In this chapter, we find timely instruction to Timothy as he ministers and fulfills his purpose among these Ephesian believers. He has been given good instruction about the church. Now he is given direct instruction about his conduct and focus…particularly as it pertains to the work of the church. See…for a minister…there is no distinction between personal life and ministry life. All of life is CALLING and every aspect of our lives either accelerates us toward successfully fulfilling our calling…or impedes its progress.
4:1-5 identifies one of the great dangers WITHIN the church community…the danger of Judaism/legalism/rules-based righteousness. In this case…the way of Salvation was the GOSPEL+something…dietary restrictions/religious observances, etc. Not much is different today. To those outside the church…this is not that big of an issue. They may point out the inconsistency and even argue that legalism is the problem…but for a lost man…he has rejected both Law and Grace. Perhaps one might persuade that the church’s lack of presentation of TRUE GRACE is the issue. It is not. Sin is the issue but our inconsistent presentation of Grace can be and certainly is an impediment to the gospel.
So what does the minister do? How does he face down the danger of legalism? Well, according to Paul…he takes his eyes off of other’s actions per se and focuses on his own calling, conduct, and example.
Avoid entanglement with the legalist’s arguments. This is not a place for apologetics. It is a place for yielding to Jesus. What is important…is not what “you think” but what the “Scripture teaches.” What “we think” got us into the mess we’re in…from when Eve thought God was holding out on her and there was a better way…to every occurrence of rebellion against God since. [But what about _____ pastor? Shouldn't we take a stand against this particular sin? Actually...if the Scripture can be trusted...we should take a stand FOR Jesus, Grace, and the Gospel. The error of the rest will become pretty evident.]
Guard your testimony…every action is an example. Know it…and serve the purpose. You were called to live out the example…a living picture of Christ and His holiness. A picture of grace and truth manifested in the life of the minister.
Get doctrine right. Focus on the teachings of Scripture…not as a “moral example” to consider but as divinely inspired and preserved instruction to be yielded to. When the Scripture teaches to not murder (commit adultery, lie, steal, covet, et.al.) these are not suggestion for the moral person to consider. They are sins that must be avoided. How? As we fulfill what we’re called to do…we’ll be careful not to be trapped in these.
This should not get PASSIVE TREATMENT. No! Paul tells Timothy to “take pains with these things…be absorbed with them…pay close attention…persevere in these things” (4:15-16). Why? Because in so doing…we ensure Salvation for ourselves and all who watch us.
Is any of this applicable to “non-ministers” today? Frankly…we’re all ministers so there is no such thing…but the spirit of the inquiry is such that we can differentiate the Christ-follower from the called LEADER/pastor of Christ-followers. In that regard…I can confidently say…there is nothing required of my life as a gospel minister and pastor that is not also required of every believer. The only difference is…I’ll give a more strict accounting to God for the way I live and the consequences of my actions.
Proverbs 8:32 is the takeaway today. Wisdom personified speaking, “Now therefore, O sons, listen to me, for blessed are those who keep my ways.”