A Good Minister of Christ Jesus
by Harry Osborne(The following article was written in honor of brother Paul Caldwell, a faithful gospel preacher, who passed away on Tuesday, January 22. Brother Caldwell is the father of Patti Butler. The author is Harry Osborne, local preacher for the South Livingston Avenue church in Tampa, Florida.)
LAST TUESDAY IN THE EARLY morning hours, brother Paul Caldwell passed from this life into eternity. Our deepest sympathies are extended to his dear wife, Ann, to Donna and the rest of the children, to the grandchildren, and to the entire family. The loving and joyful relationship they all had with their beloved Popa will be held in their memories, but his absence in this life leaves an empty place once richly filled. This congregation has also lost a great example of faithfulness and steadfastness in our midst. Moreover, his loss is felt in many parts of this country where he once preached the gospel and brought precious souls to Christ. Brother Caldwell's passing leaves the cause of Christ in this world without one of its tried and true laborers, but we have every confidence that it has enriched heaven and brought the eternal hope to reality for our dear brother. For this, we cannot sorrow, but must rejoice!
In preparing to preach at brother Caldwell's funeral, one passage kept coming to mind. It was written to the young Timothy by his example in the faith, Paul the apostle. The passage declares the characteristics of a "good minister of Christ Jesus." Through inspiration, God does not tell us that a "good minister" is dependent on human popularity, eloquent oratory, physical attractiveness or academic attainments.
By the standards expressed by Paul in First Timothy 4:6-16, Paul Caldwell is rightly remembered as "a good minister of Christ Jesus" because his life was a demonstration of the qualities denoting such. Consequently, we should mark the walk of our dear brother and imitate it even as we are urged to do in Scripture (Phil 3:17). Notice these traits:
Paul Caldwell put brethren in mind of truth. His focus was not that of human tradition or philosophy. He sought to bring brethren to a remembrance of the truth that they might be established in it (2 Pet 1:12). He knew it is only by committing the truth to faithful men that we can provide for continued teaching of truth to future generations (2 Tim2:2). Thus, Scripture was the focus of brother Caldwell's preaching and teaching. Though his memory failed him at times in his later years, the words of Scripture which were etched deep in his heart were still there. On several occasions, I have seen brother Paul come to Bible study not feeling well, but he was ready to respond to a question with a citation of Scripture. He looked to the Book and pointed others in that direction for all answers in things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3). Paul Caldwell exercised himself to godliness. Being exercised to godliness suggests a requirement of consistent and systematic effort to grow stronger in the realm of godliness. W.E. Vine, in defining the word "godliness," said that it "denotes that piety which, characterized by a Godward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him." One does not merely wake up one morning fully possessing godliness. Only by submitting to the sound words of truth can one understand godliness and be exhorted therein (1 Tim 6:3; Titus 1:1). Godliness is a characteristic in which one must grow as it is added to other Christian graces (3 Pet 1:5-11). The reason brother Caldwwell had a godly character is that he developed it throughout his life. Those who are young in years should learn from his example and exercise themselves daily to godliness as he did. It demands that spiritual concerns be one's top priority.
Brother Caldwell had his hope set on God. This hope was readily seen in the fact that he was a man of prayer. It was obvious from his favorite song, "God Is So Good." Paul not only placed his hope in the hands of God during good times, but this was also his view even in the difficult times. In his last words to the church on the eve of his last surgery, brother Caldwell spoke confidently of his hope. He always remembered that hope as being the true goal (Phil 3:13-15).
Brother Caldwell was an example to those that believe. "In word" -- His preaching and daily speech did not betray hypocrisy in his heart, but they manifested a true love for God. "From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." Paul's words made clear where his heart was.
"In manner of life" -- Paul did not seek wealth or fame or glory. He lived as an humble servant of the Lord, his family and his brethren. His manner of life showed the servant's heart he had.
"In love" -- One could not know Paul Caldwell without knowing that he loved people. He and Ann loved having people in their home because they loved people. Love seeks that which is in the other person's best interest, even at the sacrifice of self. Paul truly sought what was best for others, not for self. He did not hide behind a false sense of love and gentleness when the dangers of error arose. He knew true love only exists in truth and true gentleness submits to the Savior's command to sacrificially stand for truth. He did so in his life. His love for children was also obvious. Children could sense that he wanted the best for them and they loved him in return.
"In faith" -- Paul was not the unstable man tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, but depended upon God and the faith He revealed as the sufficient guide for spiritual maturity and unity (Eph 4:4-16). He was ready to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude3). He did so because his faith was based on God's instruction through the word (1 Pet 1:17-25, Rom 10:17). His faith had substance because of its solid foundation. And when manifold trials came to prove his faith, Paul bore the trials with exemplary patience to be "complete and entire, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).
"In purity" -- Brother Caldwell was an example of purity in his life. The message of Christ was not marred or hidden by a life of a different nature. Paul both preached and lived the same gospel. He was indeed a light who held up the word of life in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Phil 2:15-16). May the Lord bless us with more like our dear departed brother that the lost may be caused to ask about the truth because it is first seen in the life proclaiming such (1Pet 3:15).
Brother Caldwell was diligent in his work as a preacher of the gospel. He went wherever he could to bring the message to those who would hear. His work throughout eastern Kentucky was a work many would not have tried due to its demanding nature. But Paul was ready to preach the gospel down every holler and across every mountain. He developed class material for teaching. Whether in vacation Bible school, a sermon or a debate, Paul used his full strength in preaching truth. He was "in diligence not slothful; fervent in spirit serving the Lord" (Rom 12:11). Truly, Paul could be said to be among the number who "addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints" (1 Cor 16:15).
Paul Caldwell's concentration was on saving both himself and those who heard him. He wanted to go to heaven and the "fear of the Lord" drove him to persuade others to obey the gospel (2 Cor 5:11). If Paul had another lesson to preach, I believe I know what he would preach and how he would want that lesson to end. He would preach to all for the first time or millionth time the simple gospel plan of salvation: That all must hear the word of God (Rom 10:17) -- believe the gospel message that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Jn 20:30-31) -- repent of their sins or perish (Luke 13:3) -- confess with the mouth unto salvation (Rom 10:10) -- and continue faithfully in obedience to Jesus' teaching (Matt 28:20). Thank you, good brother, for being a good minister of Christ Jesus and leaving us a good example to follow.