Scripture’s Role in Church Leadership (2)

As discussed in the previous post, a church leader’s teaching is the natural overflow of how he is being formed spiritually. Scripture serves as a means of forming Christ in the church leader. In this way, Scripture itself can then more ably serve as the means by which he communicates Christ—in various ways, in various situations, to members of Christ’s Body.

Both Scripture’s roles of formation and communication come together in Paul’s charge to Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”[12] When the church leader has been rightly formed in Christ and by the Scriptures, he will exude confidence in presenting himself to God as approved in Christ. His sense of approval comes both from continual commitment to formation by Christ through the Scriptures as well as his own right handling of the Scriptures. Whereas some might see Paul exhorting Timothy to make sure he interprets Scripture correctly, Gordon Fee says he is instead urging him to “truly preach and teach the gospel, the word of truth.”[13] When the church leader is rightly formed by Christ through the Scriptures, he will be fit to inform others of Christ through the Scriptures.

Paul tells Timothy there are a variety of ways in which Scripture is to be communicated. Three foundational ways, he says, are the public reading of Scripture, exhortation (or preaching),[14] and teaching.[15] Reading is the pure act of communicating to one’s hearers what is clearly on the pages of Holy Scripture. Exhortation (or preaching) is the act of strongly urging or persuading one’s hearers to change in any manner of life (personally and relationally), based on the church leader’s interpretation of Scripture.[16] Teaching is the act of communicating to one’s hearers in a more in-depth way of the whole of Scripture, all its parts, how they relate, and their practical application to all of life.

Paul shares with Timothy that since Scripture itself is inspired by God, it is profitable for all of life—to be communicated in various ways, in various situations, to members of Christ’s Body. For example, he says that all Scripture[17] is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”[18] Scripture is sufficient for church leaders to handle every season of life, and every situation in each season.[19] There will be certain seasons in which members of the church will need to be reproved and corrected for their misdirected affections, disobedience, and false teaching. Martin Dibelius notes, “The understanding of the Scriptures (i.e., of the OT) which is transmitted by the tradition makes the leader of the congregation fit for the fight against the false teaching.”[20] However, in all seasons they will need to be taught and trained in righteousness. In light of Scripture’s all-sufficiency in all seasons of life, the church leader is competent and well equipped for every good work.[21]

Lastly, another role Scripture plays in the life and ministry of the church leader is that of evangelistic content or good news to be communicated. Immediately before Paul charges Timothy to fulfill his ministry, he says, “Do the work of an evangelist.”[22] Only with the Christ-centered Scriptures can the church leader fulfill such a task. “Paul instructs Timothy in terms of the ‘gospel’ (cf. 1 Tim. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:8, 10; 2:8), which certainly includes proclamation to the unconverted. However, Paul does not typically distinguish between ‘evangelism’ and ‘discipleship’.”[23] Either way, Paul instructs Timothy and all other church leaders to make good use of the Scriptures in communicating Christ to both the Christian and the non-Christian.

Summary
God has graciously and generously given Scripture to church leaders for their spiritual formation and so that they may more ably communicate it in a variety of seasons and ways to the church. In light of Scripture’s all-sufficiency, church leaders ought to: 1) Take full advantage of this inimitable resource for their own spiritual growth; 2) Keep a close watch on their own lives and teaching for possible inconsistencies, and correct when necessary; 3) Strive to interpret, teach, preach, and apply the Scriptures rightly in every season and situation; 4) Keep Christ and the gospel central in all of life, that you may be approved, competent, and well equipped for every good work. The Holy Scriptures are indeed an invaluable gift from God, enabling the man of God to train himself for godliness and righteousness—while communicating Christ to all who have ears to hear.

—————————————-

[12] 2 Tim. 2:15

 [13] Fee, Gordon D. New International Biblical Commentary: 1 And 2 Timothy, Titus. (Peabody: Hendrickson), 255.

 [14] See also 2 Tim. 4:2, in which Paul charges Timothy to “preach the word,” and to “be ready in season and out of season.”

 [15] 1 Tim. 4:13. Gordon Fee, however, says “these three items basically refer to the same thing—the reading, exhortation, and exposition of Scripture—and as such are to be Timothy’s positive way of counteracting the erroneous teachings (cf. 2 Tim. 3:14-17).” See Ibid., 108.

[16] According to 2 Tim. 4:2, the act of preaching is comprised of more than mere exhortation. It also includes reproving, rebuking, and teaching.

[17] “’All Scripture’ would refer first to the OT but by implication also to at least some NT writings, which by this time were already being considered as Scripture (see 1 Tim. 5:18; 2 Pet. 3:15-16).”ESV Study Bible. (Wheaton: Crossway), 2342.

 [18] 2 Tim. 3:16

 [19] Indeed, Paul tells Timothy to “be ready in season and out of season,” that is, whether or not the time feels convenient or comfortable to “preach the word.” See 2 Tim. 4:2.

 [20] Dibelius, Martin and Hans Conzelmann. Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible: The Pastoral Epistles. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press), 120.

 [21] 2 Tim. 3:17

 [22] 2 Tim. 4:5

 [23] ESV Study Bible. (Crossway: Wheaton), 2342.

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