Over the last three weeks, we’ve been looking at a few key aspects when it comes to understanding the role church leaders play in equipping the next generation. (In case you missed the other articles in the series, you can find them here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)
This week, we conclude by looking at identifying and training faithful men.
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 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.” 2 Timothy 2:1-2
The central proposition of this text revolves around two responsibilities: (i) to grow strong in grace and (ii) to teach others the principle of growing in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18).
Though others falter and fail, Paul says more is expected of Timothy (“you” is in the emphatic position). Timothy is to be different from the defectors (2 Timothy 3:10, 14; 4:5). He has to “be strengthened”. Since it is in the present tense, the command is best translated, “keep on being empowered”.
Timothy has to responsibly draw upon a divinely-provided resource. God does the empowering; we just submit and receive that power. Christ is the source of that power and grace is the means. It has to be continuous and uninterrupted. If the flow of power stops, nothing works (like electricity). What a solemn reminder that only a continuing reliance on God’s grace will enable us to fulfil our ministry.
Only a continuing reliance on God’s grace will enable us to fulfil our ministry
Growing strong in grace is for a definite purpose: to faithfully pass on what Timothy had learned through years of tutelage. Timothy’s attention is called to a ministry of spiritual reproduction ― passing on the truth to the next generation. The emphasis is on the transmission of truth more than its preservation.
Today, many of us are zealous in guarding and defending the truth, but seldom think about its faithful transmission to the next generation. What is found in the New Testament, however, is a succession of apostolic doctrine.
“What you have heard from me” implies years of close association, discipleship and mentoring which was intentional and goal-oriented. Timothy was Paul’s ‘son’ (literally, “child”), which implies a very endearing relationship. That is crucial to mentoring.
“Entrust” carries the idea of placing something valuable in another’s trust for safekeeping. The treasure with which Timothy had been entrusted is to be entrusted by him to others. It is not simply “sharing” the truth or “giving” the truth, but it is to “entrust” and “commit” the truth ― to deposit for safe-keeping.
Timothy must be fully aware of the importance of the stewardship of truth entrusted to him. As a steward, he has to be faithful, responsible, and accountable (1 Corinthians 4:1-2). The truth is affirmed by many witnesses. Paul’s teachings were supported by the confirming testimony of other reliable teachers of sound doctrine.
The teachings were “in the presence of many witnesses”. This may also be a reference to the public and open nature of Paul’s instruction, in contrast to the secret and esoteric teachings of the “false teachers” and cult groups (the Gnostic and mystery religions of Paul’s day).
Today, many are zealous in defending the truth, but seldom think about its faithful transmission to the next generation
Paul entrusted the treasure of truth to Timothy, charged him to guard it, and then commanded him to “entrust” the truth to “faithful men” who would be able to teach others also. The leader is to be empowered continually in the grace that is in Christ Jesus to shepherd the flock, to equip the saints for the work of service, and to train qualified men to carry on the ministry in the next generation. What an awesome leadership responsibility!
“Faithful” implies trustworthiness — men whose characters reflect the faithfulness of God’s Word which they are going to teach. “Able”, here, means that which meets a certain standard. It may be translated as “competent” (NET).
Paul is directing Timothy to identify a specific group of men who are spiritually devout and faithful, and are also gifted in teaching (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9; 2 Timothy 2:24). Timothy must identify spiritual leaders with “integrity of heart and skillfulness of hands”’ (Psalm 78:72). Not all faithful men are gifted or able to teach. Timothy has to keep an eye on such people, and teach and equip them to be able to pass this message of truth on to others. These men must be prequalified by proven spiritual character and ability.
We cannot minimise the importance of this vital truth in leadership training. I believe this forgotten or ignored biblical truth needs to be rediscovered and implemented urgently for the health and welfare of our assemblies.
If the church is to be strong, its leaders must be strong
Notice that Paul is not suggesting a general teaching or training programme for all. In a wider sense, every believer has a responsibility to teach God’s Word to any other believer. Sunday school, youth ministry, weekly Bible studies, discipleship programs etc serve this purpose. Every Christian has a discipleship responsibility. Teachers have to teach all and not all teaching is to equip other teachers or leaders. The elders have a great responsibility in teaching all believers (1 Timothy 5:17).
But that is not what is referred to here. The specific teaching ministry in this context is very selective. Paul is talking about the careful, responsible, and systematic training of shepherding leaders in the church, who will teach and disciple others the whole counsel of God. In other words, Paul is calling for trained spiritual leadership.
God does not call every believer to be a teacher and a teacher of teachers. Training to transfer the faith to others is an integral part of discipleship. It has general and specific dimensions. It is the specific dimension that is emphasised here.
Paul’s vision here is for trained leaders who are to be spiritual reproducers of faithful and able men equipped to teach others. The thrust of his instruction is on intensified training of church leaders. If the church is to be strong, its leaders must be strong.
The transmission of truth takes place in four stages ― Paul, Timothy, faithful men and others (four groups, four stages, and four time periods). Paul envisions four generations of godly leaders.
This is an urgent need of the hour. May the divine GPS ― the Holy Spirit ― give us expert guidance toward this goal.
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