This post was originally published in March 2019. –ed.
In a culture that despises authority and submission, many people have been conditioned to distrust anyone who speaks authoritatively or represents an objective, external standard.
Christians must not succumb to such skepticism. We should not join the world’s knee-jerk cynicism for anyone who speaks authoritatively. This is particularly crucial for those servant leaders who have been called by God to shepherd and lead His flock. We must understand that it isn’t arrogant to teach God’s Word with authority when that authority comes from the divine Author.
Combating the worldly rebellion of despising authority requires us to think carefully about the work God’s shepherds have been called to. The pastor does not make casual or optional suggestions to his congregation. He’s not there to entertain or tickle ears. He’s not called to deliver sentimental emotionalism or motivational speeches. He’s called to authoritatively assert the Word of God.
That’s why the apostle Paul could confidently instruct Timothy to “prescribe and teach these things” (1 Timothy 4:11). Throughout Scripture we repeatedly see a similar charge to God’s servant leaders. Titus 2:15 says, “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” Pastoral ministry demands boldness. It demands conviction—not in one’s own authority, but in that which emanates from God’s Word. As Peter wrote, “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God” (1 Peter 4:11).
Paul’s command to Timothy contrasts sharply with much contemporary preaching. Preaching in our day is often intriguing, but seldom commanding; often entertaining, but seldom convicting; often popular, but seldom powerful; often interesting, but less often transforming. Paul does not ask Timothy to share with or make suggestions to his congregation. Rather, he is to “prescribe” the truth to them. The Greek word parangellō means “to command” or “to order,” as in a mandate—a call to obedience by one in authority. “Teach” has the idea of passing on truth. “These things” refers to Paul’s teaching in 4:6–10 and more. Everything God commanded Timothy to be, he was to command others to be in turn.
The excellent servant’s preaching is to be authoritative, bringing the commands of God’s Word to bear on the lives of His people. Such preaching imitates God Himself, of whom Paul wrote in Acts 17:30, “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent.” Jesus commanded His hearers to repent and believe, as John the Baptist had done. The Father commanded all to hear His Son and obey. Every call to believe the gospel with repentance is a command. Every call to saints to obey the Word is a command that is to come with authority.
That said, the godly shepherd doesn’t bulldoze over his sheep—he’s still meek and gentle with those under his care. But in that patience and gentleness of transmission, there is an unequivocal submission to the authority of Scripture.
It’s worth noting that those who have failed in terms of Paul’s prior exhortations won’t have success here, either. Lazy students of God’s Word won’t bring its authority to bear on their congregations, and those who don’t know what it means certainly won’t step into the pulpit with conviction and preach with power. Likewise, those who persist in their openness to unbiblical influences will quickly find their confidence in Scripture’s absolute authority diminished and corrupted. Put simply, there is no authority in the preaching of men who don’t faithfully explain the Scripture.
Ultimately, the godly servant leader knows the authority doesn’t lie with him. He’s not the head over his church—Christ is. His congregation has merely been entrusted to him for a time, and it is his job to bring the authority of God’s Word to bear on their lives, trusting the Spirit to work through it to accomplish His will.
(Adapted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Timothy, The Master’s Plan for the Church, and Final Word)