“What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use – men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods but through men. He does not come on machinery but on men. He does not anoint plans but men – men of prayer”. E.M Bounds
I have spent the last one week thinking of my whole life as a minister, past present and in these last days. Going by the happenings around, we are living in the last days, in fact the last of the last days like you would say the last day of the month or the last day of the year. In describing the days we live in, Paul the apostle by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes to Timothy in what is usually referred to as the Pastoral epistle, a title coined in 1703 by D.N Berdot. This is letter from an older more experienced minister to a younger one Timothy who was caring for the church at Ephesus. Timothy was to refute false teaching, supervise the affairs of the growing church (church worship, the appointment of qualified church leaders). A major problem at the time in the Ephesian church was a heresy that combined Gnosticism, decadent Judaism and false asceticism.
Paul describes what the Spirit has revealed about the last days, the very days you and I are living in.
1 Tim 4:1-5
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
Paul then tells us a ministers what to do in verse 6
1 Tim 4:6
If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.
The first thing I want us to consider is the word “minister”. This word has three different uses in the New Testament.
- Doulos – which refers to a bond slave, the lowest term to describe a slave and is used throughout the New Testament to describe Christians who are doing the bidding of Christ. In Romans 6:17 Paul tells us that we were once servants (slaves: Doulos – in permanent servitude to another, consumed by the will of another) to sin but now are servants of righteousness. So to the same extent that sin controlled us we are to be controlled by righteousness.
- Huperetes – we find Paul use this word in I Corinthians 4:1 “let a man so account of us as the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God”. This is a compound word when broken down is “hupo” under and “eretes” literally meaning a rower. In other words this is a slave assigned to the bottom of shipping vessels. What are the characteristics of this kind of “minister”? It’s a permanent assignment, you don’t retire from. These “under rowers” were usually chained to a bench with four (4) others making five (5) working 18 hours a day (the picture of the fivefold ministry that should be chained together and rowing continuously). Also they were chained to the ship so as to guarantee that they could NEVER leave the place of service. On the deck of the ship is the captain (a picture of Jesus the captain of our salvation) and next to Him was a man (episkopos – overseer) with a drum who sat next to an opening which leads down directly to the bottom of the ship where the “under rowers” could hear the rhythm of the drum. The drummer takes orders from the captain, if he’s told to move the ship faster, he increased the tempo of the drum then the “under rowers” rowed faster, likewise is when they were required to slow down. If the “under rowers” were not subject to the “episkopos” then they were not subject to the captain also. This is assuming that the “episkopos” is subject to the captain. The frightening thing we see today is how ministers detach themselves from fellow “under rowers” to row alone in “their own ministries”, refuse to row according to the drum beats of the “episkopos”, or where the “episkopos” is beating a different rhythm from what the captain has asked (if at all they at all know – have a living, vital and intimate relationship with the captain). Note also that in this place (at the bottom of the deck) where the under rowers were, was rat infested. The rats were all over them to prevent them from rowing, so these under rowers had to regularly slap the rats of with one hand while they rowed with the other hand. There will always be people who would try to stop the minister from doing their duty but we must slap them off with one hand while we keep rowing. Don’t ever stop rowing because of the rats. On top of the deck however were the passengers (members of the church) many times are the complainers “why isn’t the ship moving faster” “the speed is too much” “we are in rough waters, take us out of here”. When these people on deck start complaining, just remind them that if they would get off deck and join the rowing, we might reach our destination faster.
The “Huperetes” minister we see from this description is under the people laying a foundation ensuring that the body of Christ gets to the destination…”till we all reach maturity” while listening for and taking directives from above. We are the engine room of the church, if we don’t row, the ship won’t move, we ought to take responsibility.
- Diakonos – this is another word used for minister see 1 Timothy 4:6. It’s also the word for deacon which connotes two things.
- Slaves in a community whose duty it is to serve people with humanitarian aid as seen in Acts 6
- High level servers in very wealthy homes (waiters/waitresses) who serve food but must taste the food before serving it to ensure the quality of the food and the absence of poison. These deacons were trained on how to serve, speak to people, carry themselves etc. they served so well that the people being served felt like they were nobility. This is exactly how our church members should feel (royalty) when we “diakonos” them.
The implication of the above is that as a “diakonos” minister, before you serve something that seems exciting you better partake in it first, to make sure what you are serving doesn’t carry sickness in it. You must taste the teaching first to make sure it is sound teaching before you serve it to your congregation. The minister by the description of the deacon must also learn to deal with people being professional, and he does this for life. “Diakonos” implies being given on behalf of the community in other words being a lifelong servant.
So how did Paul say our ministries would be effective? We must return to 1 Timothy 4:6 “if you put the brethren in remembrance of these things” it reads in the Greek if you “Hupotithimi” the brethren, this is again a compound word “Hupo” meaning to crawl under and “tithimi” lay a foundation. So it would read if you crawl under the brethren to lay a foundation you will be a good minister of Christ. Remember the word Huperetes “under rower”? So Paul says a good minister crawls under the people, spend his whole life laying a foundation underneath them.
The next word in 1 Timothy 4:6 is “of” meaning a good minister just like Jesus Christ. What was Jesus example? He gave His life on behalf of the Church, the minister is called to give his life on behalf of the church too.
There are two essentials to being a good minister:
- Entrepho – 1 Timothy 4:6 “nourished up” – to taste, eat, chew, and digest all the nutrients into your system. What should we eat?
- Words of faith and good doctrine – faith teaching alone without good/sound doctrine produces selfishness which is why we must have both. Doctrine is what lays the foundation.
Refuse, reject with absolute finality profane (manure) fable (lying mythology) – keep it out of your life, don’t allow it into your mind. A lot of lying mythology flies around today and is easily accessible to us all through the social media whether solicited or not, we are to keep them out.
- Excersise (gumnazo) from where we get the word gymnasium – “to practice naked” this meant there was no place for laziness for the minister, no place for excuse and it meant full submission to authority. In the days when Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, the athlete comes into the gym naked, and is given a very rare and expensive oil to rub all over their naked body so that it prevents anything or anyone having a grip on them. The oil is given to the athlete free but it cost the trainer a fortune. This would imply first that the minister who comes into the gym first strips himself naked of everything (acquisition, titles etc). This is why Paul said he counted those things as dung for the Excellency of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It also means submitting to a trainer who would work you over and you won’t complain or feel that you are more experienced/knowledgeable. This is where some miss it, lack of patience and preventing authority work you over. After submission, then you receive a dose of the oil of the Holy Spirit given freely to the minister but it cost Jesus (the trainer) a fortune (His life), this oil, a seal, prevents the evil of this world from sticking on the athlete/minister thereby ensuring his effectiveness.
May the Lord help us to be faithful and true ministers.