Speaking Truth in Small Things

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,
2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
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. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere 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 1:1-7)

As we talked about last week, in the beginning of the book of 1 Timothy, Paul jumps right into, very quickly, his dire concern about false teachers who were creeping into the church and infusing their ideas, their preference, their desires alongside what should be reserved for God’s internal truths. It is not like there are dueling teachers battling it out for position in church. No, the church is blessed with God’s eternal truths, that is what should be taught and discussed in the church, right? I mean what is true, what is God’s will. What does the Bible say? That is what we are to be about. What is God saying to us through His Word? We need that.

Some view the church more like the presidential debates that we have heard of or seen lately, where ideas are talked about from the perspective of each candidate. In that case, we want to know about the candidate – what does he believe is best for our country, what does she believe is good for our country? We want to know his or her background – what has shaped them, how will they lead? But with the church and church leaders, we simply need to know, do they believe the Bible? Do they hold to the inerrant truth? Are they committed to God’s Word? And are they qualified with the character that God lays out for leaders? In other words, it is not about a battle of man’s ideas, it is standing for God’s truth. It is not about being creative and trying to appeal to the greatest number of people, it is being grounded and trying to please God, by agreeing with God and proclaiming what He has said.

And so Paul is going to jump into this, he is going to lead Timothy by pointing him to God, to Christ, and he does that quickly beginning as early as verse 3 of chapter 1.

Before getting to verse 3 though, he starts with a greeting. Paul’s greeting is somewhat formal, as is his custom and as was the custom of his day. But though it is formal, it is not just empty words, but it too is instructive and filled with truth. And you will notice it is not a greeting geared to lifting up Paul, but is geared toward lifting up the God that Paul serves.

It is so different than our greetings today, I mean how we start letters or notes today. Our greetings are more like – well, how do you start a letter today, or an email? You know we used to say, I was taught in school to say, “Dear so-and-so.” It was always “dear” someone. We don’t, most of us don’t even do that anymore. It is more like, “Hey.” I don’t know, writing is so different now, most is very informal. Paul squeezes more truth into his greeting than most of us probably do in our entire notes that we write. 

Let’s look at this greeting together – “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,”

This letter was written by Paul, that is important. But again, it is not written by the authority or by the command of Paul, it is not just a compilation of Paul’s thoughts. Paul was a smart guy, he was an educated man in his day, much more than the common man. He knew a lot. But he was humble in that he yielded his thoughts and his writings to a higher and wiser authority. 

We can be so quick to espouse our opinions, to try and look good in front of people, to elevate our ideas above others. I mean, who doesn’t want to be thought well of? And so in conversation we may wait for just the right moment to insert our latest thought on a subject simply to impress our neighbors. We see ourselves as autonomous in conversation, an individual being speaking only for ourselves, maybe even working really hard to make a place for ourselves in the minds of others, and all for self-gratification. It is sort of an individualism where we may spend a lifetime with one goal, and that is building ourselves up in other people’s eyes. It can be overt or it can be subtle, but it all says, “Look at and listen to me.” This can be done in private conversation, or in social media, or in teaching, or in many other ways. Why do we say what we say when we say it? Who are we trying to lift up? These are good questions for each of us.

I say all this because I want us to look at what Paul does. We would all say Paul was a great man, but Paul refuses to go there. He introduces himself as an apostle. Do you know what that means? Do you know the implications of what that means? He is not bestowing honor on himself, or talking about something he has earned. No, apostle in this sense, used in this way means God’s ambassador who is commanded to testify concerning the resurrection and to herald abroad the gospel. It is like right from the beginning Paul makes it clear, “I am not my own.” I am not authorized to speak on my own. I am a representative of another, I come to you as a representative of another. I wish we could always look at ourselves that way. This idea, this truth is not unique to Paul. We are to live in this understanding too. What if we really did?

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20)

What if we really lived in this reality that we are here to represent our Lord as His ambassador on this earth – not sometimes, but all of the time? There are times when I certainly feel like an ambassador of God. You know, like in church settings, or when people ask a theological question, you know what I mean. But there are other times when I don’t clearly live that way, like on a phone call with a stranger, or when I want to relax at home, or other times. When Paul says in 1 Corinthians that we are not our own, he was talking about our bodies. And our bodies certainly include our mouths, what we say.

And so when we open our mouths and we speak, on any occasion, are we doing that with a clear understanding that we are God’s ambassador? When we send that note or post that comment or blog, or answer the phone, are we doing all of that with this in mind? We are God’s children, here for Him, speaking on His behalf to whomever.

Paul goes even further with this idea when he adds, “by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” So he is “an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” He reinforces this truth, again that he is here on this earth and doing his work, writing this letter, under the command of another. 

We sort of understand this in our individual environments, say in the workplace. Your boss says, “Go and say this to the customer,” or, “Respond this way when someone complains,” and so on. People in authority over us, like as an employee, when we are on their payroll, we are acting or should be acting as their representatives. 

When I was working as an accountant, I would often interact with auditors from outside auditing firms. I would get very specific instructions from our management on how to interact with them, what to say, what not to say, how to say it. I don’t mean that we were taught to deceive, only that we were there to convey information, and to do it in a way that we were told. For me, I like meeting people, and so I would be interested in getting to know the auditor. But that wasn’t an option in this case. That is not the way my employer wanted me to interact with auditors; it was all business. That is what was expected of me. I was under the command of another.

A better example might be of a soldier under command of his superior. And that is how the word “command” is used here in Paul’s greeting. He is clear about this. The term “command” is used of royal directives to be obeyed without equivocation, with no leeway. Paul viewed himself as under orders, under God’s will. We saw this from Colossians 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother.” His use of “command” does not suggest that God forced him into the office against his own will, it stresses the divine source of his appointment. God appointed him to go and speak on His behalf. Hasn’t God also called us to speak truth? Yes! Ephesians 4:15: “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” We are called to, commanded to go and make disciples. How do we do that? Ephesians 4:25: “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor.”

Paul was a man under authority, a man who understood he was to conduct himself under the authority of his Lord. He never really questioned his place, his role in that. His words were not to be his own, his schedule, not his own, his money, not his own, his place in life, not his own, his career, not his own. He was instead owned by God, and that meant he was under the authority of God, and God had called him to be an apostle, a mouthpiece for him, and he understood this as a command.

What if every time we open our mouths and words are being formed in our mind and are being readied to exit our lips, what if every time the thought first comes to mind, “Whatever I say, it is to represent God well, to be truthful and glorify Him”? Every time! That would be much different than just, you know, letting it flow according to our feelings at the moment. Paul seemed to know his place, and we can learn from him.

God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope (1 Timothy 1:1b)

He speaks of the ones who called him, referring to God as Savior and Jesus as our hope. These words sort of mess up the analogy that I made earlier of being under the command of a boss or a military leader. Paul puts his submission in perspective here. He is not merely serving or submitting to a person, he is serving and submitting to his Savior and his only hope. This ought to make submission much easier! Submitting to some crazy leader in the workplace is tough, but submitting to the one who has saved us and who dearly cares for us and who will never let us go, one who will always protect us and will as our only hope lead us into eternal life forever with Him, these truths, understanding these things should melt our hearts and drive us to a place of, “Yes! I am for you, I will serve under your command, I want to be led by you, I want to be yours and live for you!” This is a right perspective that leads us in truth, that keeps us from living in some false world of lies and deceit, of living in a place where we are being deceived by what is going to satisfy us and lead us to happiness. God is our Savior, Christ is our hope! 

To Timothy, my true child in the faith: (1 Timothy 1:2a)

As mentioned last time, this letter is written to Timothy, and Paul calls Timothy his true child in the faith. Most likely, Timothy was already a believer when he met Paul. Paul probably didn’t lead Timothy to Christ, but instead was instrumental in Timothy’s spiritual growth and ministry.

Timothy by this time had been associated with Paul for about fifteen years. They had been very close, and Paul so wanted to encourage Timothy to stay strong in the faith and to lead the Ephesian church well for God’s glory. Both of these men remained faithful and effective leaders, but from what we can gather from the Scriptures they were very different in personality. That should not be surprising to any of us. Serving our Lord is not reserved for certain personality types. Timothy was young and seemed to be a timid man, maybe a shy man.

6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God (2 Timothy 1:6-8)

Timothy appeared to need encouragement to stay the course to keep going in the face of difficulty. And in verse 9 we read further, “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” This is such a good reminder that God calls and God uses those He calls. He does not call because we are in any way particularly useful, but He makes us useful. We are all different, and those differences are good, and God created us all differently. Let’s appreciate those differences and enjoy God’s creativeness in each other.

Lastly in this greeting, in verse 2, we see Paul’s desire for Timothy – “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” Two things: first, Paul recognizes Timothy’s needs as a servant of the Lord, and secondly, Paul once again lifts up the Father and the Son as the source of all our needs.

First, Timothy’s needs: Paul clearly understood the weight of ministry; he had lived with that weight. Just like each of us who are serving our Lord actively. We cannot go it alone, we are not self-sufficient or independent. We need what only the Lord can give us. What are some of these things? Grace, mercy, and peace.

Grace is the undeserved goodness which God gives to undeserving sinners. Grace removes our guilt and replaces it with goodness, forgiveness, a place in God’s family. Apart from God’s grace we would be living life today as guilty ones who will ultimately suffer eternal punishment for our sins. With God’s grace we are free from that awful future and we today receive and will forever receive His blessing. Timothy needed to live in this understanding, be reminded of this truth, praise God for His grace as he lived in service to his Lord.

Secondly, mercy: mercy is God’s help offered to the struggling and the discouraged. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” God’s mercy is a sustaining mercy that all believers need walking in this world. We need this when facing intense opposition and every kind of difficulty. We can cry out to God for His mercy and experience His mercy.

Next is peace: this describes our state of salvation. Because of God’s grace and mercy, we have peace with God. We are no longer His enemy, we no longer have to fear His wrath, we are at peace with the God of the universe. This gives us a sustaining stability in life. What an awesome thought, to be at peace with the almighty God. 

Each one – grace, mercy, and peace – come from and through our Father and the Son. They are the source of our spiritual life and of all that is good in it. Timothy would face struggles and much pain in ministry, but God was there to be His source of comfort, His source of strength. Paul wanted Timothy to turn to no other during hard times, but to turn to the Lord. This is the direction he is giving to him in this greeting – “God is good, this word is from God, God will continue His goodness in your life.”

We need that too, don’t we? As we move forward, grasping for relief from what is hard, we can go to these words and be reminded that God is near and His gifts are good. He is our commander and He is equally the one who loves us most. Live in His grace, in His mercy, and in His peace!

We will see in the coming weeks even more reason for the content of this greeting as Paul instructs Timothy in his work. 

If we are not feeling a need for what God offers us as His children, then perhaps we are not yet living in a willing submission to His perfect will. If we are living for Him, we will realize our desperate need for Him. And He is near, He is here, He gives freely.

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,
2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (1 Timothy 1:1-2)