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The Mission and Motivation of the Minister
The drives and duties of those who serve–1 Timothy 6:11-16
One of the worst things that can happen to a Christian is to lose their motivation. They used to serve, lead their ministry, give incredible amounts of time, service and money–but it all dried up. They were burned by leaders, hurt by Christians, discouraged by the church, and now their heart is no longer hot.
They say they live for Christ, but it’s really their family, their comfort–which underneath is just another way of living for themselves. Others have just run out of gas, lost their way, got hit by a deep trial, got discouraged. So now, instead of seeking to stay close to Christ, they seek to stay close to their grandkids.
Instead of giving generously, they spend their resources on themselves. Instead of time with Christ, it is binge-watching on Netflix. Instead of serving others, they invest most efforts pleasing themselves. They need to recover their mission and motivation. If that’s you, or you could use some fire in your walk with Christ, then you need to own 1 Timothy 6:11-16.
Open your Bibles to 1 Timothy 6. Ministry (and life) is motivated by the greatness of God. What drove David, Daniel, Elijah, Moses, Peter, Paul and Timothy? The greatness of God! These verses break into two points–the mission and the motivation of the minister. Read aloud just verses 11 to 12 and hear the mission of the minister.
“But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:11 to 12). Now read aloud verses 13 to 16 and hear the motivation of the minister.
“I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen” (1 Timothy 6:13 to 16).
What comes to mind when you think about God? That alone determines your motivation. This letter is about how to behave in the church–the house rules.
Chapter 1–follow good doctrine and reject bad doctrine
Chapter 2–the behavior of men and women in church
Chapter 3–the correct elder and deacon qualifications
Chapter 4–apostasy and how to stop it
Chapters 5 and 6–the behavior of the various groups in the church, and now Timothy’s mission and motivation, and yours as well. This is a crucial passage for you to hear and to know, since ministry and life are motivated by the greatness of God.
#1 The MISSION of the minister–a great CALLING Verses 11 to 12
As I read these two verses, see if you can discern the four obvious commands Paul gives to Tim. “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
First The minister FLEES Verse 11a
“But flee from these things, you man of God.” Paul begins verse 11 with “but”–contrasting this new paragraph with the last one. In contrast to those who were causing trouble in Ephesus–who were the troublemakers? Verse 3 told you they advocate a different doctrine, verse 4 they’re proud and love causing strife, verse 5 they’re depraved and think godliness is a way to make money. And, they are so discontent, verse 10, they’re motivated to minister in order to make money.
But what should Timothy be, in contrast? How is Timothy to be different? Verse 11, “But flee from these things, you man of God.” That got Timothy’s attention. When he read that for the first time, Timothy’s jaw might have actually dropped open. This is an intentionally motivating title–why?
What’s so special about “man of God“? Man of God was the customary designation of the great leaders of Israel. In Deuteronomy 33:1, Moses the man of God, was a title for Israel’s greatest leader. In 1 Samuel 9:6, David the man of God. Samuel, Elijah, Elisha and more were called the man of God–the man who belongs to God.
But more than that, “man of God” points to an individual who represents God by proclaiming His Word. A man of God is someone in God’s service, representing God and speaking His Word in His name. “Man of God” is also used by Paul in the familiar 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
Even though Timothy is the subject of these verses, the passage can apply to any man who proclaims God’s Word. The “man of God” in verse 17 obviously can embrace any believer, since the Word of God does equip all Christians for good works. But here in 1 Timothy 6:11, “man of God” is used of Timothy to put him into a special class of minister who belongs to God, represents God and speaks God’s Word alone–“the man of God.”
Timothy, be the “man of God.” Don’t be like the apostates in Ephesus–you, Timothy, be like Moses, David and Elijah. You’ve seen the contrast. But did you observe the “you“–“you man of God.” You, Timothy, must run away from some things. This is even stronger than you can see. There is an “O” in the Greek–translated in the ESV, but not NASB–“You, O man of God.”
This sharply contrasts Timothy with the false teachers and apostates of Ephesus. Timothy must be a man of God and do four things. Paul gives four commands here. First, the man of God flees. The verb to flee is where we get the English for fugitive–run from being jailed by sin. Paul commands Timothy to run away–just like the New Testament calls every believer here to flee sexual sin, flee idolatry, and flee youthful lusts.
Paul uses the present tense for flee–so in any ministry and all those in the work of a pastor-teacher, sexual sin, idolatry, and youthful lusts are to be continually run from, all the time. You never stop running from these. Verse 11, “flee from these things.” What’s the “these“? The direct antecedent to the word these (things) is the apostates who ministered for money in verses 9 to 10.
They loved money. Money is the cardinal sin of false teachers–they pervert the truth for personal gain. Balaam, Judas, and Demas are false teachers who ministered from a motive of greed. Avoid the appearance of ministering for money, or prestige, or position. Two crucial steps–as a paid pastor, always have laymen set your salary. And as a Bible teacher, never set a price on teaching elsewhere.
Paul made certain he avoided any appearance of loving money. In Acts 20, “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes.” Paul often paid for his own expenses so others would not get the wrong idea. In 1 Thessalonians 2, he reminded them he worked “day and night so as not to be a burden to any of you.”
First Timothy 5:17 told us it was right for some gifted elders to be freed up to preach via a salary, but elders never minister for the purpose of money. Although the false teachers may call themselves ministers of the gospel, those in ministry for the money are not God’s men. The false teachers are money men, Timothy is God’s man. Heretics are sin’s men, Timothy is righteousness’s man. Bad teachers are the world’s men, Timothy is heaven’s man. The true minister runs away from compromising sin. All ministers flee. Also . . .
Second The minister FOLLOWS Verse 11b
“And pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” Those who minister not only flee, but pursue. You run away and run after–run to and focus on godliness. You reject apostates and follow after godly character. Second Timothy 2:2 says it this way, “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
Paul commands Timothy to continually pursue character that is like Christ. Pursue is to strive after, drive, search for, hunt for, to seek to catch–and not merely on Sunday or just in ministry, but 24/7, every day. Pursue these traits.
Paul tells Timothy which six qualities to pursue–righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. To stand firm against false teachers and error. To minister fruitfully–then every day, chase after, apply, live out by the power of the Spirit these six qualities.
RIGHTEOUSNESS True ministers do what is right. Godly men and women do what is biblical–they say what must be said, do what must be done.
GODLINESS Ministers live like Christ. Live like God–God like ness.
FAITH Ministers depend solely on God’s Word as guide and rely on God’s character alone.
LOVE Ministers sacrifice themselves for others
PERSEVERANCE Means to remain under, describing a believer who remains under trials. Like a weightlifter, they remain under the weight until the judge releases them. True ministers endure. And . . .
GENTLENESS The minister is kind in the midst of ministry to people, being humble and dependent on the Holy Spirit.
Once again, Christian, it’s not enough merely to not sin outwardly–you’re to pursue Christ-likeness. Don’t merely put the fires of sin out in your life, pursue building Godly character through God’s Spirit. A true minister has a mission–he flees from, he follows after, and . . .
Third The minister FIGHTS Verse 12a
“Fight the good fight of faith.” Timothy, I command you to continually act upon yourself to fight. The moment you turn to Christ, you begin a war. You must defeat the enemy of your own flesh, this world and a hateful enemy. In ministry, you also struggle against lethargic Christians, lazy believers, unfaithful disciples, inconsistent servants, even apathetic churches.
How tough is the fight? The Greek “fight” comes from the verb agonizomai–do you hear the English? This fight is agony. Fight is used in military and athletic contexts to describe the effort needed to win a battle or win a race. Plus, this fight is also ongoing. The present tense describes a never-ending battle. If you’re saved, you fight.
But Paul clarifies–it’s a good fight. Good is literally a noble fight. Now you didn’t see the use of the article in the original–it’s good fight of the faith, pointing to the entire body of Christian truth, the contents of the Word. Like Jude 3, “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” All believers in ministry continually battle for the truth.
That someone in your group who refuses to change–it is ultimately a battle for truth. Timothy is to fight for the truth of God’s Word–against the desires of his own flesh, against the attractions from the world, and against the lies of the enemy. All ministers battle for the truth of God’s Word to win–in the life of the compromising student, the indifferent dad, the distracted mom, and in your ministry present tense. You never give up–you fight for truth to the end. A true minister has a mission–he flees from, he follows after, fights and . . .
Fourth The minister is FUTURE minded Verse 12b
“Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Take hold means act upon yourself to grasp, to seize. Take hold of what? Take hold of the eternal life.
Paul is not commanding Timothy to get saved. Paul commands you to grasp the reality of life eternal. Paul wants believers to live in light of eternity. While ministering in Ephesus or for you serving in ministry, it’s crucial to think about living in Heaven forever. Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In contrast, false teachers live for today, to gain all they can get in this world now. True ministers serve Christ in order to invest all they can into Heaven. Verse 12b, “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” Called? That’s the effectual, sovereign call of God to salvation. Timothy was called by God to eternal life.
Timothy and all genuine believers are called by God to focus on living forever in Heaven. Timothy was to serve others in light of what matters–later in Heaven, not now on Earth. Only Heaven matters, so preach that way. Only eternity matters, so serve that way.
Students, your grades, scholarship, team, club and friends do not matter as much as impacting that fellow student for eternity. Dads, that promotion, tickets, boat or game will make no difference for eternity, but influencing your family and friends for Christ will. Paul gets pointed at Timothy with that last phrase in verse 12, “and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
Timothy was called, genuinely saved–and when he was born again, he made a confession at his baptism or at his ordination, before many believers. Timothy fulfilled the scripture of Matthew 10:32 and 33, he confessed publicly. “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”
And what did Timothy confess, the same confession you made in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” A true minister is genuinely saved, and doesn’t become distracted, but keeps his heart focused on eternity in Heaven.
Your future in eternity matters more than today or tomorrow. You are called to a mission of ministry to flee, follow, fight and be future minded. But why should you do all this fleeing and fighting? What is . . .
#2 The MOTIVATION of the minister–a greater CHRIST Verses 13 to 16
Read verses 13 to 16 and hear Paul’s emphasis. “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.”
Paul motivates Timothy by reminding Him of God’s greatness. You can minister like this because God is so incredibly awesome. Of course you can serve, even when you’re battling apostates, because true ministry is a powerful God through you.
First Motivated by God’s POWER Verse 13a
Ministry and life is motivated by the greatness of God. Verse 13, “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things.” I charge you means I continually ask this of you, Timothy, in the presence of God, remembering this–God is everywhere all the time. Your God is omni-present. Timothy, I am charging you knowing God is fully present with you right now as I write this. In the presence of God, this ever-present God is the one who is in charge of all of life.
The verb gives life is literally giving life continually and currently preserving life–God is the giver and sustainer of life. You see God’s power in every baby’s birth, cause God alone gives life. God creates life, sustains life, protects your life and gives life to the spiritually dead. God created you and your God is the One who later chose to save you. Even after God gave you life, you rebelled, defied God, spit in his face, did your own thing. You deserve Hell, but instead He gives you a new life.
Timothy, you have nothing to fear with your battles with false teachers and apostasy. Timothy, be motivated to stand strong (against them) and (for) God’s Word, because the God you serve is ever-present, in charge of life and is all-powerful. Ministry and life is motivated by the greatness of God. And you can be . . .
Second Motivated by Christ’s COURAGE Verse 13b
“Who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate.” The one who testified was Christ, who stood firm before Pilate. You know what happened? John 18:33 to 37, “Therefore Pilate …summoned Jesus and said to Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ 34 Jesus answered,’“Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?’ 35 Pilate answered,’“I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?’ 36 Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.’ 37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ ”
So Paul motivates Timothy by Christ’s example of courage to stand for the truth in Ephesus, even though standing on truth will be costly to Timothy. Since God is the one who can and will raise the dead, it frees each of you to minister with courage, knowing you cannot die eternally and you will live again. God will raise you from the dead. So Timothy, be motivated to stand firm like Christ stood strong, no matter what the cost. And be . . .
Third Motivated by Christ’s COMING Verse 14
“That you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here is the most difficult phrase in these verses–“keep the commandment.” What is the commandment? I read at least 30 pages on what the commandment meant. There are eight different interpretations as to what “the commandment” means. Here is what we know.
The end of verse 14 tells the commandment is to be kept until the coming of Christ. Verse 14 affirms the commandment is to be obeyed without compromise or guilt. In verse 13 the commandment is linked to the example of Christ’s courageous confession. And verses 13 and 14 contain no limiting factor for the commandment, causing the commandment not to be a single command, like “love God,” but something broader.
And the infinitive keep, “keep the commandment,” is to keep in mind, guard it, or protect the commandment. Put that all together and the commandment definitely refers to the mission commands Paul just described in verses 11 to 12. Most likely, the commandment includes the specific commands found in this letter, 1 Timothy.
The commandment may include all the commands of the New Testament Scripture. So what does Paul mean in verse 14, that you “keep the commandment” in this context? Because of Christ’s confession, where He proclaimed the truth under the threat of death, “keep the commandment” also contains the strong flavor of never compromise God’s truth in spite of dangers, hardships, pushback, threats and battles with apostates.
Keep God’s Word, obey these commands, follow the orders of your Savior–and do it (verse 14) without stain or reproach, spotless and irreproachable. No compromising and no messing up, stay away from compromise and avoid all possible decisions or behavior which may malign your ministry or detract from Christ.
In ministry, others can exercise freedoms you can’t because it takes away from Christ and distracts from His Word. And keep yourself pure while teaching Gods Word. So, how long are you supposed to pursue obedience to God’s commands, Timothy? Verse 14, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ–Christ will return.
What a powerful motivation for ministry–Jesus is coming back soon. So make certain your life counts for eternity now, in case today is the day He returns. If today was your last day, would today count for eternity? What a powerful motivation for purity–right? First John 3:2 to 3, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
Ministry and life is motivated by the greatness of God. His coming at any moment is meant to cause
your daily behavior to be pure. And, as you anticipate your faith moving to sight, you will see the glorified Christ. And the glorified Christ is so awesome, even His closest friend, the apostle John could not stand in His glorified presence. He passed out.
You’ll see the full of glory Christ–none of His attributes will be veiled. Paul says in verse 14, “until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ He will have all authority as Lord, Master, King; yet remain, your Savior and Friend.” Are you looking forward to seeing Jesus Christ? The word appearing in verse 14 means Christ will be showing Himself in a splendid, terrible, visible, clear and open manner. The minister keeps his focus on the soon return of Christ. That hope motivates him when ministry difficulties hit. Plus ministry is . . .
Fourth Motivated by God’s SOVEREIGNTY Verse 15
“Which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” God demonstrates His sovereign control, by bringing about His own soon return–verse 15 says He will bring about His own second coming at the proper time.
Paul adds a curious statement–see it? God is “the blessed” One, meaning God is the happy One. Aren’t you glad your God is a happy God? Who wants to spend eternity with an unhappy God? Anyone? Thankfully, God is happily blessed being the only Sovereign. God is happy to be in control. Reminding Timothy, God does not make mistakes. God never says, “Oops, mulligan, do over, try that again,” or, “So sorry.” No, He’s in control.
It may have been Paul who left Timothy in conflict-ridden Ephesus–but it was God who ultimately is in charge and wanted Timothy to remain there. You may be resenting people in your life, you may struggle with what they did to you or didn’t do for you. But you can’t get around Joseph’s statement to his brothers.
His brothers resented Joseph so much they almost killed him, threw him in a pit, sold him as a slave, causing him to end up in jail, rotting there, overlooked for years. But later, after being elevated to #2 in Egypt, Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
Do not ever forget, God is Sovereign. Verse 15 says He is the “King of kings and Lord of lords.” God is the King, the Lord, the president, the ruler–not Trump, not Kim Jong-un. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” God does as He pleases, only as He pleases and always as He pleases and whatever He does is for His glory and your good. All believers are motivated by God’s happy sovereignty. Fully and finally, ministers are . . .
Fifth Motivated by God’s GREATNESS Verse 16
“Who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.” Paul totally blows Timothy away with a sweet reminder of God’s attributes. Paul highlights some awesome character qualities of God. God is eternal–verse16a, “Who alone possesses immortality.” The Romans viewed Caesar as immortal, so Paul emphasizes only God is inherently immortal and eternal.
Angels and men come into existence and will exist forever, but only God always is–God is literally deathless. God has an unending quality of life and is incapable of dying. In John 5:26 Jesus says, “The Father has life in Himself.” Ministers are motivated by the truth that God is above history and beyond time. God is life. No matter what happens to you during your brief span of time on this earth, the eternal One is with you and available to support you. Also . . .
God is holy–verse 16, “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see.” Our God is a gracious Father, and He’s the friend of sinners. But God is not our buddy–in our day of casual familiarity, it’s important not to forget God’s holiness. Our God is a consuming fire–a blazing light of holiness, totally separate from sin. First Samuel 2:2, “There is no one Holy like the Lord.” Because of His holiness, God is inaccessible to man.
Just like you and I can’t survive on the planet Jupiter–because of our sinfulness, you and I can’t live in the presence of God at all. Since God lives in an atmosphere of absolute purity, light and sinlessness that is far too holy for people. The only solution is for our sin to be paid for and God’s perfect righteousness to be covering us. And that only happens when you turn from your sin in repentance and depend on Christ alone by faith for salvation.
You and I can’t survive in God’s presence, nor escape God’s judgment for our sin until God justifies you and causes you to be born again. Do you desire forgiveness? Then ask God to open your heart and give you faith to believe. Cry out for the Lord to humble you so you can depend solely on Him.
How does holiness motivate the minister? Paul emphasizes God’s inability to make any mistakes. Our God always does exactly what is right. That provides great comfort for the man of God as he pursues his ministry. Not only is God in total control, but God also never makes a misjudgment. Further, any group who opposes and persecutes him as God’s servant will one day be judged by the Holy God. That knowledge equips the man of God to faithfully serve His Lord. The Lord will make all things right in the future.
Finally, God alone can make you holy through His Son in salvation and make you holy through His Spirit in sanctification. So holiness motivates you to depend on God alone. And it’s this God who must be honored, verse16. “To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.” Praise Him. Let God be respected and let his rule never end.
Every struggle, every conflict, every weakness, every trial you experience this morning is solved by embracing and living by the character of God. Worry is merely forgetting God’s unfailing love. Greed is disregarding the richness of God’s grace. Complaining is insulting God’s control. Doubt is overlooking God’s veracity. Sinful habits mean you forget your salvation, God’s power and God’s holiness.
You only experience abundant life by resting in God’s character. Ministry and life is motivated by the greatness of God. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to flee, follow, fight and be future minded. Your motivation is to focus completely on God’s awesome attributes. Nothing can motivate you more than a deeper understanding of the greatness of God. Those who know their God can say with the writer of Hebrews in 13:6, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” Let’s pray.