Qualifications for a Servant

“The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.”

- 2 Timothy 2:24–26

Love, righteousness, faith, and peace are all qualities that the people of God must cultivate by the power of the Holy Spirit if we are to endure the suffering that will come our way for following the way of Jesus (2 Tim. 2:1–23). Yet there are other characteristics that, though they should be present in all believers to a certain degree, are especially necessary for pastors, elders, and teachers as they suffer the peculiar hardships attending their vocations. Paul lists these righteous traits in today’s passage: kindness, patience, gentleness, an ability to teach, and a spirit that is not quarrelsome (vv. 24–26).

Christian leaders become targets of sorts on account of their callings, serving as the go-to individuals when people have questions, complaints, and critiques. Having the ability to teach is necessary for dealing with all these various issues, for those who are gifted instructors can answer questions effectively, discern which critiques of the church are appropriate, and help solve the problems generating the complaints. All these things would otherwise wear a leader down, but when the able teacher is freed up to teach, he can endure the heavy demands placed upon him. The ability to teach manifests itself both in a talent for conveying information and, as Cyprian writes, a willingness to learn: “[Overseers] ought not only to teach but also to learn because he who grows daily and profits by learning better things teaches better” (ACCNT 9, p. 256).

Of course, Paul’s primary focus in 2 Timothy is on the suffering generated by those who are outright hostile to the gospel and not the kind created by people who, though they are repentant, still struggle with sin and mess up from time to time. In these cases the ability to teach is also important because gifted instructors can often silence Christianity’s despisers (Acts 6:8–10). Equally important in dealing with enemies of the faith are the qualities of kindness, gentleness, and a refusal to be quarrelsome (2 Tim. 2:24–25a). Many of those who hate us are simply looking for a fight and are taken aback when they see that we are not contentious. The Spirit may even use our gentleness to disturb the conscience of an opponent and open a door for His work of conversion (vv. 25b–26).

Coram Deo

Are we known for our gentleness and respect? Perhaps we are unnecessarily abrasive? Remember that the gospel is offensive enough; we do not need to add to it. Patience with others, especially those who make much ado about their disdain for the gospel, is a challenge for every Christian. Calvin wrote that if we understand repentance to be God’s free gift, then we ought to “cherish more earnest hope, and…bestow more toil…for the instruction of rebels.”

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 18:31–35
Proverbs 20:3
1 Timothy 3:1–7
1 Peter 3:14–16

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.