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Volume 1/Issue 1/February 2015

Ministry Training: A Delicate and Difficult Service

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Dave Deuel is the Academic Dean of The Master’s Academy International, Santa Clarita, CA; and Senior Research Fellow for The Christian Institute on Disability, Agoura Hills, CA.

Abstract

Where should we place the emphasis in our training ministries? This study argues that committing the repository of truth to aspiring teachers and preachers is the biblical method of defining theological boundaries for the present generation and the next. This ministry, which Scripture portrays in imagery of entrusting and guarding, has its roots in the Old Testament, its inter-Testament reflexes in Judaism, its continuities and ecclesiastical applications in the New Testament, and some of its post-canonical responses recorded for us in Church history. Paul’s charge to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:1-2 instructs leaders how to conduct the ministry of training God’s people.

A little known fact about Spurgeon, one that may surprise us, is the priority he gave to training for teaching and preaching ministries. A pastor essentially self-taught, Spurgeon regarded his training ministry as “my life’s labor and delight—a labor for which all my other work is but a platform—a delight superior even to that afforded by my ministerial success.”[1] That is why at the age of twenty-one and while pastoring a church of over one thousand people, Spurgeon selected his first faithful candidate to train in his study. At the end of two years of rigorous instruction, Spurgeon wrote to this newly trained pastor that he now needed to find “another to be my dearly-beloved Timothy.”[2] Regarding his training ministry, Spurgeon once said, “it is no trifling work to pass on the heavenly treasure to those who are becoming its guardians in the future . . . it is a delicate and difficult service.”[3]

            An exposition of Paul’s charge to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:1-2 can help us to understand this delicate and difficult service better and offer us solutions to some of the training challenges our generation of local churches presents.[4]

The Background of 2 Timothy 2:1-2

The Apostle Paul admonishes Timothy, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tm 2:1-2).[5] The “entrust” theme appears in earlier biblical and extra-biblical texts.

1.1 The Old Testament and Intertestamental Use of the Entrusting Theme

The Greek word paratithemi in 2 Timothy 2:1-2 means “to entrust something to someone . . . for safekeeping or for transmission to others.”[6] The backdrop for entrusting the heavenly treasure is found in the Old Testament. The Septuagint applies the term “entrust” (paratithemi) to the Law (Ex 19:7; 21:1; Lv 6:4 (5:23); 10:3; Dt 4:44).[7] It also unites the words “guard” (fulasso) and “entrust” (paratithemi) into a cohesive metaphor—whatever someone entrusts they also expect faithful and capable individuals to guard.[8] Paul also used the term “guard” (fulasso) to apply to what Timothy has been “entrusted.” The apostle warns Timothy, “Guard what has been entrusted to you” (1 Tm 6:20) and “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (2 Tm 1:14).

            The imagery of entrusting and guarding appears in “the earliest tractate of rabbinic lore,”[9] Mishnah Pirke Aboth [The Sayings of the Fathers]. The similarity of this text to Paul’s admonition to Timothy is remarkable and may not be coincidental.[10] “Moses received the Law from Sinai and committed it to Joshua, and Joshua to the Elders, and the Elders to the Prophets; and the Prophets committed it to the men of the Great Synagogue. They said three things: ‘Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples [talmidim]; and make a fence around the Law.’”[11] The pattern usage of “committed it to” in this text suggests a practice of entrusting the Torah to the next generation of the group identified (the Elders, Prophets, and men of the Great Synagogue). “Be deliberate in judgment,” means to “be discerning in applying the text.” The command to “raise up many disciples” implies teaching the text to others. To “make a fence around the Law” images the mission of guarding.[12] The connection between entrusting and guarding the Law is found in well-taught disciples that are faithful to the Law’s teachings.

            Josephus echoes a similar connection as he comments on the Old Testament canon. Bruce says, “In the period between Moses and Artaxerxes (465-423 B.C.) he [Josephus] appears to envisage an unbroken succession of prophets, guaranteeing the continuity and trustworthiness of the records, which they are believed to have produced.”[13] What theologians might call the preservation of the sacred texts entails guarding the transmission of those texts and entrusting them to faithful individuals.[14]

1.2 The Occasioning Circumstances Behind Paul’s Letter

When the Apostle Paul charged Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:1-2, he probably drew on the terminology and imagery of entrusting, guarding, and transmitting the truth established for him in the Old Testament and reflected in texts of the intertestamental period. But one must bear in mind a crucial distinction: the Timothy passage was written to a church leader and for a local church.[15] Applications of this passage may extend beyond, but must start with pastors and their churches.

            Paul, nearing the end of his earthly life, is mindful of setting the church at Ephesus in order.[16] He calls for Timothy, his child in the faith (1 Tim 1:2) to come visit him in prison, possibly thinking it would be the last time. Crucially, “Of all members of Paul’s circle, there was none with whom he formed a closer mutual attachment than Timothy.”[17] In fact, this young pastor “shared his [Paul’s] ministry on a permanent footing.”[18]

            Ephesus, the charge that Timothy must leave behind, was particularly open to all sorts of religious ideas.[19] In fact, it was purported to be the leading magical center for Asia Minor.[20] Consequently, Paul’s letter is rife with fear due to defection. The apostle bemoans, “All who are in Asia turned away from me” (2 Tim 1:15). At once we must recognize Paul’s intense personal grief. They forsook him. True, they also defected from the Gospel. But Paul’s remark bespeaks the sadness of abandonment. This is where the apostle turns to young Timothy in order to address his potential for defecting. Marshall says, “It is not the suffering of persecution or physical pain which is the primary issue. Rather, it is implied, the fact of people who are ashamed of Paul and of the gospel makes Timothy’s loyalty all the more necessary.”[21] Paul’s fundamental challenge to Timothy is toward faithfulness in remaining stationed at his post.

2. The Message of 2 Timothy 2:1-2

Following the text order in 2 Timothy 2:1-2, several questions direct our interpretation of this crucial passage: To what does Paul refer in the command to “Be Strong”? Who are the witnesses? What does “entrust” mean? What is the referent of “these things?” and what do “faithful” and “able” refer to?

2.1 To What Does Paul Refer in the Command to “Be Strong”?

In the words “You therefore,” the pronoun “you” functions as casus pendens contrasting Timothy with the defectors to whom Paul alludes in the previous chapter. The inferential “therefore” looks back at the unfaithfulness of those who fell away (2 Tim 1:15) as well as at Onesiphorus’ model of faithfulness (2 Tim 1:16-18). Because Onesiphorus was faithful by drawing on God’s strength, Timothy must do the same, and then select others who will follow their example of faithfulness.

            The imperative “be strengthened,” means Timothy must “be energized.”[22] The same Greek word for “strengthened” is used of Gideon when he faced conflict (LXX, Judg 6:34), Paul when he confronted the Damascus Jews with the Gospel (Acts 9:22), and also others when in the face of challenge. In Acts 18 Paul warns the Ephesian elders to prepare for conflict because wolves are waiting to consume the flock.[23] So it is with Timothy as pastor of the same church. “Only if he himself has been strengthened with new courage, can he also induce others to be strong.”[24] Thus, the command to “be strengthened” looks back at Paul’s examples of faithful and unfaithful commitment in 2 Timothy 1, and forward to his admonition to raise up leaders who will be faithful in the face of conflict in the next verse.[25] Paul returns to his concern for defection with a list of those who departed at the end of the letter (2 Tim 4).

            The command to “be strengthened” has undertones of warfare.[26] Contextually, it is a battle motif and underscores the fierce opposition facing Timothy. Two other Pauline passages admonish the Corinthians (1Cor 16:13) and the Ephesians (Eph 6:10 ff.) to be strong in the face of conflict. In Ephesians 6:10ff., Paul opens the arsenal of defensive and offensive weaponry with which spiritual battles are fought. In 2 Timothy 2:1-2, the expressed agency of the passive verb, “by grace” is grace “as the divine help, the unmerited gift of assistance.”[27] Emphatically, it is “the divine enabling that Timothy needs most.”[28] The new sphere into which Timothy has been brought, “in Christ Jesus,” is the locus of strength.[29] Defectors who do not appropriate strength from the ascended Christ jeopardize the Gospel mission. What is more, “victory will be a reality given their dependence upon the divine power.”[30] In the words of Grundmann, “This place [in Christ] is to a great extent charged with the superior power which belongs to Christ.”[31] God’s power and weapons are available to leaders whose faithfulness is rooted in their dependency upon Him.

2.2 Who Are the Witnesses and What Function Do They Perform?

Several interpretations with many variations have been suggested. The first view states that “Paul uses the idea of an assembly as witnesses,”[32] a proverbial court that will testify to what they have heard. If we render the preposition “in the presence of” or “before,” several possibilities exist: the witnesses are the elders (1 Tim 4:14),[33] Timothy’s relatives, particularly his mother and grandmother,[34] or all those present at Timothy’s ordination.[35] But this view presents some challenges. Not only is it less common to render the meaning of the preposition dia “in the presence of,” but also, the passage calls for the witnesses to function beyond this usage.

            The second interpretation favors translating the preposition “through,”[36] suggesting that the witnesses are the source of the information to be transmitted and not restricted to a particular group of people that witnessed Paul transmit these things to Timothy. This means that the act of witnessing is not limited to a single event as suggested by the first view. Several possibilities for the witnesses exist: those involved with Timothy’s conversion,[37] the many people who have also heard Paul’s message,[38] or the church at large,[39] but not excluding those who had heard the message from the very beginning.[40] While it is difficult to limit the group, it clearly includes those who heard the message from Paul and communicated it to Timothy.

            The two views—to testify to and transmit the content to--are not only compatible, but also, if combined, enhance the complete effect of the witness metaphor.[41]

2.3 What Does the Term “Entrust” (paratithemi) Mean?

Twice in Acts it is used of selecting elders and committing them to God for service (Acts 14:23; 20:32). Contextually, it is an ingressive use of the aorist aspect/tense viewing the action from the standpoint of its initiation.[42] Does paratithemi refer to teaching, or is it imagery for maintaining pure doctrine? One might easily assume that “entrust” is a near synonym of “teach,” in that the trainees in this case must be able to teach.[43] What is the source of the metaphor? “In the ancient Greek and Jewish sphere, as well as the ancient Roman, one finds the legal device whereby an object can be entrusted to another’s keeping for a specific period.”[44] In this passage, “the trustworthiness of the trustee was thus most important.”[45] Unpacking the metaphor, Scott translates this line literally, “transmit them,”[46] which captures the essence of the metaphor of “deposit with another”[47] as a pledge, or “entrust.”[48]

            The focus here and in 1 Timothy 1:18 is on depositing the truth for safekeeping or transmission to others.[49] The referent of this metaphor may be found in the previous chapter. Paul admonishes Timothy, “Retain the standard of sound words” (2 Tim 1:13). He then appositionally develops a metaphor: “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (2 Tim 1:14).

            A crucial passage for understanding this one comes later in 1 Timothy 6:20: “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you.” In this context, Timothy will do this by avoiding worldly and empty chatter, stated appositionally “the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’—which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.” This clear admonition for entrusting and guarding is foundational for understanding what Paul will say more cryptically in 2 Timothy 1 and especially in our passage in chapter 2. Syntactically, in 2 Timothy 2:1-2, the imperative “entrust” an aorist serves as an application of ‘be strengthened,” a present. The syntactical relationship is seen in the translation, “receive strength in order to entrust.” The sacred ministry of entrusting will require a kind of power and a degree of power commensurate the task. Only God can supply such strength.

2.4 What Is the Referent of “These Things”?

“The relative pronoun “which,” anticipates “these things,” tauta.”[50] What specifically are “these things” that Timothy heard from Paul (2 Tim 2:2)? The neuter indefinite relative pronoun offers several options for the referent: the Gospel message[51] to which Paul alludes when he discusses Timothy’s salvation; “the apostolic message,”[52] “which includes all of his teaching (cf. 2 Tim 1:13-14);”[53] “the instructions given to Timothy for the discharge of his office;”[54] “the entire series of sermons and lessons which the disciple had heard from the mouth of his teacher during their associations from the day when they first met;”[55] or even broader, “all that has been handed down from Christ and His apostles respecting the essentials of the Christian faith.”[56] In general, it may be “the tradition of the truth,”[57] that is, “the tradition to be handed on.”[58] Other options include: “the doctrines he has received;”[59] “the fundamental Christian truths;”[60] or what came to be identified in the first several centuries as “the rule of faith” or “the rule of truth,”[61] that is referred to by one writer as “a graph of interpretation for the Bible by the Church of the second and third centuries.”[62] From Novatian (c. 250) we learn that this was “a summary of scriptural teaching”[63] to which he would appeal. Many of these interpretations overlap.

            In a different direction, Meyer says “these things” “does not refer so much to the whole of evangelic doctrine as to the instructions given to Timothy for the discharge of his office.”[64]

            One further suggestion comes from the preceding context. In the previous chapter, Paul discusses the "deposit" (paratheken) of 2 Timothy 1:14, and even before that to the "sound words" (agiainonton logon) of 2 Timothy 1:13 that Timothy had heard from Paul.[65] It is reasonable to suggest that the identity of the “deposit” or “sound words,” may well be the whole counsel of God that Paul once taught to the same local church and that he now admonishes Timothy to guard (Acts 20:27).[66] Would Timothy do any less?

2.5 What Do “Faithful” and “Able” Refer To?

           To what or whom should the trainees be faithful? There are two interpretations that may be reconciled. One suggests that “faithful” refers to a commitment to sound doctrine.[67] Paul refers repeatedly to those who depart from the faith. This may seem like the only option until we consider the emphasis of the context. Many had defected from Paul and their post in ministry due to hardship and shame. In this case, “faithful” may mean fortitude in the face of opposition. Therefore, Timothy must not only select those who will stay within the pale of sound doctrine, but also, he must choose only those who will stay at their post in the heat of the battle. He should try to avoid selecting those who might defect.[68] “Faithful” applies specifically in this context to the defectors, but cannot exclude their departure from biblical teaching. Crucially, the Lord Jesus strengthened Paul and considered him faithful, putting him into service (1 Tim 1:12).

           Qualified teachers must also be “able” (ikanos) to instruct others.[69] This second but related stipulation looks at fitness or competence to teach.[70] Several other passages in which “able” (ikanos) are used help us to appreciate the importance of God’s enabling. First and simply, God “has made us adequate” (2 Cor 3:6). But second, He “has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints” (Col 1:12). Our ability in ministry as well as our blessing for eternity are both empowered by God. As with the verb “be strong” in verse 1, the source or agency for enabling is outside the individual in Christ. This sacred process is all of grace. Paul instructs Titus, another pastoral trainee, that it is in the act of “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching,” that the Lord enables (ikanos) the teacher “to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). Echoes of 2 Timothy 2:1-2 resound as Paul reminds Titus that teaching must include both exhorting and refuting. But God enables both ministry actions.

3. Implications of 2 Timothy 2:1-2 For Our Training Ministries

We can draw several points of application from this passage, first discussing the inferential points, then the clearer mandates of the passage to pastors for training ministries in their churches or training ministries serving their churches. These include: Bring all believers to maturity in Christ; Establish training ministries for teachers; Select only qualified candidates for teaching ministries; Transmit the message to the next generation of leaders who will guard it; and Overcome fear and shame by receiving God’s strength for ministry training.

3.1 Bring All Believers to Maturity in Christ

The term “others” does not limit those taught to another generation of teachers. Paul includes all believers, with the understanding that each successive generation will select and train leaders. With this in mind, the apostle admonishes Timothy to select those who are faithful, a quality that requires sanctification maturity. But the focus on teaching suggests that maturity for the taught ones is a goal.[71]

            It is said that Evangelicals hold “doctrinal differences to be eternally significant.”[72] But Evangelicalism faces the challenge of having all its ranks participate in doctrine and not just its intellectual elite. One seminary president suggests that theological education is moving from a “’clerical paradigm” to a “people of God paradigm.”[73] He cautions, “The aim of seminary education is not simply to produce an educated clergy, but even more so to build up the people of God, to become an educated congregation in Christ.”[74]

            What is more, David Peterson reminds us, “If the balance of New Testament teaching is to be preserved, however, there should be some space for the informal contributions of members.”[75] Non-clerical church members should share the concern and the work of guarding the Church’s doctrine. As James Montgomery Boise once put it, “We don’t have a shortage of leaders, but a shortage of followers of the one Leader who can transform lives and nations . . . We need more people who will do things God’s way and fewer people doing things man’s way.”[76]

The Apostle Paul alludes to the deep pastoral care that Timothy has for a church: “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely anxious for your welfare. They all look after their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Phil 2:20-21).[77] “Genuinely anxious for your welfare”—these words clearly demonstrate Timothy’s pastoral concern for nurturing all of the flock.

3.2 Establish Training Ministries for Teachers

Timothy will need to train these leaders. In fact, “Entrusting will require training in lesson and in life.”[78] “At the very moment when the church received the truth, it was told that it had the responsibility of . . . making it known.”[79] This, then, may be considered as the earliest trace of the formation of a theological school,[80] loosely defined. But leaders such as Luther, Calvin, and others throughout Church history have all imparted their ministries to their Timothys.[81]

            Jonathan Edwards serves as an outstanding example of one who captured the perspective of Paul in this passage. “He invited many students like Joseph Bellamy and Samuel Hopkins into his home for post-graduate training. These students, in turn, began their own ‘schools of prophets.’”[82] Like Spurgeon, Edwards did this while maintaining pastoral and other responsibilities.[83]

            If a school were in view, it would offer the same sort of training that Timothy had received. It is not a single graduating class, but the perpetuity of the teaching that is in view. “The context implies that Timothy might act several times rather than on one single occasion.”[84] But, like Paul’s training with Timothy, it must be individual, a characteristic which has lamentably been lost in much seminary training.[85] Leaders are best known by the congregations that nurtured them.[86] We should focus less on starting new institutions and more on preparing God’s people to lead.

            Such instruction will require soul-teaching. Spurgeon said, “A man must know the truth in his own soul before he can effectually transmit it to those who sit at his feet. Knowing it, he must live in the daily enjoyment of it. Only as the Holy Ghost overshadows a man’s mind can he influence other minds in a right manner. The Spirit of the Gospel must be in him as well as its doctrine.”[87]

3.3 Select Only Qualified Candidates for Teaching Ministries

Not every man will be a candidate. He must be reliable. In addition to being enabled to teach the Truth, the man of God must be entrusted to protect it. “At the very moment when the church received the truth, it was told that it had the responsibility of safeguarding it.”[88] Our passage does not separate teaching and entrusting. It must be “a school which has for its object not merely the instruction of the ignorant, but the protection and maintenance of a definite body of doctrine. That which the apostle, when he was in Ephesus, publicly taught, under the sanction of a multitude of witnesses, is to be preserved and handed on without compromise or corruption as a pattern of wholesome doctrine.”[89] Martin Lloyd Jones asked the simple question, “Are the men more certain of the truth at the end of their studies than at the beginning?”[90] Lloyd-Jones blamed the secular method of training for much of the theological uncertainty and drift among the ministry training graduates of his day.[91]

            Simply put, guarding is the emphasis, teaching is the method. Spurgeon’s response was that the church training ministry “aims to keep out of the sacred office those who are not called to it. We are continually declining candidates because we question their fitness. Some of these have education and money, and are supported by earnest requests from parents and friends; but all of this avails them nothing.”[92] Others shared Spurgeon’s commitment to guarding. Of J. C. Ryle it was said, “He did not make admittance to ordination easy.”[93] At the inaugural address for Archibald Alexander as the first professor of the newly founded Princeton Theological seminary, Samuel Miller warned, “Unless we examine with caution, and select with sacred care; unless we take counsel of our fears as of our sanguine hopes; unless we learn the unwelcome art of repressing the forward and rejecting the unworthy—as well as the more pleasing task of encouraging the modest and the timid; we shall in the midst of all our honest zeal for the cause of Christ, be in danger of filling the church with drones and pests, with clerical ignorance, imbecility, heresy and ambition, while we fondly dream that we are preparing faithful laborers for her service.”[94] Ryle used strong words because he addressed a critical problem.

            At the ordination of Gardiner Spring, Samuel Miller preached, “You are now invested with the power of ordaining others to the holy office of which you yourself have been set apart. This power ever has been and ever will be, one of the most important that can be committed to the minister of Christ.”[95] He continues, “Let your personal exertions and your official acts be steadily directed against this error. For an error it is, to imagine that we really serve the Church of Christ, under any circumstances, by giving her unqualified ministers.”[96] One group of churches has covenanted together to God in this matter: “Men who wish to be pastors need to show evidence that they are called and equipped by God. Where we consider men to be unsuitable for the pastorate we must tell them so.”[97]

            Church history offers many illustrations of selection care. But perhaps the clearest and most authoritative message is also from Paul: “Do not lay hands on a man too hastily” (1 Tim 5:22).

3.4 Transmit the Message to the Next Generation of Leaders Who Will Guard It

The term “entrust” suggests guarding or protecting. Guthrie says, “The transmission of Christian truth must never be left to chance, and is clearly not committed fortuitously to every Christian, but only to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Two qualifications are demanded: a loyalty to the truth, i.e. a loyalty which has to be proved, and an aptitude to teach (cf. 1 Tim 3:2).”[98] Guarding and protecting requires qualified teachers.

            In this regard, Marshall warns, “The main point is that the people taught by Timothy must be both reliable and capable of teaching.”[99] This requires that a teacher must be: (1) a diligent student of the biblical message and be thoroughly conversant with its teachings; (2) loyal and faithful to the divine message entrusted to God’s Church; and (3) actively involved in the training and equipping of additional workers, a step essential to the successful progress of the church.[100]

            Guarding and protecting will ensure the safe transmission of the truth. Timothy “was responsible to ensure the faithful handing on of apostolic tradition to the next generation,”[101] which included pastoral practice.[102] While it is true that this passage admonishes Timothy, and by extension us, to engage in training ministries, the clear emphasis of the passage is on the transmission process without which we will have no message to teach or leaders to conduct. In short, the apostle calls for loyalty to the Scripture by faithfully transmitting it to those who will continue the process.[103] In fact, canonicity will build off of this practice.[104] Roger Nicole argues convincingly that entrusting has significant implications for canonicity.[105]

3.5 Overcome Fear and Shame By Receiving God’s Strength
for Ministry Training

Contextually, this is the largest message: receiving strength from God will help Timothy to maintain a singleness of focus.[106] This message comes from viewing the verse in its pericope (2 Tim 2:1-23). The message is for a pastor not to grow weary of defecting leaders, those who have tried and quit for one reason or another. Rather, the admonition is to reproduce and to select Onesiphorus-like individuals.

            Church history echoes with messages about entrusting: Calvin anticipated the potential for over protection when he said, “Seeing that God has given us such a treasure and so inestimable a thing as His Word, we must employ ourselves as much as we can, that it must be kept safe and sound and not perish. And let every man be sure to lock it up securely in his own heart. But it is not enough to have an eye to his own salvation, but the knowledge of God must shine generally throughout the whole world.”[107] Spurgeon once said, “Provided that we know the truth and are confirmed in it by divine grace, it is no trifling work to pass on the heavenly treasure to those who are becoming its guardians in the future.”[108] More recently, John Piper connects this glorious task with the rigors of Bible exposition. “And if the written Word of God is the deposit of historical truth . . . then let us pray that God would raise up generations of preachers who give themselves, with Calvin–like devotion, to expository exultation over the glory of Jesus Christ for the joy of all the peoples.”[109]           

4. Conclusion

The command to draw strength from God, a warfare motif, applies specifically to those to whom God has entrusted His sacred deposit and commissioned to guard it. They must be faithful not to defect and they must be able to teach. But this will not be easy.[110]

            Stop faithful and able leaders from defecting, and prevent unqualified individuals from teaching: that is what is implied in “entrusting,” and that is how we define theological boundaries for this generation and the next. Although others have defected, be strong in the Lord and teach those you train to also be strong so that they trust God for the grace to enable them to teach others. They need to endure hardship like soldiers, abide by rule like athletes, and work hard like farmers, for that is what it will take to guard the treasure and entrust it to others (2 Tim 2:3-6). That said, the Apostle Paul reminds us that a one-time defector brought under the nurture of a faithful encourager can once again became “useful to me for service” (2 Tim 4:11).

            Perhaps surprisingly, measured by some of today’s ministry metrics, Paul may have been an abject failure.[111] In fact, we could easily focus our attention only on pastors, like Timothy, and their trainees, many of whom defected. But, lest we lose sight of the passage’s focus, Marshall adds, “Moreover, what is important here is the message, and the ‘reliable men’ are important only in that they preserve it and teach it.”[112] Similarly, Scott states, “The men are important only as custodians of the treasure, and all that is required of them is fidelity in their trust; for this reason it is imperative that they should be rightly instructed, and that they should be themselves men of the highest character.”[113] Paul’s message to Timothy invites us to ensure sound content. We must “make a fence around”[114] the Scriptures.

            The aged, war torn, and death sentenced apostle tells his beloved son in the faith, “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (2 Tm 1:13-14, NIV).


[1] Autobiography of C. H. Spurgeon Compiled from His Diary, Letters, and Records (Cincinnati, OH: Curtis and Jennings, 1900), 3.127.

[2] C. H. Spurgeon, “Spurgeon to Medhurst, 22 Sept. 1855,” in Letters of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (ed. I. H. Murray; Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1991), 60-61.

[3] C. H. Spurgeon The Sword and the Trowel (1883), 262-63. Cited in “C. H. Spurgeon’s Views on Training for the Ministry,” an unsigned editorial article in Banner of Truth (1960), 30.

[4] Although other Scripture address the topic of maintaining fidelity in doctrine, 2 Timothy 2:1-2 focuses on the process by which that should occur.

[5] Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

[6] “paratithemi” BAGD, 622.

[7] English translations that render the term “set before” or “placed before” avoid the metaphorical connection between the Old Testament and New Testament uses of the term.

[8] One study concludes that it is “The cohesive effect achieved by the selection of vocabulary” (M. A. K. Halliday and R. Husan, Cohesion in English (London, UK; Longman Group LTD, 1974), 274). Lexical cohesion unites the terms “entrust” and “guard” as reflex activities. Those to whom the truth is entrusted will guard it because they are faithful.

[9] R. N. Longenenecker, “Introduction,” in Patterns of Discipleship in the New Testament (ed. R. N. Longenenecker; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 3.

[10] Issues of transmission and literary dependency are beyond the scope of this study.

[11] Mishnah Pirke Aboth 1:1 [The Sayings of the Fathers] cited in Longenecker, “Introduction” in Patterns of Discipleship in the New Testament, 3.

[12] Det. Pot. Ins., 65, cited in “paratithemiTDNT 8.163. Later Judaism retained this perspective, although the term paratithemi gives way to a near synonym parakatatithemi in its nominal form.

[13] F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity press, 1988), 33. Bruce was alluding to Josephus’ Against Apion, 38-41.

[14] Later Judaism’s use of the entrusting concept underscores fidelity to a message in the terminology of guarding and teaching: “But watching is something complete, namely giving over to the memory the views of sacred things won by practice, handing to the faithful guardian the entrusted possession of knowledge” (“paratithemi” TDNT 8.162). Here again, we find that entrusting to faithful individuals who will guard the treasured message is the crucial issue.

[15] Bearing in mind that this was probably a house church with its fitting polity, Filson says, “The development of church polity can never be understood without reference to the house churches. The host of such a group was almost inevitably a man of some education, with a fairly broad background and at least some administrative ability . . .. The house church was the training ground for Christian leaders who were to build the church after the apostolic guidance, and everything in such a situation favored the emergence of the host as the most prominent and influential member” (F. V. Filson, “The Significance of the Early House Churches,” JBL 58 (1939), 109-112). Regarding the potential pool of teachers, Wallace says, “Presumably, not all teachers were elders or pastors” (D. Wallace, Greek Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 284). It follows that the pool of early church teachers included women and men for gender-specific roles.

[16] But not by adding perpetuity of structure. Bartlett, who argues that structure was the essential purpose in Paul’s plan to write, argues, “There can be no doubt that the pastorals move toward a more rationalized, structured picture of church leadership than that suggested or idealized in the undeniably genuine epistles” (D. L. Bartlett, Ministry in the New Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 151). But Fee argues conversely: “Even in the places where Timothy’s role as a leader might be in view (2:3-7; 2:15-17; 2:22-26; 3:14-17), at issue is not ‘church order’ but ethical conduct. What makes Timothy a ‘man of God’ in this letter is not an ‘office’ but that he serves as a model for ‘every good work’ (3:17)” (G. Fee, ”Toward a Theology of 2 Timothy—from a Pauline Perspective,” To What End Exegesis: Essays Textual, Exegetical and Theological (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), 327).

[17] F. F. Bruce, The Pauline Circle (British Classics Library; Paternoster: Carlisle, UK, 1985), 29.

[18] Bruce, The Pauline Circle, 30.

[19] C. E. Arnold, Power and Magic: The Concept of Power in Ephesians (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1989), 14.

[20] Ibid.

[21] I. H. Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles (Edinburgh, Scotland: T. & T. Clark, 1999), 716.

[22] Nigel Turner, Christian Words (Edinburg, Scotland: T. & T. Clark, 1980), 135.

[23] Walton observes, “Luke’s Paul, when he speaks to Christians as a pastor, sounds like Paul writing as a pastor” (S. Walton, Leadership and Lifestyle: The Portrait of Paul in the Miletus Speech and 1 Thessalonians (Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series #108. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 213).

[24] B. Weiss, II Timothy: A Commentary on the New Testament (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1906), 4.94.

[25] A conclusion drawn by W. D. Mounce, The Pastoral Epistles (WBC; Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2000) 503, and Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, 721.

[26] See also in 2 Tm 2:3-5.

[27] W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, reprinted 1976), 4.60.

[28] D. Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles (Downers Grove, IL, Intervarsity Press, 2009), 149.

[29] Referring to the Ephesians 6 passage, Arnold suggests that this is “the sphere or new set of conditions in which they live” (Arnold, Power and Magic, 108). It means, “they are no longer subjected to the tyranny of life under the control of the prince of the power of the air (2:2) but now live under the loving headship of Christ who is Lord” (Ibid.). In the Ephesians and Corinthians passages, the source or sphere is the Lord.

[30] Arnold, Power and Magic, 107.

[31] W. Grundmann, Der Begriff der Kraft in der neutestamentlichen Gedankenwelt (BWANT 8, Stuttgart, Germany: 1932), 108, translated and cited in Arnold, Power and Magic, 108.

[32] Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 53.

[33] W. Lock, Godliness and Contentment: Studies in the Three Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1982), 93.

[34] I. H. Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, 727.

[35] J. E. Huther, Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Handbook to Timothy and Titus (Winona Lake. IN: Alpha Publications reprint, 1979), 9.225.

[36] Taken thusly by Colin G. Cruse, “Ministry in the Wake of Paul’s Mission” in The Gospel to the Nations: Perspectives on Paul’s Mission (eds. Peter bolt and Mark Thomson; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-varsity Press, 2000), 213.

[37] Mounce, The Pastoral Epistles, 505.

[38] Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, 726.

[39] C. K. Barrett, The Pastoral Epistles in the New English Bible (NCB; Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1963), 101.

[40] Scott says, “Timothy had heard them from Paul, but since Paul himself had received them under the attestation of many others, including the personal disciples of Jesus, they may be accepted with full confidence as the primary demands, acknowledged by all who from the beginning had held the Christian faith” (E. F. Scott, The Pastoral Epistles: The Moffatt Commentary (New York: Harper Brothers Publishers, n.d.), 100).

[41] Marshall draws together the two interpretations: “This would be at once a warning against any attempt to falsify what Paul had said, a reminder that any lapses of memory could be reminded by an appeal to such witnesses, but also an encouragement to Timothy that what he preaches as the Gospel received from Paul is backed up by many people” (Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, 725).

[42] Wallace, Greek Beyond the Basics, 558; H. E. Dana and J. R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1927), 195.

[43] “Teaching, although not exclusively, refers to doctrinal instruction as opposed to Scripture (Old Testament)” (J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (BNTC; London, UK: A. & C. Black, 1963) 43-8). Kelly continues, “A great deal of catechetical material is embodied in the NT writings including the Pauline letters.” But according to 2 Tim 3:16, teaching can be done on the basis of Scripture” (Kelly, the Pastoral Epistles, 43-8).

[44] “paratithemi,” TDNT 8.162.

[45] Ibid. Additionally, “But there was too, a stringent penalty for embezzlement, and the special wrath of the Gods was invoked” Ibid.

[46] Scott, The Pastoral Epistles, 100.

[47] “paratithemi” James Hope Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1930), 490.

[48] There is another closely related option for the meaning of entrust. Commonly in the ANE, entrusting was the act by which an administrator authorized an official to perform an administrative act or process on his behalf. Entrusting was term used for agency in conducting missions.

[49] “paratithemi” BAGD, 623.

[50] Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, 724.

[51] Proponents include: H. A. Kent, The Pastoral Epistles (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Publications, 1995) 256-7; Mounce, The Pastoral Epistles, 504; and David Peterson, Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship (Leicester, UK: Apollos Press, 1992), 197.

[52] G. W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), 389.

[53] Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 390.

[54] H. A. W. Meyer’s Commentary on the New Testament 9.15.

[55] William Hendricksen, I-II Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1957), 246.

[56] A. Plummer, The Pastoral Epistles, in The Expositor’s Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1943), 4.466.

[57] K. L. Barker and J. Kohlenberger, The NIV Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 2.911.

[58] Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, 724.

[59] Weiss, II Timothy, 94.

[60] Scott, The Pastoral Epistles, 100.

[61] Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, 18. Bruce summarizes , “In the earlier Christian centuries this was a summary of Christian teaching, believed to reproduce what the apostles themselves taught, by which any system of doctrine offered for Christian acceptance, or any interpretation of biblical writings, was to be assessed” (Ibid).

[62] R. P. C. Hanson, Tradition in the Early Church (London, UK, SCM, 1962), 127.

[63] Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, 179.

[64] Huther, Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Handbook to Timothy and Titus, 9.225.

[65] Personal correspondence: Dr. Robert. R. Thomas, The Master’s Seminary, Sun Valley, CA.

[66] Expressed passionately in the preceding context (Acts 20:17-21).

[67] Translated as “Faithfulness and loyalty” (Turner, Christian Words, 158).

[68] One can hear echoes of John Mark’s failure and Paul’s rebuff. But also, a change of heart comes over Paul once John Mark proves himself “faithful,” or in Paul’s terms, “useful for service” (2 Tm 4:11).

[69] Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles, 151. Note Samuel Miller’s message, “The Duty of the Church to Take Measures for Providing An Able and Faithful Ministry,” (Dallas, TX: Presbyterian Heritage Publications, 1964). This manuscript is the inaugural address for Archibald Alexander’s installation as first professor of Princeton on Seminary 12 August 1812.

[70] “ikanos” BAGD, 374.

[71] As an example, David Peterson cites Paul’s concern in his Romans letter for the “obedience of faith,” meaning an “obedience which consists in faith and an obedience which finds its source in faith” (David G. Peterson, “Maturity the Goal of Mission,” in The Gospel to the Nations: Perspectives on Paul’s Mission (eds. Peter bolt and Mark Thomson; Downers Grove: Inter-varsity Press, 2000), 187). Another study treating faith and obedience is P. T. O’Brien, Gospel and Mission in the Writings of Paul: An Exegetical and Theological Analysis (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995), 33.

[72] Glen T. Miller, Piety and Intellect: The Aims and Purposes of Ante-Bellum Theological Education (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1990), 21.

[73] Carnegie Samuel Calian, The Ideal Seminary: Pursuing Excellence in Theological Education (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), xii.

[74] Calian, The Ideal Seminary, 5. In this regard, John Piper warns, “We are pastors being killed by the professionalizing of ministry” (J. Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holeman, 2002), cover).

[75] Peterson, Engaging with God, 197.

[76] James Montgomery Boise, Whatever happened to the Gospel of Grace? Rediscovering the Doctrines that Shook the World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 28.

[77] Translation by F. F. Bruce, The Pauline Circle, 33.

[78] Peterson, Engaging with God, 197.

[79] Plummer, The Pastoral Epistles, 466. “In order to do this he is to establish a school—a school of picked scholars, intelligent enough to appreciate and trustworthy enough to preserve, all that has been handed down from Christ and His apostles respecting the essentials of the Christian faith” (Ibid).

[80] Plummer, The Pastoral Epistles, 467.

[81] Schindler addresses the debt of these leaders to their own Timothys: “We talk of Luther and Calvin in the days of the Reformation, but we must remember that these men became what they were largely through their power to stamp their image and superscriptions upon other men with whom they came in contact. If you went to Würtemberg, it was not Luther only that you saw, but Luther’s college, the men around him—the students being formed into young Luthers under his direction. It was the same at Geneva. How much Scotland owes to the fact that Calvin could instruct John Knox!” (R. Schindler, C. H. Spurgeon, His Life and Work, 134 cited in “C. H. Spurgeon on Training for the Ministry”, 28).

[82] H. Stout, The New England Soul (New Haven, CN, Yale University Press, 1986), 228.

[83] Homer Kent warns, “Every such servant of God while not neglecting the whole congregation should endeavor to develop leaders who will be qualified and competent to carry the Gospel effectively to others. This is how the Gospel reached us. It is our responsibility to future generations” (Kent, The Pastoral Epistles, 259).

[84] Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, 727.

[85] When the “New Divinity” parsonage schools, called “schools of the Prophets,” were eclipsed by the seminaries with the advent of seminaries at Andover (1808), Princeton (1812), Harvard (1815), Bangor (1816), Auburn (1818), General (1819) and Yale (1822) something precious and timeless was lost: “The close personal ties between teacher and student, the effective mentoring practices, the living model of pastoral commitment, the practical experiences—these were casualties to the modern theological seminary” (David W. Kling, “The New Divinity Schools of the Prophets” in Theological Education in the Evangelical Tradition (eds. D. G. Hart and R. Albert Mohler, Jr.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996), 147).

[86] Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962) 100.

[87] Spurgeon, The Sword and the Trowel (1883): 262-63, cited in “Spurgeon’s views on Training for the Ministry,” 30.

[88] Plummer, The Pastoral Epistles, 466.

[89] Plummer, The Pastoral Epistles, 467.

[90] Cited in Ian Randall, Educating Evangelicalism: The Origins, Development and Impact of London Bible College (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster Press, 2000), 105.

[91] D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Training for the Ministry Today (London, UK: London Theological Seminary, 1983), 5, 9. For Lloyd-Jones, it was an issue of method. Speaking of training institutions that had applied academic methodologies, he said, “They were established on the basis . . . that what we needed to do was to safeguard the teaching; but the method of training was never considered at all. It was felt that all that was necessary was that we should guarantee that the teaching was Evangelical; but they made the fatal mistake of allowing the curriculum to be determined by the liberal outlook, sometimes even by secular universities such as the London University. A secular university . . . was to determine the curriculum and the syllabus that Evangelical ministerial students are to study!” (Lloyd-Jones, Training for Ministry Today, 5).

[92] C. H. Spurgeon, The Sword and the Trowel (1887), 206.

[93]A Charge delivered to the Clergy of the Diocese by J. C. Ryle . . . at his Second Visitation . . . on October 21st, 1884, 1884. Cited in Peter Toon and Michael Smout, John Charles Ryle: Evangelical Bishop, (Sterling, GA: Grace Abounding Ministries, 1976), 79. In Ryle’s own words, “I cannot sympathize, with those who press Bishops to bring into the ministry men who know little about Latin, Greek, Church History, the English Reformation, the Prayer book, Church Catechism, or Evidences of Christianity, and are only godly men who know the Bible and can talk about the Gospel” (Ibid).

[94] S. Miller, An Able and Faithful Ministry (Dallas, TX: Presbyterian Heritage Publications, 1987) vi.

[95] Cited in Samuel Miller, The Life of Samuel Miller (Philadelphia, PA: Claxton, Remsen, and Haffelfinger, 1870), 1.289. 

[96] Ibid.

[97] The Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, UK, 2. 

[98] Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles, 151. The author adds, “The idea is clearly to entrust something to another for safe keeping, and in the present context this notion is of great significance” (Ibid).

[99]  Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, 727. 

[100] D. Edmond Hiebert, “Pauline Images of a Christian Leader,” BibSac 133 #531 (July 1976), 229. The author concludes, “However we conduct our teaching it will need to accomplish these and other goals as well as possible. In short, only solid teaching by men faithful to the teaching will serve as a fitting response to Paul’s mandate to pastors” (Ibid.).

[101] Cruse, “Ministry in the Wake of Paul’s Mission,” 213.

[102] Ibid.

[103] Attempts to find church order must also be cautious. Fee warns that 2 Tim 2:2 “has nothing to do with order, and everything to do with loyalty to Paul’s gospel by faithfully transmitting it to those who will faithfully continue the process. But there is no ‘appointment,’ no titles, nothing that hints of ‘order’ per se” (Fee, ”Toward a Theology of 2 Timothy—from a Pauline Perspective,” 327).

[104] Guthrie adds, “He must, at the end of his life conceived of the teaching being in the form sufficiently fixed to be transmitted, in which case the claim that stereotyped doctrine in pastorals is un-Pauline falls to the ground. Secondly it is evident that Paul recognized that the manner in which he himself had forged out the doctrines would not continue in the next generation, and that more normal methods of transmission would not only be resorted to, but would be essential” (Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles, 151). 

[105] Roger Nicole said, “There is a notable parallel here with the establishment of the OT canon. God entrusted his OT oracles to the Jews (Rom 3:2), and they were providentially guided in the recognition and preservation of the OT. Jesus and the apostles confirmed the rightness of their approach while castigating their attachment to a tradition that was superimposed on the Word of God (Matt 15:1–20; Mark 7:1–23). God entrusted his NT oracles to his people in the churches, and they are nearly unanimous in the recognition of the NT Canon” (R. Nicole, “The Canon of the New Testament,” JETS 40:2 (1997), 205). 

[106] Ryken, et.al, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 497. 

[107] John Calvin cited in the Reformed Quarterly (Fall 2001), 9. 

[108] C. H. Spurgeon, The Sword and the Trowel (1883) 262-63, cited in “Spurgeon’s views on Training for the Ministry,” 30. He continues, “A man must know the truth in his own soul before he can effectually transmit it to those who sit at his feet. Knowing it, he must live in the daily enjoyment of it” (Ibid). 

[109] J. Piper, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), 148.

[110] In the words of Edwards, a model pastor trainer, “As to the things of the world, you are not to expect outward ease, pleasure, and plenty; nor are you to depend on the friendship and respect of men, but should prepare to endure hardness as one that is going forth as a soldier to war” (Jonathan Edwards, Sermon: True Excellency of a Gospel Minister. 1743).

[111] John MacArthur, The Book on Leadership (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2004) 181.

[112] Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, 726.

[113] Scott, The Pastoral Epistles, 100. 

[114] Mishnah Pirke Aboth. Although we must also remember that we are engaged in a community effort to understand the Scriptures better. In Bibliotheca Sacra, January, 1853 the editor candidly states regarding the unfinished task of exegesis: “In the opening of the rich mines of the Scripture, much has already been done, but very much more yet remains to be accomplished, especially in bringing the great and varied wealth of the Bible to the full comprehension of the common reader. The remark of the Puritan Robinson still holds true: ‘God hath yet much light to break forth from his holy word—and happy is the man who can contribute in any degree to the breaking forth of this light’” (editorial for BibSac, January, 1853).

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