Effective Ministry (4:11-15)

Timothy remains in view as the instructions address other aspects of the leader's life and the essentials of worship in relation to the effectiveness of ministry.

1. Exemplary Christian lifestyle (4:11-12). After the principles above are considered, the first requirement for an effective ministry is an exemplary Christian lifestyle. On one level this holds true particularly for those who, like Timothy, find themselves in leadership positions in ministry among those who are older and (perhaps) wiser. Nothing bridges the generation gap in the church like the spiritual maturity of the younger. At a more important level, nothing proves the veracity of the gospel as well as evidence of its life-changing power. The example Paul calls for here is that very proof: an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity (v. 12).

Speech and life (better, "conduct") encompass most of the observable life—the visible dimension of godliness. In fact, James places first importance on control of the tongue, which will then provide for control of the rest of one's behavior (Jas 3:2). Through what a Christian says and does the truth of the Christian faith will be either demonstrated or denied, for true spirituality (godliness) is the composite of faith or knowledge of God and its outworking in the believer's life.

Love and faith summarize the Christian life. Paul frequently aligns these two qualities, faith referring to the relationship with Christ and love to activity generated by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:6 explains that genuine Christianity is "faith working through love": a proper knowledge of and commitment to Christ which controls the life of the believer (see 2:15 notes).

Purity alludes to sexual conduct (compare 5:2). Paul singles out this concern undoubtedly because questionable conduct here will ruin the Christian leader's reputation and ministry.

As the list suggests, effective ministry and godliness are inseparable. Remember, as Paul gives these instructions he warns the readers away from the heretics' one-sided, totally subjective concept of spirituality and encourages leaders to be models of the true life in the Spirit that involves the whole person.

2. God-centered worship (4:13). The second requirement for effective ministry is God-centered worship. Under the false teachers' influence, gatherings for worship were degenerating into speculation about "myths" and strange doctrines (1:3-4) and debate about their meaning (1:4; 6:4-5). Paul responds by refocusing attention on God's Word as the source of knowledge about him and the life of faith.

First, he urges consistent practice of the public reading of Scripture (v. 13). This is by no means an innovation; it was already part of Christian worship, having been adopted naturally from Jewish synagogue worship (Lk 4:16; Acts 15:21; 2 Cor 3:14). Its import lies in the way it centers attention on God, who, communicating with his people, initiates and sustains a covenant relationship. Practically, the reading of the lesson also prepares the people for the exposition and application of Scripture.

Second, proper Christian worship will include preaching. The term used here could mean exhortation, encouragement, comfort or an appeal, and it is linked to the Scriptures in Romans 15:4 and Hebrews 12:5. Romans 12:8 reveals that preaching is a Spirit-directed activity (that is, a charisma) of communicating God's message to the people (compare 1 Cor 12:8). The starting point is the conviction that Scripture is always relevant to God's people (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Teaching is the third activity to be consistently practiced in the worship assembly. As with preaching, a special gift is associated with this activity (Rom 12:7).

But how do these two activities differ? Passages such as this one and 1 Timothy 5:17 and Romans 12:7-8 (see also 1 Tim 2:7; 2 Tim 1:11) seem to make a distinction between preaching and teaching, though the Greek terms may vary. But the precise distinction is difficult to pin down. The term used here for preaching (paraklesis) refers to appeals made to believers (Rom 15:4; Heb 13:22) and unbelievers (see 2 Cor 5:20). Teaching, however, is usually linked to the church. Knight may be correct to see the distinction in terms of purpose, preaching being the call to respond to God's Word (which would fit an audience of believers or unbelievers), teaching being the more intellectually oriented communication of Scripture's principles (1992:208). It may be also that the two activities differed in style and tone of delivery. But distinctions based on content (for example, limiting teaching to Christian ethics and preaching to theology) do not seem to be in mind (see Tit 2:10-14). Yet often the two activities must have overlapped considerably: it is hard to imagine teaching without leading the people to response, or preaching without providing a reasoned exposition of a text's principles. Nevertheless, as long as we make room for overlap and avoid distinctions that are too rigid, it seems safe to think of preaching and teaching as two applications of God's Word in the church: (1) the call to response, whether that entails confession, receiving God's encouragement or appropriating his promise, and (2) the building of a solid foundation for living through the systematic teaching of biblical principles that coherently and practically express God's will.

Certainly a worship service includes a good deal more than these three activities, especially elements that are response-oriented: prayer, the singing of hymns, testimony and practical ministering of one to another, observance of the Lord's Supper. Paul was here correcting tendencies introduced by the enthusiasts, and he focuses on the primary tasks of the minister. God's Word, through its reading, preaching and teaching, initiates and sustains spiritual life, and its place in Christian worship is central. Without it there can be no effective ministry.

3. Exercise of spiritual gifts and calling (4:14). A third requirement for effective ministry is the faithful exercise of spiritual gifts. Paul's instruction to Timothy in verse 14 is logically connected with the reference to preaching and teaching.

First, the fact: Timothy has a gift (charisma) for ministry. We know that God has chosen to build and maintain his church by empowering believers to carry out this ministry. The source of power is the Holy Spirit, who manifests himself and releases his power through the spiritual gifts and abilities he distributes to believers (thus the passive was given probably refers to the Spirit's act of giving; see 1 Cor 12:7, 11). It is probably not possible to specify a particular gift here (such as teaching, preaching or leadership—Rom 12:7-8), though we are at least to understand a reference to Timothy's Spirit-given abilities for ministry.

But with the gift comes the responsibility to exercise it for the church (1 Cor 12:14-20). Paul's admonition to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (whether or not the "gifts" and situations are identical—see 2 Tim 1:6-7) underlines the personal responsibility that rests with the "gifted" individual. The gift does not operate independently but finds its release into the church and into the lives of other people through the obedient Christian's decision to serve. And failure to use one's gifts does not affect just the individual, for the ministry of the church as a whole depends on the responsible use of each believer's gift.

Furthermore, the one called to leadership in the church has received God's special appointment. God's choice of Timothy was announced or verified through prophecy and then publicly recognized as the elders laid hands on him (compare 1:18; Acts 13:2-3). Thus both the servant and the congregation were bound to one another in the acknowledgment of God's selection. Ordination in most Christian churches today functions similarly, to recognize God's binding choice and publicly bless the minister for service. The gift makes ministry possible. The calling makes ministry obligatory.

4. Diligence and growth (4:15). Finally, effective ministry requires diligence and progress. Paul describes diligence in two ways: be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them. He is referring to the pattern of lifestyle and ministry just outlined. The first verb means to practice with diligence and carries similar connotations to the "training" metaphor in 4:7. The second phrase means, literally, to "be in these things"—that is, to be absorbed in them. In modern idiom, the minister must "live and breathe" these things.

One reward for dedication like this is progress. Progress in the faith (compare Phil 1:25) would close the mouths of Timothy's older critics. But more important, progress of this kind is evidence of a vital and deepening relationship with the Lord. If the leadership of a church pays diligent attention to personal spiritual priorities and sound worship principles, its ministry is bound to bear fruit.

Bible Gateway Recommendations

Philippians: IVP New Testament Commentary [IVPNTC]
Retail: $17.00
Our Price: $11.99
Save: $5.01 (29%)
2 Corinthians, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series
Retail: $24.00
Our Price: $21.60
Save: $2.40 (10%)
Ephesians: Tyndale New Testament Commentary  [TNTC]
Retail: $18.00
Our Price: $11.99
Save: $6.01 (33%)
View more titles