Conduct: Godliness Demanded & Effected by the Gospel

With doctrine defined and faith in place, Paul weaves one more thread into the fabric of his three-fold Gospel ministry: godly conduct. Indeed, the very reason Paul writes Timothy is so that he would know “how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Tim 3:15). For the Apostle, membership in the believing community means much more than mere association with a group of people down the street; it means joining a people whose God demands a conduct in absolute submission to the Gospel of Christ. As the Father, God sets the rules of the faith, establishes the law of Christ, defines the way of godliness, and provides clear testimony to the manner in which the members of his household should behave. Thus, in several large portions Paul includes instructions concerning the conduct of various kinds of people within the church: for example civilians (2:2), women (2:9-15), overseers (3:2-7), deacons (3:8-13), youth (5:1-2), widows (5:3-16), elders (5:17-22), slaves (6:1-2), and the rich (6:9-10, 17-19).

Due to God’s gracious adoption of Timothy into his household, Paul exhorts his dear son in the faith to walk persistently in a manner that reflect his Father’s will. He is to train himself in a manner that always moves him toward godliness (4:7). Being fancied with silly myths and bigger muscles grant him no gain in regard to God’s purposes for godliness (4:6-8). Timothy is also to be an example to those who believe in his speech, conduct, and purity, even devoting himself to these things so that the church and the world observe a proper, living testimony of a Gospel-changed life (4:12-15). What is more, Paul commands him to pay close attention not only to his doctrine (Listen up fellow seminarians!), but also to himself, that is, his conduct (4:16). Then, as if such a command from the Apostle needed any more weight(!), Paul notes that persisting in this “will save both [himself] and [his] hearers.” Thus, Timothy’s conduct is instrumental to his own and the saints’ perseverance. In a word, one’s conduct has eternal consequences on both individual and corporate levels. Doubtless, this reality compells Paul to urge Timothy all the more to keep himself free from sin (5:22) and to pursue diligently righteousness and godliness (6:11). Such a hunger for holiness characterizes the man of God.

Considering the evil age in which we live and the abiding sin against which we fight, such demands and responsibilities of a Gospel-centered life seem rather daunting, indeed impossible. How, then, shall any of us do this kind of Gospel ministry? 1 Timothy also gives us the answer to this question: grace. Paul brackets the entire letter with grace. He begins with, Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord,” and closes with, Grace be with you!” (1:2; 6:21). Furthermore, he explains that even he himself, who was once a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent, “received mercy…and the grace of our Lord overflowed for [him] with faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1:13-14). Thus, God’s grace shall be our help in this ministry he has entrusted to us. Yes, feel the weight of godliness the Gospel demands. At the same time, know that what the Gospel demands, it will also effect within us by God’s grace.   

Bridging the Gap

Paul’s words have great bearing on our own devotion to the Gospel. Just think of the implications for the covenant community. A church is a community of people who, having been reconciled to God and to each other through the person and work of Jesus Christ, repeatedly assemble for edification in the service and work of the ministry (Heb 10:24-25; cf. Eph 4:12). This assembly consists of baptized believers who have been set apart for God by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that the manifestation of His grace, love, righteousness, and strength might be displayed to the world in the Gospel, both in word and deed (Jas 1:22). Since these truths describe a church, there is a great demand for obedience to Christ and His word, resulting in the purification of Christ’s own possession that they might be set apart from the world. The church is to hunger for righteousness (Matt 5:6), purify their hearts (Jas 4:8), pursue sanctification (Heb 12:14), abide in holiness (1 Thess 4:4), and maintain unity (Eph 4:3). She is not to be conformed to this world (Rom 12:2), nor to have fellowship with the darkness (1 John 1:6), and is to abstain from every form of evil (1 Thess 5:22). If she is not carrying out these disciplines, she is not putting on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 13:14), and thus testifying falsely about the holiness of her Father (1 Pet 1:15-16), the freedom from sin bought by His Son (Rom 6:22; Gal 5:13), the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (2 Thess 2:13), and the Gospel that rescues her from this present evil age (Gal 1:4). May we all be diligent to obey his words, longing for and encouraging pure devotion to Christ.

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5 Responses to “Conduct: Godliness Demanded & Effected by the Gospel”

  1. Billy Marsh Says:

    good three part series. These serve as good summaries of paul’s philosophy of ministry in the Pastorals. I especially liked the bridging the gap on this one; it was a nice biblical theology of the nature of a NT church living under the authority of the Word. Conduct is a necessity. If Scripture is only exegeted and never expositioned, then the interpretive work remains incomplete. God’s Word is truth needing to be applied, not just knowledge to be attained.

  2. Bret & Rachel Says:

    Billy, the series is not over yet. Stay tuned for the fourth part, which will reveal all three of these things working together in 1 Timothy. Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. SWBTSphere Weekly Update (4) « Straight out of the SWBTS Blogosphere Says:

    […] Rogers commends godly conduct as the third thread of the Apostle Paul’s three-fold gospel ministry. 1) Doctrine; 2) […]

  4. Billy Marsh Says:

    You sounded like a magician in your reply. “The show isn’t over, you have yet to reveal your best trick yet.” Sorry for the sarcasm, it just comes to me. Great, I’m ready for part 4; I love the pastorals, especially 1 Tim.

  5. Billy Marsh Says:

    I’m still waitin’ on the 4th part! Don’t think I’ve forgotten.)

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