Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 18, 1949
NUMBER 15, PAGE 3,6c

Qualifications Of A Good Minister

George T. Jones

Paul wrote to Timothy, "If thou put the brethren in mind of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine which thou hast followed until now." (I Tim. 4:6) The idea of being a good minister should appeal to everyone who preaches. It should be the openly avowed ambition of every person who has committed himself to the ministry of the word.

The difficulty is not one, however, of developing the desire to be "good" preachers; the problem seems to be in determining exactly what is "good". What is the necessary standard to be met before one measures up to Paul's description of "a good minister"?

Paul's Standard

Paul wrote Timothy that he would be a good minister if he put the brethren in mind of certain things. In the preceding verses he had described the apostasy which was to develop (Roman Catholicism), and had warned against it, "But the Spirit saith expressly, that in latter times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons." (I Tim. 4:1) Timothy would be a good minister if he put the brethren in mind of these matters.

Not only was it necessary for him to warn against this particular heresy, but he should also speak against any departure from the faith. Paul told him specifically that he was in Ephesus, "That thou mightest charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine."

Timothy would not have been a good minister if he had refused to tell the brethren of the impending apostasy; or, if he had refused to charge them to continue in the "good doctrine." It naturally follows that no man is a good minister of Christ today who avoids this imperative call to duty. Every person who preaches should be able to know when men are deserting the ancient faith. He who is a good minister will fill his sermons with constant warnings. He who fails to do this is not a good minister in the sense Paul meant, regardless of his other attainments.

Paul also declared that a faithful preacher is one "nourished in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine." To be nourished simply means to be fed. Preachers are to be nourished on the words of the faith and sound doctrine. The words of the faith can mean nothing more than the word of God. "Till I come, give heed to reading." (I Tim. 4:13) The preacher is not a good one who does not study the word diligently. It does not matter what else he may do, there is no substitute for this.

This text further teaches that a good minister have in his heart the need of the brethren. How can one "put the brethren in mind" of the dangers before them, unless he sees their need and has their best interests at heart? In second Corinthians Paul defended his apostleship against the unwarranted attacks of false teachers, and in the midst of his remarks in this statement, "Behold, this is the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be a burden to you for I seek not yours, but you." (II Cor. 12:14)

In the statement, "I seek not yours, but you" is the essence of the idea of being mindful of the brethren's needs. The one who is seeking the material possessions of the brethren is not calculated to see their needs. Every good minister will seek "you" — that is, the souls of the brethren. The other kind will be oblivious to the needs of their souls, and will seek "yours" — that is, their material possessions. Such is the preacher who will only preach what the brethren like to hear. He knows if he does this, his job is safe. The good minister is the one who tells the brethren what they need to hear, even at the risk of jeopardizing his job. The latter is seeking their souls and not their possessions.

Modern Standards

In the present era there are many other items in the standard of excellence for those who preach that were never dreamed of by Paul. In fact, one will not find these items in the word of God at all. One of these specifications might be called worldly wisdom. The denominations have long insisted on theological training for their preachers. When one becomes a learned Doctor among them, he is a good minister. His knowledge of God's word may be meager, but he is great for his worldly wisdom. Some of the brethren have looked at the "nations about them" and decided that such a standard would be fine "among us." Hence, they have set about erecting it. They forget that Paul said, "My speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and the power." (I Cor. 2:4)

Another of these modern standards erected for preachers is that the preacher be a "good mixer." Now this writer is not of the persuasion that a preacher needs to be morose and generally disagreeable to please the Lord. It should be the intention of every Christian to cultivate a pleasing disposition. However, the Lord's sheep and the devil's goats could not be expected to mix well. Brethren who know what the New Testament teaches will recognize this. What reasoning is it which suggests that a gospel preacher should become intimately "chummy" with those who are unalterably opposed to the main objective of this life? Did not the prophet say, "Shall two walk together, except they have agreed?" (Amos 8:3)

Still another measurement by which some would have preachers stand or fall is one's ability as a pleaser of men. This is another item in the standard which was never dreamed of by Paul or any other man whom the Holy Spirit directed to write. Has this really become a standard among us to which preachers must submit, or is it just imagination? One has but to "visit" among some of the brethren to learn the facts. He can just keep his mouth shut and listen to their conversations. (Listening to their talk will make one's mouth drop open.) Some of the brethren want a preacher who will join everything capable of being joined. This is a must! Of course, in all of his circulating and joining, he must never utter a word about the simplicity of the gospel, the singularity of the church, or in condemnation of popular and prominent sins. If he does, his reputation will be ruined.

Sure enough, some brethren look for these "qualifications" in a minister instead of a godly life, a soundness in the faith, and a passion for lost souls. "For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am striving to please men? If I were still pleasing men. I should not be a servant of Christ." (Gal 1:10)