Four Keys to Commitment

“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2:1,2).

If we were to ask the average Christian to write down the requirements to be a spiritual leader, the list would probably read something like this: A man of God who must have completed four years of college and three additional years of seminary. He should be eloquent and able to articulate his thoughts well, enthusiastic, insightful, creative, and have a good sense of humor. In addition, he should not have too many shortcomings and be well dressed.

Interestingly, just the opposite was true of the spiritual leaders in the Scriptures. Most of the giants of the faith in biblical times were unlearned and ignorant men by the world’s standard. The Bible is a who’s who of shortcomings: Noah’s drunkenness, Moses’ speech impediment, David’s adulterous ways, Peter’s denials, Paul’s repulsive appearance, etc. Nevertheless, God used these souls mightily to the pulling down of strongholds, despite their failures. As it has been said, “God took a handful of nobodies and made them somebodies in His sight.”

While we are an advocate of higher education, intellectualism is not a prerequisite to be used of the Lord. God has accomplished great things through those who merely had a willing heart. Timothy, for example, wasn’t educated at the ivy league schools of Jerusalem; nonetheless, God chose him to carry the torch of grace after Paul’s martyrdom.


“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

As Paul prepared to leave this life, he longed to leave Timothy with a few parting instructions to encourage him in the faith. The apostle knew that his young friend was easily discouraged. Of course, some of the circumstances Timothy faced as he defended the faith would be enough to dishearten the most seasoned veteran of the Cross today (Acts 19:23-41 cf. I Tim. 1:2,3).

Paul affectionately refers to Timothy as “my son.” Although Timothy was not Paul’s son in the flesh, the aged apostle had led him to the Lord; therefore, he was his son in the faith. As a result, there was a very special relationship between them. Timothy might have had ten thousand instructors in Christ, but he only had one spiritual father who loved him like a son. Thus, Paul challenges him to be strong in grace. Grace is God’s unmerited favor toward those who are undeserving.

Before the turn of the last century, Great Britain ruled the world. The throne was synonymous with superiority, royalty, power, and glory. So when the beloved Queen Victoria instructed her driver to stop the royal carriage, and she stepped down to embrace a commoner by the side of the road, that’s grace! The commoner did not deserve the Queen’s kindness, nor do we deserve the grace of God so freely bestowed upon us. Thankfully, God has stooped down to undeserving sinners in the person of Jesus Christ. As a result, the grace of God does three things for us: it has brought us salvation, it teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and it gives us hope (Titus 2:11-13).

Timothy, “be strong,” don’t let others rob you of the grace that you’ve freely received. And legalism will do just this if we allow it. It’s the enemy of grace. Like the Pharisees, the legalist wants to set the standard, which he decrees to be the measure of spirituality. Legalists love to develop an unspoken list of do’s and don’ts for others to follow. You must conform to what they have established as acceptable behavior in regard to how you should dress or act, or what reference Bible you must carry, or how many church services you should attend throughout the week. Failure to conform is a sure indication that you are not very spirituality minded.

Beloved, God has given us the standard we are to follow in His Word; it’s called GRACE! Today, we are not under the Law, nor are we to submit ourselves to those who believe they are the final authority as to how the Christian life should be lived. Grace teaches us how to live; it is patient, understanding, and tolerant. Grace always leaves room for differences. It’s never judgmental (I Cor. 4:5). So then, Timothy was not to allow anyone to rob him of the liberty he enjoyed in Christ, nor should we. “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

What “things” had Timothy heard Paul proclaim? Surely it was the teachings of grace that the apostle had received from the Lord of glory—the truth of the one Body, the one baptism, and the one hope of our calling, etc. Since this special revelation was kept hidden from ages and generations past, Paul was unable to appeal to the Law and the prophets to validate his message. Again and again, he calls upon God and other witnesses to verify his gospel to be true.

“The same commit thou to faithful men.” Notice, the responsibility to proclaim this wonderful message wasn’t to be passed along to just anyone. Paul’s instruction to Timothy is clear; it was to be handed down to faithful men who had the God-given ability to teach others. This precious deposit was only to be entrusted with those who were trustworthy so as to insure its continuance. Mark these words and mark them well, Paul is not teaching apostolic succession here, as Catholicism teaches. Rather, the apostle is making a case that it is the responsibility of one generation to pass the truth of Paul’s gospel on to the next generation. If we fail to do so, it will not be long before the message is lost to the ages, humanly speaking. This is why Paul places such emphasis upon “faithful men.”


“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (II Tim 2:3,4).

Young men who desire to enter the Lord’s work initially look at the calling of pastor as being glamorous, honorable, glory—a position of respect! First of all, respect must be earned, it is not something that’s handed to you on a silver platter. It takes years to acquire and only one foolish act to destroy it. While the ministry is indeed a high and holy calling it involves a great deal of responsibility, long hours and hard work. Little wonder the apostle chose to use the metaphors of the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer to describe the rigors of the ministry.

A metaphor is a figure of speech containing an implied comparison. It’s a short phrase or word that’s used to throw light on the truth. Usually the nature of the metaphor allows for a rapid transition from one topic to another, such as we have before us. Of course, the purpose is to drive home a point. Ten thousand sermons could be preached on each of Paul’s metaphors. Each one contains spiritual riches untold. In the Old Testament, which includes the four Gospels, illustrations are drawn primarily from the natural world. Paul’s, however, are taken from human life and experience, which is another subtle distinction between the two programs of God.

Paul begins with the metaphor of the good soldier. The soldier must leave his family and turn his life over to someone else. As Paul says, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” The soldier must be obedient simply because his life and the lives of those around him depend upon it. He is trained in battle to fight. Courage is his badge of honor!

My father had the honor during World War II to return with General MacArthur to liberate the Philippines after the Bataan Death March. Although he was reluctant to talk about his war experiences, he did share with me about the time his Commanding Officer sent him to camp to secure the company’s orders. Dad related how he was just about back to the unit when it was ambushed by two Japanese machine gun nests. As he approached cautiously, he could see a number had already been killed and the others were pinned down and dared not move. He knew if he didn’t do something quickly the whole platoon would be massacred.

Dad made a snap decision that fateful day. The only way out was to provide a diversion. He could see the snipers would only be able to swing their machine guns so far before hitting the trees in which they were hunkered down. Furthermore he knew how hard it is to hit a moving target, having hunted small game as a young boy. He took a deep breath, jumped up, and ran as fast as he could to their flank which drew a hail of bullets. As he dove headlong into a shallow ravine, he said he could feel the air being displaced as the bullets whizzed by him. It worked! The maneuver gave the soldiers in the unit the opportunity they needed to take out the enemy.

Boy, that’s enough to make you break out into a sweat just telling the story! I can’t imagine actually being there and going through such a thing. But this is the lot of a soldier. It’s a life and death struggle to defend freedom’s light. In the spiritual sense we, too, are soldiers who are to obey the commands of Christ found in the Pauline epistles. These are our marching orders, handed down by the Commander in Chief Himself! Consequently, we’re called upon to fight the good fight of the faith—this means we must stand in the defense and confirmation of Paul’s gospel (Phil. 1:7). While we’re not to be hard, we are called upon to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Here Paul serves as our example. In the face of death, he stood before Felix, the Governor of Caesarea, and courageously preached Christ. With the eternal destiny of this corrupt ruler hanging in the balance, the apostle reasoned with him of righteousness, temperance, and the judgment to come. Is it possible to reason with the unregenerate concerning spiritual things? Paul did, he knew the Spirit of God could pierce straight through Felix’s stony heart of flesh to allow the light of the glorious gospel to shine into his heart that he might be saved (Acts 24:24-26 cf. II Cor. 4:3-6).

“And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully” (II Tim. 2:5).

The next metaphor the apostle uses is the athlete. Seeing that Tarsus was one of the cities where the Greek games were held, Paul was familiar with all the events. To participate in these games the partaker had to be a Greek citizen. The key to being a good athlete is discipline. It is said that the Greeks trained for ten hours a day for a period of ten months. They also spent a great deal of time acquainting themselves with the rules to avoid being disqualified in their particular event.

The high school I attended had a fantastic athletic program. Of course, with a class of over one thousand this is understandable. In addition to the high jump, I ran the four-forty relay. This specific event required precision timing. If you jumped the gun or failed to hand the baton off to the other runner before he crossed the hash mark, the entire team was disqualified. In other words, you had to play by the rules.

Paul draws a parallel between the runner and the Christian life. He says, “if a man also strive for masteries,” that is, if he competes in a competition, he is not crowned unless he abides by the rules. This is also true of the believer. A man must first trust Christ as his Savior and be a citizen of heaven before he can participate in the things of the Lord. The Christian runner must then discipline himself to bring his body and mind into conformity with the image of Christ. But to receive the crown he has to obey the rules set forth in Paul’s epistles. The pastor who has rejected Paul’s gospel because of the fear of men, and teaches his people to follow the great commission will surely suffer great loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ. I’m sure the look on the Savior’s face alone will leave him in tears.

In regard to his own life in Christ, Paul says:

“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14).

The apostle’s heart’s desire was to lay hold of what Christ had called him to achieve. Although he had not apprehended, like the runner who can see the finish line, he was striving for the goal that was set before him. Paul’s greatest fear was that he would be disqualified. However, if he finished the course set before him, he was confident the Lord would richly reward him. Beloved, are you running to please men or the Lord?

Finally, Paul uses the farmer, who plows the field, to illustrate another aspect of the Christian experience. “The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits” (II Tim. 2:6). If there is one thing the farmer is known for, it’s hard work and long hours. The day begins before dawn and doesn’t end until dusk. The farmer must till the soil, sow the seed, fertilize, and water. But farming requires something else—patience, a lot of patience. The crops cannot be harvested until the fruit is mature.

Like farming, the ministry is hard work and long hours. It is not uncommon for a pastor to put in ten or twelve hour days. Then there are those times he’s called out on an emergency hospital visit at two o’clock in the morning. As we know, there’s a law of nature in farming—whatever you sow is what you reap. The same is true of the Lord’s work. If a pastor sows the kingdom gospel, he’s going to reap sorrow at the Bema seat. On the other hand if a man of God sows Paul’s gospel, he will reap the praise of God.

Those who “preach the gospel should live of the gospel,” as the Lord has ordained (I Cor. 9:14). In short, the workman is worthy of his hire. If God has blessed us with a knowledge of the Mystery, then do we not have a responsibility to support those who faithfully proclaim this truth? Sadly, many of our dedicated grace pastors and missionaries struggle to make ends meet, while some in our congregations support well-known denominational preachers and missionaries who openly reject Paul’s gospel. Shall God be well pleased with us at that day if we aid and abet confusion in the Church?

While I do not fully agree with Baptist doctrine, I know firsthand they are very dedicated and generous believers in Christ. Baptists only support Baptist causes. This is why there’s a Baptist church on every corner. I am a firm believer that grace people should only support grace works! I can assure you that the Southern Baptist Convention is not going to come to our aid in a time of financial crisis, nor should we expect them to.

“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (I Cor. 3:5,6).

Patience is the watchword when we are doing the Lord’s work. People want to see results, so the world measures success in numbers. Sadly, the Church has fallen victim to the same philosophy. God, however, is more interested in faithfulness. Historically, He has passed by the multitudes and has accomplished His greatest work through what some would call insignificant ministries. As we see from the above, Paul left the end result with the Lord. He’s the one who gives the increase. It’s far better to gather with a small group of saints standing for the truth, than a large assembly that’s all too willing to sacrifice the truth on the altar of compromise.

Farmers need plenty of help on the farm. It’s simply too big of a job for one man. Once again the same is true in the Lord’s service. Christian leaders must learn to follow Paul’s example here as well and delegate authority to others. Paul planted, Apollos watered, some weeded, God gave the increase, and others harvested the fruits of their labor. We are all co-laborers together with God.

These are the things that should characterize faithful men who minister the gospel. So then, we are to be committed to the cause, committed to the battle, committed to the rules, and, last but not least, committed to the task at hand! May we, too, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus to the praise of His glory.

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“Condescend to Men of Low Estate”

What does this phrase in Romans 12:16 mean to us? It may mean that we are interested in giving to support the Lord’s work in countries where many are living in poverty and ignorance. Or, it may mean that we are concerned with helping missions in our own country which help those who have been destroying their lives with alcohol, drugs, or immoral living. But how about reaching the men and women who are serving time in jails and prisons? We have in America over two million that can be reached in jails by correspondence Bible lessons and literature. Those in city or county jails are usually easily reached in person.

Many years ago, I met with the sheriff at our local county jail and told him I would like to speak to the men there. He was very agreeable, and this began a regular weekly ministry that another brother and I are still involved in. We hold a Bible study, then provide inmates with Bible lessons, New Testaments, tracts, and other things to read. We find that many of these of low estate now have an interest in spiritual things, and they realize that it is their sin that has put them in jail. We tell them that they need the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, that they need to know that Christ died for their sins and that He will give them victory over sin and a new life.

Others can be reached by mail. We have been grading Bible lessons for prisoners and others all over the U. S. and foreign countries, sending out Grace literature to help them grow in understanding God’s Word.

It may be that you are looking for some way to be directly active in the work of the Lord (I Cor. 15:58). If you would like to get started in a ministry, we can provide you with the Bible lessons you need. I assure you that there are blessings and rewards in reaching those of low estate and obeying our commission as ambassadors for Christ, beseeching sinners to be reconciled to God (II Cor. 5:18-20).

For more information, please contact John Willson at: Grace Bible Courses, 407 W. Hickory Street, Neosho, MO 64850.

Berean Searchlight – November 2002

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