All who lead in Christ’s church need to be growing more and more like Him. That’s the implication of Paul’s words to Timothy: “That your progress will be evident to all” (1 Timothy 4:15).
Throughout this series we’ve carefully considered the apostle Paul’s urgent exhortation concerning Christian leadership found in 1 Timothy 4:6–15. Timothy was a young pastor—a son in the faith in Paul’s eyes—and the apostle laid out for him a clear biblical blueprint for servant leaders in the church. Paul impressed upon Timothy the requirement to warn others of error, study Scripture, shun worldliness, be disciplined, work hard, teach with authority, lead by example, be dedicated, and be focused. And all of those qualities combined produce a church leader who is being conformed to Christ.
“That your progress will be evident to all” suggests that Timothy’s spiritual progress should have been obvious to everyone. That implies he hadn’t yet reached complete spiritual maturity. A minister should not try to convince his people that he has no flaws; he should allow them to see his growth. The standard for a servant of Christ is high, and we all fall short of it. Even Paul said, “Not that I have already obtained it . . . . I press on toward the goal” (Philippians 3:12, 14). Paul had his faults; he wasn’t perfect (see Acts 23:1–5). But like him, our integrity and humility should be evident to others—I’m not perfect, but I hope I’m progressing.
People used the noun translated “progress” (prokopē) in a military sense to speak of an advancing force. The stoics used it to refer to advancing in knowledge.  Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1980), 628. Some have used it to describe a pioneer cutting a trail and advancing toward a new location by strenuous effort. We are to be advancing toward Christlikeness, and we need to let people see that.
Humanly speaking, no one is fit for the task of ministry. The Lord knows that; the same Lord who gave us high standards knows we can never meet them on our own. Yet when we yield to the Spirit of God and depend on Him for what we can never accomplish on our own, His power will work through us.
Paul concludes 1 Timothy 4 by saying, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things” (1 Timothy 4:16). Timothy was to focus on two things: his conduct and his teaching. Those two things are at the heart of the ministry. This twofold command sums up the qualities we’ve studied as we’ve worked through this passage.
Scripture repeatedly affirms that those who are genuinely saved will continue in the faith. Paul assured Timothy that his continuing in personal holiness and accurate teaching would move him along the inevitable path to final and glorious salvation: “For as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those that hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16). His perseverance would be the proof that his faith was genuine.
If we persevere in godliness and truth, our lives will affect others; we’ll bring them the message of salvation. We don’t actually do the saving, but God uses us as we preach His Word and live godly lives. All the qualifications of a servant leader ultimately result in the salvation of souls and the sanctification of the saints. That is our purpose in life and the reason we remain in the world after the Lord redeems us. If all that God wanted was our worship, He could take us to heaven at the moment of our salvation. But He wants us to bring the message of salvation to lost people. That’s the sum of ministry. It’s a high, holy, and glorious calling!
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