The Priority of Training Men
The Church’s commitment to training the next generation
2 Timothy 2:1-2
Back when dinosaurs had not died out, and the earth’s crust was still hardening, I was on staff at Grace Community Church from 1979 to 1989. And it was in the chapel where I caused my soon-to-be mentor, John MacArthur, to second guess himself. I may have even caused John genuine fear.
Before the college and seminary, before the commentary series and study Bible–for the first ten years of John’s ministry, Grace Church had never hired a staff pastor from outside the church–always from within the church body, until 1979. That was the moment when they couldn’t find anyone at GCC crazy enough to pastor the pre-humans–the JR Highers.
Hiring only inside the church is not a biblical issue but a philosophical preference and John was instrumental in hiring the first outside pastor, hired for this noble task. I found out later that I was considered a great experiment. There was risk involved in hiring me, and it wasn’t just that I was a youth guy–those involved hoped I wasn’t a mistake.
I was hired in August and seminary classes started in September. John MacArthur and Fred Barshaw were teaching the sermon prep class on campus. Suspecting it might be the only time John MacArthur would be able to teach the sermon prep class, I signed up immediately. It was worth it, even though it required preparing a full sermon every week, along with around 8 to 12 mini-messages–along with never knowing when or what you might be expected to preach.
In the very first class, I drew a slip of paper out of a hat–it told me I was to preach a 5-minute mini-message about sermon introductions. I was supposed to summarize the material we read on sermon introductions that week from memory in five minutes. Neither John nor Fred had ever heard me preach–not once.
And that is when I made my mistake–I chose in the first 90 seconds to actually demonstrate all the errant ways to introduce a sermon. I didn’t announce it–I just did it. I was a youth guy and youth guys are partially insane-creative. There were nine warnings in our reading about introductions and I violated all of them in the first 90 seconds with no clarification. I apologized, I trailed off, I told an obscure story, I mumbled, I looked down, I froze up–it was true preaching horror.
Fred’s eyes bulged out and his mouth dropped open. John just stared. Fred told me later that during that 90 seconds, he leaned over to John and said, “What have we done?” (hiring me). Ninety seconds later, I said, “Now that’s how not to do an introduction–let me tell you how to do an introduction. Then I invested the next three minutes explaining the correct approaches–and unknowingly, bringing relief to my instructors.
This morning, I want to avoid the mistakes of the past. There must be no confusion, no misunderstanding. God’s Word is clear in 2 Timothy 2:1 to 2. God wants His Church to train men. This morning, own the priority of training men in the local church.
Friends, I am constrained to share my heart. I am so thankful for you as a church. Few churches today are committed to training men, yet you’ve embraced it. I fear attempting to write a book on training men, not because I don’t think anyone will read it–but I fear too few will actually do the training of men.
There are three ministry passions in my life–preaching God’s Word, cultivating a healthy church and training men for ministry. Thank you for embracing all three, as well as putting up with my many shortcomings as a pastor-teacher. I am so grateful for you—yet regardless of its rarity, God expects local churches to train men.
On the foundation of accurately expositing the author’s intended message through expositional preaching, one of the main pastoral duties, one of the priorities of the church, one of the main time- drains on ministry, one of the difficult tasks required to create a healthy church is the training of men. Luther had his Tabletalk, Calvin had his Academy, Spurgeon had his Pastors’ college and every man of God who takes the Scripture seriously seeks to train men.
Not every man in our church can go to seminary, but every man must grow to become complete in Christ from Colossians 1, must learn to obey all that Christ commands from Matthew 28, and must discover the good works God pre-selected for him to live out from Ephesians 2. He needs to be trained.
And in his last New Testament epistle, Paul makes the priority of training men abundantly clear as he writes his number one apostolic assistant, Timothy, in 2 Timothy 2:1 to 2. Read God’s non-negotiable command in these two verses. “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:1 to 2).
This passage is passionate and personal. When Paul writes 2 Timothy, he’s incarcerated–again! But this second time, Paul’s not under house arrest (as in Acts 28), able to have visitors, and somewhat confident of his soon release. No, in 2 Timothy 2:9 Paul tells us he’s in chains, and in chapter 4:13 Paul is in a cold cell with little hope of deliverance.
After his first imprisonment, Paul wrote to Titus on Crete and Timothy in Ephesus. But now imprisoned again, with Nero on the throne, Paul faces imminent execution. So Paul motivates his son in 2 Timothy to pursue true spiritual leadership. In this final letter, Paul asks Timothy to hasten to Rome for one last visit (4:9 says, “come soon,” and in 4:21, “come before winter”).
We don’t know if Timothy made it before Paul was executed. But we do see Paul’s heart for Christ and we hear Paul’s passion for the Church in this last epistle before going home to Heaven. As the end is near, Paul commands Timothy to train men. Paul is not hinting here–aware his end is near, Paul is direct. “Timothy, before you come, make certain you’re preparing men to teach sound apostolic doctrine to other able men.”
Timothy must pass the baton in God’s great relay race. Timothy must invest in the next generation–not merely to know the Word, but to be able to pass it on to others. Training was a common practice in the first century. The Pharisees sought to pass on their traditions. The rabbis sought to train members of the next generation to their way of thinking. Even the Greek philosophical schools sought to have their followers adopt the views of the founder of the movement.
But for Christian leaders, fundamental to God’s plan for the Church is the training of men to uphold and pass on God’s Word and sound doctrine. It wasn’t merely that the time of the apostles was winding down, or the New Testament wasn’t finished being written. But it is the commission of Christ to make disciples. It is the example of Christ in the Gospels to train men.
Paul’s command to Timothy is to do what Christ commanded and modeled—train men. If 2 Timothy 1 was primarily about protecting apostolic teaching, then chapter 2 is primarily about propagating accurate teaching. Paul tells Timothy two major truths in verses 1 and 2–the power to train and the procedure to train. So Paul begins his charge to train future leaders by commanding Timothy to get his strength for this great task from God.
#1 The Power to Train Men Verse 1
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1). An emphatic “you”. “You therefore Timothy”–you be different. “You” Timothy, get this right. And you “therefore” draws us back to chapter 1, negatively and positively.
Look at chapter 1. Negatively, Timothy you don’t be timid or ashamed of me. Verse 7, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity.” Verse 8, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner.” Certainly Timothy, don’t turn away from me. Verse 15, “You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me.”
Positively, you Timothy, be like your grandmother and mother. Verse 5, “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” And you Timothy, be like Onesiphorus. Verse 16, “For he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.”
On the heels of Onesiphorus, now in chapter 2 verse 1 Paul looks Timothy in the eye and says, “Don’t be ashamed or timid, but be like Lois, Eunice and Onesiphorus. And Timothy, remember who I am to you.” Verse 1, I am your spiritual father Paul. Paul addresses Timothy as “my son”, informing Timothy what Paul is about to say is personal, affectionate and important.
Paul seeks to speak to Timothy’s affections–to grab his heart. What I am about to say is God’s command–it’s important my son, but it also comes with a mentor’s love and affection. As your father in the faith, I am telling you this must get done—but as your loving father, my son, I’m warning you’ll not be able to wing this–this will not be easy, nor will this be simple. To train men, you’ll need God’s mighty strength.
It is one thing for you to wrestle with truth, understand it, write papers about truth, teach truth and preach the truth. It is a completely different animal to pass truth on so those who are being trained by it can pass it on accurately to others. But this is what is being called for in verse 2.
The continuation of the Christian faith must happen by the strength which God supplies. Jesus made that clear in John 15:5b, “for apart from Me you can do nothing.” And Paul makes it clear to Timothy in verse 1 with the use of the verb, “Be strong”–be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. “Be strong” is my favorite verb type in the New Testament. This verb is used of the continual “be being kept filled” filling of the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18.
Plus it is used in Ephesians 6:10 of the strengthening necessary to engage in spiritual warfare. Be strong is a not-an-option-command imperative mood. “Be strong is a continual, 24/7, present tense. But most importantly, be strong is a “you can’t do it” passive voice. Timothy is commanded to be strong, told to be strong continually, but Timothy is also informed by God’s Word that he can’t pull it off. The strength will not, does not and cannot come from Him.
Being strong must happen to Timothy—it’s passive. Timothy must be strengthened. God must strengthen Timothy continually. Obey this command, Timothy, but know you can’t–it must happen to you. Paul commands, “be responsible, Timothy, to be strengthened by God and His grace. Let the Lord ever fill thee with power. Timothy, step out in dependent obedience and train men.”
Why does Paul say this? John Calvin believes Paul wants to shake off any remaining sloth and indifference in Timothy. Calvin reminded his readers, “Even the most gifted can get lazy if they are not aroused to depend and obey.” I see this far too often. Pastors and men want training, but they get busy with lesser priorities and it never happens–unless someone is sent to seminary.
But God says, you can train men and can only train men, verse 1, “in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Why does Paul say grace? You know grace generally describes God’s underserved favor manifested in salvation, sanctification and keeping us secure.
The context informs us that it is best to view grace in verse 1 as “the power and activity of the Holy Spirit” in the believer’s life. Remember back in chapter 1:14, “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” As believers live in the continual knowledge of God’s graciousness, that motivates them to engage their will to live in dependence upon the Spirit, which includes walking in obedience to God’s Word, experiencing the grace necessary—then to train men.
Calvin offers two reasons for describing the power to train as grace. One is to show grace comes from God alone and no other. Two is no Christian lacks grace–all who belong to Christ have grace. Where is this power found? Look at verse 1 and see Paul use the preposition “in” twice—“IN the grace that is IN Christ Jesus.”
Paul says, “Be made strong in [connection with] the grace that is in [connection with] Christ Jesus.” Paul motivates Timothy that the strength to train comes from the Spirit, who indwells all those who are in union with Christ. The training power is available to all who are in Christ and the training power is found by those who walk in Christ.
Just like the branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine, so Timothy must be living “IN” Christ. So the gracious power of the Holy Spirit in verse 1 is what Timothy must be depending upon in order to fulfill verse 2. Paul is telling Timothy to be strong–we’d say, “Buck up, Tim.”
Timid Timothy must become a bold man. Timothy must not hide behind his reticent personality. And the resources to grow bold are not found in himself, but found only in divine grace. And only by God’s power in verse 1 will Timothy be able to fulfill his mission to train men in verse 2. One way to be strengthened by God in grace is to deposit God’s truth into trustworthy men. How?
2 The PROCEDURE to TRAIN Men Verse 2
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (verse 2). Paul is about to tell Timothy and you in verses 3 to 8 that ministry, particularly training men, involves suffering, verse 3. It’s war, verses 3 to 4, it’s a race, verse 5, and it’s labor, verse 6.
That’s why training requires God’s empowerment in verse 1, and a specific procedure, verse 2. This is the method Timothy must follow to train men. Paul is instructing Timothy on the PRINCIPLES, the PROCESS, the PERSONS to invest in . . . for the PROPAGATION of the truth.
First The PRINCIPLES Verse 2a
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses” (verse 2a). Paul is now commanding his son in the faith to make certain the truth of God’s Word, the principles making up the doctrine of the apostles, are passed on to the next generations of believing men. Why? Timothy is in Ephesus, which is full of heresy. Sure, but the real reason is–this is how the Church survives. God’s men in the church pass on the truth to the next generation.
God gives you and I a choice in life. Think about it this way . . . you have the keys to the car–you either hand them to the next generation, or they’ll pry them out of your cold, dead hand. But either way, they get the keys. So, are you preparing them to drive? You are to train men so they will uphold the truth and pass it on. Do not wait and hope things work out.
As Paul sits in a cold prison in chains, he wants Timothy to come to Rome soon. But before he leaves Ephesus, Timothy is to make himself strong in grace in order to pass on apostolic truth to faithful teachers who will train others. Verse 2, pass on the principles. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses.
Paul has already mentioned “the things which you’ve heard” in verse 2. In Chapter 1:13, look. “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” The verb “heard”, both in 1:13 and 2:2, describes the whole of the apostle Paul’s teaching and mentoring–not a single event.
“The things” is not talking about a single sermon given at Timothy’s ordination. No, the verb “you have heard” is not a solo moment, but the general overall instruction Timothy received from Paul. And this process of instruction was not done in a classroom, but in many churches and places, in services and open-air preaching in the overall process of ministry.
Paul tell us the truth was given, “In the presence of many witnesses.” Chrysostom comments that this training was not done in secret, but in openness. The phrase is literally “through” many witnesses–through these witnesses. Not spectators, but testifiers. The witnesses were men like Silas, Barnabus, Luke and many others–fellow teachers who were to teach the author’s intended message of the Scripture and sound apostolic doctrine, who all firmly attested to the divine authority of Paul’s teaching.
This is a challenge, Timothy. Take the divine revelation given from Paul and teach it to men who have two things–the character and giftedness to pass those truths on to another generation. “These things” are the entire body of Paul’s apostolic teaching, the Gospel message and the Scriptures of the New Testament. Pass them on to those who pass them on to others. Timothy is to pass on the teaching of Paul (the principles), taught and confirmed by many other godly witnesses. How?
Second The PROCESS Verse 2b
Verse 2 adds, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these . . .” The process Paul calls Timothy to is to “entrust”. This word entrust is the verbal form of a noun used in 1:14, translated treasure or commitment. Read chapter 1:14, “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.”
All of what Paul taught is the treasure of God’s Word—give this to others for safekeeping and for transmission to others. Entrust is the idea of depositing something valuable for safekeeping. Entrust pictures guarding truth by giving it to responsible individuals. It’s to hand the keys of your favorite car over to your son. Or worse, entrust is to say, “Her mother and I,” as you hand your daughter over to that young man on her wedding day–entrust!
The tense of entrust describes a general, overall commitment, referring to the entire accumulation of apostolic truth, the entire doctrine of the New Testament, the teaching of Christ and His apostles–heard over a lifetime of ministry. Paul entrusted this body of doctrine to Timothy–Paul trusts Timothy. Paul traveled with Timothy, ministered with Timothy, trained Timothy, taught Timothy, and now it was time for Timothy to run the second lap in this spiritual relay race and pass this body of truth on to others.
Train them. This is not merely preaching, that’s 2 Timothy 4–no, train them. John Calvin had an Academy, but he had pastoral students live with him at his house and invited those men to daily walk with him in Geneva–partnering with him as he filled out his pastoral duties. He showed them!
Want your kids to learn to live for Christ, model it and make them practice it. Want a marriage to learn new behavior? Model it and make them practice. Instruct them, model for them, make them practice living truth, review truth, repeat truth, pray about truth, memorize Scripture, show them by example through an accurate approach to Scripture. Using sound hermeneutics, Timothy is to pass on this truth. The process is to deposit this valuable truth into men for safekeeping. Who are the persons Timothy is to entrust this treasure to?
Third The PERSONS to invest in Verse 2c
Verse 2 adds, “entrust these to faithful men.” Invest this treasure into faithful men. In the Pastoral Epistles, the word faithful can mean believing, or in the passive sense, the quality of faithfulness–meaning reliable, responsible, trustworthy and dependable. Timothy needed to deposit God’s truth into trustworthy men. All godly men are servants and all true servants are faithful.
Ephesus was like Berkeley–it was loaded with intellectuals, some who’d come to faith in Christ but were unsound. And many others were openly hostile and opposed to the truth. Timothy needed to train faithful men.
In verse 2, faithful will refer to men who have the ability to pass apostolic doctrine on in a convincing way to another generation. Timothy, pick men who will be faithful to pass on the truth. Train men who will be faithful to influence others. The end goal is so that truth finds similar root in the ones you are equipping and discipling. That’s why the procedure doesn’t stop with the principles being entrusted to these persons, but continues toward the propagation of the faith.
Fourth The PROPAGATION of the truth Verse 2d
Verse 2, “men who will be able to teach others also.” Passing it on is not an option. Training leaders who will uphold biblical truth is not an extra. Yet today it’s neglected, overlooked or passed off. The Church is responsible to train men. Not every elder/man can go to seminary, but every elder is to “teach sound doctrine and refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). They must be trained in the truth and in ministry.
With the last phrase of verse 2, Paul gives a clear picture of his desire to train the generations who follow. Paul says it this way—“who will be able to teach others also.” Four generations are obviously in view in verse 2–Paul, Timothy, faithful men and others. You can legitimately find five generations–Christ to Paul to Timothy, to faithful men who teach others.
No one in this room would deny the heart of Christ for training. Yet why do so few churches invest into their men? Some preach God’s Word faithfully–very few faithfully train men. Training is one of the keys to a healthy church.
What does Paul say Timothy and faithful men are to look for? This is for you! Paul says look for character–men of character, with the use of the word “faithfulness”. Also, look for men of skill, with the use of the word “able”—“able to teach others also.” Character and skill–character is to be developed in men to become like Christ. It is not merely learning the truth, but living the truth in all aspects of life.
When you train, you train the total man. He must know the truth, but he must also live the truth at home, at work, in attitude and action as he deals with others and ministers in the church . . . in all things. The character of Christ is to be growing–more of Christ and less of him. The Great Commission says, “Teaching them to obey all I have commanded them.”
Character is developed when men come under the authority of the Word in every aspect of their lives–speech, money, relationships. Skills are to be developed in men as you train them. Timothy is to look for men who are able to pass on the truth to others. As you train, you will also be seeking to develop men according to their sovereign design.
What did God make them to be and what did God pre-select them to do for His glory? What are those good works which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them? Training men in the church means they should know how to disciple, lead meetings, discern priorities, develop a plurality, shepherd a community, counsel, teach the Word and more.
You may protest and say, “Chris, the men are not ready.” Then I will show you Christ in the Gospel of Mark–His men doubted Christ, they had even been critical of Christ. Yet our Lord sent them out two by two to minister. He allowed them to practice to prepare them for their coming role as apostles–when they were humanly not ready, but needed training.
Now this skill at the end of verse 2, “able to teach others,” can’t be forced into a modern formal classroom. Paul invested into Timothy for years over the course of ministry. Paul uses the broadest possible terms here, using the relative pronoun—“whoever”, “who will.” See it? “Who will be able to teach others also.” Whoever in the future will be able to teach–they should be entrusted with apostolic doctrine.
These “others” need to be able to clearly understand God’s Word accurately. And, the “others” need to be able to communicate/teach this body of truth to the next generation after them. Teach it, model it, rehearse it, repeat it, own it—get it.
In a convicting way, Paul tells his disciple, his son Timothy, that success in ministry is not determined by the sermons preached, or the content embraced, but by the men trained who will be able to pass on sound doctrine and an accurate method to correctly interpret the Scriptures to the next generation. God provides the POWER to get this done and Paul just described the PROCEDURE. And now let me mention verses 3 to 8 by way of application.
3 The PRICE of TRAINING Verses 3 to 7
The power, procedure and price–this process of passing it on will be costly. There is a price to pay. Verse 3 begins with a general command to be willing to suffer hardship. It’s gonna be tough. Paul then gives Timothy three pictures, describing the cost of ministry in general, and the cost of training men in specific.
Verses 3 to 4 Battle, like the focused soldier
Verse 5 Run, like the disciplined, rule-keeping athlete
Verse 6 Work hard, like the farmer
Training takes time. In verse 7, Paul strongly calls Timothy to think deeply about the price you pay to get training done. Second Timothy 2:7, “Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” Allow me to help you consider what Paul says here in verse 7.
Right now and in the future, you won’t have time to train. Parents don’t have time to truly parent. Dads let Mom worry about parenting while they provide, even though the Scripture says Dad is first responsible to parent. Parents let homeschool or private school take care of parenting, even though God holds parents responsible to disciple their kids. Parents allow their children’s preferences to rule the home, instead of instructing them and spanking them toward God’s principles.
The actual process of training–where you teach truth then practice truth, apply truth to each situation, model the truth in your own life, repeat truth, talk about truth all day in every situation is rare with parents. RARE. Paul says its hard work, a battle, a race–involving suffering. There will be difficulties, set-backs, weaknesses exposed, painful lessons–but parents must never give up.
And Paul says to Timothy, you must not give up, Tim. Preaching will take up most of your time, loving your wife and discipling your kids, meetings, shepherding and especially counseling your flock will take up the rest of your time. Training takes time, effort and focus in the church–and in your home with your discipleship and more.
As a parent, I got discourage and overwhelmed. And as a pastor, I can tell you, there were many Mondays and Tuesdays when I would rather have stayed home than to train men. But I have seen what this process can do for God’s glory and the fruit of training keeps me engaged. Many of the men in our church are stable—they’re able to carry heavy loads of ministry. Our children, jr high, college and singles pastors are trained laymen. All our community group leaders are led by laymen we’ve trained.
We’ve even had the privilege of training international pastors, and have been blessed by men who’ve left here to take on the role of elder, pastor, youth pastor. And we currently have several men in seminary. Training is a sacrifice, but it is worth it. If you think the sacrifice is too great, as a parent, disciple or pastor . . .
Remember verse 1, Christ gives you the POWER to train
Remember verse 2, Christ gives you the PROCEDURE to train
And if that is not enough to motivate you to pay the PRICE of training, read what Paul says in verse 8. “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel.” Christ, the God-man, died for your sin, was buried and risen from the dead. Christ sacrificed all–He paid the ultimate price so you could be transformed now and live forever in Heaven. Remember what Christ did to keep you motivated to train men, to train your children.
Take this home–God tells us through Paul . . .
#1 Depend on the Spirit to impact the next GENERATION
You are maybe a servant, or a preacher, or some other gift–but God’s design for you is to impact the lives of people for Christ’s glory, by being used of God to help them hear the Gospel and come to Christ or hear the Word to become like Christ. God expects you to impact the next generation for His glory.
#2 Parenting, discipling and training take place best in the CHURCH
The place to train others is in the context of the local church. You don’t have all the spiritual gifts. You can’t make someone like Christ, but His Word practiced in the context of the body of Christ can. To train your children, to train others, immerse yourself in relationship and in service in the local church.
#3 Embrace the responsibility to TRAIN, not merely educate
Don’t merely give your disciples the playbook, make them practice. You have to have them run plays, minister, serve, share, teach and care. They need to practice ministry to others in order to grow as a minister.
#4 Train them with a heart to discover God’s PURPOSE for them
You and I don’t grow our kids or Christians. You don’t make them into godly men or women. You don’t cause anyone to grow—you’re just a tool. It is God the Holy Spirit who gives each of His children a purpose and it is God only who causes them to grow. Your goal is to help others discover God’s purpose and create an environment to grow.
#5 Train them, knowing Christ must save them FIRST
As you invest into others, never forget that if they don’t know Christ, you might help them, bless them, but they are lost forever. You may help a drug addict overcome his addiction. You may help a kid not be rebellious. But if they don’t depend on Christ by faith and turn from their sin in repentance, exchanging all that they are for all that Christ is, then all you have done is helped them overcome some temporary problem, but not helped them avoid permanent, forever torment in Hell. First you share how they can come to Christ, then how they can become like Christ. Let’s pray.