1st Timothy 1
1st Timothy is one of my favourite books of the Bible. In it, we read a letter from Paul, an older pastor, to his young friend, Timothy, who has recently begun ministering in a church. I imagine that, if Paul was to write me a letter as I begin my ministry, he might write these kings of things to me.
1. The Truth must be Taught (v. 1-7)
The letter begins with a fairly standard greeting from Paul. But he wastes no time in getting into the reasons he is writing. Paul points out that some have abandoned the truth of the Christian faith, and are instead follow their own agendas. We read:
They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. (v. 7)
This has caused a number of followers to also deviate from the central truths of the Christian faith. Paul encourages Timothy to deal with this by standing firm in the Truth of the Gospel, and sharing this with others.
We can employ the same strategy today. In order to encourage faith, we must be grounded in the Truth and be equipped to share this with others. A good starting point is to read the Bible: Any knowledge of the Truth can be found here. Prayer is good too. Talking to more experienced Christians, or reading good Christians books – also helpful!
The Truth must first be read from the Bible, and then taught to others.
2. The Truth is needs wisdom (v. 8-11)
We know that the law is good is one uses it properly. (v. 8)
The words “law and “Truth” are sometimes used interchangeably. This is because they are both words we use to refer to the Word of God. Therefore, the Word of God is good, when used properly.
There are two common approaches to applying the Bible to everyday life. The first suggests we need to rigidly apply whatever the Bible says at face value. The second suggests we can pick and choose the bits that fit best. Both of these are wrong.
The first is wrong because it neglects the context in which the Bible was written. The Bible is timeless because God reveals Himself to us through it’s pages; but in order to apply it properly, we need to be aware of the context in which it was written.
The second is wrong because it assumes we have authority over Scripture. This leads down all sorts of unhelpful roads; not least, how do we know which bits to leave, and which to chuck? From my experience, people that take this path make decisions about bits of the Bible based on how they “feel”. The trouble is: feelings can be deceiving!
I suggest that, when it comes to applying the Bible today, we need wisdom:
- We need to preserve every single part of the Bible, because God has revealed Himself through it. If we ignore any part, then we lose access to a particular aspect of God. For example, we need to retain the Old Testament Laws about sacrifices, because help us understand God’s plans for salvation through history.
- Not all passages are still applicable today. The above Old Testament Law is a good example of this: Jesus came as the sacrifice for ALL of our sins, so we no longer need to kill animals, so we don’t apply this directly. But we still retain this in the Bible, because it gives a richer meaning to Jesus’ sacrifice.
All Scripture is useful, relevant, reveals something of the nature of God, but is not necessarily applicable, and we need wisdom from God when trying to apply the Bible to our lives.
3. The Truth is the Gospel (v. 12-17)
This section gives a window into Paul’s experience of Jesus:
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners: of whom I am the worst. But, for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience (v. 15-16)
By saving Paul, “God has taken the wildest, most violent of blaspheming persecutors, and has transformed him into not only a believer but also a trusted apostle and evangelist. If God can do that, there is nobody out there, no heart so hard, no anger so bitter, that it remains outside of God’s patient mercy…nobody is beyond [God’s] loving reach.” (N.T. Wright, 2004:12-13) That is the power and truth of the Gospel!
4. Poor Hymenaues and Alexander (v. 18-20)
In these closing verses, we are encouraged to hold firmly to our faith. If we reject God, or somehow try and modify our faith to suit our own agendas, we might end up like poor Hymenaues and Alexander; shipwrecked!
But what’s this about them being handed over to Satan? Well, Paul saw the fellowship of the church as the place above all where the power of God was active. So to forbid someone access to it was like sending them away, where the only spiritual influence might be that of Satan. The aim, of course, is that after a short time in such condition they would realise their mistake and come back (N.T. Wright, 2004:16-17).
The first chapter of Timothy is concerned with Truth. God’s Truth, must be taught, and taught faithfully. Truth requires wisdom, wisdom especially when it comes to applying God’s Word to our world and our lives today. And, something we must never ever forget; God’s Truth is the Gospel, which is that Christ Jesus came to save sinners and because of this, no one is beyond the vast, endless love and forgiveness offered by our God.