How to Preach So That Disciples Persevere: An Example in Acts 14:21–22

The life and teaching of Christian leaders plays a part in the salvation of those who hear us (1 Tim 4:16). It’s important that we know how to speak God’s Word in such a way so as to move others to persevere. We should work at it. God is obviously the one to do such a work, but He can work all the more through those who work hard at their preaching and teaching. This being said, let’s learn something of how to preach for others to persevere in Acts 14:21–22.

Luke records of Paul and Barnabas, “21 When they had preached the gospel to that city [Derbe] and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21–22 ESV).

In Acts 14:22, we see the content of the preaching of Paul and Barnabas to churches that needed to persevere in the face of persecution. Paul and Barnabas would repeat this ministry again in Acts 15:35 and Paul alone in Acts 18:22–23. It was a ministry of preaching and teaching to people who faced persecution and needed to persevere.

Their preaching in Acts 14:22 is given three descriptions, instructive for us as preachers today who likewise want to see disciples persevere. Our preaching should include…

“Strengthening the souls of the disciples” 

To “strengthen” (epistērizō) is “to cause someone to become stronger in the sense of more firm and unchanging in attitude or belief” (Louw-Nida). It overlaps with the related verb “strengthen” in Acts 18:23 (stērizō—same verb minus the prepositional affix; Paul was “strengthening all the disciples”—same place, same activity later on). What is said for stērizō could be said for epistērizō. From other uses of this verb, then, we could say that…

Preachers strengthen the souls of the disciples through teaching and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom 1:11–12; 16:26). While God uses believers to strengthen one another, it is ultimately Him and His Son who strengthen believers through the Spirit (cf. 2 Thess 2:17; 3:3; 1 Pet 5:10).

“Encouraging them to continue in the faith” 

The verb behind “encouraging” (parakaleō) is variously translated in other verses as “urge,” “exhort,” “appeal,” “beg,” “implore,” “plead,” “invite,” “ask,” depending on each context. While we should not pack every possible sense of the verb into each usage, noting this range of translation helps us understand something of what Paul and Barnabas were doing in their preaching. They were passionately persuading their fellow believers “to continue in the faith.” “The faith” involved their belief, yes, but it also involved the content of their faith, the doctrine of Jesus Christ and salvation through Him at the very least. So then, just as it was for Paul and Barnabas, so also it is for us today…

Preachers should preach in such a way so as to exhort, appeal, and urge their fellow believers to continue believing what they have believed and to continue to live according thereto.

“Saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God”

With this description, we have a particular instance of what Paul and Barnabas were “saying”—“through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” As noted above, the Jews had chased Paul and Barnabas out of these cities before. Harassing the Christians thereafter likely took place as well. They probably saw upon Paul the marks of his stoning. Whether verbal, physical, by one, or by many, “tribulations” would come. Knowing that persecutions will come…

Preachers must warn others of persecution that might come and that persevering even through this will bring them into the kingdom of God.

This may all sound rather mundane and obvious, but it is a matter of whether or not some may enter the kingdom of God. We strengthen and encourage and warn give hope for the sake of those who hear. So, ask yourself: How well do I really work at preaching the gospel with precision and power in order to strengthen the souls of those who hear me? How often do I earnestly appeal to these dear disciples to truly persevere in what they believe and hold to be true? And how often do I warn them of what tribulations may come in this life and encourage them of the kingdom that will come?

Hopefully we are already attempting to preach like the example we see in Acts 14:22. If not, we need to brush up and put some work into what we say from God to others (cf. 1 Tim 5:17). May God help all of us who preach to strengthen, encourage, warn, and give hope to His disciples!

Christian Leaders Must Boldly Preach God’s Word

Two themes every leader should notice in Acts 13:44–14:7 are the Word and preaching boldly.

As for the first theme, the Word is called “the word of the Lord” (Acts 13:44, 48, 49), “the word of God” (Acts 13:46), and “the word of grace” (Acts 14:3). It is characterized by its source and author, that being the Lord God. From the context, it is also something that people gather to hear (Acts 13:44), imparts eternal life to those who accept it (Acts 13:46), which is evidenced through rejoicing and glorifying this very Word (Acts 13:48). As God blesses, it can spread throughout a region (Acts 13:49). Being a means to salvation, God’s kindness to those who believe, it is characterized by grace (Acts 14:3).

Being of such importance, a matter of eternal life or death, it is no surprise that this Word must be preached boldly, our second theme, especially in opposition. Acts 13:44–52 and Acts 14:1–7 record two accounts that are similar for their chain of events: the gospel was preached, the Jews opposed the preachers, the gospel was preached boldly, many believed, and organized persecution chased the messengers away. Nonetheless, believers remained behind, and the gospel continued to go forward.

But just what is this boldness when it comes to boldly preaching the gospel? One lexicon describes the act of preaching boldly as to “speak freely, openly, fearlessly” (BDAG). Similarly, when the noun boldness is used, it can mean “courage, confidence, boldness, fearlessness” (BDAG). From Acts, preaching boldly and boldness is something that marked the preaching of the gospel by the apostles (Acts 2:29; 4:13; 9:27, 28; 13:46; 14:3; 18:26; 19:8; 26:26; 28:31). The whole church prayed for this boldness and spoke accordingly as well (Acts 4:29, 31). Paul requested others to pray that his preaching would be with boldness, “as I ought to speak” (Eph 6:19–20). It is an open, fearless, courageous, and confident manner of preaching. It stems from a love for God, a conviction concerning His truth, and an intense desire to see it savingly at work in the hearts of those who hear it.

Christian leadership (i.e., leading a number of Christians in some manner) is inseparable from boldly preaching God’s Word. This being said, from what we have seen above, we could say that our leadership will often be as effective as we boldly preach God’s Word. There should be something evident to our followers that we are convinced of the truth that we preach, that they should be convinced of it themselves, that it is a matter of their eternal life or death, and that God’s saving grace is theirs to have if they only believe His Word. We speak of these things without fear of what may come, and in fact, with courage because we anticipate the grace that God will give through the message that is preached.

May God move us as leaders to boldly preach His Word!

 

6 Ways to Preach a Great Sermon: Learning from Paul in Acts 13:16–41

Paul was obviously an excellent preacher, and Acts 13:16–41 records the longest sermon by Paul in Acts. From the many things that we could learn, here’s at least six.

Exhort your listeners.

In Acts 13:15, Paul and Barnabas were invited to give a “word of exhortation.” Hebrews, itself a written sermon, refers to itself as “my word of exhortation” (Heb 13:22), a phrase worded almost the same as the phrase in Acts 13:15. Paul would not only teach the Scriptures, but he would exhort and encourage his listeners to do something about what he said. In this case, it would be to accept the message of salvation that centers in the Savior Jesus Christ. He would also warn them of judgment to come for rejecting his message. In other words, get to the “So what?” and passionately press the meaning of the doctrine upon your listeners. Exhort them.

Call out your listeners.

Paul called upon his listeners at least three times while they were listening—“Men of Israel and you who fear God” (Acts 13:16); “Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God” (Acts 13:26); and “brothers” (Acts 13:38). As Luke’s record was shorthand, Paul may have called them to listen all the more. A passionate love for the listeners who hear you will likely naturally move you to verbalize the name of your audience time and again. People’s heads will pop up. Eyes will lock onto yours. It helps them listen and feel your passion. Call them out, and do it appropriately.

Organize your thoughts.

Paul repeatedly shifted his thoughts each time he addressed his listeners in the references just mentioned above. He summarized Israel’s history (Acts 13:17–25), showed the fulfillment of prophecies in Christ (Acts 13:26–37), and called his listeners to find freedom and forgiveness by faith in Jesus Christ (13:38–41). Notice as well—ended with a strong appeal to his audience to act upon the truths that he had given. Work hard, prepare, and organize your thoughts so others can follow, and (at the least) end with application.

Have a big idea.

Paul spoke of a Savior according to promise (Acts 13:23) and summarized Acts 13:17–25 as “the message of this salvation” (Acts 13:26). In emphasizing “to us” from Acts 13:26, he clarified who the “us” was not and how the death and resurrection of Christ could provide for them salvation (Acts 13:26–37). Paul ended as he focused on the specifics of salvation—forgiveness and freedom through Christ (Acts 13:38–41). His sermon was all about salvation through Jesus Christ. Likewise, rather than giving people a handful of scattered ideas, stick to one big idea, and let everything flow from there.

Use Scripture to prove your point.

Paul quoted a number of passages: 1 Samuel 13:14; Psalm 89:20; Deuteronomy 21:22–23; Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 55:3; Psalm 16:10; Habakkuk 1:5. He also summarized the Bible from Genesis to 2 Samuel with reference to Jesus Christ. Using Scripture to prove your point from Scripture will strengthen the conviction of your listeners that what you are saying is true.

Get to Jesus Christ.

For Paul, this was incredibly easy. His topic for the hour was none other than Jesus Christ Himself. Other texts, however, may not specifically mention Him. Nonetheless, I find that, even if it’s just a minute or a so in a sermon, every Christian needs and wants to be reminded of the gospel and how the text at hand eventually gets there. If nothing else, you can work from your text to its setting in its book to its setting in its testament and eventually its relation to the story of the gospel in the Bible as a whole. This takes preparation, but it’s worth the effort. Not every text mentions Christ directly, but if we work at it, we can survey the layers of context and eventually find a way to tie our text to Him.

Preaching Better Week by Week…

Learning how to preach a great sermon never ends, and it is up to God as to whether or not the sermons we preach are great or not. I am certainly not an expert on this topic myself, and others could say these things better than I could. Nonetheless, we should learn from the examples given to us in Scripture and imitate what they do as best we can. Hard work will yield progress over time (cf. 1 Tim 4:15-16). So how can we improve our ability to implement these lessons above?

For the first two above—exhorting and calling out your listeners—I find that meditating on the death of Christ and His love for the church has been my greatest help in fueling my own love for those who hear me preach the Word of God. Read the Gospels over and over. See the love of Christ poured out for us on the cross. Love people like He does, and you’ll find yourself preaching to them with a love that naturally makes verbal appeals to them again and again. Maybe you’ll explicitly call them out. Maybe not. However you communicate, they will know that it is to them.

For the next two points—organizing your thoughts and having one big idea—two resources that have been helpful to me are the books listed below. I’d encourage anyone learning to preach to read them again and again.

  • Haddon Robinson. Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014.
  • Donald R. Sunukjian. Invitation to Biblical Preaching: Proclaiming Truth with Clarity and Relevance. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2007.

For the fifth point—Scripture proves Scripture—I’d suggest a great resource, The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, a work in public domain that is helpfully available online (https://www.biblestudytools.com/concordances/treasury-of-scripture-knowledge/) and available through several Bible software programs. The page from the link above states, “For generations, the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge has been an enduring cross-reference resource for Bible students worldwide. This highly respected and nearly exhaustive compilation of cross-references was developed by R.A. Torrey from references in the Rev. Thomas Scott’s Commentary and the Comprehensive Bible. With nearly 500,000 cross-references it is the most thorough source available.”

For the last point—getting to Christ—Andreas J. Köstenberger and Richard Patterson’s Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2011) is an excellent resource for how to interpret the Bible, layer by layer, and to appropriately tie its themes together.

One Last Thought

A blog post makes no one a great preacher, and the resources recommended above just scratch the surface on the matter. For me, after 6 years in a pulpit, a handful of preaching classes before that, coaching from my pastor at my previous church, and listening to countless sermons by great preachers—all of these things have maybe helped me to start realizing how I need to improve my preaching. It takes time and work and humility and the grace of God. May God help us all as we seek to preach His Word and the glorious message of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Discipling Younger Men: A Personal Testimony

Over the last three weeks, I dished out the meat and potatoes of what made for a workshop that I presented a conference near my church. (Click here if you’d like a PDF of the notes.)

I know I said it was a three-part series, but I thought it would be helpful to give a fourth part to color between the lines of what was given. What follows below is a recap of each of the ten principles that were given over the last couple of weeks, illustrated by a Paul/Timothy relationship that the Lord has given to me.

When studying for my presentation, I wrote this this section of notes last because I did not want to view my study of Scripture through the eyes of my own experience. After completing my study of Paul and Timothy and coming to my conclusions, I thought I’d look at my own life to see if these principles were true in my own life. I can say they were, and I hope the Lord uses me to repeat for others what I experienced as a Timothy with my own Paul.

  1. Be the kind of man that younger men would want to follow.

As a teenager, I remember listening to a pastor preach with passion at a camp where I was working as operational staff. He said what he meant, and meant what he said. I was always happy to follow that kind of preaching. I was actually away from the Lord at the time, but little did I know how the Lord would use his preaching in relation to future decisions I would have to make.

  1. Minister to the whole family.

Though we lived in another state, my father knew who this pastor was, and when given the opportunity as a Bible major in college to intern at his church one summer and then again for a long-term internship during seminary, my father heartily recommended me to go there. All I knew of his church at the time was that their preacher preached well and that they had two big blue and white buses that they sent every summer to the camp that I previously mentioned. When I had to figure out a church for an internship, I called his church thanks to a list of churches in my college’s ministerial office because it was the only church on the list that I knew anything about. My dad knew more, and my heavenly Father was directing it all.

  1. Be faithful over time to increase your opportunities for discipling younger men.

As this pastor was faithful in his ministry over time, the Lord unexpectedly opened the door for me to be under his leadership. His church and ministry had grown, making increased internship opportunities available to guys like me.

  1. Intentionally disciple young men who will respond to your discipleship.

Being a summer intern was one thing for a church to handle, but not everyone gets hired as long-term staff. When the opportunity arose for me to come back again while attending seminary, the pastor and the church kindly took me back, knowing my desire to be there and learn from him and the other pastors.

  1. Involve younger men in your ministry.

While I did not have the maturity to handle counseling and church issues myself, my pastor regularly took time to answer my many questions about some of the things he was facing and how he resolved situations. He involved me as much as my maturity allowed, which helps me as a pastor to this day.

  1. Show younger men Christian love.

Most guys are not quick to even say in some Christian way, “I love you,” but it is obvious when Christian affection is present. Time spent, counsel offered, patience with youthful zeal, and rebukes gently or indirectly given—these kindnesses and many others could be listed as to how I knew my pastor loved me in Christ.

  1. Once a younger man is responsible enough, give him tasks of his own.

I was given opportunities to preach, teach, and clean the toilets, among a hundred other things. I eventually became the Christian school’s dean of students and started dealing with parents. The church ordained me to be an assistant pastor. My pastor referred counseling situations to me on occasion. Receiving these tasks encouraged me to do well with what was placed before me.

  1. If necessary, encourage others to let the younger men serve.

I am sure there were more “give the kid a chance” conversations behind the scenes than I know about (and I’m certain that some took place). My pastor’s recommendation was key for me in coming to my present church. Many opportunities to minister would never have been had without his encouragement to others.

  1. Teach younger men the Word of God, encourage them to uphold it, and warn them of what happens should they fail.

We had men my age who had been at our church walk away from our circles at the least and from the faith at the most. In discussing those things with my pastor as they came up, it was the last thing I desired to ever have him even think that I would do one, let alone the other.

  1. Remember, younger men will disciple younger men just as you discipled them.

An assistant at my own church recently moved on, but while he was with us, I simply did with him for four years what my pastor had done with me. There’s typically not a week or two that go by in which my assistant does not text me about something he is doing in ministry or learning in seminary. I’m nobody special, but I invested in him, just like I was taught. It apparently made enough of an impact for him to still want to tell me about the exciting things that the Lord is doing in his life.

Conclusion

Without doubt, countless others invested in me, helping me to be the Christian I am today. I think of my own father, mother, and brothers who regularly admonished me through their example and their words. Pastors, teachers, friends, and others—who could count them all? Whatever may be said of my own life, at least remember what we’ve seen in the relationship between Paul and Timothy. As you are able, learn from them and disciple younger men!

More Principles for Discipling Younger Men

Note: This is part 3 of 3 of a series, “Discipling Younger Men.”

Last week, we looked at five principles for discipling younger men. Here are five more to end this brief look at how an older man can disciple younger men.

Teach younger men the Word of God, encourage them to uphold it, and warn them of what happens should they fail.

Paul bookended 1 Timothy with admonitions to Timothy to uphold the word of God, complete with warnings of those who had not done so and had rejected the faith (1 Tim 1:18–20; 6:20–21).

We might expect Paul to tell anyone these things and especially Timothy. But more than that, the references above include the use of Timothy’s name after Paul’s initial greeting (cf. 1 Tim 1:2). Paul made an emphatic personal point by calling Timothy out by name to heed his admonitions.

Don’t assume that conviction comes by osmosis. Sometimes a powerful, penetrating, and heartfelt admonition from an older, loving Christian man to a younger, teachable man will make an indelible mark on his soul. It may be that this admonition will be the very means God uses in encouraging the young man to persevere when he finds it difficult to serve.

Show younger men Christian love.

“My true child” (1 Tim 1:2), “my beloved child” (2 Tim 1:2), “I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy” (2 Tim 1:4)—these were not mere formalities. Paul loved Timothy deeply and let him know it. Timothy’s tears tell us that he deeply loved Paul as well (2 Tim 1:4).

Discipleship is not a rigid, scheduled thing to be communicated as a master to his pupil. The bond of Christ is a bond of love, and to pass the doctrine and practice of the faith to a younger man should naturally create a deep and lasting relationship. If you don’t communicate your Christian affection for those who are longing for it, they will gladly run to those who do.

Once a younger man is responsible enough, give him tasks of his own.

After being expelled from Thessalonica, Paul sent Timothy to minister in his stead (1 Thess 3:2, 6 with Acts 17:14–15; 18:5). Paul sent Timothy to Corinth, knowing that they would be disappointed not to have Paul himself (1 Cor 16:8–11). Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus to minister to a situation that involved false teachers and maybe even the discipline of elders (1 Tim 1:3–4; 5:19–20).

Sometimes we want everything to be done our own way, and so we do it ourselves. Not only does this mindset keep opportunities away from eager, young men who want to minister, but it also keeps people from receiving the ministry from these younger men. It may even quench their desire to serve, and when the time comes to hand a ministry over, the young men will have no desire to take the reins or may have left for other fields to labor. There may be some risk involved, but if carefully done, delegating and giving ministry to young men will multiply the work of Christ, giving God all the greater glory.

If necessary, encourage others to let the younger men serve.

Paul gave a firm word to Corinth to accept Timothy in his absence (1 Cor 16:10). His youth and simply not being Paul (who they really wanted to come) may have otherwise provoked his rejection.

While we do not want to be “lawnmower parents” to our spiritual children by removing every obstacle in their way, there are times where it may be helpful to step in and create opportunities for ministry through a word of recommendation. A sure word from an older Christian opens a door to ministry better than the word of the young man himself, which carries the risk of seeming self-serving.

Remember, younger men will disciple younger men just as you discipled them.

Paul selflessly served the church, and Timothy ended up loving people just like Paul did (Phil 2:19–22). He even shared Paul’s resolve, being willing to serve even if it meant going to prison (Heb 13:23; cf. 2 Tim 1:8).

If you do not disciple young men, they will not disciple young men, leaving every man unable to disciple anyone else—the exact opposite of how to obey 2 Tim 2:2. But, if you disciple young men well, Lord willing, they will disciple just the same.

Summary

Everyone needs a Paul, and we ourselves should grow from being a Timothy into being a Paul to others. Hopefully, these ten principles have been helpful, as I know they have been for me. May God bless you as men (and women) with a fruitful ministry of discipleship!

Principles for Discipling Younger Men

Note: This is part 2 of 3 of a series, “Discipling Younger Men.”

Last week, we explored the ages of Timothy and Paul. They were about 30 years apart, being 50 and 20 when they came together for ministry.

With the relationship of Paul and Timothy in mind, let’s walk through their lives as Scripture records them and see the first five of ten principles for discipling younger men.

Be the kind of man that younger men would want to follow.

As mentioned above, Acts 14:7–23 is part of Paul’s first missionary trip (Acts 13:1–14:28), which took place approximately AD 47–49. Timothy was in his mid to late teens when Paul first came to Lystra, and even before that, Timothy had been raised on the Scriptures.

When Paul came to Lystra the first time, he was stoned and left for dead. He got up and returned to the city and kept on preaching to a handful of cities until he returned to Antioch to report on his ministry (Acts 14:7–28; cf. 13:1–3).

Timothy likely knew who Paul was from Paul’s first time to Lystra. Whether directly or indirectly, he gave him and his family the gospel and almost died for doing so. Imagine the impact that Paul’s testimony would have had upon Timothy. We should strive to be as steadfast as Paul in our own faith so that younger men would want to follow us.

Minister to the whole family.

Paul knew Timothy’s grandmother and mother by name, their faith, and how they had trained up Timothy (2 Tim 1:5; 3:15). Already holding fast to the OT, it is no surprise to see that they gladly believed in its fulfillment in Jesus when Paul came to preach the gospel.

Paul’s ministry to the whole family made it an easy “yes” to answer when he would ask for Timothy to accompany him later. He needed no references, and he was not interested in only those who could help him. As he ministered to all, the opportunity to disciple Timothy came his way. Seek to minister to the whole family, and the Lord just might give you unique opportunities to disciple younger men.

Be faithful over time to increase your opportunities for discipling younger men.

Previously in his teens in Acts 14:7–23, we now find Timothy about 20 years old in Acts 16:1–2 at the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 15:40–18:22; AD 50–52). Timothy had acquired a commendable testimony among the Christians in multiple locations. Lystra and Iconium were about 18 miles apart.

Paul returned to Lystra in Acts 16:1–2 to strengthen the church that he had planted (cf. Acts 15:41). His faithfulness over time yielded an opportunity to see that some of the disciples had matured, and for Timothy in particular, to the point of being responsible enough to join his missionary endeavors.

As God blesses your ministry in maturing the church, it may snowball into something greater than you anticipated. As families grow together, your ministry to them will have an impact in the home, potentially providing a number of younger men to disciple in time.

Intentionally disciple young men who will respond to your discipleship.

Paul wanted a third missionary to join him and Barnabas for his second missionary journey, which created a sharp disagreement over taking John Mark who had deserted them earlier (Acts 13:5, 13; cf. 12:12). Barnabas thus took John Mark to Cyprus, and Paul took Silas to visit the churches from his first missionary journey (Acts 15:37–41). While John Mark had lost some points with Paul, he would return to faithfulness and recover his testimony over time (2 Tim 4:11). Not every disappointment is a permanent disappointment. For the time being, however, Paul wanted a coworker that he could trust.

The well-recommended Timothy would be that coworker in Acts 16:1–5. It was probably at this time that Paul and others laid their hands on Timothy in ordaining him for gospel ministry (cf. 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6). Paul’s references to Timothy as his son and child in the faith imply a father/son relationship and Timothy’s obvious desire to follow Paul (1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2; 1 Cor 4:17; Phil 2:22).

Sometimes you get a John Mark, and sometimes you get a Timothy. It’s hard to know exactly how a young man will develop in time, but we should disciple when the desire is there.

Involve younger men in your ministry.

Paul did not merely tell Timothy what to do and what he needed to know. He actively involved him in ministry as they visited and strengthened the churches (Acts 16:3–5). This meant opportunities to preach and speak (e.g., 2 Cor 1:19).

Not every young man is gifted to speak, but every young man is gifted to serve in some way (1 Pet 4:10–11). Whether the ministry to others is a formal program in the church or not, be creative in involving younger men in your ministries.

Paul and Timothy: A Prime Example for Discipleship 

Note: This is part 1 of 3 of a series, “Discipling Younger Men.”

This purpose of this post and the text two and is to encourage Christian men to reach out and disciple younger men. As to what we mean by “discipling younger men,” I hope to encourage us in ministering to young men in the church who are noticeably younger in age (i.e., probably younger than 18 years old) and have not yet reached the point where they can confidently make disciples on their own. But we won’t stop there—I hope to encourage us to disciple these young men further as they grow into being Christian men who in turn disciple others just the same.

While many are familiar with the Pastoral Epistles and have some idea of the relationship between Timothy and Paul, I never tire of looking at how the older Paul discipled the younger Timothy. Their discipleship relationship makes for a prime example for our study.

After getting a rough idea of the ages of Paul and Timothy, we will attempt to do a chronological walk through their relationship, looking more through the eyes of Timothy than Paul, and gather principles for discipling younger men along the way.1 

The Ages of Paul and Timothy

Paul called himself “an old man” (presbytēs)2 in the sixth verse of Philemon, a letter written in AD 60, indicating that he was 60 years old or older at the time.3 About 30 years earlier, he was probably 30 years old when Luke described him as “a young man” (neanias), a term that could range from 20 to 40 years old.4 He was converted at this time (Acts 9:1–19a) and then spent roughly two decades in missionary ministry before Timothy joined him in Acts 16:1–5.

When we first see Timothy in Acts 16:1–5, Paul is traveling through Lystra during his second missionary journey in AD 50–52 (Acts 15:40–18:22). Paul is about 50 years old, and Timothy’s age is not described. We do find, however, in 1 Timothy, written about AD 65, that Paul told Timothy to let no man despise his “youth” (1 Tim 4:12; neotēs), a word indicating Timothy was probably maybe 30 to 35 years old.5 Timothy would therefore have been about 20 years old when he joined Paul in Acts 16 and was born around AD 30.

Digging further, there seems to be enough from Scripture to say that Timothy at least knew who Paul was by the time they met in Acts 16. Paul had previously made disciples in Lystra towards the end of his first missionary journey in AD 47–49 (Acts 14:7–23; cf. 13:1–14:28), which probably included Timothy’s grandmother Lois and mother Eunice —they had been teaching Timothy the Scriptures since childhood and most likely believed the gospel when the apostle Paul came through their city, preaching that Jesus was the Son of God (cf. 2 Tim 1:5; 3:15).6 While there may not have been much of a personal relationship between the two (if any at all), it is quite possible that Timothy was in his mid to late teens when he first heard about Paul. After all, the apostle’s reputation would have included being stoned and left for dead after preaching in Timothy’s city (Acts 14:19–20).

Having explored the ages of Paul and Timothy, as best we can tell, Paul was about 30 years older than Timothy. Paul was somewhere in his late 40s when he first came to Lystra, and Timothy was in his mid to late teens. When Paul recruited Timothy in Acts 16, Paul was about 50, and Timothy was about 20. As we will see, this age difference made for a natural father/son discipleship relationship that would last until Paul went to glory. Perhaps this relationship meant all the more to Timothy since his own father was not a believer (cf. Acts 16:1).

Come back next week, and we’ll see the first of ten principles for discipleship in observing the relationship between Paul and Timothy in Scripture.

  1. The dating scheme that follows is approximate and not precise and comes from my accumulated study of the life of Paul and various books of the Bible. Exact precision is not necessary for our study, though we do at least want to have a good idea of the ages of Timothy and Paul at the outset (see below). Perhaps the resources I have leaned on most are the following: William W. Combs, “Life & Ministry of Paul: Class Notes” (Allen Park, MI: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2007); D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005); and Robert E. Picirilli, Paul the Apostle (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1986 and 2017). []
  2. All Scripture quotations are from the ESV. []
  3. Picirilli, Paul the Apostle (2017), 18–19. []
  4. Ibid. []
  5. William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles (WBC 46; Dallas, TX: Word, 2000), 258–59, explores the meaning of neotēs in biblical and extrabiblical literature, showing it can be used to describe either young children or even someone into their thirties or forties. He puts Timothy “in his late twenties to mid thirties” when he received 1 Timothy in AD 62. []
  6. Paul said in 2 Tim 3:15 that he had been schooled in the sacred writings since “childhood” (2 Tim 3:15; brephos), a word that has the idea of infancy In every other NT instance always refers to a “baby” or an “infant” (Luke 1:41, 44; 2:12, 16; 18:15; Acts 7:19; 1 Pet 2:2), whether still in or just out of the womb. []

Whether or Not to Leave One Ministry for Another: Lessons from Moses

Deciding whether or not to leave one ministry for another can be difficult, to say the least. It’s a decision that requires discernment, godly counsel from others, and time before God in prayer. Especially if one is a pastor, it means giving up one’s joy and crown in one church (i.e., the people themselves) in order to go to another (cf. Phil 4:2).

In my own life, there were multiple factors that brought me to my present church:

  1. A desire to preach and lead a congregation according to God’s Word (cf.1 Tim 3:1)
    As much as I loved my previous church and pastor (and still do!), I had a desire to do more than assist a lead shepherd in a local church.
  1. The recommendation to do so (cf. Phil 2:19–22)
    My pastor had asked me at an earlier point about putting my name in to candidate at another church, but my working on a degree didn’t leave room for a transition at the time. I knew that getting to know a new church was more important than finishing a degree, and I would be forced to delay if not drop the degree altogether. However, once my education started to wrap up and knowing that my lead pastor previously wanted to recommend me elsewhere, it seemed appropriate to look for a church now that the time was right.
  1. Finding the right “fit”
    After looking for another church and not finding what I (or they) believed was a good match, I was so frustrated that I actually planned on staying where I was as an assistant. But then God brought a match my way.
  1. The providence of God
    After closing several doors, God opened one up, making it clear for me that He was leading in this matter and not me (cf. Prov 16:1, 3, 9). The longer I’ve been at my own church and considered how God puts people where He will in the stories of Scripture, the more convinced I am that it is best to let God make a transition clear instead of searching for a new ministry.

I realize that no two situations are alike and that mine is not a perfect template for others. I also realize that, yes, there are times when a pastor realizes that he should move on, even when another ministry is not waiting for him at the time. But what I’m getting at for the moment is this—don’t leave a ministry because it does not seem to live up to your personal expectations or because your personal ambitions cause you to see it as a mere rung on the ladder in rising to so-called ministerial success.

Along these lines, I think we can learn something from Moses.

When Moses was “forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel” (Acts 7:23 ESV). “To visit his brothers” meant rescuing them from the oppression of slavery in Egypt. Moses was so zealous about this rescue that he killed an Egyptian mistreating an Israelite (Acts 7:23; cf. Exod 2:11–12). Maybe Moses’ zeal stemmed from the timing of God’s promise—Israel was 390 years into her time in Egypt, and Moses likely knew that Israel would come back to her land in 400 years (cf. Gen 15:13). But, at the end of the day, even when Moses “supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand…they did not understand” (Acts 7:25 ESV). Representative of Israel as a whole, an Israelite “thrust him aside” and challenged his desire to be Israel’s “ruler and judge” (Acts 7:27 ESV).

If you’ve ever searched for a ministry or been a pastor for some time, perhaps you understand Moses’ disappointment at that moment. He wanted to serve, he wanted to help, he had zeal, and he was rejected by the very people that he thought needed him the most.

Applying these thoughts to the topic at hand, we might say that he wanted a ministry to God’s people, but the circumstances showed that, while Moses’ desire to rescue Israel was commendable and even biblical, it was not time for him to do so. Putting it into a walk-away statement for us today, we might say this:

Sometimes we desire to transition to a new ministry, but God has other plans.

It’s a hard lesson to learn, but God knows best.

On the flipside, think of Moses forty years later. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, He told him that he would finally do what he had wanted to do forty years earlier—give Israel salvation by his hand—“Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exod 3:10 ESV). But now, Moses was full of excuses and even angered the Lord with his response—“Oh, my Lord, please send someone else” (Exod 4:13 ESV). In the end, however, Moses obeyed and had a glorious God-given ministry, one like none other in Israel (cf. Deut 34:10–12).

Moses’ call and ministry were obviously unique in many ways. At the same time, in considering what we can learn from him as it concerns ministry transitions, perhaps we could say this:

Sometimes we have no desire to transition to a new ministry, but God will unexpectedly grant us both the desire and transition.

In this instance, God is the One making the transition clear.

As God was with Moses, so also He will be with those who obey Him to serve His people as He desires, whatever the result may be. If nothing else, one result will be a reward for the one who faithfully serves Him, however small or great a ministry may be, however many ministries that may be, and whatever that ministry may be in the eyes of men (cf. Matt 25:20–23).

Should you move? Should you stay?

For anyone trying to answer these questions, take in as much information as possible in order to make your choice. Gather wisdom from godly counselors. Pray about it, specifically that the Lord would make your way clear. In learning from Moses, maybe what you think you want isn’t really for you. And maybe as you wait upon the Lord, He will grant you desire to keep on keeping on in your present ministry or bring something else your way in His perfect timing.

Whether you transition or stay and whatever the task may be, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Prov 16:3 ESV).

How to Transition God’s People from One Leader to the Next: Lessons from David and Solomon

Any church or Christian organization can feel somewhat lost when a pastor or leader steps down, especially if he does so suddenly or resigns because of sin. In the absence of his leadership, there is a time of limbo for God’s people while they search to fill the previous leader’s shoes, or, even if an immediate replacement is found, it takes time for someone new to learn the ropes and pilot the ship into sailing smoothly again.

I am only 36 years old, so I cannot really speak to these things from my own personal experience. However, I can do my best to speak from the Word of God, and we have an interesting example for transitioning leadership in the lives of David and Solomon. There are obviously bigger themes from their lives in Scripture (e.g., even the best kings are still not Jesus; Solomon was the first of many to sit on David’s throne as promised in the Davidic Covenant), but, if carefully done, we can learn other lessons from their lives as well (cf. Rom 15:4; 1 Cor 10:6, 11).

The first lesson is relatively simple:

Put your house in order before you finish your ministry.

David had a well-organized kingdom by the time of his death, including everything from a well-oiled military to who watched over the donkeys (1 Chronicles 23–27). Having the right resources and people in place, it is no wonder that the kingdom thrived under the wisdom of Solomon.

Even though one might try to put one’s house in order, there will likely be some things that are left undone. This being the case… 

You cannot solve every problem, but you can at least warn your successor of the “problem people” that he will inherit in order for him to handle them well.

David warned Solomon about two men in particular, Joab and Shimei (2 Kings 2:5–9). Joab vengefully murdered a handful of men during David’s kingship and then supported Adonijah’s attempted coup (1 Kings 1). Shimei supported this coup as well and had opposed David in the past when he was on the run from Absalom (2 Samuel 16:5–14). After his second installation as king, Solomon immediately killed Joab for his betrayal of David and then killed Shimei only after he had violated the terms that Solomon had set for him as a lesser punishment than death (2 Kings 2).

Practical matters can linger as well. If something is left undone, you can at least try to…

Pass off projects well.

God did not allow David to build the temple, but he did gather much of its materials for Solomon and gave him the plans as well (1 Chron 28:1–29:22). David knew the task that Solomon had before him and left him well-prepared.

As you near the end…

Don’t wait too long to pass the baton.

Adonijah thought he saw an opening to take his aging father’s throne. Though wrongfully done, he may have been expressing the desire of many to have a younger leader take over. Thankfully, with some frantic persuading by Nathan and Bathsheba, David was still able to hand over the kingdom to Solomon (1 Kings 1).

Off the heels of the last thought…

Give people a proper transition from one leader to the next.

Though Solomon was able to safely become king instead of Adonijah, David gave him a second installation, something more proper and public to help solidify the transfer of kingship from him to Solomon (1 Kings 1; 1 Chron 29:22b–25; cf. 23:1).

More could certainly be said, and the above is more easily said than done. Sometimes circumstances do not allow for a smooth transition, however hard one may try. But, as God is gracious, may He help us all as Christian leaders to do our best to properly transition His people from one leader to the next when He has for us to do so.

Virtue and Vice: Lessons from the Kings: David, Part 11

This entry is part 20 of 20 in the series Virtue and Vice: Lessons from the Kings

In our final look at the life of David, we see that David successfully transitioned the kingdom to Solomon. By the end of his kingdom, David had well-organized nation, including those who served in the temple (1 Chron 23–26), treasury caretakers and those overseeing external duties (i.e., overseeing labor) (1 Chron 26:20–32), the military (1 Chron 27:1–15), the tribal leaders (1 Chron 27:16–24), and stewards of the king’s property and maintenance (1 Chron 27:25–34).

Perhaps waiting too long to transition the kingdom to Solomon, David experienced once last attempt to unlawfully dethrone him by his son Adonijah. His plan was foiled, and, thanks to Nathan and Bathsheba, David installed Solomon as king (1 Kings 1:1–53).

David counseled Solomon to be faithful to God and how to deal with some of the characters involved in his kingship—Joab and Shimei especially (1 Kgs 2:1–9).

David also gave his final charges to Israel and Solomon concerning the temple (1 Chron 28:1–8, 9–21). He appealed to Israel for temple materials, the people gladly responded, and David thanked God (1 Chron 29:1–22a).

Finally, David gave Solomon a second and more fitting installation as king (1 Chron 29:22b–25; cf. 23:1). David died after forty years of ruling in Hebron and Jerusalem, and Solomon’s kingdom was established (1 Kgs 2:10–12; 1 Chron 29:26–30).

In bringing David’s life to a close, we do well to remember a couple of the greater biblical themes tied into these stories:

First, David had a son on the throne, just as God promised to him through the covenant in 2 Samuel 7:8–16.

Second, David was a great king, but he was not a perfect king. Only Jesus can perfectly rule and bring justice to Israel and all nations.

When it comes to searching the above for something practical, I cannot help but notice many lessons about leadership as the above involves the kingdom going from one king to the next. While Christian leaders are obviously not kings, there are a number of helpful lessons to gather from the end of David’s life as he passed the kingdom to Solomon:

Put your house in order before you finish. David had a well-organized kingdom by the time of his death, including everything from a well-oiled military to who watched over the donkeys. Having the right resources and people in place, it is no wonder that the kingdom thrived under the wisdom of Solomon.

You cannot solve every problem, but at least warn your successor of problems that he will inherit. David had quite a bit of trouble with Joab during his kingship, and Joab supported Adonijah’s attempted coup. Shimei heaped coals of fire on David’s head by cursing him when he was already on the run from Absalom. After his second installation as king, Solomon killed Joab immediately and then Shimei only after he had violated the terms that Solomon had set for him.

Pass off projects well. God did not allow David to build the temple, but he did gather much of its materials for Solomon and gave him the plans as well. David knew the task that Solomon had before him and left him well-prepared.

Don’t wait too long to pass the baton. Adonijah thought he saw an opening to take his aging father’s throne. Thankfully, with some frantic persuading by Nathan and Bathsheba, David was still able to hand over the kingdom to Solomon.

Off the heels of the last thought, give people a proper transition from one leader to the next. Though Solomon was able to safely become king instead of Adonijah, David gave him a second installation, something more proper and public to help solidify the transfer of kingship from him to Solomon.