You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. (2 Tim. 2:1-2)
Four days ago, Bob Phillips, a close and dear friend, was unexpectedly taken home by the Lord to receive his reward. He leaves behind a wonderful wife and five amazing children and numerous grandchildren. I first met Bob in the summer of 1993. He was the very first person to inadvertently introduce me to the doctrines of grace. At the young age of 20 years-old, and being in the military, my wife and I were looking for a church to attend in a new state. We just happened to visit the church Bob was attending at the time, and we just happened to visit on the Sunday when Bob would be delivering the short Lord’s Supper devotion that the men of the church would take turns offering.
I don’t remember the text he used, but I do remember him saying that “Jesus only died for the elect.” ‘Huh? That’s an interesting statement’, I thought to myself. What did he mean by that? Needless to say, we continued visiting the church and Bob and I developed a life-long friendship that would prove to be a tremendous blessing to myself and my ministry. Being twenty years by senior, he took me under his wing and mentored and discipled me (unbeknownst to myself). Growing up without a father, Bob became a sort of father-figure to me, someone I would come to greatly respect and admire. Being new to Texas, he took me to my first baseball game at Arlington ballpark and got me hooked on Ranger baseball. I would attend many more Ranger games with him after that and we would talk about all things theological and political. He would often invite my wife and me out to lunch after church on Sunday where we would have many more theological conversations. I would ask him every question I could think of and he always seem to have an answer which he could invariably support with copious scripture references. We attended several theological conferences together. One, just the two of us, in which Bob invited me to attend with him. Being a young private in the Army, I informed him that I simply could not afford the cost. He immediately offered to pay my way. The two of us shared a hotel room and I gleaned everything I could from his theological mind. When I was in seminary, Bob was the only one who asked me on several occasions to send him a copy of a theology essay I had written for a particular class because he was interested in reading it. And then he would call me about it and offer helpful and constructive feedback, continuing to sharpen me from a distance. Now as I sit here typing this post, the pastor of a thriving Reformed Baptist church, I am reminded of Paul’s words to young Timothy: “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” Paul poured himself into young Timothy and taught him everything he could in the hope that Timothy would then turn and pass that knowledge onto other men, which Timothy did, passing along the blessing, knowledge, and legacy of Paul. Bob did the same for me. God, in his divine providence and wisdom, used Bob Phillips to be a means of grace into my life, to pour into me the knowledge of God that had been entrusted to him, so that I might then turn and entrust it to other “faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” My life and ministry have been directly impacted by the transforming power of God’s grace in the life of Bob Phillips. And I am quite certain I am not the only one. The positive and God-glorifying ripple effects of Bob’s life will undoubtedly be felt for generations to come. Of course, Bob would be the first to say that any good produced by his life is only owing to God’s amazing and sovereign grace. Bob Phillips was a mentor, a father-figure, a brother in Christ, a dear friend, and a model of “iron sharpening iron.” He will be greatly missed. But the evidence of Bob’s love for his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, lives on in the lives of those he touched for the glory of God. Soli Deo gloria!
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