Friday, July 20, 2018

Reading Through First Timothy #2, (Chapters 4-6)

cornerstone tim to hebWe are continuing my devotional study of Paul’s “pastoral” 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. Paul’s continues to urge Timothy to live out an example of Christlike servanthood, while at the same time urging him to be bold in his leadership. 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

Paul returns to denouncing the false teachers in 4.1-6. Timothy should not be surprised that they are there because they were predicted by Jesus and subsequent prophets in the church. Timothy must boldly oppose them (but without harshness) by exposing their errors (legalism, elitism and asceticism) and accurately and completely teaching the truth. Even though he is young Timothy is urged to boldly fulfill his responsibility to read and teach the scriptures and the apostolic doctrines and use the spiritual gifts God has given him. The best way to do it is with an example that lives out the teaching and gives more authority to his preaching and teaching.

Paul gives no restrictions or qualifications on what can be eaten except one: The food must be eaten “with thanks” by people who believe and recognize the truth through God’s word and prayer (4:5)...This makes gratitude more than a perfunctory blessing; it is an attitude toward life and all its blessings. 1 Timothy 4.1-6, 85

The statement that God is the “Savior of all people” on the face of it sounds like universalism, but it is not. Throughout the Pastorals, Paul is at pains to address the heretical teaching that claimed salvation is for only the chosen few who possess certain spiritual knowledge. Over against this few, Paul asserted that “all people” have access to “the living God” and hence to salvation (4:10). The emphasis is not on the whole of humanity being saved but on salvation’s availability to each and every person. 1 Timothy 4.7-16, 89–90

Paul now moves on to Timothy's administrative duties in the church which included appointing and removing church ministers and leaders. The driving idea is that Timothy is to treat the people in the church as family; brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. Paul starts with widows. It seems that this was both a ministry position and a charitable ministry. There were some widows with no means of support and the church had an obligation to help them. There were also widows that had responsibilities in the church (the list) and they were to be paid as well. The principle for putting women on this list was commitment to the LORD and to the task and that they were already doing it before they were widows and without payment. This idea is a good rule for any church office: no one should be paid to do something in the church that they weren't already doing before they were paid. The second half of the chapter moves on to elders, church leadership. Timothy is cautioned to be careful in appointing and removing elders. Elders should only be ordained after some time is spent discerning their character and should only be removed with due process. Those that lead well should be paid out of the church's resources so that they can devote more time to ministry and should be respected.

The early church was not unique in recognizing the ministry potential of elderly women...Their duties were wide ranging, including praying for the church, teaching the basics of the faith, hospitality, caring for the sick, fasting, prophecy, and caring for the needs of destitute widows and orphans. 1 Timothy 5.1-16, 101

It is important to notice where Paul put his emphasis. Today the position of leadership is often elevated—especially preaching and teaching. Paul’s emphasis is on the function of leadership. The key terms are “well” and “hard,” which Paul places first in the word order for emphasis. 1 Timothy 5.17-25, 106

In closing, Paul urges Timothy to live and lead as "God's man." He gives instructions to slaves that continue the family focus. Slaves are to serve as serving God. This is not because Paul is in favor of slavery, but the best way to deal with it is a loving response. The "brother-sister" focus ultimately undermines slavery at its core, but Paul is concerned that Christians' behavior should never impede the progress of the gospel. Paul then turns toward the rich (probably the slave owners) and rebukes those (probably the false teachers) who are focused on wealth. Instead the focus should be on godliness. "Self-sufficiency is the ability to supply the necessities of life without help from others. Godly sufficiency is to be content with the bare minimum." (115) The purpose of wealth is to provide resources to share with those in need and to accomplish the mission of the church. Ultimately, everything comes to us by God's grace. Thus, leaders must be focused on godliness and on teaching the church with their lives and words to have that same focus.

Spiritual realities supersede worldly ones. Although the social reality is that of master—slave, the spiritual reality is that of brothers and sisters. In Christ the master and the slave are family and as such to be valued. Family feeling must carry the day. And within the family structure the operative phrase is “work all the harder.” A slave’s service is not merely to be adequate but the best it can be (6:2a). 1 Timothy 6.1-2, 111

Self-sufficiency is the ability to supply the necessities of life without help from others. Godly sufficiency is to be content with the bare minimum...It is the love of money and not money per se that is the issue...It is not the rich person per se that Paul targets but the discontented—people who set their heart on material wealth. It is true that Jesus taught that the rich have greater difficulty entering God’s kingdom . But the fool is the person who puts his or her trust in riches. 1 Timothy 6.2-10, 115

There is an alternative track to aggressively pursue. “Pursue” is a word used of a predator stalking its prey. The picture is one of a single-minded focus. The prey in sight is “righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” Each of the nouns lacks an article, indicating that character qualities are in view. All the qualities are what leaders of God’s flock should exemplify (see 4:12). 1 Timothy 6.11-21, 118

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