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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 10.30 am service, 2002-05-05

Text: 1 Timothy 4:12-15

On this blessed occasion of the ordination of a new elder and the installation of six new deacons in our church today, it is appropriate for us to meditate on a portion of God's Word where instructions for those in positions of spiritual leadership can be found. Let us turn our Bibles to 1 Timothy 4:12-15.

I. The Trend of Low Standards for Christian Service 

This passage of Scripture emphasises the need for exemplary Christian living on the part of those who are placed in leadership roles in the church. A high standard of spiritual life and conduct must always be maintained for church leadership, whether the leaders serve as pastors, elders or deacons. Unfortunately this is increasingly being neglected, for the sake of faster growth and for filling up the many vacant leadership positions. The trend is to lower the standards required for the leadership, to open the door much wider so that more can be admitted into the leadership. As a result of this, many churches and Christian organisations today are putting too many people in leadership, too soon. This goes against what James 3:1 says, 'My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.' The apostle Paul even told Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:22 'Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure.'

II. The Results of This Trend 

A. Believers are Stumbled 

We cannot afford to be careless in whom we appoint to teach us or lead us, as the damage done when there is carelessness in this, is often irreparable. The first result of this, is that believers are stumbled when they see a prominent respected speaker or Bible teacher they know holding to a questionable viewpoint or doing something which is questionable or even unethical. Many a young Christian has said, 'If it is all right for this pastor/elder/deacon to do this, surely there must be nothing wrong with me doing it.'

B. The Preaching of God�s Word is Disabled 

Let us know this well: A Christian leader who is violating a moral principle of scripture has no more power to preach against the violation of that moral principle. How can he tell others to overcome evil, when he himself is overcome by it? Due to the permissiveness of this present age we hear more and more of scandals in the lives of men of privilege and authority. The Roman Catholic Church is now dealing with such scandals involving some of its priests in the U.S. 

C. The Name of Christ is Humbled 

Such scandals are also being heard even in Bible-believing churches. The high regard that the Christian service used to have has suffered much damage from scandals involving Christian ministers. This has unfortunately brought the name of Jesus Christ into disrepute before the world. One of the worst sins in the Lord's service is coveteousness. This is why the apostle Peter warned the elders of the church against taking the oversight of God's flock for filthy lucre (1 Peter 5:2). How awful it is to hear of men like Benny Hinn who spend money lavishly by flying in business class all the time and staying in the most expensive hotels. Church leaders who do things like that will one day have to answer to God for abusing the ministry for their own selfish ends. 

III. Restoring the Christian Service to What It Should Be 

My purpose in telling you about all these follies and failures of leaders in Christian service and 'airing their dirty linen' is to make us realize that there is a dire need for the church of our Lord Jesus Christ to restore Christian service to what it should be, to the high place of righteousness andgood respect it should have in the church and the world. Higher standards of conduct, spiritual devotion and godliness must be required of all who would serve the Lord as leaders and teachers in the church. Now, as church members you have an important role in doing this: You have a God-given duty to insist on maintaining these high standards, and be careful to appoint or elect only those who have proven themselves to be fit for holy service. 

And those who are thus appointed or elected to serve the Lord must always ensure that they personally maintain their level of fitness for holy service, and not slacken after some time. How should they do this? Let us turn our Bibles to our text in 1 Timothy 4:12-15 to learn about this. This is where the apostle Paul tells Timothy about his duties as a servant of God. And we want to focus our attention on the commandment given to Timothy: 'Be thou an example'

According to the Bible's definition, a faithful servant of God is one who teaches not just through his words, but through his whole life. The church needs to have leaders who are good examples or patterns for church members to follow. And there are at least six aspects in which they must be examples. Let us consider each of them: 

A. In Word 

The first thing that a minister or Bible teacher must be careful in, is his manner of speaking and writing. He should be truthful and honest. He must be careful not to speak in a way that can be easily misunderstood. He must be one whose words can always be trusted and who keeps his promises. He should be careful to choose his words carefully, knowing what awful results an unwise word can have on others. 

Positively, the words we speak can minister to others. Proverbs 25:11 'A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.' Paul tells us that our 'Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.' (Colossians 4:6) Our words must always be characterized by grace, i.e. they are used to build up and not to hurt or to destroy the lives of people. How can we acquire this wonderful ability to bless others in word? By consciously cultivating it, and also by asking God to help us change the way we speak. Isaiah 50:4 tells us: 'The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary' The second aspect of the leader's example mentioned in our text is: 

B. In Conversation 

The word 'conversation' in Old English refers to a person's conduct, or manner of life. A person in the Lord�s service should not have an extravagant lifestyle, a lifestyle which obviously shows that what he lives for is worldly wealth, fame and power. Hebrews 13:5 shows us 'Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.' Let us set a good example of contented living rather than trying to have all the luxuries of modern life. 

Positively, our manner of life should be characterized by holiness, since 1 Peter 1:15 says 'But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation' Let all those especially who are serving the Lord, set an example of holiness in the way that they live. Now the third aspect of exemplary Christian living required of leaders is: 

C. In Charity 

The word 'charity' here means love. Love is the most important of all Christian virtues. It is emphasised again and again in the Scriptures. How did Jesus Himself regard love? He said that the greatest commandment given to men is 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind' And the second commandment is 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' (Matthew 22:37-39). In John 15:12 He said, 'This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.' In John 13:34, He emphasises this by saying, 'a new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you.' Let us commit ourselves to be examples of love.

We have already seen 3 out of the 6 aspects, namely to be examples in word, in conversation and in charity or love. The next aspect of example-setting for leaders in the church is: 

D. In Spirit 

This refers to our attitude. We ought to have the same attitudes and heart desires that God has. It means that we care for the things that God cares for, and dislike those things which He dislikes. And since God loves righteousness, we also love righteousness. Since God hates sin, we also hate sin, whether it is in our own life or in others. Since God wants His own will to be done and to be glorified, we likewise want God's will to be done and to glorify God in everything we do. 

When things are not right, our spirit should be like that of Jesus when He saw the Temple of God being defiled by the money changers (John 2:16,17 'The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.'). In the same way, those who serve the Lord cannot have an indifferent spirit toward the wrongs that need to be made right in God's kingdom. A true servant of God cannot remain silent when the Lord or His Word is being maligned or misrepresented. We must speak up boldly, and yet lovingly to correct errors, and not be afraid of adverse reactions for doing this. 

At the same time, our spirit should also be like that of Jesus when He saw the multitudes that were lost in sin, and He was filled with a great sense of compassion for the lost. 'But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.' (Matthew 9:36). Those who serve as leaders in the church should seek to be examples of having compassion for the lost and for those who are down, and need comfort. 

E. In Faith 

The next aspect of example setting is faith. We must live in complete trust in the Lord for every aspect of life, for without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Faith enables us to rise above our doubts and fears, which paralyse us and which makes us fall into despair. Faith enables us to see that our God is much greater than all the things that we fear. Psalm 56:3 tells us 'What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.' In John 14:1 Jesus assuaged the fears of His disciples by telling them to believe in Him. He said 'Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me.'

Positively, living by faith means that we keep pressing onward and upward, and are willing to face new challenges. Many missionaries have set wonderful examples of faith, trusting the Lord to provide sufficiently for every difficult trial or situation as they sought to do His will. We think of missionaries like Hudson Taylor (China), William Carey (India) and David Livingstone (Africa) who attempted great things for God and expected great things for God. This is the kind of faith that church leaders need to have, and to inspire church members to have, in order to make good advances in God's kingdom. We go on now to the last aspect of exemplary Christian living which is: 

F. In Purity 

The word 'purity' here refers to the use of propriety and discretion that Christians leaders especially need when dealing with members of the opposite sex. It is the same word that is found in 1 Timothy 5:2 where Timothy is told to treat the younger women as sisters and he adds the warning 'with all purity.' The leader who does not heed this warning will soon be in trouble. Hence propriety must always be carefully observed in the church. 

Now that we have seen the 6 aspects of the example that the church needs to have from its leaders, I am sure we realize that it is not easy to be an example. The standard that God requires of us is certainly very high. That is why the calling to serve the Lord in a leadership position in church is a very high calling that must never be entered into with haste. Like marriage, it must not be taken unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God.

If you are approached to serve the Lord in the church, whether as a Bible teacher in Sunday School, fellowship leader, or even as a deacon, elder, or pastor, ask yourself if you are able to live up to this standard and to set this example. May the Lord's service in our church always be highly regarded by all of us.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25