Truth and Tone Go Hand-in-Hand

Title: Truth and Tone Go Hand-in-Hand
Date: 02/09/2014
Text: 2 Timothy 2:24–26
Big Idea: When God calls a man to the ministry he shapes him for that calling.

Outline: 3 marks of a gospel minister.
(1) He is committed to the truth.
(2) He is careful with his tone.
(3) He is calibrated by the big picture.

The online news site wrote an article recently that got your attention. The title was, “Why does America send so many stupid hacks overseas?“ It’s an article about ambassadors overseas. If you are familiar with this subject you will know that Americans do not have a very good track record. It’s been in the news of late that the ambassadors being appointed are not qualified. There is question as to whether or not the diplomat would rightly represent the US and her interests while deployed abroad. For example, George Tsunis to Norway, but did not know much about Norway at all. Then there is Coleen Bell, recent job as producer of The Bold and The Beautiful. Consider also the investor Cynthia Stroum to Luxemborg whose qualifications are being critiqued. How are these people, say the critics, going to represent the needs and interests of the US?

We have the opportunity this morning to appoint an elder at Emmaus Bible Church. As a Christian we are all considered ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:17ff). However, in a particular sense the pastor, the minister of the gospel, is the ambassador of Christ and his kingdom. You can obviously see the issue if we are simply appointing willing warm bodies to the office of elder. How would they represent the King and his interests. So, what criteria do we use to appoint someone to the office of elder or to the ministry of pastor?

When the Bible talks about the ministry of the pastor or elder there is a desire, a gifting, and qualifications for the office. To put it another way, when God calls a man to the ministry he shapes him for that calling.

This morning we will consider 3 marks of a gospel minister.

  1. He is committed to the truth.
  2. He is careful with his tone.
  3. He is calibrated by the big picture.

(1) He is committed to the truth.

This would seem like a given but increasingly it is not. The pastor must be committed to the word of God.

There are a lot of pressures upon a pastor but none so great as the self-imposed fear of man. We want to be liked, accepted, and successful. Sometimes, however, this desire can undercut our calling. We have not been called to be well-liked or successful we have been called to be stewards, faithful to our task.

One aspect of this stewardship is the faithful handling of the word of God.

We read here in our text that the pastor must be “able to teach.” That is he is gifted with the ability to make the word of God clear. This is not simply being a good communicator or well-spoken but to have the ability to make the Bible understandable, clear, and known.

The church is the pillar and support of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15) and it is the pulpit that steadily proclaims and supports that truth week in and week out. If the pastor is not committed to the truth then the church’s foundation will be steadily eroding.

What are the implications of a pastors being uncommitted to the truth of the Bible? • You will not be growing spiritually. You may grow in spite of him but not because of him. • The church will experience a lack of divine blessing and the potentiality of his judgment. (cf the church of Pergumum in Rev. 2:12–17) o One of the reasons to be committed to the truth is because many people are not!!

What of his commitment to the truth? • You will grow and be refreshed in the Bible. • Personal testimony of the impact of expository preaching, biblical theology, discipleship, etc. • Conversation about our church growing with some neighbors and new friends…how did this happen? Are you a progressive church? • Remember how Jesus viewed the Bible? “It is written…” When the pastor thinks, talks, and acts like this the church will flourish.

(2) He is careful with his tone.

There are many different ways a pastor may be derelict in his duty. The most common and obvious would be his morality. If a man is not reflecting the doctrine that he is teaching then his ministry is a sham. We know that there are moral qualifications for the office of elder (1 Tim. 3:1–8). At the same time the pastor must be biblical in his doctrine. He must have a firm grasp on the truth. If he is in error doctrinally then his congregation will suffer. As a result Paul gives many encouragements to this end in 2 Timothy alone (2 Tim. 1:6–7, 13–14; 2:15; 4:1–4, etc). This culminates with the pastoral inclusion to watch your life and your doctrine closely (1 Tim. 4:16).

There is another aspect where a minister of the gospel may go wrong, and I fear it is becoming increasingly neglected or at least overlooked. The pastor is to be firmly committed to the truth while maintaining a tone that is consistent with the truth. In other words, truth and tone go hand-in-hand. If I might take some liberty, “what God has joined together, let no man separate.”

It is not difficult to fall off one side of the ledge while being so confident about our standing on the other. We can be indifferent to doctrine and extremely nice or we can be committed to doctrine and complete jerks. If we are indifferent to doctrine and try to be really nice then we abrogate our calling, dishonor Christ, and don’t help anyone. And, if we are committed to truth while being unduly harsh, rude, or biting then we undermine our doctrine. Surely you can see how you can fall off both sides of the cliff.

Have you noticed how often the Bible tells you, particularly pastors, to be careful with their tone? 2 Timothy 2:24–15 is one example. The context is controversy and we read:

I have found John Newton to be of great benefit in this aspect of pastoral ministry. Some of what follows comes from his letters, compiled in the book Select Letters of John Newton.

If the person you are in a disagreement with is a Christian then remember to deal gently with them. This is the manner and custom of Christ. Remember David’s word to Joab concerning Absalom? “Deal gently with him for my sake.” Remember, the Lord loves this brother or sister and patiently bears with them. And so should you.

“The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself. In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.” Newton, p. 112

But if the person is a non-Christian then they are doubly in need of your compassion, gentleness, and love. They do not know what they do! Jesus saw this phenomenon and it moved him to prayerful pity (Lk. 23:24). If it were not for God’s sovereign grace you would be the scoffer, the mocker, the self-righteous one.

“Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation.” People who believe the Doctrines of Grace have no business being harsh, unkind, biting and lacking in understanding. We have a theological framework that makes sense of this and it bids us to be merciful!

There is a kind of selfishness that makes us angry with and opposed to those who are different than us. We believe that we are serving God’s cause in our anger. But, let us not forget the words of James 1:20, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness God requires.” You may absolutely right in your doctrinal or practical conclusion, however, you may be communicating your rightness in a sinful way. You could be right on truth and wrong on tone. And as a result, you are wrong on truth! Some feel they are serving the truth while actually discrediting it!

To those who thrive on controversy while using doctrinal purity as a cover Newton sounds prophetic:

“If you can be content with showing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task; but I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands.”

If the minister of the gospel to effectively lead the church he must lead the church into Christlikeness which is far more reflective of patience, kindness, and gentleness than a lot of the knife-fighting and harshness that often gets passed off as the ministry of the word.

He is to be committed to the truth and careful with his tone. Pastors must remember that truth and tone go hand-in-hand.

(3) He is calibrated by the big picture.

This will go quickly, let’s look at it (v. 26–27). He knows that the key that fits into the key-hole, the heart, is actually the word of God faithfully delivered. God uses someone to communicate that truth in a way that consistent with that word.

You know that you cannot bring about repentance on your own, God grants that. And he does that through the Word of God.

Therefore, the pastor can be committed to truth and to the tone in light of the big picture. What is the big picture? It is the advancement of the gospel. It is so they, the unbelievers may be freed!

Calvin writes: “unbelievers are so intoxicated by Satan, that, being asleep, they do not perceive their distresses. On the other hand, when the Lord shines upon us by the light of his truth, he wakens us out of that deadly sleep, breaks asunder the snares by which we were bound, and, having removed all obstacles, trains us to obedience to him.”

He is making the point that when the truth is preached, proclaimed, and applied it is what God uses to bring the captives out of captivity!

“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:28–29)

So, in the church, we don’t want to simply appoint warm bodies for the ministry. We appoint people who have been called by God and shaped for the task. We do this because we love God, love you, and want to see the gospel move ahead in this community.