The Lord’s ServantMay 21, 2007
Completing our series of six short meditations on 2 Timothy 2, we come finally to see that the pastor should function as “the Lord’s servant” (v 24).
The veteran apostle writes,“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
In the ancient world, it was of course common to find ‘slaves in a household.’ The slave had certain activities and attitudes that were expected of him by his ‘master.’ So what does being the Lord’s servant involve?
At least four things:
1. The Lord’s servant has nothing to do with foolish arguments and therefore is not known as one who quarrels. Given the context of 2nd Timothy this likely refers to the pointless speculations that consumed the time and energy of all too many ‘men of God’. Sadly there were those in Timothy’s day who, in a manner unworthy of a dedicated shepherd, spent endless hours debating myths and endless genealogies. Such debate neither profited those involved, nor the flock of God. We too must beware of entanglement in disputes which are really ‘pointless’ (or to use Paul’s words: ‘foolish and stupid’) and instead be sure to engage in those controversies which really matter (cf. Gal 2:11-14). How often we choose to die on the wrong hill! Yet do this too often and we may quickly garner a reputation as a pastor who ‘quarrels.’
2. The Lord’s servant is kind to everyone, gentle, and not resentful. John Stott describes this gentleness as the “fundamental characteristic” of the Lord’s servant. This does not mean of course that the Lord’s servant has to be ‘weak.’ Weakness is often confused with gentleness. But it is entirely possible to convey a firm conviction with a gentle disposition.
3. The Lord’s servant is committed and able to teach. He must be “able to teach”, which implies that one of his primary jobs is teaching. It stands to reason that in an ordinary school classroom a teacher may have many gifts (administration, planning, personal warmth) but the most necessary of all is that of teaching. Similarly, teaching is so primary to the pastor/elder role that one cannot fulfill the office without it. This may not occur from behind a pulpit, of course. Some pastors are expert in personal instruction, and the “quiet word.” But whatever the context, pastors must be committed to teaching.
4. The Lord’s servant desires that people come to repentance, embrace the truth, and escape the trap of the devil. This is the goal of the previous three aspects. We avoid silly quarrels, we are kind to everyone, we are committed to teaching. Why? So that they will come to repentance and truth, escaping the devils trap. We have to keep this goal in mind, even as we carry out our functions.
Fellow ministers, as you look through this list of servant characteristics, is there any one in particular that you need to address?