I have been addressing the instructions given by Paul as an apostle, to Timothy as a pastor in the church. I believe that the principals, patterns, and values found in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus are kingdom realities for leaders in the church today. It is not the legalism of Paul’s words, but the substance of his words that reveals key elements in the responsibility of leaders in any church in any time.
Paul instructed Timothy to be aware that people would depart from the faith and would give heed to deceiving spirits and the teachings of demons. They would speak lies in hypocrisy, have hardened consciences, forbid to marry, and command legalistic rules concerning what to eat, what not to eat, what to do, and not to do as a matter of religious rules or superstitions. These were realities at the time of Timothy and church history reveals that these things continued as patterns of heresy in the church in successive generations. These were real deceptions at the birthing of the end of the Old Covenant and the beginning of the New Covenant. These things are dangers in every church and they are often the default mode of people in their efforts to do works to justify their faith rather than works as expressions of faith as a testimony of an intimate relationship with God in Christ. Leaders must give sound teaching and set a good example in being free from religious, demonic heresy.
1 Timothy 4:1-5 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
Paul’s instructions to Timothy reveal that leaders are not to just warn those they lead concerning things that lead to demonic deception. Leaders must set an example of the proper use of all things. Their example is one of receiving all things from God with thanksgiving as long as its use or function is true to God’s word and a testimony of a relationship with God. The written word of God is the grounds for legitimacy of all things and an intimate conversation with God is what confirms that word to be true and interpreted correctly. The word of God and prayer are the ingredients for proper use of all things. For something to be a true word from God it must be true to the principles, patterns, and values of Scripture as well as true to the Spirit – the character of God. Some things are meant to be left alone, not because of some religious law but because their use does not fulfill a life-giving purpose.
1 Timothy 4:6 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.
Again, leaders have a role of assisting those they lead in the practical areas of life. Good doctrine is simply a good way of life. It is not about what we believe, but how we live our lives. Jesus came to give us life and believers must seek to live in the liberty of the Spirit with a testimony of the life and peace that is found in Christ.
1 Timothy 4:7-11 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.
Leadership must instruct believers in regards to living a godly lifestyle. They are to reject useless things that do not pertain to true godliness. Leaders must teach believers, by word and example, to trust God, labor, and endure in all things. As Paul instructed Timothy, leaders are to both command and teach these things.
Timothy was not to let anyone despise him because of his youth. He was not to allow anyone to accuse him of being unqualified or inexperienced. Leaders must accept their God-given responsibility to lead and they must be confident in who God has declared them to be. They cannot allow people to intimidate them in their God-ordained responsibility as a leader.
1 Timothy 4:12-13 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.
Timothy was to be an example in word, conduct, love, spirit, faith, and purity. Timothy was to give his attention to speaking the word of God, exhorting the believers, and to both live and charge others to live godly lives. Leaders set an example in continually growing and becoming what God is making them all become for His glory. This is not merely memorizing what the word says so we can tell others what to do. This is becoming what the word says we are to be. Leaders must be an example to those they lead so they can follow with God’s transforming grace at work in their own lives. Leadership responsibility is about helping people in their everyday lives become examples of Christ and His family in all things.
Food For Thought,
Ted J. Hanson