The Character & Perspective Of The Man Of God
Timothy needed to be different, different than the average man of his time, different in terms of character & perspective. Paul has just been writing about the dangers of false teaching & love of money, now he continues with “But as for you...” This kind of phrase comes up a few times in the pastoral letters to highlight how Timothy was to live differently from others. For example Paul warned Timothy that “evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed” (2 Tim 3:13-14). Or again, “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching... As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry” (2 Tim 4:3, 5).
So Timothy was not to blindly follow the patterns & attitudes around him, he was called to be different. This is because Timothy was God’s man; he was not firstly a man of the people, he was firstly a “man of God”. This is important for every Christian to understand, but it is vitally important for a young minister. What made Timothy different is that he was a “man of God”. Paul said “But as for you, O man of God...” This may be the highest compliment Paul ever gave Timothy. The term “man of God” is used more often in the OT, especially for the great heroes of the faith—men like Moses (Deut 33:1), Samuel (1 Sam 9:6), David (Neh 12:24), Elijah (1 Kings 17:18) & Elisha (2 Kings 4:7). The term always refers to a man who officially speaks for God. Like those great men, Timothy had been entrusted with a message from God. Like them he must remain true to God no matter what. It’s also important to point out that Paul is not speaking to Timothy at the end of his ministry, but at the beginning... So it’s not that Timothy had to prove himself in order to become a “man of God” but that he needs to know he is a “man of God”. Timothy wasn’t to live differently in order to become God’s man; Timothy was to live differently because he was God’s man. God had put his hand on him like he did with Moses & the others & set him apart as his man! Likewise, we don’t live differently to become God’s people, we live differently because we are God’s people... A man of God is one who has been set apart by sovereign grace & lifted above worldly aims & agendas to live for the glory of God alone!
So then, how does he show he is God’s man? How does he make it evident that he is a man of God? Let me highlight five things from these verses.
1. A Man of God is Known By What He Flees From
The Bible tells men of God to flee from things other men chase after. In 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 it says “Flee from sexual immorality...” because our “body is a temple of the Holy Spirit...” and because we belong to God having been “bought with a price.” Sexual immorality is any sexual activity outside of one man with one woman in a life-long marriage covenant. Everything else is sexual immorality. No matter how normal & acceptable it becomes in the eyes of the world it is sin in the eyes of God. As God’s people we live by a different standard, a standard which in no way wavers to suit the times. Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus; “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even named among you, as is proper among saints” (Eph 5:3). (Note how Paul puts sexual immorality & covetousness together.) The man of God is to flee from all forms of sexual immorality as fast as Joseph fled from the seductive wife of Potiphar.
1 Corinthians 10:14 says; “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” John Calvin wrote that “the human heart is an idol factory”. The human heart is capable of making an idol out of anything (good or bad). The man of God needs to be aware of that! 2 Timothy 2:22 says; “So flee youthful passions...” This phrase not only means sexual lusts, but also such lusts as pride, desire for wealth & power, jealously, self-assertiveness, being argumentative & hot-headedness. The verse this phase is found in is very similar to the verse we’re looking at now, which says; “But as for you man of God flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” By “these things” of course Paul means what he’s just been writing about. Namely: “unhealthy... controversy”, “quarrels about words”, “desire to be rich” & “love of money”. The man of God runs from things other men chase after.
2. A Man of God is Known By What He Pursues
It’s not enough to only flee from things. If all a man does is run from sin he’ll run straight into the arms of another. Being a man of God means replacing the don’t with God’s do’s! For this reason the man of God is also characterised by what he pursues. Paul gives six examples which basically summarise Christian character.
Righteousness has to do with Godly conduct. It means being upright in every aspect of our lives. So when Paul talks of righteousness here he’s not so much talking of the righteousness given to us at salvation (imputed righteousness), he’s talking about living a holy life (practical righteousness). Practical righteousness of course flows from imputed righteousness, it's important we understand that. The point is God’s man is known for doing what is right in God’s eyes. His life is increasingly marked by obedience to God’s commands. He lives a holy & just life before God and others.
Godliness is the internal spring of righteousness because true righteousness can only flow from a heart changed by God’s mercy. Righteousness is to do with outward behaviour, godliness is to do with the devotion of our hearts. Of course as we’ve learned over & over in this letter these things cannot be separated; right behaviour flows from right devotion. The word godliness appears ten times in the Pastoral Letters (eight of those are in First Timothy!). This helps to emphasise that true Christianity is first & foremost about the heart. It is devotion to God which flows out of a worshipping heart. All the other things listed here are an overflow of a heart centred on God. Is your heart centred on God today?
Faith & love of course are the two most essential evidences of true godliness and are often mentioned together in the NT (often with hope as well). Faith is a confident trust in God for everything from salvation to basic daily needs. It also involves loyalty to God & unwavering confidence in his power, purpose, plan, provision & promise in spite of how circumstances appear. Faith is the atmosphere in which the man of God is to exist & flourish – he walks by faith & not by sight. Faith is his perspective. Love, of course, is the greatest of all Christian virtues & cannot be separated from any of the others. Without it every area of Christian living & practice fails. Such love is powerfully described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. We can never read these words too much. This is the love which is to motivate the man of God: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude, It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (NLT)
Steadfastness is a great word. Really the last line we just read in the description of love would sum up steadfastness well, “never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance”, which highlights that none of these virtues stand alone. God’s love is a steadfast love... Romans 5:5 tells us that through the Holy Spirit God has poured such love into our hearts. The meaning of steadfastness includes patience, endurance & perseverance, but it is more than this. Steadfastness not only endures through hardship & difficult circumstances. It does so while looking forward in hope & expectancy, believing that even the worst of events will yet produce the best of results. Steadfastness cannot give up & sees every challenge as an opportunity to get stronger. It remains consistent, committed, determined & positive no matter what. This strong characteristic enables the man of God to not only endure but excel in the most difficult & trying times of life & ministry. This is the strength of the man of God!
Gentleness is the temperament of the man of God. Galatians 6:1 says; “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” A ‘spirit of gentleness’ it says, what a beautiful phrase... The man of God is not in the ministry of harsh condemnation but gentle restoration. He’s not in the ministry of harsh criticism but gentle correction. Proverbs 15:1 NIV says; “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:25 to correct his opponents with gentleness. Jesus said; “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Gentleness is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23). The man of God is to be characterised by a temperament of gentleness. This will enable him to maintain relationship with others & to win people over even when he has to confront them about difficult things. And it will keep him tender-hearted towards difficult people. A man of God shouldn’t be a 'people pleaser' of course, but he is to be characterised by a spirit of gentleness.
3. A man of God is Know By What He Fights For (& By How He Fights)
I find it quite amusing that verse 11 ends by calling the man of God to pursue gentleness because verse 12 starts with the word fight! It’s ironic that the idea of gentleness comes right before the phrase “fight the good fight of the faith”. How do the two ideas fit together? Well it helps to highlight that the nature of spiritual warfare is very different than worldly warfare! Most wars in the world are caused by the very desires the man of God is called to flee from – love money & power, bitterness, envy, greed, evil suspicions... When Paul uses the term “the faith” he is talking about the body of Christian truth, the teaching of the Word of God, “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3)!
The warfare we engage in is as fierce as any conflict in the world & there is much at stake (in fact there is more at stake). The fight we are called into will take discipline, determination & personal sacrifice like that of any true solder. However our reasons & weapons for war are very different. As Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 10:3 NLT “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.” Significantly Paul opened the chapter by saying “Now I, Paul, appeal to you with the gentleness and kindness of Christ.” When we have to confront error or defend the faith we do so with gentleness and kindness. These are mighty weapons of spiritual warfare that break down the resistance in people’s hearts. Remember it is God’s kindness that leads people to repentance (Rom 2:4), just as it is his kindness that won the war for our own souls! Peter writes “always [be] prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15-16).
We don’t fight as the world fights by being harsh & cruel; or by dishonest means & well crafted arguments like false teachers or crafty politicians. We fight by living righteous, godly, loving, faithful, steadfast, gentle lives in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is how we defeat the enemy, win people over to the faith, destroy the works of the devil & extend the kingdom of God! Remember it was not a nuclear missile that won the greatest victory of all it was an act of sacrificial kindness on a bloody cross! It wasn’t a cry of revenge that was heard from the cross; it was the tender prayer of “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We win the good fight when we show forgiveness; we lose when we seek revenge... The greatest victory was not won by shedding the blood of enemies but by the shedding of blood for enemies (Rom 5:10). It wasn’t achieved by taking the lives of others but by laying down one’s life for others (John 10:18).
This is the King we follow into battle! And this is the King whose return we await. Paul says “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Those who live & fight for what they can get out of this world have a wrong perspective. But those who get a grip on the reality of eternity “Set [their] minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col 3:2)! This helps the man of God gain the necessary courage to make needed sacrifices & remain faithful in fighting the good fight.
4. A man of God Lives in Certain Hope of the Return of Jesus
Paul says to Timothy V13-15 “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time.” Jesus was bold enough to confess who he was before Pilate even though it cost him his life. Likewise the man of God is to be willing to remain true to who he is for the sake of Christ. Timothy would find inspiration by remembering Christ’s testimony before Pilate & he would also find courage by looking forward to the return of King Jesus. He wouldn’t have to fight the good fight forever, one day the King will return in power & glory & wipe out every obstacle & resistance to his kingdom. As 2 Thess. 2:8 says; “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.” Reinforcements are coming; help is on its way; Jesus will be back to finish off his victory, which is also our victory!
However we must continue to fight the good fight of faith until the return of the King. We live and fight with this certain day in view. The return of Jesus is definite & will be visible. It will be the display of all displays. The personal, visible, triumphant return of Jesus Christ has been a certainty since the day he left this earth & ascended to his Father in heaven (Acts 1:11). This is our confident hope. Therefore John Calvin writes: "If earthly soldiers do not hesitate to fight when the outcome is uncertain and they are in danger of death, how much more bravely ought we to fight under the guidance and banner of Christ, where we can be certain beforehand of victory, more especially since reward awaits us, far beyond the rewards usually give by commanders to their men, a glorious immortality and heavenly blessedness.”
5. A Man God Sings Songs of God's Glory
Paul finishes this section with a song: “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.” Certain of this victory, Paul introduces this victory song about our Sovereign, unstoppable & glorious God. We can sing victory songs as we fight the good fight of faith not because we have confidence in ourselves, but because we have confidence in the promise of our Great God & King. There is no one who can rival him, no one who can measure up to him. His brightness makes the sun look like darkness. Do we know this glorious God? If he was to appear to us in all his glory our flesh couldn’t handle it! Graciously he has revealed himself to us in his Word & by sending his Son & giving us his Spirit. However one day when the time is right, when the Son returns, he will provide his people with glorious new bodies that can handle the heat of his holiness & which possess eyes that can gaze upon his blinding brightness & behold his mind-blowing majesty for all eternity.
Until then we must keep singing our God-centred victory songs as we fight the good fight of faith with the confident hope that the King is coming. HE IS COMING!