During his life, Paul the Apostle wrote extensively to people and to congregations scatter about Europe and Asia. This was the time of the dawning of the Christian faith and its explosive growth throughout the Roman world. Paul wrote three “pastoral letters” during this time, two to his young protege Timothy, and one to another protege Titus. After investing himself into these young men of God, they became shepherds and overseers of local churches. These three letters are deeply personal and contain rich instructions to leaders on various topics. Among the instructions Paul gave in these letters, he made five “trustworthy sayings,” or statements.
Statement One – Jesus Came to Save Sinners
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (1 Timothy 1:15 ESV)
Not only trustworthy, but this statement is foundational to faith in Christ Jesus. As a disciple-making Christian, it is imperative to bear in mind at all times this truth, that Jesus came to save sinners, and I am the greatest of the sinners. Paul asserts three humbling truths in this brief statement:
- God had a plan for me and for you from the very beginning, and that plan was through Jesus the Christ. He existed in the form of God, but humbled himself to become a human who would suffer death on the cross to pay for your sins and mine. (See Philippians 2:5-11)
- God’s plan was (and is) that we are saved from our sins by faith in Jesus through God’s grace. Salvation is His free gift to us. We can not earn it. We do not deserve it.
- You and I are alike in this respect: We are sinners deserving of God’s punishment. But, even so, He was willing to die for me, and I am humbled by His grace.
Meditate on this trustworthy statement, and make it part of your daily spiritual renewal time.
Statement 2 – Being an Overseer is noble.
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. (1 Timothy 3:1 ESV)
This is pretty straightforward: If you are called to be a pastor, you have a noble calling, one that brings heavy responsibilities. You have responsibility for oversight, not just over church affairs, but over the spiritual development, growth and well-being of the individuals who make up the church! Being an overseer of God’s people is hard work! It is a task. You are called to train and equip those in your flock to the work of ministry and build unity in the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16). You are to teach your flock in such a way that they will not be deceived by unbiblical and ungodly “truth-claims.”
Statement 3 – Train Yourself in Godliness
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. (1 Timothy 4:7-10 ESV)
Do not waste time with silly and irrelevant things, but focus on your own training and discipline. When you take a break from training in sports, atrophy and weakness settles in quickly. The same holds true for your spiritual training. Pursue your personal spiritual development every day. You won’t feel like sometimes. At other times, you will feel too overwhelmed with no time left for spiritual training. You must push on and do not your training in Christ-likeness.
Statement 4 – Endurance
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he completes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for if we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:8-13 ESV)
Keep in mind that your own training and pursuit of Christ is a lifelong endeavor. Stay the course, and condition yourself. Stay focused on what really matters: preaching and teaching the word, and making disciples. Your days may be filled with suffering and you may find yourself even imprisoned for Christ. But do not be distracted even by suffering for the gospel. We are given our final prize when Christ returns, and until that day, we must not give up.
Statement 5 – God Saves Us According to His Mercy, Not According to Our Works
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. (Titus 3:4-8 ESV)
Finally, even though your course is an endurance race, never forget that you did not earn your salvation. The God of the universe, Who spoke everything into existence, Who created you for Himself and gave you purpose and meaning in life, has saved you by His grace and mercy. You can’t work to obtain it. You can’t do enough “good” things to overcome the “bad” things. While God calls us and saves us to do good things, we are justified by His grace alone.