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Pastoral Priorities in Dealing with False Teaching (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
June 2, 2023 4:00 am

Pastoral Priorities in Dealing with False Teaching (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 2, 2023 4:00 am

Physical fitness requires hard work, discipline, and commitment. Spiritual fitness also requires great effort—but the benefits are both immediate and eternal. Hear Paul’s advice about spiritual devotion and diligence, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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To be physically fit is certainly valuable. Now, what follows from that point at the end of verse 10 is a string of imperatives—ten of them, in fact—a succession of commands directly related to Timothy's life and ministry. And if you were summarizing it—indeed, Paul does summarize it in one phrase at the beginning of verse 16—it is this, watch your life and your doctrine closely. Now, we know that Timothy was diffident. We know that Timothy, when he went to the Corinthians, was ill at ease. We know that he was physically frail. We know that he was naturally timid.

We know that he had to take a little wine for his stomach's sake, as we'll see in chapter 5. But, says Paul, any sense of diffidence that you might feel in relationship to the awesomeness of this responsibility, you're going to have to set aside. And in verse 11, I want you, he says, to command and teach these things. Even though he may only be in his mid-thirties, he's not to allow that to prevent him from being effective in leadership. And the rabbi said, at thirty a man is fit for authority, at forty he is fit for discernment.

Well, Timothy was somewhere in this region. And Paul says, instead of people looking down on you, they are to look up to you. How are they going to look up to you? That brings us to our second word, devotion.

Don't let them look down on you, he says, just because you're a young man, and many of his elders would have been much older than him, many of them twice his age. And he says, this is what you need to do. You need to be devoted. Now in verse 13, he makes reference to a devotion which is to three particular areas of responsibility. But we mustn't jump verse 12, because there are five areas of life and ministry to which he must pay the most careful attention. The first two are particularly public—speech and life—and then the next three—love and faith and purity—are somewhat more private, but they have public dimensions to them.

Now, here's the issue. The authority with which Timothy is called to speak is not based upon age and experience but is based upon character. His authority is based upon character.

Yes, it is based upon the fact of God's call. That has preceded these statements. That follows it. It says it again in 2 Timothy. We understand that. But in relationship to the call of God, the character of the man is directly related to the nature of that call.

And that's what makes this so devastating in its challenge. To Timothy, and to all the Timothys that follow, don't let anyone look down on you because you're young, but set an example for the believers in speech. Why did speech have to come first? Especially for somebody—that's Timothy, and those who follow him—whose essential ministry is directly related to the use of their tongues. It's always intrigued me that when Isaiah, confronted by the holiness of God in chapter 6 and involved in a responsibility of prophetic ministry, that when he is confronted by the holiness of God, what does he say?

I am a man of unclean lips. In other words, the very means whereby God is getting glory to himself has become in Isaiah's life, if he is honest, the very foundation of his own shame. Now, isn't that often true in your life, that your area of greatest usefulness is at the same time the greatest potential for your downfall?

For the danger is that you would take to yourself some esteem as a result of what it is that you're good at, and then as a result of that, that would be the very means of your collapse. And Paul says to Timothy, it's going to be with your mouth, first of all, that you're going to be an example. In other words, Timothy, that out of your mouth there don't come lies and anger and bitterness and double-talk and slander and malice and abuse and filthiness, but out of your mouth comes edification and admonition and tenderness and forgiveness and thanksgiving. For as Solomon says, he who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity. Loved ones, I've got to tell you that I get as far as this, this week, just a speech, and I'm done. I find myself saying, who is sufficient for these things?

Let somebody else go up. And just while I'm wrestling with a challenge in relationship to speech, then it comes to life, to conduct, to behavior, to lifestyle, to the kind of life that is putting off the old and putting on the new. Colossians 3 or Ephesians 2, Ephesians 4. And then when you're just trying to handle that, then it comes to agape love, the self-giving love of the Lord Jesus. And then immediately to the issue of faith, a commitment to the faith, and a commitment to be a man of faith, pistis, that commitment to that which is faith before God, believing that God is able to do exceedingly beyond all that we can ask or even imagine.

And then, purity. Timothy, don't let anybody look down on you because you're young. Let me tell you what to do. Be an example.

Well, what do you have in mind? Well, your mouth, your lifestyle, your loving heart, your faith, and your purity. Small wonder that James says, Let not many of you become teachers, for he who teaches will be judged with greater strictness. Cross-reference this in your mind with what we were discovering in Hebrews, where it says, Obey your leaders who keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy and not a burden, because that would be of no advantage to you. In what way will the leaders and teachers and elders and pastors give an account? Well, in a multivarious way, but at least in this. We will give an account for our speech, for our lifestyle, for our love, for our faith, and for our purity.

Set yourself up against this standard and ask how well you do. You do bad. We're not talking now about public persona. We're talking about behind closed doors. We're talking about the reality, the gut-wrenching reality of where we stand before God. When we drive our cars, when we watch TV, when we read, when we speculate, all of those things. Hey, this is what I want you to do. Be an example. And Timothy, if you're not going to be an example in this, if you don't follow, you can't lead. You are set aside.

If you flunk out in this area, Timothy, you're done. Devote yourself. Once you've concluded that you're going to try and be an example in these things, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture. Okay, well, I can read the Bible up front and do that. And make sure that you devote yourself to preaching. Well, I can go at that. And to teaching.

I can give that a go. But you see, it's character, not skill that's the issue here. It's not the brilliance of one's exposition. It's not the charm of personality.

It's not the extent of qualifications. It is progress in godliness. Now, don't you find that sort of heart-wrenchingly devastating? That as you minister, he says, as a pastor here, Timothy, the people are going to watch your progress. And this is the progress that they're supposed to see. Not that you become more able as a communicator, not that you become better at doing this or doing that, the next thing, but that you make progress in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.

Because what you do is what you are. Unlike politics. Unlike sports. While he performs on the court and what he does behind closed doors on his own time is up to him.

While he's effective and the economy is okay and what happens beyond that is up to him. Bogus nonsense. And it certainly isn't true in pastoral ministry. Now, loved ones, if this means nothing else, it should mean this, that if we're going to take seriously the Word of God, then we have to earnestly pray for those who are entrusted with the responsibility of facing up to this standard. The public reading of Scripture was the pattern from the synagogues.

You can read that in Acts chapter 13. They read from the Old Testament, and then the question from the people in the synagogue was, does anyone have a word of exhortation? And so the apostles stood up, and they preached. And their exhortation was to take the instruction and to apply it. If the instruction was a word of comfort, then they brought comfort. If it was a word of rebuke, they brought rebuke. Whatever it was, they were bringing the application to bear. And in such a way that the people's minds were being taught.

Didaskalai is the verb here. You see, to preach is not less than teaching. To preach is actually more than teaching. Because true preaching is teaching plus explanation and application.

So by what means, then, is error to be refuted? The answer is by the reading, preaching, and teaching of the Bible. When the congregation is gathered, you're to read the Scriptures to them, you're to exhort them to respond, and you're to teach them its principles. And anyone, including Timothy, facing the awesome challenge that is conveyed in verses 12 and 13 must inevitably be asking themselves whether they have any basis whatsoever for fulfilling such a task. Do I have the knowledge? Do I have the ability? Do I have the sound judgment?

Is there any progress whatsoever? And Timothy, by virtue of his personality, I'm sure had all of those questions. And Paul, it seems, almost anticipates it, and he says, Listen, I don't want you to neglect your gift, verse 14, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. In other words, Timothy, remember that your subjective sense of God's hand upon your life was matched by the objective response of the elders and of myself, when in various contexts we laid hands on you, and God poured out his giftedness upon you, and he has given you the necessary requisites. Now you, Timothy, in light of what he has given, need to train yourself to be godly, because that's the area of your progress that is most crucial. But when you're tempted to self-doubt, remember this, and keep going. That brings me to the final word, which is the word diligence, which you will find in the second word of verse 15. Be diligent in these matters, and give yourself wholly to them. Give yourself to them. In other words, let your mind be absorbed in these pursuits as the body is absorbed in the air that it breathes. Study, practice, lose yourself.

Be a man of intensity, of total involvement. I was in a context where there were a number of the United States golf team preparing for the Ryder Cup, and I would give myself a luxury every so often of walking up to a corner of the property and watching a number of the United States Ryder Cup team preparing for the event. And I watched them hit the same shot again and again and again and again ad nauseum. On one occasion, I watched one particular individual, having hit balls for two hours, gone out and played eighteen holes, returned to the practice putting green. He walked onto the putting green as I went running.

I ran for forty-five minutes, I came back, I took a shower, I got dressed, and about an hour and a half after I had gone out, I went out to dinner. And as I passed the putting green, the same individual was in the exact same spot, eight feet from the cup, still putting. One and a half hours of doing the same thing over and over and over again. And that's why when you listen to the commentary, one of the commentators will say, Oh, he has hit this shot many times.

Why? Because he is absolutely diligent. It is an all-consuming passion for him.

He is so consumed with it that it's like the very air that he breathes. And Paul says, Timothy, you want to make progress? You want to understand that people see your progress?

This is what it's gonna take, son. It's gonna take all of your blood, your sweat, your tears, your dependence upon God, and your absolute commitment to go for the gold. If you want to be a good minister, then your progress will be obvious to all.

It's part of the challenge, isn't it? So that everyone may see your progress. The trouble is, everybody does see your progress.

Everybody's got to comment about your progress. And so he says, watch your life and your doctrine closely. In other words, holy living and sound teaching need to be held together. Or, if you like, personal piety and public ministry have to be the focus of perseverance. It's not a matter of marginal concern.

It's of crucial importance. And the reason for Paul's concern that he will be persistent in these things, that he will persevere in them, is because salvation of people's lives is at stake. First of all, Timothy's, and then those under Timothy's care.

Now, here's a little question, you know, a sort of fun thing you can ask somebody at a party. Do you believe that it's possible to save yourself? Any good conservative evangelical will answer, absolutely not. It's not possible to save yourself. Then you'll say, well, why does Paul say to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4 16, you will save yourself? Now, what are you going to say to that?

Not a lot at the moment, judging by your faces. So let me tell you. Clearly, it is the grace of God which saves. But God, who is the author of our salvation, uses means to accomplish his purpose, right? He doesn't save in a vacuum.

He could. He saves by means. What are the means he uses? He uses the preaching of the Bible. So if you have a pastor that doesn't preach the Bible, because he has no conviction about his rightness, and he buys into old myths and funny tales by old women, then he himself will not be saved, and the people who are under his care, they won't be saved either. Because the means whereby they'll be saved is in the faithful, continual, persistent, reading, preaching, teaching of the Bible. That's the means that God is prepared to use to bring people to salvation. And therefore, for a pastor to be negligent, first of all, he calls in question his own faith, and then he jeopardizes the potential for faith of others. You say, well, I'm not so sure that some of the Reformers would like that kind of line of thought.

Well, I'm glad you mentioned that. Listen to what Calvin said. Nor should it seem strange that Paul ascribes to Timothy the work of saving the church. For all that are one for God are saved, and it is by the preaching of the gospel that we are gathered to Christ. And just as the unfaithfulness or negligence of a pastor is fatal to the church, so it is right for its salvation to be ascribed to his faithfulness and diligence. It is indeed true that it is God alone who saves, and not even the smallest part of his glory can rightly be transferred to men. But God's glory is in no way diminished by his using the labor of men in bestowing salvation. Lenski, God alone saves, yet he saves by means.

And it is thus that one who uses and applies these means can very properly be said to save both himself and others. What does it mean to be a good minister? It means you better follow or you can't lead. It means you better pay careful attention to training yourself in godliness. That will have immediate ramifications in relationship to your mouth, your lifestyle, your love, your faith, and your personal purity.

And in terms of the function, you better be diligent and devoted to reading the Bible, preaching the Bible, and teaching the Bible. And if that's going to be the all-consuming passion of your life, then you're not going to be able to talk to every person that wants to talk to you. You're not going to be able to attend every meeting that everybody conceived of. You're not going to be a part of every request that comes your way. If you do that, and if you want that, then you diminish the ability under God that I have to convey to you the truth that is necessary to which I have been called. You want me to do something else?

That's fine. But every time you call and say, You're the only one with the answer to the question, number one, you're wrong. Number two, you're diminishing the nature of plurality in the eldership. And number three, you are severely hampering the potential for you to be nurtured in the deep truths of the faith. Because if I myself do not have the opportunity to be nourished, there is not a chance in the wide world that you will be nourished simply because I stand up and talk from behind this box. Because I am not up here to give lectures or to pontificate. But I am somehow or another to unearth the truth of God's Word and convey it to you in a way that after my departure, you will be able to bring these things to recollection, and you will continue in the faith. Who is sufficient for these things?

No wonder. No wonder, Paul says, Don't you know that in a race all the runners run, only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.

Are you in the game? You train. If you're not training, you're not really in the game. They do it to get a crown that will not last. We do it to get a crown that will last forever.

They're going to go in a box, and their biceps will disintegrate. Therefore, I don't run like a man running aimlessly. I don't fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body, I make it my slaves, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. That after having preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified from the prize. Rhetoric on Paul's part?

Reality. Significant for Paul, significant for Timothy, vital for us. That is Alistair Begg with thoughts about every pastor's highest priorities.

Listening to Truth for Life, Alistair will return to close our program in just a minute. Today is the last day of our study in 1 Timothy, and you may have heard me mention that next week we're beginning a series, an instructional study about how to evangelize. The series is titled Crossing the Barriers, and to help you apply the important training in this series, there is an accompanying study guide.

You can download it for free today, so you'll be ready to go on Monday. Visit our website at slash crossing barriers. If you'd prefer a hard copy, you can purchase the study guide as a printed booklet for just $3 in the online store at slash store. Also, to go along with the series on evangelism, we're recommending a book called Before You Share Your Faith. This is a helpful little book written by author and pastor Matt Smithurst that offers tips and suggestions for how to share the gospel.

This is a quick book to read. It's designed so you can easily browse through five key recommendations each time you're getting ready to meet with somebody where you might have the opportunity to share the gospel. Request a copy of the book Before You Share Your Faith today when you donate to the Ministry of Truth for Life.

You can give through the mobile app or online at slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. Now here's Alistair with a closing prayer. Father, take your word. We pray and write it in our hearts. Make us a people of the book.

Make us a people that genuinely care. O God, help us in our speech, lifestyle, love, faith, purity. Forgive us our sins.

We're sorry, Lord, for how easy it is for us to make a hash of it, how easy to hide behind giftedness, to be satisfied with splash rather than substance. Help us, we pray, in relationship to the things that we've considered so that out of our discovery of the riches of your grace, we may be an encouragement to those who are with us and alongside us, that we may care for those who are in need, for our nation, for our homes, our families, our church. Thank you for providing so wonderfully for us in every way, materially, practically, and spiritually in the Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that we might worship you with all our hearts. In Jesus' name, Amen.

I'm Bob Lapine. We hope you enjoy your weekend and are able to worship with your local church. The call to evangelize is something that strikes fear in some and excitement in others. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, you'll find great encouragement Monday as we begin a series called Crossing the Barriers. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-02 05:55:59 / 2023-06-02 06:04:45 / 9

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