Two Tasks

But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
Acts 6:4 ESV

In 1 Peter 5:2-3, pastors are given three commands which correspond to their three titles: shepherd the flock (pastor), exercise oversight (overseer), and be an example to the flock (elder). Each command is a different aspect of leading God’s people. Pastors lead by shepherding, overseers lead by overseeing, and elders lead by modeling. These are great overall ideas, but how does that look in the everyday? What are the primarily tasks by which a pastor shepherds, an elder models, and an overseer oversees? Acts 6:4 gives us the two most important tasks required of a pastor: prayer and the ministry of the Word.

As we will see when we study the responsibilities of deacons, the apostles within Acts 6 are acting as prototype elders of the church in Jerusalem, and within that text, they also establish the first seven prototype deacons. Therefore, the apostles’ resolve to commit themselves primarily to prayer and the ministry of the Word must also be the heart of every pastor. The entire purpose behind establishing deacons was to defend pastors’ ability to focus upon praying and ministering the Word.

Above all things, pastors must devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. That’s not to say that an elder does not have other tasks that must be done, but being devoted means giving unremitted attention to these two things. If he can do only two things, they are prayer and the ministry of the Word. People often have a multitude of expectations for what a pastor ought to do, but the Bible is clear that these two tasks must be first and foremost.

The Ministry of the Word

A pastor must be rooted in God’s Word. As an overseer, he oversees through the Word of God. As a pastor, he shepherds with the Word of God. As an elder, he models submission to the Word of God. As intimidating as being a young pastor can be, it also forces me to depend upon the Scripture. I simply do not have the life experience or the time-hardened wisdom to say many things that must be said. Fortunately, I have God’s Word, which is the only authority worth asserting.

For the importance of ministering the Word to others, we only need to turn to the life of Jesus. The primary focus of Jesus’ earthly ministry was preaching the gospel. This, of course, runs against what we tend to assume. Our minds first go to Jesus’ miracles, but He performed those miracles in order to demonstrate the authority of His preaching. Mark 1:35-39 tells of Jesus’ disciples informing Him of people in need of healing, but He says to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (v. 38).

Furthermore in Mark 6 we find the account of Jesus feeding the five thousand. Verse 34 gives provides the background to that miracle:

When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep with a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.

It is tempting to link Jesus’ compassion upon the crowd immediately to His feeding them; however, Jesus’ love for them was first displayed in His teaching them. They were lost sheep, so He shepherded them by teaching them the good news of the kingdom. Jesus, therefore, saw teaching as shepherding. This is even further enforced by Jesus command for Peter to feed His sheep in John 21:15-19.

The mark of teaching God’s Word is so important for a pastor that it is listed in the office’s qualifications (1 Timothy 3:2). Although there will almost always be teachers in the church who are not elders, the ability to teach God’s Word is a requirement for elders. To be more succinct, not all teachers are elders, but all elders are teachers.

Titus 1:9 reiterates this necessity while providing a twofold look at its practice:

He [an overseer] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

Three points must be made from this verse. First, the ministry of the Word means holding firm to the Word as trustworthy. Second, he must be able to give instruction in sound doctrine. Third, he must be able to refute those who contradict it. Instructing and refuting are the two arms of ministering the only Word that is entirely worthy of our trust. In shepherding terms, instruction is feeding the sheep, while refutation is protecting them. All pastors must feed the sheep by teaching the Scripture and drive away the wolves by rebuking false doctrine.

Prayer

The second task of an elder is prayer. Why is prayer a job requirement for an elder? Aren’t all Christians supposed to pray? The quick answer is yes. All Christians are certainly called to pray. But remember, elders are models of Christian maturity; therefore, a pastor should desire for all those in his church to pray like him.

If this does not humble a pastor, he should probably examine his heart. Few Christians, pastors included, are strong enough in their prayer to confidently tell a new Christian to pray like they pray. Elders, nevertheless, must model prayer.

This does not mean, however, that elders are the only models of prayer in a church. Specific ministries of intercession are sorely missing in most churches today. In fact, I would urge each Christian to grow in intercessory prayer throughout their life. Too many older believers become disheartened in their old age that they cannot do the ministries they once did due to physical constraints. Aging, of course, cannot be stopped; therefore, we should prepare for becoming warriors of intercessory prayer in the years where our bodies can no longer perform many of their former tasks.

Elders, though, should not only model prayer for the congregation; they should also pray for the flock of God. Personally, I use either physical notecards or the app, PrayerMate, to pray for every member of the church. Placing each family unit on a card, I pray for three to five cards each morning. While that system is not required of each elder, it does ensure that each member is being prayed for by his or her pastor on a regular basis. Without this system, I tend to only pray for those who I know are in present need of prayer, but as a follower of Christ, I do not want people to only pray for me whenever I am in visible need. I want to be prayed for at all times because I need prayer at all times! How then can I not do the same for the congregation?

The danger of prayer is that it is so easy to neglect. Since most prayer happens behind the scenes, a pastor can be readily convinced of the need to focus on more “important” and showy things.

In terms of importance, seemingly random needs will always come to the surface at the moment of prayer. Unfulfilled to-do lists come to mind with a renewed resolved to see them accomplished whenever one becomes ready to pray. But there is no work more important than prayer.

As for showy things, it is all to easy, as a pastor, for me to neglect prayer in favor of doing things that will be seen by others. For me at least, it’s rarely a means of stereotypcial boasting; rather, I often fear being viewed as lazy. Time spent in prayer, after all, is time not spent elsewhere. By working prayer into my schedule, I must set aside more “productive” and visible tasks.

The heart is ultimately at stake here. I prefer the hands-on work because it can be recognized and affirmed by others; prayer, however, is between God and I. Working for the approval of men is often the root cause of my procrastination of prayer. Prayer is work, but it is work without the recognition and affirmation of others. Since pastors live before the watching eyes of the congregation, God was certainly wise in pairing the public work of teaching with the private work of prayer. When I teach well, I risk taking the glory for myself, but knelt in true prayer, I can do nothing but give glory to God.

Prayer forces a pastor to remember that only the Holy Spirit can change hearts. Pastors need to always be reminded that God shepherds His people through them. God is the worker, and they are His instruments. They cannot do the work of shepherding alone; they need the empowerment of the Spirit.

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Preach the Word!

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
2 Timothy 4:1-4 ESV

I’m not always a big fan of chapter divisions in the Bible.

Yes, they are helpful for finding passages quickly, but they can sometimes hinder our proper understanding of the Word by causing us to subconsciously separate connected thoughts. The first four verses of 2 Timothy chapter four is one of those cases. Paul did not originally write this letter to Timothy with chapter divisions or verse numbers. He just wrote a letter, and if we read it like a letter, we will quickly realize that he is applying the truths that he stated in verses sixteen and seventeen of the last chapter.

Because all Scripture is inspired, profitable, and sufficient, Paul commands Timothy to preach the Word, but the command is not alone. The apostle prefaces his charge to his disciple by declaring that it is being made in the presence of God and Jesus Christ. He does this to emphasize the divine element of the command. It is not Paul’s idea for Timothy to preach the Word; it is God’s. Paul is simply the messenger.

Because God is driving the command to preach, we must not take preaching lightly. Reprove, rebuke, and exhort should immediately call to mind the profitability of Scripture. Though we can (and should) allow the Scriptures to teach, reprove, correct, and train us individually, the primarily vehicle for profiting from Scripture is through hearing it preached.

The regular, faithful preaching of the Scriptures should be a key focus of all followers of Christ. Since through preaching we are taught the sufficient, profitable, and inspired Bible, we are able to rightly call preaching the Word a means of communal discipleship. By hearing the Word preached, we learn more about the God who authored it, and we learn how to better follow Christ. Preaching makes disciples, and disciples of Christ should love to hear the Word preached.

Unfortunately, many people prefer to “accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” turning away from the truth and chasing after myths. There are many false teachers who improperly use the Bible to tell people what they want to hear, and in many ways, they are judgment of God. We must be careful not to assign the blame entirely to false teachers. They only exist because people want to follow after lies. False teachers give the people what they want, and if we are not wary, we can become our own false teacher. Many claim the name of Christ, but never attend church because they believe that they can read the Bible and know God themselves. Though avoiding community does not guarantee false doctrine, it almost always leads to it. We are not meant to follow Christ alone, and we are not meant to interpret the Bible alone. When we read the Bible entirely apart from other believers, we risk avoiding what we do not want to hear. We, in essence, become our own false teacher. We need to hear the faithful, expository preaching of the Word. We need to be in a congregation with other believers, where we have elders who hold firm to the trustworthy Word, instructing sound doctrine and rebuking false doctrine. (Titus 1:9)

But the work of interpretation is not entirely upon the preacher, the congregation of believers must also hold the him accountable to sound doctrine. In Acts, Luke writes this about the Bereans in this way:

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

Notice that Luke was not annoyed or offended that the Bereans fact-checked everything that him and Paul preached to them; instead, he commended them for doing so! A pastor whose heart is to see the congregation grow in their love of God and His Word will likewise rejoice to find the church daily searching the Scriptures to make sure that his preaching is correct.

For these reasons, regular attendance of the Sunday morning worship service is one of the primary expectations of a member at Western Meadows. Because we value the Scriptures as God’s Word and value making disciples as Jesus command to every believer, followers of Jesus Christ should desire to sit often under the proclamation of His Word.

Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-4:5)

Week 2 | Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of san evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

OPENING THOUGHT

Over the course of this series, we are studying why hold to certain values as a church. We began by studying Jesus’ Great Commission to His disciples. As the final commands of Christ, the call to make disciples must permeate everything that we do. Making disciples is our purpose and mission, both as individuals and as the church collective. Because followers of Christ bear the image of their Lord, we seek to fill the earth with His disciples in order that the earth may be filled with Christ’s image and His glory.

We also discussed the question of how to make disciples. This process happens at both an individual and communal level. As individuals, we are called biblically to make disciples in three major ways. First, we live our lives as a witness for Christ. Second, we proclaim the glorious good news that Jesus saves sinners. Third, we teach and train those who have decided to follow Christ. Through witnessing, evangelism, and teaching, we make disciples individually. But discipleship also happens on a communal level as the church, and we will study those more closely today and over the next two weeks.

The first means of discipleship in the church is through the upholding and teaching of Scripture. At Western Meadows, we believe that the Bible is the very Word of God, and we uphold the value that the Scriptures alone are sufficient for teaching us who God is and how to obey Him. Through Paul’s words to Timothy, we will learn why the Bible is so important, how it impacts us today, and why it is necessary for the making disciples.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read verses 16-17 and discuss the following.

  1. What do we mean when we say that God inspired the Bible? How is the Bible’s trustworthiness tied to its inspiration?
  2. What does it mean for Scripture to be profitable to us? In what ways does Scripture profit us?
  3. How does Scripture equip us for the work of ministry? How does it grow us in sanctification?

Read verses 1-5 and discuss the following.

  1. How does the regular preaching of the Scriptures make disciples within the church?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.
Good Works | Sound Doctrine

The Hope of Eternal Life | Titus 1:2-4

in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;
To Titus, my true child in a common faith: grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior

Titus 1:2-4 ESV

 

Last week, in the opening of our study on Titus, we saw Paul’s twin self-identifications and purposes. He readily called himself both a slave and an apostle of Christ. As a slave, he placed his life entirely into the hands of his Savior, and as an apostle, he considered himself sent into the world to proclaim the good news that Jesus saves. The sent-servant then expressed that he slaved to increase the faith and knowledge of the truth in God’s chosen people, growing them toward godliness.

We conclude Paul’s greeting this week as he continues to provide his motivation for writing to his disciple. If strengthening the faith and knowledge of God’s elect was Paul’s purpose, then the hope of eternal life is his goal. Hope is the future expectation of faith. While faith is the daily assurance of things hoped for, hope is faith in the things to come. We are saved through faith, and our hope is in the completion of our salvation.

Paul goes on to explain that our hope of eternal life is secured by a promise from God, who never lies, and is manifested in God’s word through preaching. This emphasis upon God’s trustworthiness was likely especially poignant in comparison to the unreliability of the Greek and Roman gods. Finally, Paul closes his greeting by reminding Titus of the grace and peace that we have in God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE // VERSES 2-3

If the first verse of Titus was the purpose for Paul’s writing, this is his aim or goal. His purpose is to strengthen the faith and knowledge of God’s elect, but his aim is that they would have faith that leads to a hope in eternal life. Hope is the sort of word that we may feel we understand, but when thinking upon it deeply, we realize that we cannot explain it. It is similar to how Augustine said that he knew abstract concepts when he did not have to say anything about them, but when asked about them, he did not know them anymore. What then does hope mean? What does it mean to hope in something?

Nowadays, we use many words outside their biblical understandings. Hope is one such word. We use it quite frivolously as a substitute for “wish”. Biblical hope is much concrete and certain. Hope is tied to faith. The two cannot be separated. Faith is believing in God, trusting in and having confidence in Him. Faith means we have the ability to walk with God. A parachute is a great analogy for faith. We may say that we trust a parachute to support us, but actually jumping out of a plane is a realistic indicator of that confidence. Faith is believing in God. If faith is walking with God in trust on a daily basis, it is then a present living hope. And hope is the future goal of faith. Hope always seems to bring a future tense along with it. Hope is, by definition, looking forward to something. It is looking into the future and having faith that something will happen. Hope is future faith, and faith is present hope. The two are intertwined.

Romans 8:23-25 says that all of creation “groans inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” This is Paul saying that just as creation is groaning for everything to be set back into order, for God to destroy sin once and for all, we are also longing for God to give us the redemption of our bodies. This means that one day our bodies will be without sin. One day we will have fleshly and physical bodies that are not longer subject to sin. We groan for that day. In this hope, we are saved. That longing for glorification with Christ is the hope for which we are saved. That life spent in God’s presence, loving Him for all eternity without sin, is our hope of eternal life.

If our faith is not grounded in hope of eternal life, then it has no substance. This hope is also tied into the godliness of verse one because if our hope is truly set on eternal life, we will live differently in the present. You cannot know that you were made for eternity and live like everything is dependent upon the now. If you truly know that what truly matters are things and events that happen ten billion years from now, there will be things in this life that become small. If we simply look at our lives over the span of seventy to one hundred years, there may be problems that look and feel massive, but if we view them from a fixation of eternity, many of our troubles become very small. Hope of eternity leads to a transformed life in the present.

God, Who Never Lies, Promised

This is the first of two securities that Paul provides for our hope of eternal life. We can have faith in our future hope because God promised it. God promised before the ages began (Eph. 1:4). God set into motion our salvation before Genesis 1:1 ever happened. If there is any person’s promise that we can trust, it is God. Paul did not have to place the clause “who never lies” in the verse. There are likely two reasons for including that clause.

First, remember that at this point in the first century, most of Paul’s fellow citizens worshipped Greek or Roman gods. Any quick reading of such mythologies will show that these gods were liars and cheaters for their own personal gain, and this was not exclusive to Greeks and Romans. Most societies lived in fear because their gods were selfish and less than honest. Paul, however, reminds Christians that our God is different. He loved us so much that He died for us. Our God is loving and completely truthful.

Second, Paul could be setting God as opposite to Satan. Jesus warns in John 8:44 that the devil is “a liar and the father of lies.”

Manifested in His Word

Our second security that our hope will not fail us is that God has manifested that hope of eternal life in His word. Do you want to be able to see the promises of God for security? Look then to the Scriptures. The hope has literally appeared in His word. To remember and fix our eyes upon the hope of salvation, we turn to the Bible. We do not seek inward mediation or outward performances. We read God’s words, hearing what He says to us.

Romans 10:13-17 describes the importance of learning the word of God through preaching:

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

In order to get this hope of eternal life, we must call upon the name of the Lord, and He will save us. We trust in Him as our hope, security, and salvation. But then Paul brings us through a succession of questions and answers. How can someone call on Him if they have not believed? How can they believe if they have not heard? How can they hear without someone preaching? It should go without saying that God could save anyone by appearing to them visibly; however, His principle way of working is to use us. Though He could do everything Himself, He chooses to let us be a part of it, to use us as His instruments. He wants to give us the joy of being a piece of His redemption of the world.

Of course, there is a special entrusting upon those called to preach the word before a congregation; however, pastors and teachers are not alone entrusted with the proclamation of the Scriptures. Instead, in a very real way, everyone is a preacher, as a Christian. We are all called to declare the word of God. For most of us, this proclamation will happen on an intimate or interpersonal setting, such as with coworkers or family members. We are each commanded by God to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. If you are a believer in Christ, you have been entrusted with the gospel. God does not simply give the gospel to save us but gives it to us to share with others so that we can be the means through which God saves people.

MY TRUE CHILD // VERSE 4

Though we know little about Titus, most scholars assume that Titus came to know that Lord through Paul’s ministry and then became Paul’s disciple. Paul uses the same terminology of child with Timothy, who was very close to the apostle. Thus, Timothy and Titus may have been Paul’s spiritual children in the faith.

The phrase “in a common faith” would have had a special meaning with Titus. We do know that Titus was a Gentile and that he was uncircumcised (Gal. 2:3). Circumcision was a massive issue within the first century church (as we will see later in the letter). In short, beginning with Abraham, circumcision was the sign of God’s covenant with His people, Israel. Most of the first Christians were also Jewish, so they began to ask about circumcision’s role in following Christ. Eventually, the church fully concludes that because Jesus alone is necessary for salvation, circumcision should not be required of Gentile Christians. If we make anything other than Christ necessary for salvation, we create a false gospel. Thus, Paul writes this phrase (“in a common faith”) in order to emphasize that the uncircumcised Titus is of a common faith with all other Christians. Paul essentially put his arm around Titus, including him in the Christian faith and brotherhood.

Grace & Peace | Father & Savior

This is one of Paul’s favorite greetings to give, his proclamation of blessing to other brothers and sisters in the faith. Grace and peace represent the culmination of both testaments. Grace is the summation of the New Testament. It is the free gift of God that we have received in Christ Jesus. Grace encapsulates the New Testament ideas better than just about any other.

Likewise, peace is a summation of the Old Testament theology. In Hebrew, it is shalom. Though we translate it to peace, it is actually far more. Biblical peace also meant a perfect harmony with God. Sin severed our relationship to God, but the gospel has restored our shalom with Him. God’s grace has given us His peace.

He then states that this grace and peace come from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. Paul has already called God our Savior, which is a favorite of Paul in this letter. Savior is used twelve times in the New Testament, and six of those are found in Titus. By calling both the Father and Jesus our Savior, Paul affirms the divinity and deity of Christ. Therefore, this opening greeting is a concise and succinct summation of the gospel across both testaments of Scripture.