Last Saturday, I moderated the ordination council for my friend Ivan Hoyt, a missionary to Argentina. And Sunday I gave the charge to the candidate (Ivan) as part of the ordination service. This is what I said.
Ivan, it is my great joy today to welcome you to a community of faithful men set apart for gospel ministry.
Ephesians tells us this is a gift to the church (Ephesians. 4:7,11), the setting apart and sending of certain men as pastor and teachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of God (Ephesians 4:12-13).
The office you now hold is a gift to the church, but the unique way the Lord has prepared you and led you to this place makes you yourself a gift, with every reason for humility and gratitude.
Your willingness to serve others practically and connect with others compassionately are well-known and justly commended. But we send you from this place having seen yesterday an ability to speak boldly and to proclaim faithfully that the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people (Titus 2:11)—including the people of Argentina.
It was not difficult to find a text for this charge today, since Paul wrote to both Timothy and Titus to offer encouragement and wisdom as both faced opposition in the work of the gospel. But I’m choosing Titus because he was asked to do what we are asking you to do— to go back to Argentina and to find and train and ordain other faithful men, as we have done here at Countryside with you.
Let me state this clearly. We send you expecting that because of what we do here today, someday other men will be ordained in Argentina because of you faithful teaching and example. These are men we may never know. But we charge you by the grace of God to do what Paul asked Titus (1:5): “to put what remained into order and appoint elders in every town,” as the Lord directs you.
Find men who are above reproach, the husband of one wife, whose children are believers. Find men who are not arrogant or quick-tempered or drunk, men who are not violent or greedy. Find men who are hospitable, self-controlled, upright and disciplined. Find men who will hold firm to the trustworthy word so they can give instruction in sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:5-9).
We have examined you and found you to be such a man. We even asked your wife and she said you were the kindest man she ever met. We know you to be humble and generous. We know you to hold fast to the Word.
And so now we send you to find some more men like that and set them apart for the work of the Gospel. When your work in Argentina is done, our prayer is that a new generation of leadership will rise up to do the work of God—and that they will remember you as a wise friend, a trusted counselor, a gifted teacher, and a bold and effective defender of the truth.
Do this as Paul did, “through the preaching with which he had been entrusted by the command of God our Savior (Titus 1:3).” Do this as Titus did, “as a true child in a common faith (Titus 1:4).” But do this. Leave a legacy of faithful service, of passionate intensity, of joyful obedience and of sound doctrine.
This is why Paul says he left Titus is Crete and this is why we send you to Argentina.
What to teach
In order for Titus to do this Paul says he should do three things. And the first one is “to teach what accords with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).” We tested you yesterday on this. You know what sound doctrine is.
But the command here is not only to teach it but to teach what accords with it. Sound doctrine is a very practical thing. People who understand it will be sober-minded old men, reverent older women, respectful wives, self-controlled younger men, employees with a good attitude (Titus 2).
Paul does not tell Titus what sound doctrine is, at least not yet. He begins by telling him what it will look like if people believe it. In your work you must see the gospel transform those who believe it. If you don’t see this happen, you have not taught what you should have taught.
How to live
And not only that, you will not have been what you should have been. The second thing you will have to do is “show yourself to be a model of good works in all respects (Titus 2:7).”
Integrity. Dignity. Sound speech. People will see this in you. They will respond to this. As they see this they will live “self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, as they wait for the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. “
There is a great deal of you in this. What you teach and what you are. You must be bold: “Declare these things. Exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you (Titus 2:15).”
But remember they will not live self-controlled, upright lives because they see you do it or hear you say it. They will only live this was as they respond to the work of Christ and the power of God. I assure you, however, they won’t do it if you don’t do it. Your life can be a hindrance to the gospel in Argentina. Be careful. Be wise.
So Paul reminds Titus that we ourselves, we elders, “were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to passions and pleasure, passing our days in malice and envy (Titus 3:3).”
But. I’m so glad there is a but here: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy.”
This is the doctrine you will teach. This is the gospel. This is what the men you train must understand. This is what will change their lives. This is what will continue to change yours.
What to avoid
“The saying is trustworthy and I want you to insist on these things (Titus 3:8),” Paul says. It is excellent and profitable, he continues. So don’t get distracted. Avoid foolish controversies. That’s the third thing. Endless controversies, quarrels and dissensions are unprofitable and worthless, he writes. If someone stirs up division warn them twice and then ignore them (Titus 3:10). Guard the flock of God from the foolishness of faithless men and from the folly of your own heart.
This is what it takes to love men and lead them to the place where you stand today. Teach what accords to sound doctrine. Be a model of good works. Avoid foolish controversies.
And then, “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:5-7),” Argentines will be “justified by his grace and become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
This is our prayer and our charge. To this you were called and set apart and sent.
Thanks be to God