“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship[ from God that is by faith.”1 Timothy 1:3-4
The book of 1 Timothy is the first of what is often called “the Pastoral Epistles”. It is an inspired letter from a veteran Pastor, namely Paul, to his understudy in how to lead and organize a church. 1 Timothy shows us how we are to arrange the church and the qualifications of overseers all in light of the gospel. It is that book of Scripture by which today’s Pastors are trained for the work of the ministry.
Before Paul mentions any other pastoral duties, the book begins with Timothy’s responsibility to combat heresy. He does not lead with mercy ministry, he does instruct in funerals services or martial counseling although those are legitimate needs within the church. The first thing on Paul’s mind is the preeminent purpose for why Paul left Timothy in Ephesus: that Timothy will rebuke those preaching false doctrine.
In Titus, another Pastoral epistle we see this same concern repeated. After Paul instructs Titus on the character of the Pastor Pauls says:
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Here we see the burden to study the Scriptures for a Pastor is two-fold. Indeed the man of God must know His Bible so he can properly shepherd the sheep of Christ, yet He must also know the Scripture so he may drive away wolves: false teachers and liers.
It is the latter purpose that seems to be often ignored. It seems today pastors are content to hide away in their studies and never engage in the fight for the Lord. As a Shepherd of Christ’s flock, the Shepherd is a warrior. Just as when the Shepherd boy David grabbed the bears and lions that harassed his flock by the beard and stoke them down so too must the man of God grab the false teachers by the beard and slay them with the Sword of the Spirit, that is the Word of God.
I have genuine fear in my heart for Pastors who cower in this duty. For whatever desire, there may be for self-preservation, a pastor who neglects to fulfill his God-given duty will have to face God on the day when we give an account. Of course if he has trusted Christ he has absolutely no hell to fear, however, the Word clearly teaches that our ministry can be for nothing and we will watch our works burn up, being saved as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
I want to encourage the Pastor reading this article. I know it can be scary taking on the false teachings of men. You may struggle with such an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. Perhaps you know that you will lose members and your church will struggle. Heavy is the burden on the man of God. I would exhort to hold fast your duty. You are a watchman on the wall and no matter how offensive to the comforts of your people you must sound the alarm when there is an attack! Let the sleepy comforts of the citizens be cursed! Curse their comforts that their soul might live and their worship of God remain pure!
However, it is not only your duty but your Master has given you mighty weapons for this warfare. I will let the words of Paul the Apostle stir you onward and into the battle!
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.Ephesians 6:10-20