Biblical Pattern for Pastoral Ministry: Part 9 :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

1 Timothy 4:8-16: ‘Take Heed to the Ministry”

“If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. These things command and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

“Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:8-16, NKJV).

If you’ve been reading these studies and you believe that the Lord Jesus has called you to serve Him full- time, and you think that you can accomplish all of what is expected of you without the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, you are not going to make it no matter how clever or knowledgeable you may think you are. Nothing of what Paul presents to Timothy in this letter comes from an attitude or thought of being able to do any task for the LORD in and of his own strength. A minister of the Gospel must rely on Christ if he is to accomplish anything of worth or value for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

If you take the time to read all of Paul’s letters and the instructions presented to the respective churches, you will find that he had to lean on Jesus for everything and that nothing he did was based on an ego trip or a philosophy of self-reliance. He counted himself and everything he had learned as a Pharisee to be on the level of waste if it didn’t honor or glorify His Lord (Philippians 3:1-11). Paul was redeemed by the mercy and grace of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, and it is this act of saving power that propelled Paul to do all he did in the years that Jesus gave to him.

Paul had suffered much for the sake of the gospel (2 Corinthians 1:8-11, 11:22-33; Galatians 6:17). He knew that he was on borrowed time, and there was no way on Earth that he would allow any church to dwell on anything but the truth of Jesus Christ and Him crucified as long as he had breath to do something about it. His letters and the time he poured into training elders and pastors such as Timothy were the means given to Him by the LORD to ensure that future believers would be grounded in the standard of the Word and the doctrines of the faith.

In the history of the church, especially the first four centuries, too much blood and tragedy came upon our spiritual ancestors for the sake of the Gospels and the works of the apostles for anything less than what they were assured of was the authentic Word of the living God. Fables and inaccuracies don’t produce martyrs, and people who would rather face the point of a sword or spear than to deny the life-transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ as presented in the Scriptures.

I am convinced that critics of the structure and development of the New Testament, that is often the subject of choice in the swamp of skepticism, are guilty of ignoring this incident of church history, and that their assumptions that we don’t have the real New Testament are an insult to those early believers who lie in martyr’s graves for the sake of what they were convinced was true and real as far as what God had given to the authors of the Word. It is an affront to objective biblical scholarship and somewhat of a blatant arrogance on the part of the skeptic to assume that the early believers did not possess accurate copies of the original texts, spelling and grammar variants included, which did not change in any form the essential truths of Christian teaching or doctrine. To my knowledge, even the well-known Biblical scholar and skeptic Dr. Bart Ehrman has admitted this fact.

It is true that we do not possess the original copies, but the work of textual scholars (people who investigate and compare the earliest copies of the New Testament) tend to agree that the copies, some of which date back to the 2nd century, are similar in structure and composition. It would be in your best interest to examine the work of biblical scholars such as the late Dr. Bruce Metzger, F.F. Bruce, Daniel Wallace, Gary Habermas, Richard Bauckham, and Darrell Bock to see how their studies assured them of the accuracy of the copies of Scripture that are in existence today. It is men such as these who have carried the apostle’s torch and helped to press on in the cause of Christ.

Pastors, heed what I’m going to say. The Book that is in front of you on the pulpit is the true, eternal, absolute, inerrant, all-powerful and sufficient Word of the living God (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21; John 17:17; Hebrews 4:12). Anyone who says otherwise is a liar, a fool, someone not to be trusted, a false teacher, an antichrist, and an agent of the devil. I will not alter or change my stand concerning this issue. To deny the God-breathed words of Scripture is to call God a liar, pure and simple. Ignore this at your own risk.

Paul tells us that we who are called to the sacred office are to examine ourselves spiritually, to see if what we are proclaiming is God’s truth. Even he did that when he met with the apostles after years of preaching. He wanted to meet with them and see if what he had taught was the authentic Gospel (Galatians 1:18 -2:10).

If Paul, the author of one third of the New Testament and one of the godliest men ever to grace the stage of history, had this kind of concern and attitude, it would be rank arrogance and foolishness on the part of any man who would enter the Gospel ministry to rely only upon his own experience or self-analysis of how he believes effective ministry should proceed. Every man of God worth his calling needs the input, advice, and admonishment on occasion from mentors, peers, and godly members of his flock to keep him on track spiritually and within the will of the Sovereign Lord if he will but listen and learn.

When I read these verses, this is what I see Paul essentially advising Timothy to do as he grows in his calling and reliance on the direction of the Spirit of God through prayer and study.

The prime responsibility for Timothy, as well as any pastor, is to read, study, and proclaim the truths of the Scriptures to the flock (Luke 4:16-20; Acts 13:15, 15:21; Colossians 4:16; Romans 12;8; Hebrews 10:24-25).

He was responsible to preach the doctrines of the faith. Any individual who claims to be a minister of the Lord, yet downplays the need for doctrinal study and emphasizes “the movement of the Spirit,” or “a fresh word from God,” or “a new revelation,” or “we don’t need to get bogged down in all that legalistic doctrinal junk,” needs to be rebuked, avoided, and thrown out of the church. He is a false teacher and an agent of the devil. Doctrine matures and strengthens the church (1 Timothy 4:6; Hebrews 5:12; Titus 2:3-4) and guards against deceitful practices.

Timothy was to exercise the gifts that the LORD had bestowed upon Him and do so in a manner that honored the LORD and the office into which he was called (1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

How do we apply what Paul has written to us who are believers and are part of the church in general? Dwell on spiritual truths and teachings as presented in the Scriptures. Read them, memorize passages, encourage each other, and discover and use the gifts that God has given to you. He didn’t leave you empty or forget to adequately equip you for service. We all have a function in the body of Christ, each with a specific part to play.

As we progress further in this study, we’ll look at the task of pastoral care, and how all members can be a part of that gracious service to each other and for the glory of the great King, our Lord Jesus Christ.