Throughout our study of 1 Timothy we have learned a number of things. He has given us a number of directives that should mark us as a gospel based church. But in our passage this morning Paul acts much like a weatherman who forecasts a coming storm.
The passage tells us that in the latter times some will depart from the faith. The word depart there is the Greek word “aphistemi;” it’s the word we know as “apostatize.” So this passage is warning us that there is going to be a great apostasy in the church.
But what you need to understand is what kind of prophetic word this is. When you read this you see that it talks about the “later times.” And you can easily think that it is referring to some distant future event that occurs right before Jesus comes again. But that’s not what Paul is concerned with. He’s concerned with present realities. The later times are the times that we currently live in. It is the time period that extends from Christ’s first advent to his second.
Paul wrote this so that Timothy would be aware that apostasy is a threat that looms in every age of the church. He wanted Timothy and his congregation to be on guard and aware of the danger posed by false teaching.
And as we read this passage, we are to be reminded that it should be on every one of our radar’s too. If the forecast was so troubling in Timothy’s day, certainly we should demonstrate just as much care that we do not fall prey to the teaching of spiritual scoundrels that continue to lurk about in our day.
In this passage Paul seeks to impress upon us the fact that apostasy is an ever looming problem. And we on guard against it. And, in order to help us garner the vigilance that we need, he tells us 4 things about the false doctrine that leads to it.
The passage before us today is one that, in a lot of circles, is overlooked, reinterpreted, or outright denied. For that reason, it is one that has the potential to get me in a great deal of trouble.
It's about Biblical femininity, and that, of course, is something that is hated in our rabidly egalitarian society.
The woman’s liberation movement has so infected even the church that any mention of the idea of biblical patriarchy, submission and God’s order for Biblical manhood and womanhood can create a firestorm of opposition.
I have been opposed on it several times through my meager career. I have been rebuked by one of the leaders of the local Democratic Party. I have been opposed by virtually the whole of the local ministerial society. About 6-7 years ago I was kicked out of a church where I had been doing pulpit supply for almost a year because my “hermeneutical framework” did not comport with the denomination’s. That was just fancy talk for me being someone who holds to the biblical roles of men and women.
I’m thankful that I don’t have to worry about too much of that with this group. I commend all of you, and especially you ladies, for being faithful to study the Scriptures on these topics and most (if not all) of you already have a good grasp on what God’s Word says about Biblical femininity.
Nevertheless, some of what Paul says here can rattle the sensitivities of the modern ear. And we should remember that this is some rather controversial material. To be sure, it was just as controversial in his day as it is in ours.
And while there may be an absolute disdain for the truth all around us—and there may be multitudes express their outrage, we are building a gospel based church. And here in this passage we find that a gospel based church is not going to be a church that bends to the tides of popular opinion. A Gospel based church is going to devote itself to what God says no matter what. And in the passage before us, we find that a gospel based church is going to be one that promotes biblical femininity. And it is going to promote biblical femininity in whatever form it comes in.
And our passage lists for us three different ways in which Biblical femininity displays itself. The first of which is in a lady's attire. Paul tells us that one of the ways Biblical femininity is expressed in the clothes a woman chooses to wear.
A number of years ago I happened to go to the post office on April 15, Tax Day. As you may have guessed, it was quite busy. People were hustling in and out to get their taxes in before the deadline. For the convenience of those last minute tax payers, there was a hotdog stand set up just outside the post office.
If I hadn’t just ordered a pizza I would have picked up a few and brought them home for my family.
But as I looked around I noticed that there weren’t all that many people scooping up these free hotdogs. I wondered what was making people refuse such a good thing? It sure wasn’t because there was a lack of people. The place was bustling like a bee hive. Certainly there couldn’t have been that many people on their way to the pizzeria. For some reason, many people refused the free offer that was set before them.
Now whether or not someone takes a free hotdog is of minor importance. But there are other offers that are much more significant, and how you respond to them is of great significance. Take for instance the offer of an extension on filing your taxes. If you don’t take the government up on that offer you’re going to be in for a lot of trouble, perhaps even to the point where you are put in jail.
But there are free offers that are of even greater importance. As a matter of fact we find the most important one right here in our passage this evening. In verse 15 it says, “This is a trustworthy saying deserving of full acceptance, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” This verse proclaims God’s free offer of salvation. In essence it says, if you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, God will forgive you of your sins and will give you eternal life.
But you know what? A lot of people don’t take advantage of that offer. The promise of eternal life is refused like one of those postal hotdogs. No matter how many times God offers to save people from eternal condemnation, people still refuse it.
You have to wonder, “What makes people do that?” Tonight I want to consider with you that very question. What makes us refuse God’s offer of salvation?
As I see it, and, as our passage puts before us, there are three ways we can refuse God’s offer of salvation. You can say, “I don’t need it” “I can’t have it”, or “I don’t want it
For the last couple of weeks we have been involved in a series of messages that I have entitled “Building a gospel based church.” We’re making out aim to be a gospel centered church and we are looking at this epistle as the blueprints for our church. The pastoral epistles basically lay out for us what a gospel based church looks like.
Paul is a guy who loves to talk about the gospel. And there were people in Ephesus who were more concerned about the law. As a matter of fact, they were so enamored with the law that Paul calls them “teacher of the law.” That was probably a derogatory term.
Now, the problem wasn’t that the loved the law. The problem was that they were using the law in the wrong way. They had begun to confuse the law and the gospel. The law was their gospel. The gospel was being nullified because they were teaching that the law was a way of salvation.
They say that when you are driving you shouldn’t take your eyes off the road for more than a second. I remember learning that in Drivers Ed. The sad thing is I don’t always do that. That’s because I get sidetracked pretty easily.
One time my brother asked me if I could drive him to a friend’s house. On the way we came to a stoplight. I saw the light was red, so I started slowing down. The bad thing was I didn’t see the car in front of me. For some reason my brother and I were looking at the gas station there on the corner. I don’t remember what exactly had caught my attention. It might have been the price of gas or maybe I was looking for an air pump. I do remember thinking how stupid it would sound to say to the guy whose bumper I rammed into that I wasn’t paying attention.
Thankfully I wasn’t going that fast and there wasn’t any damage to either of our cars. But it illustrates well the danger of becoming distracted.
What holds true for the road can also be said for the church. The church is always in danger of becoming distracted. And we have to guard against that. If we lose our focus there can be serious consequences. How can I say that? Because it almost happened to the Ephesian church.
The passage before us addresses a church that was in danger of imploding. They were getting sidetracked and were in danger of not being a gospel based church anymore. It was so bad that Paul had to send Timothy special directives on how to deal with the problem.
If we want to be a gospel based church, it is important that we not become distracted. And as we look at this passage, we can glean some lessons on where our focus is to be.
A number of years ago I happened to go to the post office on April 15, otherwise known as Tax Day. I had to pick up some mail, and, as you may have guessed, it was quite busy. People were hustling in and out to get their taxes in before the deadline.
For the convenience of those last minute tax payers, there was a hotdog stand set up just outside the post office. Anyone who was rushing to get their taxes done and didn’t have time for dinner could pick up a hotdog. The best part is that they were free. If I hadn’t just ordered a pizza I would have picked up a few and brought them home for Elizabeth and Katelyn. (Don’t worry, honey, I’ll take care of dinner tonight!).
They say that when you are driving you shouldn’t take your eyes off the road for more than a second. I remember learning that in Drivers Ed. The sad thing is I don’t always do that. That’s because I get sidetracked pretty easily.
She knows how bad I am at this. There is always the potential that I can have something serious happen to me.
One time was with my brother. Michael asked me if I could drive him to a friend’s house. And we came to a light where we were going to cross main street. I saw the light was red, so I started slowing down. The bad thing was I didn’t see the car in front of me. For some reason my brother and I were looking at the BP station there on the corner of Union and Main. I don’t remember if I was looking for something in particular or not (It might have been the price of gas or looking for an air pump). I do remember thinking how stupid it would sound to the guy now getting out of his car when I said, “I’m sorry, I just wasn’t paying attention.”
Thankfully I wasn’t going that fast and there wasn’t any damage to either of our cars. Being sidetracked though can be serious. There is potential for a great deal of harm when you’re not paying attention. And the same can be true of the church.
A church can loose her focus. We can become sidetracked. And if that happens there can be serious consequences. How can I say that? Because it almost happened to the Ephesian church.
The passage before us addresses a church that was in danger of imploding. They had become sidetracked. It was so bad that Paul had to send Timothy special directives on how to deal with the problem.
I want us to remain a healthy church, so it is important that we resist becoming sidetracked.
But how do you know when you have become sidetracked? Well, that happens when we …
I always enjoy preaching on the introductions to an epistle. I love it because there is always so much to learn. The greetings of an epistle are often thought of as “skippable” material. We typically think, “All these epistles start the same way.” And we think that there’s nothing much to glean from them.
But I’ve come to find that there is always something here of value. As I’ve said before: The Holy Spirit does not waste words. Every line is profitable, even in what seems to be a rote, monotonous greeting.
I believe that these first few sentences teach us a lot about leadership. Paul, in this opening, wants us to learn about authority in the church and what authority to lead in the church looks like. As we look at this passage, I want us to see that there are at least three lessons that we should learn about a leader’s authority.
The first thing I want us to see is that this authority is real. It is divinely instituted. God ordains that there be men who have positions of authority. The second thing that I want us to note is that this power is limited. In other words, the authority that God gives is not absolute. Leaders, in other words, are not supreme powers in the church. The third thing that I want us to see is that this authority is gospel driven. A leader’s power is based in and motivated by the saving power of Christ.
So, as we look at this passage, we’re going to recognize that Gospel churches grow out of good leadership. And when we understand the nature of church authority, then we are going to have a good foundation for building a gospel church. So let’s look at the first two verses. And I want you to see that God has divinely instituted an authority structure in the church.
I. This authority is real and divinely instituted
Look at how the passage begins. It starts off with Paul calling attention to the fact that he was made an apostle by the command of God. Now, ask yourself, “Did Timothy not know that Paul was an apostle? Did he not know that Paul’s apostleship came by God’s direct appointment?” The answer to that is, “Yes, of course he knew that.” Timothy was Paul’s protégé and would have known that quite well.
So you have to understand that Paul is not saying this for Timothy’s benefit. Timothy already was acquainted with the fact. Paul inserted this for the benefit of the other people in the church who would have likely read this letter. And when Paul says that Timothy is his “True child in the faith,” they would have recognized what Paul was attempting to communicate. They would have recognized that Timothy wasn’t just a good friend of Paul or Paul’s apprentice. They would have understood that this was about Timothy’s office. Paul was highlighting the authority Timothy had as a minister of the gospel.
Timothy was Paul’s child in that he too was a teacher. Like Paul he possessed real authority in the church.
Think about it this way, a child is one who is a replica. He is one who bears the likeness of his father. So, if an alligator bears a child, that child is an alligator, right? Jesus is the son of God. That means Jesus is divine, just like God the Father is divine.
When Paul calls Timothy his child, he’s identifying Timothy as one who has something in common with Paul. What is it that they have in common? It is the fact that they are ministers and leaders. Obviously, Timothy is not an apostle, but he carries on the apostolic work of teaching and preaching.
So, if I could summarize it, I would do it like this: God appointed apostles to act as the foundation for the church. And those apostles then appointed other leaders to carry on their work after they were gone. They had appointed elders, deacons, and men like Timothy to carry on the ministry of teaching and preaching the Word.
When the rest of the church read this, they would understand what Paul was saying. They would understand that they were to submit themselves to Timothy, just like they had submitted themselves to Paul. They were to recognize him as one who God had raised up to lead the church.
Now this is important in our day because we live in an anti-authoritarian age. Postmodern people do not like the idea of submission and authority structures. That’s why feminism and egalitarianism are such a big things today. The feminist movement tells us that no man can have authority over a woman. It is a denial of the biblical model of patriarchy.
And the church today has been highly influenced by this anti-authoritarian spirit. There are many who do not think that church leadership is a real or necessary thing. They think that they can stay home and read their bibles for themselves or do home church. Some people will just watch it on TV. They have TV church.
But more than that, there can be people in the church who are agitators and mutineers—and these are the most dangerous sorts. If such people stayed home and had their religion, we might be better off. But they are not content to do that. There are always those in the church who are anarchists and usurpers.
When it comes to church planting we have to be very careful on this too. I’ve been told in the past that church plants seem to lure in these kinds of people. Trouble makers gravitate to church plants because they feel that it is a place where they can take control. I’ve heard stories about how different church start ups have had people come in and say that they want to help this new church get started. And what they really want is a place where they can exert power and take control.
And you can understand why that is. A new church is vulnerable. It needs people to help out. It doesn’t have a lot of authority structures in place yet and the leadership is young. So it is a great place for these kinds of people to swoop in and start raising a ruckus.
In the face of this, we need to remember that God has given certain men the authority to rule and to teach and to care for your soul. If we do not honor the offices that God has instituted in the church and if we do not give proper regard to the leaders who hold those positions, the church will not move forward.
So we should make it our aim to respect those who are in authority and regard them with the esteem they are due as ministers of God.
That is the first thing we should learn from this passage. We should learn that there is real, divinely instituted authority in the church. The second thing that we should take from it is that this authority is limited.
II. This authority is limited
I don’t want you to think that I’m simply tooting my own horn and putting you in a position where you have to bend to my every whim. It is important that you and I both recognize that, even though God has given power to certain men in the church, no church leader has absolute power. Every leader is limited.
When you look at verse 1 you see that Paul recognizes the restraints of his power as an apostle. Look at it. He says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.”
Paul’s authority came from God. He’s very specific about that. But did you notice that he mentions Jesus twice in this one line? He acknowledges the fact that he is an apostle of Christ Jesus. That is to say, His power is delegated to him and he is under the headship of Christ. Christ is the one who sends him.
And then he adds the fact that Jesus is “our hope.” In other words, our hope is not in Paul. Our faith is not to rest in Timothy or any other human entity. We are to recognize that our ultimate hope—our ultimate leader, is Jesus Christ.
While God gives us leaders and gives those leaders authority to lead and guide the church, it is still power that has limits.
We just said that it is common to brush off leaders and not acknowledge their authority in the church. But we can err on the opposite extreme too. Sometimes we can put too much faith in our leaders. We can make them out to be a mini messiah who is going to save us from everything.
Just look at our presidential elections. Isn’t that what is happening in the political realm? The people of America have high hopes in their particular candidate. We are trying to figure out who is going to “make America great again”? Who is going to be our savior and who will usher in the golden days of national utopia? One of these people is going to have all the answers, right?
We can do the same thing in the church. We can make popes out of pastors. We can exalt our leaders to such a point where we think that they are the supreme leader and savior of the church.
It is easy for church leaders to think that of themselves too. We can become a little consumed with ourselves and think that we are the supreme leaders of the church.
This is what the Pharisees were doing. There’s a passage where Jesus accuses them for making the tassels on their garments long. Why was Jesus so in a knot about their style of clothing. Was he some sort of divine fashion police?
Jesus called them out on this because those tassels were associated with one’s authority. The longer your tassel was, the more important you were said to be—the more authority you were supposed to have. So, if you lengthened your tassel, you were basically saying, “I’m really important. You should listen to me.”
There’s another passage where there was a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. She pressed through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. What she did was grab that tassle. Why was it she was so intent on that little piece of cloth? Why not pat him on the back or something? By grabbing those tassels she was basically saying, “You have all authority. You are my only hope of healing.”
But the Pharisees, by extending their tassels, were trying to take that position. They wanted that kind of recognition. They wanted to be regarded as little saviors and the great authorities in the church to whom everyone should look.
That’s the problem with humanity. It’s all a messiah complex.We like to exalt ourselves or put others on a pedestal.
To be sure, God has endowed men with authority. He has put them in office and given them power to rule and to teach. But what we need to remember is that this is not supreme power. Their power is real, but it is limited. We have to remember that ultimately, Christ is our only hope.
Now the third thing I want us to glean from this passage is that a church leader’s power is a gospel driven power.
III. This authority is gospel driven.
Look at verse 2. In this verse Paul pronounces a blessing. He says, “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
When we read these introductions we often gloss over them. But let’s remember that not one word of the Bible is a throw away. Every word is inspired by the Spirit. And these words are just as important as any others. And the reason they are important is because they remind us that the best of men are men at best.
In other words, church leaders need the gospel. And their whole ministry is to be conducted in the power of the gospel.
What is grace? It is God’s undeserved favor. It is God’s saying, “Timothy, you are a wretched, vile, loathsome sinner. You don’t deserve to be a leader in my church. But you know what? I have chosen you to be a shepherd of my sheep.”
Mercy is God’s pity. It is his holding back his wrath because he has compassion on you.
Peace is that shalom; the wellness and wholeness. Paul desires that Timothy, in all his brokenness and sin, would be restored and enabled to lead the people of Ephesus.
What Paul is trying to say is that true, Christian leadership is one that is immersed in and driven by the gospel. Christian leadership is just a bunch of broken men who are in need of Christ’s redeeming work seeking to help others experience the redeeming work of Christ.
We recognize that there are some sins that will disqualify leaders from office. There are some sins where you forfeit your authority. But no leader will be without sin. He’s not only going to be dealing with the sins of others, but he’s going to be dealing with his own sin. And if he’s going to have any success as a leader, he’s going to need the grace, mercy, and peace that Christ offers.
While we are at it, let me just remind you that at some point I’ll probably say or do something that will offend you. It is going to happen, and you probably won’t want to speak to me. You may even want to leave the church. I know it’s going to happen, because it has happened many times. I’ve been in the ministry for almost 15 years now, and I’ve had my fair share of sins.
I just want to say up front that I hope we can work things out. I know this though: I’m just as much a sinner as anyone else here. And the only thing that keeps this train going is the fact that God is gracious and has crucified His Son on my behalf.
I will say with the Apostle Paul, “Who is sufficient for these things?” The answer to that is a resounding “No one.”
The crazy thing about God is that he has chosen to work through broken instruments. He has seen fit to propagate the gospel by men who are constantly in need of the gospel.
That’s the essence of leadership in the church. That’s not the kind of leadership you have out in the world. Go to any corporate meeting on leadership you’ll find that it is all about self sufficiency and personal image. You put on a messianic face and people will follow you. That’s the message of the world.
But in the church its not like that. You lead through the humiliation of your own sins. You lead only as you embrace the gospel and hold to the forgiveness and the grace that is offered to you in Christ.
You might say that that is the whole point of these first few lines: The best of men are men at best. Christ is the true and ultimate authority. He is the only God and savior. And our job is to simply look to him.
This week my wife and daughter were introduced to a new puppy while they were at my In-laws. A friend of the family had just bought him and they wanted to show him off, so they brought him over.
My wife said that the puppy loved Katelyn. They didn’t know if it was just because Katelyn was smaller or what, but the puppy wouldn’t give anyone else much attention. It would follow Katelyn around everywhere she went. If Katelyn ran somewhere, it ran after her. There were others around. No doubt they were ready to lavish the dog with attention as we are big dog lovers. But the dog wouldn’t be distracted. It stuck with our daughter.
There was something about my daughter with which the dog had become infatuated. As a result, nothing (or nobody) else mattered.
That is but a small example of what happens to all God’s creatures, including us. As creatures of habit we are prone to sectarianism. After we join a certain circle and find acceptance there, we begin to ignore or neglect what is outside of that little sphere. What is familiar and dearly beloved becomes our normal range of concern. Even though there are lots of different people all around us, we don’t concern ourselves with them.
And while this is not necessarily a bad thing, we must never allow such sectarianism appear within our church. There is a danger that we can become exclusive. Though nothing is written, we can make certain rules or set a certain culture. As a result our church can become like an elite club. The members of a church can become so introverted that they build a wall between themselves and rest of the world.
Our passage urges us to guard against sectarianism. It urges us to reflect the cosmic scope of Christianity in three very practical ways. It tells us to expand the range of our prayers, see the extent of our Lord’s salvation, broaden the reach of our ministry.
In order to reflect the cosmic Scope of Christianity, verses one and two tell us that…
I. We must expand the range of our prayers
This is what Paul urges us to do in verses 1, 2. He says, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way."
I would bet, if we were to examine each of our prayer lists, we would find them to be very exclusive. I would assume that they would be limited to family members and those within the church.
That we are praying for such items is a wonderful thing. And that we are regularly interceding for our dear loved ones shows that we are following the biblical mandate to do so. It is good that we call upon the Lord for our needs and offer our burdens to him in times of secret prayer. But our prayers should not be limited to these areas.
The Lord calls us to expand the range of our prayers. He wants us to pray for all kinds of people. That’s what he means in this verse. He does not mean that we should pray for every person in the world. That is impossible, and it would be an absurd thing to require of us.
No, that he means we should pray for all kinds of people is evident from verse 2. He clarifies what he means by specifying a certain kind of people, namely kings and those in high positions.
Obviously here he indicates that we should be in prayer for our national and civil leaders. And this is a matter of great importance. Our leaders make decisions every day that affect our lives. Their policies affect the freedoms we enjoy as citizens and especially as Christians. Therefore, it is important that we intercede on their behalf, asking that they may be filled with wisdom and grace.
Now we do not have to do this every time we bow our heads in supplication. Maybe it will be once during the day, or perhaps you select a specific day of the week to pray for leaders. You might set aside every Monday, or rather include them in your Sunday afternoon prayers. The occasion doesn’t matter. What is important is that we devote some time in prayer for those whom God has placed in authority over us.
But keep in mind that we can be exclusive even here. By that I mean that we can pray for leaders, but only the ones we like.
It is a great thing to hear so many people lifting up our president in prayer. Ever since he came to office the Christian community has been diligent to pray that he be protected and guided by God’s wisdom. But I’m not so sure that the oval office has always been so privileged. We have been earnest for President Bush, but did we demonstrate the same sort of diligence for former president, President Clinton?
We were disgusted with his immorality. We did not like his womanizing. Some of us might not have liked his policies either. But did these things make us pray for him, or keep us from it?
When God calls us to pray for all people, he means all kinds of people, even those we don’t like.
If you think about it, those authority figures we are most frustrated with are the ones who need the most prayer. Those who might not be as favorable to Christianity are the ones who are most liable to make our lives miserable. And we are commanded to pray for them. Why? The passage says, “That we may live a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
Our prayers are God’s instruments of peace. They are the tuning forks that God uses to bring harmony where conflict exists.
Christianity is an inclusive religion. That is why we must expand the range of our prayers. But since its scope is so wide, we must also see the extend of God’s salvation…
II. See the extent of our God’s salvation
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,  who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,  who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
If we are going to pray for all kinds of people, we need the right perspective. And verses 3-6 give us the perspective we need. These verses say that God desires to save all kinds of people. Now note how I said that, “God wants to save all kinds of people.”
Some people like to use this verse against Calvinism. They think that this verse proves that the doctrine of predestination isn’t real. Their argument goes like this: “God wants to save all people, but, as we readily see, not everyone is saved. So God doesn’t effect salvation, he just provides it.” They argue then like this, “Jesus died for all, but anyone who is saved has to make himself believe.” Just like a waiter with a plate of h’ordeurves. Rather than God giving you the h’orderve, He provides the h’ordeurves. And, in your own strength, you have to reach up and grab it.
But such a belief doesn’t understand that we can’t reach up and grab God’s salvation. It doesn’t understand that we are dead in our sins, and have no ability whatsoever to make ourselves saved.
What we need to do is look at this verse in its context. Remember that we just said of verse 1 that we are to pray for “all kinds of people.” We noted that one kind of people we are to pray for are those of rank, our authorities. The same idea is used here. Jesus did not die for every individual, he died for all kinds of people. God does not want every person that ever lived to be saved from hell, he desires to save some people, that is all kinds of people.
Let me say it like this: God, out of his mere good pleasure, decreed to save people of every race, rank, and region. In heaven we will find that Jesus died and brought salvation to a great host of people. This people will be as diverse as there are people on this earth. Revelation 5:9 illustrates this. It says of Jesus, “You were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” In other words, there is going to be representatives from across the globe in heaven.
And this is exactly the point God wants us to see. To keep from becoming sectarian we must see that God’s plan of salvation reaches beyond the little borders we erect. If we are going to pray for all people we must understand that God’s salvation extends that far.
When I was at the Twin Lakes conference this past week the Lord helped me to realize this. The camp cite we were on was immense. There was a pool, multiple dorms and cabins, basketball courts, eating facilities, a lodge, high ropes courses, challenge courses. I knew that the camp was big, but I was only familiar with the main lodge and my cabin. And these two were right beside each other. My view of the campus was quite limited. It was only when I was taken on a tour of the camp that I came to realize how big the camp really was. For about an hour 8 of us road through the woods on various trails to see the sights. At points our guide would stop and point out and say over there is where we have horse riding. I would look where he was pointing only to see a vast sea of grass stretching out before me. At the end of our tour we had only viewed a small fractin of the 460 acres the church owned. I was blown away at the how immense that place really was.
This is the type of view God wants us to have of his vast salvation. He wants us to look beyond our little circle of familiarity and see that He is saving a vast multitude. He wants us to marvel at his limitless mercy. He wants us to view the extent of his salvation and see just a small glimpse of how gracious he really is.
And He does that so that we will move out beyond our little neighborhood. God does not want us to be a Christian ghetto. God doesn’t look at the outside of a person like we do. We look at someone and think, “Hey, that person is weird. They dress weird, they act weird.” And what we do we do, we put them on the untouchable list.
But God shows us that he touches the untouchable. God’s salvation is not dependent on one’s age, one’s dress, one’s economic status, or personal quirks. God gives salvation to whoever he wants, and he chooses different people, even weird people, (he saved you didn’t he?).
Because Christianity is cosmic, God wants you to expand the range of your prayers, He wants you to see the extent of his salvation. Most of all, God wants you to broaden the sphere of your ministry.
III. Broaden the sphere of our ministry
Look at verse 7. It says, "For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle ( I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth."
Paul didn’t choose to be an apostle. He didn’t even want to be an apostle. As a matter of fact he wanted to kill the apostles. But one day as he was going off to Damascus, Jesus appeared to him. He said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Paul responded, “Who are you lord?” “Jesus said, I am Jesus who you are persecuting.” Jesus then went on to say that He was drafting Paul into His service and making Paul the head of foreign relations. Jesus made Paul His Ambassador to the Gentiles. (See Acts 9:13-17, 22:17-21, 26:12-18 for a further description)
Now think about who Paul was. He was a Jew, and a really good one at that. In Philipians 2 he calls himself a Hebrew of Hebrews. He was trained in the best Jewish seminary. He grew up in Jerusalem, which is like the Paris of Jewish culture. Now you have to wonder if God really knew what he was doing. I can just see Paul saying, “You’re sending me to who? Ah, Jesus, I don’t think you understand the ethnic and geographical demographics going on here. You see, we Jews don’t associate with Gentiles. We don’t have that much in common, and we really don’t like each other that much.”
But God knew exactly what He was doing when he appointed Paul to this position. God was saying to Paul, “Hey, Paul. This Christianity thing, it’s not just for Jews. I created all types of people, and I want to save all kinds of people. And to get you used to what it is going to be like in heaven, I’m going to send you to people you’re not used to.”
The gospel is cross-cultural. The problem is: we aren’t. God created an array of people, as diverse as the colors on a rainbow. But we tend to keep the gospel in our little ghetto.
One of my friends in seminary made a very good point a few years back. He said, our problem is we think that the gospel is only for upper middle class suburban white males. In other words, we think the gospel is only for us.
But there are no Jim Crow laws attached to the gospel. It’s not for whites only. It’s for black people and for Asian people; for children and for the elderly; it’s for the inner city as well as for Billy Joe-Bob in the hills of West Virginia.
Our ministry must reflect that. We can’t be playing duck-duck-goose with the gospel. You know how that game is played don’t you. You go around the circle patting each kid on the head saying duck-duck-duck. And while your going around the circle your thinking about who are you going to goose. You only get one chance to be the goose-er and you don’t want to waste it on just anybody. So you try to pick just the right person.
And that’s how we can be with the gospel. We can go around, “No not you, no, no, no, not you.” And we disguise it with nice little rationalizations like “You’re too sinful.” Or “You wouldn’t fit in at our church.” Or maybe we say, “Someone with that many tattoos just wouldn’t get what the gospel is all about.” So rather than giving the gospel out indiscriminately, or administering compassion to someone in need, we withhold it until just the right person comes along.”
But God calls us to broaden the sphere of our ministry. He calls us to reach out to the different kinds of people he sets all around us. He could be a punk rocker or she might be someone we try to avoid. But if they are in our lives, God calls us to be ready to minister to them, no matter how different they are. Christianity is cosmic, and our ministry must reflect it.
If you have ever gone to Disney World in Orlando Florida you’ve been able to sample a bit of the world. There a section of Disney World that exposes you to all the different foods from a lot of different places. And as you sample those different cultures you get the idea that the world is a lot more wide-ranging than you’re used to. And if you think about it, it’s not a small world after all! It’s vast and diverse.
That’s the sort of religion Christianity is. God created a big world and he filled it with all kinds of people. And as the people of God, we should reflect that in our lives. God calls us to see that his salvation extends across this globe and reaches an array of people. With this view of the breadth of God’s salvation we should be ready to expand the range of our prayers, praying for people beyond our normal circles. And knowing that God is bringing a vast multitude to himself, we should be ready to minister to all sorts of people, even people who are radically different than us.
1 Timothy 3:1-7
(Listen to Audio)
Last time we were together we studied a subject with which many people find hard, the subject of women in office. A number of you even commented to me after the message that this is a hard teaching in our day.
Someone who might disagree with the Bible’s stance might then retort, “Well, I guess God is a chauvinist then, isn’t he?” That might be how a person might respond. But God continues in chapter three to talk about the office of overseer. And he does so in order that everyone might see that even among men, not every one qualifies for this special office.
God doesn’t want just anyone taking charge over his people. He has high standards. But at the same time, God doesn’t send an angel from heaven to tell us who he wants governing us. He commits us with the solemn responsibility of choosing our leaders.
That ought to make us consider carefully who we would have ruling over us. Worthy candidates for the office of overseer meet God’s criteria. In this passage we find God’s criteria for overseers.
So what are the criteria? What should we be looking for in a church leader? Our passage tells us that a candidate for the office of overseer must possess a personal ambition for it, understand the nature of it, and meet the qualifications for it. So a candidate desires it, understands it, and qualifies for it.
First of all we see that candidates for this office must possess a personal ambition for this office.
I. Possess a personal ambition
Verse 1 says, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”
Those would be leaders should be people who desire the office they are going to fill.
There have been some who have said otherwise. They think that desiring to be an officer in the church is an act of pomp. They say that one is called to the office, and that people should not seek the office.
As with all error, there is a hint of truth to this: one must be called to the office. But that does not mean one should surpress any desires he has for it.
People can err on the opposite extreme too. Perhaps you’ve seen people become elders in a church against their will. They don’t really want to be a part of the session, but the congregation pressures them into it. They finally say, “OK, I guess I’ll do it.”
In theology we affirm that there is an internal call for the ministry. The external call is the call that the church gives to the one coming to office. The church is God’s instrument in electing and ordaining church leaders. The one God wants to minister in the church will be approved by His people. As a congregation we witness one’s giftedness and character. And then together we testify that they should be a leader. The external call, the call by the congregation, is essential for ordination. One cannot subvert the church’s will and become a dictator in it.
But we also affirm the legitimacy of the inward call. The inward call is the personal desire that one has for the ministry. If someone is to undertake the duties of overseers, then the Lord will place in his heart the internal motivation to do so.
In their book “On Being a Pastor” Alister Beg and Derek Prime relate a story about an Englishman named Alan Stibbs. When in school Stibbs was part of a well attended group called the Scripture Union. While it was a well attended group, there was no one who would undertake the leadership of the group. So for two years, between the ages of 16 and 18, Stibbs carried the responsibility alone. Three times a week he had to stand before his school contemporaries and expound the scriptures to them.
In his own words Stibbs wrote, "I began as a schoolboy of 17 to pray for the gift of prophesying. On each occasion when I expounded the word I prayed for the grace worthily to exercise the gift to the glory of God and blessing of men.”
Here is a young man who demonstrates a healthy desire for the ministry. His circumstances might be a little different, being he was virtually thrust into the ministry. But his desires were nonetheless real.
But let’s remember those desires must be set upon the appropriate thing. It’s possible that someone would desire the office of overseer, but his desires are misguided because his understanding of the office is wrong. He might desire the position because it is a place of high status and respect. Of course, if that is the case, his desires are no different from that of the Pharisees Jesus rebuked. You remember Jesus said of the Pharisees they loved being greeted in the marketplace and the seats of prominence at feasts and social gatherings. That’s why candidates for the office of overseer must understand the nature of the office.
II. understand the nature of the office
In this passage Paul uses the Greek word episkopos. We translate it into English as either “bishop” or “overseer.”
When we think of bishops we might think of Roman Catholicism or the Episcopal church where they have high ranking officials called bishops. But in the early church they did not have such a hierarchy. A bishop was, for the most part, synonymous with elder. It just emphasizes a different aspect of the ministry.
The word elder has to do with ruling and governing the people of God. Elder, then, has to do with authority. But episkopos deals with responsibility. Paul uses the word bishop (or overseer) he wants to emphasize that the church leader is charged with the task of oversight of God’s people. In other words, the spiritual well-being of those in the church is his responsibility.
In using the word overseer, we find that the church leader is much like a nurse. When you are in the hospital a nurse comes to check on you regularly. He or she checks your vitals on a regular basis and tend to your needs in order that you may become healthy again.
That is what an overseer does. An elder in the church must tend to all his parishioners like patients. He checks their spiritual vitals signs by regular visitations to their home. He tends to their needs as he comes before the Lord in prayer. He does many things in order that they might maintain a healthy spiritual life.
But not only does Paul emphasize the responsibility of a church leader, he also emphasizes the strain.
He does not say “the one who desires the office of an overseer desires a good office.” He says “he desires a good work.” Calvin makes much of this point in his commentary on this passage. He goes to great lengths to communicate the fact that the one who holds this office will face a great ordeal. Leadership in the church is a difficult task. It can be a strain upon one’s person because it requires a great amount of time and energy.
There are meetings to go attend. There are visitations that will take you away from your home and family. It is required that you spend time in prayer for each of those put under your care, their children, and for their personal problems and joys.
I was once talking with a fellow at work whose son is a wrestler at Ashland High School. He had some pictures at his work station, and I was looking at them. He pointed out which one was his son. And like a proud father he said that his son qualified for state competition this past year. He also mentioned that his son was a senior. I then asked if he was going to go on and play in college. He responded that he wasn’t sure that he was. College wrestling is a lot different than High School. It takes up a lot of one’s time. You have to really invest yourself as an athlete if you are going to play on that level.
While his son loved the sport, and desired to participate in it, there is the possibility that the work load (the mere time investment) would keep him away from it.
The same holds true for those who would be ministers in the church. If you desire the office of overseer, then you must also desire the work that comes with it. If you don’t much care for people, then that might be a good indicator that you are not made out for such a work. If you don’t like being bothered much with people’s problems, then most likely, church work is not for you.
But, on the other hand, if these things in some way attract you, then you might be God’s man for the job.
A candidate for the gospel ministry then, must possess ambition for the ministry and knowledge of the ministry. But we must not think that these alone make one eligible for the office. Even among those who desire the office and its rigors, there are some who still do not qualify. Candidates must must also meet the right criteria.
III. meet the spiritual qualifications
In all there are 15 qualifications that one must meet in order to be a candidate for the office. Now if we spent time examining each one we would be here all night. As a matter of fact, when I was in seminary, the president of the school would give a sermon on one of the qualifications each time he was to speak. Certainly I am not going to do that!
If you like homework for personal study, you can meditate on these qualifications more than we will here. You could do what William Hendrickson did and match each attribute with someone in the Bible.
For the sake of time I will abbreviate and condense. If we look at verses 2&3 we find that the overseer must be…
A. an overall moral man [2-3]
I think it is summed up in the very first virtue spoken of in the list. He must be “above reproach.”
As a leader an elder must set an example for the people of God. If the leadership lacks good moral character, then where will the congregation stand in comparison? Paul says in 1 Cor. 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” He set himself as a standard for the people. They were to follow his example of godliness.
An elder must possess that same quality. This is not to say that they are perfect, of course. But this person does express an exceptional level of morality. One that people cannot easily criticize.
Let me just touch on a few others in this list. It says that the elder should be the “husband of one wife.” When we read that we think that it excludes people who were divorced or who had a wife who died and then the man remarried. But that is imputing our day upon the text. You must remember that back then it was common to have multiple wives. Polygamy was a norm in that day. He is saying that an elder must have one wife at a time. So let’s not assume that divorce automatically excludes one from the office of overseer.
He also says that an elder must be “hospitable.” Some virtues are emphasized more than others, and I would say that this one is considered a throw away. But God’s word says that an elder must be one who is ready to bring others into his home. He must be one who is filled with compassion. So much so that he is willing to do sacrificial acts of charity. We read in Romans 12 that all Christians are commanded to be hospitable, but, as with all duties incumbent upon Christians, an elder must demonstrate it in a greater degree. We cannot disregard hospitality because it is part of one’s general morality.
We will let the other qualities in those two verses be for your personal study. We have seen enough to say that the elder should be an overall moral man. If we look at the next two verses we can summarize them by saying the elder must be…
B. a good patriarch [4-5]
These verses have to do with his home. Let’s read them together. “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,  for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?”
Some have asserted that the elder must be a married man. They would point to these verses as well as the phrase “the husband of but one wife.” But marriage is not a requisite for an elder. Single or widowed men may certainly qualify.
These verses only pertain to those who have families. And what it means is that the home is the testing ground for the ministry. Within the walls of you home you have a little congregation. God has entrusted us fathers and husbands with the care of his people. And if we cannot rule them well, then how is it that we can think we would do well with other people and other people’s families?
Now note that it does not say that the children are all saints. It says that his management of them is exceptional. Dr. Donald McNair, a long time professor at Covenant Seminary, almost quite the ministry because he had a child who was quite rebellious. In his teenage years he caused a great amount of problems within the community. Because he thought his son’s rebellion disqualified him for the ministry, Dr. McNair came to his Session and submitted his resignation.
The session in turn refused his resignation, saying that he did manage his house well. Dr. McNair did everything he could to help his child lead an orderly life. It was just that the son was obstinate, and would not heed his father’s words.
The Bible’s instruction is that the overseer must manage his house well, it does not mean that he will have a perfect house.
ØVerse 6 gives us another characteristic. The elder must be…
C. a mature Christian 
“He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.”
In the original language this is put quite poeticly. It literally says, “He must not be newly planted.” The idea is of one who has had enough time to grow roots in the faith, so he is fragile.
When Elizabeth and I lived in Indiana one of my yearly tasks was an attempt at getting grass to grow. The first year’s crop was so pitiful. But no matter the bounty of grass, there were a few that crept up. And that is the most critical time for the grass. They can’t take any pressure, and you must wait until the grass matures in order to cut it.
That’s how it must be with our leaders. We must not adgitate them by putting them in a position where they might be damaged. And that’s exactly what Paul points out. The new convert becomes conceited and falls under judgement.
You might remember a while back that Deon Sanders made an evangelical profession of faith. What immediately happened? People put him in a place of prominence, and made him go around preaching. Rather than helping the kingdom, they were exposing this young one in the faith to much harm.
And if you think about it, why would you want a new convert leading a congregation. Most people don’t go to doctors who haven’t even had any experience.
But sometimes people don’t think about these things when they elect their officers. They see someone who is a successful businessman and they think, “let’s make him a leader,” despite his immaturity.
If you look though, our list is not a list of skills. The only real skill mentioned is his being apt to teach. We scrutinize one’s character.
And so far we have seen that that elder must be a moral man, a good patriarch, a mature Christian, and finally, he must be…
D. a reputable person 
Verse 7 says, “Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
Funny how one of a leader’s references for church office must be from the unbelievers.
If you were to ask any High School coach what he would rather have, an all star athlete without any discipline or an average player with excellent discipline, most often they would take the average player. That’s because they know that they can do more with that average player. The average player will be a team player and team leader because he is disciplined.
And that’s exactly the same with who God wants to hold office in his church. He does not necessarily want someone who is famous or popular, he wants men who are disciplined and godly.
As you can see from tonight’s study, God does not open the doors for anyone to fill the office of overseer. He is quite choosy. And as we choose our leaders we must be just as selective. Candidates for church office must posses the desire, know their duty, and meet his standards.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.