Being ordained into the gospel ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ is both a great privilege and great responsibility. It is a great privilege in that the Lord Himself is the one who chooses and calls according to His own purpose and grace. It is a great responsibility in that the Lord requires certain character qualifications for a man to be considered eligible to hold the office of pastor or elder and the Lord Himself will hold each teacher of God’s holy Word to a higher standard of judgment.
I pity the man who has run to obtain this office but hasn’t been either called by God or sent by God. I also pity the man who thinks that being a pastor will be easy and that professed believers will automatically love him. Being a pastor entails many serious responsibilities. The pastor must feed God’s people, lead God’s people, discipline God’s people, and guard God’s people. The pastor is to be a good soldier of Christ Jesus especially as it pertains to his responsibilities of guarding the faith and guarding the flock, both of which require warring against the enemies of God’s people.
First and Second Timothy and Titus are pastoral letters. In other words they are God’s divinely inspired accounts of what He expects of pastors and therefore what His church is to expect of their pastors. In 2 Timothy 2:1-7 we see seven aspects of how God expects the pastor to be a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
A good soldier of Christ Jesus is to be strong in grace (1) – “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Johnny, you are to be strengthened inwardly in order to accomplish the ministry that the Lord has called you to. He is not calling you to be popular but to be His spokesman and you will find your strength to do that in His grace. The ministry is no place for cowards who operate under the fear of man rather than the fear of God. You will be called on by the Lord to speak His truth no matter the consequences. God labors with you through His grace and His grace is sufficient. If everyone else deserts you He will stand with you and strengthen you. The ability to study, understand, and teach the Word of God is a gift of God’s grace. “Able to teach” is one of God’s requirements for the pastor (1Timothy 3:2) and in order to teach you must be able to learn and to be able to learn you must study God’s Word. It is through studying the Word of God that you learn the great doctrines of grace and guard against teaching and preaching some form of perversion of God’s grace. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
A good soldier of Christ Jesus is to be sound in doctrine (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.” Paul had delivered the sound doctrine with which he was entrusted to Timothy and expected Timothy to guard and deliver sound doctrine to others who would be trustworthy in delivering it on to others. It is our responsibility to guard the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints and then invest it as a trust in the lives of others who will do the same with others. It is important as a pastor that you get what you preach from the Word of God and not from the ideas and philosophies of men. You are not to attempt to be relevant by speaking as from the world – this is a primary mark of the many false prophets – but you are to preach the Word because it is relevant to every generation in every culture and it is sufficient – it is enough! Be sound in doctrine!
A good soldier of Christ Jesus is to be shameless in suffering (3) – “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Ours is a day of upside down theology. The false gospel of health, wealth, and prosperity has been so incorporated into modern theology until the man of God who suffers for the sake of righteousness is considered an ungodly heretic and ungodly heretics who are popular, powerful, rich, and highly influential are well spoken of. You will not be popular if you are God’s spokesman but you will be persecuted for it. However, you will find yourself in good company when this happens. This happened to the prophets, to the apostles, and even to our Lord Jesus Christ. Now you see why you are to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. As you are sound in doctrine you will be persecuted and spoken evil of for the sake of righteousness but the Lord’s grace will allow you to be shameless in suffering. Paul told Timothy, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.” Be shameless in suffering!
A good soldier of Christ Jesus is to be separated in service (4a) – “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life….” Johnny, the Lord is calling you into active service as His soldier. The worries of the world are not to be your concern but the war of the Lord is to be. You must not get distracted by that which is really insignificant. The Lord hasn’t called you to fight the world’s global giants and He hasn’t called you to be the prince of P.E.A.C.E. Curing AIDS or solving world hunger or educating the poor or any other socialist activity is not your calling. Men can receive these benefits and still die and go to hell without Christ as their King. Your calling is to stand against the schemes of the devil and battle against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. You are to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints and destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God. Only the truth of the gospel is significant for it alone is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. Leave the other stuff to men like Rick Warren – you preach the gospel and do not be entangled in the affairs of everyday life. Be separated in service!
A good soldier of Christ Jesus is to be singular in devotion (4b) – “…so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” You are to please the Lord and not yourself or anyone else. What does it matter if you please yourself or everyone else and the Lord is not pleased? The Lord deserves your honor, your affection, and your obedience for all He has done for you. His own courage and singular devotion on the battlefield is unparalleled. He stayed the course and went before you to win your freedom and eternal life. Just as Jesus was singularly devoted to His Father’s will so you are to be singularly devoted to the will of Jesus Christ. Your greatest desire should be to hear your King say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” And He will if you always seek to please Him and Him alone. Every time you preach you are to remember whose presence you are in and for whom you speak. Paul told Timothy, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). Wanting to please the Lord Jesus Christ will set you free from worrying about what others think of your or the message. Be singular in devotion!
A good soldier of Christ Jesus is to be sensitive to the rules (5) – “Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.” Regardless of what popular men may say you are not to discover the purpose of God and then strategize how to fulfill it. You do not have either the ability or the luxury of leaning on your own understanding when it comes to doing the will of God. The will of God has to be done the way of God or else you have violated the rules. The false prophets are marked by attempting to do God’s will their way instead of His way. Jesus will say to them on that day, “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness,” because they do not do the will of His Father who is in heaven. In Matthew 7 it is as clear as day that the false prophets attempted to do ministry in the name of the Lord Jesus but they were not sensitive to the rules. Rather, they leaned on their own understanding and took shortcuts. There are no shortcuts to doing the will of God. Shortcuts are not according to the rules. Even the Lord Jesus said that He did nothing on His own initiative – and you are not to do it either. God’s word is sufficient and He will show you His ways so that you can accomplish His will. Be sensitive to the rules!
A good soldier of Christ Jesus is to be steadfast in labor (6) – “The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.” The word “hard-working” comes from a Greek word that means to toil intensely, to sweat and strain to the point of exhaustion. Let no man deceive you – the ministry isn’t a playground it is a battleground. The farmer knows that farming isn’t a playground but it is a battleground. A farmer has to work and he has to stay hard at it. If you leave a field to itself it will produce mostly weeds. If you leave the church unattended it will produce weeds that will eventually overtake the wheat. Without being steadfast in labor there will be no harvest of righteousness. Just like the farmer you must be patient, continually working and weeding, waiting for the harvest. The spiritual growth of the people of God takes time and hard-work. We live in a day of instant everything. Men want instant rewards without the hard-work. Do the hard-work – you will receive the reward – not only of seeing God’s children grow in grace but also of hearing the Lord say, “Well done!” Be steadfast in labor!
“Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (7).