Posted by: Moses | June 19, 2008

Philosophy of Leadership

2Timothy 2:14-26 (The Message According to Moses)

Reiterate these things, warning them before God not to dispute words about something that is not profitable, which destroys those who listen. Be eager to demonstrate yourself to be genuine before God, a worker with no cause for embarrassment because he clearly facilitates the message of Truth. But shun those who babble pointlessly, for they advance ungodliness further and further and their message will spread destruction like gangrene. Hymenaios and Philetos are men like these, who have shot at and missed the Truth by saying that the resurrection has already come, and they are destroying the confidence of some.

But nevertheless, the solid foundation of God stands! The foundation has this seal : “The Lord knew those who are His,” and “anyone who claims the identity of the Lord, let him revolt from unrighteousness.”

But in a great house there are not only gold and silver vessels but also wooden and clay ones . On the one hand are vessels for special use and on the other hand are vessels for mundane work. Therefore if someone should cleanse himself from mundane usage, he will be a vessel for special use, having been set apart. He is useful for the Master, having been prepared for any pure use.

So flee the youthful lusts! Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call upon the Lord from a cleansed heart. Politely decline from foolish and ill-informed debates. The Lord’s servant must not quarrel. Rather he should be gentle toward everyone; able to teach, patiently responding to evil, gently instructing those who disagree with him: who knows whether God should grant them repentance unto knowledge of the truth! And they might snap out of the devil’s snare, since he has captured them for his purpose.

Philosophy of Biblical Leadership

All biblical leadership should be founded on principles of humble unity and orthodoxy, which this passage contains. Brash, avaricious, and unqualified leaders should be opposed by true guardians of God’s word. Leadership must be based upon genuine instruction from God’s Writings. Since God’s declared desires for our world center around the gospel, a leader’s desires and authority should flow from that source.

Paul exhorts Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:14 to “remind them of these things,” referring back to his encapsulation of the gospel in verses 11-13. “If we have died with him, then we will live with him; if we endure we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” Here we see our death in Christ’s vicarious sacrifice, and our life through the same means, our future glory serving God in exercising his will, our need for fidelity and endurance, and finally the hope of God’s glory because of his self-sustaining redemptive purposes: the gospel giving God all glory.

The leader’s primary goal is one of reminder not novelty, to herald the gospel that the believers already know. Call these things to mind! Remind them! An emissary of a king has authority to carry out the king’s will, no more. When he strays from his edict he treads dangerously close to abusing his position and endangering his hearers. Thus it becomes imperative that we get the edict right, that we focus our efforts on proclaiming that edict, and making sure that its dictums are actually carried out. Thus one of our most noble labors is to “eagerly demonstrate” ourselves to be “genuine before God…worker[s] with no cause for embarrassment because [we] clearly facilitate…the message of Truth.” A leader must make the gospel clear, to even the simplest lamb. He must make the gospel applicable to even the most self-righteous ram.
Thus, the message must be accurate. Exhorting a church to do something outside of God’s message, in fact any departure from orthodoxy becomes a very serious matter. If our ruling mandate is to spread the gospel to the four corners of the globe, and God’s declared will for us is our “sanctification” by the gospel, then to depart from that truth becomes exceedingly dangerous (Matt 28, 1 Thess 4:3). Our salvation and sanctification depend on the clear words of God. In the words of the disciples, “To whom shall we go, for you have the words of eternal life?” (John 6). A leader must wield the Word well. Praise God that our hope is not placed in such fallible men though! Our faith is founded on the sure foundation of God! Who will stand for all time, who “knows those who are his” and who clearly identifies his children and chosen leaders by their departure “from iniquity” (2 Tim 2:19). God will guard his church. The words of “The Church’s One Foundation” come to mind:

“The Church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end:
Though there be those who hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against both foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.”

No matter what the heirs of Hymenaeus and Philetus may do, the gospel will remain unchanged. It is rooted in the faithfulness of God, not errant leaders. Believer’s first loyalty is always to our King! Not his emissaries on earth who may very well be flawed.

Leaders must be humble, gently reproving those who oppose the Word of God. Sometimes leaders rightly disagree like Timothy and his opponents. Timothy preached God’s word, and Hymenaeus and Philetus opposed God’s word. This passage in 2 Timothy clearly hopes that leaders will come to a humble unity around the gospel, submitting themselves to the gospel and laboring side by side rather than endlessly debating or opposing one another and dividing the church against itself. The Bible does not demand that we submit blithely to any hierarchical church polity; Timothy did not trump Hymenaeus and Philetus because of his relationship with Paul. Paul could have given Timothy such apostolic authority; instead, he encourages Timothy to submit himself to the word, and to exhort his opponents to do the same. Hymenaeus and Philetus wouldn’t be submitting to Timothy, they would have been submitting themselves back with him to the Word that he was guarding. What does a leader have that he has not received after all? He is merely a guardian, merely a herald, merely a man submitting himself to the Word of God and exhorting others to do the same. There is no room for pride here, only humble submission to the Word.

Paul presents this hope in the Truth using an illustration of dirty dishes. God can use vessels prepared to take out the garbage, like Hymenatus & Philetus leading away false believers from the church of God. However, God is a redemptive God. Thus we as finite creatures must never presume to know the ultimate end of anyone. Even teachers who seem to oppose God. Hence Paul doesn’t call the believers to cast out all the dirty dishes around them, but rather to examine their own lives! After all, who is truly a clean dish? Before you judge Hymenaeus & Philetus too harshly, consider your own shared depravity. Empathize, and depart from iniquity. Learn from even the enemies of God what not to do, rather than judging and dismissing them.

Furthermore, Paul presents a hope of cleansing. And upon that hope he found a philosophy for dispute, holding out an olive branch even to Hymenaeus & Philetus. Purity in the community is essential! Paul does not present a fluffy hope that all the dishes should get along, but all the dishes would scrub themselves pure by the power of Christ’s work on the cross! He is not exhorting them to pull themselves up by their own boot straps but to walk in the Spirit, and to join company with others who do. Flee iniquity! It’s not that difficult! Don’t second guess yourself whether you are acting “in the Spirit” or “out of the Spirit” or all sorts of such pitfalls that those of the reformed persuasion are apt to fall into. If you successfully resist the temptation, guess what… you were walking in the Spirit!

Grace is God empowering you to do what it is impossible for you to do: everything. However, how often do we live in that realization? Don’t let fear constrain you that perhaps you might not be acting with the right motivation. Give glory to God that you are acting at all by his grace, and repent of your clinging sin. Sanctification consists in us striving for Holiness, in the realization that we are impotent without God’s power working in us. Our sin will cling to us as long as we live in our mortal bodies; we will never reach a point where our attitudes are completely pure and completely dependent. Even our lack of dependence has to be confessed and nailed to Christ’s ineffable work on the cross. Flee iniquity! Simply obey the Word, and confess your inadequacies. Christ’s work is sufficient for you. Finally, flee only what is truly opposed to God. Flee perversions of His purposes, but never flee any part of creation intrinsically. We sin if we reject what God designed for us to receive. Remember that God created the world as good, and it is not so fallen that Paul cannot exhort Timothy to praise God for everything, because everything “to be received with thanksgiving and prayer” (1 Timothy 4).

So where do we flee to? You have to run somewhere, and Paul exhorts us to run into the arms of our community of believers. Sanctification is designed to be a communal struggle. Turn from sin, and “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22). However, Paul knows that in community we have a tendency to… bicker. How often do we respond arrogantly and defensively when someone tries to love us by pointing out an area of sin in our lives that we are blind to? How often do we argue with them? Paul exhorts Timothy to avoid foolish controversies of all sorts. We must respond humbly to our brothers. Even more amazingly, by the grace of God we must patiently endure evil, knowing that but for grace we are know different. We must correct our opponents with gentleness, following the pattern of our savior, never compromising the truth, but hoping that “perhaps God might grant them repentence leading to a knowledge of the truth.” Our passion for the truth and humble unity allows us to respond gently, hoping and praying that God might show them the same grace that he gave to us! Why respond arrogantly as if we produced the truth when we received it? What do we have that we haven’t received (1 Cor. 4:7)? The Gospel of humility allows us to realize that we don’t know the state of anyone’s soul. All we know is that God has called us to labor and by all means win some. Who, when, and where is up to God. Let the grace of God motivate us to continuously exhort one another, hoping for even mightier works of grace. May God’s grace empower us to fight together, side by side against sin, rebuking each other in love. May God’s grace forever protect us from turning the body of Christ against itself. To God be all glory.


  1. kicking each other’s butts in love. It is so hard sometimes but so well designed. We are not meant to struggle alone. Some of us more introverted people struggle with this truth. I’m glad for the groups (like Eirene) that work together this way.

    I found the point of “in/out of the Spirit” question well put. I agree with you. Ready to follow you as you lead me. Ready to lead with you.

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