Michelangelo, undoubtedly an elect of the fine arts, chiseled away at marble at the turn of the 16th century for his overpowering David, his most famous sculpture, before he brought to life the ceiling of Rome’s Sistine Chapel in another renaissance commission. Even by their magnificence, these painstaking conceptions of art in nimble brush and chisel, patronized by vain clerics for their apotheoses, are no match to the exertions God undertakes to fashion for Himself men after His own heart from among mortals once marred by sin. For all his efforts, it is worthy of mention that Michelangelo understood the importance of his own tools and always made his own brushes with his own hands. The God of Grace does so too. “He with special care fashions for himself all true ministers.” [1] He intends to “make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.” [2] For such a work, He only entrusts men, carefully chosen and faithful, men in the best of spiritual conditions, for a man does the LORD’s work best when his graces and gifts are in good order. “A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” [3]

A Divine Commission

Through the instrumentality of the Spirit, the LORD works to unction men to the work. The Spirit works by imparting gifts and graces to the ministers of God, but these gifts are not bestowed on faulty instrumentalities. It is until men have surrendered fully to the LORD’s guidance that the gifts are imparted. In a special sense, the whole of heaven is made accessible to all true ministers for the befitting and qualification to the work. Paul, while teaching that Christ must be preached to the heathen, plainly points out that “how shall they [messengers] preach, except they be sent?” [4] The Spirit commissions men to the work. A man, whether taken from the sheepcotes or from the great courts, dares not presume to depart to foreign lands without formal permission to go. He must wait upon the outpouring of the Spirit in the upper room; he must wait for his honorable dismissal after receiving his terms of service. No matter his talents, his work risks being powerless if he ventures into the mission fields without the Holy Spirit’s bidding. “Learning, talents, eloquence, every natural or acquired endowments may be possessed; but without the presence of the Spirit of God, no heart will be touched, no sinner be won to Christ.” [5]

He qualifies the Called.

Often the call is extended to men of mean endowments and of relative unknown, men faithful to their present duties. “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” [6]. Here the Spirit seeks to qualify men who are thus called. By David’s faithfulness in leading his flock from fold to pasture or in rescuing a trembling lamb from a lion or bear, the LORD was testing his character and fitting him for a future work he knew not about. The commonplaces of life provided him with the actual discipline of life. Of him, as of many other men little regarded and relegated to the sheepcotes, the LORD remarks “He is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear my name.” “Ah, guileless, blessed boy… Samuel on his coming had sanctified Jesse and his sons, passing them through a series of ceremonial ablutions to fit them for the festival in which the social and sacred elements combined. But David needed none of these. His pure and guiltless soul was right with God, and clad in the spotless robe of purity.” [7] The spirit in fellowship with God, a robe unstained, the loins girt, the lamp trimmed and the faithful fulfillment of the duties of daily life are the best preparations for the call that will demand our services if we are to work for God.

Men of talent too must not thrust themselves into the harvest, though it appears plenteous, till they received their orders from the Lord of the harvest. The venerable Doctor Luke records that “the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” These were two of the ablest men in the early church, but the Spirit of God had to preside over the nomination of the servants of God for the special work to be carried out in Cyprus. The Holy Spirit was to be their genius, their ability, their inspiration, their wealth. The Holy Spirit elects His own ministers. As Dr. Joseph Parker was wont to say, “A minister is not a manufacture—he is an inspiration!”

The Spirit: the life, the soul, the source of the Chosen’s success

The import of the Holy Spirit in a minister’s call cannot be gainsaid. Men will not, even for enthusiasm’s sake or for some atmospherics, endure the kind of hurdles that the early apostles faced. “No hostility daunted them; no tremendous bulk of evil deterred them. They were on fire with a consuming purpose, and they did not stop, whether to measure their task or to discuss its difficulties.” Paul says of His travails in Ephesus, “If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me?” [8] If it were the effect of some enthusiasm to be so daring, then the venerable Apostle might well be guilty of presumption. A closer look however reveals that there was something much more than mere enthusiasm. Here we come into the presence of that unique distinction which forever differentiates the enthusiasm of the disciples from all other enthusiasms. It was the enthusiasm of a new creation by the power of a Divine breath.

A forge never seen idle

Let us therefore be channels for the outworking of the highest influence in the entire universe. The Spirit has cut out a work for us, and we must not be idle lest by the misuse of our abilities we effectually quench from us the Holy Spirit, which is our only light and qualification for service. We may be the poorest and most ignorant of all men ever called to the work but if connected with Christ in active service, it will be said of us as of Hans Alatsys, the Blacksmith of Antwerp, that “the Elector need not be ashamed of speaking of or to an honest man… whose forge is never seen idle.”

The harvest is ripe but only those sent out in prayer and who trust to the Spirit for direction will return in triumph as did Paul and Barnabas. [9]


[1] Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, Vol. 1
[2]Isaiah 13:12
[3] Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, p. 61
[4]Romans 10:15
[5] Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 328
[6] 1 Corinthians 1:26
[7] F.B. Meyer, David: Shepherd, Psalmist, King.
[8] 1 Corinthians 15:32
[9]Acts 14:26-27.