Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy—his spiritual son in the faith, and co-laborer in the work of the kingdom. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses six through sixteen of the fourth chapter. When we come to this particular portion of the epistle which was written unto Timothy we find the apostle Paul making an incredibly powerful statement concerning Timothy and the ministry to which he had been called. In the sixth verse of the fourth chapter the apostle Paul wrote the following words: “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good ministry of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained” (1 Timothy 4:6). As I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy in this particular passage of Scripture I can’t help but be gripped by the following words, which are found in the middle of the sixth verse—“thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ.” Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous reality of those words—not only in the corporate context of the body of Christ and the house of the Lord, but also in your own personal and private life as a saint and disciple of Jesus Christ. Take a moment and consider the tremendous reality of what it not only looks like, but also what it means to not only be a minister of Jesus Christ, but also to be a “good minister of Jesus Christ.” It is absolutely necessary and imperative that when we read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy in this particular passage we understand that there is a vast difference between being a minister and being a minister of Jesus Christ. I am convinced and I would dare say that this nation has no shortage of ministers, and those ministers who may minister week in and week out during the Sunday morning service; however, what I am even more convinced about is that this nation has a shortage of ministers of Jesus Christ. Please note and please understand that it is possible to be a minister, and yet not be a minister of Jesus Christ. Please note that it is possible to say you are ministering “for” Christ, and yet never take the time to minister unto Christ. I believe with everything that is inside of me that there are a number of individuals within the house of the Lord who might do very well at ministering for Christ, and yet they know absolutely nothing about ministering unto Christ. I believe with everything that is within me that we must not only learn and understand how to minister for Christ, but we must also learn how to minister unto Christ. What good is it if we can minister for Christ with the best of them, and yet we know absolutely nothing of how to minister unto Christ?
MINISTRY UNTO CHRIST! I am convinced that one of the most important lessons we must learn if we would even dare seek to be a faithful minister of Jesus Christ in this generation is how to minister first minister unto Jesus Christ. I don’t care how well you might feel you are able of ministering for Christ, for if you first and foremost don’t know how to minister unto Christ, your ministry might very well be incredibly shallow and not in the least bit profitable. There is a very specific passage found within the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew which I am convinced brings us face to face with the reality and concept of ministry unto Christ. What’s more, is that I am convinced that this particular passage directly links our ministry “for” Christ to our ministry “unto Christ.” In all reality, I would dare say that the reality of ministry for Christ, and the reality of ministry unto Christ are directly and intrinsically linked to each other. Before even getting into the reality and concept of this ministry unto Christ as a direct manifestation of ministry for Christ, I feel it necessary to bring you who are reading this face to face with the powerful reality that was expressed by Jesus Christ Himself concerning a number of individuals who will come unto Him in the Last Day. Tucked away towards the very end of the Sermon on the Mount which Jesus delivered we find Jesus making a powerful statement unto those who gathered together unto Him to hear and listen to Him speak. Beginning with the fifteenth verse of the seventh chapter we find a very specific passage of Scripture which provides us with a powerful warning and word of caution concerning our concept of ministry and what we think and believe is acceptable and approved in the sight of God. Beginning with the fifteenth verse of the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we are confronted with the tremendous fact that it is possibly that ministry can in fact be turned away in the presence of the eternal Son of God. WHEN MINISTRY GETS TURNED AWAY FROM THE PRESENCE OF JESUS! WHEN ARROGANT BOASTING IS TURNED AWAY IN THE PRESENCE OF JESUS! Did you know that it is absolutely possible for ministry, and even boasts concerning ministry can in fact be turned away from and in the presence of Jesus, and even proclaimed that Jesus never knew, nor was He familiar and acquainted with it? Did you know that it possible to enter into the presence of Jesus and make grandiose boasts concerning ministry in the earth, and yet hear Jesus not only declare unto you that He never knew you, but also hear Him declare that you were in fact a worker of iniquity? Consider if you will the words which Jesus spoke unto the crowd which gathered themselves together unto Him to hear Him teach and preach:
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:15-23).
I have to admit that the words which I find in this particular passage of Scripture are incredibly challenging to read, for they strike at the very heart of a reality that many in the house of the Lord would rather now deal with and confront. When you read the words which are contained in this particular passage of Scripture you will refer of three distinct workings which were performed and carried out by those individuals who would come unto Jesus in that day, saying, “Lord, Lord.” When speaking unto the crowd which had gathered before Him, Jesus spoke of prophesying in His name, casting out devils in His name, and doing many wonderful works in His name. One of the first things you will notice is that connected to each of these declarations is the statement that what they were doing was being done in the name of Jesus Christ. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the beloved physician Luke recorded for us in the tenth chapter of the first treatise which he wrote unto Theophilus. If you turn and direct your attention to the tenth chapter of this New Testament gospel you will find Luke recording for us the account of Jesus sending out the seventy before His face into every city and place where He Himself would come. Consider first the account of Jesus sending out the seventy before His face beginning with the first verse of the tenth chapter:
“After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before His face into every city and place, whither He Himself would come. Therefore said He unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: and heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come night unto you. But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come night unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city” (Luke 10:1-12).
This particular passage of Scripture is actually quite remarkable and astounding, for within this passage of Scripture we find Jesus Himself sending these seventy out before His face and in His name in order to prepare the way for Him to come unto these cities, towns and villages. Jesus sent these seventy out as lambs among the wolves, and as labourers within the harvest which was before them. When Jesus sent these seventy out before His face into the places where He Himself would come, He instructed them to bring peace with them wherever they went, and even to heal the sick that were present within those cities, towns and villages. Moreover, Jesus instructed these seventy which He sent out before His face to declare and proclaim unto those within these cities, towns and villages that “the kingdom of God had come nigh unto them,” thus preparing them for the manifestation of the kingdom of God, which was in fact Jesus Christ. It’s interesting and worth noting that when you come to the seventeenth verse of this passage of Scripture you find the seventy returning with great joy into the presence of Jesus, and the source of their joy was very specific. Beginning to read with and form the seventeenth verse of this chapter you find the following words: “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us through thy name. And He said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fail from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:17-20). If you read this passage very carefully, you will quickly discover that Jesus instructed the seventy to not rejoice in the ministry they had engaged themselves in—even if that ministry was in and through His name. If there is one thing you will understand when reading this passage of Scripture, it’s that Jesus immediately and directly corrected and challenged these seventy when they returned rejoicing with great joy because the devils were subject unto them in and through His name.
These seventy returned unto Jesus declaring that the devils were subject unto Him in and through His name—“Lord, did we not cast out devils in your name”—and yet Jesus very pointedly instructed them to rejoice not in such a reality. Instead, that which Jesus declared unto them was to rejoice in the reality that their names were written in heaven. This leads me to an incredibly powerful concept and thought—namely, that it is possible to cast out devils in the name of Jesus, and to have demons subject unto us through His name, and yet not only are our names not written and recorded in heaven, but neither does Jesus know us. I am convinced that the passage we find in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke is directly linked and connected to the words which we find in the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, for in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus refers to a group of people who would come into His presence rejoicing, and perhaps even proud of the fact that they had cast out devils in His name. This group of people which entered into His presence rejoicing that they cast out devils and demons in His name was actually met with something none of these individuals were expecting—namely, that they were not known in heaven. I am utterly and completely convinced that Jesus’ reference in the Sermon on the Mount concerning His declaring “Depart from me, I never you,” and His reference to rejoicing because our name’s are written in heaven are essentially two sides of the same coin. I am convinced that if our names are written and recorded in heaven then it also holds true that we are known by Jesus who is the Christ and Lord. It is impossible for our names to be written in heaven, and yet Jesus not know and be intimately acquainted with us. Oh, I believe that there are those among us who are making grandiose boasts concerning all the “ministry” they are doing within the earth, and yet they have not the slightest clue that their names aren’t recorded in heaven. What’s more, is that since their names are not written in heaven, it is highly possible and probable that Jesus does not know and is not familiar and acquainted with them. Jesus emphatically declared unto these seventy that they should not rejoice because of the ministry they perform in and through His name, but rather to rejoice in the fact that their names are written and recorded in heaven. Thus, Jesus was instructing them to rejoice in the knowledge that they were known in heaven among the angels and by Jesus more than rejoicing in the knowledge that demons and devils are subject to them. WHEN ARROGANT BOASTS OF MINISTRY FALL ON DEAF EARS! WHEN GRANDIOSE BOASTS OF MINISTRY ARE TURNED AWAY IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH!
In all reality, I would dare say that it is not merely ministry for Jesus—ministry in and through His name—that causes us to be known in heaven, causes us to be known by Jesus, and causes our names to be written in heaven. I am convinced that it is our ministry unto Jesus Christ that truly causes our names to be written and recorded in heaven. Lest you think that I am far fetched with making such a declaration and statement I would bring and direct your attention to the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples concerning the Last Days and the end of all things. If you begin reading with and from the thirty-first verse of the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find Jesus speaking of the coming of the Son of man in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him. Within this particular passage you will find the Son of man sitting upon His throne of His glory, and all the nations of the earth will be gathered together before Him. With the nations gathered together before Him and before His throne we find a very distinct separation taking place, as Jesus separates the nations into two groups—one group which He would set to His right hand, and one group which He would set to His left hand. Consider if you will the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples beginning to read with and from the thirty-first verse of the twenty-fifth chapter:
“When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth His sheep from the goats: and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and His angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me not meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:31-46).
As you read the words which Jesus spoke in this passage of Scripture you will find a direct connection between ministry for Him, and ministry unto Him, and how it is possible that our ministry for Him is actually a manifestation and byproduct of our ministry unto Him. You will notice in this passage of Scripture that Jesus spoke of those who were thirsty, and were given drink, as well as those who were hungry and were given meat. Within this passage you will notice and find those who were a stranger and yet were taken in, and those who were naked and clothed. What’s more, is that you will notice in this passage those who were sick and yet were visited, and those who were in prison, and yet were also visited. What marks Jesus’ words as so incredibly powerful in this passage of Scripture is that He directly linked ministry for Him to ministry unto Him, for that which we do unto the hungry and the thirsty, that which we do unto the strangers and naked, that which we do unto the sick and those in prison is in fact done directly unto Jesus Himself. Even that which we read and that which we find in this passage of Scripture indicates that those who not only minister for Christ, but those who minister unto Christ can and will be permitted to enter into eternal kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. Thus, Jesus’ words seem to speak of and indicate the tremendous reality of those who not only know how to minister for Christ, but those who know how to minister unto Christ will in fact be known in heaven. What’s more, is that it is actually incredibly interesting to note that those who heard of Jesus being hungry and thirsty and gave Him meat and drink, those who heard of Jesus being naked and clothed Him and being a stranger and being taken in, and those who heard of Jesus being sick and visited, and in prison and visited had absolutely no idea when they heard of such a reality. It’s actually worth noting within this passage that Jesus declares what we do unto the least of these His brethren was and is actually done unto Him. Thus, there is a direct connection between ministry for Christ and ministry unto Christ, and there are times within our lives when we are ministering for Christ and we might not even be aware of the fact that we are actually ministering unto Christ. It’s quite astonishing to consider the fact that those on the right hand of the throne of the Son of man seemed to have absolutely no clue that what they were doing on the earth was actually ministering unto Jesus Christ, and weren’t even made aware of such a reality until they entered into the presence of Jesus in His glory. Within this passage we encounter the tremendous reality that there are times within our lives when our ministry for Christ is actually a direct manifestation of our ministry unto Christ, and it is our ministry unto Christ that causes us to be known in heaven.
When writing unto Timothy the apostle Paul declared that if he put the brethren in remembrance of the things which were necessary and important, he would be a good minister of Jesus Christ—one that was nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto they had attained. I find it absolutely incredible that the apostle Paul speaks unto Timothy and writes concerning being a good minister of Jesus Christ, for once more, we must recognize and realize the tremendous reality that it is one thing to be a minister within the house of God, and it is something else altogether to be a minister of Jesus Christ. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation in the second epistle which was written unto them. Beginning with the first verse of the chapter the apostle Paul writes how he was jealous over them with a godly jealousy, for he espoused them to one husband, in order that he might present them as a chaste virgin to Christ. If you continue reading this passage of Scripture, however, you will read and discover that not everyone who engages in ministry is actually a servant and minister of Jesus Christ. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote beginning with the third verse: “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles. But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all thigns. Have I committed an offense in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. And when I was present with you and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself. As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia. Wherefore? Because I love not? God knoweth. But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel: for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:3-15).
When writing unto the Corinthian congregation the apostle Paul spoke of certain ministers within the church who are actually ministers of Satan who have transformed themselves into ministers of light. The apostle Paul emphatically wrote unto the Corinthian congregation that this is and should not be any marvel for them, for even Satan himself can transform himself into an angel of light. It’s important that we recognize and understand this reality, for I am convinced that you are either a minister of Jesus Christ, or you are a minister of Satan and a minister of darkness. The apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy concerning his being a good minister of Jesus Christ, and we must understand the reality and concept that it isn’t enough to merely be a minister of Jesus Christ, but actually be a good minister of Jesus Christ. Perhaps the single greatest question that must be asked is not what man thinks of the ministry you are engage in, but what heaven thinks of the ministry you are engaged in. The apostle Paul wrote how being a good minister of Jesus Christ meant that he was nourished up in the words of with, and of a good doctrine. In fact, when you read this epistle which was written unto Timothy you will find a number of specific instructions given unto Timothy that would position and qualify him to be a faithful and good minister of Jesus Christ. As you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy in this epistle you will find countless sets of instruction on how to be a wise, and faithful, and good minister of Jesus Christ. Beginning with the eighteenth verse of the first chapter we find the following words: “This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck” (1 Timothy 1:18). The first thing we discover within this epistle concerning being a good minister of Jesus Christ is to war a good warfare while at the same time holding faith and a good conscience. Thus, within this verse we learn how incredibly important it faith and conscience are if we are going to be found as a good and faithful minister of Jesus Christ. He who would seek to be a good and faithful minister of Jesus Christ must not only hold tightly to faith, but they must also lay hold of and pursue a good and clean conscience in the sight of both God and men.
As you continue reading this epistle, you will find that the apostle Paul writes of that good minister of Jesus Christ being nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, thus once more directly connecting the concept of faith and ministry. What’s more, is that within this passage of Scripture we find the apostle Paul writing concerning good doctrine, which is absolutely essential to being a good minister of Jesus Christ. Oh how many ministers are there within the houses of worship within and throughout this nation who do not have a doctrine which is sound before and in the sight of God and men? How many ministers are there in the earth who might very well be ministering, and might even be ministering “for Christ,” and “in Christ’s name,” and yet the doctrine they hold to is neither sound nor based on Scripture. Oh you who would seek to be a good and faithful minister of and for Jesus Christ, I would strongly urge you to first and foremost ensure that the doctrine you hold to, and the doctrine you profess is sound and rooted and grounded in the Word of God, and in the truth of the Spirit. There has been much damage that has been done by ministers who have not had a correct and right doctrine, as they have preached another gospel contrary to the gospel found in Scriptures, and as they have preached another Jesus contrary to the Jesus which is found in the Scriptures. If you desire to be a minister of Jesus Christ and yet you do not know the Scripture, I would strongly encourage you to refrain and abstain from making any attempt to be a minister at all. Until and unless you are a wise and faithful steward of the Word of God, you should not and must not make any attempt to minister for Christ, and in His name. Much damage has been done by men and women who don’t know their Bibles, and who don’t know the Scriptures, and yet they continue to make attempts to minister for Jesus Christ. Such men and women are like the false prophets who through Jeremiah the Lord declared that they were not sent by Him, and yet they ran anyway. Such ministers are those who may very well preach about Christ, and who may very well preach concerning Christ, and yet they do not know the Christ whom they preach. What’s more, is that the apostle goes on to write unto Timothy and instructs him to exercise himself unto godliness, for godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come. He or she who would seek to be a good minister of Jesus Christ must in all reality themselves be godly, and one cannot be godly or possess godliness without being directly connected to God Himself. Towards the end of this chapter the apostle Paul speaks directly to Timothy concerning the greatest mark of being a good minister of Jesus Christ—namely, that Timothy would be an example unto the believers in Jesus Christ. I leave you with the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy in verses twelve through sixteen of this chapter:
“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:12-16).