Friday, July 10, 2015

Reading Through 1 Timothy

51yRNhigr7L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I am continuing to read through the New Testament accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today, edited by John R. W. Stott. This post quotes from the book Guard the Truth: The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus, written by John Stott. My analysis of 1 Timothy is below. Each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I post quotes from these commentaries on my Facebook page and periodic summaries of the commentary here on my blog. I welcome discussion on these post on my Facebook page. As always, quotes from the author are in blue font.

Timothy probably became a Christian during Paul’s 1st missionary journey trip to Lystra. Acts 14:6 and joined Paul’s ministry team during the 2nd missionary journey. (Acts 16:1). After release from imprisonment, Paul and Timothy revisited the Asian churches. Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to provide leadership to the church. This letter provides guidance for him in this role. Timothy seems to have been, by nature, passive, timid, shy and easily intimidated. (1:3, 4:12, 2 Tim 1:7)

The letter possibly was written from Macedonia while Paul was visiting the churches east of Rome. Paul probably visited Ephesus after writing 1 Timothy (3:14) and wrote to Titus from there. The letter was written to explain his delay in coming to visit Timothy in Ephesus, to correct false doctrine and encourage Timothy to confront false teachers. (1:3-10, 19-20, 4:1-7, 16, 6:12), and to instruct about doctrine, leadership and administrative policies and practices in the church. (2-3, 4-6) The message of the letter is “Be faithful to fulfill your ministry by protecting the church from false doctrine, by leading the church‘s ministry effectively, by being an example of godliness and by teaching and leading others to the truth.” Ministry for Christ is something worth giving your life for and to!

1 tim chartPaul begins by urging Timothy to take a public stand against false doctrine and for the gospel of God‘s grace to sinners. Timothy has the authority to take this stand because Paul states with apostolic authority that Timothy is accurately teaching the gospel. Paul charges him to make a public stand against false teachers who teach a gospel of works instead of grace. Paul is an example of how God can deliver a false teacher from reliance on works to God‘s grace. Paul commands him to complete the calling from God to defend the faith by resisting false teachers.

In fact the conversion of Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road has proved to be just that. It remains a standing source of hope to otherwise hopeless cases. Paul seems to speak to us across the centuries: ‘Don’t despair! Christ had mercy even on me, the worst of sinners; he can also have mercy on you!’ 1 Timothy 1.12-17, 55

In this first chapter, which concerns the place of doctrine in the local church, Paul gives valuable instruction about false teaching. Its essential nature is that it is heterodidaskalia, a deviation (heteros) from revealed truth. Its damaging results are that it replaces faith with speculation and love with dissension. Its fundamental cause is the rejection of a good conscience before God. What then should Timothy do in such a situation? Paul does not tell him to secede from the church, which would have been one extreme reaction. But neither may he remain silent in the face of heresy, let alone compromise with it, which would have been the opposite extreme. Instead, he was to stay at his post, and to fight the good fight of the faith, both demolishing error and contending earnestly for the truth. 1 Timothy 1, 58

Timothy is to lead the church by prayer, administration and example so the church can effectively minister truth. (2:1-3:13) His responsibility is to pray for everyone, especially those in authority because it pleases God, who desires everyone to be saved and because of the Gospel. Proper prayer attitudes are peaceful holiness and submission before God. Men’s prayers are most effective when their actions are holy and attitudes are peaceful.  Women’s prayers are most effective when they dress modestly and make themselves beautiful with good works instead of vanity. Women should not be hindered from learning but that freedom should not upset the social order (gender differences are still important) to the extent that it harms the spread of the gospel. 

Worship takes precedence over evangelism, partly because love for God is the first commandment and love for neighbour the second, partly because, long after the church’s evangelistic task has been completed, God’s people will continue to worship him eternally, and partly because evangelism is itself an aspect of worship, a ‘priestly service’ in which converts ‘become an offering acceptable to God’. 1 Timothy 2, 59.

The universal concern of the church arises from the universal concern of God. It is because there is one God and one mediator that all people must be included in the church’s prayers and proclamation. It is the unity of God and the uniqueness of Christ which demand the universality of the gospel. 1 Timothy 2.7, 73

Qualifications for church leadership are high because it is an important and honorable work. Church leaders must be people of integrity in their family, church, job and community reputation so that the ministry of the gospel is not hindered. Deacons are to be men of respect and dignity in control of speech, habits and family life. The purpose of this letter is that we might know how the church is to fulfill its mission to be God’s family where Jesus’ life is lived out and to defend and uphold the truth.

The pastorate is a noble task, a beautiful undertaking, a laudable ambition (1). It involves giving oneself to the service of others. Besides, the words episkopos and diakonos are both applied to the Lord Jesus in the New Testament. Peter called him ‘the Shepherd and Overseer (episkopos) of your souls’, and he applied to himself the verb diakonein. Could there be any greater honour than to follow in his footsteps and share in some of his episkope and diakonia which he is willing to delegate to us? 1 Timothy 3.8-13, 102.

The mystery of godliness which the church proclaims, the truth of which the church is the foundation and pillar, is the historic yet cosmic Christ. 1 Timothy 3.14-16, 108

Paul tells Timothy that the best way to fight false doctrine is by pointing out error in the church and by teaching and living out the truth. Hypocritical, legalistic doctrines come from demons and are taught by lying, hardened false teachers. Timothy is to expose this false teaching and cling to the truth of the Gospel which provides the real power to live and confidently set an example of Christian lifestyle, public ministry, spiritual gifts and good doctrine

The doctrine of creation has wide ramifications, as we have seen. It is the secret of developing a positive, world-affirming, grateful attitude to life, and of having a strong conscience which liberates us to enjoy the good gifts of the good Creator. 1 Timothy 4.6-10, 116

The Christian leads by example, not force, and is to be a model who invites a following, not a boss who compels one. 1 Timothy 4.11-5.2, 120

It is fatally easy to become so busy in the Lord’s work that we leave no time for the Lord himself, to be so concerned for the welfare of others that we fail to keep a watchful eye on ourselves. It is only by careful discipline that Christian leaders achieve a balance, determined not to neglect either duty for the other. 1 Timothy 4.11-5.2, 124

Timothy is to gently administer church ministries as though he was caring for his own loved family members. (5:1-6:2) The needy in the church should be cared for by the church if they are truly in need and have served others in the past. Families are obligated to take care of their own needy relatives in order to please God so that the church can help the truly needy. Meeting social obligations is honoring to God. Timothy is also to be careful in choosing elders because, though character will show, it isn’t always seen immediately. Good elders should be supported. Sinning elders should be rebuked.

Two lasting principles of social welfare seem to emerge from these apostolic instructions. The first is the principle of discrimination...the church’s welfare provisions are to be limited to those in genuine need. If there are any alternative means of support, they should be used... Secondly, there is the principle of dignity... Indeed ideally, health and strength permitting, the supported and the serving widows should be the same people...Christian relief should never demean its beneficiaries, but rather increase their sense of dignity. 1 Timothy 5.9-16, 135

Here are five qualities which are needed by Christian leaders in their dealings with others for whom they are responsible: appreciation (affirming outstanding performance), fairness (not listening to unsubstantiated accusations), impartiality (avoiding all favouritism), caution (not reaching hasty decisions) and discernment (looking beyond the outward appearance to the heart). Whenever these principles are in operation, mistakes will be avoided, the church will be preserved in peace and love, and God’s name will be protected from dishonour. 1 Timothy 5.17-25, 141–142

In contrast to greedy false teachers, Timothy was to be faithful in ministry and focus hope on God, not money. (6:3-21) False teachers can be recognized by their tendency to be conceited, greedy and manipulative. They pervert the gospel for financial gain. True teachers understand that godliness itself is valuable and trust God for their basic needs. A man of God fights for the faith by pursuing the righteous example of Christ to the glory of God and shows that he trusts God instead of money by a generous lifestyle which stores up eternal wealth. The key is to guard your privilege of ministry by not getting sidetracked from what is true and important. Your calling from God is one of your most valuable possessions. Guard it and use it well!

Paul has given us three practical tests by which to evaluate all teaching. We might put them in the form of questions. Is it compatible with the apostolic faith, that is, the New Testament? Does it tend to unite or divide the church? And does it promote godliness with contentment, or covetousness? 1 Timothy 6.3-5, 148

It is not possible to pursue truth and money, God and mammon, simultaneously. People either renounce avarice in their commitment to the faith, or they make money their god and depart from the faith. 1 Timothy 6.9-10, 153

Against materialism (an obsession with material possessions) he sets simplicity of lifestyle. Against asceticism (the repudiation of the material order) he sets gratitude for God’s creation. Against covetousness (the lust for more possessions) he sets contentment with what we have. Against selfishness (the accumulation of goods for ourselves) he sets generosity in imitation of God. Simplicity, gratitude, contentment and generosity constitute a healthy quadrilateral of Christian living. 1 Timothy 6.18-19, 162–163

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