Summary: False teachers threaten the health of the Community of Faith, just as errant doctrine threatens the spiritual welfare of the people of God. The message considers how the elder is to respond to such threats.

“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” [1]

The people of God live under constant threat even to their lives. Jesus warned His people, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” [MATTHEW 10:16-22].

Threats to spiritual well-being are quite real for the child of God; yet, no believer lives under more severe threats than does an elder. Those opposed to righteousness are enemies of the Faith; and enemies of the Faith threaten the spiritual health of the faithful. The undershepherd has received appointment to guard the flock of God. “I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” [1 PETER 5:1-3].

The Big Fisherman’s words echo those delivered by Paul to the elders of Ephesus. “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. And men will rise up from your own number with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples into following them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears” [2] [ACTS 20:28-31].

The man of God is charged with mounting an aggressive defence against spiritual assault. “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” [JUDE 3, 4].

If the overseer fails to guard his own heart, he jeopardises not only his spiritual standing with the Master and he imperils the spiritual health of the flock for which he accepted responsibility. Should the man of God succumb to the temptation to treat his service as a mere job, or should he begin to compromise with the wicked attitudes of this fallen world, the spiritual health of the congregation and the advance of the work of Christ through that assembly will be endangered. Thus, the warnings of the Word directed to the elder are essential.

We have witnessed the Apostle providing instructions for the general conduct of the elders as they provide oversight of the congregation. Paul has implemented a measure of order that was lacking in the assembly. Suddenly, precipitously, he shifts attention to Timothy. Paul writes, “Sù dé,” thrusting the second personal singular personal pronoun to the front of the sentence for emphasis. The false teachers are left behind—they have been addressed and he assumes Timothy will shortly take care of their pernicious efforts to wreak havoc of the church. From this point to the end of the book, the Apostle is addressing Timothy—and indirectly, every elder until the Master returns.

The first sentence of this final portion of the missive is the foundation for our study this day. Paul will provide quite personal instruction that each one who occupies the sacred desk must take to heart. Focus with me that together we may learn, holding those who provide oversight accountable to the Word of the Living God.

O MAN OF GOD — “But as for you, O man of God…” It is distressingly easy to pass over some gems that are included in the Word because we have grown familiar with the language. For instance, the Apostle addresses Timothy as the “man of God.” It is at once a word of supreme confidence and high expectation. Applied to Timothy, it is high commendation, indeed. However, I am prepared to argue that this designation should apply to each pastor. The elder is to be a “man of God.”

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