A Workman Not Ashamed: Essays in Honor of Albert N. Martin. Edited by David Charles and Rob Ventura. Conway, AR: Free Grace Press, 2021.  

Before I present my review, I want to first thank David Charles and Rob Ventura, who out of their love and esteem, took the time to coedit a festschrift for Albert Martin. A few years ago my wife and I had the privilege of having Al and his wife Dorothy in our house for fellowship and dessert. Like numerous others, I have greatly benefited from Pastor Martin’s ministry, especially from his lectures and sermons. In fact, even today I still use his excellent four-part series on marriage for couples I do premarital counseling with. And I always get good feedback from the couple I counsel regarding Al Martin’s unique gift to communicate God’s truths in a clear and practical way. He gave this series probably about forty years ago but it is still relevant today. I also appreciate his approachableness. When one time I needed his advice, he did not hesitate to help me. So I’m glad David and Rob have coedited A Workman Not Ashamed as a tribute for the man whose ministry has been a blessing to me.

Taken from 2 Timothy 2:15, the book’s title fittingly describes Martin as a workman of God, not ashamed to rightly divide the word of truth. The volume begins with a fine biographical sketch of Pastor Martin penned by John Reuther who has known him for more than forty years. In this memoir, my favorite part of the book, Reuther tells a story of how Westminster Theological Seminary professor John Murray (1898–1975) admired Martin as a preacher. When Murray was invited to speak for three evening services at the 1967 Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference, he said to the inviter, “If Al Martin is to be there I really think he should be asked to take the three evening services you propose for me. He is one of the ablest and moving preachers I have ever heard. In recent years I have not heard his equal. My memory of preachers goes back sixty years. So, when I say he is one of the ablest, this is an assessment that includes very memorable preachers of the past and present.” Reuther also highlights Al Martin’s pastoral heart. Many may not know in 1976 Geneva College, the official denominational college of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, conferred on Pastor Martin the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity (D.D.) in recognition of his considerable contribution to the building up of Christ’s Church through his teaching and preaching ministry. Although he accepted the degree, to retain his identity as Pastor Martin (as he is affectionately known by many), he never used the D.D. title. Here’s a man of God who would rather be known as a pastor than a doctor.

The rest of the book is a collection of essays written by various authors in honor of Al Martin.

Samuel Waldron defends the ministry of preaching and shows how Reformed preaching is biblical.  He provides ten characteristics of this preaching, derived from his study of Peter’s preaching on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14–36).

Conrad Mbewe argues that the training of men for the pastoral ministry should not be separated from the work of the local church and should not simply be left to the care of seminary teachers. He thus urges pastors to mentor future pastors in the context of local churches.

Richard Barcellos critically analyzes Ephesians 4:11–16 (particularly verse 12), asserting how this passage is integral in understanding the importance of the Christian ministry in the church. His study demonstrates how believers mature under a faithful ministry of a local church through public worship, preaching, and administration of the sacraments. 

Alan Dunn shares his perspective on suffering, persecution, and martyrdom. For instance, he views suffering not simply as a part of gospel ministry but also as a parade of the gospel. That is, suffering in itself serves as a witness of the gospel. He illustrates this point using the life of the Apostle Paul who suffered for proclaiming the gospel. Yet Paul saw his suffering not just as a result of gospel proclamation but also as a proclamation of the gospel itself.

Jim Savastio appeals to his fellow pastors to “shepherd the flock of God which is among” them (1 Pet. 5:2). To put it in another way, a pastor is especially called to faithfully serve the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made him an overseer (not another flock but his own flock). To obey the mandate of 1 Peter 5:2, according to Savastio, a minister must know the Bible and his own congregation.   

D. Scott Meadows expounds Galatians 2:15–19, which clearly teaches how sinners can only be justified by faith alone in Christ alone. Meadows calls this doctrine “the one true gospel of gracious justification.”

Rob Ventura emphasizes the preachers’ absolute need of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power, without which all their pulpit labors are in vain. Ventura then pleads with his fellow pastors to pray with John Calvin, “Come, Holy Spirit, come,” as they stand behind the pulpit and preach God’s Word.

Michael Haykin gives an overview of the life, thought, and spirituality of English Calvinistic Baptist William Kiffen (1616–1701), an important figure in the emergence of the Particular Baptist movement. He was a signatory of the First London Baptist Confession (1644), which was eventually replaced by the Second London Baptist Confession (1677), later known as the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.

Jeffrey Riddle examines the proper administration and administrators of baptism. He contends that “baptism should only be administered within the context of the gathered local church and that baptism should only be properly administered by the church’s officers.”

Scott Aniol studies the Reformed regulative principle of worship from a historical point of view, demonstrating how early English Baptists applied this principle to baptism, the Lord’s Supper, congregational singing, and church polity. He thinks that historically Baptists were more consistent than their Reformed counterparts in the application of the regulative principle. “This is not to say,” he admits, “Baptists were always consistent in their application of the regulative principle.”

Jeffrey Waddington, the only non-Baptist contributor, considers Geerhardus Vos’s “deeper Protestant conception” and its implications to preaching. Waddington presents how preaching is vital to God’s relation to Adam and Eve before and after the fall. As the post-fall means, preaching is an instrument used by the Holy Spirit to restore sinners back to God.

The editors also attach John Gill’s The Duty of a Pastor to his People, a sermon based on 2 Timothy 4:16. Gill delivered this message in 1734 at the ordination of George Braithwaite. The editors append this work “as an encouragement to pastoral faithfulness and as witness that Albert N. Martin stood in the broad stream of Particular Baptist convictions and practice.”

The book uniquely ends with “a collage of counsel” or what may be regarded as Pastor Martin’s proverbs. Here are some of his nuggets of wisdom:

  • “The mortification of sin is a lifelong battle.”
  • When tempted to make a foolish decision, Martin would say: “Don’t be stupid, Albert! Don’t be stupid, Albert!”
  • As you preach, always pray for “copious measures of the Spirit” to be poured upon you.
  • “We must do what is biblical and leave the consequences to God.”
  • “God never gives to any man specific responsibilities as a minster to excuse him from any general responsibility as a Christian man.”
  • “The shadow of God’s throne is always over our pulpits.”

Although I don’t agree with every teaching contained in the book (such as the Baptists’ view of baptism and their application of the Reformed principle of worship to church polity), I highly recommend this work, especially to pastors and seminary students.

And if you only have time to read one chapter, I suggest you read Reuther’s priceless biographical sketch of Martin. Therein you will meet a man who, by God’s grace, can be your model in the ministry. He is not perfect but you can follow his examples, insofar as he follows Christ’s examples. I hope Reuther will consider expanding his chapter into a full biography.

I wish though the editors included a chapter on the pastor as a husband and father. The absence of this chapter may give the impression that these aspects of the minister’s life are not as important as his pastoral duties. In fact, the pastor’s family is his priority over his ministry (1 Tim 3:4–5). If he neglects his family, his congregation will suffer eventually. This is, of course, Pastor Martin’s philosophy in the ministry. Excepting this comment, A Workman Not Ashamed deserves to be added to the list of required readings for pastoral theology.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s