Man of God
The church has a ‘man’ crisis on it’s hands. And by that no-one means that there are no human beings over a certain age who happen to be male. The crisis is a lack of what the bible refers to as ‘men of God.’ At the same time this is posted I’m delivering the bulk of this material to a group of guys who I hope are all striving to be a ‘man of God.’
‘Man of God’ is such and interesting and intriguing title. Sometimes applied in the Old Testament to unknown individuals who just turn up and declare the will or word of God into a situation. Like the guy in 1 Samuel where it says, ‘And there came a man of God to Eli and said to him,…’ And then he proceeds to speak the word of God into the situation. We’ve no idea who he was but we know what he was, ‘a man of God.’
None doubts the fact that believers are urged to pursue maturity. If the believer is male then surely that means striving to become a man of God. But what does that look like? The New Testament only ever ascribes that title to one man. Intentionally I believe, that we might look to him to learn from him.
His name is actually formed by taking the Greek word for ‘honour’, and crashing it into the Greek word for ‘God.’ So his name means something akin to ‘the one who honours God.’ Not surprising maybe that this one guy gets referred to as ‘man of God.’ His name is of course Timothy.
Exploding the modern myth of manhood
The thing about Timothy, this man of God, is that he kind of doesn’t quite live up to modern standards of manliness. Maybe not even to some standards of manliness that have been propagated by some contemporary churches.
Our cultural understanding of a man is often portrayed as someone who is robust, strong and has a commanding presence. The alpha male type who when he walks into a room people notice. A tough and rugged individual that others might aspire to be like.
The fact that in the New Testament Timothy alone receives the title of ‘man of God’ immediately causes the modern myth to be undone. Timothy was not really all that rugged. In actual fact Paul lets slip that he had frequent ailments and that there was something wrong with his stomach. Hardly the modern tough and rugged type! After all who would really want to be the patron saint against stomach ailments like Timothy? Paul also when writing to Timothy commanded him to not let people despise his youth (although he was probably around 40. that makes me happy being 41!!).
When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church he explained that Timothy would be visiting them soon. Then being carried along by the Spirit he wrote the following; “When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you. For he is doing the work of the Lord as I am. So let no-one despise him. Help him on his way with peace…” 1 Cor 16: 10-11
You are left with the impression that Timothy was physically weak and was often unwell. He didn’t have that commanding presence that some have, in actual fact it would be easy for people to despise him. And he probably was a little nervous and needed some help to be put at ease. But this man alone is referred to with the title ‘man of God’ in the New Testament. But why?
From boy to man
Darrin Patrick in his book ‘Church Planter: The man, The message, The mission’ describes a certain category of adult male as a ‘ban.’ Meaning ‘a hybrid of both boy and man,’ hence ban. Timothy was not a ‘ban.’ He had made the transition, that some never make, from boyhood to manhood.
His childhood is actually described for us rather well in Scripture. Both his grandmother and mother were believers. Both of them were commended by Paul as having a sincere faith dwelling within them. Paul also makes it clear that it was clearly their custom of reading and teaching the Scriptures to Timothy as he grew. Paul says to Timothy, “… from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings…” Little wonder then that when Rembrandt decided to paint a picture of Timothy as a child he portrayed him leaning against the skirt of his grandmother gazing into the Scriptures that lay on her lap.
Yet this boy went from leaning on and learning from his mother and grandmother to allowing the church to lean on him whilst he taught her. Finally proclaiming the gospel to a crowd of pagans as they made their way to their false worship and idolatry in Ephesus. They then turned on him and beat him to death with their clubs such was the hatred they had for him and his Redeemer.
What caused a timid and unassuming boy to become this stalwart in the church, a martyr and the sole beneficiary of the title ‘man of God’ in the New Testament?
Man of God
His move from one stage to the other is recorded for us in Scripture. Just have a read of Acts 16: 1-3. Paul turns up in Derbe and Lystra again and he keeps hearing about this Timothy. Everyone is speaking well of him both at Lystra and Iconium. Paul had already fallen out with Barnabas by this stage so he decided that as well as Silas this Timothy would be a fitting companion for the work.
So Timothy is circumcised!!
The amazing thing about what happened is the context. The chapter before this records the first ever church council. It is called because some folk claimed that in order to be saved one needed to be circumcised as well as have faith in Christ. The church council is gathered and the result is this, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to lay on you a greater burden that these requirements: that you abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality..” The point being; that circumcision is not required, faith alone is enough.
Yet in the very next chapter Paul takes Timothy and circumcises him, because of the Jews. Christian liberty meant that Timothy didn’t need to be circumcised, he was freed from that by faith in Christ. Christ fulfilled all the law on his behalf. But therein lies the heart of why Timothy is referred to as a ‘man of God.’ He was willing to sacrifice even his christian liberty for the sake of the gospel and the mission of God. He didn’t have too, but he willingly did.
In that very action what we have displayed before us by the Spirit, is a heart which is moulded to a likeness of it’s redeemer. Remember where it says about the Christ, ‘Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself taking the form of a servant… ‘
Timothy had his christian liberty. It was earned for him by his Redeemer, confirmed by the church but when he submitted to being circumcised he was actually allowing his christian liberty to be sacrificed for the sake of the gospel. No wonder he is referred to as a ‘man of God.’
That man crisis then
So back to my lead point, the man crisis within the church. If only the men in churches could humble their hearts in submission to God on account of all that he has done for us in Christ. Holding an open bible in our hands. A bible which is given according to 2 Timothy 3: 17 “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Imagine what that would look like. Men willingly sacrificing even their christian liberty for the sake of the gospel and the mission of God. Imagine what that would like within the bonds of marriage, within the parent-child dynamic, within the workplace, and of course within the church. Men stepping up to take a lead in the spiritual direction of both home and church.
Our villages, towns and cities would be given a display of what it truly means to be a man of God. In a culture where men have a crisis of identity on their hands they need to see this.