The following is excerpted from the Way of Life Commentary Series, Pastoral Epistles, www.wayoflife.org:
“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:1-2).
Training preachers and teachers is one of the most important ministries of the church.
- We have Paul’s example that this must be a major part of the ministry. He spent a large portion of his time and energy training preachers and teachers.
- This is how truth is to be imparted from generation to generation until Jesus comes. Paul had his eye on the future. He cared about the next generations.
- This is the ministry of multiplication. It is how a preacher multiplies himself. Nature teaches us that God is in the business of multiplication. Plant one seed of corn and that seed produces a stalk that typically bears two cobs of corn with 100 seeds! It is never God’s will for the truth to be kept to oneself. We are to be channels of blessing. We are to be “Sea of Galilee Christians,” not “Dead Sea Christians.” The Sea of Galilee receives the waters of the Jordan River in the north, adds to it by its own springs, and sends the water on its way to the south. The Dead Sea receives the Jordan River water coming down from Galilee, but there is no outlet. A “Dead Sea Christian” receives God’s Word but does not share it with others.
- This is how a church becomes an Antioch church that can send out missionaries to start other churches (Ac. 13-14). Paul and Barnabas started the church at Antioch, and by Acts 13:1, there were three other prophets and teachers working with them in that church (Simeon, Lucius, and Manaen), so that God could send Paul and Barnabas to other places.
- This is the ministry of fruitfulness. Individual believers and pastors and churches do not harm themselves or reduce themselves by giving out the Word of God or by training and sending forth laborers. The principle of giving and receiving operates in every area of the Christian life. “Give and it shall be given unto you” (Lu. 6:38). The more I minister the Word of God to others, the more I prosper spiritually myself. The more a preacher pours himself into training others, the more he prospers himself. The more a church pours itself into training men of God and appointing them to the ministry and sending them wherever God leads, the more that church prospers. When Antioch obeyed God and sent out Paul and Barnabas, we can be sure that God supplied every need of that congregation going forward.
- This is how a church builds a foundation for the next generation so that there is always a new generation of preachers and teachers available to carry on the work of God. The biblical pattern of training preachers and teachers can assure that a pastor will not end his days alone, growing old, with no one to carry on.
In 2 Timothy 2:2, we see all of the major aspects of this great ministry.
Consider the teaching that is to be imparted.
- The teaching is inscribed in the New Testament. The correct teaching is “the things that thou hast heard of me.” Timothy had received his doctrine from the apostle Paul, and we have that same doctrine canonized and preserved in Scripture. The standard for every time and place is the New Testament faith that was delivered by the apostles and prophets. The faith was completed in the days of the apostles. It was “once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Every church’s task is to receive this faith and pass it on to the next generation. The preacher and teacher is to teach the Word of God, not his own opinions, not human tradition and philosophy (Col. 2:8), not profane and old wives fables (1 Ti. 4:7).
- The teaching is to be kept pure (“the same commit thou”). Timothy was instructed to teach exactly what he had been taught. He was not to add to it, subtract from it, change it, water it down. Timothy was to keep the truth “without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Ti. 6:13-14). Paul taught “all the counsel of God” (Ac. 20:27). Every part of the New Testament faith is important, and nothing is to be despised. While not all things in Scripture are of equal importance, all things have some importance and nothing should be neglected. In Mt. 23:23, Jesus taught that while there are “weightier matters” in the Scripture, even the less weighty teachings have some significance.
- The teaching is to be committed. The term “commit” is the Greek paratithemi, meaning “to place alongside, to deposit.” It is translated “set before” (Lu. 9:16; 10:8; 11:6) and “commit the keeping of” (1 Pe. 4:19). To commit means the New Testament faith is to be given to others as a sacred trust which they are responsible to keep and to pass along. This process is a solemn obligation and every person involved in it, both teachers and students, will give account to God. The New Testament faith is a greater treasure than any other thing in this world, because it is the sole key to eternal life, and God has put it into the hands of His people for safe keeping.
- This shows how the Scriptures are preserved from a human perspective. This is the “Received Text” principle. The Scriptures were given to the prophets and apostles by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and were committed to the early churches, which “received them” (1 Th. 2:13) and kept them (Re. 3:8), and imparted them to the next generation (2 Ti. 2:2).
Consider the attitude with which the teaching is to be imparted.
- The verb “commit” is aorist imperative. The men are to be commanded. The instruction is to be given with authority. The teacher and the students must be impressed with the seriousness of this business before God.
Consider the men who are to be taught.
- They are “faithful men.” This is the major characteristic that churches are to look for. It is more important than great intelligence. Faithful means dependable, trustworthy. Contrast Pr. 10:26; 29:15. Faithful means humble and teachable. Contrast Pr. 26:16. Faithfulness is a major requirement for any position of leadership and teaching in the church (1 Co. 4:2). Christ is going to reward those who are faithful (“Well, done, thou good and faithful servant,” Mt. 25:21; Lu. 19:17). Faithfulness is a major test of one’s character. Jesus taught that “he that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” (Lu. 16:10). Examples of faithful saints are Lydia (Ac. 16:15), Timothy (1 Co. 4:17), Epaphras (Col. 1:7), Tychicus (Col. 4:7), Onesimus (Col. 4:9), and Silas (1 Pe. 5:12). The character of church leaders and teachers is of the utmost importance. This is why the New Testament has such high standards for elders and deacons (1 Ti. 3; Tit. 1). There is a saying that “everything rises and falls on leadership.” If the preachers and teachers are real men of God who walk with Christ and love the truth, the churches will be strong. If they are weak, the churches will follow suit. The greatest need of any generation is for faithful men who will serve Christ in the churches, who will receive the truth with precision and zeal and will impart it to the next generation.
- They are men who “shall be able to teach others also.” Timothy was to pay special attention to training men who have the gift of teaching. See Ro. 12:7; Eph. 4:11; 1 Ti. 3:2; 2 Ti. 2:24. Every believer is to be a teacher (Heb. 5:11-14) at some level (e.g., fathers and mothers teaching their children), and every believer is to be biblically educated in the church (“teaching every man,” Col. 1:28-29), but special attention must be given to training qualified, ministry-gifted men. In other words, the whole church should be a Bible institute, but the church should also have a Bible college, so to speak, for the training of leaders. Too often men are placed into teaching positions when they do not have the ability to teach. As a result, those who sit under their ministries are stymied. Too many Sunday School classes, for example, are boring and nearly profitless because the wrong people are assigned to teaching positions. If a church is small and only has one good teacher, he should do all of the teaching until God raises up others who are qualified and gifted. Graded Sunday School classes can be profitable, but only if each teacher is qualified and capable.
- They are men who will teach “the same” message. A faithful teacher, in God’s eyes, is a man who handles the Word of God faithfully. He is zealous for the faith once delivered to the saints. He doesn’t detract from it; he doesn’t add to it; he doesn’t alter it. The message can be changed by perverting it, which is what false teachers do (Gal. 1:7). They take things out of context and force foreign definitions upon words to make the Word of God say what it was not intended to say. The message can also be changed by weakening it. This is what the New Evangelicals do; they determine to focus on the more “positive,” less controversial things while neglecting the “hard things” of the ministry such as separation, discipline, and contending for the faith. This is also what the modern Bible versions do to the Word of God. Doctrine is weakened by the loose dynamic equivalency method of translation and also by the omissions in the critical Greek New Testament upon which these versions are founded. For example, “God” is removed from 1 Ti. 3:16, thus removing one of the clearest testimonies to Christ’s deity, and the entire verse of Acts 8:37 is omitted, thus removing one of the clearest teachings on scriptural baptism. The omissions do not remove these doctrines from the Bible entirely, but they weaken the doctrines.
Consider the spiritual resources for this work.
- As noted previously, every resource for this difficult ministry is available “in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Ti. 2:1). The wonderful truth that the grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient for the ministry not only points back to what Paul taught in chapter 1, it also points ahead to the ministry that is described in chapter 2-4. The grace of Christ is available to endure trouble and suffering, as well as to carry on every aspect of the work of the ministry.
- The work of training preachers and teachers is extremely difficult if it is to be effectual. It requires spiritual discernment to know who to train. It requires wisdom in dealing with men. It requires patience. It requires the ability to teach. It requires the ability to exhort, to reprove, and to exercise discipline. It requires effectual intercessory prayer whereby men are called to the ministry (Lu. 10:2). None of this can be done apart from the grace that is in Christ, but all of it can be done by the grace that is in Christ. It is His work and He is ready to work; He is ready to go! He is looking for men to use (2 Ch. 16:9).
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