By Gregg Bing
“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Tim. 6:11-12)
Man of God—what a meaningful title! We find many titles in the Scriptures: prophet, priest, king, judge, pastor, elder, deacon. These titles designate an office or function performed by one who is a servant of the Lord. The title “man of God” is more personal in nature, denoting a close relationship with God and the godly character that results from such a relationship.
While this expression is found only twice in the New Testament Scriptures, it is used of several important Old Testament figures. A brief look at these men will help us better understand the significance of the title, “man of God.”
Moses is repeatedly called “the man of God” (Deut. 33:1, Josh. 14:6, Psa. 90:1) for he truly was God’s man. When Moses was born, his parents saw that he was “the beautiful child” (Heb. 11:23), a child that was special, “well pleasing to God” (Acts 7:20), therefore they hid him to protect him from Pharaoh’s edict. God spent the next eighty years preparing Moses to lead Israel out of Egyptian bondage. His call came as God spoke to him from the burning bush. God showed His great power through Moses in amazing ways: power to bring the plagues upon Egypt, power to part the Red Sea, power to bring water from a rock and manna from heaven.
Moses was a prophet of God, but whereas God spoke to other prophets through dreams and visions, He spoke to Moses in a different manner—”face to face” (Num. 12:6-8). What a special relationship Moses had with the Lord, a relationship that significantly affected Moses’ character.
Though a man of great power and privilege, the Scriptures testify of Moses that he “was very humble (meek), more than all men who were on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). Moses endured much tribulation at the hands of the people of Israel, who continually grumbled and complained whenever anything did not go their way, yet Moses humbly took each situation to the Lord in prayer, seeking His help. Moses was forbearing and forgiving to those who murmured against him, often interceding to God on their behalf. Moses was a man of faith: faith in God and faithfulness to God (Heb. 11:23-29); thus he was known as “the man of God.”
David is also referred to several times as “the man of God” (2 Chron. 8:14, Neh. 12:24, 36). David is best remembered for his victory over the Philistine giant, Goliath. This event does give us one indication of why David is called “the man of God.” Consider David’s words as he stood before Goliath:
“You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:45-47)
Here are the words of a young man who trusted in God and the deliverance He alone can give, all for the purpose of giving glory and honor to Him.
David was God’s choice to be king over Israel. When Israel’s first king, Saul, disobeyed God, the Lord raised up David to be their king, a man the Lord described as: “a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22). What a beautiful description of a “man of God”—a man after God’s own heart. David sought to know and do God’s will in God’s time. Even after being anointed king by Samuel the prophet, David patiently waited for God to give him the kingdom. Though King Saul doggedly pursued David and sought to kill him, David, even when given clear opportunity to kill Saul, refused to take the life of the Lord’s anointed.
Like Moses, David was also a prophet of God, writing many of the psalms. As a young man caring for his father’s sheep, David must have spent many hours communing with the Lord. As we read the beautiful psalms (songs) God gave through David, we see the heart of one who was truly “God’s man.”
Elijah and Elisha
Elijah and Elisha are both referred to as “the man of God” (1 Kings 17:18, 2 Kings 4:7). Both men were powerful prophets who spoke boldly for God during times of great wickedness in Israel. Elijah lived during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel, two of the most wicked rulers in Israel’s history. Elijah prayed to God that it not rain in Israel, and for three and half years it didn’t. Elijah confronted Ahab and challenged his prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel to demonstrate to the people of Israel there was only one true God. The prophets of Baal shouted and called upon their god throughout the day, but there was no answer. Elijah calmly prayed to God, who answered his humble prayer and by fire consumed the offering Elijah had prepared. What a tremendous impact this faithful man of God had upon God’s people. Elijah performed many other miracles. He provided for the needs of the widow and her son, even raising the boy from the dead. When Elijah’s time on earth was finished, God caught this “man of God” up to heaven in a whirlwind.
When Elijah was taken up into heaven, Elisha received his mantle, both literally and figuratively, for he took Elijah’s place as the prophet of God. Elisha asked God for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Knowing that Elijah had been used of God in a mighty way, Elisha wanted to do so and more, not for his own glory, but for the Lord’s. God granted his humble request and worked many powerful miracles through the hand of Elisha, a faithful “man of God.”
Holy Men of God
God has always had His spokesmen in every dispensation, men who were called of God to proclaim His Word. In the Old Testament these men were primarily prophets, though some were judges, kings, or priests. Peter referred to the Old Testament prophets in 2 Peter 1:21 as “holy men of God.” These faithful men were called by God and spoke His Word as they were “moved by the Holy Spirit;” this is what made them “men of God.”
During the times covered by the New Testament Scriptures, God continued to speak through prophets, such as John the Baptist, but He also worked through apostles, men sent out by God to proclaim His Word. Some apostles and prophets, such as the Twelve, spoke to God’s earthly people, Israel. Paul and his fellow workers, were called to be apostles and prophets to the Gentiles and to make known God’s plan and purpose for His Church, the Body of Christ. These were all, no doubt, “men of God” as well.
In Ephesians 4:11-12, we read of God’s gifts to the Church, His Body. This list included the offices of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. With the setting aside of national Israel and the completion of God’s Word, the need for apostles and prophets no longer exists today, however, God is still using evangelists, pastors and teachers, not to give His Word by direct revelation, but to proclaim His completed Word through preaching and teaching.
The young man, Timothy, served as an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, and a pastor and teacher. He faithfully labored together with the Apostle Paul in the ministry of the gospel. Paul, in the first of two letters to Timothy, addressed him with the title, “man of God” (1 Tim. 6:11-12). What a testimony to the character of this young man! In his letter to the saints at Philippi, Paul made special mention of Timothy’s godly character.
“For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.” (Phil. 2:20-22)
This “proven character” resulted from Timothy’s love and devotion to Jesus Christ. This is why Timothy is linked with faithful, godly men such as Moses and David as a “man of God.”
Paul’s letters to Timothy are part of a group called the Pastoral Epistles, being written to those serving as pastors. Since this passage in 1 Timothy 6:11-12 is addressed to Timothy as a pastor, it can and should be applied to all who serve as pastors or teachers (elders, bishops) in local churches. A person entrusted with the responsibility of teaching and preaching the Word of God is to be a “man of God.” This can be readily seen by reviewing the requirements for this office as outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.
The only other New Testament occurrence of the expression “man of God” is also found in a letter to Timothy, however it is not used specifically of Timothy.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
The “man of God” here is not limited to pastors, but extends to all believers, both men and women. The word “man” is from a Greek word that refers not just to males, but to mankind, that is all human beings. These verses stress that God’s Word is profitable for all believers, that each of us may be a “man of God,” complete, thoroughly equipped and prepared for every good work God has called us to do. We are to be God’s men, serving Him in this world as “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:21). For this designation, “man of God,” to be true of us, we must have an intimate relationship with the Lord, a relationship that is evident by the character exhibited in our daily lives. What about you? Does your life give evidence that you are truly “a man of God”?
Next month we will begin looking at three traits that characterize the “man of God.”
(Continued Next Month)