04 February 2009

Requires of Him

by Frank Turk

So last week I asked you pastors to consider that Paul wants pastors -- that is, you men, and men who have the place in the church you have -- to be his "true children" in the faith. It's the first common element of his letters to Timothy and Titus, and I asked you to think about what kind of title that was -- because I think, honestly, that it's a daunting compliment. It's the kind of thing that, on the one hand, you should really long to be, and on the other, if you heard someone call you that, you'd blush -- because it's the kind of honor a reasonable man would deny of himself.

We're going to stick to Titus this week, still in the greeting:
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

To Titus, my true child in a common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
Now, this passage is chocked-full of theological porterhouse, so we're going to linger here a while, but I've underlined two parts of the greeting here which you should consider.

"Well, hang on there Frank," says one fellow with a latte cup in one hand and a journal of some kind in the other, "you're focussing on what Paul is saying about himself here -- not what he's saying to or about Titus. You're already off the rails if you think that you can impress me with your exposition when your exegesis is frankly unfounded."

Well, my friend: this is why we started with "true child in the faith". See: when Paul says this about Titus, or about Timothy, that's not just a euphemism of affection. It's a sign that Paul thinks, in some way, Titus and/or Timothy is already like him. They believe what he believes. They share in the same hope that he has in Christ. But they are also -- as we shall see as we read through here -- set to the same work He set to.

So when Paul says he is a "servant of God", and that he is set upon his work "by the command of God our Saviour", we have to wonder how those who are seeking to be pastors should look upon what they are setting out to do.

Someone who is a "Servant", who serves "by the command" of some other power doesn't much have a right to think a lot of himself. That doesn't mean he has to crawl around like some kind of beaten-down person -- but it does mean that his authority is, in the first place, not his own. What he has is a responsibility and not a free ride.

You know: if Pecadillo comes to your house with a search warrant, he can come in and search. He can do the work the warrant tells him he can do for the reason the warrant tells him to do it. But if he doesn't find anything, he doesn't have a right to then take a Coke from your fridge or anything. His work is under the control of a higher power -- and he goes and does it as that power requires of him.

So if you are a "the true child of the faith" of a "servant" "by the command of God", you probably have an obligation to do God's work in the way God demands it be done. In the same way Pecadillo -- as a police officer -- has rules which govern his conduct and the scope of his job, you the pastor have an obligation to conduct yourself as a "servant" who is under "the command of God".

And for those of you who are not pastors, you have an obligation to allow these men to obey those rules. The part of the flock is not to demand something from the shepherd -- or even from the hired hand -- which is not up to them. So for the rest of us, we should see this letter to Titus (and the ones to Timothy) as how we should shape our expectations of our pastors.

The details of that come later in this letter, but we're not done with the greeting yet. In that, you have a week to think about whether you see yourself as a "servant of God" in the same way Paul means here.

Talk amongst yourselves.







18 comments:

Johnny Dialectic said...

"Entrusted" is the word that gets to me. To do God's work in God's way is a sacred trust, and one that must continually drive a pastor to his knees.

Frank Turk said...

We will get there.

David said...

What do you have against latte cups and journals?

Mesa Mike said...

I'll trade the postmodern latte for Paul's porterhouse any day.

Frank Turk said...

David:

I hate it when I spill my latte on my threadbare journal.

Strong Tower said...

"So for the rest of us, we should see this letter to Titus (and the ones to Timothy) as how we should shape our expectations of our pastors."

You know you have made a division in Scripture that is usually not clearly made, namely, just who primarily the letters are addressed to and how, then, the application of them is divided as to the particular and general?

For instance, when Paul tells Timothy, "Study as one approved of God (as you indicate, meaning that his calling is the same as Paul's)...rightly dividing the word of truth..." it is not particular to the general congregation in the same way as it is particular to those leaders such as were Timothy and Titus.

There is a marked difference between "children in the faith" and "true son in the faith". What is often overlooked in Paul's writtings is that his addresses are not intended for general consumption without making the distinction that he makes concerning the weighted responsibility of the leadership over against the less laddened responsibility of the flock. Because of that we often confuse the roles of both.

Frank Turk said...

I'd be careful slicing the, um, brisket as thin as that here, Strong Tower.

I think I agree with you, but the way I'd say it (as I will say it) is that what is true for the believer (studying the Scripture is spiritually-good for you and necessary for your life) is especially true for the pastor and necessary for him in his calling.

Andrew Faris said...

Frank,

I disagree about everything you said and think you are misquoting and misrepresenting Paul.

Andrew

Andrew Faris said...

Just kidding.

Great post, and a great reminder of the role of the pastor in God's plan. That servant/leader interplay is such a daunting task.

Now if only we had someone to look up to with experience in that area- maybe even a written account of that person's life. That would be really helpful...

Andrew

Stefan said...

Strong Tower:

It is, of course, of paramount importance to always consider the original audience a book of Scripture was written for (the Pentateuch for the Israelites in the Wilderness; Kings for the exiles in Bablyon; Chronicles for the post-exilic community; which Gospels were written for which communities of believers; and so on). And of course, we cannot blindly apply a text to ourselves unless a sound hermeneutical approach to the text in light of the overall biblical context supports it.

But apart from his direct address to Timothy and Titus, Paul does, of course, make a lot of explicit application to non-pastors in his pastoral letters (e.g., 1 Tim 3:1-13; 1 Tim 5:1-6:2; Titus 3:1-11 at a quick glance; more on a more careful reading).

And the principles behind much of what is explicitly directed to Timothy and Titus personally can with justice also be applied to non-pastors, as Frank already alluded to.

On top of which, even pertaining to the narrower application of leadership within the body of Christ, there are some passages in those texts that can be applied not only to pastors, but also to small group leaders, discipleship teachers, Sunday School teachers, greeters, ushers, deacons, outreach workers, husbands, parents, and so on.

Strong Tower said...

I thought it might be taken too narrowly.

What I am referring to more specifically is: "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood."

Both duties and accountability are delineated in Scripture. That doesn't mean, however, that what is good for one is not good for the other. General applications for each and every child of God can be found even in the above. In Paul's typical form, these "Pastoral" letters end with instructions that admonish classes of people, but each in their own sphere.

Another noted difference might be: "The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people." And Paul has left Titus with the same instruction as Timothy, that he is to be an example. At the same time, like with Timothy, the division of authority is also remarkable. Titus' charge to "insist" carries with it something that belongs to one class of authority and not the other: "Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities". I take this to mean, not just the civil authorities.

What I take from the "true child in the faith" is that Paul has replicated himself in these two, that that pattern is to be exemplified, but the results are not equally distributed. It would be, in fact, quite contrary to the qualifications of officers if all without exception were "true sons," for not all serve well, nor are they intended to, but each has his gifts according to the working of the Spirit who distributes to each according to His will.

I think I may be going beyond the import of your post, except to say, that we have a duty to be more than just pew sitters. We have a responsibility to try to ensure that the works of the leadership are good and well pleasing to God, but we must be careful when exercising the authority given to us within the sphere where God has placed us.

Sewing-

Of course I agree with you. Centuri0n is making the distinction though about "true son" and I am trying to ferret out just what that is. I expected to be punched, that why I padded my responses.

Stefan said...

"I expected to be punched, that why I padded my responses."

:)

You certainly have a way with words, Strong Tower.

Stefan said...

Of course, it has to be industrial-strength asbestos padding on this blog.

donsands said...

"..for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth"

That's a very interesting truth about the elect.

I wonder does this verse correlate: "And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." Acts 13:48b

Paul was a slave to God, and an apostle of Christ for our sake, and for Titus' sake as one of God's elect. And a Gentile believer.

Morris Brooks said...

Frank,

You mean we just can't do this job any ol' way we see fit? Like we have to do it the way God wants us to...according to His command? You mean like a real doulos?

C'mon Frank! Don't you know that will stifle creativity, cramp styles, make us predictable, or, worse yet, limit our freedom? I thought the pastor was the CEO, the COO, and even in some cases the CFO. If you're right, that means I am accountable and responsible to God.

Whoa, Dude, maybe I need to rethink this gig.

You might want to pull in I Corinthians 4:1 with this as well.

Morris

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

Want to share 2 thoughts;
1.''Paul, a servant'' Paul, a love slave. When one loves the Lord He WILL do things in the LORD'S WAY.

2. Since Christ bought us we are not our own, we are His to obey His specific commands.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz

Rick Potter said...

Frank,

Does "responsibility" ever become the "ability to respond"?

I see the "ought" and "should" and "obligations" statements and then marvel at how some pastors seem to do it so easily while others seem to struggle so much.

JamesW said...

First time poster. Thanks for being a light on a hill, Pyromaniacs.

"Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more severely than others." James 3:1

We really do have a sacred trust thrust upon us - Certainly as we are called into the faith, surely we are also called into becoming pastors, teachers etc? How could we choose to do this of our own accord without being arrogant, seeking our own glory?

How could we do anything but to preach the Word of Christ, as His Word, not our own, as bond servants and slaves of righteousness, not as if we were ones "worthy of being called into the ministry" but as ones not worthy for anything else.

I'm assuming, Frank, that this post spurred on the Spurgeon a day or so later, calling for us to read the Bible, for pastors to preach the Word, as it is probably the last thing many read; all else that we speak being old, hashed out heresies. I don't know if it did, but it sure was relevant!

I'm diggin' Mesa Mike's "I'll trade the postmodern latte for Paul's porterhouse any day." Oh yeah.