Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. (I Timothy 3:6)
I again would like to start this writing in clearly stating that what I write is what the Lord has shown me from Scripture. I do not speak for or represent any group or person.
This topic has been in the back of my mind for quite a while and my wife and I have discussed it numerous times. I just hadn’t been given to put it down on paper for anyone else to view. My hope is that I will be given to convey what I see in Scripture in a way that is true first and foremost, is backed up from Scripture and is easily understood.
Who is Timothy? He is referred to by Paul as “...my own son” (1 Tim. 1:2) and “…my dearly beloved son” (2 Tim. 1:2). Paul tells him to “abide still at Ephesus” (1:3). In the sixteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles verses 1-3 we see that he accompanied Paul on a mission trip and was circumcised before he left. In the book of first Thessalonians chapter three verse 2 we see that Paul sent him to be establish and be a comfort to the brethren there. Paul obviously had an affection, a great love and respect for him.
In the reference verse above, we have Paul giving one of the many qualifications for an Elder to Timothy. I have been given to write on those qualifications in another writing if any are interested. It is entitled “WHAT IS A CHURCH and QUALIFICATIONS OF AN ELDER” and it goes over each of the qualifications. With this writing though I just want to focus on this one which is: “Not a novice”.
Paul didn’t just state that an Elder cannot be a novice and leave it at that but finishes the sentence with why he cannot be a novice and the reason he gives is because a novice is more likely to be lifted up with pride and thus fall into the condemnation of the devil. Not only is this qualification from the Lord but it is common sense and thus Paul is pretty clear here why he says that an Elder cannot be a novice. But what is a novice. In the Greek it is the word “neóphytos” which means “young convert”. In English it is: “someone new to a field or activity.” Please notice that it has nothing to do with age. In this same letter, Paul tells Timothy “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim. 4:12) We can take from this that Timothy was considerably younger than those he was ministering to.
Paul speaks from his experience. Before Paul was converted on the road to Damascus (Acts 19:1-9) here is how he describes himself; “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Phil. 3:4-6) We see from this that Paul was no dummy nor a “novice” in what he knew which was what he was taught. He says he was a Pharisee concerning the law and that he was blameless concerning righteousness and yet he was a novice when it came to the truth.
We see Paul being taken away by the Lord from everyone and everything he knew. He gives the history of this to the brethren in Galatia: “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me. Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.” (Galatians 1:15 -2:2) [emphasis added – TA]
What I see in this is that Paul was taken away from the limelight for seventeen years after his conversion on the road to Damascus. Why? We can only surmise because he doesn’t specifically state why. Could it be because he was a “novice”? Whatever the Lord’s reasons were it brought about a change in Paul so that he was able to say, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)
Here we see the Lord taking Paul, the Apostle who was given to write MOST of the New Testament, away from his current ministry (a Pharisee), not bringing anyone with him and basically disappeared for seventeen years. Then the Lord brought him to what he was set apart and called to do and used him mightily!
I received an email from a “pastor” quite a few years ago. He said that he had been granted to see the truth of God’s absolute sovereignty and predestination and was kicked out of his pastorate for preaching it. He asked me if I knew of any churches that were looking for a pastor. I tried convincing him to take a break and bask in this new found truth. I don’t know why he didn’t listen but can only surmise that it was because he didn’t want to get a real job and thought he was too important to take a break.
Why is this not the model? Why do modern men and men throughout history think they are above or beyond Paul in this area? When one comes to the knowledge of the truth, no matter what position they hold in the church, if any, they are now a “novice” of the truth. They may be a fabulous historian, they may be a charismatic new school or modern religion preacher but none of that matters because now they are a “novice” and according to the qualification that the Lord gave to Paul a “novice” cannot be an elder.
This needs to be the model of any that are granted the truth from the false church which is the modern new-school professors. No man is that important that he can’t take time off and get to know His Lord. Will it take seventeen years like it did Paul? I don’t know. Everyone is different. It might be less for some and might be more for others. I don’t believe the amount of years is a hard and fast rule. But, I do believe that there needs to be a break from what WAS until he truly knows what now IS. If he is to be appointed as an Elder, Bishop, Overseer or Pastor then it will happen at the appropriate time that the Lord has decreed.