We shall begin by looking at the relationship
between Paul and Timothy, summed up neatly in the introduction to
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of
God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is
our hope, To Timothy, my true child in the
faith: Grace, mercy
and peace from God the Father and
Christ Jesus our Lord.
(1Ti 1:1-2 NASB)
Paul, the Apostle
There is one immediate point: Paul is an Apostle
by the commandment of God. No one chooses to be an Apostle; they
were all drafted into the job. Paul phrases his call as being from
God and from Christ – thus showing their innate equality – but he
calls Christ Jesus his hope. A necessary thing, too: the life of an
Apostle was a tough one. All but John were martyred, and his life
was no picnic either. No wonder God selects them; who would
Note also (as we will explore next week) that
God’s selection of his messengers tends strongly to the “least
likely to succeed” category. For example:
Moses – so tongue-tied that he
was sure God wanted his brother Aaron instead.
David – so well thought of by
his father that David was the one left with the sheep when
the other seven boys were put before Samuel as choices for
Elijah – a man who called down
fire from heaven – ran when the queen threatened him.
Paul – the apostle to the
Gentiles – was a devout Pharisee. Of all people least likely
to talk to a Gentile, this is the man.
Why? So that no one will boast that God really
needed them for the job. God needs no one – which is why he so often
chooses a nobody. It’s a tough life, made all the more so in that it
is so important. But through all this Paul clings to one thing:
Jesus Christ, our hope. He lived in the power of the Resurrection.
As best we know, Timothy would have been in his
early twenties at this point. That’s not particularly an advantage
at this time; his elders would have been likely to have told him to
sit down and shut up. Paul knows this, and he encourages him:
He calls him his true son
– thus reassuring him that Paul has every confidence in his
knowledge and abilities.
More than that, he is his true
son – one who is carrying on the same work that Paul
did. Whatever power and grace there was for Paul’s ministry,
it is there for Timothy too.
He is his son in the faith.
The use of the phrase “the faith” has declined greatly in
our time. But this makes clear to Timothy that he is on the
right track – he is defending “the” faith.
Grace, mercy, peace
What do you wish for a man in such a position? As
we shall see, Timothy has his work cut out for him. Paul calls for
Grace – the very gift of God –
so that all good things in him might abound.
Mercy – for all of us need it,
but even more so that Timothy will know the God he serves –
the merciful God.
Peace – Timothy must deal with
false teaching. He must deal with it while keeping harmony
in the church. For this, he will need the peace of God.
To that point, let us see how Paul tells him to
deal with the problem:
As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at
Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange
doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies,
which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering
the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our
instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a
sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned
aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law,
even though they do not understand either what they are saying or
the matters about which they make confident assertions.
(1Ti 1:3-7 NASB)
The nature of false teachers
It would be exceedingly convenient if false
teachers wore a sign to that effect. They don’t. Indeed, it is
difficult (at first) to discover them. Why? See their
They are completely confident.
Sure of themselves, sure of their teaching, they seem to be
those who could not be wrong – or at least are seldom in
doubt. The true teacher knows that there is much he does not
They engage in “fruitless
discussions.” By their fruits – or lack – you will know
They want to teach. Why?
Being a teacher brings honor and respect, not to mention a
great deal of self-satisfaction. If this is your motive,
Note what Timothy is told to do: “instruct” them.
This is a bit more difficult than it seems:
The false teacher is perfectly
willing to “discuss” or “debate” – we both have good
theories about this, let us enlighten each other. But false
and true are not equals, and we should not use them that
He is not to hesitate in doing
so. The fact that he is much younger than they should not be
a barrier. Politeness should never blockade truth.
In one thing we may have
confidence: there is a right answer. From it, we can
identify the wrong ones.
Teachers in the classroom are required to have a
lesson plan – several, in fact, many days ahead of need. Even this
poor teacher needs his notes! One key to that lesson planning is
simply this: just what is it that you want your teaching to
accomplish? A great lesson in multiplying fractions is of no use in
geography class. The key to this is simple: just what is the
objective of the lesson? What is it that we’re trying to teach here?
This is the outline Paul gives Timothy:
His teaching must result in love
from a pure heart. The devotion to God expected of a
Christian should not be oriented towards monetary gain or
release from service – rather, it should come from pure
hearted love of God. Such love will soon spill over into
love for God’s children as well.
It also results in a good
conscience – one that is informed about right and wrong.
Such a conscience is strengthened in prayer so that sin
troubles the conscience greatly – and is therefore not
All this must be done in sincere
faith – God is not at all found of the hypocrite. Without
faith, it is impossible to please God.
Discourse on the Law
Paul now brings up a sore subject to us: the uses
and misuses of the Law.
But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully,
realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but
for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and
sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their
fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals
and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is
contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the
blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
(1Ti 1:8-11 NASB)
Right and wrong use of the Law
I submit to you that you already agree with
Paul’s point. Let me rephrase it in terms of the law of our time:
Our civil law should correct the
misdeeds of those who break their contractual agreements –
but should not be used to harass someone with frivolous
Our criminal law should be used
to render justice – punishing the malefactor, even reforming
him. It should not be used to let a rich athlete get away
There is a similar distinction in the use of
God’s law. It is not to be a rigid rulebook, particularly used to
put everyone else in line. No, it is to be a guide to life – an
encouragement to righteousness.
Law for the unrighteous
We understand this in a way. When you are going
about your business and a police officer catches you in some minor
violation of the vehicle code, you might feel that this is unjust;
shouldn’t he be out catching real criminals? The cop will simply
say, “tell it to the judge.” But underneath there is a real point:
the law has a purpose:
It is to protect us from the
wicked. Lock the thief up and he’ll have no chance to steal
It is to correct (reform) them
if possible. Prison can be a great place to consider the
errors of your ways.
It is also to be used as a
deterrent to others. Most of us would never dream of robbing
someone – if for no other reason that the fact that we’d be
the ones who got caught at it.
If there is an educational objective, there must
be a test to see if it is met. Here are the tests of a false
teacher. Look carefully!
They are lawless – they may
impose a strict code on others (no drinking, dancing or
smiling on Sundays) but they live the lawless life. It’s
usually no drinking for you – but anger for me.
They are rebellious – no one can
tell me what to do. (Which is absurd; we pay the preacher to
do just that).
They are, in a curious way,
ungodly. They give him lip service, but when a tough
decision is to be made, God matters not at all.
They are unholy – there is no
sense that they are dedicated to God, and they certainly
don’t want to be seen by the world as “different.”
It is not easy dealing with the false teacher,
for it must be done in gentle love, wrapped around the truth of God.