The Apostle Paul writes the epistle of 2 Timothy with his last act of penmanship, and pushes, exhorts, challenges, and commands Timothy to keep his focus on the Word of God. The Scriptures themselves are fundamental to the life of the Church. More to the point, without the teaching and preaching of the Scriptures, a gathered association of people are not a Church. A truly Biblical church is a church that holds a high view of Scripture. In other words, the leadership of the church must teach and emphasize that the Bible was given by God, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and is completely without error in all matters. This is known in theological circles as the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy. When the Apostle Paul writes Timothy, there is no equivocation when it comes to the Scriptures. He does not wonder aloud if His life teaching and preaching has been wasted on half-truths and inaccurate information. No, he holds the written word in high regard and fully trusts God’s Scriptures as all that men need for life and godliness. The Apostle Paul outlines that direction in his exhortation to Timothy.
Last time we discussed four principles of church leadership from 2 Timothy:
- Good Leaders Will Take a Stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1:8-12).
- Good Leaders Will Focus on Whom they are Suffering for (2:8-13).
- Good Leaders Hold Fast to Sound Doctrine (1:13-14).
- Good Leaders Will Duplicate Themselves (2:2).
Here are 4 More Principles of Church Leadership from 2 Timothy.
5. Good Leaders Accurately Handle the Word of God (2:14-15).
Paul tells Timothy in verse 14 to “continually remind” those in his care of sound doctrine and that God will not tolerate error in the midst of the church. Verses 14-15 serve as a bridge that ties in Paul’s exhortation to endure in the midst of suffering (1:8-2:13) to a new section about Timothy’s dealings with false teachers. In the process of charging his people to stop splitting hairs and focusing in speculation, Timothy is to continually give the church the Word of God. In order to see the counterfeit teaching for what it was, the people of God must have an accurate knowledge of the truth. Paul commands Timothy in verse 15 to be diligent, or work hard at making sure his teaching and life would be approved by God on the day of judgment. While the false teachers desired approval of men, Paul tells Timothy to present himself like a sacrifice to God, unashamed of his teaching. It is Timothy’s teaching of the Word of Truth that would bring him approval from God. Without this accurate teaching of the Word of God, the people of God are led into “ruin ” (v. 14). It is the accurate handling of the Scriptures that stands against the empty chatter and falsehoods of men.
What enables the workman to stand before God without shame is the accurate handling of the Word of God. Literally, it means to “cut straight,” like a farmer plowing his field. If you desire to be a good leader of the church of God, then you must handle the truth of God accurately — men and women’s lives depend upon it. Accurately handling the Word of God takes effort and diligence, and is not for the lazy or timid at heart. Are you a leader who accurately handles the Scriptures?
6. Good Leaders Expect Opposition to the Truth from Within the Fellowship (2 Timothy 3:1-13).
Another theme that runs throughout 2 Timothy, besides suffering, concerns the people who oppose the truth and put forth error. Paul warns Timothy that he is not to lose sight of the difficulty that will be ahead of him. The difficult times that will come are in the form of sinful men stirring up trouble within the church. How they behave on the outside is directly related to who they are on the inside.
Paul gives the first vice here as “they will be lovers of self.” The hard part for good leaders is knowing many within the church will oppose the teaching of the truth — they will be first and foremost lovers of self. This stands in contrast to the true believer who loves God above himself. The rest of these vices listed by the Apostle Paul relate to this one. Prideful self-love is the foundation to which all the rest of these vices are built upon (3:1-2). They are lovers of money, boastful in their speech, and arrogant in their attitudes, and this reflects their true character.
This list goes on…unloving, unholy, disobedient, malicious gossips, lacking the power to control themselves, savage, hating what is good, conceited, loving pleasure, and holding a form of godliness but denying its power. Christ-less Christianity is but an empty religion. Many claim the name of Christ, yet their lives prove that this is not really so. They are like the Pharisees, whitewashed tombs that appear grand on the outside, but, in reality, on the inside they are wretched. They are phonies who masquerade around as Christian leaders (3:2-5).
They are like Jannes and Jambres (3:8-9), the magicians in Pharaoh’s court, who served to advance a lie by attempting to replicate the miracles that God gave Moses. They only succeeded in helping to harden Pharaoh’s heart against the truth of God. The encouraging part for Timothy here is that Paul says that their “folly” will become evident for all to see.
It is a good reminder for all church leaders that times will proceed from bad to worse as the world moves farther and farther away from the Fall, and from the Biblical influence of the Reformation. Hard work, faithfulness, and walking with God does not necessarily mean that life will get easier for the church leader. Faithfulness to God and His word may not lead to easier times, but increasingly harder ones. False teachers and those opposed to the truth will arise in the midst of the congregation and will have to be dealt with. Just like the magicians who opposed Moses, these false teachers will not be able to keep up with the power of God, and — in the end — their successes will be temporary and they will play the ultimate fool for opposing the truth of God. They may cause much damage in the church, but the encouraging aspect for all who face these men is that eventually they will be defeated by the truth of God (3:9).
7. Good Leaders Are Convinced of the Origin, Authority, and Power of the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:14-16).
Paul makes a contrast here between the false teachers in the previous verses and Timothy himself. Paul exhorts Timothy to continue in the things he has learned, knowing that they lead to salvation. Paul then reminds Timothy of the origin of the Scriptures. He tells Timothy in 3:16 that all Scripture is inspired by God (literally “God-breathed”). The Scriptures are breathed out of the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3; Isaiah 45:23). They owe their existence to the working of the Holy Spirit and are not a mere invention of men.
For Timothy, this origin was of the utmost importance in his fight against the false teachers that had infiltrated the church. Timothy was not teaching and preaching a series of philosophies, fables, or stories, but the Truth of God. For the church leader, the origin of his message is important because what he is teaching and preaching is not of himself, but from the living and eternal God whom he serves. The Scriptures carry weight and authority because they are from God and not from men. When the Word of God demands action on a particular subject, it is the authority of God behind it and not the personality or eloquence of the church leader himself.
The Scriptures are important in that they change lives. Paul reminds Timothy that it is the Scriptures that are profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and for training in righteousness (3:16-17) with the goal that men and women would be equipped for every good work. The reason that they were breathed out by God is to accomplish these four goals in the lives of those who embrace them in obedient faith.
The Scriptures are for teaching, first of all. They are to be taught by church leaders to produce sound doctrine in the lives of the fellowship. Scripture is also for reproof, the censure of those who put forth error or sin with the goal of protecting the purity of the Body of Christ and illuminating truth. The Scriptures are also for correction, or restoring someone to an upright state. This is the rebuilding process which comes after a person has had truth illuminated through Biblical teaching, and then having been reproved because of sin and error.
The final benefit Paul mentions here is training in righteousness. The primary way God desires to bring us to maturity and train us to walk in obedience is through His word. When you are obedient to what you know, you will grow. If you are a church leader and desire a mature people (and you should), then teach, reprove, correct, and train in righteousness with the Scriptures as your foundation.
8. Good Leaders are Focused on Keeping the Scriptures central to the life of the Church (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
Paul’s words here in 4:1, “I solemnly charge you…” give an air of seriousness to his final commands to Timothy. Paul is passing the baton, so to speak, to Timothy here in this last exhortation. In his last charge, Paul gives Timothy five rapid-fire imperatives to govern his leadership in the church.
- Paul tells Timothy, first of all, to preach the Word of God. This command is not only listed first, but is foundational to the rest. A good leader makes sure that the public proclamation and explanation (expository preaching!) of the Scriptures is at the forefront of all church life.
- The second imperative is “be ready.” Timothy is to be ready to proclaim the Word of God in season and out of season. Good leaders proclaim the Word of God whether it is convenient or not.
- The third imperative is “reprove” and carries with it the idea of correcting or refuting those who are wrong with the truth of God so that they will come to repentance. There are many “ideas” about how to do church, yet there is only one Bible. Helping others to see the necessity of the Scriptures in the life of the church above any other program or event is central to the leader’s role.
- The fourth imperative is “rebuke,” and carries with it the idea of sharply censuring a person’s conduct. The hard task of the church leader is when he is forced to call out a fellow member of the Body of Christ because of a lifestyle that does not agree with the revealed will of God found in the Scriptures.
- The fifth command is “exhort,” and means to call alongside oneself for the purpose of encouragement and/or comforting. Sometimes there are those who do not need a “kick in the pants,” but rather a gentle nudge or word to get them back on the right path.
There are many leaders who will testify that they believe in the inerrancy and inspiration of the Scriptures. How that fact plays out in the lives of their churches is often very different. Putting forth the truth that God’s Word is authoritative and powerful to change lives into practice is often set aside for a pragmatic approach to ministry. The Word of God is powerful and should be central to the life of the church. Just as Paul wrote Timothy 2,000 years ago, the charge is still there for the leader who will stand in the local church and preach, be ready, reprove, rebuke, exhort, and instruct the Scriptures.
We live in a world that is pressing the church to conform to its image. There are news stories all the time that speak of churches accepting sins that are incompatible with the Word of God. Other churches have accepted pressure from the world to become marketing machines that focus on maximizing the quantity of the people that come each Sunday. They believe the lie that the number of bodies in the pew equals success and blessing from God. The challenge for the leader of the church today is to remain faithful to the Scriptures and their centrality to the life and holiness of the church. Here in 2 Timothy I have given you a total of eight principles (two blog posts) of church leadership. This list is not exhaustive; I am sure that you could add to my list. My prayer is that you would examine your heart and your ministry and ask yourself, “Am I this kind of leader?”