A Man of God
H Small, Teignmouth
WE ARE TO CONSIDER a category of individuals with a distinctive character which marks them out as separated from the world and unto God. Whereas the expression 'man of God' occurs many times in the Old Testament it appears but twice in the New Testament, 1 Tim. 6. n and 2. Tim. 3. 17. That others not so designated were in fact men of God is abundantly clear. From those alluded to in this way we can see those traits of character and witness which must be found in saints today who desire to be for God. This is not a special, almost unreachable spiritual plane reserved only for notable and outstanding brethren; all who enter upon the life of faith by the new birth should have this standard as their goal.
MOSES THE MAN OF GOD
It is surely significant that although there were men like Enoch and Noah who 'walked with God' and Abraham who is called 'the friend of God', James 2. 23.
Moses is the first of many to be called 'man of God' all of whom were used by God in relation to His people. When one traces the history of the children of Israel, their murmurings, rebellions, idolatry and wickedness, it becomes apparent that men were needed who were endowed with qualities that were bound to mark them out. Moses, in the face of domestic jealousy is spoken of as 'very meek above all the men ... on the face of the earth', Num. 12. 3. Although there were occasions when he was filled with anger because of their sin, his patience and long-suffering with the people are surpassed only by his love for them. These are noble qualities in any man but when they are graced by the Spirit of God they are princely.
He was powerful in prayer and intercession, and put the interests of God's people before his own, as for example in Exodus 32. 32, where when God threatened to blot them out of His book Moses pleaded for them and asked the Lord to blot his name out also if He determined this. He rises to great heights in Deut. 33 where he blesses the people and in Psalm 90 where he prays for blessing on their work. His mighty triumphs of intercession show that he was one who knew the sanctuary; a man of God who knew God.
OTHER MEN OF GOD
Such a man, too, was Paul who interceded constantly for God's people and especially for those assemblies in which he had a particular interest. This work is an essential for the true 'man of God' who will not cease because of discouragement, bitterness or a worsening of conditions but will sec in these results a need for an increase of the exercise as another man of God, Samuel, did when he said to the Israelites 'God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you', 1 Sam. 12. 23. Of other 'men of God' in the Old Testament we might mention Elijah who alone of seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal was courageous enough to defy King Ahab and bring the people back from idolatry; Elisha, called from driving a plough to a ministry of succour and healing.
Another prophet worthy of mention is Shemaiah who appears briefly on the scene when there was division and the ten tribes had said 'What portion have we in David?', 2 Chron. 10. 16. Unity by force was no solution. Rehoboam, from whom these tribes had seceded, was young, inexperienced, ill-advised and did not seek guidance from the Lord. But 'Shemaiah the man of God' knowing that unity by force was no solution, arrested the impetuosity of inexperience with 'Ye shall not fight against your brethren' - advice which holds good for all divisions among the people of God. Everyone stands responsible to God for his associations and if some have been entrusted with a greater knowledge of the truth than others, they should remember that winsomeness and not warfare is the way to win others.
Space forbids the detailed survey of the number of unnamed prophets who, in various books, are briefly mentioned; or of David who, for all his failures, loved God so sincerely. Sufficient has been written to show in a practical way what is expected of those today who seek to know the will of God and do it.
THE MAN OF GOD IN THE ASSEMBLY
When we turn to the two Scriptures where 'man of God" is used in the New Testament, we notice several interesting points. The one thus addressed is a young man, Timothy, to whom the apostle Paul is committing a charge regarding the assembly at Ephesus. So it is not merely personal, but has to do, as in the Old Testament, with a company of God's people.
It is also of interest to note that in both places the word used for 'man' is not as we might have expected, aner (male) but anihropos (human being). This strikes us as sufficiently remarkable to warrant the conclusion that sisters may exert a comparable influence as, shall we say, women of God. The contribution of godly women in the companies of the Lord's people with whom they meet is incalculable in its value. Whether it is Phoebe, a succourer of many, Rom. 16. 2; Priscilla, who with her husband opened their home to help Apollos in the Scriptures, Acts 18. 26; and doubtless others, or Dorcas with her needle, women of like stamp today will be a support to the brothers so that together we may all stand firm in a day marked by lightness, looseness and lethargy.
THE MAN OF GOD AND THE SCRIPTURES
The two letters to Timothy give us a great deal of help on matters relating to the conduct of an assembly. Timothy was a man with the background of a religious upbringing. Son of a Greek father and Hebrew mother he had early in life come under the influence of the Holy Scriptures which we now know as the Old Testament, and he is reminded that these Scriptures had within them the requisite guidance on the question of salvation 'through faith in Christ Jesus'. There is a tendency to neglect these thirty-nine profoundly valuable books which are an essential and integral part of the revealed will of God. The Lord Jesus Himself declares that they 'testify of me', John 5. 39, and, prophetically in Hebrews 10. 7, 'In the volume of the book it is written of me'.
The Scriptures make the man of God 'perfect' (complete), 2 Tim. 3. 16, 17. An incomplete man of God is an anomaly. The rendering of the authorized version 'throughly furnished' prompts us to think of the believer as a house, the various rooms representing the departments of his life. Of what practical use would a house be if it were not furnished? Twice in his Ephesian letter Paul speaks of 'fulness', conveying much the same exhortation. In ch. 3. 19 at the end of the first section of the letter in which he has been dealing with the inward experiences of the believer he says, 'that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God'. The secret of this? Comprehending the incomprehensible, and knowing that which passeth knowledge - the love of Christ. Then in ch. 4. 13 having from verse 1 dealt with that which is outward and concerning the walk he speaks of the 'measure of the fulness of Christ'. To become fully useful, the Christian must be fully or throughly furnished.
Only such men will be of real value to the house of God -the pillar and ground of truth. Every assembly should be the custodian, upholder and imparter of doctrinal and moral truth on behalf of God Himself. It needs the operation and guidance of true men of God to maintain this, backed by the whole company, having a similar exercise. No-one who has not, in some measure at least, been adjusted personally and in his family relationships will be able to operate usefully in the assembly amongst whom he gathers. Those who are adjusted will be concerned to ensure that every department of assembly responsibility and activity is suitable for the dwelling-place of God. The sisters who are 'fully furnished' will be of real value with an intelligent concern for the younger sisters, supporting the various functions of the assembly with their presence, the brothers with their prayers, and comporting themselves with the adornment of a 'meek and quiet spirit which is in the sight of God of great price', 1 Peter 3. 4. The true heart language of these men and women will be 'I have set the Lord always before me', Psalm 16. 8.
The records of the men of God in the Old Testament show that they were marked by faithfulness and obedience. God made known His will, gave His instructions and they readily responded.
To most, if not all, of them this cost a great deal but they had a sense of true values and weighed things in the balances of the sanctuary and not by worldly standards. We have traced the experiences of a few of them but there were very many more. We cannot fail to recognize them for they have discernible features, are transparently godly and show an unswerving application to every expressed will of God. They were often outstanding when raised up at specific crises in Israel's history.
MEN OF GOD AND THE PRESENT NEED
The Old Testament contains the history of that which is of profit to us from past dispensations but God has had His outstanding servants in every century of this age of grace. Possibly the reason why only one, namely Timothy, is actually designated a man of God in the New Testament is that it is the introduction to a new dispensation the history of which is only fully recorded in heaven.
The two letters written to him are, in substance, imperative calls to faithful obedience to the revealed will of God. Paul commits to him the stewardship of the precious and holy things concerning the companies of God's people and 'It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful, i Cor. 4.2. The priests of the old covenant were the 'stewards of God' under the Mosaic law. In Mai. 2. 7 the prophet declares 'The priest's lips should keep knowledge' yet this small prophecy reveals how ill-equipped they were. Strict obedience is quite foreign to the natural man who likes to reason things out and can always be counted upon to know some better way or more likely expedient. If our old nature is allowed to interfere in this way we shall deviate from the plain and simple course. Spiritually the mind will become like a patchwork quilt, a jumble of detached and unrelated spiritual part-truths lacking cohesion.
Our responsibility lies in knowing the will of God and doing it. We cannot do it without knowing it and when we know it we are responsible to do it. The burden of the early verses in 2 Tim. 4 is the need to preach - and preach not to the unsaved but the saints; for the day is foreseen when they will not want 'plain truths' but something more palatable, after the manner of the children of Israel who longed for the food of Egypt and loathed the God-given bread, Num. 21. 5.
Timothy is enjoined in chapter 3. 14 of the second letter to 'continue in the things which he had learned'. He was instructed and intelligent and now was to evince the grace of continuance. The man of God is not spasmodic but consistent. Think of Daniel undaunted by the circumstances of Babylon, whether it be the king's meat or the lion's den. Paul had nothing novel to offer but, in effect, counselled a continuation of the same diet, the 'sincere milk' and 'strong meat' of the Word. The Lord faced the devil with 'Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God', Matt. 4. 4. As Daniel's face shone in spite of (or rather because of) the bread and pulse so the man of God continues with his heavenly food and is maintained in strength.
In these days there is a lamentable failure to give the clear-cut testimony and witness to the truth, and the situation will worsen unless young people cultivate godly concern necessary to re-establish this privilege. We might well pray that God may raise up men and women to take the place of others who have finished the course. The qualifications of a man of God cannot be assumed as a mantle at some mature age; they are the result of a progressive work of the Holy Spirit in the soul. Education and discipline in the school of God produces the fibre which makes a believer effectual in his God-given sphere.