THE SERVANT OF THE LORD
Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
“The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”
2 Timothy 2: 24, 25
OUR TEXT was taken from the Apostle Paul’s final letter, written shortly before his death. This passage has been a symbolic diamond of priceless value to God’s people throughout the Gospel Age. God’s consecrated people are servants of the Lord, the Truth and the brethren. Romans 6: 16 states, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey.” Although we are to witness to the world, our service toward the world is mainly future – in God’s Kingdom
The Lord’s faithful people will have the privilege of service in the next Age, and in the endless Ages of glory following the Millennial Age. We might say that the Lord’s people are apprentices now, in preparation for their future service. The most important part of their training is the development of a Christlike character. The greatest influence upon the world as they come back from the grave and begin walking up the Highway of Holiness will be the Christlike characters of those who will form the earthly phase of Gods’ Kingdom.
Let us first consider the marvelous humility of our Lord Jesus. In His pre-human condition, He was the great Logos, God’s Prime Minister and Director of all the angels. Yet He “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2: 7). Toward the close of His earthly life, the disciples, believing that God’s Kingdom was approaching, disputed among themselves which of them should be accounted the greatest. Our Lord took the opportunity to teach them a valuable lesson in humility by washing their feet, and told them, “He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve” (Luke 22: 26). On an earlier occasion Jesus said, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20: 28).
“The servant of the Lord must not strive”
The first quality that the Lord’s servants must have is that they must not strive, they must not be contentious, must not argue, must not quarrel. Combativeness is a good quality, one that many of the Lord’s people possess naturally, in fact, it is a Christian grace that all the Lord’s people need to develop. But contentiousness is an exaggeration of combativeness. There is a saying that we may “win an argument, but lose a brother.” Many hold errors because they are blinded by their own beliefs or the deceptions of the Adversary, but arguing only tends to harden others in their errors (Philippians 2: 3, 14) (James 1: 19).
One who is filled by pride is unable to be guided by reason, so the servants of the Lord must first be established in the Truth. Then they can contend earnestly, but in a loving way, without heat. God is our supreme example. He is not vindictive. And of our Lord it is written, “He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets” (Matthew 12: 19). If the Lord’s servants are contentious, they can bring disrepute to the Truth, and discredit any good they could otherwise accomplish. Instead, they are to speak the Truth in love (Ephesians 4: 15). “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3: 8, 9).
“but be gentle unto all men”
The Apostle is here appealing to the brethren to be gentle unto all men. Our Lord is a shining example of this, for He displayed gentleness in all of His dealings, unless principle was at stake – “The wisdom that cometh from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle.” The Apostle Paul was gentle, “We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children” (1 Thessalonians 2: 7). Gentleness will increase the usefulness of the Lord’s servants. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness” (Proverbs 15: 1, 2).
“apt to teach”
All of the Lord’s people, not just the elders of local ecclesias, need to be become proficient in being able to teach the Truth of God’s Word, to impart knowledge. It is not necessary to have a great intellect, a broad secular education, or a university degree. What is of utmost importance is to have the Truth in one’s own heart and mind. The following points have been gleaned from those who, as the Lord’s servants, have been successful in imparting the Truth to others: (1) do not talk over people’s heads, but teach others at their own level; (2) adopt your own words and style, rather than attempting to emulate an unnatural style for yourself; although it is preferable to utilize proper language, depending upon the audience, it is not always necessary; (3) use the question and answer method, especially when dealing with newcomers who need the simpler features of the Truth – the milk of the Word; (4) concentrate on our main message, which is Christ as Savior and King – ransom (1 Timothy 2: 5, 6) and restitution (Acts 3: 19-21); (5) use wisdom (“wise as serpents”); (6) use tact (“harmless as doves”); and (7) take a personal interest in the hearers; a good teacher will not only teach, but will also comfort. As pupils in the school of Christ, we need to learn to sympathize with others at the present time, for the world of mankind undergoing restitution in the next Age will need our heartfelt sympathy.
Patience has been aptly defined as the strength of character whereby through steadfastness amid obstacles which are cheerfully endured, one presses on and reinforces self-control in well-doing. Everyday life exposes us to numerous experiences whereby patience is needed. The spirit of the world at the present time is normally one of impatience, and that spirit can affect us as the Lord’s servants. God is the supreme example of patience. He has been the most mistreated and misunderstood being in the universe, yet His patience never falters for a moment. The Scriptures exhort us, “The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit” (Ecclesiastes 7: 8). When presenting the Truth to others, not only skill but also repetition is necessary, and that requires patience on our part. Let us learn patience so that we may be effective teachers.
“in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves”
Meekness is the grace of mind, heart and will that is mild submissiveness. Its elements are docility (teachableness), mildness and leadableness. Some think that meekness means servility and is therefore a weakness. Jesus was meek, but was surely not servile. On the contrary, He was extremely strong and courageous. Meekness is a helpful grace for the servant of the Lord when instructing others. The expression “those that oppose themselves” may be more properly translated “the opposers.” This would include those who either knowingly or ignorantly believes or lives out of harmony with God’s Word. Many men’s hearts are failing (are fearful) due to present world conditions. We, on the other hand, know the purpose for this great Time of Trouble, and God’s glorious Kingdom which is to follow. We may lift up our heads and be joyful, knowing that God is about to deliver the world from the curse which has enslaved them for over 6,100 years.
God’s Truth is not only theoretical, but practical – it exerts a transforming power in the lives of those who submit to its influence. Meekness will prevent our thinking that the knowledge we have received is due to any personal worthiness. It is a gift of God’s grace. Meekness will also prevent us from “showing off” when we present this knowledge, as if it was our own invention. We are stewards, and are expected to share it with others. People need its encouraging message.
The Apostle James declared, “My brethren, be not many masters [teachers], knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (James 3: 1). This passage seems to be directed primarily at the elected elders of local churches, warning them that they have a greater responsibility, and therefore may expect the greater trials. How important for them to look to Jesus, who said, “Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11: 29).
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