Sunday, April 3, 2016

1 Timothy 1:1-2 "A Letter from Paul to Timothy for the Church in all the Ages"

It is time  for us to consider the pastoral epistles.  Before I tell  you why we need  to consider them  at this time, I want to   tell you  something about them.  There are  three  letters (or epistles) in the New Testament  that have been sometimes  called  the  ‘pastoral epistles’. The introductions and the greetings  in each of these letters  indicate that they were written by the  apostle  Paul[1].  The first two letters   were directed to Timothy, who at this time was  pastor at Ephesus (1:3), and the  last letter was directed  to Titus  who was  pastor of the church on the island of Crete.   These pastoral  epistles were  written by Paul to these younger colleagues in the ministry in order to provide pastoral  help and counsel for the many and varied situations  which these younger  men and pastors encountered  in their respective  situations.

The pastoral epistles  address a  number  of  timeless issues  that churches  experience, and it is therefore of great  value for  us to  learn  from  the wisdom  of  the  God inspired Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16,17) and  so to avoid the  common pitfalls and traps  into which so many  churches  throughout the ages  have fallen, having  not only lost their spiritual direction but  more significantly, having lost  their  favour with  God. A study of the letters to the 7 churches in the book of Revelation  confirms  that. The church that habitually  ignores  the counsel of God in His word will find in time that  God will remove His presence  from her.[2] Woe the church  that God hands over to her own wisdom.  Her love for human wisdom  will  eventually kill her.  

With every passing year  I am becoming  more  aware that I  have, humanly speaking,  only  a few  years left in the pastoral ministry. My calling and desire from God has by and large been to see the church  restored and reformed according to the Scriptures, and in a  small way  I have seen   some progress in this  direction.   Sadly, I  have also    witnessed  the destruction  of church and   of society  in my own day  at the hand of unscrupulous  wolves  in sheep’s clothing [3]. Paul calls  these “men speaking twisted things, to draw away  the disciples  after them”  (Acts 20: 30).  Satan thrives  best in  churches  that  have left the safe boundaries of  Scripture,  churches  that are given to experimenting  with  latest fads  and ideas  spun to them  by  worldly  authorities.  By contrast , a church of born again  members,  and  ordered upon the wisdom of God and His Word is a thorn in Satan’s flesh, and such a church  is  a formidable influence  for good in  our broken society.
And so,  as the years are passing for   you and  I,   we want to ensure that  we should  remain faithful to the  whole gospel of God, teaching and training a  host of  Timothy and Titus’s,  encouraging a  generation  of   men and women  to  build their lives and society upon the pure principles of the gospel. This  is   what the pastoral epistles are all about, and so  John Stott reminds us  that ,
Paul’s  overriding preoccupation  throughout these three letters  is with the truth, that it may be faithfully guarded   and handed on.[4]

With these preliminary thoughts in mind then, we begin  with the  first letter to Timothy. 

Introductory comments to 1 Timothy  :

This letter, although it is addressed to Timothy, pastor   of  the church  in Ephesus,   was   inspired by the Holy Spirit  for  wider  use.  We thus  find that this  letter  speaks to individuals, and to groups within the congregation, and indeed also to the whole church.  The letter  is not as structured  as  some of  Paul’s   other letters tend to be . For  example in his letters   to the Romans and Ephesians we find a  closely  argued  doctrinal section ( e.g. an the exposition of the doctrine of salvation)  which  is followed  by  a closing  section  filled with  practical application  and  implications for r daily living.  In  this letter to  Timothy,  Paul does not use this style , but  in almost a conversational tone  he  deals with many issues that these young pastors are  wrestling with in their  respective contexts, and so you will find yourself challenged to think about many  different areas of life. 

A brief word about  the date  of this letter: It  was written somewhere between 62-66 AD,  roughly 30 years after the death and resurrection of  our  Lord Jesus Christ.  In the book of Acts we read of  Paul’s Roman imprisonment.   During this time Paul wrote  letters to the Colossians and to the Philippians. He told  the  Philippians  that he hoped to be released from prison  (Phil. 1:18-19, 24-26) and it seems that this is  what  actually happened.  Following  his release  he  visited  the island of Crete with Titus and probably also Timothy, leaving Titus on the island to  care for  the new converts and  to constitute a local church. Paul and  Timothy  then make their way to Macedonia via Ephesus and here  they  realize  that false teachers  were  undermining the  church  in Ephesus.  On this occasion Paul  deals firmly  with  two  trouble makers, Hymenaeus and Alexander (I Tim. 1:19-20). Paul, constrained by the Holy Spirit   could however not remain in Ephesus, and so  he leaves Timothy in Ephesus, while he goes on to Macedonia.   It is here that he writes two letters, one to Titus in Crete and  his first letter to Timothy in Ephesus.  When Paul  was  eventually  on his way back to Ephesus,  he is arrested again and  brought back to Rome,  from  where he writes his second letter to Timothy. He wants  to have  Timothy  with him in  Rome  and therefore  he sends Tychicus  to Ephesus to replace Timothy  there as pastor. 

And now  the text :  vv 1-2 :

1.      The  Author and  His  Authority  established : (1:1)
Why should we listen carefully and attentively  to the words  contained in this letter?  Listen to the  formidable credentials  by which Paul presents himself to us:  “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope…”.  He says that he is an apostle. How did he become an apostle?  In Acts 9 we read first of  his conversion  when he was  personally confronted by the Lord Jesus on the Damascus road,   and then  in   9:15 we read of  his commission  from the Lord Jesus: “… he is a chosen instrument of mine  to carry my name before the Gentiles and  kings and  the children of Israel”. In his letter to the Galatians Paul asserted that his apostleship was not from men nor through man[5], but, as he says here in our text “by command of God our Saviour.” Paul was  an apostle  by the command of God. Here we need  to be careful  that we do not get lost  in the title, for in truth, the word ‘apostle’  carries  no  implications  of  a superior  ranking among mortal men, such as we find  the tendency to be  in Namibian churches, where the rankings from bottom to top  are pastor, bishop, apostle! Paul’s favourite title for himself  is actually   “servant” (Gr. doulos) – a slave  of Christ Jesus!  The word  apostle  is derived from the Greek word  apostello  (lit. to be sent from), and hence the best translation we can afford here  is that  an apostle is a messenger boy!   So the  title,  ‘apostle’  in itself cannot impress us.  

What is impressive is  whose messenger boy  he is:  Paul calls himself “an apostle of Christ Jesus”,  and then  to drive this really home, he also adds “by command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus  our hope”.  Paul’s  assertion is  that he  carries a message from  no one less than God![6]    That is  a weighty assertion, and  so  we must  decide  as to what we are going to do  with  such a letter.   This  is where the authority of Scripture  has been  questioned by some, and their conclusion has been  that  if this is  not from God, then this is only an opinion from  a man named Paul, and therefore  such a letter can be at best suggestive.  But please note that  Paul’s words do not leave themselves open to  such an interpretation. Paul’s letter claims to have  the authority  of the Lord Jesus  and  of God, and as such it is  therefore  not a suggestion  but an authoritative  word  from God.  

We must be reminded  that it  is this  Word that  has called the church into being.  The church was born through the  preaching of the Word  given by God  to the  apostle Peter   at Pentecost.  On that day  3000  were added to the church.  In Acts 2  we learn that  the is new church  devoted themselves to the apostles teaching etc.  These were God’s chosen men  to  speak the truth  to  the new church .  So why should we be listening  intently to this series of sermons?  Answer:  Because we  believe  this Word to be  a true word  from God to every church in every age.  The authority  of the word is  God Himself. He  made  Paul an apostle of  His Word,  which was  written down  in time  to be read  and  to be followed  by us.    My work as your preacher and pastor is to give  and explain  to you the  accurate sense  of what  is  said here.  No preacher or church  have the right to twist, change   or leave out  what the  Bible so clearly teaches.   In that sense every preacher is only a  messenger boy  and not a re-interpreter  and re-designer of  Scripture.

The Recipient  and his  Relationship to Paul (1:2)

To Timothy my true child  in the faith”. Timothy was the immediate recipient of the letter. He is first linked to Paul in Acts 16:1-5.   Timothy, the son of a Jewish mother  and a  gentile  father  came  either from Derbe or from the neighbouring town of Lystra. He  was  probably  a young boy  when he was converted  through the preaching  of  apostle Paul.  The seeds of faith  had been  already  planted by  his godly  grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. (2 Tim. 1:5, 3:15ff), and so  when  Paul  preached the word about Jesus  they became  no longer mere Old Testament believers but now  they were trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, the true hope of Israel and  the world. So, in this sense Paul had become Timothy’s father in the gospel as he calls him here in our text, “my true child  in the faith.”  This also points to the fact that  Paul may have spent  some time in their home , seeing the boy grow up in  between his apostolic journeys, seeing him  mature  and  the gifts becoming increasingly evident.  At some point  the council of elders  laid  their hands on  Timothy (1 Tim 4:14) and  so Timothy’s labours in the gospel  ministry began.  He became Paul's co-worker in the gospel (1 Thess. 3:2), so that Paul could say that Timothy served with him "as a son with his father" (Phil 2:22).

The Blessing (1:2)
“Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (v.2). This  blessing   occurs regularly (minus mercy) in Paul's introductions. At the heart  of  the Christian ministry  lie these graces, under all  circumstances.

A Facebook post from my dear friend and brother  in Christ, Pastor Roland Eskinazi of the  International Baptist Church in Brussels  concerning the testimony of  their members  Fred and Janet Young illustrates   this  well. They write :

Dear family, dear friends, We are not able to respond to you at the moment as we seem to spend most of our time taking care of ourselves and our (minor) wounds – burns, shrapnels, cuts and hearing loss. It feels so good to receive every single text message, voice mail and email though. We welcome them all. They warm our hearts and soothe our soul. We cannot begin to explain how emotionally helpful it is to hear from each one of you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank for your concern. Thank you for your love. Thank you for caring. We are fortunate to know all of you. On Tuesday March 22nd, we were in the check-in line at the Brussels Airport. Fred was getting ready to leave for the USA where he would lead a FormaSport college visitation tour for Belgian basketball players. They were due to join him in Denver on Thursday.  The bomb exploded 10 to 15 feet from us. We were knocked out for maybe 4 or 5 minutes. When we came to our senses we saw others laying dead next to us. We stood up and walked out. Peace and calm came over us, which enabled us to hold, talk, and pray for gravely wounded people laying on the sidewalk. Today our hearts ache for them and the families of those who were so senselessly killed. In the midst of chaos, we feel it was helpful for us to understand the unthinkable. We are familiar with the first pages of the Bible that paint a picture of the predicament our world is in: Humans tend to turn away from God's goodness and sometimes do terrible things. We humans so easily follow the evil one. His ways are evil and he rules in this world. He does it daily in small ways, and at times in horrific ways. Tuesday in Brussels, we were reminded of this truth. Nonetheless, we are convinced that God is Love, Peace, and the Light in this dark world. He invites people to follow His ways. His kingdom is not political, nor religious. It grows in people’s hearts as they turn to him for wisdom, forgiveness and help. More than ever before, we want to keep learning from Jesus Christ how to be peaceful, loving and lights in our marriage, in our family, wherever we are, and whatever we do.  We are ok for the moment, but feel tired. We’ve been told to expect stress and anxiety. So in the coming days, we’ll need to hold on to what Jesus says to anyone who wants to learn from him and receive his help: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John14:27 Warm greetings, Fred & Janet

So, right at the beginning,  Paul  reminds Timothy that God's grace, mercy and peace will overshadow his servant even in the most difficult of circumstances. Today, this is also  our promise,  because  we have it on good authority that the Bible says  that it will be so .
Amen !

[1] 1 Tim 1:1 ; 2 Tim 1:1; Tit 1:1
[2] Rev  2:5 ( The church at Ephesus)
[3] Acts 20: 17- 35
[4] John Stott: The Message of Timothy and Titus : BST Series , p.10
[5] Gal 1:1
[6] See also  1Tim. 1:11; 2:7; Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1

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