In season and out of season – expository readiness (part 5)
Paul follows those three exhortations with two promises for those who continually prepare themselves: “for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim 4:16). The first promise states that as you do this – as you pay attention to your life and your doctrine and persist in doing so – you will ensure your own salvation. Paul understood that there is such a thing as self-deception. There is such a thing as false assurance and, though he had actually been taken to heaven and had seen miracles performed through his own hands and had seen multitudes converted by God through his ministry, he still knew that none of that guaranteed anything. Even the apostle Paul realized the only way to ensure that the reality of self-deception doesn’t happen is to stay close to Christ, to pay attention to your life and to your doctrine.
The second promise states that by watching your life and doctrine, and persisting in these things, you will also save “your hearers.” This is the only verse in the Bible that declares “do this” and you can be sure that people will be saved. You don’t usually hear that kind of thing at a church growth and evangelism conference, but this is what God uses to draw people to himself. This was the heart of Paul’s evangelism. This is the heart of Paul’s church growth strategy, to be a godly man living like Jesus, and paying close attention to the doctrine he preached.
Make this the heart and the goal of your ministry. Keep watch on yourself. Run hard after Christ, decide to know nothing but him and him crucified. Make his story the content of your preaching and praying and leading. Keep watch on your doctrine, continue to grow in the knowledge of God. Persevere in these things. Fight hard. Make it your life goal to do these things, believing the promises that accompany them, so that when the end draws near you can say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).
Donald S. Whitney serves as associate professor of biblical spirituality and also as senior associate dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary. He is the author of six books, including Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. You can connect with Whitney on Twitter, Facebook and through his website The Center for Biblical Spirituality. This post originally appeared in Don Whitney’s chapter in A Guide to Expository Ministry.