“But he’s a great Bible teacher”
“He” was. The pastor in question was (and presumably still is) a great Bible teacher. He had a way of taking the complex, nearly indecipherable, parts of the Bible and breaking them down so people could feast on the Bread of Life.
But the “but” in what my friend said was because this particular Bible teaching pastor was a first-rate jerk who was dismissive of others unless they had a real reason for speaking to him. He was a person you’d not want to be around, “but he’s a great Bible teacher.”
There appears to be something wrong with this picture. And in this command to his young protégé, Timothy, the Apostle Paul commands leaders in the congregations of the Lord to something more in 1 Timothy 6:11…
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness,
godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
1 Timothy 6:11
New International Version
“But you,” he begins. In contrast to those who pursue church leadership for wealth, respect, or power, Timothy was to be different. He was called to resist the flow of the stream towards what the false teachers of Ephesus swam in (verses 3-10 of the same chapter).
Timothy was not to be different because he was Paul’s man, but because Timothy was the “man of God”. Not a title thrown around loosely, Paul was drawing the connection between the calling of Old Testament prophets and the calling on the pastors and leaders in the Lord’s congregations. It captures the imagination with imagery of being set apart to speak on behalf of the Lord.
Under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, the Apostle Paul warns Timothy to “flee from all this”. The false teachers of Ephesus were marked by greed, divisiveness, and heresy—these things Timothy was to run as far away from as possible in his own life.
Likewise, Paul contends for Timothy to chase “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness”.
As a “man of God”, young Timothy was to possess (and continuously pursue) behavior reflecting the calling on his life and the God who placed that calling on him. It was not enough for Timothy to be known for good teaching. Timothy had to be known for Godly living.
We live in an era where we tolerate a lot from Christian leaders so long as they say the right things. In the Christian “universe” we seem content for congregational leaders, both local and international, to retain our admiration so long as they are orthodox—teach the right things.
I believe the Apostle Paul (and certainly the Lord Himself) would disagree with our approach. If the teaching on our lips has not penetrated our hearts and changed us as leaders and teachers, by what right do we insist the lives of others be changed?
If I stand up on a Sunday and teach others to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness”, but my life evidences injustice, self-indulgence, self-reliance, selfishness, dismissiveness, and harshness, I’m a false teacher.
You would be too.
A few years ago, a new Christian in the congregation I led remarked how I seemed to really “feel” what I’m teaching on a Sunday morning. I told them I really did. “This stuff’ll change your life,” I told them, “starting with mine”.
If you are blessed with leading a part of the Lord’s Church, run hard AWAY from personal heresy, greed, and power-hungry attitudes. Instead, run hard TOWARDS the One who called you to be the human expression of His voice.
What a high, impossible, and humbling calling. What an honor and privilege to speak on behalf of the Savior Who redeems humanity.
Interested in more like this? Consider Joel’s book: 31 Days of Spiritual Wisdom: A Month in the Proverbs. Moving through a selection of verses from a chapter of Proverbs for every day of the month, Joel walks readers through a journey of spiritual formation applicable to everyday life. The goal? Knowing how to apply the wisdom of Scripture so we grow in our faith, become wiser, and show the world the life-changing power of Jesus.