By O. C. Birdwell
“If thou put the brethren in mind of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine which thou hast followed until now: but refuse profane and old wives’ fables” (I Tim. 4:6,7).
These words are from Paul to admonish an evangelist named Timothy, and all others who want to be “good ministers.” The word “minister” is obviously not used as a religious title, but rather to describe what Timothy was. The word translated “minister” is also translated by some, “servant,” and is used often with reference to a teacher of the gospel. Paul’s letters to Timothy show some characteristics of a good minister and faithful steward. Notice a few of them.
A good minister must be a servant of Christ. Sometimes preachers and churches forget this. How often have people reasoned “We pay his wages, he should do our bidding,” or “He must preach what we want because he works for us.” But wages of a gospel preacher come from money contributed to do the work of Christ; therefore, Christ should dictate what that work is, not some large giver or influential person. A congregation should not try to strangle a gospel preacher and force him to preach what they desire. With a dedicated servant of Christ the effort will fail anyway.
To many a preacher is like an elected political figure. “You please us or else.” Paul warned Timothy about this kind of attitude in these words: “For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3,4). When preachers begin to “serve a church” they turn away from the truth. A faithful minister will not swerve to the right or to the left, regardless of the financial or social pressures. He will fearlessly expose any teaching or practice that is contrary to the truth.
A good minister will be dependable and responsible. “. . . It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2). His mission is to “preach the word, be urgent in season, out of season, reprove,, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). He must be faithful in presenting the good news of salvation of both Jew and Gentile in the one body which is the church (see Eph. 2:14; 3:3). But rather than do this, some who claim to be Christ’s ministers would mock Him by contradicting His teaching or by affirming that what He taught was for an outdated First Century and not needed now. One faithful to Christ must know that His message is authoritative, that it is final, and that our task is to obey it.
A good minister must not fear man’s judgment. Paul said, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment . . . (1 Cor. 4:3). This does not mean that a preacher should not be concerned with the welfare and wishes of people. Neither does it mean that he should strive to make people mad at him. It simply means that he should not be intimidated by their judgment, opposition, or hatred so as to change his teaching or soften it in any way. God will judge all by Jesus Christ (Acts 17:31; 2 Tim. 4:1). God’s judgment will vindicate the message and the faithful messenger (2 Cor. 5:10).
Next: Kinds of Preaching.
Truth Magazine XX: 33, p. 514
August 19, 1976