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Monday, December 19, 2011

Truth: the Unifying Factor in Pastoral Ministry

The Greek tragedian Aeshylus (525-456 BC) wrote, “God is not averse to deceit in a holy cause.” Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the greatest difficulties pastors face today stems from this damaging worldview. Truth is the unifying factor of all the pastor is and all the pastor is to do; otherwise, the badge of office is “scandal,” and the world knows this. Just read the headlines.

We catch a glimpse of the centrality of truth in pastoral ministry where Paul writes to Timothy, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, according to the commandment of god our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, our hope; to Timothy, true child in faith . . .” (1 Timothy 1:1-2). This entire letter to Timothy encourages truth and warns against those who speak otherwise. There are those who shipwreck their faith on the reef of untruth.
Truth defines both the person and work of the minister. Let’s get this right, from the beginning. “Ministry” is an outward orientation, taking care of others. Ministry involves the application of truth to the minister first, then to others because the context in which we live is un-truth. The task of the minister is to spread truth around in the sunshine for all to see (ala Steinbeck). If he has no truth applied to himself, then there is no ministry. Early Christian writer Lactantuis (240 – 320 AD) is quoted by Calvin saying, “No religion is genuine that is not in accordance with truth.” (Institutes 1.4.3).

Paul’s instruction to Timothy makes the connection between truth and that which the minister is entrusted. Paul says, “I have been entrusted with the gospel” (1 Timothy 1:11), the trustworthy fact that Christ came to the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Now, Timothy is entrusted to wage good warfare against those who live and spread untruth, particularly concerning Christ (1 Timothy 1:18-20). Paul admits he is not worthy of this work, but is thankful for Christ’s appointment to service (1 Timothy 1:12-16). The minister today should reflect on his own position in this same light.

Since God desires all to come to the knowledge of the truth, truth must characterize our conversation with God and with others (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Furthermore, not only is the church is built on truth, but the minster himself is characterized by specific evidences that even his personal life is engaged with truth (1 Timothy 3:1-13, 15). One task he is to perform is exposing error, so the training required is constant study of truth (1 Timothy 4:6-15). Just as water finds the lowest point, so ministry flows in the direction of truth, affecting the way we touch the lives of others (1 Timothy 5:7, 5:24-6:20).

Paul Tautges has a wonderful two-part series covering 1 and 2 Timothy in “Fellow Pastors, Pay Attention.” Get Part 1 here and Part 2 here. Mark these in your Bibles, men!

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