Sharper Iron (September 21)
Nehemiah 5:1-16; 6:1-9, 15-16
1 Timothy 4:1-16
- 1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
- 6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 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. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
- 11 Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them,[c]so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
The pastor's part in the salvation of mankind is proper instruction in the faith. Pastors instruct “in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine.” There is only one true, saving faith in this world. Faith in the holy Son of God, who has taken away the sin of the world. That is the good doctrine Paul proclaimed. What he taught Timothy to proclaim.
Paul sought for Timothy to put this straightforward teaching of the faith before the congregation. It wasn't a matter of choice of material for Timothy. There is only one source for the forgiveness of sins and salvation of the soul. The sure and certain Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The only message in the world that has no ifs, ands or buts. You are saved because of Jesus' death on the cross. Your sins are forgiven because of His sacrifice. There are no conditions placed on salvation. Salvation is full and free to all.
The pastor proclaims this truth to everyone because every other message is nothing but “irreverent, silly myths.” The idea that you can do whatever you want because you've been baptized or confirmed is an irreverent myth. The idea that you can please God through doing enough good deeds is a silly myth. The idea that you can stop sinning in this life is another myth. A Christian should never entertain these myths.
Therefore St. Paul commands Timothy to “train yourself for godliness.” This training can be done in many ways. “Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training,” but they only go so far. Faithful training for righteousness requires faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Faithful training requires a working knowledge and submission to God's holy Word. There, the Holy Spirit reaches out to you with His grace and mercy. There, godliness and its rewards are set before your eyes. There, you find the “promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” This promise “is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance” because Christ has delivered everything to you.
We strive and toil in this life because there are so many voices surrounding us. Tempting us with the “irreverent, silly myths.” But we hold onto God's sure and certain promise “because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people.” God calls the pastor to stand in front of the congregation to “command and teach these things.” To strengthen us through God's Word to strive and toil faithfully. Through his words, we receive the Holy Spirit's strength to carry on the struggle against those inside and outside the Church who seek to deceive us.
The pastor's role as Gospel proclaimer is very important. He points his congregation to Jesus. He properly instructs you in the faith so that you may grow and be strengthened to fight the battle anew. The battle still rages. Paul and Timothy fought it. Luther and the Reformers fought it. You and I fight it. But we all have one more thing in common: “We have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people.” We know this if we listen to our pastor as he properly instructs us in God's Word. Amen.