Portrait of the Pastor (in 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus)

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In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul talks about the Christian minister and the work of ministry. A Christian minister’s primary work is to present the gospel of Jesus Christ honestly, while recognizing one’s own humanity and the need to rely on the power of God. The central task is to proclaim Jesus Christ.

In the letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul says that the Holy Spirit guides the church in selecting a gifted spiritual leader and lays hands on that leader, confirming the call of God (1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6). This spiritual leader is entrusted with the standard of sound teaching, which the leader is to guard with the help of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 1:13-14).

The central task of ordained leaders is to preach and teach. The gospel is committed to their trust (1 Tim 1:11), and they are to preach and teach it (4:13). If they preach and teach the gospel faithfully, they are worthy of double honor (5:17). If they put these instructions before the church, they are good ministers (4:6). Persons chosen for this role may not be novices; they must be people whose life and gifts are clearly visible, both in their homes and before persons outside the church (2 Tim 1:3-14). If called to the overseer role, they must be gifted in managing their own households and the church as the household of God (1 Tim 3:4-5).

In preaching and teaching, pastors give themselves wholly to the Scriptures (1 Tim 4:15-16; Titus 1:9). Their attention is focused on the gospel entrusted to them (1 Tim 1:11) and on the faithful sayings (1:15; 4:8-10). The pastor’s attention is directed to the truth (2:4), to the truth in Christ (2:7), to the mystery of the faith (3:9), to the sound words of the Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness (6:3).

Pastors are not to be ascetics (1 Tim 4:3-7), but are to discipline themselves in godliness more than athletes discipline themselves, since godliness holds promise both in this life and the life to come (4:7-8). Pastors are to be the Lord’s servants as they maintain Christlike attitudes during difficult times (2 Tim 2:22-24). They test their ministry in the presence of the living God and the living Christ.

By faithfully preaching and teaching the Scriptures through sound doctrine, pastors help the congregation discern within their culture what to choose and what to reject. They reject the ascetic practices of the surrounding culture (1 Tim 4:1-6) but borrow from the athletic ideal (4:7-10). They borrow from the medical use of wine (5:23), but reject drunkenness (1 Tim 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7). They borrow from the household practices of caring and sharing (1 Tim 5:8), adjust slavery practice with the Christian gospel and the mission of the church (6:1-2), and reject the view that one can use religion to gain money (6:5, 9-10). Instead, they are to be content with what they have (6:6-7) and not be lovers of money (1 Tim 3:3, 8; 6:9; Titus 1:7).

Central in the pastor’s work is the charge to preach the word (2 Tim 4:2 TNIV). Pastors give themselves to the public reading of Scripture (1 Tim 4:13), do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim 4:5), make use of Christian creeds and hymns (1 Tim 1:15, 17; 3:16; 6:15-16; Titus 2:11-13), and keep Christ’s work on the cross before the people (1 Tim 1:11, 15; 2:3-6; 3:16; 4:8-10; 2 Tim 1:8-10; 2:8; 3:15; Titus 1:2-3; 2:11-14; 3:4-7). This kind of preaching and teaching will save both the preacher and the people (1 Tim 4:16).

Finally, preachers are to grow in this work so that the members of the congregation can observe their progress (1 Tim 4:15) and so that they may carry out this Christian ministry fully (2 Tim 4:5b).

Paul M. Zehr