Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,
To Timothy my true son in the faith:
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
- 1 Timothy 1:1-11
Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments
On Timothy as a true son of faith: “Only Timothy (2 Tim. 1:2; 2:1) and Titus (1:4) received this special expression of Paul’s favor. The Gr. Word for ‘son’ is better translated ‘child,’ which emphasizes Paul’s role as spiritual father to Timothy. ‘True’ speaks of the genuineness of Timothy’s faith (cf. 2 Tim. 1:5). Timothy was Paul’s most cherished pupil, and protégé (1 Cor. 4:7; Phil. 2:19-22).”
In leaving Timothy in Ephesus: “Before Paul left Ephesus, he likely began the confrontation with expulsion of Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:20), then assigned Timothy to stay on and complete what he had begun.”
On God’s command to love with a pure heart: “This is the love of choice and will, characterized by self-denial and self-sacrifice for the benefit of others, and it is the mark of a true Christian (John 13:35; Romans 13:10; 1 John 4:7,8; see 1 Cor. 13:1-7). In contrast, false doctrine produces only conflict and resultant ‘disputes’ (1 Tim. 1:4, 6:3-5).”
NOTE: In the list of sins, MacArthur breaks down the list into two lists. From lawbreakers to irreligious: “these first 6 characteristics, expressed in 3 couplets, delineates sins from the first half of the Ten Commandments, which deal with a person’s relationship to God.” And then from those who kill their fathers to perjurers: “These sins are violations of the second half of the Ten Commandments – those dealing with relationships among people.”
- John MacArthur, One Faithful Life
“Notice the apostle’s triple salutation, ‘Grace, mercy, and peace.’ Whenever Paul writes to a church, he wishes ‘grace and peace.’ But to a minister he wishes, ‘grace, mercy, and peace.’ Ah, we need mercy more than the average Christian. We have great responsibilities and, consequently, might more readily fall into greater sin. So to a minister Paul’s salutation is ‘Grace, mercy, and peace.’”
In reference to v. 5 regarding the goal of love, good conscience, and sincere faith: “Some put the law of God into the wrong place. They made it a way of salvation, which it never can be. It is a way of conviction! It is an instrument of humbling! It shows us the evil of sin, but it never takes sin away.”
- Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes
This is the first of these lessons, and it seems they may not come on a weekly basis, but if it is God’s will, I will find the extra time to do the digging.
This portion of Paul’s letter to Timothy, after the salutation, focuses on fighting false doctrine. The two paragraphs after the salutation show that all churches today are broken in one way or another. We have either drifted away from the correct doctrine of faith in Christ alone or we have become so self-righteous in our upholding the ‘true doctrine’ that we have forgotten the focus of that doctrine: Jesus. I watched an interview of a pastor in Tennessee yesterday (as of the day I wrote this) and the pastor said something along these lines, “If you ever find a perfect church, you better never darken the doors of it, because you are human and you’ll screw it up.”
The first paragraph, v. 3-7, speaks of the true doctrine of love, a good conscience, and sincere faith, as opposed to distractions. Paul mentions the distractions of myths and endless genealogies, but almost anything can be a distraction, like a misspelled word in the church bulletin.
We could delve into distractions, but in my experience, even well-meaning Christians can derail a Sunday school class. When the subject hits too close to home and they might reveal the dirty little secret that they have been hiding, they interrupt the class to bring up a comment that has nothing to do with the lesson at hand. The teacher has possibly three options or more: 1) Abruptly rebuke the person interrupting and get back on the subject – you may lose more than the person that you rebuke if you take this option. After more than ten years of interruptions from the same person, it may end up being the only option, but be prepared for the domino effect. 2) Address the interruption, which means you lose the flow in the class, everyone loses their place in the discussion, all that was building up to this moment is lost, but you made this one person more comfortable in their lack of growth as a Christian. 3) Gently try to not answer the interruption and get the class back on the rails again, but the process of doing this may involve ‘dancing the polka through a minefield.’ In other words, you may still insult the interrupter and lose the continuity in the discussion at the same time.
The second paragraph makes a bold statement and then backs it up. For all those self-righteous churches out there (like in Ray Steven’s song The Mississippi Squirrel Revival), take note of 1 Timothy 1:8-11. The true church is for sinners, so that they might repent of their sin. If you are self-righteous, you are wasting your time and taking up space. The Apostle Paul is not giving a list of people who are not wanted in the church between the words “lawbreakers” and “perjurers” in the Scripture above. He is saying that they are what the Gospel is all about. Paul is saying that the Gospel is about saving sinners, getting them to turn away from their sins and have a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ. If you are self-righteous, you will never feel a need to repent. You don’t think you have done anything wrong, or not “that bad.”
Sin does not get you to Hell. George Carlin once quipped that the Catholic church has changed the rule about eating meat on Friday, “But I bet you there are still guys in Hell, doing time on the meat rap. ‘I had beef jerky. This guy over here had a bologna sandwich.’” No, what gets you to Hell is not having a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ. To have that relationship, we need to believe and trust in Jesus without reservation. We must repent of our sin, which involves a lifelong effort. We cannot get rid of the sin in our lives without God’s help. And we must find some method of getting closer to Jesus every day – Bible study, prayer, worship, talking to other believers, whatever it takes.
Timothy Keller was asked a difficult question and this concept of doing one sin, in this case homosexual acts, sending you to Hell. I think Rev. Keller did an excellent job of bringing a question that showed a lack of understanding back onto the rails, and Rev. Keller drove the point home regarding our relationship with God, even discussing the self-righteous. This is well worth the 6 and a half minutes.
Some Serendipitous Reflections
“This past week, what was more important to you than love: The desire to be ‘on top’? To be right? In control? To look good? What else?
“In your church, what seems to be lacking: Sound doctrine, clear conscience, pure heart, or sincere faith?
“Which of these do you lack? Why?”
- Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.