Getting to Know the Bible

1 Timothy

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The typical first century letter began by stating the author and rank, the recipients of the letter, and an opening salutation. Because of this structure we are able to learn that Paul is the author of this letter to Timothy. This is the first letter we have encountered in our studies that is addressed to an individual person rather than a group of Christians or churches. Paul gives a slightly different salutation: "Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." The notable difference is the addition of the word "mercy." The next section we would expect to read in this letter is an offering of thanksgiving. We do read a statement of thanksgiving in 1:12, but it is not the same as Paul’s other letters. Paul typically gives thanks to God because of the faith and actions of the recipients. But we do not read this in this letter. Rather, Paul seems to get to the heart of the reason for writing to Timothy.

Concerning False Teachers (1:3-20)

Paul instructed Timothy as an evangelist to remain in Ephesus preaching the word of God in the city. Paul reminds Timothy of the instructions he left with him. The problem of false teachers seems to be great in Ephesus. These false teachers seem to be similar to the troublers in the letter to the Colossians. They seem to be Jewish teachers (verse 7- teachers of the law), but they are mixing Greek philosophy in their teachings (vs. 4- myths, endless genealogies).

But while talking about the sinfulness of these false teachers, it seems that Paul’s conscience twinges within himself and he remembers his own sinful past. In verses 12-17 Paul speaks about the grace of God which appointed Paul to be a servant, though he had formerly been a blasphemer, persecutor, and violent aggressor. This is something we need to regularly do ourselves: remind ourselves about our sinfulness. "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all" (1:15). In fact, this is the reason Paul found mercy. Paul recognized his sinfulness and God’s righteousness. We must see ourselves in the same way.

Paul then returns to the topic of fighting against the false teachers. The overwhelming point Paul makes to Timothy is found in verses 18-19: "This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith."

Paul names two men who caused great pain to him, such that he had to hand these men over to Satan. The language of "handing over to Satan" can be found in 1 Corinthians 5 where Paul is speaking about the act of disfellowship in an effort to save the person’s soul. Paul indicates that withdrawal has taken place against these two men for their blasphemy.

Concerning the Christians in Ephesus (2-3)

The chapter is a little unfortunate because it causes our eyes to separate chapter 1 and verse 20 from chapter two verse 1. Hymenaeus and Alexander have been disfellowshipped from the church in Ephesus. Now Paul will describe what the conduct of the Christians in Ephesus ought to be to be found pleasing to God.

First, Christians need to be praying for all people, including all people who are in authority. Particularly, we must pray that we are able to continue to lead a quiet life in godliness and holiness. Paul seems to have to explain this command in verses 3-7, that God wants all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. As ridiculous as it must have sounded to the Christians in Ephesus, they need to pray on behalf of the rulers who attacked Paul and his companions. The Christians were to pray for emperor Nero and other Roman authorities. We are not to be partisan in prayer. We need to continue to pray that we can continue to serve in godliness and that even the authorities will come to the knowledge of truth.

Second, God’s people should be praying always, in every place. We heard a great lesson last week about the meaning of praying, lifting holy hands. This was a way to make the symbolic statement that our lives are clean in the sight of God.

Third, God’s people are to be modest with their clothing and live with a sense of shame. Our lives, even down to the way we dress, ought to reflect people claiming godliness.

Fourth, the local church was to appoint elders and deacons. Verse 14-16 wrap up this section of Paul’s teaching. "I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of god, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth" (3:15). Paul has just given a summary description on what the conduct of Christians ought to be.

The Minister and His Conduct (4-6)

While much time is often spent in understanding the qualifications and required conduct for the elders and deacons, rarely do we continue further in the letter and read about the qualifications and required conduct of the evangelist.

In the first six verses it seems that Paul has returned to describing the false teachers in Ephesus. But Paul is giving a charge to Timothy that he is to teach on these things and make people aware of these false teachers. "In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following" (4:6). The evangelist is called to be aware of false teachings and point those things out to the congregation. To ignore difficult issues is to be poor, useless servant.

Second, the evangelist is to be disciplined in godliness so as to be an example to others. Paul specifically tells Timothy that he is to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness. Thus, he could show himself as an example to those who believe (vs. 7, 12). The evangelist is to lead by example as well as by words. One cannot be an evangelist if his life is not something that other believers could look toward as an example.

Third, the evangelist is to dedicate himself to the reading of the scriptures, to exhortation, and to teaching. The evangelist is to be absorbed in the word of God so that he is able to teach and exhort the brethren. "Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you" (4:15-16).

In chapter 5 we see Paul instructing Timothy that he needs to make sure that honor is given to widows and to the elders. There are many details in this chapter, but to speak about every point is not the scope of this lesson. But is must be noted that there are rules given by Paul concerning the care of widows. Certain conditions had to be met before the church would financially support a Christian widow. Similarly, conditions had to be met for the elders to receive financial support. The elders had to "rule well" before consideration be given for the church using its funds to support the elders. In fact, Paul says those who "work hard at preaching and teaching" should be considered worthy of this double honor.

In chapter 6 Paul is not done instructing Timothy about the work he is to accomplish. We see this in verse 2: "Teach and preach these principles." The principles are about Christian conduct toward their masters and their work as slaves. Paul says there must be teaching about contentment (6:6) and against disputing which brings about envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction (6:4-5). Paul tells Timothy to teach the rich about the love of money and the disaster it brings. Paul specifically tells Timothy to instruct on wealth in verses 17-18.

In verse 11 Paul makes these teachings personal to Timothy. "But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness." Then Paul returns to his exhortation in the first chapter: "Fight the good fight of faith" (6:12).

Concluding Remarks

In verses 20-21 Paul writes his concluding remarks to Timothy. Avoid the senselessness of the world and guard the things that have been entrusted to you.

Though this letter is written to an evangelist, the applications are available to all Christians. On thing that ought to be noted is that the beginning of the letter and the end of the letter have a doxology toward God. At the beginning of the letter, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen" (1:17). Then, at the end of the letter, "He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can seen. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen" (6:15-16). Do our lips regularly praise God in this way, describing the immense attributes of God? We need to be a people who give God the praise on a continual basis.

Another important point is the charge to be strong in the faith and fight the good fight. This instruction is found in 1:18 and 6:12. This is certainly the charge of every Christian: to realize that we are in a battle against Satan on a daily basis and fight against his schemes.

Finally, we need to be mindful of our conduct. Paul calls for Christians to be a people of prayer for those who are in authority and for all people. Men are to be lifting up holy hands in every place. Men are to be striving to be elders and deacons in the household of faith. Evangelists are to maintain holy conduct as an example to others and teach and exhort the brethren. When we are doing these things together, the church will grow.

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