Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Reading Through First Timothy #1, (Chapters 1-3)

cornerstone tim to hebI am reading a new commentary series as I begin my devotional study of the next few New Testament letters. I am reading  Paul’s first letter to Timothy accompanied by The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. The 1 Timothy commentary is written by Linda Belleville. 1 Timothy, the first of Paul’s pastoral epistles is written to Timothy, who Paul left in Ephesus to pastor the difficult church there.  I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

1 Timothy is written by Paul to Timothy (and the church in Ephesus) to deal with a crisis brought on by false teachers who denied the inclusiveness of the gospel of grace and tried to add other mystical, ritualistic or legalistic requirements to participation and leadership in the church. This had set the church at odds and made the worship services a place of conflict. Paul commands and authorizes Timothy to deal with the situation, remove the unrepentant false teachers and reestablish servant leadership and public worship that focused on and glorified God. Timothy will do this effectively, by being an example of godliness, and by teaching and gently, but firmly, leading others to the truth.

Timothy’s task at Ephesus was to command certain persons not to teach false doctrines any longer. Things apparently had not been going well, for Paul begins by urging Timothy to stay put in Ephesus and deal decisively with the false teachers (1 Tim 1:3–6). That this was Paul’s primary reason for writing is clear from the fact that he bypassed the normal letter-writing convention of a thanksgiving section and instead got right down to business. It is also evident from how often the topic of false teaching surfaces in the letter. It consumes roughly 35 percent of Paul’s direct attention and colors much of the rest. 1 Timothy Intro, 9

Paul launches into the false teachers after a brief greeting. He tells Timothy to take a strong public stand against the false teaching that would add to the gospel to the point of removing them from the church if they will not repent. A false gospel inevitably leads to a bad lifestyle, disunity in the church and a poor witness to the community. 

There is no pitting of law against gospel here. The notion of moral standards for the Christian life is wholly consonant with the gospel...Paul defines the law’s legitimate use as that of a social restraint “for the lawless.” Its function is not that of a source for idle speculation or mythmaking, as the Ephesian teachers were making it out to be. Its ethical norms are wholly appropriate as boundary markers for the society of any day or age. 1 Timothy 1.1-11, 35

Christ picked the worst so that he might display his best (“great patience”), thereby encouraging belief in him and the receipt of eternal life. Paul, as a result, became the prototype or “prime example” for all future believers. He was not merely an example but a determinative forerunner. The pattern is an important one; for the outcome is no less than “eternal life” (v. 16). 1 Timothy 1.12-17, 38

The implication is that moral collapse invariably leads to a crisis of faith. Sound ethics and sound theology go hand in hand. When one falters, the other is not far behind. 1 Timothy 1.18-20, 40

In chapter 2 Paul provides some instruction for the administration of the public worship service. It seems that there was open conflict between men and women, and between combatting doctrines, during the worship time. Paul urges the public prayer to be a seeking of God for the church and for the outside community rather than an assertion of rights. Men's prayers should be holy and peaceful, while he urges the women to dress and behave with modesty and to avoid offense. Women are given freedom to learn but not to be domineering teachers (as the priestesses in the Ephesian Artemis cult were), but, as with all teachers, to teach as properly instructed in apostolic doctrine and with humility. 

The target audience for mediation is all-embracing: “He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” But the route to freedom is wholly exclusive. Salvation comes solely through this mediator and none other. 1 Timothy 2.1-7, 47

Proper demeanor of a worship leader is a theological concern. It is always wrong for a worship leader to flaunt wealth (even pretend wealth). It is also theologically improper to behave in a way that distracts from worshiping God. The better “look” in Paul’s opinion is doing good—especially deeds of charity. 1 Timothy 2.8-10, 54

In the Greek, we see a “neither—nor” construction: “neither teach nor domineer” ...This means that women here are not prohibited from roles that involve teaching men. The issue is rather the manner in which they teach—that is, they should not teach in a dictatorial or domineering way. 1 Timothy 2.11-15, 55

Then in chapter 3, Paul gives instruction for training and appointing new leaders. Overseers (pastors, elders) must have integrity and a good reputation in their family life, character and self-controlled lifestyles. Their lives and possessions must be given over to serving Christ. They also should able and trained to teach. Male and female deacons, likewise, should be servants of good character with good reputations in the community. They must lead the church family by examples loving service. This is important because this is how the church will fulfill its mission to be God’s family where Jesus is lived out and the truth is defended and upheld in lifestyle and word. 

The specific duties of an overseer are not spelled out. Instead, Paul targets qualifications. They are not qualifications, however, of which today’s society would immediately think. There is no mention of education or degrees, no talk of job experience, and no request for formal references. Instead, the key issues are character, family, and lifestyle. 1 Timothy 3.1-7, 66–67

By “do well” Paul was not talking about skill competency but what we today call customer-service excellence. For those who excel in serving, there are two job perks. The first job perk is increased respect in the eyes of the community of believers and greater esteem from those they serve. The second job perk is increased confidence...Christ Jesus is the object of all faith and the raison d’etre of all Christian service. 1 Timothy 3.8-13, 76

Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets” (Eph 2:20)—that “base” of firm support on which the “pillar” is thrust upward to steady the truth against the storms of heterodoxy and pagan idolatry. The job of every local congregation is to be that unshakable monument for the “truth”—to “Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, till all the world adore His sacred Name." 1 Timothy 3.14-16, 79

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