How do we go about respecting and rebuking the saints? What is appropriate and what isn’t? Thank God He gave us 1 Timothy to answer these questions and serve as our guide.
Beginning in 1 Timothy 4:6 and continuing through the rest of the letter, Paul turns our attention to the one who seeks to be “a good servant of Christ Jesus,” namely, the minister. Paul starts off by outlining a list of dos and don’ts for effective ministry, focusing first on the pastor’s personal ministry and then on the pastor’s public ministry.
Today, we live and minister amidst the crazies. And if you doubt it, just look around. This isn’t your father’s world anymore. So what are we to do? Bunch tightly in our holy huddles, hoping to keep the world at bay? Not on your life!
We could consider 1 Timothy the handbook on biblical ministry within the church. The first half focuses on the work of ministry—the service. The second half focuses on the workman who performs ministry—the servant. The interlude between these two halves (1 Timothy 3:14-16) focuses on the why of ministry—the soul. The ministry may be theologically and biblically correct, but it’s all head and no heart.
An honoured and respected reputation is worth more than “silver and gold” (Proverbs 22:1). In fact, we could write in bold letters this very proverb across the last couple of sermons—the one’s dealing with the necessary qualities for the office of overseer or elder (1 Timothy 3:1-7). We could do the same over this sermon because a sterling reputation for those serve as deacons in God’s church is just as essential (3:8-13).
You can’t escape it: a Christian’s conduct matters…greatly. Christ’s reputation is on the line, and nonbelievers are watching. Is it any wonder then that He decrees that His leaders be above reproach? Not at all. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul continued to set forth in plain, uncomplicated language the non-adjustable, non-alterable essentials of God’s standard for church leadership.
God doesn’t always spell things out in such stark “thou shalt” terms. When we get to the epistle of 1 Timothy, however, we discover virtually a whole chapter devoted to a black-and-white list requiring little interpretation but a lot of application. In 1 Timothy 3:1-7 Paul puts his finger on the essential qualities God is looking for in pastors and elders. Qualities applicable for church leaders in the 21st century as they were in the first century.
The role of women in the church is a hot issue, best handled with sensitivity and compassion—and maybe a pair of asbestos gloves! This is not because Scripture is controversial but because the role of women in the culture is different from what Scripture teaches about the role of women in the church. So, questions rise like steam from a boiling kettle.
In the workaday world of daily life, it’s simple to overlook the significance of the Gospel. Paul, of course, never did, and in this section of 1 Timothy—in one of the most practical and clearest presentations of the Gospel in the New Testament—he challenges us to open our eyes and our hearts, once again, to its wonder.
We all wrestle with doing things in order of importance. One of the reasons for this struggle is that we often don’t know what deserves our immediate attention. For ministry our first priority is clear: prayer.