Wednesday, January 25, 2012

follow the pattern

Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
2 Timothy 1:13-14

For some reason the word "pattern" in this exhortation from Paul to Timothy stands out to me. Paul had a long enough and a deep enough relationship with Timothy to be able to utilize that word in describing to Timothy what he needed to do in ministry. Paul had left a clear pattern, an outline of instruction that Timothy knew he could follow. Perhaps that pattern is given as a reminder in the themes of 2 Timothy. But the reality is that both doctrinally and in ministry practice, there was a pattern that Timothy had been given by Paul that should not be forgotten, but applied in his current situation.

In many ways reaching our world for Christ and committing to seeing it change by building up disciples is the same task that it was when Paul was making it happen in the first century. That is why we must be great Bible students and understand Jesus' life and the doctrine that flows from it in the New Testament principles of discipleship. We should know both the Old and New Testaments so that we can see all that scripture reveals about our world. We ought to pay clear attention to Paul's ecclesiology and the practical instruction he gives in the pastoral epistles in particular so that we too might be able to follow the pattern of sound words when it comes to planting churches and strengthening Christians worldwide.

Following the pattern also has an element of personal commitment and respect for what God has revealed. And Paul's stern invitation to Timothy was to "guard the good deposit entrusted" to him. This is a warm thought. It is also a warning thought. We must see the gospel, the doctrine that flows from it, and the pattern of Christian growth and maturity that grows the Church as a valuable asset worth investing further and protecting carefully at all costs. These days many in ministry will put everything up for reconsideration. The mistake is that in so doing they may sell off the good deposit and then the church is left morally and spiritually powerless and bankrupt. We cannot abandon the gospel because of its harsher implications (like judgment or eternal punishment) just for the sake of acceptance or numerical success. We must guard what we have been given to follow.

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