Commentary by Walter Albritton
Modeling the Lifestyle of a Godly Minister of Christ
1 Timothy 4:7-16; 5:1-8
Key Verse: Godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. – 1 Timothy 3:9
The plan worked then. It works now. God’s work thrives when God’s people live holy lives. Holiness, after all, is what God expects of all true disciples, not merely church leaders. Nowhere does the New Testament even hint of a double standard, one for laity, and another for clergy.
As much as any
man in the 20th Century, Elton Trueblood challenged the church to
repent of its distinction between laity and clergy. The Quaker scholar even
called the pulpit “an evil thing,” because it elevated clergy above laity. He
was right. The word “laity” does not even appear in the New Testament. Christians
one and all are called to be the “
Modern Christianity provides us with church dignitaries with high-sounding titles, as distinguished from what are called nonprofessionals or lay people. The New Testament, on the other hand, addresses the rank and file of Christians, not merely the apostles, and calls them all to “ministry” or servanthood. Ordinary Christians understood that they were all “called to the ministry” of serving others in Christlike ways.
In Second Corinthians 5:18, for example, all Christians are given “the ministry of reconciliation. This insight led the scholar J. B. Lightfoot to observe, “The only priests under the Gospel, designated as such in the New Testament, are the saints, the members of the Christian brotherhood.”
The bottom line is, of course, the profound assertion by Trueblood that “every Christian is a minister.” Thankfully, this concept is widely accepted today, at least in theory. All Christian disciples, therefore, are ministering servants of Jesus Christ engaged in the ministry of common life. Godliness, then, is the result of devout, disciplined service to Christ whether one is a dentist or a homemaker.
The source of godliness is, of course, the indwelling Christ. We cannot “achieve” holiness. God produces it within us in response to our surrender to the Lordship of Christ. This does not mean that God requires any less of us; he requires our all, in absolute surrender to the command of Christ to “be holy.”
Modeling a godly life was a tough assignment for Timothy. His culture, like our own, ridiculed godliness and invited people to focus on the physical body and worldly pleasure. Today’s society is obsessed with physical fitness, diets, and entertainment. We need to heed Paul’s warning to Timothy to value godliness as more valuable than physical fitness partly because it offers us no eternal reward. Physical training is good; it improves our quality of life. Spiritual training for godliness blesses us in this life and the next.
Paul wants Timothy to see that godly living involves all of life – his speech, relationships, beliefs, and actions. It is important for us to see that holy living results from holy thinking. Our beliefs dictate our actions. Godliness, then, involves the ways we relate to and treat other people. In exhorting others, Timothy was instructed to do so with respect, and not harshly. He was expected to treat older men as fathers, older women as mothers, and younger men and women as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Widows deserve the care of their families as well as the compassion of the church. Widows are to be encouraged to live holy lives rather than seek earthly pleasures. Insensitive behavior toward one’s family was a denial of the faith and branded one as “worse than an infidel.”
Every church could benefit from heeding Paul’s warning to Timothy: “Do not neglect the gift that is in you….” Since all Christians are gifted, the church has the unique opportunity to encourage its people to recognize, embrace, and use their gifts. By encouraging one another in the use of our gifts, we help to build up the body of Christ.
Timothy fulfilled his assignment well. He modeled godliness by the way he lived, taught, and related to others. Now it is our turn. We too, with God’s help, can model godly living by intentionally seeking holiness in preference to the pleasures of an undisciplined life and a casual relationship to Christ. May God give us a desire for holiness equal to the desire of our Olympic athletes.
They endure rigorous training in the hope of winning gold medals. We, on the other hand, persevere in godliness in the hope of receiving a greater reward, the crown of righteousness promised by our Lord for all who are faithful to the end. + + + + (Contact Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org)