Today we will begin looking at 1 Timothy together. Some of you have asked, “Why 1 Timothy? Isn’t it a book directed to pastors? Isn’t it one of the pastoral epistles?” Yes, it is considered to be one of the three books that are often referred to as pastoral epistles. They are called that because they are written to people instead of to specific churches, and are full of information, some of which is directed specifically to pastors. In this book, for instance, Paul is writing to Timothy. Paul is like a mentor to this young man, Timothy. In fact, Paul calls Timothy his “true child in the faith.” So if this is a book to pastors, about pastors, then why are we going to all look at it together over the next few months? Is this a book that should be reserved for pastoral studies? Well, I don’t think so. I think it is a book that is relevant to all of us. Let me give you some reasons why I say that, why I believe this book will be good, very good for you.
I believe this book will be helpful, instructive because God says it is. I can say this because of 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” When we read that “all Scripture,” it certainly includes the book of 1 Timothy. So this book is not just helpful for a few, it is meant to be helpful for all believers, for our teaching, for our reproof, for our correction, and for our training in righteousness. So be ready then for some teaching, reproof, correction, and training. We can come each week with minds ready to be transformed as we look at this important book together.
Obviously, we can say this about any book from the Bible that we study together. By the way, we can’t be so confident with any other book, that it will transform us. That is not to say other books are not helpful or good, only that it is exclusively in the study of the Bible where we find this promise.
So if we are assured that every book will affect us for our Christian life and growth, then that doesn’t explain why we are going to this book specifically. Why 1 Timothy? I think that Timothy, to whom this letter was written, that we have much in common with him. In reading through both 1st and 2nd Timothy, it is apparent that this was a man, Timothy was a man who was living during difficult times, times of great transition and testing. He was living at a time when the church was under great persecution, it was misunderstood by most, and many saw it as an enemy instead of as a sanctuary. There were people all around who would have been content to shut down the church and her teaching. Timothy found himself, by God’s perfect will, in the middle of such a scuffle. And so Paul, wanting to provide both comfort and direction to young Timothy, comes alongside him in this letter with priceless, Christ-centered teaching. Paul wants this man to be anchored firmly in the faith and in the security of God’s forever timeless truth so that he is not tossed by the waves of cultural ideas that are competing with God’s plan.
I think this is where we are as well. And this is primarily why I have chosen to preach through 1 Timothy. Just as Timothy needed a strong anchor to keep him secure in a turbulent world, we too need that anchor. We are living in changing times. Change is coming so quickly, and with such force, that if we are not secure in what we believe, secure in the faith given to us through Christ, then we will be swept away, as we see happening to so many around us.
The Bible and the truths it holds, the teachings given to Timothy from Paul, are not set upon shifting philosophies or changing moods. I am deeply concerned about the many who call themselves Christians who are by the thousands willing to embrace cultural trends that are clearly counter to God’s Word. And why are many doing this? Some for fear of losing their influence, for others fear of losing their place in society, or still others maybe in fear of losing their supposed freedom. Many have traded away truth for idolatrous pursuits, fame and fortune, popularity and prestige, comfort and freedom. Many have traded truth for what they perceive as easy. Many have traded truth to maintain certain relationships.
There is genuine fear in our churches, fear of the future. Many questions are being asked: “How can we live in our country in this anti-God environment?” We are not used to this, this is not how it used to be! What happened to the so-called moral majority, the silent majority that we all thought was just like us? What happened to the political force that we had as evangelicals? Or that we thought we had. How do we live out our faith today? Or even, many are asking, “What will it cost me to live out my faith in the coming days? It didn’t seem to cost me much in days past. What is coming, what will it cost me in the days ahead?” For many, “fear” is in the air. Timothy struggled with some of these very same things. He needed encouragement, the church that he was overseeing needed encouragement, and we too need encouragement.
When Paul looked around him way back in the first century, what he saw were many around him running from the faith. Life was hard as a Christian in the first century. We talked about Demas just a few weeks ago. A man who stood with Paul for a time but eventually, in times of hardship, the lures of the world began to look more beautiful than Christ for him, and so he turned. This would not have happened overnight, it never does. Paul did not want to see Timothy give up or give in to that. He loved Timothy, his son in the faith. I don’t want to see any of us let the creeping in of the world’s allurements drive a wedge between us and Christ. That can happen you know, let’s not let that happen.
And so what Paul begins to do in this letter to Timothy is to lay out for him two important messages. First he tells Timothy to go out and to clearly address the false teachers in the church. There were people teaching all kinds of wrong things and they were doing it in the church. Now, I want to explain how this was probably happening. Timothy was in Ephesus. He was a pastor in Ephesus. What the church probably looked like at this time was a series or a group of house churches. These home churches all together would have been the church in Ephesus. But these groups were being infiltrated with those who did not understand true doctrine. All kinds of false ideas were being spread among the church. Paul gets specific about some of these false teachings in this letter. Now, Timothy would have known those mentioned, he would have most certainly known what the false teachings were about. The teachers and the false things they taught were all local to Timothy, it was happening in his hometown.
Now we know that this matter was heavy on Paul’s heart because immediately after his introduciton he dives right into this issue, beginning in verse 3 of chapter 1…
3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith…6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (1 Timothy 1:3-4, 6-7)
He goes on in verse 19 to give the terrible consequences of false teaching and why it is so important to stand strongly for truth. The consequences are disastrous, they were in the first century and they are today as well. Listen to what he says…
19b some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:19b-20)
I suppose being in a shipwreck would be a frightening experience, but let me say making shipwreck of the faith would be a million times worse. To twist, to destroy, to walk away from, to dismiss, to abandon the faith is to blaspheme Christ, it is to walk from what is real and priceless, a gift of grace, into a life of disaster, with most difficult and trying results.
7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)
It is the urgency by which Paul speaks to Timothy regarding false teachers and the consequences of those who may follow them that is striking. And so Paul sends Timothy, urges Timothy as a minister of God to enter into the fray, to call out what is false, and to rescue those who may be deceived.
As we over the next few weeks look at chapter 1, we will see in much more detail the glory of living in the truth, in the light with our Savior, and how we can address false teaching in our own world today.
Paul is not only interested in calling out false teachers and warning others not to follow them, but he is also, as a church leader, very interested in lifting up the Lord Jesus Christ and leading true believers into a significant Christian walk. Paul in true form lifts up, exalts the Lord Jesus Christ.
When pointing a finger at someone else for leading others astray or teaching falsely, it is easy for the accuser to sound arrogant and proud. Not so with Paul. Paul puts himself in just the right place, acknowledging his own fleshly propensities to sin and giving all credit to His Savior.
12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief (1 Timothy 1:12-13)
He then goes on to say these now famous words: “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”
Speaking of how to live the Christian life in a hostile world, Paul gives some detailed instruction. In chapter 2 he speaks of the importance of prayer and what should be the content of our prayers. He then speaks directly to men and then to women in how each should conduct themselves. In chapter 3 we read of the qualifications for elders and deacons. Remember, false teachers were abounding. And so it seems right for Paul to say, “Look, here is what you should see in your leaders. Do those who desire to lead you meet the qualifications to be leaders in Christ’s church?” We will spend time talking about these qualifications.
Then in chapter 4 Paul begins talking about the later times. We are in these later times. What Paul says here is relevant to us. He sadly informs us that many will depart from the faith, devoting themeselves to deceitful spirits. He speaks of ungodly restrictions that so-called leaders will impose on their followers, requirements to abstain from marriage and certain foods, and so forth. Each of these being man-centered philosophies and not truths from God’s Word. We will spend lots of time on these, and as we do we will learn the importance of making sure, now get this, making sure that what we speak about with passion as truth, to be sure that what we are not actually doing is spreading our preferences or imposing our preferences on others. This is easy to do, you know. It is easy for any of us to get so carried away by what we think is absolutely right or absolutely wrong that we impose that standard on others, when in fact God is not in agreement with us! I hope to spend some time on this from chapter 4, and as we do, I believe that each of us, if we are willing to look carefully, will find ways that we need to grow in this area.
At the end of chapter 4 it is like Paul pauses a moment and re-encourages Timothy to stand strong and speak truth. I’ve never been in the military, but even a soldier gets weary at times. I don’t know about you, but I know that I get weary at times as a Christian and as a church leader. Listen to this word of encouragement from Paul to Timothy and be encouraged by it yourself…
If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 4:6)
Paul simply says to Timothy, “Tell these things, these truths to the brothers and sisters there. And if you tell them these things you will be a good servant.” Now how is that encouraging? It is to me because of what Paul does not say. He does not say, “Convince the brothers of these things,” or, “Make them believe these things,” or, “Once they all agree with you then you will be called a good servant of Christ.” No, he simply says, “Put these things before them.” In other words, he does not lay the burden of change on Timothy’s shoulders. Timothy was not tasked with the church people’s sanctification. That is God’s work. Timothy was simply charged with speaking truth.
We can get all fouled up as Christians and fall into great fear and anxiety if we get all mixed up about what is our responsibility versus what is God’s responsibility. I’m glad that Paul helps to clarify this for us. We speak truth lovingly and God changes hearts when God wants to, how God wants to, to whatever degree God wants to, right? If we begin to try and take God’s place then we will burn out and perhaps even fall into despair. God is God and we are not. Paul reminds Timothy of this.
In chapter 5 we see more direction for the church and specific groups of people within the church. How to interact with older men and younger men and older women and younger women. How to honor widows in the church and how widows are to conduct themselves. How to honor and treat elders in the church.
In chapter 6 we see final words that deal with contentment, how to live contented lives, and a final plea to Timothy to fight the good fight of faith. We, and Timothy did, live in a day of war. Spiritual war is going on all around us, in our universities, our government, our workplace, our families. In all of society there is spiritual war taking place. Our call is to fight. But as we fight we are to do so biblically. Love and war don’t seem to mix, and yet we are called to fight and we are called to love. My hope is that in studying this book together we will come through it with a more clear vision of just how to do that.
I am excited to study this book with you. I hope you are as well. God has this for us and His timing is perfect. There will be much here that will help us right where we are today and where we will be in the days to come. Please be in prayer for me as I study, and be in prayer for all those sitting around you, that God will enlighten us all in the truths of His Word. Lastly, I would encourage all of you to read chapter 1 this week as we prepare to dive in together next Sunday.