15 February 2007

Heresy Takes Its Toll

War TornWhen dealing with Pauline literature, never underestimate the importance of occasion. I think a lot of people approach the “Pastoral Epistles” as instruction books for Pastors and for running local churches. I know that’s the boat I was in before this semester.

A closer reading in recent weeks has opened my eyes to the pervasive reach of the false teachers and their doctrine in the church. The false teaching had led some of widows astray (1 Tim 5:15), thus the qualifications for being added to the church roster. It seems likely that the reason for appointing leaders in the church is that some of the previous leaders had been lead astray, just like Paul prophesied in Acts 20:30. That gives Paul good reason to remind Timothy to make sure that even the deacons, not to mention those who would teach (see 1 Tim 4:16) were orthodox (1 Tim 3:9). The narrow-minded Judaizing teaching (1 Tim 1:7) is probably the occasion for Paul’s statements about God wanting everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4) and about God as “Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe” (1 Tim 4:10).

The entire letter is directed at rebuilding and reclaiming a war-torn church. False teaching had taken its toll, but Paul is convinced that hope remains as long as Timothy will devote himself “to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Tim 4:13). For in giving due attention to his life and doctrine, Timothy will save both himself and his hearers (1 Tim 4:16).

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