The First Letter of Paul to Timothy (1)
Warning Against False Teachers
I Timothy 1:1-11
It was during Paul’s 4th missionary journey that he had instructed Timothy, his disciple and fellow worker, to care for the church at Ephesus while he went on to Macedonia. Knowing that he could not return to Ephesus right away, Paul wrote this letter to Timothy. Evidently he was not in prison at the time because he repeatedly mentions his desire to visit Ephesus and see Timothy. The letter was probably written about AD 64, 6 years before the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. Paul’s purpose was to give Timothy further instructions as to how to lead the church at Ephesus, and to refute false teachings that were gaining power there.
I. Paul the apostle & Timothy his son
A. Paul identifies himself as the writer and affirms his apostleship. He writes that he is an apostle by the command of God. It was God’s call and God’s command that put him in that position. It was not his choice! He was not like the self-appointed so-called apostles of today. C. Peter Wagner and others have set themselves up as apostles and heads of Christ’s church. We cannot find any evidence in God’s Word that He has chosen them to be apostles today. All of the apostles of the early church were chosen, called, and commanded to be apostles by the Lord Jesus Himself. You remember how He appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, blinded him, and later called him to be an apostle to the Gentiles. Acts 9:15
B. It’s interesting that Paul writes that God is our Savior and Jesus Christ is our hope. Of course it’s true that God saved us but we usually refer to Christ as our Savior. But Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. John 1:14 Actually it is the triune God who is our Savior and our Hope. While Jesus is the One who died for us, it was God the Father who sent Him. And when we are born again by Jesus Christ it is God the Holy Spirit who comes to live in us. And so we who were without hope have hope for the present and for eternity. Eph. 2:12 The letter is addressed to Timothy, “my true son in the faith”. He was a true spiritual son as Paul was a true spiritual father to him. Paul blessed Timothy with grace, mercy and peace. Grace is what God gives us that we don’t deserve. Mercy is what God extends to us when we actually deserve judgment. Peace from the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord only come because we have received His mercy and through faith and grace have become His sons instead of His enemies.
A. Paul reminds Timothy of how he had urged him to stay in Ephesus while he went on to Macedonia. Paul was depending on Timothy to protect the Christians in Ephesus from the various false teachings that had come to the church there. It is the responsibility and duty of church leaders to protect God’s sheep by telling them the truth and warning them to stay away from false teachers. If they don’t do their job some of the people who have not been taught well may be swept away from the Lord and His Word into demonic teachings and practices. The 3 major heresies at that time that had come to Ephesus were Gnosticism, decadent Judaism, and false asceticism.
B. The Gnostics taught that man’s spirit is entirely good, but that matter or man’s body is entirely evil. People were encouraged to seek spiritual experiences that were supposed to lift them from the body to a high spiritual plane. This is common today. Many believe that being “slain in the spirit” or drunk in the spirit or anointed by someone lifts them to a higher level of spirituality. These were not taught in the Bible and can lead us to be demonized. The false Judaizers were teaching that the ceremonial practices of the Old Testament were to be followed by Christians. But the early church had denounced this sort of thing in the Church Council, and had written a letter to the Gentile Christians to tell them about their decision. Acts 15:24-29
C. This attempt to follow the Law and require certain ceremonies is followed by some groups such as the Seventh Day Adventists. Col. 2:16 There was also a false asceticism in which the leaders taught that the body must be treated harshly in order to please God and become more holy. The Catholic Church down through the centuries has developed this idea, leading to celibacy for priests and nuns, and monks living in isolation in monasteries. There is required fasting or denying of the body, and even brutality such as beating the body. Much of this is practiced in the Philippines and Latin America. These were never taught by Christ or the apostles.
A. Paul was not telling Timothy to be gentle with these false teachers. He was to command them not to teach heresy any longer. This was evidently to be a face-to-face confrontation in which Timothy would represent Paul and God! He was also to command them not to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. They must have been spending their lives creating stories and imaginary doctrines out of their minds. Probably the Gnostics were devoted to creating myths, as they still are today – making up supposed visions and revelations, trying to convince people that God has spoken to them. The Judaizers were spending countless hours investigating genealogies - probably to prove that they were descendants of someone important. They must have been using this stuff to build their case. When we rely on anything except God’s absolute Truth, we are in danger.
B. Using myths and stories to bolster our teaching promotes controversy rather than God’s work which is founded on His Word and faith. It seems to me that such things are inspired by pride and self-importance, whereas God’s work is by faith, not in ourselves but in God! Faith makes us humble as we recognize how great God is and how insignificant we are without Him. Although Timothy was to command them to stop doing those things, he was not to be dictatorial or to do it with selfish motives. The goal of this command was love! Do we love those who have gone astray and that’s why we help them to stop what they’re doing? Do we pray for them with tears or attack them with bitter and angry words? I Pet. 4:8
C. This love has to come from 3 things: a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. We must take a clear stand for the truth with a pure heart (the right motives), a good conscience (no hidden agendas), and a sincere faith (not just outward show of “holiness”). It’s obvious that Paul did not consider these false teachers as being pure, good and sincere. Their hearts were not pure because they had misplaced motives. They were not doing what they were doing with a clear conscience. Somehow they knew that what they were promoting did not please God. All of our relationship with God has to be based on sincere faith. If our “faith” is not real, we only deceive ourselves and others.
D. Paul wrote that some had wandered from this kind of love. Instead they turned to meaningless talk. We find this kind of foolishness in the “sacred writings” of Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, Islam and others. They are filled with myths, genealogies and nonsense. Why do people write such books and teach such theories and myths over TV? It’s because they want to be known as “teachers of the Law”. They want to be acclaimed by men as great teachers who are supposedly representing God. Paul sums up their teaching with a clear-cut statement: “they do not know what they’re talking about or what they so confidently affirm”. They are off-base and don’t know it. They think they have all the answers, but they are sadly mistaken. They have been deceived and are deceiving others. II Tim. 3:13
IV. The Law is not for the righteous
A. Evidently Paul is referring to Judaizers when he writes about the Law. The Law of God is good if one uses it properly. In other words, it can be misused as all of God’s Word can be and is sometimes misused. Paul writes that the Law is not made for the righteous. The just/righteous shall live by faith and obedience to God. Rom. 1:17 What is the purpose of the Law and for whom was it written? The purpose of the Law has to do with sin or transgressions. Gal. 3:19 It was given for lawbreakers. Paul describes them as rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious. He identifies some of these as those who kill fathers and mothers, murderers, adulterers, perverts, slave traders, liars and perjurers. It’s interesting that liars are in the same list with the most vile and evil kinds of people. Rev. 21:8 It makes us wonder about those false teachers like Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland who claim to be godly and yet think nothing of lying on a regular basis.
B. So what is the purpose of the Law? It is given to reveal the sins of all those who live and speak in ways that don’t conform to sound doctrine. Because we all are prisoners of sin, we are also prisoners of the Law. It holds us responsible for all our sinful ways and points to our failures to live up to God’s standards. Gal. 3:22-23 So what is the real purpose of the Law? Is it only to condemn us and take away out hope? No. It is to lead us to Christ. Gal. 3:24-25 We cannot be saved until we see the awfulness of our sins and choose to repent of them and in faith ask for Christ’s forgiveness. This is the proper use of the Law. Once we are forgiven and live by faith and obedience we no longer need the Law because the law of Christ is written on our hearts.
C. The Law is to bring to justice those who are living in a way contrary to sound doctrine. Where is that sound doctrine? It conforms to the glorious gospel of the Blessed God. In other words, the gospel is at the center and all doctrine must conform to it. There are many brief descriptions of the gospel in the New Testament. One of the best is in Col. 1:21-23. 1.) We were alienated from God and actually His enemies. 2.) The reason was our evil behavior. God is holy and we are sinners. 3.) We were reconciled back to God by Christ’s death. 4.) Through our faith and God’s grace we are forgiven and presented as holy before God. 5.) This redemption and reconciliation to God depends on our continuing in our faith. This is the gospel of which Paul was a servant. God entrusted this glorious gospel message to Paul. That means that anything contrary to the gospel and to Paul’s teaching does not conform to the gospel and is therefore not sound doctrine.
It seems very hard for Paul to tell Timothy to command the false teachers to stop teaching false doctrines. But when we see that the goal of that command is love, we realize that if we care about others, we will try to turn them away from their heresy before they wander too far away to be brought back. This love which tries to turn people around and back to the Lord comes from a pure heart. That pure heart wants only good for those who may be lost if they are not faced with the truth. A good conscience is in tune with the God who is not willing that any should perish, even those who turn their backs on Him. These, added to sincere faith, will keep us on the right track as we help others back to the narrow way. James 5:19-20
The First Letter of Paul to Timothy (2)
Fight the Good Fight
I Timothy 1:12-20
In our last lesson Paul identified the men who were teaching false doctrines, devoting themselves to myths and endless genealogies. He told Timothy to watch out for them and to command them to stop teaching their heresies. He wrote that the Law is good if used properly. One of its uses is to identify those who are lawbreakers. Another use is to identify whatever is contrary to sound doctrine. Sound doctrine must conform to the glorious gospel. I Tim. 1:11 This was the gospel that the Lord entrusted to Paul who goes on to describe himself in very unflattering terms.
I. A blasphemer & persecutor
A. Why did the Lord entrust the gospel to Paul? Was it because he was so holy? Paul was brutally honest about himself. That is a sign of a humble servant of God. When people feel that they have to brag about where they have been, what they have done, and whom they know, you have reason to doubt that they are true servants of God. They certainly aren’t humble! Paul who is a faithful spiritual father to Timothy reminds him again of his calling and background. I’m sure that Timothy knew all this, but I think Paul wanted all that he wrote to be considered on the basis of who he was and what he had done – both good and bad. But in writing about himself, Paul first points to “Christ Jesus our Lord”. To Christ he gives the glory for giving him strength, considering him faithful, and appointing him to His service. Only Christ can take an unworthy instrument, transform it, and use it for His glory.
B. It was Christ who rescued Paul on the road to Damascus, and turned him around. It was Christ who trained him in his years in Arabia and Tarsus. It was Christ who appointed him to serve. All glory must go to Christ! Paul hastens to add that it was not because he was worthy when Christ found him. In fact, he was the worst of the worst. He defines himself as “a blasphemer”…”a persecutor’…”a violent man” – not a pretty picture! Acts 8:3 This is what Paul was inside and outside for all the world to see. Paul writes that the reason he was shown mercy was because he acted in ignorance and unbelief. I’m sure that before he was saved Paul would have been furious if anyone had called him “ignorant” or “unbelieving”. Paul would have been quick to defend himself, saying that he was a holy and zealous Pharisee. Phil. 3:4-6 This was his ignorance – that he didn’t know how far he was from God. He thought he was very wise and a fervent believer in Judaism. How blind we can be!
A. Paul acknowledges that at his conversion he had received the grace of God which was poured out on him. But for God’s grace, he and we would be headed for eternal hell! Do we realize that it takes abundant grace for us to be forgiven of our many sins? Along with God’s grace, the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus were also poured out on Paul and on us who have believed and been saved. Paul states the gospel as a “trustworthy saying” that we must accept: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” That was God’s plan from eternity past. Paul adds that if you’re looking for an example of a sinner, look at him. He said, “Look at me. I’m the worst.” You and I may not be the worst sinners, but we must see the awfulness of our sin before we can truly repent and recognize the greatness of God’s grace toward us.
B. Why would Christ give up His life to save the “worst “ sinners? Paul wrote that the reason he was shown mercy was so that Christ “might display His unlimited patience”. If there is an example of God’s patience and compassion, surely Paul is the best one. God saw him persecuting His loved ones and heard him blaspheming the name of His precious Son. Acts 9:1-5 What patience God showed to put up with this, and then reach down to rescue him. Paul became the supreme example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life. If Christ could have mercy on Paul and save him, He can surely save anyone! It’s as if the Lord took him from the trash heap to use as a demonstration of what God can do for anyone who repents and turns to Him.
C. This is so wonderful to Paul that he breaks out in a doxology of praise. How often do we pour forth our love and praise to God for the way He rescued us? Do we just take it for granted, as if God owes us something? He doesn’t owe us anything. In fact, we owe Him everything! To God belongs all glory and honor for what He has done. And how does Paul describe Him? He is the King – in fact the King of kings! He is eternal – with no beginning and no ending – the Alpha and Omega. He is immortal – never dying, forever alive. He is invisible. We can see Him only in the Person of His Son. Col. 2:9; John 1:14 And He is the only God! We do not have many gods as some believe. Of course, Satan and demons call themselves “gods” but they’re not! So of course He deserves all honor and glory forever. That’s why we still use Paul’s doxology in our churches.
A. Paul writes to Timothy, his son in the faith, as a wise father, advising and encouraging his son. I can imagine how precious was Paul’s relationship with his son Timothy. Though Paul had many friends, he also had many enemies. He didn’t have a wife and children to alleviate his loneliness and help him to bear his heavy burden. No doubt Timothy was God’s blessing to him. Prophecies had been made over Timothy when he had been ordained to the ministry and the elders laid hands on him. It seems from I Tim. 4:14 that the prophecy mentioned his gift – perhaps preaching or teaching or evangelizing. Obviously, Timothy had been using his gifts as he traveled with Paul. Otherwise, Paul would not have left him in charge of the church in Ephesus. In following those prophecies and using his God-given gifts, Timothy would need to “fight the good fight” In II Tim. 2:3 Paul later reminded Timothy to endure hardness as a good soldier.
B. What is this good fight? Does this mean that we are supposed to fight with other Christians? Should we fight with unbelievers who don’t want to accept Christ? The good fight is standing up for the truth of God’s Word against false teachers and heretics who would destroy the faith of Christians and lead non-Christians down the wrong path. It is standing up against the power of the enemy who would like to discredit and destroy. Timothy was reminded to “hold onto faith and a good conscience”. We are saved by faith and our conscience is cleansed from guilt when the Lord forgives us. But that’s not the end of the story! We have to hold on! We must not stop believing. We must live up to the truth that our consciences support. Paul was reminding Timothy to protect himself with the shield of faith and live with a clear conscience, knowing that he was going God’s way. This is what we all must do. Eph. 6:16
A. Paul now gives Timothy a severe warning because Paul has seen some people reject their faith and refuse to live by their conscience. So their faith was shipwrecked. Unfortunately, we have plenty of similar examples in our world today. Evidently our faith and conscience are like a ship which carries us through life to our destination. But if our ship called “Faith” is shipwrecked because of our carelessness, what will be the outcome? Perhaps we will never reach the docks of heaven. We have seen many wrecked ships in Micronesia. How were they wrecked? Most of them landed on the reefs because the captains did not know the dangers of Micronesian waters. We must have discernment and know the dangers of false teachers today or we can drive our ship right into trouble. Some ships were thrown off course by storms and strong winds. If we are not safely anchored in Christ, our faith can be destroyed by the trials of life. I Pet. 4:19
B. Some people think that it is wrong to specifically name false teachers and those who are leading others astray. Paul doesn’t hesitate to name two who evidently started out well but ended up with a shipwrecked faith. Some Christians falsely believe that true believers cannot be deceived and cannot lose their salvation or shipwreck their faith. If that were true, why did the Lord speak often about being careful not to be deceived? Matt. 24:4,5,24 If God’s servants cannot be shipwrecked, then why would Jesus use such awful words of condemnation about His servants who were unfaithful? Matt. 24:51; 25:12, 30
C. What were the sins of these men that caused them to shipwreck their faith and to be a danger to the church?
1.) Hymenaeus. Here only his name is given, but in Paul’s second letter to Timothy he wrote about him again. II Tim. 2:17 Paul wrote a warning to Timothy that Hymenaeus’ teaching was spreading like gangrene. He had wandered off course, away from the truth. He was teaching that the resurrection had already taken place. He was probably teaching that the spirit had already been resurrected during conversion and baptism, and that there is no such thing as the bodily resurrection that is plainly taught in I Cor. 15. In doing this, he destroyed the hope of the resurrection and the faith of some. Anyone who teaches something that denies or opposes God’s Word has not only shipwrecked his own faith but will shipwreck the faith of other Christians as well.
2.) Alexander. Once again Paul writes more about this man in his second letter to Timothy. II Tim. 4:14-15 He is called a metal worker who had done great harm to Paul. Probably he was one of the silversmiths who were so angry that they made a riot in Ephesus because Paul had ruined their business. So many people were becoming Christians that they were no longer buying the statues of Artemis and other gods. I think that Alexander may have followed Paul to Rome to testify against him at his trial. Although Paul knew that the Lord would repay him for what he had done to His servant, he warned Timothy to watch out for him because he had shipwrecked his own faith and was strongly opposed to the message of salvation.
D. What should be done about these 2 men who were dangerous to the Christians? Paul said that he had handed them over to Satan as he did the man in Corinth who was immoral. I Cor. 5:4-5 Why would he hand them over to Satan? So that the sinful nature might be destroyed, they might be taught not to blaspheme, and that their spirits might be saved. It seems that that did take place with the immoral man in Corinth, and he was restored. II Cor. 2:6-8 Evidently it didn’t work with these 2 who didn’t repent, because Paul writes of them in his second letter before his execution in Rome. This turning over to Satan seems to have been excommunication from the church body until repentance took place. The goal was repentance and restoration, but the church had to deal severely with these men in order for them to recognize the seriousness of their sin in shipwrecking their faith and ignoring their conscience.
Church discipline is always difficult. In fact, discipline of any kind is difficult. Children hate to be disciplined, but those who are not end up a problem to their parents and to society as a whole. God disciplines His true children. It’s not fun, but it is necessary. Heb. 12:5-11 What is the point of discipline? It produces a harvest of righteousness and peace to those who have been trained by it. We cannot help people by agreeing with their sin or looking the other direction as if it were O.K. It’s difficult to talk to people about their sin, especially if they are in positions of leadership. The goal of this discipline is to help the person come to repentance and restoration to the Lord. But we also have to protect God’s family from the cancer that evil examples can spread.
The First Letter of Paul to Timothy (3)
Instructions on Worship
I Timothy 2:1-15
Timothy had an important job to do for the Lord. Paul had left him in Ephesus to care for the Ephesian Church while he traveled on to Macedonia. It was a lot of responsibility for this young man. As in Micronesian cultures, the older men do not always listen to younger pastors. Paul was aware of that problem and so he advised Timothy in I Tim. 4:12 to be an example for the believers. He wrote, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young.” Much of this first letter of Paul to Timothy deals with the worship in the church and the church leadership. For that reason it is still very valuable to us today as we try to find God’s way for His church.
I. Public and private prayer
A. It’s interesting that the first subject Paul introduces about the church has to do with prayer. He writes, “I urge, first of all”…In his instructions about worship Paul makes prayer a major part. Col. 4:2 I remember when I was young that prayer was heavily emphasized. All churches had prayer meetings. It seems that today prayer is not the major thing in our churches. We are to make requests and pray for them. We are to intercede for others, and give thanksgiving to God. It should be a part of our worship. Of course, if we don’t pray like this in our own rooms we will probably not think it is important in church either. For whom should we be praying? Paul writes that we should pray for “everyone”. That doesn’t mean that we should say, “Lord, bless everyone”, or something like that. We are to pray for individuals who especially need our prayers, whoever they may be. Eph. 6:18
B. We should especially be praying for all those in authority, from the king or president on down. Our leaders need our prayers, so that God can through them guide our country, allowing us to live peaceful and quiet lives pursuing godliness and holiness. How much do we appreciate the peaceful and quiet lives we are able to live in our country? We only have to watch the news to know that many places in the world it is far from peaceful. Many have a hard time pursuing godliness and holiness because they are not living in peace and quiet. Why is this especially pleasing to God? Because He wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. God knows that all men will not be saved, but it is His heart’s desire that they should be. II Pet. 3:9 This is why Jesus came to give all men the opportunity to be saved, even though some will choose not to give their hearts to Him.
A. Paul’s emphasis here on “all men” in verses 4 and 6 makes a strong point against those who teach that God chooses some to be saved and He chooses others to be lost. God wants all to be saved and Christ gave Himself as a ransom for all men. All men have the opportunity, but not all men take it. For many it is because they refuse to acknowledge the core doctrinal truths in verse 5. First, there is only one God! That cuts out all the idol worshippers, the Hindus and the animists. To know God we must first agree that there is only one God and He is supreme. Secondly, there is only one Mediator between God and man. He is the Man Christ Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the Godman and the only way to the Father. John 14:6 Only Jesus is the Mediator or go-between, not Mary or Mohammed or any other. This cuts out Catholicism and Islam.
B. There is only one Person who can bring us to the Father and provide the way for us to be at peace with God instead of His enemies. Why is Jesus the only Mediator and the only Way to God? It is because He who is both man and God, has given Himself as a ransom for all men – the price paid for slaves or hostages. Once again we have a picture of the Trinity – the one God in three Persons, one of whom is Christ Jesus who alone is the Mediator to bring us to the Father. This mystery of Christ was made known by God in His due time. Eph. 3:4-5 Paul was appointed by God to be a herald or proclaimer of this truth. God called him to be a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles. Eph. 3:6
III. Proper conduct of Christians
A. Paul now goes into proper conduct of Christians in the church. First, he addresses the shortcomings of men. He calls on men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, and to put aside anger and arguing. Evidently they had problems then as they do now about speaking big words and arguing over theology. Instead they are to be holy and spend their time in prayer. Are men’s hands holy today? Are they the ones who take the main responsibility of prayer for the church body? Too often it is the women who are praying - not the men. Maybe that’s why Paul wrote this, because there was the same problem in his day.
B. Now Paul points to one of the shortcomings of the women. They tend to be a distraction to the men in the way that they dress. Paul calls on women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety. Sometimes it seems to me that some women in church are purposely being a distraction to the men. Obviously, that’s not what God wants as He has brought the men there to worship and learn from Him. In Paul’s day evidently the women tried to attract the men by wearing braided or fancy hairdos, gold, pearls and expensive clothes. It’s quite common here in Hawaii for women to wear many gold bracelets to show off their wealth. But the bigger problem is when women today wear low necklines and very short skirts. Paul writes that women should instead “wear” good deeds because these are appropriate for women who profess to worship God. Peter writes in a similar way in I Pet. 3:3-4, that a woman’s beauty should be that of the inner self – the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. This is of great worth in God’s sight.
IV. The place of women in the church
A. Women are urged by both Peter and Paul to have a gentle and quiet spirit. In the church and in the home women are to learn in quietness and submission. This does not mean that they are not allowed to speak, but they are to come under the authority of the husband in the home and the pastors at church. Verse 12 has been often misunderstood and misused. It needs to be understood in context and with other passages that Paul wrote about the subject in I Cor. 14:33-35 and I Cor. 11:3-15. Women are not to take authority as leaders in the church. The Greek here can be translated “authority over a man” or “the authority of a man”. I think both are true. I believe that this points to the fact that women should not be pastors of churches.
B. But does this mean that a woman is never to teach others and is required to be silent at all times? This would not agree with what Paul wrote in I Cor. 11:5 which says specifically that when a woman prays or prophesies, she should have her head covered. Women were obviously allowed to pray and prophesy publicly. Prophesying most often refers to speaking or teaching God’s truth. Peter also quoted Joel in Acts 2:18 in which he wrote that both men and women would prophesy. The problem of head coverings was cultural. Women were considered morally loose, maybe prostitutes, if they didn’t cover their heads with a shawl or scarf. Today such an order doesn’t make sense in our society. Maybe if Paul were writing today he would say that women must not wear short skirts and low necklines which tend to make them look morally loose.
C. So what does Paul mean by women being “silent”? There are 2 different words for “silent” or “quietness” in the Greek. The one used here does not mean complete silence – no talking. It means to be settled down, undisturbed or not unruly. It is used in that way in Acts 22:2 and II Thess. 3:12. Women must not be bossy and disruptive in the church. In some churches today women put on a display of loud shouting and dancing which is definitely disruptive. In I Cor. 14:26-40 Paul dealt with orderly worship. He told how people should respect one another in the church and each speak in the right way at the right time. Women should not interrupt the discussions. If they had a question they were to ask their husbands at home. It seems that women were causing disruption and argument in the church, so Paul reprimanded them in I Cor. 14:33-35
V. God’s order of creation
A. God’s order of creation sets the tone for our relationships in the home and in the church. Adam was formed first as the primary person. Eve was then formed as his helpmate. Paul gave a longer explanation of what that entails in Eph. 5:22-33. The man is the head of the woman as Christ is the Head of the church. So women should be submissive to men in marriage and in the church, and men should operate only under the Lordship of Christ. This is balanced out in I Cor. 11:8-9 and 11-12. As woman came from man, so every man who has been born has come from a woman. But everyone and everything is from God. Therefore men and women are not independent of each other. They are interdependent – each depending on the other to do his or her job.
B. It appears from I Tim. 2:14 that Eve alone is responsible for sin entering the world, but that’s not what it says. It says that Adam was not the one deceived, but Eve was. Probably this is indicating that women are more easily deceived than men. There seems to be the same idea in II Tim. 3:6-7. So does this mean that Adam was not the sinner, but only Eve? Paul clarifies that in Rom. 6:12-21 where he says repeatedly that sin and death entered the world through one man, Adam, and only one Man, Christ, can save us from our sin. Adam’s sin was as great or greater than Eve’s. She, being the weaker of the two, was deceived. He, being the stronger and head of the family, should have taken his leadership role, corrected her, and refused to accept the fruit from her. His primary sin lay in the fact that he wanted to please his wife more than God and refused to shoulder his God-given responsibility.
C. Verse 15 is difficult to understand, and there have been many interpretations of it. Obviously, women cannot be saved from sin by bearing children. All men and women must be saved in the same way – through the death of Christ. It is only by grace through faith and only in Christ! One translation states that women will be “safe” through child bearing. Giving birth is a difficult and painful thing which is part of God’s curse on the woman for her part in the fall of mankind. Gen. 3:16 This would connect well with the context about woman being deceived by the serpent. And it would seem that Paul is here emphasizing the very important role of women as mothers. We have come to the place because of the feminist movement where we downplay this primary job of women – to bear and raise children to know and follow the Lord. In today’s world women are admired more for their professional jobs than for their faithfulness as wives and mothers. But this is true only if the Christian mother continues in faith, love and holiness with proper conduct as a woman of God. This includes the proper respect for God, husbands, and church leaders.
I think we have been brought face-to-face with some of our problems as men and women in this passage. Men have been put in authority by God, both in the home and in the church. But men don’t always take their God-given authority and live up to it, as Adam failed to protect and correct Eve. Men have the primary responsibility of prayer at home and in the church, but that is often neglected, too. Women are more easily deceived and so should be very discerning and come under the leadership of their husbands and pastors. Women can also be very disruptive in church meetings and need to learn when to be quiet. Another problem is that women can be used by the enemy to distract men from worship and from holy living. Men need to keep their eyes on the Lord and women need to be careful not to entice them to evil. Col. 3:1,2,5
The First Letter of Paul to Timothy (4)
Men of God in Church Leadership
I Timothy 3:1-13
So far, Paul has given Timothy many instructions to help guide him in his role as overseer of the church at Ephesus. He has warned him about the false teachers who were confusing and misleading the Christians. He has explained the proper use of the Law and has encouraged Timothy to hold to faith and a good conscience. He has given examples of those who, instead of holding to faith and a good conscience, had shipwrecked their faith. He has advised Timothy about the importance of prayer, the proper conduct of Christians, and the place of women in creation and in the church. Now Paul continues on with further instructions for the church, especially regarding the men in leadership. In helping Timothy, the Holy Spirit has also given us the guidelines we need today in the church.
I. Being a pastor, a noble task
A. Paul here very carefully describes the lifestyle of overseers or pastors, deacons, and their wives. He defines his subject in verses 14 & 15. “God’s household” is the way he describes the church. It is the “the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” If the leaders don’t live right and set a good example, what will happen to the whole church and the truth she proclaims? The whole church is affected by the leaders, and the impact on the world can be lost through poor leadership. Paul writes that desiring to be a church leader is a good thing because it is a noble task. However, if the man desiring to be a pastor wants the job for the purpose of elevating himself, gaining prestige, or for financial gain, he will be disqualified by the qualities of leadership that Paul lists.
B. Here the term used is “overseer”. In other places the church leader is called “elder” or “pastor” or just “leader”. All these refer to the job we call “pastor”, but each term defines something different about the role of pastor. An overseer of course oversees or looks over, protects and guards his congregation. Acts 20:28 This is not always carried out these days as pastors don’t always discern and protect their congregations from wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. Elder means one who has grown in the faith and is a mature Christian leader. The Mormons have misused this term. Pastor defines a man who, like a shepherd, cares personally for his sheep – visiting them, encouraging them and counseling them. Many of today’s pastors fail at this role. Of course, leader means one who takes the leadership and guides others who follow. I’m afraid that many men who want to be pastors are mostly interested in being leaders.
C. Paul clearly lists the qualifications of an overseer or pastor. Today it seems that men are often ordained as pastors simply because they are good speakers or powerful leaders. But are they “above reproach”? This means that no one can accuse them of evil ways and habits because their lives are clean and godly. They’re not guilty of public or private evil. What a shame it brings on Christ and the church when pastors are known to be full of lust or greed. The Mormons don’t follow Paul’s next qualification: “the husband of one wife”. They believe in and practice polygamy. But I have also heard of Protestant pastors who have a wife in each of two separate locations, one unknown to the other. Titus 1:6 What a shame! A pastor must be temperate – able to control his appetites – and self-controlled – in full control of his life, his words and deeds.
A. A pastor must be respectable and hospitable, treating people with kindness and generosity. It makes a lot of sense that pastors must be able to teach. This does not mean simply that the pastor knows how to talk well as many Micronesians do. He must have something worthwhile to talk about! I’m sure that you have heard pastors talk, as I have, without really saying anything important, or simply repeating the message of the last speaker in a different form. A pastor cannot teach unless he is a serious student of the Bible, spending many hours each week in preparation for the Sunday message and other Bible Studies he teaches. Any pastor given to drunkenness has lost the respect of the people and the blessing of God. Such a man is not qualified to be a pastor. I think this can also apply to those who are proud of being “drunk in the Spirit”. Any kind of drunkenness is repulsive to God because it is the opposite of being temperate and self-controlled.
B. Some men don’t get drunk, but they are violent, mistreating their wives and children. How can any man who beats his wife stand up in church as if he were holy? The pastor is to be gentle, not violent. One of the fruits of the Spirit is gentleness. Some men are not violent in their actions but they are in their words. They are quarrelsome, picking arguments with people. II Tim. 2:24 Unfortunately, some pastors who have many or all of these good qualifications fail on the next one. They are lovers of money. You can be poor and still be a lover of money, always wishing you had more, and complaining to the congregation about their failure to give. Heb. 13:5 says that we must keep our lives free from this love of money and be content with what we have. Why? Because we have a faithful Lord who will not fail us. This applies to everyone, not just pastors.
A. How a pastor leads his family has a direct connection with how he will lead the church. The pastor must be able to manage his family well. If his children do not obey him and show him the proper respect, how can the members of his church be expected to follow and respect him? If he cannot manage a small unit like his family, how can he manage the bigger unit of the church? “Manage” includes direction and discipline, leading and setting an example. That’s one of the reasons that he must be a mature believer, not a recent convert. A recent convert or immature believer put into the position of pastor may fall to the same pride that ruined the devil. One of the mistakes Micronesians make is to ordain men to be pastors who are not mature in the faith.
B. There is another trap of Satan that he sets for pastors, and these days many fall into it. “To have a good reputation with outsiders” means to live a good, clean, upright life – free from sex sins, the love of money, etc. The devil is very busy trying to ensnare God’s people in these things and especially God’s leaders. Why does Paul give such strict qualifications for pastors? It is because they represent the Lord to their congregations and to the people outside watching. When shame or disgrace comes on them it also comes on their Lord Jesus Christ. And they are set apart for God’s work to be examples like Paul was. You remember how he called himself an example and model to the Thessalonians. I Thess. 1:6; II Thess. 3:7-9
Read I Tim. 3:8-13
IV. Qualifications of deacons
A. Does Paul write to Timothy only instructions and correction for pastors? No! He also gives qualifications for deacons. Phil. 1:1 The word “deacon” means “humble servant”. Possibly this position in the church began right at the beginning with the selection of the seven men who were to be sure that all the widows received their food. Acts 6:1-6 Stephen and Philip were 2 of those. They were chosen so that the pastors – Apostles at that time – could give their time to preaching, study of the Word and prayer. The same thing is true today. The pastor of a church needs men beside him who can do the ministries needed in the church so that he can be free to study, preach and pray. The job of a deacon is not often recognized or appreciated by the people, but it is an important service to the Lord and to the church. Stephen and Philip were used by God in greater ways than distributing food but their faithfulness and godliness prepared them for greater service.
B. Deacons are also to live lives that can be respected by others. Often men who are popular, have prestige, or are relatives of church leaders are pushed forward to become deacons or pastors. But this can lead them into sin if they are not qualified. They must be sincere – not hypocrites. They, too, must not be heavy drinkers. And they must not pursue dishonest gain. This could include being a lover of money, a cheater, a gambler or someone who is dishonest in business. If the deacons in the church are given the job of counting the money, they have to be trusted men. The deacons are also to be mature believers – keeping hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. This would rule out church leaders who have a very shallow understanding of spiritual truths. And this knowledge must be accompanied by a clear conscience. The candidates for deacon must go through a period of testing and proving to see if they measure up – morally, spiritually, and in their knowledge of God and His Word. This would require some time instead of hastily appointing people who are not ready.
A. Paul turns next to address the qualifications of deacons’ wives. In some places they are called deaconesses. They, too, are to be worthy of respect, just like the men. The major downfall of women is listed as “not malicious talkers”. This is using gossip with malice to hurt people and slander their characters. Gossip and slander ruin many churches, especially when it comes from the wives of the church leaders. They can easily destroy their husbands’ ministries in this way. Often the leading women are the guiltiest. It seems that they want to show off and use their power over people’s lives. Humility, while not mentioned here, is one of the loveliest characteristics of godly women. Deacons’ wives are to be temperate in their way of life, not given to addictions of any kind. This could include addictions to worldly entertainment. These women must also be trustworthy – worthy of the trust that people place in them. This means that they must be honest and sincere – people who can be trusted to lead other women and children in the right direction.
B. A deacon, like a pastor, must have only one wife and be able to manage his children and household well. Though it isn’t mentioned, I’m sure it is not wise to put a recent convert into this position. This was probably a special problem in the new churches that Paul had planted. At first they were all “recent converts” and there was no one else to be in leadership. This is why they needed people like Timothy to train them further. It was important to choose those who had served well and proven their spiritual maturity. Those who served well, even in humble jobs, would gain an excellent standing. It would also give them personally a deep assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus. Their standing among men was important because it caused outsiders to respect the church. Even more vital was their assurance in their faith. A doubter or one ignorant of God’s Word would not only be a poor leader. He would be a hindrance to the growth of the believers.
These days we hear a lot about the qualifications of people who are running for a political position. Unfortunately, not all the information is correct. Some really know how to talk and so convince people that they are qualified to do the job. It’s important to evaluate them by what they have stood up for and accomplished in the past. I think it is a shame that we are not more careful about the leadership in our churches. Do we know what our leaders stand for? What have they accomplished for God in the past? How deeply are they into the study of God’s Word? Are they men and women of prayer? Do they talk about others behind their backs and repeat things they hear in private? If they cannot be trusted with money and personal information, how can we trust them to lead people into a deeper relationship with God? Let us commit ourselves to be the kind of men and women Paul describes here as worthy church leaders. I Tim. 6:11-12
The First Letter of Paul to Timothy (5)
I Timothy 3:14-4:8
We have studied Paul’s instructions to Timothy for the church at Ephesus about women, overseers or pastors, deacons, and their wives. It is clear from the qualifications that he gives that we who are of the household of God have a very high standard. We are called upon to be godly. Paul uses the word “godliness” 6 times in this letter. What is godliness? The dictionary says that it is conforming to the laws and wishes or will of God. I think it is more than that. It is being like God. It sounds very hard, and it is true that to be godly costs something. But Paul tells us in I Tim. 6:6 that to be godly not only costs something; it gains something. In this section Paul calls us not only to be godly, but to avoid people and teachings which are “godless”. I Tim. 4:7
Read I Tim. 3:14-16
I. The mystery of godliness
A. Paul was not certain how soon he would be able to meet Timothy again. Ephesus was a developing and maturing church and it was very important for Timothy to know how to lead it. How should people conduct themselves in God’s household or family? We are children of the Living God and as such we have high standards by which to live. In any developing church there comes a time for discipline. It is probably the most neglected area in most churches. Paul insisted on it as we learn in Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth. But discipline and a godly lifestyle begin with the leaders. Why is this so important? Because God’s household is the church of the Living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. The church is the repository and the promoter of God’s Truth. If the truth is tampered with by insincere or careless leaders, not only the church is affected. The proclamation of the Truth is hampered.
B. Paul now mentions one of his favorite subjects – mystery! He wrote much about it in Ephesians and Colossians as Sandy has taught us in the study of those letters. Rom. 16:25 Here he speaks especially of the “mystery of godliness”. What is God’s mystery? It is Christ! Eph. 1:9 It is “Christ in you”! Col. 1:26 It is Christ bringing together the believing Jews and Gentiles into one body. Eph. 3:6 Here Paul describes the mystery of godliness with a description of Jesus.
1.) God appeared in the flesh/a body – an amazing thing!
2.) He was vindicated, or proven to be God, by the Spirit.
3.) He was seen by angels. Good and evil angels saw Him. God’s angels announced His coming, protected and ministered to Him. Satan’s angels acknowledged His lordship over them when He drove them out of people.
4.) He was preached among the nations – in a limited way during Christ’s lifetime, but to a greater extent by Paul and the apostles.
5.) He was believed on in the world. First mostly some Jews believed, and later many Gentiles until today the gospel has spread over the whole world.
6.) He was taken up in glory where He is now!
This is the thumbnail sketch of Christ – the mystery of godliness or God’s secret weapon with which He wins the victory and gains a family. With God’s secret weapon – the gospel - He makes us godly by first cleansing us from sin and then transforming us into Christ’s image.
II. Abandoning the faith
A. The Spirit had clearly shown to Jesus, to Paul and to the other apostles that in later times some would abandon the faith. Matt. 24:10 In our times many who started well have abandoned the faith. To abandon something or someone, you first have to have it. If you abandon your child, you first have to have the child and care for it. If you abandon the faith you first have to believe and follow it. It seems clear that these were believers who left the truth and went another way. Paul tells us what way they went. They not only followed false teachers. They followed deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. These are deceptive and demonic teachings coming from the pit of hell. They are deadly enough to get people to abandon the faith. This is the great apostasy we talked about in II Thess. 2:9-12. How do these spirits and demons get their ideas across? Paul tells us: “Such teachings come through hypocritical liars.” The men who teach such things are hypocritical liars, pretending to be sheep, but actually they are ferocious wolves. Matt. 7:15
B. These people are pretending to be what they are not – holy and anointed! They freely lie about what they have seen or heard or experienced. How can they be such hypocrites and liars? Don’t they feel guilty and ashamed of such things? NO! Their consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. To sear is to brand or cauterize. Animals or even slaves were often branded on their flesh with a hot iron. This would leave a mark that couldn’t be removed because it kills the flesh. There is no feeling left when a person has been branded or a wound cauterized. These hypocrites have allowed the enemy to burn away all tenderness and sensitivity. There is no feeling left in their consciences which are now hard and cold. They can do anything without feeling sorry. That makes them slaves of the enemy through whom the demons can work. They may not even be aware of their terrible sin and blasphemy. Or if they know, they don’t care. They may not realize that they have abandoned the faith and become total hypocrites.
A. Some of these people make laws and require others to follow them. The Popes of the Catholic Church are No. 1 on that list. They forbid the priests and nuns to marry. The result is the terrible scandal in our time about priests molesting little boys. God intends that most people should be married. The Catholic leaders also order their followers to abstain from certain foods like meat on Fridays and fasting during Lent. The Muslims have to fast during the month of Ramadan during daylight hours. At night they eat huge amounts of food. This is not healthy. These things supposedly make people holy, but actually they become little hypocrites like their leaders who are big hypocrites. God created marriage for men and women and foods to be received with thanksgiving. Heb. 13:4
B. Vegetarians and SDAs would not agree that you can receive and eat meat with thanksgiving. If we believe and hold to the truth we know that all that God has created is good and we need to be thankful for it. I’m sure that false teachers in those days taught that meat could be tainted by offering it to idols. But Paul says that nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving. Peter learned this lesson from God at Joppa when he sent him to witness to Cornelius a Gentile. We must remember to always receive what God gives us in that way – with thanksgiving, not complaining and grumbling. Whatever we have should be consecrated to the Lord by His Word and prayer. Rom. 14:6 Anything that is basically good can be consecrated in that way – all the way from our bodies to everything we have and use. Of course this cannot apply to things that can harm us like liquor, cigarettes and drugs. Man can also abuse the good things God has given. Adultery is an abuse of marriage and overeating is an abuse of the normal enjoyment of food.
A. Timothy was a good minister of Jesus Christ as he had been brought up in the good teaching of his mother and grandmother and then Paul. II Tim. 1:5 Paul is here encouraging him to continue on in that way by pointing out the fallacy of false teaching that had come from deceiving spirits and demons through hypocritical liars. Possibly Timothy was not the type to challenge the teaching of others, even though he had seen Paul boldly do it many times. I get the feeling that he may have been somewhat shy and self-conscious about his youth. I Tim. 4:12 It was possibly hard for him to stand up to others. Evidently in Paul’s day, as in our day, there were many godless myths and old wives’ tales being told. Godless myths may have been stories about gods and idols that were abundant in their day. Today the godless myths are evolution, humanism and all the related things people teach and believe. Old wives’ tales were probably superstitions. There must have been plenty of those as there are still today. Some people are afraid of Friday the 13th and many buildings don’t have a 13th floor.
B. Instead of listening to such things, which not only waste our time but can lead us astray, we need to train ourselves to be godly! How do we train ourselves to be godly? We have to stay in the love of God and develop our faith by spending much time studying God’s Word, praying and fellowshipping with other believers. Paul writes a lot about training, racing, etc. Timothy, being young, may have concentrated on physical training, like many people are doing today. That is not bad. It has some value. It helps and strengthens the body. But its value is limited because the body is short-lived – temporary. It’s good to have a strong body, but it will not last. The training of the spirit to godliness is far more important. It has value for all things. It affects the mind and body and also benefits others. It holds promise not only for the present life, but for the life to come as well. This is vitally important information, especially for young people. In our day the primary emphasis is on the body. Very few are training their spirits.
C. How do we train ourselves to be godly? It takes time, discipline and devotion to train yourself to be godly. An athlete in training commits himself to obedience first of all. He must be willing to obey his coach and other team members in everything. The words of his coach are his “Bible”. He listens carefully and then does what he is told. This is the primary way to be trained in godliness. We have to take time to listen to our “Coach”, take His Word seriously, and then obey it. This affects our whole lifestyle – not just what happens on the field or in the church. A serious athlete in training will know that there are things he cannot do. He cannot drink or take drugs. So when we desire to train ourselves in godliness we must pay attention to Paul’s warning to the Colossians: “Put to death…sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed”. “Rid yourselves of…anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language.” “Do not lie to each other..” Col. 3:5,8,9
D. A good player learns teamwork – respecting and cooperating with his teammates. To be godly we must respect, love and cooperate with our brothers and sisters in Christ. This doesn’t mean that we join everyone or follow everything that comes along. It means to cooperate and work with those who are really “on the team” – those in Christ. Our time spent with God and in obedience to His Word produces the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. If you are on a team you will do everything to play well and, if possible, win the game. Your influence on others will be good and positive. You will help them to win, too. So you will set a godly example for the believers – your teammates – in speech, in love, in faith, and in purity. I Tim, 4:12
Do you think that God wants us on His team? Or have we disqualified ourselves by breaking training with our rebellion and sinful ways? Repentance is the way back. In our training in godliness we must turn from evil to God’s ways. Those who hope to be in the Olympics pay a heavy price to meet all the high standards. But they do it only for an earthly medal and fleeting glory. Paul wrote that he was pressing toward the mark to win God’s prize: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Phil. 3:14-16 Are we willing to press on to spiritual maturity and godliness? Heb. 5:14-6:1
The First Letter of Paul to Timothy (6)
Set a Good Example
In our last study in chapter 3 we learned what Paul taught Timothy about deacons and their wives. Paul goes on in chapter 5 to instruct Timothy about proper treatment of widows and elders. But in between these instructions are some very important messages in chapter 4. Last week we learned the negative part – what and whom to avoid. The Holy Spirit had shown that in later times some would abandon the faith in which they had begun, and instead follow “deceiving spirits and things taught by demons”. We are living in those days! Paul now encourages Timothy – and us – to live in a positive way, setting a good example for others.
I. Our hope is in the living God
A. For the second time in this letter Paul writes, “This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full attention.” 1:15 Actually all of Paul’s writings are trustworthy, but he is emphasizing here the importance of full acceptance. What good does the Truth do us if we don’t accept it? This glorious Truth is actually the gospel, which Paul states in 2 different ways in these 2 verses. He writes that it was the reason for their labor and strife. What is this trustworthy saying which we must fully accept and for which Paul was giving his life? “We have put our hope in the living God”. He is the one and only ever-living God! All other so-called gods are not gods at all but demons. This is why Paul wrote in I Cor. 10:14 that we must flee from idolatry. Idols in themselves are nothing, but behind them are demons. I Cor. 10:20-21 Sometimes we forget that we in the western world also have our idols that connect us with demons. Don’t many of our people love themselves or money or sex or power more than God?
B. Is there any real hope in the world now or the world to come except in the living God? We are different from others if we put our hope only in the living God who is our Savior. He is the Savior of all men in the sense that He sent His Son to die for all men and there is no other way for men to be saved. But this does not mean that all are saved. Salvation comes only to those who believe. So He is the Savior of all, but not all choose to go His way. God does not force men to follow Him. Can He or anyone else force someone to love Him or another? To force us would be to deny His very image that is in us. He has made us like Him with wills to choose, but we are responsible to Him for our choices. Josh. 24:15
A. Timothy was to have the courage as God’s appointed minister to command and teach these things. We can’t be ashamed or shy when teaching God’s truth. (Illus: Angela witnessed to her doctor about how the Lord had blessed and helped her when she was sick and confused by the pain medication they gave her. The doctor got angry with her. She asked me, “Should I stop witnessing to people I meet like him?” I told her not to be afraid or stop because God would use it even if they didn’t like it.) Timothy, however, was a young man and no doubt felt intimidated before the older Christians he was leading. So Paul encouraged him – and all young pastors – not to let anyone look down on him because of his youth. So what should he do? Should he puff himself up and throw his weight around like some young people do? Should he demand his rights and be a tyrant-leader?
B. Paul writes the opposite. If you don’t want people to look down on you, then set an example for them to look up to and respect. He was to be an example to the believers in every way. This included his words, his lifestyle, his love for God and others, his faith in the Lord, and his clean, pure, unblemished life. He was to earn respect by being a godly person. v. 8 Can we say that we are examples to others in these areas? Or are people offended and driven away from the Lord by our ungodly examples? Paul was evidently planning to join Timothy in Ephesus, but I don’t think he did. He met the Ephesian elders (probably including Timothy) for a short time in Miletus on his way to Jerusalem. Acts 20:16-17 So Paul encouraged Timothy to keep on growing and maturing in the faith and to be a faithful minister by devoting himself to public reading of the scripture, preaching and teaching.
C. Timothy’s gift was given by God and revealed by prophecy when the church leadership laid hands on him. That was the proof to them and to Timothy that God had called him to serve in leadership of the church. We don’t know if it was the gift of evangelism, teaching or preaching. But we know that Christ is the One who gives the gifts for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ. Eph. 4:11-12 So Paul was lifting up his son in the faith, encouraging him to be diligent in his ministry and give himself wholly to God’s service. That way everyone could see his progress. Ministry is a combination of life and doctrine. If either goes off in a wrong direction, all is lost. Usually when one goes astray with his doctrine, soon his life will follow. Timothy was to watch carefully both life and doctrine, and to persevere at being, doing and teaching the right things. How important is this? Your salvation and the salvation of your hearers depend on it. Of course, Christ is the only One who can save, but He can only save those who believe and live out their faith. V.10 Do you mean that Timothy could be lost? Evidently he could if he turned away from the truth of God’s Word or abandoned a godly lifestyle. And in so doing he would have caused his hearers to also wander away.
III. Treat older & younger believers as family members
A. Paul next gives practical instructions to Timothy about how to deal properly with various groups in the congregation – especially widows, elders and slaves. As a young pastor he needed to be wise in his treatment of others so as not to offend the older ones or to cause suspicion about his friendship with the younger ones. He also needed to know what the church obligations were to widows. Evidently there were many widows as there are today. In times of war or persecution men were often killed leaving their wives as widows. But at that time there was no government help such as Social Security, pensions, etc., and I’m sure that women, especially older ones, had little or no opportunity to work. It would certainly make a bad reputation for the church to have starving widows as members.
B. First, Paul gives general instructions for Timothy’s treatment of various groups. Older men should not be rebuked harshly but exhorted and encouraged as if they were his fathers. Of course, there would be times when he needed to correct them, but he must do it in the right way with the proper respect. Younger men should be treated as brothers and older women as mothers. Timothy must be especially careful about treating younger women with absolute purity, as sisters. Church leaders need to guard their hearts against lust and temptation. A pastor should never counsel or meet with a woman alone. Today even meetings between men can be suspect. Notice that each of these different age groups were to be treated as family members. Even in our worldly cultures we learn from our childhood how to properly treat our various family members.
IV. Care for widows
A. Because widows at that time were often needy and unable to provide for themselves, the church had a ministry to them. Acts 6:1 The church leaders were to be aware of needy widows. But a widow who had children or grandchildren was not considered needy. The family had responsibility first and the church second. Children and grandchildren were to demonstrate their faith by caring for their family members. It was considered repayment to parents and grandparents for all they had paid and suffered for their children and grandchildren. God is pleased with such caring, respect and demonstration of love. I’m sure that among the things that displease Him often today are the selfish, disrespectful children. II Tim. 3:1-2
B. A widow who was left all alone with no one to support her was considered needy. Such a needy widow was wise when she put her hope in the Lord and continued to pray night and day, asking God for help. Whom would God send to help her? Most likely, His other children in the church. The widow who throws herself on the Lord will be blessed by Him. But not all widows throw themselves on the Lord or trust and pray. Paul writes that a widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. How true! Actually what applies to widows applies to everyone. Those who put their hope in God and continue to ask His help will be alive in Him and blessed. The one who lives for pleasure as his or her god is therefore dead in sin. Timothy’s commission was to give these instructions to the church. We are responsible to provide for our relatives who are in need and especially our immediate family. Any Christian who doesn’t fulfill this obligation, Paul says “has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”. That’s very strong. We are like heretics if we don’t take care of our family members.
Read I Tim. 5:9-16
V. The widows’ list
A. Paul now writes about a list of widows. It seems from the context that this is a list of those who will be supported by the church. Or it could refer to those who are deaconesses and supported by the church. The list had several requirements. The woman had to be over 60, had been a faithful wife, and was well known for her good deeds. What kind of good deeds does Paul mention? They include bringing up children, showing hospitality, ministering to the saints, helping those in trouble, and generally devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. These seem to be the female counterpart to the qualifications for deacons, so it seems that these women served as deaconesses.
B. Just as new believers could not qualify for church leadership, so young widows could not be put on this widows’ list. Their sensual desires might overcome their dedication to Christ, so that they would want to be married. Paul is not saying that it is wrong for them to be married, but that they bring judgment on themselves because they have broken their first pledge. Evidently the widows on the widows’ list had pledged to remain unmarried in order to serve the Lord and the church. If they had made that pledge, they should keep it. Evidently these widows who were considered deaconesses did visitation. The younger widows maybe enjoyed this habit of being idle and going about from house to house. An idle woman, either young or old, can easily turn into a busybody and gossip.
C. Paul thought that it would be best for younger widows to remarry, have children and manage their homes. It would help to prevent the dual temptation of running with men and becoming busybodies. That way they would not give the enemy the opportunity for slander. Satan likes nothing better than when slander is directed at God’s children. Look at all he has accomplished through the slander circulating around well-known Christian leaders and TV personalities. Some of these younger women had already turned away to follow Satan, indicating that they were true Christians who left the way. If they left the right way to follow Satan, they will definitely not end up in Christ’s home! Believing women who had widows in their family should help them and not expect the church to do so, since the church had its hands full caring for widows who had no other support.
Sometimes our profession of Christianity is not very well demonstrated by the way we live. Could we live up to the qualifications required of widows to be put on the widows’ list? Never mind the age, but what about the others? Whether we are men or women, are we known for our good deeds, our hospitality, our help to those in trouble, our ministry to the saints? Do we take care of our family members? In Isaiah 58 God is rebuking His people for their religious acts like fasting. Wasn’t He pleased with their fasting and prayers? No! Because they weren’t demonstrating God’s love in their daily lives. Verses 6-7 Let’s be sure that we practice what we preach!
The First Letter of Paul to Timothy (7)
Don’t Share in the Sins of Others
I Timothy 5:17-6:5
In our last lessons we have learned the very practical guidelines that Paul gave Timothy for various groups in the church – how to treat older and younger believers as family members, and how to care for the widows in the church who had no support. He goes on now with instructions about elders, slaves and false teachers. These guidelines still apply today except that we are employees and employers instead of slaves and masters. It is important to take these instructions to heart because we need to know God’s thinking about how to handle difficult situations in the church today. Some people like to ignore or throw away Paul’s teaching because it doesn’t follow their thinking. But if we do that we are choosing to challenge the God who gave us this Book. II Tim. 3:16 And we are endangering our future destiny. Rev. 22:18-19
Read I Tim. 5:17-25
I. The worker deserves his wages
A. The elders of the church were those who directed the affairs of the church. Those pastors who did this well were worthy of double honor. They should be honored with both words and money for their commitment to serve the Lord and the church – especially those involved in the teaching and preaching. It takes time and dedication as well as a close relationship to God to prepare messages and lessons. Someone must help them with support if they are to spend their time working for the church. It’s only right that we help to take care of one another’s needs. – especially the needs of those whom we are depending upon to guide us spiritually.
B. Paul quotes Moses in comparing an elder to an ox! Deut. 25:4 What a strange comparison! Even if we had a dumb animal like an ox, which was working for us treading out the grain, we wouldn’t muzzle it so that it couldn’t eat any of the grain it was treading. It would be cruel to force it to work without eating. An elder or pastor and his family need to eat in order to live. Next Paul quotes Jesus from His words to the 70 disciples when he sent them out, “The worker deserves his wages.” Luke 10:7
II. Church discipline
A. The next instruction to Timothy has to do with church discipline. An elder or pastor is not to be lightly accused. Church leaders should not listen to an accusation against an elder or pastor unless it is brought by 2 or 3 witnesses. This prevents one disgruntled person from ruining the life of a church leader and the church. But if the accusation was proven in that way, the church leaders were not to ignore it. Those who sinned were to be rebuked publicly! Why should they shame people like that? It was not to hurt them, but to try to save them and the others who were watching. Hopefully the elder who was rebuked would repent, and the other church members would be warned that God does not take sin lightly, especially in the life of a church leader.
B. Many people don’t believe in capital punishment, which is the death penalty for taking another person’s life. This is the general principle that Paul is using in urging discipline in the church. Whether it is in the family, the church, or society as a whole, it doesn’t help people to ignore or condone their sin. Capital punishment, where deserved, brings other people up short and helps them to face the seriousness of their crimes. This is why God included it in His Law. Our court system is so lenient that it is not the deterrent that is needed to crime. Just as lenient, easy-going parents result in rebellious children, so a lenient court results in more criminals.
C. Paul instructs Timothy to avoid partiality and favoritism. This is another important principle that applies in every situation. I remember the problems created at Bethania when certain teachers had favorites among the students. Nepotism – making favorites of family members - is causing problems around Micronesia. This was so important that Paul wrote to Timothy, “I charge you in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels.” The elect angels are those who refused to rebel against God with Satan, and remain under God’s authority. Elect people do the same! Matt. 24:31; I Peter 1:1-2
III. Keep yourself pure
A. It seems that some of the problems in the church then and now which require discipline are the result of ordaining men who are not prepared or qualified to serve as elders or pastors. He writes to Timothy that he should “not be hasty in the laying on of hands.” Pastors and elders lay hands on people for different reasons. They may just want to bless them, or they may be praying for their healing. But this “laying on of hands” seems from the context to refer to ordination to the ministry. We are not to be in a hurry to ordain people to serve the Lord and the church. To do so, can cause us to be guilty along with the one we ordained when he fails. His failure and fall into sin may be caused by the fact that he was not God’s choice in the first place, and had not been tested to find out if he was spiritual enough to serve as a church leader. So Paul warns Timothy, “Don’t share in the sins of others.” Eph. 5:11 We are to do our best to keep ourselves pure, as Paul reminded Timothy.
B. Evidently Timothy drank only water. He may have done that in order to prevent others from following him in drinking wine. Drinking a small amount of wine is not a big problem, but some people can’t stop once they start. They end up in drunkenness which is an abomination to God. Paul advised Timothy to use a little wine, kind of like medicine. Notice that he was not advising him to “indulge in much wine” which he had warned deacons about in 3:8. If it were today I would encourage Timothy to drink only filtered water. In those days the water wasn’t filtered and it was often polluted with parasites and bacteria. This was causing Timothy to have stomach trouble and other illnesses. Paul felt that a little wine would be helpful to Timothy’s health. My grandmother and grandfather were told that they should drink a little wine to help their weak hearts. Maybe it did. But too often this leads to a lot of wine and other strong drinks used in secret like my mother did. This is why I promised the Lord that I would never drink.
C. The sins of some men are obvious to all who see them. Their sins reach the place of judgment before them as if someone were announcing them beforehand. Their sins are waiting there for them when they reach the place of judgment. There’s no escape! But then there are the hidden sins which are not known to others, but which trail behind them, maybe becoming evident only after they have died. Of course, the Lord knows all the sins – obvious or hidden – and will call men to account for them. On the other hand, good deeds are sometimes obvious and they go before a person, giving him a good reputation. Some good deeds are not so obvious but even those can’t be hidden. They will be known sooner or later, and certainly at the judgment. II Cor. 5:1.
Read I Tim. 6:1-5
IV. Slaves, servants, employees and students
A. Paul now addresses the slaves as he does also in Ephesians and Colossians. It seems strange to us who have never known any slaves. The closest we can come to understanding is to think about servants, employees and students. But of course that’s not the same because they retain their identity and freedom, whereas slaves were property that was owned. It must have been difficult for Christian slaves to make sense out of the fact that they were being taught freedom in Christ, but were not allowed freedom from their masters. Paul knew it would be hard for them so he taught them to consider their masters or owners worthy of full respect. Eph. 6:5; I Pet. 2:18 It was important because a disrespectful Christian causes God’s name and the teaching of the gospel to be slandered.
B. In one way it was probably harder for Christian slaves to show respect for Christian masters, because in Christ and in the church meetings they were brothers and equal before God. But instead of allowing that relationship to lead them to disrespect, they should use it as a means to serve them better because now they had the opportunity to serve other believers who were dear to them in Christ. Titus 2: 9-10 So here we find helpful guidelines for the ways we are to treat our bosses, employers and teachers in school. We should be thankful if we have Christian bosses or teachers, but that doesn’t mean that we should disrespect them. We must be willing to submit ourselves to them whether they are considerate or harsh. We should try to please them and not talk back to them. Of course, we will never steal from them, but show that we can be fully trusted. Why is this important? It makes the teaching about God our Savior attractive to them.
A. Paul makes quite a damning statement here about false teachers, and it seems to fit what is going on today. Anyone teaching false doctrines is also a person who doesn’t agree to the sound instruction of Christ and to godly teaching. You can’t hold to sound doctrines and godly teaching and at the same time teach false doctrines. They don’t go together! Paul writes that people like that are conceited and proud and don’t understand anything. They are conceited because they think they know more than Christ or Paul. But the fact is that they actually understand nothing. They make up myths and theories out of their heads or through the influence of demons, and then are proud of themselves for figuring it all out. Paul pronounced condemnation on those who confused the Christians in Galatia by perverting the gospel in this way. Gal. 1:6-9
B. How did they get so far off base? They had an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words. They wanted to argue about nonsense instead of holding to the truth. This kind of foolishness results in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind. This bears no resemblance to the life we are to live in Christ. It is the opposite! How could anyone starting out well get so far from what God intended? Because they had left sound instruction and godly teaching, they have been robbed of the truth. In their conceit and ignorance they lose track of the truth. The final outcome is what we see today among most of the TV evangelists and many of the pastors of mega churches. “They think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” This is the bottom of the barrel. The Word Faith people teach that you can get anything out of God by demanding it, so God becomes the method to use for financial gain. And meanwhile they fleece people, become millionaires and then praise God for it as if it were His doing. All of this has nothing to do with godliness. It is worldliness in disguise. I Tim. 6:11
Do we ever pretend that we are holy or godly in order to get something out of someone? I hear many stories about Micronesians who are ready to become Mormons or Moonies for the money they can get. They are promised scholarships, rent for their houses, even someone to marry if they become a Mormon or a Moonie. Long ago certain missionaries in China won “converts” to Christianity by offering benefits like rice. They were later called “rice Christians” which actually means not real Christians but people who acted like them in order to get some rice. Real Christianity – knowing Christ as Savior and Lord – cannot be bought or sold.
The First Letter of Paul to Timothy (8)
Godliness or Riches?
I Timothy 6:6-21
We learned in the last lesson that godliness is not a means to financial gain. Some people get rich by pretending to be godly, but it’s a counterfeit godliness. God is not obligated to make us rich as some Word Faith people teach. In fact, the Bible is very clear in many places, as well as here, that riches are not always a blessing. Money is probably one of the greatest curses today in the western world, as people center their lives on money and what it can buy instead of on Christ and His cross. In countries where the people suffer persecution in order to read the Bible or gather together in worship they would give anything just to own a Bible or be able to tell others about Christ. “You cannot serve both God and money”. Matt. 6:24
Read I Tim. 6:6-10
I. Godliness with contentment
A. If financial gain is not the greatest gain in the world, then what is the greatest gain? “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” To be like God should be our ultimate goal. But what about all our needs while living in this world? Paul wrote that he had learned to be content in every circumstance. Phil. 4:11-13 That is not easy to learn. It’s important to learn to be thankful for small blessings instead of coveting what others have. We are naturally discontent – desiring comfort and security and all that goes with it. To be content with what God gives because we are in His loving hands is the best way of life. To become more and more like God and to be content with what He gives is the greatest thing we can gain.
B. To boil it down to the practical, we brought nothing into the world when we were born, and we will take nothing out when we die. We arrived naked and empty-handed, and we will leave the same way. Eccl. 5:15 The Egyptians and other cultures have often tried to provide things for the one leaving this life, but it can’t be done. The rich fool was busy planning what he would do with all his riches, but that very night he met God empty-handed. If we have “food and clothing” – the necessities of life – we should be content. Lust, greed and covetousness destroy a person, making him dissatisfied, angry and clutching his money and things. Unless he repents, he will meet God as an idolater who has no inheritance in God’s kingdom.
A. Next Paul addresses not just rich people, but people who want to get rich. They may be very poor but the lust for riches can lead them into temptation and a trap. Lusting for riches tends to lead into all kinds of temptations which in turn end up in traps. Gambling is one. Stealing is another. In recent years several CEOs of big companies have been found stealing or embezzling huge sums of money from their companies. They landed in a trap called a prison cell and a ruined life. Lust for money often leads to murder and other violence. It leads to “foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction”. Unfortunately the evil result is more serious than a prison cell. It is eternal prison!
B. It’s easy to agree with Paul that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Money in itself is neither evil nor good, like most things in this life. We could also say that the love of self or the love of sex or the love of a big name and reputation are roots of evil. The lust for money is the root of a tree that produces evil fruit. Prov. 15:27 We could make an endless list of all the kinds of evil fruit produced. We certainly see it all around us – dishonesty, cruelty, selfishness, rebellion, etc. The love of money has entered the church. “Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith.” I’m sure this has happened to many who have been influenced by Word Faith teaching. Is it possible for someone to wander from the faith? It must be or the Holy Spirit would not have said it. What happens when you’re in the woods and you wander off the path? You will get pricked and scratched by the thorns. “They pierced themselves with many griefs”. The way of the rebellious is painful even though it looks exciting at first, as the prodigal son learned.
III. Take hold of eternal life
A. Those wandering from the faith because of money have caused themselves grief. They have also grieved the heart of God that they could turn from devotion to Him to the lust for money and things. Now Paul uses “But..” to turn in the opposite direction. He wrote, “But you, man of God”… What a compliment to Timothy! Though he was a young man, he was called “man of God” by his much older, highly esteemed mentor, Paul. The man of God must flee or run away. Why should he run away? Because the desire for riches could destroy him. If something or someone comes toward you that you know is destructive, the wisest thing to do is to run away and get out of there as fast as possible. If Timothy is to continue as a man of God he must flee.
B. But he is not only to flee. He is also to pursue. He is both to run away from and to run after. What is this prize that he is to pursue? It is righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. In other words, he is to pursue the fruit of the Spirit while leaving far behind the traps of this world. Instead of wandering from the faith, Timothy, and we, must fight the good fight of faith. It’s not a walk in the park through the flowers. It’s a fight that requires constant vigilance, endurance and determination. Paul has mentioned this before in I Tim. 1:18-19. It’s interesting that Timothy is told to “take hold” of eternal life. If eternal life is a gift from God, why do we have to take hold of it? Is it because we may lose it? Paul has warned Timothy that some have wandered from the faith and others have “shipwrecked” their faith. If we can wander away or let our boats be shipwrecked, it seems that in losing the faith we may also lose the eternal life given to us. It seems that Paul is saying, “Take hold – don’t lose – the eternal life to which you were called”
C. When was Timothy called by God to eternal life? It was “when he made a good confession in the presence of many witnesses”. It reminds me of Rom. 10:9-10 where belief in the heart and confession with the mouth are linked together in salvation. I think that we are granted eternal life when we believe in and stand up for Christ, acknowledging that we are committed to Him forever. Paul gives Timothy a very serious admonition. Paul says that Timothy’s confession was made in the sight of God and of Christ, who Himself made a good confession before Pilate. Paul is charging Timothy to keep this command: Fight the fight of faith; take hold of eternal life. He was to be faithful to his commitment without spot or blame all the way until the appearing of Christ. And the Lord is here saying the same thing to us!
A. So we are to be faithful until Jesus appears in His Second Coming. When will that be? God will bring it about in His own time. He has His own timetable, which cannot be changed. Matt. 24:36 We don’t know what it is, but all we have to do is trust and obey as we wait. Who is this One in charge? He is God…the blessed and only Ruler…the King of kings…the Lord of lords! That says it all! He is supreme, and everything we need or desire is in His hands. What are the characteristics of this great, supreme Ruler? He alone is immortal – He is not touched by death. Now here’s an amazing paradox: the One who alone is immortal is the One who died for us! I love the song: “Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou, my God, should die for me!”
B. How can a never dying God die? Only God knows. Where does He live? He lives in unapproachable light. The blinding light that struck Paul down and blinded him on the road to Damascus was this unapproachable light. But when Paul bowed in repentance and submission, the unapproachable One drew near, and took Paul as His son and servant. He is not only immortal and unapproachable. He is also invisible. No one has ever seen Him or can see Him. And yet the invisible One made Himself visible to us as He came down to be born as a tiny baby and to die. He is the unapproachable One who came near and calls us now to His throne. Certainly to him be honor and might forever. He is the Almighty who deserves all honor for all eternity!
A. Paul goes back again to the question of riches. Now he addresses those who are rich in this world. Paul has given Timothy some very practical and straightforward warnings about the dangers of riches. There must have been some very wealthy people in Ephesus. Some of them had become Christians. So was that an evil thing for them to be rich? No! Wealth in itself is not evil. It’s the love or lust for money that is the root of all kinds of evil. Some who had been eager for money had wandered from the faith. But what about the people who had money? What should be their attitude toward their money and their use of it? They should not be arrogant or put their hope in their wealth. These two are the pitfalls for most rich people. They are proud of their riches and think that they are secure and safe because of all they have.
B. Wealth is uncertain to say the least. Today it is very uncertain. Instead of trusting our money, we should put our hope in God who so richly provides us with everything – not just necessities, but things for our enjoyment also, like blue skies and sunsets, trees full of blossoms and colorful birds, cooling breezes and bright sunshine. Instead of making money their god, they should be rich in good deeds. Luke 12:21 This would include being generous and willing to share with those who have less or are in special need. That way, instead of our money being our god and master, it becomes our servant! Those who follow these guidelines will not only be taken care of by God, but they will be laying up treasure where it will not disappear in a war, a fire or a stock market that crashes. This is our firm foundation for the coming age that is eternal, not temporal.
C. Paul ends this letter by telling Timothy to “guard” and “turn away from”. All of the Christian life is a guarding on one hand and a turning away on the other. Once again Timothy is reminded by Paul to carefully guard what was entrusted to him. That would mean his life, his calling and his ministry as well as the people under his care. Timothy was to turn away from godless chatter and philosophies. I think that Paul is referring to the false Gnostic teachings that were going around, and are going around again in our world. He describes them as “opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge”. The Gnostics then and now think that they have special knowledge that nobody else has, but it is not taught in scripture, so it is either from their own imaginations or from demons. Is it dangerous? Yes! Some have professed it and in so doing have wandered from the faith. If it can cause us to wander away from God, the faith and the gospel, it is extremely dangerous. This is Paul’s second warning in this section about wandering from the faith. Being greedy after money can cause us to wander away from God (v. 10), and so can false teaching. Let us be watchful that we don’t fall into either of these traps.
In laying up treasure as a firm foundation for the coming age, we take hold of life that is truly life. This is what Paul said to Timothy in verse 12: “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” If God offers us the gift of eternal life, we have to reach out and take hold of it. This is what Paul wrote about in Phil. 3:12-14. We have to press forward and take hold of what God wants to give us. We need to hang onto it. Otherwise we may end up wandering from the faith, being led into one of the traps of the enemy such as money and the things of the world or false and demonic teaching.