I Timothy

I Timothy 1:3-11 No Other Doctrine-Using The Law Lawfully.

Paul had previously urged Timothy to stay on at Ephesus, in large part to oppose those who were teaching doctrine contrary to the apostolic witness (v. 3). Part of this was a fascination with “fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes” (v. 4a Cf. 6:3-5, 20; Titus 1:14). Whatever these were, we know that they were not settled core doctrine, which was clear. Instead, these topics only led to disputes on non-essentials. Apostolic doctrine was based on scripture being fulfilled in history, none of which were fables. Furthermore, far from being contrary to how one lived, apostolic doctrine was that which led to “godly edification, which is in faith” (v. 4b). These “fables and endless genealogies” were “idle talk,” the product of those who had “strayed.” Paul makes clear that they had strayed from the very law which they desired to be the teachers of, “understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm” (v. 7).

Concerning the law, Paul’s position was no different from Jesus, who made abundantly clear that he did not come to abolish it, but rather to see it fulfilled (Cf. Mt. 5:17-20). The point is, it is possible to teach about the law but not according to the principles of interpretation or hermeneutics, which the law itself provides. This is what Pal means when he says that “we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully” (v. 8 Cf. Rom. 7:12, 16). The reformers recovered this apostolic doctrine when they affirmed the three uses of the law-to convict of sin leading to repentance, to guide the believer in how to live, and to be the basic standard of justice for societies. What Paul goes on to list covers all three applications. All the things listed are sin, ought to convict one as such, and certainly subject to civil prosecution according to biblical law. Paul was a theonomist. Furthermore to be contrary to law was to be contrary to “sound doctrine” (v. 10).

Holding to the threefold use of God’s law was also an essential element of Paul’s conception of “the glorious gospel of the blessed God,” which was committed to his trust (v. 11). There was no contradiction or opposition in Paul’s mind between law and gospel-each served the purpose of the other. We see this also in what Paul states concerning the purpose of his command to Timothy, and thus of Timothy’s to the teachers at Ephesus-“love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith” (v. 5). All three of these speak to the core of an individual. A pure heart is one that is not duplicitous. A good conscience is one which has not been seared over or silenced. A sincere faith is one that has not been mixed with error, it is a faith that is the same from one’s core to what one confesses. In short, biblical love is in harmony with doctrine, law, and the glorious gospel. To have integrity is to have all three in harmony.

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