We first meet Timothy in Acts chapter 16, when he is picked up by Paul and Silas in Lystra. Given his presence in Thessalonica, Corinth, and now Ephesus, it appears that Timothy was a longstanding and trusted associate. Today Paul affectionately calls him “my true child in the faith.”
Timothy has been left as a shepherd in Ephesus, and this letter serves as a handbook both for Timothy, and for the church he serves. Remember that Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church had been exceedingly positive, but also quite vague in its personal attachments. This letter presents a fuller picture of this congregation which was so significant to the evangelization of Asia Minor.
Today’s reading breaks into two parts. First, he enjoins Timothy to charge “certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.” It feels like Paul has a few individuals in mind, and it may be that those who “have made shipwreck of their faith,” either through false teaching or by worship of the Law, are among them. Within this, notice how Paul identifies the law as pertaining not to the just but to the “lawless and disobedient,” then outlines the lawless behavior to which it applies – including “whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine." This list has appeared, in varying forms, in just about every one of Paul’s letters.
I’ve written before about honoring logical series in Paul’s writings, and I want to extend that to caution about disregarding specific items in these lists. There is nothing in the text that either elevates to greater importance, nor diminishes as of lesser importance, any specific behavior in these lists. You’re allowed to read these, and discern their implications, at face value, within their context, just as we’ve done with hundreds of texts in the Bible.
The more substantial length of today’s passage concerns the ordering of the church. Chapter 2 begins with urging for prayer “for all people,” and concludes with instructions for women. Read the end of the chapter very carefully, paying attention to the logical flow. This is followed by a concrete character outline for church leaders, which you’ll see again in Paul’s letter to Titus. And we’ll close today with a charge that Timothy teach what “the Spirit expressly says” and to “have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths.” Instead Paul wants him to “keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
Our verse for this week is Deuteronomy 10:12: And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
1 Timothy 1 through 4. Now let’s read it!
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,