Honor God in Your Service

[Although this lesson does not include the material on the “overseer,” or bishop, we will provide some exposition for those that would like to have a larger context for the qualifications of deacon and the admonitions given to Timothy in 4:6-16]

The character of Christian ministry (3:1-7)  – overseer, or bishop, the same office as elder or pastor –cf. Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5:1-3 [Only men, but not all men] Though historically, some Baptists and other denominations have divided these offices, the Scripture treats them as synonymous both in qualifications and as synonyms. They only indicate different skills, or gifts, characteristic of the same office.

Its intrinsic goodness [“A good [fine] work”] as an office Christ has ordained for the church  1 – See Ephesians 4:7-13 – the pastor teacher as a gift Christ ordains for the perfection of his people in true knowledge. It gains its goodness through the content of the service (preaching the revealed word of God and tending the elect sheep of God), and the absolute excellence of status and moral perfection to which it leads—fellowship with the triune God and the sinless manifestation of completely purified affections and thoughts.

Qualifications consistent with the holistic nature of his witness

The Functional qualification is aptness to teach: only one word in Greek [didaktikon] but a pervasive concern through the pastorals. This qualification includes at least the following three ideas that penetrate virtually every part of Paul’s correspondence to Timothy.

Coherent and systematic knowledge of revealed truth – cf. 1:7; 3:15, 16; 4:6, 11, 15-16; 5:17; 6:3, 4, 17, 20-21; 2 Tim 4:2, 3; The Bible should be his constant companion and his knowledge should constantly be on the increase.

Ability to communicate confidently and clearly 1:18, 19; 4:6; 6:3, 4; 2 Tim 1:8; 2:14, 15; 23-26; 3:14, 15. Since divine revelation must be communicated in words, it is important that the bishop appreciate language and give attention to the manner in which it transfers ideas from one mind to another.

Trustworthiness and appropriateness in interpersonal relationships: 1:3; 3:5; 4:6; 5:1, 2; 6:1, 2,17

Personal morality

“Above reproach” covers the entire scope of character; He must not have any deleterious influence on issues of moral uprightness in the church or in the way the church’s influence affects society. The increasing distance between the world and the church on vital ethical issues calls for a knowledgeable, scripturally enlightened, and morally elevated grasp of the witness the church should bear to its surrounding culture.

Sobriety in conduct and relationships – not a drunkard or fighter. Although this is not a strict prohibition of the partaking of fermented beverage, the man that is responsible for the spiritual lives of his flock should take extra cautions not to do anything that creates diminished acuity  in mental faculty or in social interaction. His temper must always be under control and in any time of rebuke or correction he must not present himself as a pugilist set on winning a fight, but must conduct himself with gentleness even when  engaged with an opponent.

Not covetous – cf 6:10; 1 Peter 5:2 – The strong biblical warrant for sufficient material provision for the pastor (5:17, 18; Galatians 6:6-10; 1 Corinthians 9:8-14), but the pastor must guard against measuring his ministry in terms of material gain. He must rather see the riches of his calling in terms of the privilege of speaking the infinitely glorious gospel of Christ that gives eternal riches of the most elevating and enduring sort to all who believe. (1 Corinthians 9:15-18; 1 Timothy 6:5-10).

Reputable for all the right reasons 7 [Though non-believers might not like the world view of Christians, they should have no reason to accuse one, especially an elder, of dishonesty, deceit, impurity, impoliteness, or lack of compassion. Cf. Titus 3:1-3 and for the same truth from a different perspective 1 Peter 2:12

Hospitable – to his own flock but also to Christian teachers away from home, cf. Philemon 22; Hebrews 13:2, 3; 3 John 5-8 but, 2 John:10, 11; also contrast Diotrephes, 3 John 10

Experienced and not susceptible to flattery and pride 6 cf. 5:22 – “avoid the condemnation placed upon the devil” The devil is the king of pride and his absorption with his own beauty and intellectual advantages (created in him by God) led to his opposition to the divine purpose of redemption. Gill noted, “not being able to bear it, that the human nature should be advanced above that of angels.”

Proven as a manager of his household 4, 5 [his family serves as a microcosm of the church family’ the consistency and wisdom shown in the one will be evident in the other.  See the concern in verse 15]

One Wife (2) – not a polygamist either in the past or  the present {Calvin}  “What is here forbidden is digamy under any circumstances,” [Expositor’s Greek Testament] prohibiting not only polygamy, or bigamy, but divorce; not prohibiting, however, remarriage after death of spouse

The children are disciplined and show proper deference to authority, Parental, legal, and societal. Gill observed, “and not as Eli, who did not use his authority, or lay his commands upon his sons, nor restrain them from evil, or severely reprove them for their sins, but neglected them, and was too mild and gentle with them.” “The argument is from the lesser to the greater, and it is quite clear that a man who is not fit to rule his own family will be quite incapable of governing a whole people.  Besides the fact that he obviously lacks the necessary qualities, what authority could a man have among a people when his own family life brings him into contempt.”  Calvin

Necessary Facilitators of The Teaching ministry

Deacons – Notice that the arisal of need for deacons in the first instance was the necessity of the apostles to keep teaching Acts 6:2-5. The deacons must be search out ways in which they can facilitate more quality time for the bishop in study and prayer. In this way he cares for the church spiritually while caring for physical needs.

Same qualifications of dignity and morals. Look at like description of bishops from above. Verse 8 and 12 reiterate much of the qualifications of the bishop. The reason for the similarity of spiritual, familial, and moral qualifications should be clear. The gospel should have a like effect on all those that profess to have embraced its truth and experienced the redemptive blessings of faith in Christ. Each of these officers should be examples of what the purifying effects of the gospel produce in the way of doctrinal conviction, and the truth that is according to godliness.

Knowledge of Christian truth in depth: 9 “holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” [They might not be “apt to teach” but from their clear experimental acquaintance with the truth, they will sympathize with the importance of the task of the pastor and thus serve with greater faithfulness and zeal] On occasion, however, as in the case of Stephen and Philip, teaching will be a part of what is necessary for their calling.

they must be tested for qualification – both their character and their knowledge of the gospel must be subjected to a respectful and loving scrutiny; They are to serve in the office only if this candid examination leads to the conclusion of their fitness in these areas of biblical examination. Their blamelessness does not mean sinlessness but free of those attitudes and habits that would being discredit on the sanctifying purpose of gospel ministry.

The whole process of selection and service functions as a means of grace  13

 Standing for themselves – That is, of appropriate honor and respect as a spiritual guide in the increase of godliness and purity of worship in the congregation.

 Great confidence in the faith means a more settled assurance of their own standing in the blood and righteousness of Christ giving greater boldness in prayer, a greater confidence in both detecting and reproving error in thought and morals, and a more persuasive way of presenting true doctrine to inquirers.

Women – This could refer to deacon’s wives, since they might be called on to minister along with him in some delicate situations. It could also be of broader application, pointing to a simple recognition of the need for similar service in situations appropriate for women as opposed to men.  See Titus 2:3, 4 for the kind of activity women were encouraged to do.

The importance of this order 3:14-16

Urgency (14-15a; cf. 4:13)  Even though he hopes to come soon, he wants the instruction to arrive even sooner, especially in case he is delayed

the church is the creation of a new family relationship – This is why verses 5 and 12 are so important

Its relation to God (15)– this is not merely a human institution, founded by humans, for human well-being, but a place established by God’s revelation and call, the redemption purchased by The Son of God, and the quickening and gifting work of the Spirit of God [“household of God . . . church of the Living God” See this in light of Mt. 16:13-21; Rev. 1:4-6; 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22]

The truth of God’s word has been placed in the church and constitutes its most basic calling.  It is constructed by God’s truth and it is called on to protect and proclaim God’s truth. Its content comes from revelation and its substance concerns a reality proceeding only from the infinite wisdom of God, a substance impossible for any philosophical, intellectual, or political power of this age to conceive or produce 15:b, 16a  “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness.” Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6-10

A confession summarizes the importance of these instructions as well as outlines a summary of the message

He summarizes truths concerning the Lord Jesus Christ in whose person and through whose work the church came into existence.  The church is his body [Eph. 1:22, 23; 5:18; Col 1:18] his bride [Eph. 5:25 cf. Rev. 19:7] purchased with his blood [Acts 20:28]

It is a hymnic presentation with internal rhyme created by six verbs all in the same tense [revealed, vindicated, seen, proclaimed, believed on, taken up]

Apparently two stanzas of three lines each, the key ideas standing as a parenthesis [revealed in the flesh . . . Taken up in glory]

The first stanza begins with the incarnation, affirms the presence and necessary work of the Spirit [see Lk. 2:52; 4:1, 2; Rom 1:4;Heb. 9:14] both in empowering his humanity to the perfection necessary for our justification and in rasing him from the dead as testimoly to the trued defeat of death through the exhaustion of any “wages” morally endemic to our sin. From heaven the observation of angels shows the truly astounding nature of these amazing events of the Son of God, their Master, dwelling among men [in a nature inferior to the angels but soon to be exalted above them] for man’s redemption [1 Peter 1:12; Hebrews 1:4, 14 – notice the presence of angels from the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist all the way through the ascension [Lk 1:11-20; Acts 1:10, 11 and many appearances at pivotal events in between]

The second stanza begins with the effect of Christ’s appearance in his proclamation to the Gentiles and the belief unto life that accompanied the proclamation; it ends with the affirmation of his ascension, marking the certainty that his work of redemption was accepted in heaven and the giving of gifts to men for the establishing of the church in the truth. [Ephesians 4:8-13]

IV.  Pressing the Points

A.  Churches must see the sober nature of calling a minister or of setting aside others to gospel ministry.  Their character must support the content of their teaching ministry

B. Deacons must facilitate this teaching task by being in full sympathy with it since they understand the greatness of its content.

C.  The adoption of a confession of faith that clearly reflects the attributes and purpose of God, the person and work of Christ, the nature of salvation, and the form of the church would be a good thing, consistent with a biblical view of the duties of a church.

V.  Be warned that some teachers will deny fundamental doctrine  1-5

Context: qualifications for an elder [3:1-7] and the importance of a succinct confession [3:16] – Truth is central to every aspect of the church’s witness.  Immediately after the confessions summarizing the christocentric nature of truth and the church’s message, Paul warns against destructive error.  Wrong living comes from wrong thinking and perverted affections.  The only antidote is continual nourishment on revealed truth.  This ordering is virtually the same as that seen in 2 Peter 1:19-21, emphasizing the importance of a deep knowledge of Scripture followed by the warning against false prophets, 2 Peter 2:1ff.

Apostasy is specifically predicted by the Spirit 4:1  Paul does not consider divine revelation in human language either philosophically absurd or inherently unclear [cf. 1 Cor 2:10-13; 2 Tim. 3:16; Eph 3:3, 4, 5]  A person may believe the Bible or not believe the Bible.  No doubt is possible, however, that the apostles claimed to speak words explicitly revealed by God through the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.  The Christian claim that the Bible is the word of God is built first of all on the claim that the books make to that status.  On that basis, then, we may examine its history, its doctrines, its world-view, its morality, its impact on lives, and the relation of its principal doctrines to credible witnesses.

Note that the ultimate origin of erroneous doctrine is clearly demonic 4:1; 1 John 4:1-6.  Satan continues to oppose God’s purpose and has plenty of willing followers.  Compare also 2 Tim. 2:26.  Jesus recognizes Satan’s part in Peter’s refusal to hear the word of the cross {Matthew 16:22, 23] so soon after speaking the revealed truth of Christ’s person.

The means of propagating it is through unregenerate teachers 4:2; cf. 2 Peter 2 –Although this is often the case, for the unregenerate have vested interests in disproving the truthfulness of Scripture, its moral standard, its witness to certain judgment, and its clear demonstration of the exclusiveness of Christ’s qualification as a savior, sometimes earnest people can be in error.   They are normally willing to be corrected to the glory of God.

Attack on God through a false principle of moral rigor and piety 4:3 [cf. Col 2:20-23] Promiscuity and promotion of immorality are most often seen as an attack on God’s law and holiness [Romans 1:28-32].  Just as devastating is a false morality, built on deceptive theology, that promises righteousness through personal achievement [also Romans 10:3.]

Their resistance is particularly aimed at God as creator and his prerogative of establishing the purpose and proper use of everything.  (4:4)  Relate this to the prohibition of women as the teacher of the church; it violates God’s purpose of creation.  See also Romans 1 for the devastating results of human, as opposed to divine, sovereignty over sexuality.

The key always is to enjoy creation with a view to its holy purpose of discerning the goodness of the Creator 4b, 5  [Psalm 8, Matthew 6:19-34, but Rom 1:25]

VI.   Place all of life in the perspective of eternity 6-11 [cf. Psalm 17:13-15]

A   As opposed to the false teachers, Timothy is to instruct according to the full body of doctrine, as centered in the Gospel 4:6, 7a.  The use of these two phrases together shows that the words of faith and the sound doctrine are essentially the same, but it shows that sound doctrine is designed to produce the changed life, the life of belief.  Review 1:5, 6.

B.  Central to his teaching will be personal discipline, particularly for godliness [4:7, 8 gumnaze– exercise, go to the gym for godliness], but he is clearly to reject, give no place even to the entertainment value of speculations disguised as true religion.  It seems that in the dualistic religions [a proto-gnosticism?] older women perpetuated the silly stories that promoted the doctrines against which Paul is warning. Contrast with Paul’s expectations for older widows, 5:9, 10.  The advantages, however, of godliness, are great.  Compare the accusations against both John the Baptist and Jesus.  Jesus did not follow an ascetic way of life but “was not for that reason any whit inferior” [Calvin].  Godliness involves laying aside the “old self which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit” and being renewed in the spirit of the mind, putting on the new self “which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” [Ephesians 4:22-24.]  We see the contrast, therefore, between falsehood and truth directly at the heart of godliness.  Conformity to truth in the whole man has lasting advantages.

Promise for this life – note the devastation wrought by ungodliness in the present life – embrace opportunities for showing how godliness supports true happiness and fulfillment–Steady marriages, disciplined children, frugal and honest life styles, lasting and edifying friendships.  On the other hand ungodliness may give a veneer of success and worldly power and admiration from the world, but also produces envy, jealousy, division, divorce, murder, suicide, disease, and massive confusion.

And that to come – hellishness in this life only faintly previews the hell of eternity.  Not only will one suffer the wrath of Almighty God, but he will be hated by all his companions in hell. Faith, however, that produces a godly hope gives the beauty, love, and holy joy of heaven as a driving force in the soul.

C.   Godliness [“unto this”] is worth more effort than any other goal –

1.  Paul’s example – Labor and strive cf. Col 1:28, 29; see 2 Cor 6:1-10 – no amount of labor or suffering is too much for the goal;  Also see Paul’s expression of seeking the status of resurrection from the dead in Philippians 3:11-15.

2.  This life is lived in the light of hope in the Living God; precursor to his teaching in 6:17-19 cf. Titus 2:12, 13 – no disappointment in hope, for hope “maketh not ashamed” Romans 5:5 – hope focuses on a future condition of imperishable riches consisting of the presence of God himself, our glorified incorruptible status, in which we are free from indwelling sin and any sinful predisposition that clouds our vision of the infinitely desirable fellowship with the tri-une God.

“Saviour of all men”  10.  caretaker in general; all receive his kindness, Romans 2:4, which shows that God’s goodness should drive people to repentance, thus showing a double goodness, not only in earthly provision but enduing such provision with an allurement to eternal blessing.  James 1:17,shows that every good thing for every person comes from God; but, to those upon whom his effectual calling has come, his providence is especially gracious in that they have learned to see in every event an opportunity to attain true godliness.

D.  Timothy must never tire of announcing and teaching these truths. 11  A Christian teacher must resist the urge to novelty and realize the power of truth reiterated.  See Peter’s concern in 2 Peter 1:12-21.  There is, moreover, endless applicatory power of the gospel to all issues, religious, moral, and philosophical as well as holy wisdom for difficult personal issues [Hebrews 5:11-14.

VII.   Personal life and conviction the foundation of Teaching Others 12-16

A   Youthfulness is a disadvantage only if it partakes of youthful folly 12   Again godliness is the key.  In the way that asceticism is not superior to normal enjoyment of provisions of food, clothing, and shelter, so age is not determinative of superiority apart from godliness.

B.   Until Paul comes, his ministry must be word-centered 13  – It seems that Paul is on his way [Translate “While I am coming”] Though it is possible [see below] that he could do otherwise, Timothy is to emphasize the Word.  Perhaps Paul, out of the authority of his apostolic office will deal specifically with an issue that calls for revealed insight, but the normal procedure and that that is incumbent on us is to proceed with the inscripturated word.

C.   He should cultivate the gift of teaching to which he was set aside by the presbytery 14 [Either at Lystra or at Ephesus before Paul left (1:3 cf. w/ 2 Tim 1:6)]  With Timothy, this is a true “charisma” and might include a gift of Spirit-revealed knowledge, but in light of the instruction throughout these letters, it refers to an obligation to give sound exposition of Scripture [cf. 2 Tim. 2:15]

D.   Even if a charisma, its stewardship demands aggressive discipleship and may be developed into maturity 15  [“pains . . . evident to all.” This will necessarily involve greater knowledge of and ability to give pertinent application of the written word.]

E.  Perseverance in godliness and consistent cultivation of gifts has eternal benefits for the minister and those who hear him. This summarizes Paul’s concerns

1.   Giftedness is of little value without godliness.  Compare with Paul’s concern that the highly gifted Corinthians not use their gifts as a pretense for personal lack of holiness.  He illustrates his concern by showing that even the position of an apostle and all the special gifts granted him does not give him an exception to personal holiness.

2.  His ministry consists largely of instruction, aspects of which follow in subsequent chapters.  “Those who hear you;”  The eternal well-being, the salvation, of persons depends on the carefulness in truth of Timothy’s ministry.  How compelling this should be to every teacher and every gospel minister, that, to a large degree, eternal destiny depends on the truthfulness of what is believed.

VIII.   Application

take note of how basic revealed truth may be perverted for the service of error

Likewise, pursue the implications of basic revealed truth throughout the whole fabric of Christian doctrine. [connections of creation, revelation, fall, redemption, incarnation, etc]

We must cultivate aspiration to godliness as infinitely superior to worldly applause and pleasure, and see with spiritual eyes the opportunities God provides

Word-centeredness is not antagonistic to but is inherently intrinsic to godliness

We should encourage ministers, and others, to takes pains in developing Spirit-endowed gifts

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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