Tuesday, April 29, 2008

All in the (Church) Family part 1

1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus are referred to as the Pastoral Epistles because, in them, Paul gives instructions to his young associates as to how they should maintain the spiritual oversight and pastoral care of their respective churches. However, just because these letters were originally written to pastors does not mean that they are not practical for all Christians! There are no portions of Scripture that can be ignored.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)
The Pastoral Epistles apply to pastors the same as they apply to laymen. And 1 Timothy is really a practical book about how the church is to function. 1 Timothy 3:15 is the key verse of the book:
That thou mayest know how thou ought to behave thyself in ... the church of the living God.
This whole book explains what should be the priorities, practices, and policies of a church. That is stuff of which all believers should be aware!

In chapter 1 Paul stresses what the message of the church should be. And that message is to be one of sound doctrine and the “glorious gospel”. Doctrine simply means teaching, and doctrine is important, it is a priority of the church to clearly, charitably, and consistently teach and preach the Word of God. We are to teach and preach “sound doctrine according to the “glorious gospel of the blessed God” Paul said in 1:10-11.

This sound doctrine; the glorious gospel, is not something that is manufactured. It is God’s, and churches are simply and exclusively to use that which God has provided. The work of Christ’s witnesses is not to manufacture a message, to create a synthetic seed, or to modify the seed given them. The work of Christ's witnesses is to sow God’s revelation by proclaiming it exactly as He has given it. The power of new spiritual life is in the word, just as the power of plant life is in the seed. Scripture is God’s living word. It is living and active; discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). The Spirit uses the word to produce life. It is the truth of the gospel that saves and that truth alone.

God is the source of Scripture Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16. Therefore all Scripture is profitable “for doctrine”what is right“for reproof”what is not right“for correction”how to get right – and “for instruction in righteousness”how to stay right. This is the message that God has given His church to study, learn, live, and proclaim.

In chapters 2-3 Paul discusses the role that different members play in the ministry of the church; specifically the role of women. Paul clearly declares that women are not to be pastors (vv. 11-12). In chapter two he talks about the importance of prayer. Indeed, that is how the chapter begins:
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, [and] giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and [for] all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
The church needs to be a house of prayer. Church members need to be people of prayer, and not just praying for people who are well liked, but praying for all men. The main thing for which we pray is their salvation!

In chapter three Paul lists the qualifications of pastors and deacons. What should a church want in a pastor or a deacon? Well look no further than 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1:5-9. Of all the qualification listed in those two passages there is only one core competency mentioned – “apt to teach” – and the rest are all character qualities. To be qualified to pastor one of the Lord’s churches does not mean that you have to be a musical genius, construction manager, financial wizard, or corporate CEO. He must:
be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
In chapter 4 Paul goes into more detail about the qualities that a good minister should have.

He should preach the Word of God - verse 6

He should practice the Word of God - verse 12. Don't teach it if you won't live it! Now, this is not a call for perfection. No preacher is perfect, but your pastor should be an “example of the believers.” A good example is the best illustration of Biblical teaching.

He should be progressing in the Word of God - verses 13-16. A pastor should be continually growing spiritually. None of us will ever get to the point where we can say, “Well, I've learned all that the Bible can teach me!” Because that just isn't possible.

Let me say this, it shouldn't be just the pastor who fits this description, but all of us should possess these qualities as well. What the Lord demands of those who will pastor His churches He desires of those who are in His churches.

When we get to chapters 5 and 6, Paul writes about the church's ministry to several different groups of people: old and young widows, church leaders, servants, troublemakers (false teachers), the pastor and the rich. But I want you to notice the first two verses of chapter 5 in particular. This passage gives us instruction in how we should treat each other in the church:
Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.
Treating your fellow church members the right way is a pretty important issue. We need to know how we are supposed to respond to one another if we are to properly serve one another and reach our community with the Gospel. And the way we treat one another can be a potential problem, because we don't always treat each other like we should. That causes friction in the flock. That's not a good thing; at least, too much friction is not a good, God-honoring thing.

All too often you hear about churches splitting or going under because of relationship problems. That ought not to be! Churches often split because they are not treating each other and their pastor like they should. When stuff like that happens, not only does it damage and wound the members of the church, but it damages, and maybe even destroys, the testimony of the church; hindering its ability to minister in its community.

I have been told about a church that was populated almost exclusively by people who all worked for the same company. There were members who were company employees and members who were union. Well, there was a strike, and the tension between the company people and the union people in the church became so serious that many families left the church. The strike basically ripped the church apart.

I have a hard time understanding how a church can allow something like that to rip it apart. I mean, where are your loyalties? Should you love the Local more than the church? Should your company take precedence over the Lord's church for which Christ bled and died? No, it shouldn't! Stories like those prove to us that unity and harmony in the church is often a fragile thing, and it's something that we must work at and pray about.

Churches that are serving the Lord, preaching and proclaiming the Gospel are the kinds of churches that Satan wants to destroy. The most effective strategy Satan employs to destroy sound churches is, not through persecution from the outside, not from forces from without but fractures from within.

Unity and harmony do not just happen. We need to work towards a spirit of unity and harmony. It must be a priority. The Psalmist said:
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
We must learn how to treat one another as 1 Timothy 5:1-2 teaches. I think that it's great how that when God requires something of us, He shows us through His Word how we are to go about it. You know, He just didn't tell Noah, “Noah, I want you to build an Ark. You have about 100 years or so to finish it. I'll check back with you in a decade or two.” No, He gave Noah a materials list and blueprint. All Noah had to do was obey, and the same is true for us. We have His Word; all we need to do is learn it and obey it.

Be back here tomorrow for the "rest of the story."


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