Reflections on 1 Timothy

I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I (try to) post about what I’ve read. Other posts this month are on 1 KingsEzekiel, Daniel, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, and 2 Thessalonians.

We’re introduced to Timothy in Acts 16:1. From then on, he is Paul’s travelling and preaching companion as well as a faithful messenger. Paul describes him as a son, a brother and a fellow worker. It is clear that the apostle has a deep affection for him.

1:1-20

Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus to command false teachers there to stop their lies (1:3). This letter was meant to instruct Timothy and to encourage him as he went about fighting the good fight in defense of the glorious gospel.

This gospel had transformed Paul’s life: he was once a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent man, but he was shown mercy (1:13). Christ wants to display this same mercy to all who believe on Him (1:16).

What are the weapons of the good fight? Faith and a good conscience (1:19). Put differently, right belief and right behaviour.

2:1-7

Believers should pray for everyone. Why? So that all may come to a knowledge of the truth of Christ (2:4).

2:8-15

Paul desires that men pray without anger or disputing (2:8) and that women dress modestly (2:9). He goes on to write that women should learn in submission and not teach or have authority over men. Are these binding for us today? In verses 13 and 14, Paul argues his point from creation, not from cultural norms. We’d therefore have to conclude that these commands are indeed binding for us in the 21st century. [I’ve blogged about submission here under #24].

3:1-16

Paul now turns to matters of church administration. It is worth noting that the characteristics of overseers and deacons are largely those of all Christians, with the exception of an ability to teach (3:2) and not being a recent convert (3:6).  A Christian leader must therefore be a model of Christian living.

4:1-16

Paul returns to the false teachers and their teaching (4:1-3). He reminds Timothy that all of God’s gifts are meant to be received with thanksgiving (4:4-5). Enjoyment of things like food and marriage isn’t wrong, provided we are grateful to God for them.

Timothy, in contrasting the false teachers, is to command by example (4:11-12). They were hypocritical liars (4:2), and so Timothy’s life would stand out in comparison to theirs (4:15). Paul urges Timothy  to be diligent in and devoted to the public reading of scripture, preaching and teaching (4:13, 15). By closely watching his life and doctrine, he’d save not only himself, but also his hearers (4:16).

5:1-6:2

A section on behaviour in church. 5:1-2 covers how to treat others in general. 5:3-15 is on widows. Family members had the first responsibility in taking care of their own (5:4, 8, 16). The church, as the larger family of God, stepped in when there was no one else (5:5).

5:17-25 deals with elders. Paul likens good elders to oxen and to farm labourers (5:18)—both pictures of hard workers! Such elders are to be valued and thanked (5:17). Paul then sets outs guidelines for protecting the innocent and confronting the impenitent (5:19-20). He then urges Timothy to exercise caution in appointing leaders (5:22, 24-25). Sandwiched in those instructions is 5:23, appearing out of the blue.

He turns his attention to slaves, exhorting subversive behaviour—what would masters make of slaves serving willingly?

6:3-10

Back to false teaching and its effects (6:3-5). Paul also touches on the dangers of covetousness in this life (6:9) and in eternity (6:10- wandering from the faith). The Christian is to pursue godliness with contentment (6:6).

6:11-21

Timothy is to:

  • flee from false doctrines and a desire to be rich;
  • pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness;
  • fight the good fight of the faith.

We can be encouraged that Christ fought and won (6:13) and that there is a God we can trust as we fight (6:15-16). Our hope is to be in God (6:17), not in wealth. The proof that our hope is in God and not in riches is generosity (6:18).  By hoping in God, we have the promise of life that is truly life (6:19)!

Sources: Christopher Ash, D.A. Carson

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