A Certain Trumpet
Preached on Sunday morning, October 1, 1933
Collingswood Presbyterian Church, Collingswood, NJ
1 Corinthians 14:8
So singular is the place and function of the trumpet in Scripture that God likens his prophets to trumpets. He commanded Isaiah, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgressions and the house of Jacob their sins." The Apostle Paul compares the one who prophesies to a trumpet when he says, "If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle?" Paul reasons: As all men know that only the clear certain ring of the trumpet can rally men to battle; so ye must realize that only sound certain preaching, or prophesying, can call men to repentance and to Jesus Christ.
In chapters twelve, thirteen, and fourteen of I Corinthians the Apostle Paul considers the use and the place of spiritual gifts in the church. God has given a diversity of gifts, to different individuals; but they all serve in one Body, the Church. In chapter fourteen, speaking specifically of the gifts of prophesying and the gift of tongues, Paul explains that the gift of prophesying is more desirable. He enjoins them, "to covet to prophesy," and "to follow love and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy." A man who prophesies can be understood, just as a certain trumpet can be heeded, he argues; while the man who speaks in an unknown tongue, unless he has an interpreter, only confuses. He is an uncertain trumpet. Of course, we believe that the gift of tongues was used by God in the Apostolic Church as "signs," and that this gift has ceased. But the gift of prophesying has not ceased. For according to the Bible a prophet is one who proclaims God's word whether that word concerns things past, present, or future. A prophet is God's mouthpiece. We have God's word; and anyone who gives the message of this Book to others is the mouthpiece of God. Paul's insistence upon the trumpet giving a certain sound is just as important today as when he preached. Although we may not have the specific gift of tongues in the church today, we have something infinitely destructive, and more confusing. Satan has become an Angel of Light in the Modern Church, and his ministers are speaking in tongues entirely foreign to the Word of God. Under these circumstances the certain trumpet is even more imperative!
Considering our text in its immediate setting, let us observe two things about a certain trumpet.
I. The Sound of a Certain Trumpet.
The text says, "If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle?" Or in other words, the trumpet must give a certain sound to summon men. The prophet is a trumpet, when he delivers first, a definite message, and second, when he delivers this message from a heart and a mind that truly believes.
A Definite Message
The bugle's call to battle is a specific call. The prophet's message must also be a specific one. This message, determined for us here by the word, prophet, is the Word of God, and only the Word of God, this Bible. One who does not present the Bible is in no sense a prophet of God. He is a false prophet. Thank God, the message of the Book is simple, definite, authoritative, and final. The message calls men to a recognition of the reality, the guilt, and the consequences of sin in their lives; it demands repentance; and it offers Jesus Christ as the only Saviour, because he died for man's sin, and he may be received simply by faith. It is a message of individual regeneration by the power of the Holy Spirit. Dead men are made to live. Eternal life is substituted for eternal death. This message proclaims the whole counsel of God; accepts the whole Bible as God's infallible Word; and is inseparable from indisputable events of history, the birth of Jesus Christ of the Virgin Mary, his sinless life, his death upon the cross, his bodily resurrection from the grave, his ascension into heaven; and, furthermore inseparable from the future fact of his visible return to this earth. This message centers in the Cross: It is Christ Crucified! Without this message men go to hell: with it they are delivered from the wrath to come into the liberty, the privileges, and the inheritance of the sons of God. It is a positive message, yet, opposes all error. It is unafraid of the searchlights of criticism and of science; and is capable of scholarly defense. This message alone, has power. A Church without this is dead; and has no right in the Biblical sense to the title, "ecclesia."
How refreshing and challenging it is to hear this message of God's through a trumpeter of His. But as one opens his ear to the trumpet calls of the day, he hears the confusion of Babel about the towers of modern construction. There are magnificent trumpets eloquent, brilliant, but many of them are indefinite, and indifferent to God's Word. Pagan ethics replace sound doctrine. Book reviews supplant Bible expositions. By-products are more important than the product. There is a deliberate quibbling and a conscious compromising with the historic Gospel of Jesus Christ. New wine is put into old bottles. The offense of the cross is removed: and all men are summoned to a common cause of social justice, world brotherhood, and political reforms instead of "to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." Truly, the spiritual impotency, and the tragic losses of the church today may be explained in no small part by Paul when he asks, "If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle?"
A Definite Belief
The trumpet may blow the specific call to battle; but that call may be sounded with a hesitancy, or a trembling or even a weakness, so that men will not respond. Thus, prophets must present the message of the Bible with a passion and a certainty from a heart which definitely believes the message to be true. No one doubts that the Bible has a definite message; but men everywhere doubt the truth of that message. And though men may preach the message it does not ring clear with a certainty, and with the authority of God. The message to have power, must be presented in sincerity by one who believes that without it men perish, by one who believes it to the extent of conforming his whole life without compromise to its demands, and by one who is ready even to die for the propagation and defense of the message. "He did not many mighty works among them because of their unbelief" is true today.
It was just this abiding conviction of the eternal issues of the gospel that made Paul declare to the Corinthians, "I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." The word, determined, in the Greek original comes from the verb "to judge." Paul had made a judgment. The picture of a court room rises before his vision in which all the evidence is presented for a decision. Paul, after due consideration, believes that the evidence overwhelmingly, unquestionably demonstrates the Gospel to be true. This evidence which Paul considered is just as valid today as then. It is an event of history. All the subsequent years cannot alter happenings of history. Jesus Christ arose from the grave. Paul saw him alive. This fact alone, vindicated every claim of Christ's, and dissipated every doubt of Paul's, and sent Paul into the pagan world absolutely determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified as the only hope of lost mankind. Paul believed this message completely, and his preaching was in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
The need of the Church of Jesus Christ is for certain trumpets with a ring of certainty, with a tone of authority, and with the note of finality. It was just this that lifted a hermit of the desert, John the Baptist, up before men and made him "the trumpet of one crying in the wilderness: prepare ye the way of the Lord." It was just this that placed a Galilean fisherman, Peter, in Jerusalem and compelled him to cry out "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." It was just this that gripped the pen of the brilliant Jew, Paul, and forced him to write, "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." It is just this through the age that has advanced the Church of Jesus Christ, and that has raised up the glorious testimony of the Collingswood Church. There have been certain trumpets here! Thank God, another one has been sent by Him to this pulpit!
II. The Response to a Certain Trumpet
Paul would have us clearly realize that as only the certain sound of the trumpet will rally men to battle; so only the sound prophesying will call men to Jesus Christ. The Apostle in this passage from which we have taken our text points out the response which inevitably accompanies a certain trumpet. This response is seen in two groups of people, the unsaved, and the saved.
The prophet of God calls men to eternal salvation in Jesus Christ and men are literally "born anew." Paul in verse twenty-four speaking from experience says, "If all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all-and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth." The Gospel of Jesus Christ always divides men. Some accept it and rejoice; others reject it and die in their sins. And here Paul goes on to explain that people will be led to accept the message quickly if all tell the same story. The revival for which Christians have been praying, would be upon us now, if all the pulpits of the land were "prophesying" as Paul says. Men would be convicted. When one voice says one thing; and another trumpet issues a different call, men hesitate not knowing what to accept. Likewise in the local church. When all prophesy, when every member is a soul winner, that church is in a constant state of revival. The unsaved are convicted by scores. "For the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth," and "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
A certain trumpet does not stop in merely offering men salvation; but it leads those who are saved on to a greater knowledge of God and His Word, and to a closer walk with Him. "He that prophesieth edifieth the church," Paul says in verse four, and in the previous verse he has enlarged this statement by asserting, "He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification and exhortation and comfort." And finally in verse twenty-six he insists, "Let all things be done unto edifying." With a famine of the Word of God in the land, men cannot grow spiritually; but with the simple explanation of the Bible men cannot be kept from growing. The individual who professes Christ and joins the Church and concludes, "I've done my duty to God," must hearken to Paul's trumpet. The moment a person accepts Christ as his personal saviour from sin he is a new creation-just a babe in Christ-with a new life, a new world about him, a new destiny, and a new hope. The wonders of God's Word and the riches of God's grace are inexhaustible mines in which daily to find precious gems. In the fullness of eternity the child of God must enjoy God's love, do His will, keep his commandments, and glorify God. "Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord" is meat indeed!
Exhortation and comfort accompany the word. Hypocrites are rebuked. Men must see themselves as God beholds them. The virtues of Christian character are specifically named, and all are illustrated in the person of Jesus Christ. For comfort in life the world has none to offer, and urges only passives, "It might be worse." But God assures us that we are in His hands, and that everything entering our lives is for the best, He makes it so. It is a comfort to be free from the guilt and power of sin; to know death's answer and life's riddle and purpose I It is a comfort to have a Father who answers prayer; to possess the Holy Spirit as a constant guide; and to watch daily for our Lord from heaven. Our Bible offers to us "The God of all comfort."
We have seen two things told us by the Apostle Paul concerning a Certain Trumpet, the Prophet of God. First, The sound of a certain trumpet. which is a definite message, God's word; and a message which rings true in the heart of the prophet. Second, the response to a certain trumpet, which comes from the unsaved when those spiritually dead are called to life, and which comes from the saved when those spiritually alive are edified through the Word.
As we observed in the beginning, this fourteenth chapter of I Corinthians is one of the three chapters, twelve, thirteen, and fourteen, in which Paul discusses the use of spiritual gifts. One of these gifts is that of prophesying which we have considered. And the climax of the message from this passage is chapter thirteen-the love chapter of Scripture. For Paul says, "Though I have the gift of prophesy (which we have considered) and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and thought I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing." How glorious: The certain trumpet must present God's Word in all of its fullness without compromise, as certain, final and authoritative; but also must present it in love. "Love never faileth."
As a certain trumpet, presenting only the Word of God in love, I join hands with you people of God to continue the witness of this great church to the eternal glory and honor of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.