Would you please explain 1 Timothy 1:18. What were the “prophecies” pertaining to Timothy?


In 1 Timothy 1:18-19, Paul says the following: 

“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck…” 

As we pointed out in a previous Q&A about “prophets” in God’s Church today, the concept of “prophecy” and “prophet” does not have to relate to the future, but can include or refer to “inspired” teaching and preaching. We stated the following: 

“… there are most certainly ‘prophets’ in God’s Church today who preach with godly inspiration and who speak on prophecies which are recorded in the Bible. God might also give some of His servants special insight today into prophetic events and details, which might not be specifically mentioned in Scripture, but which would be in line with prophecies contained in the Bible.”

Regarding Paul’s statement about prophecies concerning Timothy, it does not appear that Paul was referring to particular and specific future revelations about Timothy, but rather, he was alluding to God’s inspiration in ordaining Timothy to the office of a minister and an Evangelist. In Timothy’s case, it is possible that prophets in the Church attested to God’s Will in this matter.

The Weymouth New Testament renders the passage in this way:

“This is the charge which I entrust to you, my son Timothy, in accordance with the inspired instructions concerning you which were given me long ago, that being equipped with them as your armour you may be continually fighting the good fight…”

Note how the following commentaries explain this passage:

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible says:

“… according to the prophecies which went before on thee; by which are meant, not the prophecies of the Old Testament, though of these Timothy had a considerable share of knowledge from a child, and was hereby greatly qualified to have such a charge committed to him; but then these were not prophecies concerning him, but the Messiah, his person, office, kingdom, and grace: nor are any particular revelations made unto the Apostle Paul concerning Timothy intended, of which there is no account.

“… rather the testimonies of the brethren at Lystra and Iconium, and the good reports they made of him to the apostle, which promised and foreboded future usefulness, are designed; though it seems best of all to understand these prophecies of such as were delivered out by the prophets in the church, for such there were in those times; who, when Timothy was a child, or a youth, foretold that he would have great gifts bestowed upon him, and would be a very useful, diligent, laborious, and successful preacher of the Gospel; and therefore the apostle mentions these to stimulate him the more to the discharge of his work, that he might answer the prophecies concerning him: for he adds,  that thou by them mightest war a good warfare: that is, that in consideration of the charge committed to him, and the prophecies that went before of him, might be the more industrious to fulfil his ministry…”

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says:

“… according to—in pursuance of; in consonance with–the prophecies which went before on thee—the intimations given by prophets respecting thee at thy ordination, 1Ti[mothy] 4:14 (as, probably, by Silas, a companion of Paul, and ‘a prophet,’ Ac[ts] 15:32). Such prophetical intimation, as well as the good report given of Timothy by the brethren (Ac[ts] 16:2), may have induced Paul to take him as his companion. Compare similar prophecies as to others: Ac[ts] 13:1-3, in connection with laying on of hands; Ac[ts] 11:28; 21:10, 11; compare 1Co[rinthians] 12:10; 14:1; Eph[esians] 4:11. In Ac[ts] 20:28, it is expressly said that ‘the Holy [Spirit] had made them (the Ephesian presbyters) overseers.’…”

Christ has built His church, and He is the Head. We read that HE appoints the ministers, but He inspires the human ministerial government in His Church to recognize His Will in the matter.

In a Q&A about the ordination of ministers we wrote the following: 

“God used ordained ministers to appoint others to the ministry (Titus 1:5). Titus was a minister. He is also referred to as a brother. After all, a true minister is a servant and a spiritual brother. This is why Paul could call Titus a brother, but this does not mean that Titus was not also ordained to the ministry. The Bible shows that ministers or elders are ordained or appointed by other ministers or elders. The laying on of hands through the ministry is very important in this regard (1 Timothy 5:22)…

“We read in Ephesians 4:11 that Christ has given the ministry to the Church, ‘for the equipping of the saints’ (verse 12). Verse 11 speaks about certain ranks, offices and functions within the ministry, including apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Paul referred to himself on several occasions as a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher (1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11).

“God has set in place a ministry (ordained elders), through which He administers the Church…

“It is claimed by some that the word ‘ordained’ or ‘appointed,’ as it is used in Acts 14:23, allegedly conveys the meaning of ‘voting.’… However… ‘The Englishman’s Greek New Testament… An Interlinear Literal Translation,’ renders Acts 14:23, word-for-word, as follows: ‘And having chosen FOR THEM elders IN every assembly, having prayed with fastings they committed them to the Lord, on whom they had believed.’

“Again, we see that Paul and Barnabas ‘chose’ FOR THE CHURCH elders IN every congregation or assembly… The Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W.E. Vine (under ‘appoint’) explains… that the Greek word in Acts 14:23, translated as ‘ordained,’ ‘appointed’ or ‘chosen,’ refers to the ‘appointment of elders by apostolic missionaries in the various churches which they revisited.’ 

“God is not the author of confusion, but of order. He has designated that the ministry is to ordain or appoint qualified members to the ministry. This is the clear teaching of the Bible, which we must uphold and practice.” 

We also understand that God inspires the ministry to ordain others to the ministry (as well as to the office of deacon and deaconess). With this ordination, God gives the new ministers or deacons/deaconesses an additional portion of His Holy Spirit to empower them to fulfill their responsibilities of a minister, deacon or deaconess (The same is true, when a minister is raised in rank—let’s say, from an elder to a pastor, or from a pastor to an evangelist). In time, it will become very evident by the fruits of the newly ordained deacon/deaconess or the minister (or his raise in rank) that God did indeed bestow on them an extra portion of the Holy Spirit.

In our Q&A on John 3:34, we said the following:

“When a man or a woman is ordained to the office of deacon or deaconess, they receive an extra portion of the Holy Spirit to accomplish their responsibilities. But a deacon is not a minister. To become a minister, a further ordination [of the deacon] is necessary [Deaconesses cannot be ordained to the ministry, as women are not to teach and preach in Church services, compare 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.]. And so, when a member or a deacon is ordained to the ministry, an additional extra portion of the Holy Spirit is given them at that time. Note what Paul wrote to Timothy: ‘Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind’ (2 Timothy 1:6-7). This passage refers foremost to Timothy’s ordination as a minister. Timothy had received a measure of the Holy Spirit when he was baptized, but when he became ordained, he received an extra measure of the Holy Spirit to fulfill his work as a minister.

“There is a hierarchy of spiritual offices within the ministry (elder, pastor, evangelist, etc.). When God’s ministers are raised in rank through an ordination and the laying on of hands, they will at that time obtain still more of God’s Holy Spirit to enable them to fulfill their added responsibilities, including spiritual discernment to make right decisions (compare Matthew 16:19; 18:18). We have an example in which two ministers were ordained to offices of greater responsibility, indicating, also, that they were given more of God’s Holy Spirit:

“‘Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away’ (Acts 13:1-3).

“Note that these men are first identified as ‘prophets and teachers’; however, after the laying on of hands in this account, the two men, Barnabas and Saul (Paul), are subsequently called ‘apostles’ (compare Act 14:14)…”

Some have misunderstood, however, what God says about the ordination of ministers, and their raise in rank. As we saw, it is clear that only ministers can ordain others to the office of deacon/deaconess and the ministry, but does the Bible teach that ministers can only ordain other ministers to a rank equal to or lower than the rank held by the ordaining minister? In other words, can only an Evangelist ordain a Pastor to the rank of an Evangelist?

We discussed this question in our Q&A about the ordination of an Evangelist

“Although God has always used His ministry to ordain others into the ministry [and ‘raising them in rank’], through the laying on of hands and prayer, it is likewise evident that it is God who must inspire those ordinations. We read about this principle in Hebrews 5:4, addressing the ordination to the office of high priest: ‘And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.’ 

“We also find, in the Old Testament, that the prophet Samuel anointed Saul and David as kings, but it can be hardly said that the office of prophet was ‘above’ the office of king. Again, we see how certain men were chosen by God to fulfill certain functions. We might also remember how Elisha, when he received Elijah’s mantle, also received a double (!) portion of the Holy Spirit, that had dwelt in Elijah (2 Kings 2:9-14).

“When we analyze Paul’s life, baptism and ordination, we find that Christ had already set aside Paul (known at that time as Saul) for the purpose of the ministry, before he became converted (compare Acts 9:15-16). When the time had come, the disciple Ananias (most likely a minister)… baptized Saul and laid hands on him for the purpose of receiving the Holy Spirit and for being healed from his blindness. We find, in Acts 11:26, that Barnabas and Saul assembled with the church at Antioch for one year ‘and taught a great many people.’ Then they went to Jerusalem to bring the elders of the church relief from the famine that plagued the areas. Acts 12:25 continues to report that ‘Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem [to Antioch] when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.’ 

“At this juncture, we read, in Acts 13:1: ‘Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.’ We notice that all these prophets and teachers were functioning in the church at Antioch, and that both Barnabas and Saul were included in the group referred to as teachers and prophets at that time. Continuing in verse 2: ‘As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “NOW, separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”’ 

“It was at that moment in time that Christ made it clear to the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch that Barnabas and Saul were to be ‘separated’ for a particular aspect or function of the work of Christ. Notice verse 3: ‘Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.’

“The word ‘apostle’ means, ‘one who is sent.’ We read, in Matthew 10:1-8, that Christ SENT OUT the original twelve apostles to preach the gospel, heal the sick and cast out demons. It is of special note that Jesus Himself established the office of apostle–even selecting that name as the title: ‘And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles’ (Luke 6:13). Consider, also, that first, Jesus prayed about those whom He should choose to be apostles: ‘Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God’ (Luke 6:12).

“The same was now happening with Barnabas and Saul. The prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch ordained them to the office of apostles, to be sent forth to do a particular work. We know this to be true as they were never referred to as apostles before, but they were subsequently called apostles (compare Acts 14:4, 14). This has also been the long-held understanding of the Church of God. In addition, Paul said that he was ordained as an apostle (compare 1 Timothy 2:7, Authorized Version). The only record of his ordination can be found in Acts 13:1-3.

“What is important to realize is that Barnabas and Saul were appointed to the office of apostle by ‘prophets and teachers’ — that is, by ministers of lower positions than that of apostle. But, this was inspired and approved by God, as we have seen.

“Some believe that the prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch were actually sent by the apostles from Jerusalem, charging them with the task of ordaining Saul and Barnabas to the office of apostle. This, however, is mere speculation, and cannot be proven from Scripture. In fact, Scripture strongly suggests the opposite. We need to realize that Paul and Barnabas had just been in Jerusalem, and returned to Antioch. It was THERE, in Antioch, that Christ inspired the ministry to ordain Paul and Barnabas as apostles — not in Jerusalem. Also, the fact that prophets came from Jerusalem is normally specifically mentioned in Scripture (compare Acts 11:27; 21:10).

“In any event, it is THE Apostle, Jesus Christ (compare Hebrews 3:1), Who directs the ministry to ordain people in His Church. And it was Christ Who inspired the prophets and teachers (ministers of lower positions than that of apostle) in the church at Antioch to ordain Barnabas and Saul (who belonged to the group of prophets and teachers), to the rank and office of apostle. It is therefore clear, from Scripture, that pastors and elders are authorized, by God, and under God’s inspiration and direction, to ordain a fellow minister to a higher rank and office — such as evangelist.” 

We are receiving, once in a great while, questions pertaining to the ordination of Pastor Norbert Link to the rank of Evangelist on February 19, 2005. This ordination took place before the Church congregation through ministers and elders of the Church of God, including two Pastor-rank ministers (Edwin Pope and Dave Harris). We are including a report from Dave Harris which explains in detail how this ordination came about: 

“The annual conference of the Church of the Eternal God and its affiliates was conducted in late February of 2005. Leading up to that conference, I had been considering the possibility of suggesting the ordination of Norbert Link as Evangelist.

“It had been evident to me that God was working with Norbert in ways that reflected his unique leadership role in the Church. At this time, J. Edwin Pope, an ordained Pastor of long-standing service, was serving in the corporate role of President for the Church. At his invitation, I was a guest of Mr. and Mrs. Pope during this particular Church conference.

“Following the first day of meetings, held on Friday, February 18, 2005, Mr. Pope and I returned to his home for the evening. During this short trip, I brought up the idea of ordaining Norbert to the rank of Evangelist at this conference. His initial response was that he did not believe this was the time. 

“That evening, the thought of ordaining Norbert stayed with me, and just before going to bed, I asked God in fervent prayer to make His Will known. Specifically, I asked God to change Edwin’s mind in this matter if it was now the time to ordain Norbert.

“Rising very early that next morning, the Sabbath, I went into the kitchen to find Edwin surrounded by several papers, some reference books and Bibles. Evidently, he had been preparing for the Sabbath services which would follow in the afternoon. 

“However, to my astonishment, one of the first things he spoke was to say that we need to do it—that is, to ordain Norbert as Evangelist! From that day forward, Edwin upheld this as the right time and the right decision. The need for Edwin’s leadership in this matter became even more evident, for in December of 2006, he died following a heart attack. 

“Norbert was never told that he would be ordained to the office of Evangelist, nor did he ever voice to anyone any desire for such ordination. In fact, he and his wife Johanna were in total shock when the ordination took place.

“While some may question whether or not Norbert could be ordained as Evangelist by ministers of lesser rank, there can be no doubt as to the fruit of this action.”

When a person is to be ordained to an office in God’s Church, God will make His Will known and direct and inspire such an ordination, as He did in the case of Timothy. This is not to say that the Church ministry is infallible and could not make a mistake, but that will also become known in time. We are told that by their fruits, you shall know them.

It is true that in the past, some deacons, deaconesses and ministers—including ministers in high offices and with high ranks—have left the Church of God or had to be put out.  Undoubtedly, in some cases, it became evident that their original ordination was not approved by God (The same can be said about individuals who were baptized and subsequently left the Church, without ever having received the Holy Spirit at the time of their baptism).

On the other hand, this is most certainly not true in every case. Some became unfaithful and unproductive in their functions of deacon/deaconess and minister, and in most cases, this was due to an inflated ego, pride and haughtiness, coupled with a desire to be in charge and their unwillingness to submit to Church government, thinking that they knew and understood everything better than those whom God had placed in authority and who had proven to be loyal to God without compromising. Such a rebellious person is in grave danger of losing his or her eternal salvation, and we all must be aware that such an attitude is directly stemming from Satan (compare Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28).

We pray that anyone who has fallen prey to Satan’s evil devices will come to his or her senses and repent with a deeply humble attitude. At the same time, all of us must be certain that we do not fall into the same trap of self-deception and ungodly pride.

Let us be thankful that God, through Jesus Christ,  is directing His Church, and that He reveals to His appointed servants His Will in the matter of Church government, including in areas of baptism and ordinations, and that GOD will correct each and every one of us if correction is needed.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link    

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