Paul, Barnabas, Timothy—Are You?

There are four people mentioned in the title to this piece that come from the New Testament in the Bible. The last one you may question, but the first three almost everyone knows about.

The apostle Paul is the major contributor to the New Testament books of the Bible. We view him historically as the one who established the Gentile churches, and gave us clear instructions as to how to live the Christian life.

Barnabas, whose name means “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36), was an associate of Paul. He travelled with Paul during his first venture out from Antioch to preach the Gospel in places where it had never been heard.

Timothy was a young disciple whom Paul trained (Phil. 2:22) to work with him in the ministry. We have the letters Paul wrote to Timothy after he left him in charge of the church in Ephesus.

Paul gives a fascinating instruction in 2Tim. 2:2 that many in the church have tried to incorporate into their lives. Books have been written on how to best fulfill this simple directive. Programs have been established, tried, and died as leaders sought to complete this master program of discipleship.

Paul writes: “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (ESV) Notice that there are four generations mentioned here: Paul to Timothy; Timothy to faithful men; faithful men to others—Paul–>Timothy–>faithful men–>others = four.

This is obviously a good plan to spread the teachings of the gospel and how to live the Christian life. Why hasn’t it worked as planned?

There may be numerous reasons proffered for our consideration, but I would like to focus on only one which is not specifically mentioned in this passage.

Personal growth through accountability is often lacking in most programs that are established for the purposes of disciple-making.

Some of you may have quit reading at this point, because you know of systems where accountability is a given—built into the very fabric of the program. I, too, am aware of many such instances. But, I am not talking about a “top-down” type of accountability, which is the usual form, given our proclivity for hierarchical authoritarian structures.

I believe there is something much more powerful, something that is seldom done, something that cannot be mechanically orchestrated. It is one of those things that is simple, but not easy. It is a lifestyle that we choose to live for the sake of our own growth and the growth of the Kingdom of God. Ecclesiastes 4:12 states: And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him–a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

It is this three-fold cord to which I refer.

So, let’s consider again the three people we began with, and how that might relate to the fourth person—you.

Paul is a leader/teacher. Timothy is a student. Barnabas is a partner/encourager.

Before I try to explain it, I will simply state it. We each need to have a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy in our life. Also, we each need to be a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy to someone else.

We each need someone with whom we are close to be our teacher. Your pastor who delivers the Word of God to you each Sunday doesn’t count, unless you are with him/her on a regular basis as just the two of you—or possibly a couple more.

We also need someone close to us who is there for support and encouragement, not only when things get tough, but even when things are going well. We need that someone who is able to rejoice with our victories, be a shoulder to cry on in our defeats, and be with us to cheer us on to persevere during the doldrums of monotony.

And we need someone with whom we can share what we are learning in such a way that it helps them to grow. We need a student who wants to learn from us.

Plus, we need to BE each of these for someone else.

In this way, accountability is much more than someone superior to me asking if I got something done; or why I did such a thing. It is the type of accountability that provides a fullness of all that word means: answerability, responsibility, and liability.

When this is operating in our life, our own personal growth and the growth of those around us is ensured.

Church Growth

Acts 14:23 When they had appointed elders for them in the various churches, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the protection of the Lord in whom they had believed.

“They entrusted them to the protection of the Lord in whom they had believed.”

Wow!!

Really?!?

They actually ‘entrusted’ them? They didn’t give them any reading materials? No “Next Steps” booklets?

Surely they at least put them on their mailing list?!? Because the context indicates that they left them almost immediately.

Paul obviously had a lot to learn about church planting and growth.

Praying Paul’s Prayer

It has been said that we can do no better than to pray the words of Scripture when we pray.

Therefore, I offer this prayer from the first chapter of Ephesians, which closes with the last words of this marvelous epistle.

Personal Prayer

I thank you, God, the Father of my Lord, Jesus Christ, for blessing me with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Thank you for choosing me in Him from before the foundation of the world so that I might be holy and blameless before you. It was in your love that you predestined me for adoption as a son (or daughter) through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of your will, to the praise of your grace with which you have blessed me in the Beloved. In Christ, I have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of my trespasses according to the riches of your grace, which you have lavished upon me with all wisdom and insight. You are making known to me the mystery of your will, according to your purpose that you set forth in Christ. It has been your plan that in the fulness of time you would unite all things in heaven and all things on earth in him.

It is in Christ that I have obtained an inheritance, because I was predestined according to your purpose who works all things according to the counsel of your will, so that I might be effective to the praise of your glory. When I heard the word of truth, the gospel of my salvation, you allowed me to believe in him, and sealed me with the Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of my inheritance until I actually take possession of it. That is to your glory and I praise you for it.

Prayer for Others

Lord God, I thank you for (insert name). I pray that you give (him/her/them) a spirit of revelation in the knowledge of Jesus. I pray that the eyes of their heart be enlightened, that they may know what is the hope to which you have called them, and what are the riches of your glorious inheritance in the saints. I pray that they may know the immeasurable greatness of your power toward those of us who believe. That great power was what you worked in Christ Jesus when you raised him from the dead and seated him at your right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion. He is far above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And you have put all things under his feet and given him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

And Father, I pray that you grant peace and love with faith, and grace to all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 

NOTE: This is the first in a weekly posting on the Epistle to the Ephesians. I am not the only one who is writing on this book. There are others who will be posting something on their blog each day of the week. We are each bringing something that the Lord gives us from chapter one of the epistle. You will be greatly blessed and encouraged, and your heart will be filled if you will take the time to read each day’s posting from one of the other saints involved in this collective effort. Put the following link in your “favorites” or on your link bar at the top of your browser: http://www.philter48.com/bbs/ and make it a point to visit everyday.