May 14, 2012

Impromptu Prompting: The Spirit’s help in persecution

by Clint Archer

A member of our flock once invited a fellow believer to visit our church. The reply was an interesting question:

“Does the pastor use notes to preach”
“Well, yes he does.” [I actually preach from an iPad!]
“Oh, then I won’t listen to him, as he is only preaching his own message, and not listening to the Holy Spirit and the Bible says in Luke 12: 12 ‘For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.'”

This is not the first time I’ve encountered the meme that it’s more spiritual to prepare a sermon on your knees (i.e. opening the Bible on your knees while you’re sitting in church during the opening hymn, trying to slap together a message).

It may behoove us to have on record a suitable reply. 3 points to consider…

i) First, the context here is very clearly that of speaking in your own defense during persecution when you have been unexpectedly carried before authorities to defend yourself. Jesus is not lobbying for unprepared pastors. The word “defend” ἀπολογέομαι refers to an explanation of your faith to others who challenge it; not a sermon you preach.

1 Tim 5: 17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

How do you work hard at preaching? A relative of mine once commented, “You’ve got a great job, you only work 2 hours a week.” I said, a better job is Olympic sprinters who only have to work 10 seconds every 4 years!”

Obviously the labor comes in the preparation.

2 Tim 2: 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.


ii) Second, the verse doesn’t say do not prepare, but do not be anxious.

There is only so much you can do for an impromptu defense. So don’t worry about how you will perform under pressure. God doesn’t give you grace to put on ice and store for future use. He supplies what you need when you need it. But the Scripture commands that we do prepare a defense.

1 Pet 3: 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…

This verse is the tennis doubles partner of our text in Luke 12:12. These companions work together. Yes, the Spirit will help you know what to say at the time you need Him. BUT, you must also be faithful to prepare a defense so He can use the knowledge you have.


iii) Third, the Holy Spirit never downloads new information into your brain, like in the Matrix.

He only brings to remembrance what is already there.
John 14: 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
The Spirit aids you in retrieving the truth you know, from under layers of TV trash and foggy forgetfulness.

On the pro golf tour it’s the golfer who has to perform under pressure in public. But the caddy who knows the lie of the green selects the right club and hands it to the golfer. The caddy can only hand the golfer a club that is in the bag. If your clubs are missing or broken or crooked, that is a consequence of poor preparation. The caddy may clean a dirty club, but he never creates one out of thin air.

During your impromptu defense, you are the one who has to perform. And the Spirit feeds you the right verses, wisdom, and knowledge to use. But He only hands you clubs that are in your bag. Now is the time to stock up your clubs, and make sure they are straight and clean.


I’d like to share this example of the Spirit’s work in this lengthy but worth-it account from the trove of testimonies, The Martyr’s Mirror (p 422-23). It is of an elderly widow, Weynken, who was called upon to give a defense of her Protestant beliefs by Catholic inquisitors. Her testimony is poignantly simple. She answers every question with a sound, biblical truth. The editor has graciously punctuated many of her replies with an applicable Bible reference.

On the 15th of November, 1527, Weynken, daughter of Claes, was brought prisoner from the castle of Woerden to the Hague, …[and was] arraigned before the governor and the full council of Holland. There a woman asked her, “Have you well considered the things which my lords proposed to you?”
Am.”I abide by what I have said.”
Ques. “If you do not speak differently, and turn from your error, you will be subjected to an intolerable death.” ‘
Am. “If power is given you from above I am ready to suffer.” John 19:11.
Ques. “Do you then, not fear death, which you have never tasted?”
Am. “This is true; but I shall never taste death, for Christ says: ‘If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.’ (John 8:51.) The rich man tasted death, and shall taste it forever.” (Luke 16:23. )
Ques. “What do you hold concerning the sacrament?”
Am.”I hold your sacrament to be bread and flour, and if you hold it as God, I say that it is your devil.”
Ques. “What do you hold concerning the saints?”
Am. “I know no other Mediator than Christ.” (I John 2:19. )
Ques. “You must die, if you abide by this.”
Am.”I am already dead.” (Gal. 2:19. )
Ques. “If you are dead, how can you speak?”
Ans. “The spirit lives in me; the Lord is in me, and I am in Him.” (John 14:20. )
Ques.”Will you have a confessor, or not?”
Am.”I have Christ, to Him I confess; nevertheless, if I have offended any, I would willingly ask them to forgive me.” (1 John 1:9)
Ques. “Who has taught you this opinion, and how did you come to it?”
Am. “The Lord, who calls all men to Him; I am also one of His sheep; therefore I hear His voice.” (John 10:27. )

[My favorite,  really spunky reply…]

Ques.” What do you hold concerning the holy oil?”
Ans. “Oil is good for salad, or to oil your shoes with.” I Tim. 4:4.

[On the day she was executed a monk questioned her again…]

Monk: “Do you not fear the severe judgment of God?”
Weynken, “God comes not to condemn sinners, but to give them peace.” (Luke 9:56.)
Monk, “Do you not, fear the sentence which you must suffer in the fie?”
Weynken, “No, for I know how I stand with my Lord.”
On the scaffold there stood one who said to Weynken: “Mother, turn to the people, and ask them,to forgive you, if you have offended any.” This she did.

Then she assisted the executioners to put the powder into her bosom.

Here the monk again tempted her with the cross; but she pushed it away with her hand, turned around, and said, “How you tempt me? My Lord and my God is above.” She then went gladly, as though she were going to a marriage; and her face did not once be token fear of the fire.

Now that’s the work of the Spirit in living color. You can’t prepare for that. So don’t worry, just read your Bible now while you still can.

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Sam

    #4 — Contrary to what the old Sunday School song tells us, “every promise in the Book” ISN’T mine. Promises made to specific people in specific places for specific circumstances (in this case, Jesus was speaking to a close gathering of his disciples, before he addressed the larger crowd) don’t necessarily transfer to the general believing populace.

    • Context, context, context– the first 3 rules of solid hermeneutics.

  • Larry

    Pretty good Clint. That’ll tell em. 🙂

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  • Ckolstad316

    I guess i should have been a sprinter. Thank you for this reminder.

    • Since the 100m dash is such easy work you can moonlight as a sprinter. It only takes seconds.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    “She then went gladly, as though she were going to a marriage; and her face did not once be token fear of the fire.”

    Pastor Clint, you think you could get burned alive without screaming your head off?

    • Honestly, I have no idea what quality and quantity of grace it must take to react to torture the way scores of martyrs did as recorded in the Martyrs’ Mirror. That book taught me this: God gives grace upon grace when it’s needed. I yell like I’m dying when I burn a finger.