Study 9 A GOOD MINISTER OF CHRIST JESUS
PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO TIMOTHY
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: 1 Timothy 4:1-6; 5:17-25
One of Paul’s reasons for writing his letters to Timothy was to show him how he might become a good minister of Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 4:6). This study is primarily for ministers and the word ‘minister’ is the Greek word ‘diakonos’, which means “one who serves”. The phrase “a good minister of Christ Jesus” is arresting because of the qualifying word ‘good’. What are the qualities or marks of “a good minister of Christ Jesus”?
1. “A good minister of Christ Jesus” will teach sound doctrine.
This is the first thing Paul mentions (1 Timothy 1:3), and compare 1 Timothy 4:1 and 4:6. Serious heresy was endangering the Church at Ephesus, and Paul told Timothy to stay at his place of duty and warn and instruct the members of the Church in the pure doctrine of the gospel. “A good minister” will do this, especially when he recognises that he is living and labouring for the Lord “in later times”, when many have departed from the faith and when there are “deceiving spirits” on every hand and many are teaching “things taught by demons”. “A good minister” will nourish his soul in the truth of God’s Word, so that he is able to instruct others. We must recognise that we are living in the times of great apostasy of which the Apostle wrote, of which Jesus spoke in Mark 13:22, and to which we have references in 1 John 4:6 and Revelation 13:11. On every hand today we are faced with liberalism and teaching that is not true to God’s Word. “A good minister” will study the scriptures; he will become immersed in the great doctrines of the faith, to which he will hold tenaciously and which he will teach constantly, as Paul did (Acts 20:26-31).
2.”A good minister of Christ Jesus” is engaged in spiritual warfare.
Read 1 Timothy 1:18-19, and compare 1 Timothy 6:12 and 2 Timothy 4:7. Paul speaks to Timothy as a commanding officer would speak to one of his officers. Timothy must be prepared to fight. A minister in particular is involved in a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10-20), and he needs the qualities of a soldier if he is to be victorious. To get to know all the schemes and tactics of the Devil one has only to take a position of leadership in a local Church or on a mission board. Why is this? Satan is a powerful foe and he is doing his utmost to disrupt the work of God. If a minister is to combat the Enemy successfully, two weapons are needed – see verse 19 of 1 Timothy 1. They are: (1) faith, which means a firm, deep trust in God and in what He is doing, that He will have the last word, and that ultimately He will overthrow all the power of the Devil; and (2) a good conscience, that is, a conscience void of offence (Acts 24:16). A good minister must practice what he preaches.
3. “A good minister of Christ Jesus” will set an example to others.
This is mentioned in 1 Timothy 4:12. Some people might think that Timothy was too young to be a minister, but Timothy could silence all criticism by his Christ-like conduct. The first duty of a minister is not to preach, to teach, to visit or to comfort, but it is to display in his own life the truth he believes and teaches. This is what Paul meant in 1 Timothy 4:12 and he mentions five areas where a minister is to be an example to others.
4. “A good minister of Christ Jesus” will devote himself to study.
In 1 Timothy 4:13-16 the reference is to the public reading of Scripture and to preaching and teaching – compare Luke 4:16; Acts 13:15; 2 Corinthians 3:14; and also Nehemiah 8:3-4. A minister, however, must be faithful in his private reading and devotions before ever he appears in public. He must be diligent (verse 13); he must not be neglectful (verse 14); he must be wholehearted (verse 15); and above all he must watch himself (verse 16), which means that he must take great care of his inner life. How important it is for ministers to be conscientious in their study and preparation for their work, in the discharge of all their responsibilities, and above all in the matter of prayer and the cultivation of a close walk with God!
5. “A good minister of Christ Jesus” will be careful about his relationships with the opposite sex.
This is a delicate matter, but it is brought before us in 1 Timothy 5:11-13. Sadly, for want of care in this area many of God’s servants have ruined their ministry! In this chapter the Apostle speaks most graciously of the women-folk – the young, the old and the widows; but he warns Timothy about some women who are a great danger, not only to a Church as a whole, but to the minister in particular. However, it is not always the fault of the women when a minister gets involved in some situation that dishonours the Lord, for some Christian men are careless and even reckless. Let us remember that in all our relationships we are to act and speak as Christ Himself would act and speak.
6. “A good minister of Christ Jesus” will take care of his body.
We see this in 1 Timothy 5:23. It is important to notice that the Apostle recommends a “little” wine, and he also says, “use a little”. He is obviously speaking of wine as a medicine, and, as one commentator says, “Paul gives Timothy a dietetic prescription for a weak digestion.” Every minister and every Christian should have very settled views and habits with regard to strong drink, but the point we are stressing here is that Paul was very concerned that Timothy should take care of his body. It is a solemn duty for Christians to do this (1 Corinthians 6:19). We cannot do our best work if we are overtired and nervy. We must have regular habits of eating, sleeping and of taking exercise and recreation, and we must try to take time off, or we shall break one of God’s commandments. Resist the temptation to burn the candle at both ends.
7. “A good minister of Christ Jesus” will live and work in the light of the Judgment Seat of Christ.
We see this in 1 Timothy 6:13-14. As he lives and serves, he will remember that one day he must give an account to his Lord of the way he has lived, and he will then “receive his reward”, or he will “suffer loss” – look up 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, and compare 2 Timothy 4:8.