As you know Paul has left Timothy in Ephesus in order to set things in order as there were some false teachers who were stirring up problems within that particular church.
This meant he was going to have do some serious discipling and some serious rebuking.
Which, of course wasn’t an easy task for someone like Timothy. It’s not easy for most of us to minister in a place where people are so resistant, and so Paul in 1 Timothy 4:6, encourages him to persevere in the work of the ministry, by saying,
“If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the doctrine you have followed.”
Now the key phrase there is good servant of Jesus Christ. This is how we have to begin as we think about what goes on in our study. We are there as servants of Jesus Christ and so our question is, how can we serve him best? And what I love about these verses is that the Spirit of God lays out for us what He wants from those who would minister His Word.
First, we need to study Scriptures.
As I plan my week, and set up my schedule, I start with my roles, what does God call me to be as pastor, and one of the important roles I have as a pastor, is that of a student.
Paul says in verse 6, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.”
And you might underline the phrase, being trained in the words. What Paul is reminding us is that a good servant is not only someone who teaches others the truth, ‘who puts these things before the brothers’, he is also someone who is continually learning himself.
Because, you see, Paul’s not describing a process that is done. He doesn’t say, ‘you have been trained.’ Instead he’s describing a process that is to be constantly happening, ‘you are being trained.’
A good servant of Christ Jesus is continually being taught and instructed.
This is so important for us as pastors. Especially when it comes to our role as preachers, as communicators of God’s Word.
As someone has said,
Before we give out, we have to take in.
Impression comes before expression.
The more you are impacted by the Word of God in your studies, the better you will be able to communicate to others from the pulpit.
It doesn’t matter how good you are at saying things if you have nothing to say, and no matter how talented you are, you are not going to be able to make full use of your talent, unless you are pursuing your whole a life a deeper knowledge of God and His Word.
In other words, one of the things we need to do in our study, is study and as we make our plans and our schedules for the week, this study has to take priority.
That’s the point.
Preaching, the pastoral ministry, requires deep thinking and deep thinking requires great effort. As one author explains, “Behind the ministry of public teaching lies the discipline of private study.”
Paraphrasing, I think it might have been John MacArthur, in Africa, we don’t need more men who simply stand somewhere and talk. We need examples of men who sit somewhere and study. We need men who are more desperate for spiritual food than physical food, who are more serious about studying their Bibles than knowing the latest soccer scores. We need men whose eyes burn because of their tireless study of the Word of God, whose minds are filled with concern for the glory of God, and whose knees are sore from the time they spend praying to God. We need men who will not speak for God, until they have read and reread, written and rewritten, and can say with full confidence, ‘thus saith the Lord.’ We need men who don’t much about the around town gossip, but who do know much about what God says in His Word. We need good servants of Christ Jesus, who are being trained in the words of the faith, who use their time, to study.
When we make our schedules for the week, if we are going to be productive, we have to give ourselves a lot of time to think.
Because, a pastor is a student.
And you know, I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but I think in the hustle and bustle of everyday ministry there is some pressure to forget that. Or not totally forget that, but perhaps to minimize the importance of serious, extended study.
I have found it is sometimes helpful to read how pastors in generations past thought about their work.
Take Nathanael Emmons.
Jonathan Edwards is legendary for spending thirteen hours a day in the study, but he wasn’t the only one who devoted himself to thinking and learning like that. Obviously his example had an impact on those who followed, and you can see it in the autobiography of Nathanael Emmons.
Listen to the commitment Emmons made to study at the very beginning of his ministry. Now, I am definitely not saying that he was one hundred percent right in the way he went about all of this, in fact, I don’t think he was, but at the very least, I think we can be challenged and pushed back a little ourselves by reading of his resolve.
“As soon as I entered into the ministry, I resolved to devote my whole time to the sacred work, without encumbering myself with the cares and concerns of the world. I expected, however, that I should need great firmness and vigilance, to guard me against the solicitations of ease, interest, and seeming necessity, to neglect the proper business of my calling. Upon this consideration, I determined not to begin to do the least manual labor, nor even superintend my secular concerns; but to make my study my home, and my ministerial duties my whole employment.”
We can stop there, because I think reading that, the line that stands out to me, is ‘I determined not to begin to do the least manual labor,’ and to be straight, that sounds strange and almost seems lazy. In other words, it would be something I would be almost embarrassed to write, especially in an autobiography. What’s important for now though is not so much whether it was right or wrong, but that he doesn’t even blink at saying this. He doesn’t feel the need to justify this statement, and I think that points to a somewhat different conception of the importance of study and the work of the ministry than many in our day currently have.
And I am not saying, I think we need to go back completely to this way of thinking. The pastor is more than a student. Doing manual labor, caring for your family, all of these things, these are all ways to worship God, it doesn’t make sense that it can ever be right to neglect a real responsibility for an extended period of time and call that godly, but, at the very least, there’s a place, I think, for being challenged in that, just as we might read this and our minds immediately say, whoah, what about this, what about that, perhaps he might read our descriptions of what we do, and say whoah, in that, it doesn’t always seem that we take the role of study as seriously as he did.
And we need to, that’s the point, and as we look down, at this passage in Timothy, I think there are a couple of reasons why, which we will take note of in our next post.