Monday, November 10, 2008

What is a Pastor to Do?

In his first letter to the young Timothy the Apostle Paul imparts instructions about Timothy’s responsibility as the spiritual leader of the church in Ephesus. Last night I began a series through the Pastoral Letters (1-2 Timothy & Titus). Every Sunday night for the next several weeks I’ll be giving an expositional overview of each chapter. My goal is to provide a recap of each week’s study here on this blog. Here is the recap of chapter one titled, “What is a pastor to do?”

My aim for the study of 1 Timothy 1 is to take seriously the instructions of Paul to Timothy as the beginning of a blueprint for pastors and churches. We want to be a healthy church that is a display of God’s glory. Organisms are healthy when they are properly nourished and our nourishment is the Word of God. There is no better “church growth” manual. Paul’s words to Timothy in chapter one can be summarized into five instructions that teach what a pastor (and every church member) is to do.

1. A pastor is to combat the liars (v. 1- 7). Pastors must stand firm on Biblical truth and not allow false teachings to infiltrate the church. A pastor must keep the “sword of the Spirit” ready otherwise he will leave his people defenseless to the “wolves”.

2. A pastor is to teach the truth (v. 8-11). Pastors combat false doctrine by teaching right doctrine. Paul says “the law is good”, meaning that it is useful. The “law” or Scriptures exalt God’s standard (Romans 7:12), expose sin (Romans 3:19), and point sinners to their need for a Savior (Galatians 3:24). When a pastor fails to teach the truth without apology he opens the door for false doctrine to creep in.

3. A pastor must remember the good news (v. 12-16). Timothy is facing great opposition and discouragement. Paul comforts Timothy by reminding him of the gospel. If God can save sinners from Hell imagine what else He can do even in the face of overwhelming opposition.

4. A pastor must worship the King (v. 17). Paul erupts into a verse of doxology upon reflection of the good news. When the gospel is cherished worship happens in a pastor’s heart and in a church’s assembly.

5. A pastor must keep the faith (v. 18-20). It has been said that too often pastors (like me) overestimate how much can be accomplished in the short term and underestimate how much can be accomplished in the long term. Ministry is tough and it is long-suffering. Paul warns Timothy not to follow the path of Hymenaeus and Alexander who were “shipwrecked” in their faith. One commentator says that Paul challenges Timothy (and every pastor) to be both good soldiers who will fight the good fight of faith and good sailors who will navigate the waters of this world carefully and faithfully.

These are good words from Paul to Timothy and they inspired words from the Holy Spirit to every pastor and layperson seeking faithfulness in their church.

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