It seems like a pretty obvious answer to the question, what should a pastor do in his study?
Unfortunately, sometimes it is not. Life gets busy. There are many things that seem urgent. But no matter how crazy life and ministry gets, as a pastor, you must schedule time to study, and guard it, because, a big part of your job is actually protecting your people from error.
In previous posts, we have been looking at 1 Timothy 4, verse 6, and we sort of started at the end of that verse actually, but if you look again at how it starts, you’ll see that Paul begins,”If you put these things before the brothers you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus.”
By “these things,” he’s talking of course primarily about what he’s written to this point in 1 Timothy. “These things” is a phrase that is used eight times throughout this letter. It sums up the instructions and orders Paul had given Timothy and that he expected Timothy to pass on to the Ephesians. And here of course when Paul calls Timothy to put these things before the brothers, he’s especially talking about his responsibility to teach truth by identifying and exposing error.
I say that because if you look back at the context, verses 1-5, that’s what Paul is primarily concerned about, and he wants to encourage Timothy not just to overlook this error, but to step up and to expose it for the danger it is.
Now, honestly, this is probably not where I would normally start, if I had to talk about the work of the ministry, because it is not a very popular ministry, that of correction and rebuke and identifying error, but as we see here in verse 6, it is an essential one if we are going to be faithful to Christ Jesus.
If you put these things before…you will be a good servant.
I read a great quote the other day, where the author said, when a leader walks into the room, a passion for truth better come into the room with him. Pastors need to be passionate about the truth, and if we are passionate about the truth, of course, we will feel deeply our responsibility to bring the danger of erroneous teaching to the attention of the believers in the church. And if we are going to do that, obviously we are going to have study, because there is a lot of error that is out there, and those errors have devastating consequences. This not just math we are talking about.
We need to study to confront error, because error is spiritually dangerous.
Paul’s makes that point abundantly clear up in verses 1-5.
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and the teaching of demons.”
How do they depart from the faith? By devoting themselves to error. We are not just standing up against error because we just like things just so, but because we know that what happens when people believe error, is that it leads them away from God. In fact, later on in 1 Timothy, in chapter 6, Paul will point out some of the devastating consequences of error, as he contrasts truth with error by pointing out the ways error impacts the lives of those who embrace it.
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of great gain.”
In Ephesus, where Paul had left Timothy, there were these religious people in the church, who were interested in a whole bunch of nonsense, really, things that didn’t really matter, speculations Paul calls them, and they were all worked up about them, specifically talking about genealogies, and debating the law, and coming up with all kinds of rules about what you can eat and what you can’t eat, and then even saying strange things like the resurrection has already happened.
Which sounds weird to me, you think why would they want to waste their time on all that, until I stop and think about what’s going on in the church here all around us. It’s amazing the kind of crazy ideas many people in the church in South Africa, Africa, America, the world, are spending their focused on. There is, and I think we have to be honest now, I mean if this is what was happening in Paul’s day and it is happening so much in ours, there seems to be, a very real temptation and we shouldn’t think we are so much above it, to waste time talking about and debating things that may sound somewhat spiritual at first, that sort of revolve around the Bible but are not in the Bible, and really don’t matter and don’t produce godliness, which, actually Paul says do the opposite, they lead us away from God and from each other, producing, “envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people.”
Which is why we need to study.
First, it’s for our people.
This world full of lies, dangerous ones, soul-destroying ones, tricky ones, and one of the ways we can show love to people is by sitting in our studies and working hard at knowing the truth as well as we can so we can protect them from falling for error that will in the end destroy them.