If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. (1 Timothy 4:6)
…That spiritual acts should never be used for the purpose of impressing God, or gaining self-righteousness…
This includes forbidding others to marry, and binding them to meaningless rules and regulations. It was Timothy’s job to bring perspective to the situation in Ephesus.
I couldn’t help but zero in on the phrase “good minister” in this morning’s passage. Of course, everyone in the Lord’s church is a minister, but some, like Timothy, are called for a special task.
What makes a “good minister” in the church leadership sense of the word? When I was a young minister, church people in the region where I served often talked about finding them a “good preacher.” What was a “good preacher?” He was someone who fired people up without chasing them away. He was good at marrying, burying, visiting the sick and helping people through their troubles. And he was good at leading others to the Lord.
A “really good preacher” was someone who could do all of these things and still land an eight pound bass, and fix the church furnace on a cold winter morning. But the bottom line was clear: as long as the preacher kept the church building full on Sunday life was good.
I don’t remember, however, a high value being placed on ministers exposing “hypocritical liars”. I am not saying there weren’t any (hypocritical liars that is), or that no ministers exposed them. And I am not suggesting a minister would be fired or persecuted for pointing out heresy. I am merely suggesting that challenging false teaching in the church was not something people naturally thought of when they thought of a “good preacher.” There were some bad things one could be expected to preach against, such as rock music, premarital sex, drugs and alcohol. But not false teaching.
Maybe this is because no one really saw much false teaching going on in the churches where I preached…unless it was some sort of doctrinal error being taught by the congregation down the road. And, of course, there were those wacky cults, but they were mostly in other parts of the country, or overseas.
Did I see some doctrinal errors in the places where I preached? Yes.
Did I point them out? Not always. I was afraid of being labeled a “bad” minister.
Maybe this is why Timothy needed Paul to help him remember what it meant to be a “good minister.” Sometimes, we can’t see the bad when we are in it.
Dear God, give me the courage to distinguish the good from the bad. In Jesus’ name, Amen.