A Tribute to Paul Kember: Excerpts from the Gospel preached at the Funeral

Norman Crawford

Readings: Luke 19:10; 1 Peter 3:18 and Romans 5:6.

There are many preachers in this audience today, but there is a far more eloquent preacher who will not say a word. The preacher is death. I think that we scarcely grasp it, and if you're having the difficulty I've been having since last Tuesday, I can scarcely take it in. Maybe there are some here who would say "Why?" It's not sinful to say why. Even though none of us know the answer to that question. On the cross the Lord Jesus said "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me." I just want to say a word perhaps to some today who may be truly questioning how God moves and how God acts. There may be some here today. Why would God take away Paul Kember from Phyllis, from his family, from the work of the Lord? Why?

The verse that has been constantly on my mind is found in John 13, and it is verse 7. "What I do." He has sovereign control. He makes no mistakes. He is on the throne. "What I do." The next part of the verse tells us of human limitations. "Thou knowest not." We don't really know. We don't have the answers. That's our limitation. "Thou knowest not." But there's one more word, "now." The present mystery. It's unfathomable. It's beyond our comprehension. "What I do," sovereign control; "thou knowest not," our human limitations; "now," the present mystery; "thou shalt know," the future answer; "hereafter," a heaven with Christ. The blessed hereafter.

1959 was a time of great blessing. Mr. Jim Lipke went to heaven at a comparatively young age, exactly the same age as Paul Kember, 55. Jim Lipke and I were preaching in the tent at Lake Shore, Ontario and God was working. I remember this particular day when we had been praying much for John and Alma Kember's family, and that day we went to the house. It was sometime in the late afternoon, I can tell you that. I believe we ate our supper there that night. I'm not sure of that but I think that's the way it was. And, it fell on my lot to speak to Paul. I found him deeply troubled, in fact I found him a lost sinner, helpless, he said "all I've ever heard all my life, all I've ever been taught...". and he came from a Godly home, and he was raised in a Gospel Hall Sunday school and he heard preaching all his days and he was 16 years old, and he said "after all this, I don't know how to get saved."

I read the three verses with him that I've just read to you. That's why I read them today. And when I came to Romans 5:6 it impressed me so deeply I said, "Paul Kember, can you see yourself there?" "Yes," he said. "I'm helpless." I had pointed out to him that when we were yet without strength doesn't mean just to be weak, it means to be utterly helpless. You can do nothing, absolutely nothing, and he said "yes, I'm right there." And then I said what about those five words "Christ died for the ungodly?" I've often told this because it impressed me very deeply. He looked at the verse, he knew it was the word of the living God. God spoke these words. Christ died for the ungodly. And you see, Paul's struggle was he was trying to believe in Christ. He was struggling to even make a saviour out of his believing. He tried so hard to believe, he couldn't believe, he didn't know how to believe. And this is what he said, "If that verse is true, Christ died for me whether I believe it or not.'

You know there's a time when the servant gets out of the way. And I believed it was time for me to leave. He was so close. Why do I say he was so close? Because he saw the truth of it, that you don't believe that Christ died on the cross to make it true. It is true! He had come that far. It is true. Christ did die for the ungodly. And I left.

He wasn't saved yet? No he was not. In the back seat of his father's car on the way to the tent that night, the verse came back to him. "When we were yet without strength," and how true that was of him at that moment, helpless, he could do nothing, "Christ died for the ungodly." It is true, he said. IT IS TRUE. And when he came to the door of the tent that night he said to me, 'can you get saved without believing?" And I said "no Paul, you can't get saved without believing, but what has happened is, God has taken you past your believing to the reality of what Christ has done." That my friend, is salvation. That's the salvation that Paul preached.

I'd like to tell you that when he was commended to the work of the Lord in 1977 he wasn't commended to the work. He was commended in the work that he had already been doing for a number of years. He loved souls. He loved the gospel, and if I can do one last thing for Paul today, it will be to preach the gospel that he loved so much.

I wasn't going to say this but I'm very thankful for it and I will say it. A week ago Saturday, at a meeting in Grand Bend I did something I have never done in all the years I've been preaching. I commended a servant from the platform in the meeting. I was preaching about the spread of the gospel. How the gospel came to Ontario, how men came from Scotland with a burning passion and love for souls, and brought the gospel to this land and preached Christ to see sinners saved. And I told how they worked in schoolhouses and storefronts and tents and went from door to door and house to house and village to village with the gospel, and then I said there's a man here today, sitting over here on my left, and that's exactly what he has done. And Paul said to me afterwards, "I didn't deserve that accolade." Thank God I spoke it while he was living. It was true. And this is the gospel that Paul loved. "While we were yet sinners, while we were yet enemies, while we were yet ungodly, while we were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly."

There is much here we do not have room to print but the gospel was faithfully preached. (Editor)

The gospels tell us of the facts of the cross. The Acts tells us of the preaching of the cross. Romans tells us the doctrines of the cross. 1 Corinthians tells us the testimony of the cross. As you come to the close of the New Testament it tells us of an eternity of joy and bliss. And it's all because there was a hill called Calvary. And "On Calvary's brow, my Saviour died." Oh my friend, that cross is everything. It is the central point of the ages. Everything before it points forward to it, everything after it points back to it. What does the cross mean to you? "Calvary, Oh Calvary, Mercy's vast unfathomed sea. Love, eternal love to me." The cross demonstrated God's own love. He gave His only Son.

I hear people saying that Christ suffered a certain number of pains. Friend don't you believe that. Do you know what happened at the cross? The Lord Jesus gave himself. He offered himself without spot to God. He sacrificed Himself. He gave all he had and there's great mysteries about that cross. Do you know that there is such value in what Christ suffered on the cross, that every sinner that ever drew the breath of life could be saved because of that crosswork. Do you know that? Not one excluded. "The world through Him might be saved." God will have all men to be saved. That cross is so great in its value that if there were worlds beyond, there's value in that work to save every sinner who ever sinned against God.

Yet here's the other side of it. A wonder that you will scarcely be able to take in. It took all that suffering, to save just me. It took all that suffering to save just Paul Kember. It was all necessary. Don't say a drop of Christ's blood would be enough to cleanse you. It took all his blood. It took all his life, it took all his sufferings. It took Himself. We don't preach a creed, we're not preaching a religion. This isn't something that belongs to us. We're preaching a person, and to know that person is to have eternal life. To know Christ means that you're saved from eternal death. And the God who tells me of a heaven of bliss and joy, that same God tells me of a hell of torment. I don't understand it. I don't even want to believe it, but I know it's true. And you risk, my dear friend, eternal damnation, if you miss this Saviour. The cross. Oh, thank God for the cross. That's what happened to dear Paul that day in the back of the car on the way to the Lake Shore tent. He got to Calvary through the witness of the word of God. Never forgot it. Thirty-eight years have passed, last July 27th, but it's real. And last Sunday night, a week ago Sunday night, he and I preached the gospel together, and dear Paul preached about the Lamb of Calvary. And I'll tell you if you couldn't feel it there's something awfully wrong with you. "The Lamb the Lamb the bleeding Lamb, the Lamb upon Calvary, the Lamb who was slain, who lives again..." thank God for such a Saviour. Is he yours? Do you know him?

I know Paul is in heaven right now. Do you know that? I know it. I'm not thinking it, I'm not wishing for it, I know it. If I know anything at all, and I've been saved for 60 years, and if I know anything from this book at all I know that dear Paul Kember is in God's heaven, and that's only the house of clay that's here. Will you be there? You can be. Trust the Saviour for yourself. He really died on that cross, he truly did it, it's a reality. Christ died in the place of the ungodly one.