This exercise is a continuation of a series we started at Grace with our leadership while I served as interim there. 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 those who would be called leaders or who oversee to take advantage of these notes geared specifically toward leadership or roles with much responsibility.
1 Timothy 4
Through Scripture, it is clear that some will fall away from the faith and pay attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. The means of this buying into of false doctrine the hypocrisy of liars. Since, according to verse 2, the hypocrisy of the liars is seared in their own conscience, then we know that they are so calloused and hardened, that they probably believe they are leading well.
For the leader, there is a very real danger here. Deceitful spirits will often tell us what we want to hear. False doctrines usually elevate people. What we saw with both the qualifications of the elders and the qualifications of the deacons was that people are to be humbled. There is a great need for the people of God to be guarded against false doctrine and deceit. We can keep ourselves from deceitfulness and false doctrine by making sure we do everything in the open. If I do anything in the dark or in secret, it is likely that I am not being honest about my own agenda. That is deceit. There is a reason in his second letter to Timothy, Paul gives this warning: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Timothy 4:3). This has happened.
We must be on guard, serving Christ well in an age when His word is being rejected in favor of people’s desires. There is great need for leaders who will strive to rightly understand what God has given, and communicate that truth genuinely even under great pressure and even though there is no reward except that we get to please our Father, which is reward enough. His grace is sufficient.
Leaders, we cannot be like those who forbid what God has not forbidden. Everything created by God is good and we can receive it with gratitude. We have such a tendency to create problems and disagreements where there are no problems and no reasons at all for a quarrel. I heard this recently, that to be wise is to choose to forget many things. We are prone to make mountains out of mole hills, so to speak. While in our minds, this thing may be the most important thing, we are likely hurting more than we are helping. There is a great need for self discipline, and we forget because we think too highly of ourselves. After all, we are leaders. We have some authority. We oversee something. We need to protect something. False. We are servants. God works all things together. When we try to usurp God’s authority over all things, we become the hypocrites, the liars, the persecutors, the ones who put others on trial like the pharisees did Jesus. Yet Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” We must deny self. We must become long-sufferers as Jesus was. This is the only way we will be able to serve well in God’s kingdom on this earth. If we have denied self, God’s word faithfully taught is the only valid source of our direction. Let our ears not be tickled, but our hearts wrought in godly transformation. I must decrease.
Paul, in writing to young Timothy, instructs him to point out these things. Timothy was to point out the false teaching. He was to point out that God placed people in positions of service for a reason. He was to point out that God’s administration was by faith and not works. He was to point out the character qualifications of the servants. He was to point out that people had no control because the church belonged to God. In pointing out these things to the brethren, Timothy would be a good servant of Christ.
So it is with those who are entrusted with the work of ministry in the church, both local and universal. We serve God, and so we teach what God has given, and we can’t rightly teach any other gospel. There is nourishment in the true Gospel. Leaders, we are nourished on the words of faith and of sound doctrine. Those we serve are nourished on the words of faith and of sound doctrine. Any other feeling of nourishment is short-lived. There is a reason that the ministry of the word is to be the foremost ministry of the church. There is a reason God has given an office to be completely devoted to the ministry of the word. There is a reason God has given an office for other ministerial needs on this earth. Through the words of faith and sound doctrine, the people of God are nourished. Spiritual diet is important, and we should be focussed on delivering a healthy spiritual diet (words of faith and sound doctrine).
This is why church administration is so important. Does our method, the way we are organized, promote God’s work in this way or have we tried to invent work for ourselves?
We make it a point to have nothing to do with worldly fables. Instead, we remain disciplined for the purpose of our growing in godliness. Our discipline also works for the purpose of others’ growth in godliness. We don’t merely practice abstinence from certain things. That is of little value because it is only outward. We want godliness to actually be produced in us and in those we lead. So, it profits little to teach a moralistic theology or pay attention merely to behavior modification. We strive for genuine godliness because our hope is on the living God. In fact, genuine godliness is the labor of those who serve in Christ- especially concerning the two offices.
He is the savior of all men, especially of believers. Only God is sovereign. Only God can save. He is the savior of all people, the whole world. In His providence, He leads, directs, commands, creates, destroys, works, and saves. All people are completely and utterly dependent on God, His working together of all things, and His redemptive work from before the foundation of the world. Those who believe are saved because God has the authority to do that. These are the things Timothy was to prescribe and teach because the church belongs to God, not people. We need to be very clear about this. This is the truth that will keep us humble. We need to remember this. God is king, not the pastors, not the deacons, not anyone else.
There are many reasons that others will look down on us, judge us, condemn us, and reject our service to them. Our youth is only one of the possible reasons. Timothy was instructed, because God is king and not people, to persevere in true faith and in the true Gospel and in sound doctrine, living an exposed life so that he might set an example. Even in the midst of an environment where he was ridiculed, he was to fulfill the calling that he received from God and exercise his gifts, which were given by God and recognized by the body of elders. Timothy was to remain steadfast. The word of God, words of faith and sound doctrine, meant salvation. That message is more important than what others condemn about us. When we persevere (that’s right, persevere) in receiving and teaching the words of faith and sound doctrine, we ensure salvation both for ourselves and for those who hear us. This is important. We serve people by enduring all things so that the words of faith and sound doctrine might be proclaimed and accepted in a world that has rejected both even though they are the words of life. Yes, we must teach both right faith and sound doctrine. That is the content of the ministry of the word; the foremost ministry in and through the church for the benefit of the whole world.