By Dr. Donald Whitchard
If you have not read part one you can find it here:
“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia – remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk desiring to be teachers of the law understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.”
- 1 Timothy 1:3-11 (NKJV)
Let’s hit the ground running by affirming that the Apostle Paul was the author of these two letters that we are about to study. Nearly all worthwhile biblical scholars will attest to this fact. The first letter to Timothy was composed around 64 A.D., which was the year that major persecution broke out in Rome due to the fire that engulfed the city and destroyed nearly all of the buildings and homes save for a few acres around the palace of Nero, the Emperor of the time. Nero was a madman who fancied himself a poet, musician, and warrior, but had also carried out the murders of his mother and pregnant wife without remorse. Blame for the fire was being put on him due to the fact that he had planned to redesign Rome and build an opulent palace naming the structure after himself. He cast blame for the fire upon the Christians of Rome, who many citizens saw as atheists for their refusal to worship the many gods and goddesses of the Empire as well as the self-imposed divinity of the Emperor. They were also seen as disloyal to Rome, suspected of varied crimes, and as insurrectionists due to their allegiance to Jesus Christ and not the Emperor as the rightful ruler of all things. Major persecution and horrendous torture was put on the Christians, from being torn apart by wild beasts in the arena, to being set on fire, crucified, forced to fight gladiators who gladly killed them for the delight of the crowds, and was the final stop on the journey for both Paul and Peter. Both men would be imprisoned and martyred around A.D. 67 from beheading and crucifixion respectively. Persecution on an empire-wide scale would not begin until a few years after Nero’s suicide and the establishment of a new imperial dynasty, the Flavians, and the rise of Domitian (81-96), who demanded to be called “lord and god” on pain of exile. The apostle John would feel his wrath and be exiled from Ephesus to Patmos, where he would compose the book of Revelation. That is for another study in the future. We need to return to Paul and his letter.
The letters to Timothy were written to encourage him to be a godly example to his church as Paul was to him, and to exercise the spiritual gifts as well as to give guidance in carrying out the responsibilities expected of a pastor. The church at Ephesus had been founded by Paul and he ministered there for three years (Acts 20:17-38). As was presented briefly in the last teaching, the city was a major hub of commerce in the Empire and was the main city on the peninsula of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). We have also noted that Timothy had been mentioned in other New Testament writings such as Acts and the letters to the Corinthians, Philippians, and the church at Thessalonica as Paul’s ministry associate, along with others such as Luke, the author of the Gospel and Acts, and Silas.
Paul opens us after his greeting (1:1-3) to address some strange doctrines that were an issue with the church, namely fables, or stories that have no historical or doctrinal foundation (which skeptics accuse the Bible of containing), and the useless ritual of examining family backgrounds or genealogies, which were ancestral roots that could be used to show someone’s social or economic superiority over others. These things, according to Paul, cause unnecessary disputes and take away time and teaching for those things which are sound.
Verse 5 describes the use of Scripture as the tool for presenting the truth. It produces a pure-hearted love, a good conscience, and a faith that is sincere. Others in the church, however, have ignored this and were resorting to talk that wastes time and produces nothing. These would be so-called “teachers” who would espouse nothing more than their own opinions and ideas that were not grounded in the truth of Scripture and really amounted to nothing of merit or worth. These people really have no idea of what they’re talking about and the result is the spread of what Paul sees as absolute foolishness. When we hear the “sermons” of some ministers today that are based on self-esteem, motivation, educated opinion, social relevance, and political philosophy that stir emotions but do not lead to the cross and repentance before the Sovereign Lord, the points made by Paul ring true more so as we see the rise of apostasy and rebellion against the expectations of God.
Paul now focuses his attention on what is to be the proper use of Scripture in the work of the church. In verses 8 and following, he declares that the Word of God is to be used as a point of comfort for the righteous and a tool of condemnation for those who flaunt their wickedness, such as those who blaspheme, speaking evil of God. Scripture condemns murder, both in word and deed, the constant problem of sexual immorality, the forbidden practice of homosexual behavior and sodomy (Leviticus 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Romans 1:26-27), the abduction and kidnapping of children, lying, and perjury. All of these are contrary to the teaching of Scripture. The Word of God (2 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 4:12) never allows these acts of wickedness to stay hidden or explained away by the sinner. God’s Word is a light that drives out the spiritual darkness of a person’s heart and soul (Romans 3:10-18).
The solution is to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ (John 3:16; 14:6; Romans 10:9-10) and trust Him to run and guide your life. Jesus Christ is far more important than any agenda or cause. No pastor worth his salt will devote time to anything that will take his focus upon the spiritual welfare and growth of his people. His focus is to be on Christ and those things that are pleasing in His sight (1 John 3:22). It seems to me that the modern church of Jesus Christ has its mind on trends and fads that promote relevance and popularity along with the desire to be liked by the world. That is a recipe for disaster. We all need to repent and get right with the LORD and get back to the main purpose of why the church is here in the first place – to preach the Gospel, teach the truth of God’s Word, and to encourage each other in these troubling times (Hebrews 10:25). Nothing else matters, and His arrival is soon. Let’s greet Him with a harvest as we meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Stay tuned.
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