Monday, February 10, 2014

1 Timothy

Paul's first letter to Timothy is concerned with the false teaching in Ephesus. Timothy was a young pastor in Ephesus, which, among other things, was home to the Temple of Artemis. Artemis, was the Greek goddess of fertility, and the culture of Ephesus and the surrounding area was greatly influenced by the happenings (and teachings) at the temple. As the fertility goddess, much of the activity would include temple prostitutes which were partly responsible for spreading the false teachings into the church that Paul had helped establish.

Thus, Paul writes Timothy and begins with a charge to keep certain persons from teaching "any different doctrine" (v. 3) than what Paul had taught to the Ephesians and to Timothy. Two of these persons are mentioned by name in ch. 1, v. 20 for having made a "shipwreck of their faith" (v. 19). What were the teachings that were concerning Paul? Myths (Greek mythology, i.e. Artemis and others) and genealogies as well as demands by the Jews (such as Alexander - see Acts 19-20) for keeping the law, including dietary restrictions (4.3).

Ultimately, these false teachings were confusing the the people in the church at Ephesus. Paul wrote to the church in Ephesians 4 that a key responsibility of the leaders of the church was to equip the saints for ministry until all attain unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God. (Ephesians 4.11-13). But he continued with the reason in v. 14 with a "so that". The reason - so people would not be tossed about by:

  • different doctrines
  • human cunning
  • craftiness
  • or other deceitful schemes

All of these falsehoods confused the people from the real truth. Moreover, the people that were teaching them were corrupt by seared consciences (1 Timothy 4.2) and deceitful (4.1) with depraved minds who were deprived of truth (6.5).

So Timothy was to protect the Christ's church by keeping the false teachings out of the church. By Timothy speaking the truth it was possible that the false teachers could be won to Christ. After all, that is what happened to Paul. Paul talks about being the worst of sinners, yet being saved by Christ as an example of what God can do for people who let Him work in their lives. Paul says that he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and insolent. (1.13). But God's mercy covered Paul. And God's grace saved Paul. And God's love delivered Paul. And although Paul would have to face much persecution (his punishment for his earlier actions), he was judged faithful by Christ. (1.12) And his letter was to encourage Timothy to remain faithful as well.

While it is unknown exactly what transpired, it is certain the church of Ephesus prevailed for some time. Even into the 5th Century, Ephesus had a place in God's Kingdom work with the 3rd Council having taken place there. But far prior to this Council, in fact just a few decades after Paul wrote this letter, Jesus gives His command to the church (Revelation 2.1-7). The church was still active. In fact, it appears they were following Paul's desires well about watching out for deceptive teachings. But they had lost their love for Jesus and needed to repent.

Church, we can do wonderful things for the Kingdom. We can serve God, proclaim Jesus, give abundantly, study and learn His Word, teach others faithfully, keep all of His commands, fight against the false teachings of our day, etc. but do we do so out of love? Have we, and more specifically, have you, lost your first love? If so, Jesus told the church to repent (Revelation 2.6). We are not to love blindly. Jesus commended the work done by the Ephesians in vv. 2, 3, and 6. But for all they were doing, they were neglecting their time with Him.

Paul's love for God and the impact of Jesus on His life is so evident (1 Timothy 1.12-17) that what he did was out of love - for Timothy, for the church at Ephesus, and for his fellow man in general. The first verses of 1 Corinthians 13 suggest that Paul knew well that he once had, and other people did, do many wonderful things, but without love they meant nothing.

So, church, stand up for God. Proclaim His message. Stand firm for His truth. Watch for the dangers of false teachers and their teachings. But first and foremost spend time with Jesus. It is then, and only then, that you will love Him, and be able to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4.15) to correct what needs to be corrected without condemnation. Only God knows, but our words, our actions, and most importantly our attitude of love may be the difference in someone's eternal destination.

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