You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. 2 Timothy 2:1-2 (TNIV)
The biblical text above was written by the apostle Paul. These words were part of a letter he wrote to his friend and coworker, Timothy, who was at that time ministering in the church in Ephesus. In these verses Paul gave Timothy some instructions to carry out in the church there. His directive concerned training that Timothy was to implement.
In verse 2 he tells Timothy what to do; he is to train teachers. But notice that the training he imparts to others is not to end with them. Timothy is to train people who can teach others also. He would have to be wise in order to select appropriate people for this ministry, people who would be able to communicate the truth to others. Paul’s desire is that there will be an ongoing teaching ministry.
This is surely so that the apostolic teaching, the things Paul taught, would be preserved and propagated; Timothy is to train leaders.
There is one truth in this text that could easily go unnoticed. As stated above the author of our text was Paul. Paul was of Jewish descent, in fact in Philippians 3:5 he describes himself as “a Hebrew of Hebrews”(NIV). That is, both of his parents were Jewish. Timothy, the recipient of the letter, was not a full blooded Jew.
In Acts 16:1 we learn that his mother was Jewish; in 2 Timothy 1:5 we learn that her name was Eunice. Acts 16:1 also tells us about Timothy’s father, we learn that he was not Jewish but was a Greek. When Timothy carried out Paul’s instructions to train leaders he would likely be training some Gentiles in view of where the city of Ephesus was located. So, people of a different ethnicity were to be involved in leadership. We can learn some very important truths from our text.
The first truth that we can learn is that leadership is to be involved in training others for ministry. This truth is clearly brought out in our text as well as in Ephesians 4:11-13.
The second truth that we can glean from the text is how absolutely vital the teaching ministry is to the church. The church needs sound doctrine.
The last truth I will mention concerns the people who are in leadership. The apostle Paul was able to work with people who were different than he was. He was of full Jewish blood, Timothy was not. Paul also encouraged Timothy to work with people who were different than he was.
Ephesus was located outside the land of Israel so many of the people there would likely not be either fully or partially Jewish. In his instructions to Timothy Paul did not put any ethnic restrictions on who Timothy should train. The only qualifications he set forth were that the people must be “reliable” and “qualified to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2 NIV).
There is a lesson here for us. We should also be able to work with people who are different than we are, and we should be open to having them in positions of leadership as well. Our differences may be race, ethnicity, gender, or age but God wants us functioning together in His church.
John P. Lathrop - United States
John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University, Zion Bible Institute, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME). He is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies and has twenty years of pastoral experience.