A Letter from an Old-Time Gospel Preacher

The following is a true story. Years back, there was an old-time gospel preacher. He was beginning to get along in years, and as they sometimes did back then, he had a younger preacher that he was training almost as an apprentice. This younger preacher studied under the old time preacher for quite some time. As it sometimes happens, the older preacher had to move on to another congregation and left the younger preacher behind. As soon as the older preacher was gone, problems started to arise in the congregation.

There were people who figured that with the older preacher gone, they could do whatever they wanted and the young preacher would not be able to stop them. There were men who tried to force themselves into teaching positions, even though they were not very knowledgeable in the Scriptures and were rather unstable. Others were trying to bring in the “prosperity” or “health and wealth” gospel, saying that God will make you rich if you follow Him. Other figured that with the older preacher gone, they could trick the younger preacher into making them elders.

The younger preacher was having difficulties to say the least. At some point, the older preacher heard about all the problems that were arising. He wrote a letter to encourage the young preacher and to tell him the way to handle the problems. Today we call that letter I Timothy.

In that Letter, Paul (the old-time gospel preacher) concludes the letter by restating to Timothy (the young preacher) all the things in the letter: “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:11-12). Paul calls it “the commandment” (I Timothy 6:14), which refers to the whole of the commandments of Christ, much like “the law” is used to represent the body of laws that were given to the Israelites. Basically, this commandment is: be a faithful Christian. But how was Timothy (and by extension, all Christians) supposed to keep this commandment?

Christians are to live faithfully inwardly. In I Timothy 6:13-14, the inspired apostle concludes the letter to his “son in the faith” by telling him that he is to keep the commandment “without spot.” This means that he is to be pure in keeping the commandment. This shows what the inward condition must be in order to be pleasing to God while keeping the commandment (being a faithful Christian). Christians cannot simply be doing the outward things of following Christ without it being from the heart. John 4:24 states that one must worship God in spirit (with the correct attitude). It must be more than just inwardly, however.

Christians are to live faithfully outwardly. In the same passage, Timothy is told to keep the commandment “unrebukable.” Rebuke would only come from others. Paul tells Christians that they are to live in a way that everyone knows they are following Christ’s commandment. We are not to do things for the purpose of having others see what we do for our own glory (Matthew 6:1-5), but we are commanded to let our light shine before men so that they will glorify God (Matthew 5:16). James commands the showing of inward faithfulness with outward works of obedience (James 2.14-26). Christians cannot simply be faithful inwardly and not do the works that are required to show their faithfulness.

Christians are to live faithfully continually. Timothy is told to be faithful inwardly and outwardly until Christ comes again (I Timothy 6:14). We don’t know when Christ is coming back, so we must never stop working. As the song goes “we’ll work ‘til Jesus comes.” If we knew when Jesus was coming back, many would simply wait until shortly before the return and then repent. Jesus even said that He didn’t know when the second coming would be (Mark 13:32). Since His return could be any time, we must be continually working and always be prepared. Jesus spoke of the servants who will be rewarded when they are found waiting for the master’s return (Luke 12:35-40). We are to be faithful unto death, until we die (Revelation 2:10).

The inspired old-time gospel preacher gave these instructions, and they apply not only to the young preacher, but to all Christians. Are you faithful in keeping the commandment of Christ inwardly? Are you showing it through your works where there is no doubt to those around you that you are a Christian? Are you continually doing these things? If not, repent and “lay hold of eternal life” by following Christ’s commands (I Timothy 6:12).

-Bradley Cobb

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