Lots of people today believe Christianity is of no practical good. Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft, quipped, “Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.” With a jaundiced eye, it might appear the only folks profiting from religion are the ones drawing a paycheck from it. But what if the uninterested and unimpressed saw something different: professing Christians, even whole church communities, obeying holy orders that actually transform all of life (beliefs, ethics, and spirituality)? Perhaps they would see a gospel-integrated model of what the world really needs. Christians need such vision too because our spiritual lives are often fragmented, inconsistent, contradictory, hypocritical—sometimes just one crisis away from falling apart.
The Apostle Paul’s charge to a young pastor (1 Tim 6:11-16) speaks volumes on these things. In this passage we learn that God, the supreme life-giver and all-powerful one, commands his people to obey their holy orders without fault or failure: that we run from moral evil and toward godliness, stand for the truth of the gospel until Christ’s appearing, and lay hold of the eternal life that we confess.
Holy Orders: Who Are They For?
For all elders (vv. 11-12)
Remember the apostle Paul is giving advice to Timothy on pastoring well. Timothy is a young elder (not a contradiction!) who needs authoritative instruction on how to faithfully fulfill his calling to shepherd the church under his care. Paul reminds him of the holy orders God calls elders to obey. We call this collection of letters written to Timothy and Titus the Pastoral Epistles because they are primarily addressed to men who pastor the church. Notice that Paul names Timothy a “man of God” in contrast to the false teachers of the previous passage. “Man of God” is a highly honorable OT title referring to a leader of God’s people (Moses, Samuel, David, and Elijah among others). Its usage across the whole Bible refers to a man speaking on behalf of God, bringing God’s message to God’s people. In this sense elders who preach and teach God’s Word are “men of God” exercising some of the same duties as the OT prophets, declaring, explaining, and applying God’s Word to others.
For all Christians
But holy orders are not merely for elders. Countless Bible passages exhort all Christians to live the same way (cf. Rom 12; Eph 6:10-18; 1 Pet 1:13-25). Think about it this way. Men who are called to be pastors and elders are ordained from the pool of believers in the church. They show themselves good examples of how all Christians are called to believe, live, and feel. Timothy and other elders must live according to their holy orders not to be a substitute for other Christians (for Jesus alone is our substitute), but to be an example for other Christians. So non-elders are not off the hook! Any Christian who is thoroughly equipped by Scripture for every good work is a “man of God” (2 Tim 3:17). Holy orders are for all Christians—men and women, old and young. Continue reading