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If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. – 1 Timothy 4:6

Put these things before the brothers, Paul says. I believe he refers to the warning about the false teachers and the correct doctrine that refutes their teaching in verses 1-5 of chapter four; the immediate context helps us best understand the referent to “these things.” Likewise, if we do what Paul tells Timothy to do–warn the believers about false teachers and teach them sound doctrine–we will be a good servant of Christ. By serving the church, Christ’s bride, the minister serves Christ, and serves him well. As much as we might shrink at refuting those who have apostasized, as much as we might pause before presenting the church strong teaching from the whole council of God, this is what it means to be a good minister of Christ.

And what better acclaim is there than that? To be thought of by Christ as a good minister, there is surely nothing better. So says John Calvin:

“Men often set before them some other aim than to approve themselves to Christ; many seek applause for their cleverness, eloquence or profound knowledge, and that is why they pay less attention to the basic necessities which are apt to produce less popular admiration. But Paul tells Timothy to be content with this one thing, that he should be a faithful minister of Christ And we should certainly regard this as far more honourable title than being called a thousand times over seraphic and subtle doctors. Let us remember therefore that it is the greatest honour than can befall a godly pastor to be accounted a good servant of Christ, so that during his whole ministry this should be his only aim. For those who have some other ambition may well succeed in winning men’s approval, but they will not please God. Thus not to be deprived of so great a blessing, let us learn to seek nothing else, to think nothing else so important, and indeed to think everything else relatively worthless. (Commentary on 1 Tim 4:6, p. 242)

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