Friday, August 3, 2012

First Timothy

First Timothy.  The Holy Bible.  New King James Version.  Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

The Bible includes two letters from Paul to his protégé, Timothy.  Timothy traveled extensively with Paul on his missionary journeys and sometimes served as his messenger.  Timothy is mentioned in several of Paul’s letters and in the book of Acts.

At the time of this letter, Timothy was serving as a pastor at Ephesus.  Though there were many Christians in Ephesus, they met in small, home-based groups.  In this sense, Timothy was more a pastor to pastors.  Paul wrote to him with encouragement and instruction.

Paul opens his letter with a theme that occurs in many others: doctrinal purity and false teachers.  Then, as now, there were people who wanted to draw followers, fame and fortune to themselves and found an opportunity in religion.  They presented themselves as scholars discriminating the finer points of the law and engaged in disputations.  Mostly, they sold what was selling and lived immorally, making excuses for themselves.  Paul encouraged his disciple to stick to the Gospel he had received.

Because of this, Paul gave instructions about who would make suitable leaders in the church.  These were to be mature, of good character, with orderly lives, especially in their family.

Speaking of family, Paul was very concerned about relationships, especially how Christians relate to each other.  He wrote about who Christians should treat each other.  He discussed how pastors and congregations should relate.  He wrote about charity to the poor.  He gave direction to masters and slaves, husbands and wives, parents and children.

Though he doesn’t address it directly in this letter, you can see in his discussion of relationships Paul’s vision of authority and submission in a context of loving relationships.  God is the model and source of all authority.  Of course, no human rules with the absolute authority of God; human authorities are trustees and agents of God, in the church, government and family.  God not only rules, He loves.  Jesus Christ suffered agony and death to atone for our sins and give us everlasting life with Him.  No one can repeat what Christ did, nor is it necessary, but his sacrificial love and submission to His Father are a mode for human rulers.

On the flip side, we are all to submit to God.  This submission to God is a model of our submission to authorities, who are all appointed by God.  We love, reverence and obey authorities just as they love, care for and thoughtfully lead us.  The notion of submission is unpalatable to many, but it is possible, even good, in the context of God’s love and authority working through people.

Paul’s love for Timothy comes through the letter.  The terms of affection, the concern for his health, the encouragement to face problems with calm faith, the reminders of friends and family break up the teaching sections.  Paul himself was a model for the things he was teaching Timothy.  Paul was an authority and Timothy served him for years.  Paul was also a loving friend who cared about his wellbeing and success.   As both an authority and one under authority, Timothy had a good teacher in the apostle.

Paul also wrote