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Don't Exalt the Preacher Don't Exalt the Pew


Lift Him Up in Context

In John 12:32 Jesus said: And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

The next verse explains what He meant.

33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.

Jesus was telling the people that when He was lifted up on the cross during the crucifixion that He would make a way for men to receive salvation and be with Him throughout all eternity. In 1903 Johnson Oatman Jr. wrote the lyrics for the popular hymn Lift Him up and Benjamin Beale composed the melody. The first two stanzas are:

  1. How to reach the masses, men of every birth,
    For an answer, Jesus gave the key:
    “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth,
    Will draw all men unto Me.”
    • Refrain:
      Lift Him up, lift Him up;
      Still He speaks from eternity:
      “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth,
      Will draw all men unto Me.”
  2. Oh! the world is hungry for the Living Bread,
    Lift the Savior up for them to see;
    Trust Him, and do not doubt the words that He said,
    “I’ll draw all men unto Me.”

I grew up attending a Baptist church and I still love today how happy everyone would be when they sang this song. I especially enjoyed that after each "Lift Him up" the men would sing "Precious Savior Up." Today in many congregations there is a tendency to go overboard on exalting the pastor and the building, which is not biblical. The Bible says to give honor where it is due. We are not supposed to demand it.

Keep the focus on Jesus

The song Lift Him up addresses something slightly different than what Jesus spoke as it emphasized living a life that lifts Christ up for the world to see. The third and fourth stanza are very clear in their intentions.

Don’t exalt the preacher, don’t exalt the pew,

Preach the Gospel simple, full, and free;

Prove Him and you will find that promise is true

“I’ll draw all men unto Me.

”Lift Him up by living as a Christian ought,

Let the world in you the Savior see;

Then men will gladly follow Him Who once taught,

“I’ll draw all men unto Me.

It is common today for some believers in Christ to start off conversations by saying the following: "I belong to First second third Baptist church and my pastor is Apostle Bishop Dr. so and so. Unwittingly many Christians do this without realizing that this is exalting the preacher and the pew and not lifting up Christ for all the world to see. Telling everyone how great your church and your spiritual leader is, does not emphasize Jesus and His sacrifice. Believers should always tell of the goodness of The Savior and His what took place on Calvary. We are to win lost souls for His kingdom and not advertise the building where we gather or the pastor of that congregation. There is nothing wrong with loving your pastor and your church but we must be careful to not exalt them over the Lord.

Lift Jesus higher

I cannot count the number of times that someone has told me how wonderful their church is and how anointed their pastor is, without saying anything about Jesus. There is nothing wrong with inviting people to church or telling them that your spiritual leader rightly divides the word of truth,( 2 Timothy 2:15. The first thing that others should hear, however, is about your relationship with Christ. I recall several decades ago that a married couple joined the church my family attended at the time. The husband said that one of the elders had preached in the church that he had been attending and her message so stirred him that he told his wife they needed to find out where she went to church and join. They saw the anointing on this minister's life and recognized that she was preaching a sound message. She did not brag on her church or pastor but simply allowed her light to shine and she drew this couple to visit the church she attended. They first came to morning Intercessory prayer and observed for about 6 weeks before the cam to service and eventually joined. They were drawn and not browbeat about how great the church or pastor was. The elder exhibited Jesus in her sermon and when they visited the church they were impressed with the presence of the Lord, without anyone trying to impress them. When Jesus is lifted up, He will do the drawing. Keep in mind however that in context He was talking about being lifted up on the cross and being crucified, then resurrected so we can have eternal life. It's all about His blood that never loses it's power.

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