Throughout the world, I have seen a constant pattern of emerging “christian” ministers who fail to read, study and love The Bible and lead many astray. Altered versions of The Gospel spread from pulpits all over the world creating confusion, fear and destruction. Man made gospels where you can earn your salvation if you do certain rituals or pay certain fees and false promises of health, wealth and prosperity if you claim them for yourself abound. As we will see, this problem has always existed. The Book of 1 Timothy addresses precisely this problem and encourages all of us, followers of Jesus Christ, to be rooted in The Gospel, to pray for godly leaders (in and out of the church) and finally to daily spend time in God’s Word so we can get sound theology directly from The Bible and know when someone is spreading a false gospel. Let’s dive in and see what Paul tells Timothy to do in the 1 Letter he sends to Timothy.
Paul first meets a young man named Timothy in the city of Lystra (Acts 16:1-5). Timothy is so well spoken and thought of in his community that Paul takes him under his wing and becomes his “true son in the faith” (1 Ti. 1:2, 18). Even as the son of a Greek (pagan) father, his mom, a Jewish has taught him from his childhood The Gospel. Throughout his travel with Paul, Timothy proofs to be a faithful Christian and so when a leadership crisis rises in Ephesus, Paul commissions Timothy to stay and be in charge of solving this crisis. As a way to encourage young Timothy (1 Ti. 4:12), Paul who has now traveled and is in Macedonia, writes this letter.
Paul starts this letter by reminding Timothy about the importance of understanding what The True Gospel of Jesus Christ is. This church was seeing the rise of false teachers who devoted themselves with genealogies and obscure passages of the Torah (The Law) and were creating arguments and misunderstanding among the believers in Ephesus by telling them to do these things so that they may earn their salvation. Paul reminds the church that The Law was intended to show us our absolute insufficiency and need for a Savior as no man can and will never be able to fulfill God’s commands. The Law was given to point us to Jesus as our only hope for salvation because, again, we simply cannot obey God’s perfect standard. Sinners can only be saved when we believe in Jesus as the one who paid for our sins and follow Him. It is not what we do, but what He did on The Cross that assures our salvation. The preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings honor and glory to the True King alone (1 Ti. 1:17). So how can we spot false teachers? When they preach that you can earn salvation by following their commands and bring glory to themselves and not to King Jesus.
After rooting us back in The Gospel, Paul writes general instructions to the church. And it starts with a reminder to pray for everyone including their kings and leaders (1 Ti. 2:1-8). Just to situate us here, in this period of time Nero was king…Nero as in crazy Nero who killed Christians for fun. And yet, Paul is instructing them to pray for their leaders and for peace. Why? Because “in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer. 29:7). In praying for godly leaders, we are able to not only be rooted in The Gospel, but also spread the Gospel among unbelievers. And so, here, Paul reminds them that a life of prayer is important in the life of a believer.
Then Paul writes instructions concerning women. These following verses have been extremely controversial. In Ephesus, there were women of wealth who would go to church in high fashion to be seen. So Paul reminds them that church is not a place to be seen but to encourage and grow the church. Not a place where you make yourself feel better by what you wear but a place where you make Jesus glorious by how you serve (1 Ti. 2:9-10). Because of these women Paul says: “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” (1 Ti. 2:11-12). Then Paul goes back to the Garden of Eden and points out that Eve was made out of Adam and that it was Eve who was deceived and transgressed. So in this context, some have said that what this means is that women should never teach in church. Others say that women can teach other women and children under the supervision of godly male leadership (I ascribe to this vision, hence Enthralled by Grace is meant to teach women and is supervised by godly men). And yet others say that this means that these specific women that Paul was talking about are the ones that should never speak in church. Again, controversial, but you can talk with your pastor more about this.
The last instruction for the church is that of appointing godly leaders. Both bishops (or overseers/ pastors/ elders) and deacons (servants/ those who implement ministries) are to be of good standing in the church and have a family that submits to Christ in the right manner, which we have explained in past posts.
From 1 Ti. 3:14-4:16, Paul focuses on Timothy and reminds him that even though young, he has been rooted in The Gospel and is continuously being transformed by it. Paul is encouraging Timothy as a leader despite of his age and timidity because of his exemplary way of living for Christ. Timothy needed to understand this because in the next part, Timothy was going to confront older men and women whose actions lead by a bad understanding of The Gospel was negatively affecting the church and its standing in society. How the church fosters proper relathionships matters. Remember, the church is to be salt and light and point others to their need for Christ. So when members who identified themselves as Christians lived in a manner that contradicted The Gospel, many saw this as yet another human philosophy and not the “Way, the Truth and the Life”.
So Timothy confronts widows first (1Ti. 5:1-2). One thing that we see in The Bible over and over again is care for widows. However, wealthy and young widows were asking the church to help and using this help to carry on lifestyles of self indulgence. So Paul tells Timothy that only older widows with no family that can take care of them should get the help of the church. And this can be a whole different post because here Paul introduces the concept of sphere sovereignty where family should help family first, if there is no family, then church should step in to help and finally, if neither can help, government can step in. Historically we see that when this order is trampled chaos ensues.
Timothy then needs to confront older men (1 Ti. 5:17-25). It reminds these group of men that them and particularly those who preach are to live outstanding lives of peace and service. Because in v. 23, Paul tells Timothy to drink wine for his ailments, we can assume that these elder men were getting drunk and so, Timothy has to rebuke their drunkenness.
Timothy too needs to confront slaves (1 Ti. 6:1-2) who were acting in a haughty manner with their masters. Even though in Christ we are all the same in dignity and need for salvation, God has placed different masters, leaders and employers over us and we are to treat them with respect.
Then Timothy goes to confront on preachers who were more motivated by greed that for love (1 T. 6:3-10). Just like in our days, in the past, there have been false teachers who preach whatever the people want to hear for their financial gain. From the selling of indulgences to save from purgatory, to the promises of health and wealth if you give money to the leader of these false movements, these leaders have themselves and not others in the forefront of their minds. This, Paul says, goes against what Christ preached. Godly men of God are serve each other and think of others as more important than themselves. And those godly men and women whom God has given wealth are to use their finances to be “rich in good works, generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasures as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Ti. 6:17-19). Wealth is given by God so that it may be used with eternity in mind and not for selfish gain in pride.
Paul closes this letter to his “son in the faith” by urging him to guard The Gospel in his life and in his heart. To not get confused with what is falsely called knowledge but to truly stay rooted in Christ as he navigates these problems with grace and truth.
So dear sister, as you have seen in 1 Timothy, ideas have consequences. What you believe will dictate how you act. If your leader is teaching you concepts that come from his human heart and not from The Bible, you will act upon these and find confusion instead of peace. Just as with Paul’s last words to Timothy, it is of the utmost importance that you too stay rooted and grounded in The Gospel every single day by reading The Bible, praying and making use of those means of grace that God has kindly given to us for our good. So humbly, I ask you are you reading your Bible every day? Or are you feeding your spirit with The Bible? Is your world view shaped by the teachings of Christ? Are you able to spot false teachings because you know The Master’s voice? And if not, will you strive, pray and read your Bible so that you too may be firmly grounded in His Truth?