Why Women Should Publicly Read Scripture in the Local Church

By Adam Brown –

As a complementarian church, we believe that men and women are created by God and are equal in every way. Both men and women are made in the image of God. Both men and women are to exercise benevolent dominion over the created order. And, perhaps most importantly, Jesus Christ died equally for both men and women. Yes, both men and women will share in His inheritance without any discrimination based on gender (Galatians 3:28).

At the same time, equality does not mean sameness. God created men and women to be equal but different. God’s creation of humanity in two genders differentiates the functions inherent to men, in their maleness, from women, in their femaleness. Together, men and women are to co-labour in a mutual, yet differentiated, partnership that aims to glorify their Creator. 

As part of this differentiated partnership, God created men to lead and to teach in the local church. Thus, the Word of God plainly states, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (1 Timothy 2:12). This is controversial. Indeed, it is anathema in our culture. And yet, it is the Word of God.

The governing and teaching responsibility given to men by God is important to uphold. After all, the church is God’s house and He decides how we are to behave in it (1 Timothy 3:14-15).

It is equally important to uphold the high calling that God has given to women in the local church. Though this can be done in a number of ways, one very important means of doing this is to ask women to share in the public reading of Scripture.

The public reading of Scripture is the vocalization of God’s Word. This means that when a man or a woman stands up, opens the Bible, and reads Scripture from it, he or she is speaking God’s Words to God’s people. Put another way, God is speaking to the church when His Word is being read.

Keeping this in mind, it is very important for complementarian churches to share this profound honour among qualified men and women. This is not an honour that ought to be withheld from women. Nor is it a task that has been given exclusively to men.

Having said this, there are a couple of Scriptures that are regularly marshalled to argue against the public reading of Scripture by women:

1 Timothy 2:12

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man.

1 Corinthians 14:33-35

. . . As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

What Should We Make of These Verses?

In the first case, 1 Timothy 2:12 does not address the public reading of Scripture. It addresses the governing and teaching authority of the male elders. The public reading of Scripture is neither teaching nor the exercising of governing authority. The authority of Scripture rests in the Word and not in the reader, though a preacher speaks with authority when he explains and applies the Word in and for the church.

First Corinthians 14:33-35 does not address the public reading of Scripture either. It addresses the evaluation of contemporaneous prophecy in the local church in an era before the church possessed the infallible Word of God in written form, namely our New Testament.

In such times, male elders were to evaluate every act of prophecy in order to deem it to be authentic or counterfeit. Moreover, men would then explain the prophecy to the church, much like we explain the Scriptures in our preaching and teaching. According to 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, women were not to participate in the judging or teaching of such prophecy.

Yet, Women Did Prophesy

In spite of the leading role that male elders were to take in the judging and teaching of prophecy, women were not prohibited from actually prophesying. See, for example, 1 Corinthians 11:5:

. . . every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head. . .

Leaving aside the issue of head coverings for the moment, notice that Paul expected women to publicly pray and publicly prophesy in the gathering of the local church. The issue for Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 was not if, but how, a woman ought to publicly pray or prophesy. The answer Paul gives is this, women are to publicly pray and prophesy with a submissive posture.

In the Corinthian cultural context, this submissive posture was achieved by wearing a head covering. Head coverings do not usually communicate the biblical concept of submission appropriately in our culture, and so are not required. Nevertheless, the submissive spirit of a women in public prayer and public prophecy is upheld in all places, at all times, by the Word of God.

Prophetesses in the Old and New Testaments

Before the Old Testament was written down, prophets delivered the Word of God to God’s people verbally. Likewise, before the New Testament was written down, prophets delivered the Word of God to God’s people verbally. In both instances, they were called prophets and their act of speaking the Word of God was called prophecy. 

Old Testament prophetesses include: Miriam, Moses’ sister (see Exodus 15:20); Debora, during the time of the Judges (see Judges 4:9, 17-21), Hannah, the mother of Samuel (see 1 Samuel 2:1-10); and Huldah, of Jerusalem (see 2 Chronicles 34:22). There may have been others not listed in the Bible.

New Testament prophetesses include: Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist (see Luke 1:41-45); Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ (see Luke 1:46-55); Anna, in the Temple (see Luke 2:36-38); Philip’s daughters (see Acts 21:9); and certain Corinthian prophetesses (see 1 Corinthians 11:5), as well as many other unnamed women in the early church.

Complementarian churches would do well to recognize these biblical prophetesses and give opportunity for women to prophesy in the local church by publicly reading the Scriptures.

The Public Reading of Scripture is Equivalent to Prophesying

We no longer embrace contemporaneous prophecy because we believe that the complete Word of God has been revealed and recorded in Scripture. 

Therefore, today every Word that comes from God can be found in the Christian Bible, both Old and New Testaments. The public reading of Scripture, therefore, is the closest we can get to the act of prophesying. That is, we speak the true Words of God, to the people of God, when we read the Scriptures aloud.

This act of prophesying, which, in our case, is the public reading of Scripture, is the central act of the church and is not to be taken lightly. Indeed, it is a tremendous honour for any creature to speak the Words of his or her Creator out loud. 

Our Creator has wonderfully extended this honour to both men and women equally. Therefore, in keeping with God’s good design for men and women, and in keeping with God’s instructions for how we are to behave in His household, the church, it is right and good to invite women to magnify their Maker by speaking His Words to His church through the public reading of Scripture.

It is not enough for complementarian churches to say that we uphold the equality of men and women. We must demonstrate our convictions of equality by giving women every biblical opportunity to serve God according to His revealed design and purpose for women.

The public reading of Scripture – the speaking of God’s Words to God’s church – does more to affirm our belief in the absolute equality of men and women (even while we uphold the differences in our God given design and function) than any other thing we could say or do.

For who can deny the incalculable value of the one who speaks the very Words of God? Indeed, speaking the very Words of God is of infinitely greater value than preaching about the Word of God, even though the latter constitutes the greater exercise of authority in the local church. Matters of office and authority aside, publicly reading the Word of God is the supreme honour bestowed on any creature.

Of course, this blessing is an undeserved gift, whether the reader is a man or a woman. Yes, this act of reading Scripture glorifies God in heaven and does not glorify the one who is reading. Indeed, let us keep all of that in mind as necessary context for what I am about to write. . .

In the moment that she, Woman, publicly reads Scripture, we subtly but truly declare to one another, “Behold, Woman. She is publicly speaking the Words of God. Let us listen to her voice so that we might hear God.” 

Now that affirms something profound about the equality of men and women, and that is why women should publicly read Scripture in the local church.

Who is Shepherding Your Women’s Ministry?

By Angie Brown –

This post originally appeared on The Gospel Coalition Canada.

In many churches, the women’s ministry can seem to run like a well-managed resort. Special events feature a warm welcome, excellent cuisine, choice of activities, and even a small gift to take home!

There are very capable and creative women in leadership hosting Bible studies, mom’s groups, and retreats. Yet there is a troubling trend that has emerged in many local churches. Very often women’s ministries exist on their own islands, detached from the involvement of the shepherds of the church.

While taking an island vacation with your women’s ministry may sound fun at first, a commitment to living on that island can eventually be problematic.

Decisions are made in isolation for the island while not considering implications to the mainland. The people with the most charisma, not necessarily the most qualifications, rise to positions of influence. Existing as an independent island community can limit the available resources, skills, and protection from predators.

Is your women’s ministry operating like an independent island community?

In the evangelical church today, there seems to be an unfortunate disconnect between pastor / elder teams and the intentional discipleship of women. How did women’s ministry become its own entity?

Could it be that women’s ministries have become comfortable operating independently from church leadership?

Could it be that the shepherds of the church have rarely been invited to offer oversight, share wisdom, or provide theological knowledge?

By practically operating outside of pastor/elder involvement, women’s ministries may be limiting themselves and missing out on the richness of Christ’s plan for His church.

One way to begin building bridges is to prayerfully invite church leadership to invest in the older women in the congregation. Here are four benefits of inviting shepherds to oversee the discipleship of women by identifying and equipping older women.

Benefit #1: Scripture is Applied

The book of Titus is written to the leadership of the church to oversee the discipleship of its members. Titus was left in Crete to “set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). Women’s ministries can be encouraged that the pastors and elders of a local church are ultimately responsible for the discipleship of their entire congregation.

One of the clearest explanations in Scripture on ministry to women is for the older to disciple the younger. Paul exhorts Titus to oversee that older women are “teaching what is good so that they may encourage the young women” (Titus 2:3b-4a).

The first benefit of shepherds investing in older women is that Scripture would be faithfully applied. It is a biblical mandate for pastors and elders to identify and equip older women for the crucial task of teaching younger women. Women’s ministries can prayerfully seek ways to invite their shepherds to fulfill this mandate together.

Benefit #2: Sound Doctrine is Upheld

A second benefit of elders equipping older women to make disciples is that sound doctrine would be upheld. According to Titus 2:1, it is the responsibility of elders to oversee that the Bible is the standard for all that is accomplished in ministry to women.

Women must learn and embrace sound theology so that it permeates everything they do. It is imperative that women’s ministries continually invite pastors and elders to help older women understand the Bible and sound doctrine, so they will be better equipped to teach the next generation.

Benefit #3: Ministry is Multiplied

A third benefit of shepherds equipping older women is that the effectiveness of the entire church body would be multiplied. Ministry and discipleship efforts could be greatly enhanced if elders equipped older women to train and encourage younger women.

In addition, many women have personal and delicate situations that could best be addressed by a spiritually mature woman with more life experience. There are numerous scenarios of younger women in various degrees of crisis in which a trained older woman could support and assist.

Benefit #4: Christ is Glorified

The fourth and most important benefit of implementing principles of women’s discipleship from Titus 2 is that Jesus Christ would be exalted. Ultimately, Titus 2 is given so that the church would know how to grow in godliness to bring Christ glory and display His gospel to the world.

The instructions for discipleship in Titus are given, “that the word of God may not be reviled” and to “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour” (Titus 2:5b10b). When the Bible is embraced and applied, it can be a powerful witness to the world.

Is your women’s ministry operating outside of the involvement of the church leadership God has appointed? It is never too late to start building bridges that will connect the island of women’s discipleship to the main land of the local church.

Please prayerfully consider the rich benefits of embracing Christ’s design for His church and invite your pastors and elders to invest in the older women. In doing so, Scripture will be applied, sound doctrine will be upheld, ministry will be multiplied, and Christ will be glorified.

Instruction 20: Exercise Church Discipline

By Adam Brown –

Sometimes chapter breaks are unfortunate disruptions to the flow of the text. Today’s passage (2 Timothy 2:22-3:9) is one such example. Neither 2 Timothy 2:22-26 nor 2 Timothy 3:1-9 should be read without conscious awareness of the other. Together, 2 Timothy 2:22-26 and 2 Timothy 3:1-9 give a balanced approach to church discipline.

Church Discipline Has a “Positive” Side

Like discipline in the home, church discipline include both reward and correction. Sometimes, church discipline is exhortative and not corrective. For example, the pure in heart simply need regular reminders to flee youthful passions and to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace (2 Timothy 2:22).

A second positive aspect to church discipline is that it is done in order to protect the weak and the vulnerable from the sin of others. It can feel un-Canadian to exercise church discipline against problem people. However, a failure to do so necessarily leaves large swaths of our membership vulnerable to the wicked influence of others (see 2 Timothy 2:3:6-9).

Church Discipline Has a “Negative” Side

Unfortunately, sometimes the elders of a local church need to exercise what might be considered “negative” church discipline. This does not mean that it is bad. It is, however, discipline that addresses wrong belief and wrong behaviour in the church.

Elders are called upon to correct opponents with gentleness with the hope that God may grant them repentance (2 Timothy 2:25-26). However, chapter 3 begins, “BUT understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. . .” Paul then proceeds to list 19 qualities that cannot be easily resolved by being “kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, and correcting opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:24-25). Rather, Paul commands Timothy to “avoid such people” (2 Timothy 3:5). By “avoid,” Paul does not mean, “ignore.” Rather, Paul is encouraging Timothy to break fellowship.

Church Discipline is Progressive

The above point necessitates some clarification. Breaking fellowship is not the beginning of church discipline. It is the absolute last step, to be avoided if at all possible.

As chapter 2 makes clear, church discipline begins with teaching and correction that is not quarrelsome, but is kind, patient, and gentle (2 Timothy 2:24-25). If required, however, it progresses to confrontation and, ultimately, to the breaking of fellowship.

It requires collective wisdom among elders to decide when discipline has progressed from the end of chapter 2 to the beginning of chapter 3. When does patience run out and the path toward the breaking of fellowship begin? Titus 3:10-11 may be helpful on this point:

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Such thinking is almost totally alien to our churches today. And yet it remains the Word of God.

Church Discipline Hopes for Restoration

The goal of all church discipline is “repentance that leads to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25). The hope is that the offending members “will come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26).

Unfortunately, however, some people are never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Rather, they entrench themselves in sin and prey on the weak (2 Timothy 3:1-7). These members must be appropriately corrected and, if needs be, condemned.

And yet, church discipline must never be done from glad authority. The burden of headship should be obvious in the approach and demeanor of elders charged with such a weighty task. Nevertheless, the good of the church must outweigh the any proclivity to endure indefinitely with the sin and disruption of members that can be categorized by the list found in 2 Timothy 3:2-5.

Church Discipline Will Triumph If Done Biblically

When the elders engage in church discipline it is not always clear to onlookers – who do not have all of the information or the big picture in view – that what the elders are doing is right and good. The closing verses in this passage offer a note of hope for battle weary elders who wonder at the fruitfulness of church discipline.

Paul reminds Timothy of the conspicuous folly of Jannes and Jambres (names given to the two Egyptian priests who opposed Moses in Pharaoh’s court). Just as these two men were eventually seen for the counterfeits they were, so also troublemakers in the church will eventually be seen for who they really are (2 Timothy 3:8–9).

The goal of elders must not be to defend their actions, but to do what is in the best interest of the church. Like grown children who remember the discipline of their parents, those with eyes to see will eventually understand the love and responsibility that compelled the elders to discipline the church.

Instruction 20: Exercise Church Discipline

One of the most difficult responsibilities entrusted to elders is the exercise of church discipline. Second Timothy 2:22-3:9 gives helpful guidance in this important aspect of life in the church.

Instruction 19: Address All Church Conflict by the Word of God

By Adam Brown –

Second Timothy 2:15-21 begins the second half of the book. The first half (2 Timothy 1:3-2:14) focussed on enduring conflict in the local church. The second half (2 Timothy 2:15-4:21) focusses on addressing conflict in the local church.

The most important thing to know when addressing conflict in the local church is that it must be done by the Word of God. Today’s text, 2 Timothy 2:15-21, makes this point abundantly clear.

Like an Able Tradesman Skillfully Uses His Tools, So Skillfully Use the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15)

The first of three metaphorical images in this passage is that of a tradesman. Just as a carpenter “cuts straight” his wood, so Timothy is encouraged to “cut straight” (ESV: “rightly handle”) the Word of God. If he is able to cut straight, then he will be approved by God and have no need to be ashamed.

When conflict arises in the local church, a very real temptation arises to take the path of least resistance. Compromise here. Compromise there. Unity for unity’s sake. Cut crooked if need be, but for heaven’s sake, keep the peace. The short term gain of this approach is eclipsed by God’s disapproval and the subsequent shame for having dodged the Word of God. And, this is not to mention the very real possibility that five years hence a new group will challenge the decisions made for the sake of peace, but for which the leadership has forfeited any biblical basis. Thus, a future storm brews on the horizon of unbiblical resolution.

All church conflict must be addressed by careful and prayerful reflection on the Word of God. When necessary it is best to pay the cost up front in order to bring a church in line with God’s revealed will.

Like a Compassionate Doctor, Amputate Gangrened Limbs (2 Timothy 2:16-19)

The imagery of gangrene in the passage necessarily introduces the related imagery of amputation. The problem with gangrene is that it spreads. The sooner it is treated, the less long-term violence there will be against the body. Sadly, a prolonged refusal to deal with the diseased limbs will take the life of the patient.

Likewise, left alone, “irreverent babblers” in the church will spread their malcontent throughout the church until a faction has developed and threatens the life of the Body. As Paul wrote, these people “upset the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:18). The punch of Paul’s warning is not that some people will be discouraged, but rather that their faith will capsize like a ship out at sea (cf. 1 Timothy 1:19-20).

Thus, like a compassionate doctor who cares for his patients, so also the leadership of the church must “cut off” (ESV: “avoid”) the infectious members. The scalpel for this surgery must be the Word of God. Indeed, all church politics, financial dependencies, emotional investments, personal partiality, cowardice, hubris, and the like, are akin to dull and rusty knives that do more damage than good.

To encourage timid Timothy, Paul reminds him of Moses and Aaron with a double allusion to the Greek translation of Numbers 16 (2 Timothy 2:19). Just as God “cut off” Korah and his rebellion, so too Timothy must protect the church from malignant members.

Like Fine China, Cleanse Yourself so that You Can Be Useful to the Master of the House (2 Timothy 2:20-21)

Having described Timothy’s responsibility to address church conflict by the Word of God, Paul concludes this section with a practical exhortation. Just as the master of a house possesses vessels for honourable use (think fine china) and vessels for dishonourable use (think toilet bowl), so also members of the local church can be used by God for honourable and dishonourable use.

Paul exhorts Timothy to cleanse himself by the Word of God so that he will be useful for honourable use. In other words, unless Timothy applies the Scriptures to himself, he will be unable to use them to address sin and deficiencies in others.

Cutting straight and amputating gangrene is of no use if the one doing the cutting and the amputating is not daily cleansed by the Word of God personally himself.

Instruction 19: Address all Church Conflict by the Word of God

Every church will have to endure conflict. At such times there is a very real pressure to back away from the Bible. However, it is in these times especially that the way forward can only be found in the pages of Scripture. Pay the cost up front if necessary, but align the church to the trustworthy words of Scripture and everything else will run its course.

Sometimes it hurts to live this out. No one wants to lose an arm or a leg to amputation. Fewer still are they who desire to hold the knife to perform the needed surgery. However, the life of the Body depends upon the courage and compassion of the leadership of the church to do just that.

Instruction 18: Focus on Jesus Christ and the Promises of the Gospel

By Adam Brown –

Timothy is enduring resistance and opposition in his local church. The cause? He has implemented the instructions mailed to him by his mentor, the apostle Paul (1 Timothy). Yes, he is enduring, but he is struggling. It is hard to pastor when there is conflict in the church.

To encourage him, Paul offers sage advice: Focus on Jesus Christ and the promises of the gospel. When trouble comes; when the church is at war; when despair and discouragement threaten to sink your ship, Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in the gospel (2 Timothy 2:8).

Remember, Jesus is the Christ

Yes, Jesus is the Messiah (Christ is the Greek word for Messiah) promised in the Old Testament. He is the offspring of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-7), the True Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15), the New Joshua (Joshua 1:6), Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14, 8:8-10, 9:1-7), the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), and the coming-to-conquer Son of Man (Daniel 7:7-14). And, this is only scratching the surface! Jesus is the YES to all of God’s promises (1 Corinthians 1:19-22). Jesus is the Christ. Remember that when faithfulness to Jesus means certain suffering.

Remember, Jesus is Risen from the Dead

If Jesus has been raised from the dead, it means, first of all, that He died. And, we know that He died by brutal crucifixion. More than that, we know that as He hung dying on the tree, He carried our own sins in His body, though He Himself was without sin (1 Peter 2:21-25). There is no suffering that compares with the suffering of Jesus. If He, our leader, our God and our King, suffered and died, then we too should expect some suffering in this life.

But God would not let His holy One see decay and on the third day He was raised from the grave immortal, imperishable, and in glory! Jesus defeated death, disarmed the devil, and opened a door for us to immortality. We too will be raised indestructible to be like Christ if we but persevere until the end. Victory over death has a way of taking the sting out of all suffering, including church conflict.

Remember, Jesus is the Offspring of David

The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7) is central to a biblical theology of the Old Testament. Evidently, it is also central to a biblical theology of the New Testament. Jesus is the Son of David, the One through whom God will keep His promises to the son of Jesse.

God promised David that his son would build a House for God’s Name (2 Samuel 7:13a). Solomon built a Temple of stone. That Temple fell to Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586 B.C. By contrast, Jesus declared boldly, “Tear down this Temple, and in three days I will build it again” (John 2:19). On the third day after they tore Him down, He was raised to life as an eternal cornerstone for an enduring Temple, of which we are living stones (1 Peter 2:4-8).

God also promised David that his son would reign from his throne forever (2 Samuel 7:13b). As the King of the Jews in the line of David, Jesus is the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. He is the Sovereign – the Crown – of all nations (Psalm 2). All the kingdoms of this age will fall. But Christ’s kingdom is an eternal kingdom, one that will endure forever without end. King Jesus will return to take back the world and establish His reign over all forever and ever.

Thus, a little suffering now fails to compare with the immeasurable riches in Christ that are offered to those who believe. And we, with Paul, can confidently assert that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

The Enduring Paradox

In spite of all this, there is an enduring paradox. Even though the Lord offers us eternal life and invites us to reign with Him forever – provided we do not deny Him, of course – (2 Timothy 2:9-10), short-sighted men and women in the church will continue to quarrel about words until the end (2 Timothy 2:14).

O tragedy of epic proportions!

This cannot be stopped. The church will endure such infliction until the King returns for His Bride. Nevertheless, the faithful can stop quarreling by choosing, rather, to focus on Jesus Christ and all the promises of the gospel.

Instruction 17: Intentionally Select and Strategically Disciple Faithful People

By Adam Brown –

Discipleship is a chain that connects us, link by link, to the ministry of Jesus Christ. Just before He ascended into heaven, Jesus entrusted the Great Commission to the church, saying that we are to make disciples by baptizing and teaching new converts all the commands of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). In effect, Jesus gave every local church its mission: make disciples. And, for more than 2,000 years, this is what the church has been doing.

In light of this, the measure of success in any local church is whether or not disciples are being made. Every other rubric or measurement means very little. If disciples are not being made, then the church is failing to fulfill its purpose.

The context of 2 Timothy 2:1-7 is conflict and opposition in the local church. In chapter one, Paul exhorted Timothy to persevere in face of difficult circumstances. In these verses, Paul calls on Timothy to get busy doing the work of disciple-making.

This is very helpful advice. When opposition rears itself in the local church, it is easy for the wheels of discipleship to grind to a halt. No wonder the enemy seeks ways to stir up division. One of the most effective ways to endure church conflict is to stay focussed on the work of ministry by making disciples. Do not get distracted. Do not lose focus. Get busy.

Second Timothy 2:1 summarizes chapter one: Be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Second Timothy 2:2, then, cuts to the heart of the matter:

2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.

This verse can be articulated by our 17th instruction for the local church: Intentionally select and strategically disciple faithful people.

Intentionally Select

Remember, Timothy was facing considerable opposition in his local church. Thus, Paul encourages him to intentionally select “faithful people” (I translate “men” to be “people” because the Greek word, ἀνθρώποις, is not limited by maleness or femaleness. Thus, the principle holds for both men and women. See, for example, Titus 2:3-5).

What does Paul mean by “faithful” people? In addition to being believers, the context suggests that he is referring to non-oppositional people. In other words, forget about all the problem people, the insubordinate, and those stirring up division. Find people who are on your side and invest in them.

It is far too easy for pastoral energy to be wrongly diverted to the burr under the saddle, which necessarily drains discipleship resources from the many faithful people who are on side. Paul instructs Timothy to focus on those who want to be discipled and not on those who do not.

Strategically Disciple

God has gifted the church with different kinds of people, each person with a different gift. Discipleship efforts must take the maturity, giftedness, and calling of each individual disciple into consideration. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all discipleship plan.

Paul highlights the strategic importance of finding men and women who “will be able to teach others also.” The goal of a disciple-maker is to make disciple-makers. Every local church must consider – and then implement – the most profitable way to spend the time and energy of the most gifted teachers in the church, which is to multiply their disciple-making efforts through wise and strategic planning.

We see this pattern in Jesus’ own life and ministry. Jesus preached to and healed the masses. He had a populist discipleship plan. However, from among the crowds, Jesus selected 12 apostles. This group received a greater investment from Jesus. From among the 12, Jesus selected Peter, James, and John for an inner-circle of discipleship. And, arguably, Jesus gave most to Peter, who would become the leader of Christ’s fledgling church.

Jesus also made it easy not to follow Him. He was not about to invest His time in a person who was not committed. For example, Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead”(Matthew 8:22 and Luke 9:60), and, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). When the crowds were offended by His message, Jesus asked His apostles, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:67). And, let’s not forget the rich young ruler. Though he would have been considered a real catch to most of our churches, Jesus let him go because he was not ready for a life of Christian discipleship (Matthew 19:16-30).

Making Disciples is Like Being a Soldier

Paul proceeds to give three illustrations about discipleship. In the first, he likens the disciple-maker to a soldier who does not get entangled in civilian affairs because his goal is to please his enlisting officer (2 Timothy 2:3-4).

Jesus, our enlisting officer, has commanded us to make disciples. Therefore, anything that distracts from fulfilling this mission is akin to “civilian affairs.” We cannot worry about the nay-sayers, the resistant, or the opposition. Rather, we must seek to please Jesus by intentionally making disciples of the faithful.

Making Disciples is Like Being an Athlete

Athletes compete for a perishable crown. Anyone who says that winning doesn’t matter, is clearly not a serious athlete. Athletes compete to win. In order to win, they must compete according to the rules (2 Timothy 2:5).

At the end of our days, each of us will stand before Jesus Christ and He will assess our life and ministry. If we built the most magnificent church buildings, established elaborate ministry structures, developed compassionate care services, and electrified thousands with our musical worship, but did not make any effort to establish 1 Timothy and the rest of the Scriptures in the life of the church, we will be disqualified.

Making disciples cannot be done apart from the learning, doing, and teaching of the Bible. Therefore, we must compete for the crown by playing by the rules, which means we must implement 1 Timothy and the rest of God’s Word.

Making Disciples is Like Being a Farmer

Farmers toil in the hostile conditions of a sin-cursed world. A farmer cannot make his crops grow. All a farmer can do is give his crops the best possible chance for growth. He does this by plowing the earth, choosing the right seed for the climate, planting in season, applying fertilizer and manure, irrigating, giving seasonal rest to the ground, and by praying. Nevertheless, in the end, it is God who gives the growth.

Likewise, making disciples is hard work. But, in the end, it is God who gives the growth. The hope of the farmer is the harvest of a bumper crop. Paul reminds Timothy that it is the farmer who enjoys the first share of the crops (2 Timothy 2:6).

In sum, a church without discipleship is not a church, at least not an effective one. No matter how fierce the battle for unity and togetherness might become, a church can never abandon the God-given work of making disciples. Indeed, when opposition is the strongest, all the more we must give ourselves to the disciple-making work of the Gospel. The life of the church depends upon it.

Instruction 16: Persevere, Even When Facing Strong Internal Resistance

By Adam Brown –

The first chapter of 2 Timothy can be summarized by a single word: Persevere. The driving sentiment of everything Paul says to Timothy in this chapter is that he must gird himself up and keep going, even though he was facing strong internal resistance from his local church.

Personal Thanksgiving and Encouragement (2 Timothy 1:3-7)

In this section, Paul seeks to encourage Timothy through a fourfold remembrance:

  1. “I remember you constantly in my prayers” (2 Timothy 1:3). You may be facing strong internal opposition in your local church, Timothy, but I want you to know that you are not forgotten. I remember you and I am praying for you. I am on your side, and so is my God – the God of my ancestors (see 2 Timothy 1:3).
  2. “I remember your tears” (2 Timothy 1:4). The prospect of ministry overwhelmed you at your ordination. You wept when we parted ways. I have received a report of your difficulties and your tears. But I want you to know that if I were there with you, I would be thrilled with your work. You would fill me with such joy (see 2 Timothy 1:4).
  3. “I am reminded of your sincere faith” (2 Timothy 1:5). Conflict such as you are experiencing can be disorienting. You may begin to doubt yourself and the position you have taken. False teachers might even make you question your faith. But I want you to know that you are the real deal. Your faith is sincere. You are walking in the ways of your grandmother and your mother (see 2 Timothy 1:5), and of me, your spiritual father (see 2 Timothy 1:2).
  4. “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Timothy 1:6). I told you that Christian ministry is a fight, and so it is proving to be. But I want you to remember that when I laid hands on you the Holy Spirit affirmed that He had given you the gift of teaching. You are a gifted teacher, Timothy. So teach. God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self control. Preach with authority. Let the people see your love for them. Get control of yourself and keep doing what you are doing.

As we see in Timothy’s example, fidelity to the Scriptures has never been popular. When we meet resistance and opposition in the local church, what shall we do? Shall we buckle under pressure, or persevere?

Exhortation to Suffer and Not be Ashamed (2 Timothy 1:8-12)

In verse 8, Paul exhorts Timothy, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.”

In verses 11-12, Paul puts himself forward as an example to be emulated, “I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”

Faithfulness to the gospel will result in suffering, even from the hands of men and women who profess to be Christians. When this suffering comes, we all have a choice. Will we shrink back in shame or will we be bold by trusting in the power of God to guard  the faith and the message that He has entrusted to us?

In verses 9-10, Paul hints at this power and, by so doing, he encourages Timothy to fully entrust himself to God.

Like Timothy, we should expect to suffer when we try to implement 1 Timothy and the other Scriptures. We must choose not to be ashamed of these efforts. God will help us to see it through.

Paul Puts Himself Forward as an Example to be Emulated (2 Timothy 1:13-18)

There are three lines in this final section of the chapter that are of paramount significance:

  1. “Follow the pattern of sound words that you have heard from me” (2 Timothy 1:13). Timothy, I have given my life in the pursuit of Christ. If you follow me, you too will be pursuing Christ.
  2. “Guard the good deposit entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:14). God has revealed His gospel to you, Timothy. I have shown you how to live out and teach this gospel. More than that, I have written you instructions so that you might know how one ought to behave in the household of God (1 Timothy 3:14-15). Guard these things with your life.
  3. “You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me” (2 Timothy 1:15). I know you are having some difficulty in Ephesus right now, but I had trouble with all of the churches in Asia, including Ephesus. Even – if you could believe it – Phygeluls and Hermogenes abandoned me! Yes, with the exception of Onesiphorus, everyone stepped back from me when I was imprisoned in Rome. Sometimes, Timothy, ministry is a very lonely effort (see 2 Timothy 1:15-18).

Paul does not romanticize church leadership or membership. Sometimes it is just plain hard. It comes with a good measure of suffering. Nevertheless, we must endure until the end, making every effort to remain faithful to the One who saved us. And it is only in the power of our Saviour that we can keep going. Our daily, moment by moment, need for Him is a constant reminder that we are saved by faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Amen.

2 Timothy – A Letter of Encouragement to Embattled and Weary Churches

By Adam Brown –

Having received a letter of instructions (1 Timothy) from Paul, Timothy set his energy to its implementation in the Ephesian church. Timothy’s commitment to that letter, however, spawned even greater resistance and opposition within his local church. So much so, that Timothy was on the verge of a personal break-down and a ministry burn-out.

In response to Timothy’s fragile situation, Paul penned a second letter (2 Timothy) to encourage his young disciple to persevere. The context of 2 Timothy, then, is the open rebellion of a local church against the established leadership and Word of God. Sadly, this is a context that the modern pastor and elder team in Canada today are all too familiar with.

It is in keeping with God’s lavish generosity that He has inspired 2 Timothy to be a balm and a motivator for the heavy laden pastor and elder team. It is also a sure comfort to any and to all Christians who face opposition within the church on account of their fidelity to, and zeal for, the Word of God. Indeed, this is a letter of encouragement to an embattled and weary church.

It is appropriate that this letter, which would be Paul’s last, captures the apostle’s gutsy endurance and, in so doing, passes this same resolve to the next generation of church leaders and members. Through the ages, this letter has breathed life and perseverance into a church that is always finding strength in the midst of weakness.

In this letter, we find seven additional instructions for the local church. It is amazing how relevant the Word of God continues to be, proving yet again that these are not the words of mere men (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

I truly believe that any church that takes seriously the implementation of the fifteen instructions found in 1 Timothy, will, in some degree, need the binding-up and healing that comes as a precious gift from God through the preaching and implementation of 2 Timothy. Thus, the relevance and eerie applicability of 2 Timothy may serve as a sort of litmus test for the efforts of the local church to conform itself to the Word of God.

Instruction 15: Fight the Good Fight of the Faith

By Adam Brown –

We finally come to the last instruction for the church in the book of 1 Timothy. This instruction is to fight the good fight of the faith (1 Timothy 6:11-16, 20-21).

Paul begins this passage by exhorting Timothy to act opposite to the problem people who cause sin-sickness in the church (see 1 Timothy 6:3-5):

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things (1 Timothy 6:11a).

What things is Timothy supposed to flee? He is to flee false teaching, conceit, ignorance, an unhealthy craving for controversy and quarrels about words, envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people (1 Timothy 6:3-5).

In place of these things, Paul offers better qualities to seek after:

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11b).

This, then, is the context for the main exhortation in this final section:

Fight the good fight of the faith (1 Timothy 6:12).

What does it mean to fight the good fight of the faith? In addition to fleeing certain things and pursuing others, fighting the good fight of the faith can be understood in five interrelated ways.

One, Fighting the good fight of the faith means ministering with an awareness that God is watching.

Paul writes, “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus. . .” (1 Timothy 6:13a). In other words, the exhortation to fight the good fight of the faith is a serious instruction. God is watching. Christ is privy. O, how easy it is to forget that Christ is among us, that His Holy Spirit indwells us, and that all we do is exposed before God our Father.

If we are going to fight the good fight of the faith, we must constantly be aware that God is with us, watching and listening. How might this change the way we conduct ourselves in the church?

Two, Fighting the good fight of the faith means suffering with Christ.

Paul continues, “. . . Jesus Christ, who in His testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession. . .” (1 Timothy 6:13b). As Paul is charging Timothy to fight the good fight, he reminds him of Jesus in His most vulnerable moment. It is the about-to-be crucified Jesus that Paul brings to Timothy’s mind. Why?

If we are going to fight the good fight of the faith, we must remember that the fight itself is saturated with suffering. We do not get the crown without first taking up our cross. Before we take hold of the fullness of glory, we must first be willing to suffer for the sake of Christ. Paradoxically, God’s view of a successful ministry looks like crucifixion.

Three, Fighting the good fight of the faith means keeping the commandment unstained and free from reproach.

Paul picks up the mainline of his thought here, “I charge you. . . to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach. . .” (1 Timothy 6:14a). What commandment is Paul referring to? Well, this is a bit ambiguous, isn’t it?

Likely, he is primarily referring to the letter of 1 Timothy. In other words, implementing this letter equals “keeping the commandment.” Even more specifically, the charge of verse 13 reminds us of the charge in 1 Timothy 1:3, 5, and 18. In these verses, Paul exhorted Timothy to ensure that certain persons were not teaching any different doctrine (1:3). The aim of his charge was not mere knowledge, but love (1:5). This charge was entrusted to Timothy in accordance with prophecies made about him (1:18). Thus, to fight the good fight of the faith is to wage the good warfare against heresy and falsehood, vain discussion and teaching that does not produce love.

If we are going to fight the good fight of the faith, we must devote ourselves to the commands of Christ and the Word of God. This includes 1 Timothy and all the holy Scriptures. Without the Bible, we are not fighting the good fight of the faith.

Four, Fighting the good fight of the faith means making every decision, saying every word, and doing all ministry in light of the return and judgment of Christ.

Paul writes that we are to fight this fight, “until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will display at the proper time – He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To Him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:14b-16). Just as Paul reminded Timothy about the crucified Christ, so also he reminds Timothy to remember the exalted and returning Christ.

This is tremendously potent because it is so easy to lose perspective. Resistance, opposition, and earthly popularity can easily eclipse the greater reality that Jesus will return and He will judge our work. Therefore, our greater concern ought to be pleasing Jesus Christ, not men and women on earth.

More than that, the greater concern of any pastor or disciple-maker needs to be to prepare people for the moment they will meet Christ. Most people are not actively preparing for that day.

If we are going to fight the good fight of the faith, we must ready the church to meet Christ, even when the church resists such preparation.

Five, Fighting the good fight of the faith means guarding the good deposit entrusted to us.

Paul concludes his letter to Timothy, “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’ for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you” (1 Timothy 6:20-21).

In the broadest sense, the “good deposit” is the Gospel. More specifically, the context of the letter suggests that 1 Timothy is, itself, a good deposit. Timothy is to guard the instructions of this letter by implementing them in the Ephesian Church.

If we are going to fight the good fight of the faith, we too must implement the instructions of 1 Timothy. Without an active devotion to these instructions, we will not naturally know how we ought to behave in the household of God (1 Timothy 3:14-15).

This five-fold exhortation calls on us to fight the good fight of the faith. And, let there be no mistake, living for Christ in the church is a fight. In the best sense, a local church can choose to engage in this fight together.

With great agony of heart, however, the reality has always been that part of this fight is internal, as factions jockey for position. This has been true ever since Paul wrote this letter to Timothy in the Ephesian church almost 2,000 years ago (see 2 Timothy). It remains true today.

Let us, then, entrust ourselves to the grace and mercy of God in Christ Jesus, and beseech the Spirit for divine help in our time of need.

Instruction 14: Set Your Hopes on God – Not on Riches

By Adam Brown –

This fourteenth instruction, that we are to set our hopes on God and not on riches, is a parenthetical thought that came to Paul while he was writing to Timothy.

The mainline of his thought flows through 1 Timothy 6:3-5, 11-16, and 20-21. If we were to remove verses 6-10 and 17-19, Paul’s letter would read smooth.

This means that 1 Timothy 6:6-10 and 6:17-19 are additional thoughts that, in many ways, stand alone from the main thrust of the letter. Of course, the ideas expressed in these verses are born out of the grander context.

The idea that initiated this bunny-trail is the end of 1 Timothy 6:3-5, which reads:

3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

It is this last part, “imagining that godliness is a means of gain,” that besets Paul’s thinking about riches.

Initially, it is difficult to know which kind of gain Paul is referring to. Within the broader context of the letter, it is possible that Paul has a works-based salvation in mind. That is, these depraved and deprived people think that they might actually earn (gain) salvation by their deeds. Or, it might be that unsaved people identified themselves with the church and demonstrated a pretended godliness in order to take advantage of the church’s material generosity. Or, a third option is that false teachers were more interested in making money than in making true disciples.

Whatever Paul’s original intention was, he breaks away from it to assure Timothy that there is a particular kind of gain that comes with godliness.

This aside can be broken into two halves. The first half (1 Timothy 6:6-8) addresses the gain of godliness. The second half (1 Timothy 6:9-10) addresses the ruin of riches.

The Gain of Godliness (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

Gain in godliness is only achieved with contentment. In other words: godliness + material contentment = gain.

The gain is not materialism. Nor is it contentment. The gain is godliness itself. The problem with the depraved and deprived people from verse 5 is that they thought that godliness was a means to some greater gain. But, godliness is not a means to gain, godliness (with contentment) is great gain. Godliness is the end, the gain itself. So long as a person enjoys material contentment, this gain of godliness can be fully enjoyed.

Paul underscores his point by reminding Timothy that just as we brought nothing material into the world, so we can take nothing material out of it. We can, however, take godliness with us when we die. Between birth and death, then, all that we really need is food and clothing, and with these we are to be content.

By contrast, materially discontent people injure themselves in their pursuit of wealth, thus missing any gain they might have had in godliness.

The Ruin of Riches (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

The worst part of being materially discontent is that when faced with a choice between faith and riches, these people choose riches.

Jesus has made this exact same point with, perhaps, even greater bluntness, when He said:

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24).

Either God and godliness will be the goal or material riches will be the goal. If God and godliness ever becomes a twisted means for attaining material riches, then such people are depraved and deprived, just as Paul warned in 1 Timothy 6:5.

Of course, this is difficult for most Westerners. How many of us are truly content with food and clothing? How many of us choose riches over a radical commitment to Christ, over regular involvement at church, or over a proper devotion to family life? This is a sin for which our generation at-large is exceptionally vulnerable and often palpably guilty. Thank God for his richness toward us in mercy and grace!

Now, Paul is not saying that all money is the root of all evil. It is the root of all kinds of evil, which simply means that many different sins emerge from the same greedy source. Nevertheless, a person can be materially rich and devoted to the faith, to Christ, to the church, and to family all at the same time. Paul spells this out for us when he comes back to his parenthetical thinking in verses 17-19.

Set Your Hopes on God – Not on Riches (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

The problem with riches is that we can feel secure in our own self-provision; our steady income, our luxurious spending power, our well structured retirement plans. When this happens, we begin to feel as though we don’t need God.

Of course this is absurd! God grants us every measure of anything we receive, including breath to draw and a heart to pump. Without God, there is nothing to be had. So much for self-sufficiency.

Paul affirms this thinking by stating that God is more reliable than any form of riches, which are always uncertain. There is no guarantee that they will be there tomorrow. But God will be there tomorrow, guaranteed. God is more reliable than our current employment, the balance in our bank account, or the saving in our retirement plans.

When we put our trust in God, we can actually afford to spend our material wealth on the kingdom of God. Paul gives four exhortations to the rich in this age:

  1. Do good with your money.
  2. Be rich in good works by investing time away from money making ventures.
  3. Be generous by giving your money away.
  4. Be ready to share so as to use your money for the good of brothers and sisters in the church.

By doing these four things, the rich in this age are wisely investing their wealth in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and where no thief can break in to steal (Matthew 6:19-21).

This instruction is plain and wise. And, for us, it is very difficult. May we all seek the grace and kindness of God, asking Him to strengthen us so that we might trust in Him instead of our riches.

 

Instruction 13: Beware of Conceited, Ignorant, Oppositional, and Quarrelsome People in the Church

By Adam Brown –

The thirteenth instruction for the Church is that we are to beware of conceited, ignorant, oppositional, and quarrelsome people in the church. This is about as un-Canadian as it gets. The Canadian mantra is directly opposed to this. We are not naturally wired to be wary of such people. To the contrary, we tend to indulge such people. We indulge them to the point of re-injuring their victims by putting up with their sin and by allowing it to go unaddressed. We often even indulge them to the point of allowing our churches to die a slow and miserable death.

This is what makes this 13th instruction so important, especially for the church in Canada. We must protect the church from these sin-sick people. Tolerance will only encourage the wolves to shear our sheep, and worse.

We learn about what we ought to do in 1 Timothy 6:3-5:

3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

Who to Blame

If the whole idea of being wary of certain problem people is un-Canadian, then the idea that we should blame someone for something feels all the more un-Christian. And yet, Paul clearly lays the blame for sin-sick symptoms in the church at the feet of certain people.

Like a good doctor who must rightly blame and target the cancer cells if the patient has any hope of survival, so we must learn how to rightly diagnose sin-sickness in the church. And, in so doing, we must rightly target the source of this sin-sickness so that it can be treated before the whole church becomes sick, or even dies.

The sin-sick people who risk making the whole church sick do three related things (1 Timothy 6:3):

  1. They teach any different doctrine;
  2. They do not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ;
  3. They do not agree with the teaching that accords with godliness.

What is any different doctrine? It begins with any teaching that is opposed to 1 Timothy. In 1 Timothy, Paul has given clear instructions to the church. Some people will oppose some or all of these instructions. These are the people to blame. They may or may not be recognized teachers in the local church. It is crucial to note that anyone can teach a different doctrine simply by being obstinate to the sound teaching. Every member has a sphere of influence.

By extension, anyone who teaches any doctrine contrary to the Gospel as revealed in the Bible is a sin-sick person. By opposing true doctrine they actually oppose the sound words of Jesus Christ. No one in opposition to Jesus Christ can produce any speck of true godliness, no matter how much pretended godliness is put on display.

Identifying the Problem People

The problem with problem people is that they do not self-identify as doctrinally backward, Jesus-opposing, godless sinners. To the contrary, the problem people often speak an advanced dialect of Christianese and they make much of doctrine. Everything they do, they do in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and they make a great show of their godliness for all to see. Many of these people are self-deceived, unaware that they are the problem, and they usually deceive many others into following them.

How, then, can we identify these people with any kind of confidence? Paul gives us the answer in 1 Timothy 6:4:

4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words. . .

The sin-sick people in the church can be identified in four ways:

  1. They are puffed up with conceit;
  2. They understand nothing;
  3. They have an unhealthy craving for controversy;
  4. They have an unhealthy craving for quarrels about words.

Puffed Up with Conceit

It is not always easy to see who is puffed up with conceit and who is not. Usually when confronted, a conceited person will quickly volley the rebuke back at the one who brought it to their attention: “I’m not conceited, you are conceited! My proof? You addressed my conceit, which is a very conceited thing to do. Therefore, you are much more conceited than I am.” These conversations devolve in a hurry.

Three things to note. First, a truly humble person will be struck to the core when confronted with an accusation of conceit. He or she will take time to consider the merits of the rebuke before rejecting it out of hand.

Second, a strong defensive impulse when it comes to charges of conceit usually confirms the rebuke while also adding other issues in need of correction, such as un-teachabilty  and a lack of self-awareness.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, a conceited person is usually a self-appointed authority over the church and even over the elders. He or she believes that it is his or her responsibility to keep everyone else, including the elders and pastors, in line. However, the position above the elders in the biblical hierarchy of the local church belongs exclusively to Jesus Christ. Anyone who puts himself or herself in that position is clearly puffed up with conceit.

Understanding Nothing

Usually, the sin-sick people don’t seem like ignorant people. They sound intelligent. They have an above average arsenal of biblical knowledge. They have been empowered to teach, sometimes on the rare occasion and sometimes regularly. When Paul says they understand nothing, he does not intend that they are void of all knowledge. Rather, for all their knowledge, they have missed the Gospel.

Often this know-nothingness will be evident in a total lack of balance in their theology. They will be unable to hold the seemingly disparate parts of doctrine together, such as the holiness and the tenderness of God, the kindness and severity of God,  law and grace, the Old and New Covenants, love and truth, the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of humanity, and so on. While it is true that we all lean a little more to one side or the other on any given pair of doctrine, the sin-sick will be all of one and none of the other. Thus, they spout irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge (1 Timothy 6:20).

Unhealthy Craving for Controversy

Disagreements between genuine brothers and sisters in Christ are bound to come. Sin-sick people go beyond these expected differences. They are oppositional people. Their default position is, “No.” They resist leadership if for no other reason than they are not the leaders. For sin-sick leaders, they are not content to lead. They want to quash all opposition.

In short, these people refuse to submit to any authority but themselves. They are energized by controversy and love to play “Absalom at the gate,” intercepting disgruntled members before the elders can offer any help or correction (see 2 Samuel 15). As the pretended-Absalom, they will agree with the malcontents, happy to stir up strife for the sake of their own bid for leadership, even if that leadership is only of a faction.

Unhealthy Craving for Quarrels about Words

In addition to being oppositional people, sin-sick people quarrel about small things. They refuse to major on the majors and minor on the minors. They are vulnerable to straining out a gnat only to swallow a camel (Matthew 23:23-24). They are the kind of person who might attend the sermon with pen and paper with no desire to learn. Rather, these false-Bereans are only interested in listening for a word here or a word there that would not have been their choice. With no effort to contextualize these words or to understand their intended purpose from a broader context, they pride themselves in finding error and supposed heresy. In short, they are constantly missing the forest for the trees.

Symptoms Caused by Sin-sick People

Sin-sick people pose a fatal threat to the church. Unless these people are confronted, the local church will become ill with the following symptoms (1 Timothy 6:4-5a):

  1. Envy (destructive competition);
  2. Dissension (insubordination);
  3. Slander (gossip and false speak);
  4. Evil suspicions (paranoia);
  5. Constant friction among people (disunity and disharmony).

If you find these symptoms, there you will find the problem people. You will also find victims of this sin-sickness, people who are vulnerable and at risk to the influence that the problem-people wield. Those at risk are the following (1 Timothy 6:5):

  1. The depraved in mind (unsaved);
  2. Those deprived of the truth (unlearned);
  3. Those who imagine that godliness is a means of gain (works-based and greedy).

In sum, conceited (self-appointed), know-nothing (ignorant), controversial (oppositional), and quarreling (false-Berean) people in the church can lead the depraved (unsaved), deprived (unlearned), and gain-seeking (works based and greedy) masses away from Christ.

Altogether, this group of leaders and followers will suffer from envy (destructive competition), dissension (insubordination), slander (gossip and false-speak), evil suspicians (paranoia), and constant friction (disunity and disharmony) among themselves.

In other words, where you see envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction, there you will also find conceited, ignorant, oppositional, quarreling, depraved, deprived, and greedy people.

The Gospel is the Only Cure

Isn’t it distressing when the church feels exactly like this? To make matters worse, those leading the charge will usually insist that they are safeguarding the Gospel! The problem is this: the Gospel does not produce bad fruit like this. It is bad doctrine that bears this kind of bad fruit. As Jesus said, “A tree will be known by its fruit” (Luke 6:43-44).

Therefore, when the local church feels like this, it means there are some “cancer cells” in the church, and they need to be treated. They must be confronted. The hope is always repentance. Short of this, however, it is necessary to remove them from the church, lest the whole church become terminally sick.

Anyone who rejects the Gospel of Jesus Christ, either blatantly or subtly, must be held to account. The unrepentant, like Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:20) must be handed over to Satan (removed from the local church and guarded from easily attaining membership at another local church down the road) that they may learn not to blaspheme. Such decisive action is loving, both to the local church and to those who may be self-deceived.

This thirteenth instruction is counter-intuitive in Canada today. Nevertheless, it is critical for the health of the local church. May God grant us wisdom and courage in equal measure.

Instruction 12: Workers are to Regard Their Employers as Worthy of All Honour

By Adam Brown –

In 1 Timothy 5, we are told that we are to honour those who cannot help themselves (widows), that we are to consider elders who rule well to be worthy of double honour, and that workers (slaves) are to regard their employers (masters) as worthy of all honour. Thus, we see a progression from single honour, to double honour, to all honour.

In North America, we cringe at the mention of slavery. Without getting into all of the details of slavery in the Roman Empire, it is necessary to note that the slavery envisioned here is not the same as the trans-Atlantic slave trade that fuelled American slavery in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.

Without question, there were sinful abuses in Roman slavery. Paul identifies one such abuse, slave trading, as blatant sin (1 Timothy 1:10). When operating properly, however, the system of slavery was the only active social safety net in the Roman Empire. Bond-servants exchanged their labour for provision, security, and debt repayment.

For our purposes in 2017 Canada, the principles espoused by Paul about masters and slaves are directly translatable to the relationship between employers and employees.

The twelfth instruction for the church is that workers are to regard their employers as worthy of all honour.

In 1 Timothy 6:1 we learn that this is true whether the employer is a Christian or not

1 Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honour, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.

Paul is addressing Christian bondservants. They are to give all honour to their masters, Christian or not, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.

What does it mean to give all honour? The word, “Honour,” has two connotations: (1) to show proper respect; and (2) to be of material benefit to the one being honoured. The idea of all honour is to give one’s life entirely to the exaltation and material benefit of the one being honoured.

In our context, it means that workers are to serve their employers in such a way as to demonstrate to all the way in which the Church is to serve Christ. 

When slaves/workers regard their own masters/employers as worthy of all honour, God’s name is honoured and the teaching of Scripture is put on display. Imagine a world where every Christian treated their employer as he or she would treat Christ. What kind of impact would that have on our global witness to the Gospel?

All Honour with Respect to Attitude

Giving someone all honour begins in the heart. Ironically, it can be more difficult to show a Christian brother or sister all honour because of our clear equality in Christ:

2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers (1 Timothy 6:2a);

Brothers love one another, but they do not always respect one another. Imagine how difficult it must have been for James and Jude to come to terms with the realization that their brother, Jesus, was also their God! Proclaiming the full divinity of Jesus must have been more difficult for them than it is for us, simply because they were His earthly brothers.

Likewise, it can be difficult for us to respect our Christian employers. It is natural for us to cut corners, to be loose with our tongues, to make inappropriate jokes that unnecessarily undermine our employer, even in jest. In place of these things, however, we are called to serve with an attitude of joyful submission, respect, and thanksgiving.

We are to treat our Christian or non-Christian employer as we would treat Christ.

All Honour with Respect to Work Ethic

Giving someone all honour is demonstrated by our work ethic. Whether we are serving a Christian brother or sister, or a non-Christian employers, we are to work as unto the Lord:

. . . rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved (1 Timothy 6:2b).

Our culture understands that we work for our wages. This alone might compel us to work hard. However, the Gospel gives us even greater incentive to “serve all the better.” We not only work for our wages, but we work out of love for our employer. This is all the more true if our employer is a Christian (though it remains true if he or she is not).

When we are motivated by love, we earn two paychecks. The first is temporal, and is the wages due to us. The second is eternal, and is stored in heaven where rust and moths cannot ruin or destroy.

Teach and Urge These Things

At the end of 1 Timothy 6:2, Paul writes, “Teach and urge these things.” This short command sums up all of 1 Timothy 5:3-6:2. Show honour to widows, double honour to elders, and all honour to masters. Such extensions of honour ought to characterize the local church to the glory of God in heaven.