people in the temple in Jerusalem.  And it recounts for us how God received tribute from the conquered nations and shared that tribute with his people, the ancient Israelites.

Ephesians 4, as well other passages in the New Testament, recounts for us how Christ, by his life and death and resurrection, triumphed over all his enemies, and having done so, ascended to heaven.  When he ascended he received the Holy Spirit, and then poured out that same Holy Spirit.  Christ, now, by his Spirit, dwells among his people; he has taken up presence in his new temple, the Church of Jesus Christ.  He has given that church gifts, such as pastors and teachers.  And this morning, we are celebrating one gift in particular that Christ has given this church, in our new pastor.  But, in fact, he has gifted every member of this church.  As our passage says, “to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

So, my brothers and my sisters, as we go forward from here, let us receive, and let us utilize our gift, and our gifts, wisely, with thanksgiving and with all due diligence.  And, as we do so, we can be assured that

the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, will equip us with everything good for doing his will, and  that he will work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jerry Shepherd
October 6, 2013

3 thoughts on “Installation Sermon for Tyler Williams

  1. “But, here’s the reality.
    Christ descended from heaven to earth and became incarnate, became a man. He came to destroy the works of the devil…”

    At that point I very nearly jumped up and shouted, “Amen! Preach it!”

    Nothing excites me more, deep in my spirit, then hearing the reality of who we are and what we do proclaimed powerfully and boldly. Because the reality of who we are is that we—the church, the bride of Christ—are the fullness of him who fills everything!

    Such a great message this morning.

  2. So glad that you posted this wonderful message so those of us who were not there could at least read it. I too say AMEN, particularly to the lines…
    “Tyler, your pastorate, your role as pastor in this church does not have its foundation in the work of a search committee, the vote of a congregation, or even in your acceptance of a call that was extended to you. Your pastorate, your role as pastor of this church has its foundation in the incarnation, life, obedience, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.”
    My prayer is that when the congregation realizes he is a human just like themselves (and it will happen, because there is only one Hero), they will remember these words and honer God’s choice.
    Thank you and praise God for this wise and biblical message!

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