I Timothy

I Timothy 3:14-16 The Mystery Of Godliness.

Paul wrote to Timothy because he was delayed in visiting him and wanted him to know how one should conduct themselves within the church. Paul makes the point of defining what the church is by the other terms he uses (vv. 14-15a). First of all it is the house of God (v. 15b). This carries all the biblical history up to and including the Davidic covenant promise that God would build His own house through David’s son, a promise that would only find ultimate fulfillment in the Messiah. Church or ekklesia means a public assembly of persons, in the case of the church, it is that of the living God. The church has never been a physical building, nor has it ever been an assembly of persons who worship lifeless idols. The church or house of God, is the church or house of the living God.

To continue with the analogy, as the house of God the church is also “the pillar and ground of the truth” (v. 15c). A pillar supports the infrastructure of a building from the ground up. The ‘ground’ of this infrastructure is the foundation upon which everything rests. This is the relationship which the church has with the truth, and it has always been this way. The scriptures are the truth of God revealed, and as Paul made so clear elsewhere, it was to the church of the old testament that “were committed the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2). The church continued this role up to the present. To the apostles were committed the New Testament word, and the entire bible has been preserved through the ages through the instrumentality of the church. The church is also called to preach and live the truth.

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness” (v. 16a). So keeping in mind how we should understand Paul’s use of the word ‘mystery’, the hidden truth now revealed of godliness is “without controversy great.” What follows is believed to be part of an early hymn of praise to the Lord Jesus Christ. The first part of this truth once hidden but now revealed is “God was manifested in the flesh.” John testified that, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). He was manifested in their time, but to the incarnation he was foreordained (I Pet. 1:20 Cf. I Jn. 1:2). John also revealed to us the ultimate purpose of this manifestation-“to take away our sins” (I Jn. 3:5b). Part of the reason why He is able to take away our sins is because “in Him there is no sin” (I Jn. 3:5c).

It is not an uncommon belief that we have to wait for the second coming for the Messiah to destroy the works of the devil. However, the apostolic witness is clear that it was with the incarnation that He came to destroy the devil’s works. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (I Jn. 3:8b). A second thing to learn concerning this mystery is that He was “justified in the Spirit.” The justification or acceptance of His offering Himself up as a sin offering was manifested in His subsequent resurrection from the dead. He was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). The spirit descended upon the Lord for this purpose at His baptism (Mt. 3:16).

After His resurrection the Lord was also “seen by angels.” This began on earth with a rolling away of the stone from the tomb (Mt. 28:2). Immediately the disciples were given the mandate to take the gospel to the nations (Mt. 28:19). “Preached among the Gentiles.” This purpose took some time for Peter and others to understand, but eventually they did (Acts 10:34ff.). This also fulfilled the prophetic word (Cf. Rom. 10:18; Ps. 19:4; Mt. 24:14; Mk. 16:15; Rom. 16:26; II Cor. 1:19; Col. 1:23). Furthermore, the word was not only preached, but it was “believed on in the world” (Cf. Rom. 1:8; Col. 1:6; I Th. 1:8). Finally, He was “received up in glory.” His ascension was the beginning of His messianic reign on the throne of heaven at the right hand of the Father (Cf. Mk. 16:19; Lk. 24:51; Ps. 110:1).

I Timothy

I Timothy 3:8-13 Qualifications Of Deacons.

Deacons are like overseers in many of the required qualifications, but they are not required to teach. Someone who is reverent is someone who shows respect for others. One of the character flaws contrary to this is to be double-tongued, which means to be either hypocritical or deceitful (v. 8a). Like bishops, deacons must practice moderation and contentment, “not given to much wine, not greedy for money” (v. 8b). The opposite of being double-tongued is to have integrity, “holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience” (v. 9). Paul uses the word ‘mystery’ to refer to truth once hidden but then revealed, in particular he will go on to expound on the great mystery of God’s presence on earth manifested in his time by the incarnation (vv. 14ff.). Also like overseers, deacons must be tested and found blameless, which of course does not mean sinless, but it does mean they don’t condone or justify hypocritical behavior (v. 10 Cf. v. 2; Titus 1:6-7).

Like bishops, a deacon must be a man whose wife also shows godly traits of Christian character. Like their husbands they “must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things” (v. 11). Merriam-Webster defines slander as “the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation.” Besides being an example of being double-tongued, slander is the bearing of false witness, it also reveals how serious is the issue of gossip. To be temperate is to practice moderation. Some contest that Paul is only speaking about women in general here, thus lending support to the idea of deaconesses. However, the context doesn’t bear this out. Women don’t have wives, only men can be husbands. As Paul will go on to say, like bishops, deacons if married, must be husbands of but one wife, “ruling their children and their own houses well” (v. 12). There is great reward for those who serve well (v. 13).

I Timothy

I Timothy 3:1-7 Qualifications Of An Overseer.

It is not wrong to desire the office of an overseer or bishop (v. 1). Some have also been called who it could be said didn’t desire it. In any case, it is more than an office, it is a good work. Paul’s “faithful saying” is one which we can “take to the bank.” It is even better than gold. However, it is not enough to desire the office, there are certain qualifications which must be met. First of all, a bishop must be blameless. This obviously doesn’t mean sinless-that is a state which will not be reached till we all pass from this life. Blameless means not condoning and thus justifying sinful behaviour, such as suggesting it is perfectly alright to have more than one wife. This does not mean one must be married, as neither Jesus nor Paul were. The context helps define the meaning. Temperate does not mean abstinence, temperate means one who exercises self-restraint or moderation. Being sober-minded means one who is alert to danger, someone who is serious and studious in their thinking (Cf. I Th. 5:6). A bishop must also be one known for their good behaviour and hospitality. A bishop must also be able to teach.

Someone who is sober minded need not abstain from alcohol, but they should practice moderation, “not given to wine” (v. 2). A bishop must not be violent, which should not suggest he would not defend himself if so required. A bishop must not be greedy for money, but this also does not mean that he does not merit being paid for his labour. A bishop must be gentle, but this does not mean he is a doormat or pushover. A bishop is not quarrelsome, but he is called upon to defend the truth. A bishop must not be covetous, but be content with what he has. If he is a husband and father, then he must rule his own house well. “(For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)” (v. 5) A bishop must not be a novice, which has less to do with chronological age than with how long and rigorous one has been in the faith. Finally, a bishop must have a good reputation among those outside the church, which is not to say that like Paul he may not have some enemies. This echoes the need to be blameless. Sinful pride is the devil’s snare.

I Timothy

I Timothy 2:8-15 Men And Women In The Church.

After urging at some length on the importance of prayer, Paul says, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (v. 8). It would be a mistake to take from this one passage the idea that Paul didn’t want women praying in public. He only states in I Corinthians 11:5 that a woman who prays in public should do so with a head covering. This injunction would be meaningless if he didn’t believe that it was permissible for women to pray in public. Some believe this is an actual veil or hat of some sort, others believe that it was how a woman kept her hair. The latter seems to have some support from the context where Paul talks about how a woman might as well have her head shaved if she is going to have it so short that she looks like a man (Cf. Nu. 5:18). In any case, one passage alone should not form the exclusive basis of any practice when there are other passages, some much clearer, bearing upon the same subject.

The passage actually is somewhat of a rebuke to certain men in the congregation who were more inclined to argue over disputable points, and in fact some went so far as to teach as doctrine the mere speculations of men (Cf. 1:3-11). We also do not want to miss Paul’s point that there is no place where prayer should not be offered, including among all peoples, and including rulers as well as common folk. The use of the word ‘hands’ typically refers to one’s actions, the works one engages in. Prayer is work, but it is work that must be conducted in a holy manner, set apart for the activity Paul took some time to explain (Cf. 2:1-2). Although there are recorded instances of this particular posture (Cf. Pss. 63:4; 141:2), he is far more interested in one’s attitude, praying “without wrath and doubting.” Obviously one must have faith, for without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” Heb. 11:6).

One should also not pray out of a spirit of wrath. This does not mean that there is no place for imprecatory prayers, such as we find in the scriptures, most notable the psalms. What it does mean is that we are to leave vengeance to the LORD (Cf. Rom. 12:19; Dt. 32:35). As regards the women, the problem which seems to have prevailed among the women in Timothy’s midst was one of adornment, valuing one’s appearance above a spirit of godliness and the practice of good works (v. 10). Apparel befitting a godly woman should be modest, “with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing” (v. 9). Again, it would be a mistake to base one’s practice on one passage when the scriptures give us examples covering the same topics (Cf. I Pet. 3:3-4). We should not miss the contrast which Paul is making, and the issue of one’s priorities. What is “costly?” It may refer to spending beyond one’s means. Moderation is the key.

“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission” (v. 11). One might draw the conclusion that this supports the idea that Paul is forbidding women to pray in public. However, the next verse in this context makes clear that Paul is referring to the activity of teaching or in having such ecclesiastical authority over men. The very use of the word ‘learn’ in verse 11 would bear this out. Nevertheless, Paul adds, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (v. 12). Clearly the silence Paul has in mind here is that of the authoritative teaching role and office over men. Paul in his defence goes all the way back to Genesis and the fall saying, “Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (vv. 13-14 Cf. Gen. 2:7; 21-22; 3:16; I Cor. 11:8-12; 14:34). Paul’s first point is an obvious one, that Eve was created as a helpmate to Adam, not the other way around.

The second part of Paul’s statement is equally clear and puts to rest the fanciful interpretation of the events of the fall which suggests that Adam was a silent partner who stood immediately beside Eve as she debated with the devil. On the contrary, Paul’s point was that Adam was not the one deceived. Adam’s fault was in not questioning Eve when she came to him with the forbidden fruit and asking where it came from etc. This also has a direct bearing on the teaching role, for in that exchange between Eve and Satan she misrepresented the Lord’s instructions. She should have run from the devil to her husband Adam, who even in the state of innocence was her head. Given his reference to the fall in Genesis, it also seems clear that whatever Paul means in verse 15, it nevertheless hearkens back to these events and the punishment but also mercy of God as a consequence. The one note of salvation in that account was the promise of a Seed (Gen. 3:15).

I Timothy

I Timothy 2:1-7 Interceding Through The Mediator.

It is because the church is engaged in a spiritual war that Paul exhorted or encouraged his readers to offer up “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks” (v. 1). The word ‘supplications’ (Gk. deesis, comes from deomai) means to beg, to bind oneself. Paul uses the word again in 5:5. The word for ‘prayers’ (Gk. proseuche) carries the idea of prosecuting a case on behalf of another. ‘Intercessions’ (Gk. enteuxis) carries the idea of entreating or conferring with another. In short, we are to bind ourselves to confer with the Lord, even begging, on behalf of others. However, it is also important to always give thanks, because one cannot expect to have one’s prayers heard without thanksgiving for all that God gives and does for us on a continual basis, including giving people who serve the common good such as kings “and all who are in authority” (v. 2a Cf. Ezra 6:10; Rom. 13:1). These are given that we might “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (v. 2b).

It is this specific mention of what were leaders that Paul has in mind when he stresses that we need to pray for them as well as the common people, “for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (v. 3). Paul no doubt also had in mind that they were by and large unbelieving Gentiles who also needed to come to repentance and faith, “to the knowledge of the truth” (v. 4). Our prayers are through the one Mediator alone who gains us entrance to the Father-“the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (v. 6). That time had now come. A penalty had to be made for us because of our sins which kept us separated from God. It was also for this time that Paul was appointed as a preacher and apostle-“a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (v. 7). Unlike the false teachers, Paul was appointed by God, even as the Lord Himself was anointed for His threefold office and work of Prophet, Priest, and King-in heaven and on earth.

I Timothy

I Timothy 1:18-20 Waging Spiritual Warfare-Staying The course.

In verses 3-7 Paul urged Timothy to stay on at Ephesus, in part to oppose those who aspired to be teachers but who were opposed to sound doctrine. He now adds to that urging a ‘charge’, one based on prophecies concerning Timothy’s future, that he “wage the good warfare” (v. 18). “Having faith and a good conscience” is warfare. The false teachers have rejected both. Earlier Paul had warned Timothy about those who had “strayed” from the faith. They had the faith or sound doctrine preached to them, but they strayed from it into idle talk and areas of dispute. Now Paul warns that there are some who go from straying from the faith to outright rejection and have suffered what he calls “shipwreck” (v. 19). We now have a clearer picture of the image Paul had in mind. These false teachers and those who follow with them, are like those who veer off course because they cease to be navigated by the word, and because they have they stray off course, and eventually they suffer shipwreck.

The word should have continued to guide them in the right direction moving forward to their ultimate destination, and it would have also warned them of shoals and other hidden dangers which they could have avoided. Two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, Paul had committed to the last stage of church discipline, having “delivered” them to Satan, “that they may learn not to blaspheme” (v. 17). To blaspheme is to show irreverent contempt for God and His word. To blaspheme involved cursing God and the name of the LORD (Lev. 24:10-16). Jesus was crucified in part, because He claimed to be God and thus was considered a blasphemer (Mt. 26:65). Paul just finished pointing out the right use of God’s law, knowing that “the law is good if one uses it lawfully” (1:8). In Romans 2:17-24 he rebukes those who claimed to be Christians but rejected the law, in part because it caused unbelievers to blaspheme God as a result.

Later in this letter Paul will charge his readers to honour those whom they serve “so that the name of God and His doctrine would not be blasphemed” (6:1). The false teachers were guilty of blasphemy, which is a failure to honour God’s name, which represents His character and personage, and His doctrine or His word and law. To keep the faith is a spiritual war, it involves honouring God and His word. A good conscience is like an instrument used for navigation. The word of God is our map, and only a conscience sensitive, that is open and taught in the word, can keep one’s faith on course to the desired destination, and guard one against the dangers along the way. When we drift off course we are in danger of suffering loss in “the good warfare” of faith. In his second letter to Timothy we also learn that one of the core essentials of the apostolic witness which the false teachers were rejecting was their teaching that the resurrection was already past (2:17-18).

I Timothy

I Timothy 1:12-17 Grace Enabled-Hope Abundant.

The grace of God in Christ made Paul able to be a faithful minister of the word (v. 12). When the Lord appeared to him he was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” (v. 13). This summarizes his view of the Lord. He did not acknowledge Him as the Son of God, he persecuted His followers, and he did this with arrogant disrespect. However, he was also ignorant because of unbelief. It was through the Lord’s mercy that he went from unbelief to belief. “And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (v.14). Paul was hopeful. This passage expresses hope for sinners. Paul typically combines faith and love with hope, and that is what he is expressing here, even if the word itself is not used (I Cor. 13:13; I Th. 5:8).

Grace abundant is the great hope of the gospel-“that Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners” (v. 15). Paul regarded himself as chief among sinners, but also as a symbol of hope for others who would follow (v. 16). “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (v. 17). This is a benediction which applies equally to the Father and the Son. Jesus didn’t cease to be King when He was born into this world, and He remains King eternal now. As eternal He had no beginning and will have no end. As immortal He lives forever. He was the wisdom of God made visible and personified (Rom. 16:27). For all these reasons and many more, He is worthy of “honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Cf. I Chron. 29:11-13).

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.

I Timothy 1:1-2 Grace, Mercy, And Peace.

Paul always made the point that he was an apostle. He was not self-appointed. He was an apostle “by the commandment of God our Saviour and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope” (v. 1). On his way to Damascus to apprehend and prosecute Christians, the Lord appeared to him in all His glory and commanded him directly that he would be his messenger (Cf. Acts 9:15-16). We are so accustomed to referring exclusively to Jesus as our Saviour that we forget that the Father is also our Saviour, and in this salutation Christ is the hope of that salvation which the Father predestined from all eternity.

This is the first of Paul’s so called “pastoral letters,” since he addresses it to one of his protégés-Timothy, “a true son in the faith” (v. 2a). In this salutation he again repeats the Father and the Son in his invocation of blessing-of “grace, mercy, and peace” (v. 2b). As elsewhere, peace follows grace, and in the case I and II Timothy and Titus, also mercy (Cf. II Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4). True peace with God can only come via grace and mercy. Grace and mercy is also necessary to bridge the divisions that are in the church. Timothy was something of a symbol of the change taking place in the church, since his mother was a Jew, but his father was Greek, and the peace to come between the two (Cf. Acts 16:1).