Editor’s Note: Dr. Sadler is president of the Berean Bible Society (www.bereanbiblesociety.org). This article first appeared in that organization’s monthly publication, The Berean Searchlight. (The entire issue is available for download at their website as a PDF document, along with all previous back issues.) I was thrilled to read his testimony because his experience is what I would wish for all who read this blog — whether you are called into professional ministry as he was, or are a layman. It takes great courage to do what he did. Pastors who are willing to turn their back on denominational traditions when faced with what the Bible actually says are rare — from the time they enter seminary they are taught to toe the denominational line, and most become so heavily invested in denominational error that they will choose to stick with it rather than have to admit what they have believed and taught was wrong. When challenged with the Truth of the Word rightly divided, having no excuse against the Scriptures, they often become huffy and threatening when challenged with the Scriptures, having nothing but intimidation to stand upon. (I speak from experience.) Laymen can be caught in the same trap. I hope, friend, that if after reading this you see yourself in that position, you’ll decide to follow Christ and His Word above all commandments of men. (I have added three personal comments toward the end of Dr. Sadler’s article, shown in green type and [ ]‘s .)
Called According to His Purpose
by Paul M. Sadler, D.D.
How I Came to See Paul’s Gospel — A Personal Testimony
The Early Days
It wasn’t long after we trusted Christ that my wife Vicki and I became actively involved at the local Baptist church. We sat under the ministry of Pastor Weldon Causseaux, who led us to the Lord. This proved to be a very profitable time for us spiritually, as we learned all the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
During this time, Pastor Causseaux asked me to serve as the Youth Leader of the assembly. The youth group was primarily composed of senior high students, most of whom knew and loved the Lord. Accepting this position turned out to be a major turning point in my Christian life. Later I became a member of the Board of Deacons, which gave me the opportunity to fill the pupit occasionally in the pastor’s absence and assist him in other areas of the work. We were one of the more conservative American Baptist assemblies in the area and therefore, when Pastor Causseaux accepted a pastoral position in the south, we called a Bob Jones University graduate as our new pastor.
For the most part, the family members of our young people attended the assembly as well, so when the kids went off to college, they returned home during the summer months and faithfully attended the young people’s meetings. To their credit, most Baptists are very dedicated to their local assemblies and Baptist teachings. We had some great discussions at these youth meetings, where I quickly learned how insightful young people can be. While they never questioned the foundation of Baptist teaching or traditions, they did want to discuss what they perceived to be inconsistencies.
As Baptists, we were taught that it was our responsibility to carry out the Great Commission, which, of course, always took us back to the four Gospel accounts. One of the questions that troubled them at the time was the Lor’s statement in Matthew 15:24:
“But He answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Furthermore, our Lord instructed His disciples to confine their ministry only to the nation Israel and not go into the way of the Gentiles or into any city of the Samaritans (Matt. 10:5-6). “But we’re Gentiles! Where do we fit in?” This particular question of our young people prompted me to approach the pastor about the matter. Their inquiry, which I really didn’t have a good answer for at the time, became my inquiry.
I asked the pastor in his office one day if it seemed to him to be terribly inconsistent, as Gentiles, to be going back to the four Gospels where the house of Israel always seemed to be in view. I will never forget his response. He said,”You shouldn’t be overly concerned about such things. It is more important to win lost souls to Christ.” In other words, he didn’t know, and his actions made it clear that he wasn’t interested in looking into it. I certainly agree that the salvation of lost souls is extremely important, but his response left me with an uneasy feeling because I was interested in learning more about the Word of God.
“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17-18)
On another occasion, I inquired as to why the supernatural sign gifts did not follow those of us who believed if we were working under the Great Commission — signssuch as healing the sick, speaking in new tongues, taking up deadly serpents, and drinking any deadly thing with no harm coming to us (Mark 16:15-18).
I distinctly recall the pastor saying that possibly the reason I didn’t have these gifts was because I did not have enough faith, to which I responded, “That may be true, but what aobut all of those believers who have been faithful? Why is there an absence of these supernatural gifts in their lives?” To this I got a shrug of the shoulder, along with a suggestion that I took things far too seriously!
To me, it seemed that the teachings we were following were not consistent with the Scriptures we were proclaiming. Sadly, those who hold to an Acts 2 position leave themselves wide open to Pentecostalism. In fact, the very pastor who was reluctant to answer my questions departed from the Baptist faith and became a Pentecostal.
Called by His Grace
“Who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (II Tim. 1:9)
It was around this time that I began to sense the Lord’s call to enter the ministry on a full-time basis. His prompting was so obvious that it actually scared me. I really wrestled with this decision; imagine it, telling the Lord He surely didn’t mean me! I “reasoned” with Him that there were so many other capable men who were far more qualified than I would ever be. To assist in my denial that the Lord could use me in this capacity, Satan caused a wave of depression to sweep over me. But the Lord continued to make it perfectly clear to me that this was His will for my life.
After weeks of sleepless nights of trying, with Satan’s assistance, to talk myself out of it, I heard a message delivered by a godly pastor who had been in the ministry for many years. It was as if he was speaking directly to me. I remember his words to this day:
“Young man, perhaps God is calling you into the ministry but you have convinced yourself that you are unqualified. After all, there are men with college and seminary degrees who are far more capable. That may well be true, but the majority of them are unwilling to stand for the truth of God’s Word. God is looking for men who are willing to stand for the truth. Accept His call today; you will never regret your decision.”
I sat there astonished at his words. If there was one thing I was more than willing to do, it was to stand for the truth! It was at that moment I knelt in prayer and submitted myself to the Lord’s calling. The pastor was right; I have never regretted that decision. This all took place back in the early Seventies, during the recession, when everyone sat in long lines to purchase gas. It was the worst of times in that it was nearly impossible to sell a house and find work, but the Lord went before us to remove all the obstacles that appeared to be in the way.
Even though I was perplexed about Baptist doctrine, I inquired at Bob Jones University and Lancaster School of the Bible for information on enrollment in their ministerial courses. As I was making arrangements to attend one of these two schools, Mrs. Margaret Waldrop, a good friend of the family, called to suggest that before I made a final decision, I should visit the Berean School of Bible and Theology located northwest of Pittsburgh. Unknown ot me at the time, Mrs. Waldrop was a grace believer who knew the school was a grace school, but she simply left the matter with the Lord for me to find out on my own. Great move!
Since the school was nearby, I contacted them to set up a meeting. It was agreed that we would meet on a Friday evening. That Friday, Vicki and I loaded the kids into the car and dropped them off at Grandma’s. As we headed north that evening, it was pouring rain. I mean a torrential downpour! A little over halfway to the school, the engine began to sputter and then stalled as I drifted to the side of the road. I turned off the headlights and tried to start the engine. To my surprise, it started. Sure that I had dodged a bullet, I put the car into drive to continue the trip, only to have it stall again. After two more failed attempts, we knew we were stranded. Satan, who gladly assisted in my denial before I accepted God’s calling, now was doing everything in his power to hinder me from ever going into the ministry. Had it not been for the grace of God, he might have accomplished his objective.
If you are thinking this trip sounds eerily similar to the one before my conversion [see previous edition of The Berean Searchlight - ed.] you would be correct — another car, another back road, another State Trooper. Since we were out in the middle of nowhere, the only option we had was to wait for someone to stop. We didn’t have cell phones back then!
About an hour later, a Pennsylvania State Trooper pulled up behind us with his lights flashing. He was very helpful and assisted me in trying to get the car started, but to no avail. Once we concluded our attempts were futile, the Trooper called a tow truck to have the car towed to an area garage, and then gave us a ride to the police station. Vicki and I ended up spending the evening at the police station, waiting for a family member to give us a ride. Needless to say, we never arrived at the school that night.
The next day we learned that, when I filled up the gas tank the night before, we had also gotten water with our gas. As you know, combustion engines don’t run well on water! After we picked up the car, we planned another meeting at the school for the following week, this time in the afternoon. What happened next is unbelievable, but true.
On the day agreed upon, I made another trip to visit the school. On the same stretch of road where we stalled the week before, a car coming from the other direction drifted into my lane. The driver was looking at something on the passenger seat and not paying attention. Of course, the rule of thumb is never to swerve into the other driver’s lane, simply because when he becomes aware of what’s happeing, he’s naturally going to swing back into his own lane. When it was apparent we were going to hit, I swerved my car off the road to avoid a collision. Thankfully, I made it across a drainage ditch without rolling over and proceeded into a field. This all took place at the exat same spot where I broke down a week earlier.
Once I got the car stopped, I sat there nearly paralyzed by what had just transpired. My first thought was to turn around and go home. I conlcuded this was apparently not the right time to enter the ministry. In fact, I started to pull the car out of the field, headed for home, but abruptly stopped for some unknown reason. It’s difficult to explain, but I was suddenly overcome with the sense that this wasn’t the right thing to do. As I sat there, it occured to me that the Lord wouldn’t hinder me from going into the ministry, but Satan most certainly would! From that point on, as determined as he was to prevent me from entering the ministry, I was just as determined to honor God’s calling in to His service.
An Interesting Exchange
Upon arriving at the school I met with Pastor David Caslander, the Founder and Administrator of the Berean School of Bible and Theology. Little did I realize at the time that Brother Caslander was a Berean with a knowledge of Paul’s gospel and the Word, rightly divided. After exchanging a few pleasantries, Pastor Caslander and I sat down to discuss the ministerial course of study that the school offered. After reviewing the school’s doctrinal statement and curriculum, we had a general discussion of the Scriptures.
Since the school was fundamental and dispensational, I shared with Pastor Caslander the questions that were on my mind. To my amazement, he pointed out that the solution to all of my problems in the Scriptures was to rightly divide the Word of truth. He showed me the importance of Paul’s apostleship and message, sharing that Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles and that we, being Gentiles, must turn to his epistles for our doctrine, position, walk, and destiny as members of the Body of Christ (Rom. 11:13; I Cor. 14:37).
I noticed that the school’s doctrinal statement said there were no ordinances to be practiced today. Of course, everyone knows there are two ordinances to be observed in the Church: water baptism and the Lord’s Supper — or at least that’s what I had been taught. When I asked brother Caslander about the plank, he wisely tried to avoid the question, hoping that I would first come to see Paul’s distinctive ministry before he had to address the subject. When I pressed the matter he gave the following response:
“We agree that water baptism was an ordinance when it was being practiced, but the question is this: Is it to be practied today? You see, when the Apostle Paul received further revelations about the Cross, we learn that Chist has blotted ‘out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His Cross’” (Col. 2:14). He explained how ordinances were the rules and requirements of the Law of Moses, and how the Scriptures are clear that we are no longer living under the Law, but rather we are living under grace today (Rom. 6:14). Consequently, he said, water baptism is not to be practiced today. The Lord’s Supper, he added, never was an ordinance and is to be observed in the administration of grace as Paul instructs us in I Corinthians 11:23-26.
To say that Pastor Caslander had to help me off the floor would probably be an understatement. I had heard all types of things about baptism, but this was a first! Being a dedicated Baptist I mounted a defense that I now look back on as being feeble at best. Brother Caslander handled the discussion in a Christ-like manner and graciously asked me what I believed about water baptism. I responded: “We believe that we are to follow in Christ’s footsteps and be water baptized as an expression of faith. He’s our example!” Pastor Caslander shared with me from the Scriptures why that is impossible today, which made perfect sense.
After he dismantled my argument on that point, I said, “We know water baptism isn’t required for salvation today, but surely you believe it’s an outward sign of an inward work of grace.”
Brother Caslander replied, “I can show you that waster baptism was required for salvation under the Law as an expression of faith, but you cannot show me where it wasn’t required (Mark 1:1-5; 16:15-16; Luke 7:29; Acts 2:37-38; 8:35-37). “May I challenge you with this, Paul: Can you show me from the Scriptures where baptism is merely an outward sign of an inward work of grace, as you say?”
I was sure I could, but after fumbling through the Scriptures I said to him, “I will have to get back to you on that one.”
“Brother Sadler, I leave you with this: The question you need to answer for yourself is, are you going to continue to follow the traditions and commandments of men or are you going to base the minsitry God has called you to on the Word of God?” (Mark 7:13) “The choice is yours!”
Being a Baptist at heart, I remember saying to him that these things just could not be, at which time he encouraged me to study to see if these things were so, reminding me that Paul’s gostpel was the answer to my questions. It was obvious to me after I left that I had been in the presence of a man who was well equipped in the Scriptures. After sitting under his ministry for three years, I have always felt that Pastor Caslander is one of the few theologians that we have in the grace movement.
Upon arriving home, I contacted our pastor to set up a meeting with him the next day. I was sure he would have the needed ammunition for me to convince Pastor Caslander how far out in left field he was. When I asked the pastor where I could find the passages that stated water baptism is not required, but only an outward sign of an inward work of grace, his answer wasn’t what I expected. He said, “There are no such passages in the Scriptures that I know of.” I must say, at least he was honest. He proudly added that this saying had been a well-worn tradition handed down to us through the generations. His reaction to my question made it very clear that I had absolutely no right to question Baptist tradition!
While I still have the greatest respect for our Baptist brethren, especially for their evangelistic efforts, the pastor’s response set me on a new path. Pastor Caslander’s challenge now took on a new meaning. It seemed he was correct that I was following the traditions and commandments of men and I wasn’t even aware of it. [emphasis mine - is this you, my friend? ed.] After weeks of study, the Holy Spirit brought me to the conclusion that Brother Caslander was right, at which time I submitted myself to the gospel of the grace of God. It was like experiencing the joy of salvation all over again!
For the first time in my Christian existence, the Bible became a new and living Book that really could be understood. [This was my father's experience at the age of 65 and my experience at the age of 17; I have alluded to it several times in previous blog posts, and it is what I wish for all of my readers! ed.] Being thrilled with my discovery, I was sure my Baptist friends would be as excited as I was about this new-found truth! After all, it was the key that unlocked the Sacred Secret. To my surprise, I found myself on the outside looking in, as it were. I was told in no uncertain terms, “If you preach this grace message you’ll never have a church, nor will you ever amount to anything in the Lord’s work.” I viewed this as another of Satan’s attempts to discourage me from entering the ministry.
We sold our home that we had built three years earlier and moved the family to the school’s campus. While it was a long drive, I was able to keep my job at Mine Safety Appliances Company during the years we attended school. My wife and I both enrolled at the Berean School of Bible and Theology (now closed), although for some time thereafter Vicki remained a Batptist at heart. She refused to accept my new-found teaching, but was willing to attend Bible school, saying that she felt that the Lord would lead us through me.
It was about a year later that she came to see the wonders of God’s grace and was freed from the traditions and commandments of men as well. We both have since been staunch defenders of the revelation of the Mystery that was first committed to the Apostle Paul (Rom. 16:25; Col. 1:25-27).
After graduating from Bible school, we accepted our first pastorage at Grace Christian Church in Independence, Kentucky. After a two-year tenure, we received a call to pastor the Falls Bible Church in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. We had the privilege of being there for nearly ten years and will long remember the faith, hope, and love of this beloved assembly. In September 1987, I accepted the presidency of the Berean Bible Society, which, as you know, is a national/international grace organization for the promotion of the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the Mystery. This year, by God’s grace, will be my 24th year at the helm. Most humbly I say, to God be the glory, for great things He has done!
I sincerely pray that this testimony will be used of the Lord to encourage you always to have an open mind and an open heart to God’s most precious Word If you do, He will direct your steps in the pathway of righteousness for His name’s sake. May God give us the courage to stand up against those who would rob us of the truth of Paul’s gospel!
“For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal 1:10).