Pristine Grace

A Tribute to Henry Mahan
by Jim Byrd

June 9, 2019

A Tribute to Henry Mahan

     “The Thirteenth Street Baptist Church of Ashland, Kentucky invites you to listen to a message by their pastor, Henry Mahan,” that is how each television broadcast began. For over fifty years, this church and this man had a unique relationship, he was the one God ordained to begin and pastor the Thirteenth Street Baptist Church. Both the man and the church understood that the union which existed was one which the Lord brought about. Think of it: what is a church without a pastor and what is a pastor without a church? Brother Mahan was used of God to travel and faithfully preach the gospel in countless places, but always, back behind the scenes, in full support, was the church which sent him forth. Only eternity will reveal the hearts touched by the gospel he preached and this church is thankful to have been blessed of God to have had such a bold preacher of the gospel.

     In 1973 he came and preached the gospel to the church in Winston-Salem, NC where I was the pastor’s assistant. The first time our guest speaker began to preach he declared, “Salvation is not in a plan, but in a Person and that Person is the Lord Jesus Christ.”   The statement got my attention; in fact, it hit me in the heart and, to this day, I have not gotten over it: PERSON. As he continued to preach, for the first time in my life, the gospel came to me not in word only, but in power by the Holy Spirit. I was brought to see the glories of the Savior and to rejoice in Him who reconciled me to God by His “obedience unto death, even the death of the cross.” O how thankful I am for the faithful ministry of this man and how grateful I am for this congregation which unselfishly sent him forth knowing that he was a highly gifted servant of the Lord. How blessed this church was to have had such a pastor and how blessed he was to have had such a church standing behind him, assisting, helping, supporting, praying, holding up his hands even as Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses. I’ve read sermons by many, many preachers of years gone by, but I have never come across any that set forth the gospel as clearly, as distinctly and with such heart- conviction as the preaching of brother Henry. Was he a perfect man? He was, as the song writer said, “only a sinner saved by grace,” just like all of the Lord’s people. He was also a servant of the Most High God and the One who saved him, was pleased to equip him with marvelous abilities to do the work ordained for him from before the foundation of the world.

     To whom shall we give the glory for the ministry of Henry Mahan? Anyone who has ever heard his preaching knows he would not want us to glory in him, and I wouldn’t want to do that. My heart is, however, filled with gratitude to God for the man He sent my way to tell me the truth. The Lord gave him, the Lord taught him, the Lord blessed us through him, and the Lord has now, mercifully, taken him home to glory where he has wanted to be for such a long time.

“When by His grace I shall look on His face; that will be glory, be glory for me!”