Pastors are to be servants of the Lord Jesus and servants of the church. But the servants of Christ and His Church are not to be servile, as Aaron was at Sinai, bending to the idolatrous whims of the Israelites. They aren’t to be servants who tell those whom they serve what their itching ears desire to hear (2 Timothy 4:3). Why not? Because, “God gave us not a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
Power is the first term mentioned in Paul’s triadic description of the Spirit of the ministry. Why is power needed for ministry? Due to the nature of the task. “By the Holy Spirit, guard the deposit that has been entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:14) Guarding the deposit, that is, guarding the church of Christ Jesus, is an impossible task, humanly speaking. Paul explicitly warns Timothy of the difficulty that he will face (1 Timothy 4:1-3; 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 3:1-9). The power of God must be given to those whom He drafts into this service of guardianship. Just so, the servants of Christ Jesus, and His church, are empowered.
Cowards, by definition, neither guard nor protect. Cowards flee in the face of danger, like the hired-hand at the sight of the oncoming wolf. They won’t fight the good fight in the Lord and the strength of His might against the forces arrayed against them. They find the rules of the athletic competition too difficult, and so bow out before they win the crown. The planting, watering, and caring for God’s field becomes too heavy a burden for them so they never reach the harvest. The servants of Christ Jesus and His Church must be, and are, empowered for their ministry.
Now, this power of the Holy Spirit must not be misunderstood. The power of the Church’s ministers is not the power of a tyrant or of a bully. It isn’t the power that the kings of the Gentiles exercise for their own benefit and to the detriment of the people (1 Samuel 8:10-17; Luke 22:25). Neither is it the miraculous or magical sort of power that Simon Magnus thought he could purchase from the apostles, which would then bring him fame and fortune.
Rather, it is the power that Paul himself exercised in his ministry. This power is contrasted with the fancy rhetoric of Paul’s opponents in Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:19-20). It is a power that is manifest not in word, but in deed. Not that it is wordless power, but rather, “we have renounced disgraceful and underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2-3)
The Spirit of power enables the minister to rely upon the open statement of the truth of God’s Word. Once again we can turn to Paul’s own ministry among the Corinthians and see how he used this power. The power of the Lord Jesus is to be used by delivering the sexually immoral man to the devil for the destruction of his flesh (unregenerate mind). How exactly this takes place is left unmentioned, but if we take Paul’s conduct in other matters as a guide, it must have been by the open statement of the truth, the pronouncement of judgment and the congregation’s subsequent removal of association with the man. The power of the ministry is the power to exercise discipline, to exercise the binding key.
The power of the open statement of God’s Word is used for more than discipline. This open statement of the truth is able to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God. If you want to see Paul destroying arguments and lofty opinions then you can read how he addressed the Athenians and their lofty opinions. Or, for his powerful preaching to the Jews you can turn to Acts 13. In either case, the Spirit of power is manifest in preaching, and through this preaching the church is gathered (Acts 13:40; Acts 17:34). What is impossible with men is possible with God. This Spirit-filled preaching is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). Paul’s charge to Timothy to, “preach the word;” (2 Timothy 4:2) is then an exhortation to put the Spirit of power to use.
Finally, the Spirit of power enables the minister to continue through trials and tribulations. Paul had learned, through the lesson of the thorn in the flesh, that God’s power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). He had learned it throughout his apostolic sufferings which forced him to trust that, “He who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus.” (2 Corinthians 4:14) And he can see that the same road lies ahead for Timothy and for all who follow after him. The Spirit of power makes the ministers of Christ and His church able to suffer for the sake of the Gospel, and find in their sufferings and weaknesses that God’s power is made perfect.