To the extent we are called to leadership, we are called to ministry, even costly ministry. The greater the leadership, the greater is to be the ministry. The word minister is not a title of power but a designation of servanthood. —Francis Schaeffer, No Little People
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. —1 Timothy 4:12
Along with any verses in the Bible that mention fire, 1 Timothy 4:12 ranks high on the list of verses mangled by youth groups. But for a teen to spout off this verse is akin to a high school quarterback bringing an edited copy of a NFL contract to his coach saying, “Here are my terms.” Sure, there is some correspondence between the document and your reality, but you’re trying to put a kitty in a lion’s den. Timothy is a minister of the gospel, an apostolic delegate. Can you wear those tennies? Further, “youth” here refers to a man under forty in contrast to the older men Paul mentions in 5:1. Basically, by youth, Paul intends men who aren’t sage grandpas; men who don’t have enough salt in their pepper to be a respect magnet in the way that Paul was with all his gospel battle scars. Taking what we have in Acts, and our best guesses at when Paul wrote this letter, Timothy was probably in his mid thirties at this time.
Dear teen, I’m not scolding you as much as I’m wanting to take this sword from your hands so that the weight of it rests against my own big fat head. Hilt in hand, blade to my noggin. This isn’t suicide; this is surgery. Are there principles that a teen could glean from this field? Yep. But this food is meant for the “clergy,” young ministers to be more exact. All may get nourishment here, but ministers are to get full. Full on humility, which means empty of themselves. The gospel minister wants respect not because he is a big deal, but because the Word that he is to command and teach is (1 Timothy 4:11). See the connection between v. 11 and v. 12? The young godly pastor wants respect so that he won’t be hindrance to the ministry of the Word. He wants respect so that he isn’t a big deal.
If you quote this text in an attempt to garner some R-E-S-P-E-C-T, be you a seventeen year old who is on fire for Jesus, or a young pastor, you’ve demonstrated your stupidity and shown that you don’t know what you’re talkin’ bout. You’ve not only failed to understand the text, you’ve sinned against it. Rather than standing under the Word, you’re trying to stand over it and use it for unholy purposes and the seasoned saint is wise to warn, “Kid, put that thing down before you hurt yourself.” The Word of God is a holy sword. Woe to those who try to wield it for unholy purposes. You aren’t Arthur, and Excalibur is a butter knife by comparison. The Sword of the Spirit is for His glory, not
Timothy is to see to it that no one despises his youth, but how is he to do so? By setting an example. So when the arrogant lad demands, “Don’t look down on me for my youth!” it is good to lovingly and firmly respond, “It’s not because you’re young. It’s because your speech is often foolish or filthy, it’s because your conduct is erratic, it’s because your love is selfishly conditional as demonstrated by your demand for respect, it’s because your faith comes in spits and spurts, and it’s because any purity you do have clearly seems owing to lack of opportunity. You’re not respected for the same reason the fifty year old man who lives just like you isn’t—you’re not respectable.”
John Stott summarizes the point well, “People would not despise his youth if they could admire his example.” Young minister—self included, I know I’m pressing this blade most firmly to my own skin, trying to act like a man by shaving with it—if you don’t want to be looked down on for your age, live so that you are looked up to for your maturity in Christ. That’s a principle that will apply across the board, and that’s so, because in living this way, Timothy would be an example.
By grace, as I look at this text, I don’t see it as something my church needs to read. I get more cred than I should. They are a loving and generous people. As I read this I pray “God help me!” because I want them to be better than I am, and that means that I must be better than I am. God help me.
If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. —1 Timothy 4:6 (ESV)
Gospel ministers are waiters who eat what they serve. They don’t work at one restaurant and then leave to eat at another. The word used to describe the minister of God’s Word here is the same word translated “deacon,” in 3:8. It originally referenced one who waited tables. Here the good table waiter puts “these things before the brothers.” What are these things? They are “words of faith and of the good doctrine” that they follow. The good servant serves the brothers these things, having feasted on them himself.
The gospel pastor is like one of those TV chefs who must be full by the time they finish cooking because the preparation was filled with “mmm’s” and “that’s so gooood.” What was a recipe meant to serve six is whittled down to four by their “taste testing.” When the plate arrives they apologize that the portions aren’t full—they couldn’t resist themselves. What would be disgusting in any restaurant is what is only acceptable in God’s house, the feast must come to you once eaten. In the preaching of God’s Word the truth comes to you the same way that the worm comes from mommy bird to baby bird.
Unfortunately too many ministers spend too much time concerned with their presentation instead of their digestion. They are obsessed with their flare, not God’s fare. They want people to leave praising them, not the chef. They forget people come to a fine restaurant ultimately to enjoy a fine meal, not fine service. The service should maximize the enjoyment of the meal, not seek to substitute for the lack thereof. Many do long for the saints to enjoy the feast, but fail to see that the brothers will most do so if they themselves have first relished all the courses themselves.
Faithful elders are fat on the Word and fit in godliness. They are men who you can see eat well by their living. They are connoisseurs, lover’s of God’s menu who eschew spiritual junk food. They whet you appetite by their very delight in the Bread of Life and thus movingly declare, “taste and see for the Lord is good.”
A man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul. And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it savoury unto them; yea, he knows not but the food he hath provided may be poison, unless he have really tasted of it himself. If the word do not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us. And no man lives in a more woeful condition than those who really believe not themselves what they persuade others to believe continually. The want of this experience of the power of gospel truth on their own souls is that which gives us so many lifeless, sapless orations, quaint in words and dead as to power, instead of preaching the gospel in the demonstration of the Spirit. —John Owen
When there are problems in the church, start with the men. When there are problems in the church, men are always responsible for them; either because they caused the problem, or failed to address it. If men haven’t caused the problem, they must deal with it. If problems are not dealt with in this way, you intensify your problems. When men have failed in the church and women have stepped in to fill the void, this hasn’t solved any problems, but caused larger ones. When women lead it doesn’t help men be men, and thus, it doesn’t help women either. Women can’t help men to be men when they try to be men.
Men are women’s biggest problem (outside their own sin), but right behind men is feminism. Have feminist and egalitarians championed some righteous causes. Certainly. But this wasn’t because they were feminists. Did Nazi scientists make breakthroughs beneficial for mankind? Certainly. But this wasn’t because they were Nazis. Feminism is problem for women because it amplifies men being a problem for women.
We have so feminized the church that it is as attractive to men as a feather boa. Men failed, women stepped in, and now there aren’t any men, only mothers and boys, mothers who perpetuate the boyhood of boys. The women do while overgrown boys sit on their duff playing video games. Oh, but their video games without x-rated material, supervised by upright mothers! Right.
The reason why a disregard for gender fundamentally fails is because headship is. When Scripture speaks of husbands being heads of their wives, it doesn’t come as a command, but as a statement of fact.
“For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior (Ephesians 5:23 ESV).”
“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God (1 Corinthians 11:3).”
Headship is stated as an indicative fact, not an imperative command. Irrevocably, men dominate. That is to say they have a headship that affect all that is under them. Douglas Wilson gets at this well,
“Because the husband is the head of the wife, he finds himself in a position of inescapable leadership. He cannot successfully refuse to lead. If he attempts to abdicate in some way, he may, through his rebellion, lead poorly. But no matter what he does, or where he goes, he does so as the head of his wife. This is how God designed marriage. He has created us as male and female in such a way as to ensure that men will always be dominant in marriage. If the husband is godly, then that dominance will not be harsh; it will be characterized by the same self-sacrificial love demonstrated by our Lord—Dominus—at the cross. If a husband tries to run away from his headship, that abdication will dominate the home. If he catches a plane to the other side of the country, and stays there, he will dominate in and by his absence. How many children have grown up in a home dominated by the empty chair at the table? If the marriage is one in which the wife ‘wears the pants,’ the wimpiness of the husband is the most obvious thing about the marriage, creating a miserable marriage and home. His abdication dominates.”
In conclusion, let me say a few words to ward off any naysayers and gender benders. First, if you erase male/female distinctions you open the door wide to homosexuality and transgender endorsement. Second, if you have a problem with submission, you have a problem with the godhead as seen in 1 Corinthians 11:3. Third, just as in the godhead, having different roles in which one submits to the other does not mean that men and women are not equal in value, dignity, and worth any more that the Son is less God or less worthy of worship than the Father. Finally, I leave you with Chesterton’s short poem, “Comparisons.”
If I set the sun beside the moon,
And if I set the land beside the sea,
And if I set the town beside the country,
And if I set the man beside the woman,
I suppose some fool would talk about one being better.
Length: 325 pp
Author: Matt Perman
What’s Best Next is by far the best book on productivity I’ve read, and this isn’t because it has some clumsy obligatory gospel focus. The gospel, rightly understood and well applied, makes all things better. Matt Perman demonstrates this in the area of productivity. When a man dies and is resurrected he is resurrected a better man. Perman baptizes productivity, and he isn’t “Presbyterian”. This isn’t productivity sprinkled with some Christianity. It is dunked, drowned and resurrected.
The only way to be productive is to realize you don’t have to be.
Productive things, then, are things that do good. Productivity always has to be understood in relation to a goal, and God’s goal is that we do good works. Hence, we can redefine productivity this way: to be productive is to be fruitful in good works.
But the Bible has a very different view of good works. According to the Scriptures, good works are not simply the rare, special, extraordinary, or super spiritual things we do. Rather, they are anything we do in faith.
Good character is not an excuse for not knowing what you are doing. Trustworthiness is based not on character alone, but on character and competence.
[The core principle of productivity] Here it is: know what’s most important and put it first.