In April, we started walking through 1 Timothy with our leadership team at Grace. We will walk through 2 Timothy and Titus as part of this exercise. I wanted to share our thoughts with you. For those who are not pastors or deacons, but who lead in some capacity in any arena of life, these books are a tremendous resource in Scripture. I encourage all of our leadership at Grace to take advantage of these notes geared specifically toward leadership or roles with much responsibility.
1 Timothy 1
Christ is the one who strengthens every leader for his or her place of service. Whatever I think my strengths to be, I must understand that it is God who qualifies those He calls. He does not necessarily call people based on their strengths. To say that He did would be to insinuate that Christ depended on people, and He does not. God will call people to an area of service based on His knowledge, His purpose, and His plan. Then it is He who qualifies people for that service and develops within them a heart to serve in the capacity that He will have them serve. This is true for pastors (elders), deacons, teachers, ministry leaders, evangelists, etc… So, when we criticize anyone for not being a good enough pastor, deacon, ministry leader, etc…, we mock God. It is God who gives strength by grace. He gives people precisely the strengths that He desires them to have for His glory. In our weakness, Christ strength is made evident.
This is certainly the way Paul understood his own ministry and now encouraged Timothy to understand his in Ephesus. Paul considered himself to have been an arrogant man who received mercy from God. Grace overflowed along with faith and love that are in Christ. Paul was not an apostle because he deserved to be or because he earned a place as an apostle. He was an apostle because God had mercy and grace and granted faith.
The same is true for all of us, brothers and sisters. I am not a pastor because I went to Seminary and earned a degree. Nor am I a pastor because I deserve to be or because I am skillful in my trade. I am not a pastor because I am strong or because I am better than anyone else; nor am I a perfect person. All I can say rightly is that I get to pastor a church because of God’s mercy and God’s grace by which He has supplied me faith. The same is true for deacons, teachers, ministry leaders, administrators, etc… Not only does this define the way that we think about our own ministries, but also the ministries of others. The reason I think there is so much unneeded criticism of leaders in our own time is because I don’t think we’ve realized that God is the one working all things together. Leaders are able to lead only because of God’s mercy in grace by faith. If I am overly critical of anyone based on his or her action or qualification or success, I prove that I have little or no faith in God. We operate in grace by the faith that God has supplied.
Paul, then, identifies himself as being the worst of sinners. In His mercy, Jesus came into the world to save sinners. When it comes to leadership, then, perhaps the greatest understanding any leader can have is that the one thing that has most qualified him or her for leadership is his or her sinfulness and God’s saving grace being applied to his person. This means even more for us as we think about leadership in this world. If I am overly critical either of myself or others because of our shortfalls, I am being overly critical of the very thing that most qualifies me for service in God’s kingdom. The reason that God chooses and uses the worst of sinners for His work is so that Christ might demonstrate His extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
In this, Christ, the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, receives all honor and all glory forever and ever. So, leaders, what can we do but boast in our weakness? There is nothing else we can do. When observing other leaders, what can we do but boast in God’s strength that is made evident in their weakness? There is nothing else we can do because the grace of God is so overwhelming.
It is within this context of God’s mercy and grace that Paul begins to give specific instruction. So with each instruction, we must also dwell on this truth.