August 23, 2015.
Daily Reading: I Timothy 1-3.
Background: This is the first letter (that we have) of Paul to his “child in the faith,” Timothy, likely written while Paul was in Macedonia (see Acts 19-20). Timothy had worked very closely with Paul, joining him on his second missionary journey and accompanying him on his third as well (see Acts 16:1-5, 20:1-6). Timothy’s mother and grandmother had been Jews/Jewish christians, but his father was a Greek (see Acts 16:1-5 and II Timothy 1:5). This letter is typically grouped with II Timothy and Titus, called the “pastoral” letters, as they are written to church leadership about their duties and how they should be leading the church. There were some serious problems in doctrine that were arising in the church, such as gnosticism, and Paul was writing to these young leaders so that they would be able to guide the church in truth and away from false teachers.
Concepts and Connections.
1. Warning against false teachers: Paul opens in his typical fashion, with an address and grace from the Lord, and then jumps right into what he wants to talk to Timothy about. He had left Timothy in Ephesus to rebuke such false doctrine, charging the false teachers not to teach in this manner. Notice the emphasis against vain speculations and discussions and the push for a sincere faith founded on a healthy understanding and doctrine. These false teachers set out to be teachers of the law, but Paul asserts that they themselves do not even understand the law, though they make confident statements about it. He says that the law was not written for the godly, but for the ungodly, revealing the sin that they are entangled with, such as the list that he explicitly states here. Paul even calls out two names at the end of this chapter, Hymenaeus and Alexander, who had made a shipwreck of their faith.
2. Christ as the Savior of sinners: Notice how Paul seems to come down hard on lawlessness and sin in the opening of this letter, but then transitions to the hope that has been given to all sinners, and that hope is Jesus Christ. Paul cites his former lifestyle of sin, as a blasphemer and persecutor of the church, and says that when it came to sin, he was the chief sinner. The point here is that if God can save Paul, chief of sinners, showing him the kind of mercy that He did through His son Jesus Christ (see Acts 9:1-19, 22:1-21), then salvation is open for anyone. Paul revived mercy because he acted ignorant in unbelief and because he was to be an example to those who were to believe of the Lord’s perfect patience. Timothy was to carry out this charge, according to the prophecies that had been made about him.
Prayer and the role of women: The first thing that Paul goes to to rectify the problems in the church is prayer. How often is this our first thought when problems arise? Paul urges Timothy to pray for all people, and specifically for rulers and kings, that they might make decisions that allow us to live quiet and peaceful lives. Paul says that this is pleasing to God, and then makes a short statement that has vast implications. He says that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” This may seem small, but what it is saying is that it is the will of God for all men to be saved. This places a large emphasis on the free will of man, that though it is the will of God that all would be saved, it is our decision that will determine this. It is our job, just as it was Paul’s, to preach this gospel to a fallen world. Paul places more emphasis on prayer, and tells Timothy to avoid anger and quarreling. Then Paul makes what is perhaps one of his most controversial statements in his letters, as he discusses the role of women. He says that women are to be submissive, learning quietly and not overstepping the authority of men, generally taken as in the context of religious teaching in the assembly (see I Corinthians 14:33-35). Note the reasoning that Paul gives for this: Adam was created first (the created order, see Genesis 2) and Eve sinned first (the fallen order, see Genesis 3:16). These reasons do not change with time and culture. However, it should also be noted that roles do not imply superiority/inferiority, as can be seen by Jesus’ role as a suffering servant (see Isaiah 53) and the Holy Spirit’s role as our Helper (see John 14:16, 26).
Qualifications for elders and deacons: The majority of this chapter deals with the qualifications that Timothy and the church were to look for when choosing men to appoint to the office of eldership. Qualifications of eldership can also be found in Titus 1. Note that the first qualification often gets overlooked, but is very important: one must desire the office. Eldership should never be forced on someone who does not want to take the position, as it is a position that comes with much responsibility. The qualifications past this generally pertain to a man, husband of one wife, who has learned to live a blameless (note that this is different than sinless) life, ruling his household well, as this is a good indication that he will oversee the church well. He is not to be someone who is young in the faith (which might be implied from the term “elder”), and needs to have a good report even amongst outsiders. The office of a deacon (which in Greek means servant) holds similar qualifications, though they are not exactly the same. It should be noted that these are very important offices to set up in local congregations (see Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5), as Paul writes these things to Timothy incase he is unable to visit him soon, so that he might know “how one ought to behave in the household of God.” He ends this chapter with the thought, “great indeed is the mystery of godliness,” which is the proclamation of the Christ.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Leviticus 22-24.
The Lord bless you and keep you.