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.
Paul continues to expound on the many things that make ministry so difficult in this sinful world. Every difficulty comes from selfishness and the self-righteous nature of the unregenerate human heart. Those who hold to a form of godliness (religious people who do not know grace) will not endure sound doctrine. Did you notice that word, endure? Sound doctrine requires great endurance. We learn something else about sound doctrine. People are apt to select teachers who teach what is in accordance with their own desires. Since biblical teaching humbles people and declares that God has all authority absolutely, genuine biblical teaching will more often be rejected than accepted. People would rather have teaching that employs the Bible rather than teaching it explicitly. People turn their ears from the truth and turn aside to myths, in this case to mean things that are considered to be true by the general population but are not- like the myth about the shortening attention span.
Paul encourages Timothy as he remembers Timothy’s tears. Be sober in all things. This is not an instruction regarding alcohol consumption. It is an instruction regarding sober-mindedness (which was given as a qualification for both elders and deacons). Paul encouraged Timothy to think deeply and clearly, especially regarding the teaching of God’s word. He was not to be swept away by his emotion, by popular theology, or even by his own presumptions. The same is true for us. We must approach the Scriptures and our ministries honestly. The Scriptures will change us, humble us, and build us up in Christ. They will not return void.
Endure hardship. Any leadership position, and especially ministry positions, particularly teachers of God’s word, requires endurance. It is difficult, to say the least. It is stressful because people are unable to understand (2 Timothy 3). We are unable to understand unless God grants understanding. The labor of the word and the preaching thereof is, in this world, a matter of great toil and endurance and self-denial.
Do the work of an evangelist. Evangelism is the preaching of the Gospel and the extending of the invitation to Christ. Even in our tears and as we endure for the Lord, we are to be outwardly focused, especially in the preaching of God’s true Gospel by the declaration and explanation of His word. God has prepared a harvest. Our attention cannot merely be on self, even in our tears, and it cannot merely be on the issues of the church body. There is work to be done on this earth- the making disciples of all nations. This requires even more endurance and toil and self-denial: not merely of the elders and deacons, but of the whole congregation.
Fulfill your ministry. We do the work that God has for us until we are finished. Again we see endurance, toil, hardship, perseverance, and steadfastness as we work to preach the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ. People are saved by grace through faith, not by any work of their own so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Most people would have us believe that they contribute in some way to their own salvation. That is what is most often taught. What was that about accumulating teachers according to our own desires? Soli Deo Gloria.
Paul did not perceive himself to be righteous. He wrote about having a righteousness that was not his own. Here, foreseeing his own demise, talks about his own finishing the race that the Lord prepared for Him. Righteousness would be given to him as a crown to wear, not as a thing to be. The same sort of crown will be given to all those who have loved Christ Jesus, the king and judge of both the living and the dead. Let us also fight the good fight.
Paul mentioned several people who deserted him and rejected the gospel of grace, preaching another form of the gospel. He instructed Timothy to be on guard against such men, men who would vigorously oppose the humbling gospel truth that God alone administers salvation.
It is amazing what sort of opposition a genuine teaching of the Bible will incur. Many of those claiming to be saved by Christ vigorously oppose the explicit biblical teaching that salvation is not of us whatsoever, but entirely a work of God in Christ Jesus. I guess people would rather boast in their own ability even though Scripture is honest and explicit about our inability to understand and to seek after God. That is one reason ministry is so toilsome, so stressful, and so sanctifying. Paul even praises God for strengthening him so that the proclamation of the true Gospel might be fully accomplished through him. God was doing the work through Paul so that all Gentiles might hear. By God’s grace alone, Paul was able to finish the race and fight the good fight. It was God who rescued Paul from every evil deed. Paul, by his own muster, would not reject sin. None of us can. That is why the genuine Gospel is not mere moralistic teaching or behavior modification. It is the Gospel of grace. It is God who brings people safely into His heavenly kingdom, not by any work of people. To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
The same would be true for Timothy. The same is true for you and me. May the Lord be with our spirits. Grace be with you.
*Please take time to pray for the families of the rising number of pastors who have committed suicide due to ministerial depression. The enemy is at work, and he is at work especially against those who do genuine, Gospel-centered ministry. Rekindle.
*please note, if you experience depression because of a mental illness or because of a chemical imbalance, please seek medical help. If depression is constant, please seek the help of a good psychologist. Circumstantial depression (which I am addressing here) is not the same as clinical depression.