We are beginning a new series titled “God Alive Church”! It’s going to be exciting as we journey through 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus together as a family.
I would like to start by asking a question “Whose church is it? Who is building the church?” The question in itself might seem too simplistic or obvious but the answer is critical to understanding what our role and goal as a church is.
Jesus says in Matt 16:18: And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
It’s Jesus’ church and He is building it! That’s the starting point. Because we can very easily create a church environment which has the best music & best programs but lose out on what the church was meant to be and what was it called to do. Now how does Christ build his church? He builds it by empowering believers to submit and obey to His teachings in Scripture. That’s why these three books contain sufficient instruction and encouragement on what God desires from His church.
So we know that Paul wrote this letter to Timothy. But why did he write it? What was the purpose of writing this letter? Understanding the purpose will give us insight on what this book is really trying to say and will later on help us in applying it accurately.
1. To advise Timothy who was a young pastor about issues in the church at Ephesus and refute the false teaching that was prevalent (1 Tim 1:3,4)
As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.
Ephesus as a city itself was a large, multi-ethnic centre of trade, commerce and culture. Culturally Ephesus was pluralistic in every way. Many ethnic and cultural backgrounds were represented, and religious pluralism was entrenched and embraced. Moral beliefs, like religious ones, were diverse, and considerable moral depravity was accepted, perhaps considerably more so than in our modern culture.
You could imagine how this was also affecting the church. So there were these false teachers that were teaching a doctrine that was contrary to the sound doctrine of Scripture. Now why is it such a big deal?
a) False doctrine (by definition) isn’t rooted in truth and takes people away from God. It twists our beliefs and distorts our understanding of God. (1 Tim 6:21)
b) False doctrine results in sinful lifestyle. Through the letters of 1 Tim, 2 Tim and Titus we understand that false teachers always reflect their wrong doctrine through their sinful lifestyle. Greed, arrogance and a craving for controversies. Their doctrine is an outlet to justify their sinful desires. Why? Because they aren’t looking to please God anyway so they end up pleasing themselves.
Now this is damaging to the church! What would happen if false teachers were allowed to have their way in a church? It will distort people’s understanding of God and will cause them to swerve from the faith. It will also result in sinful living. And remember this is God’s church…God’s family that he redeemed through His Son. Can we allow them to be destroyed through the snare of false teaching?
As a parent if you are aware of a person who will cause harm to your kid – either physically or mentally, would you allow your kid to interact with him? No, absolutely not. That’s why Christ has appointed elders for the church. Not just to feed the sheep but to also protect the flock of God from false teaching.
And it’s amazing to see Paul’s fervour for the purity of sound doctrine. May our hearts be so in love and in tune with Christ and His Word that we would also share His passion in seeing people be fed with the pure Word of God.
2. To instruct them on how should members conduct themselves in the household of God (1 Tim 3:14, 15)
I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.
Another key theme that we see in 1 Timothy is “church is the family of God”. Through Christ’s life, death and resurrection we have been adopted as sons and daughters in God’s family! Isn’t it so wonderful? Since we are members of God’s family, how are we to relate with each other? Do we have different roles and responsibilities in this family? How are we to take care of each other’s needs? How are we representing God’s family to the outside world?
How are we to conduct ourselves for corporate worship? These and many more questions about organizing ourselves in God’s family are addressed in this letter. Sometimes these 3 letters are just thought of as only Pastoral Letters (Letters for Pastors). However when we look at these topics pertaining to our life as a church then we learn that this applies to the entire church not just the pastors.
Even though a lot of these applications will come out in the coming weeks, let’s start out this week by seeing and embracing each other as co-members of God’s family. I think we do a good job of defining church as not a building but we still turn it into an event. Church is the family of God! We are not members of different families who come together to socialize on Sunday. We are members of one family in Christ.
I like the way v15 ends by saying “household of God, which is the church of the living God”! Consider the weight of that phrase. This is the “church of the living God”. Now that we’ve established that church is not a building, it’s not an event but the family of God, so what would it mean to be a family of the living God? When people interact with us, do they sense that God is alive in us?
Can that be the testimony of our Sunday Gatherings and GC’s? I think this verse is an excellent reminder of our identity and call. Our identity of being the church of the living God is not merely emotional expressions on a Sunday but a lifestyle of obedience to Christ. And our call: we are a pillar and buttress of truth! We are called to be sharers and protectors of the gospel!
For our brief exposition of the first two verses in 1 Tim 1:1-2
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,
To Timothy, my true child in the faith –
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Why does Paul start this letter by mentioning that he is an ambassador of the gospel?
a) Paul wasn’t trying to show off his title. Firstly, they were part of a generation where any kind of association with Christ and the gospel invited persecution. Secondly, apostle meant that you’ve witnessed the risen Christ and have been personally sent and commissioned by Christ. Not the way in which people refer to themselves as “Apostle so and so” these days.
b) Since the letter is an instruction and encouragement, this could be a way by which he’s trying to say that these words and instructions are to be considered seriously because it’s been approved by God. On the basis of his authority from God, he charges Timothy with this task and provide general charge for Christians.
Why does Paul refer to God the Father as God our Saviour and Christ as Christ our hope?
Two very interesting attributes are mentioned here. The first is God our Saviour. Why does God reveal Himself as God who saves? In Luke 1:46, 47 in Mary’s song of praise: she exalts God by singing “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”. Throughout history God has always revealed Himself as a saving, delivering God. The Israelites understood first hand that whenever they would fall into the hands of their enemies. In their trouble and misery they would cry out to God and He would deliver them. Another way of understanding this characteristic is by the word “Preserver”.
God preserves and protects His people! Okay, so I get how God delivers and saves people from their enemies or when they’re in trouble but what if the people themselves rebel against God? What if people themselves reject God through their words, attitudes and actions? They communicate that they don’t need God; they don’t prefer God above everyone else and everything else. “God I don’t need you during every single moment of my life, I just need you when I’m in trouble. I need you for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning. I want to live my life on my terms for the most part.
I’ve got other things and people that pre-occupy my mind. They are more beautiful and wonderful to me than you. They are my gods that rule me throughout the week. My desire for money is greater than you. My desire for sexual fulfilment is more pleasurable than you. My desire for people’s admiration and appreciation is more important than you. God I don’t really need you.”
And having a love for other things and preferring them above God is a serious crime!
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Rom 1:21-25)
So God in His holiness can’t tolerate this. His wrath is poured out on all who have worshipped the creature rather than the Creator! All of us are fully and totally guilty of this. Our lives are marred with this sin of rebellion. Can God really save us if we turn against our Savior?
Ephesians 1:4, 5: Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will.
God loves and He sends His Son to absorb the wrath that was meant for us. Through that precious sacrifice of God we are Saved! Three days after dying for us Christ is raised so that all who believe and put our faith in Christ are now adopted as God’s children. How amazing is this truth?
God is our Saviour who saves us from the worst thing that can come upon us: His wrath for our sins. And He saves us through Christ our Hope: our trust in Christ is not blind anticipation but an assured confidence in who Christ is (Son of God) and what He Has done (completely taken away the punishment that we deserved and now brought us to God).
Why does Paul describe Timothy as his true child in the faith?
Paul would’ve probably led him to faith on his first missionary journey to Lystra. At the second visit, Paul invited Timothy to join him on his missionary travels. Timothy was a faithful, trusted and effective co-worker in ministry.
Paul spoke highly of him to the Philippian church and named him as the co-sender of 6 of his letters. Not only does this once again highlight the family of God but it also reminds us to invest in discipling relationships where we would be able to raise up spiritual children who would someday lead, care and protect others. And it’s a great model for us. All of his lessons weren’t taught in just weekly meetings. A lot of the learning happened as they were on mission together. Timothy saw Paul’s life up and close.
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Some definitions of the three words are:
Grace is receiving favour that we don’t deserve which is central to God’s gift of salvation to those who trust in him. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Eph 2:8) It is also the essence of the “gifts” that we received from the Holy Spirit to minister to each other (1 Corinthians 15:10): But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of.
Mercy is withholding the judgment that we deserve. It is also what God responds with when we ask for His help. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Peace is not just a lack of anxiety but it’s a state of one’s soul assured of salvation through Christ and so fearing nothing from God and content with whatever position and circumstance God places us in.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
Even though this is a common greeting in NT letters, but I think there is a reason why the writers mention this in the letters. All these come from God. They are all precious gifts from God. And more than anything that he would want to share with his son in the faith and co-worker in the Lord was to share and desire these three things for Timothy.