25 February 2007

Divine Training

Religious HumanThe first full paragraph of the letter works to answer a very important question for the purpose of Paul’s correspondence with Timothy: Why must Timothy continue to work to silence the false teachers?

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than 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 wandered away from these and 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.

Human religions produce religious humans; the gospel produces godly ones. The false teachers at Ephesus represent the former; Timothy and his apostolic mentor represent the latter. The love advanced in this passage is the fulfillment of the Law (Rom 13:10). It is a summary word for the godly life. But being a law-teacher does not produce this love; for Paul, there is only one way to bring it about, “God’s redemptive plan that operates by faith” (1:4, NET). The only way to this love is divine training (BDAG) accomplished by faith.

So why must Timothy continue to work to silence the false teachers? Because their ignorant and heterodox teaching of the law works against God’s training in love by faith. To promote the program of divine training in love by faith, Timothy must silence the ignorant, heterodox, and counterproductive law-teachers. There is an inescapable link in Paul’s mind between the gospel and godliness. One cannot have the kind of love God desires without the gospel; and, therefore, if love is to be promoted, the gospel must be preserved.

This results in two questions by way of application:
Are we seeking to silence falsehood?
Are we silencing falsehood to promote God’s training in love by faith?

21 February 2007

Hope Worth Fighting For

HopePaul begins his letter with his customary modification of the standard Greek letter-heading.

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.

Three items in the first two verses give us a foretaste of the content to follow:
(1) Paul’s apostolic authority is rooted in the “authoritative directive” (BDAG) of God himself. If the false teachers were to appeal to the authority of the OT law to bolster their teachings, Paul could appeal directly to the God of the OT who sent him as a messenger of Christ.

(2) Timothy’s delegated authority is authenticated by the fact that Timothy is Paul’s “legitimate child,” that is, a disciple who accurately represents Paul’s apostolic doctrine and interests. If the false teachers were going to fight against Timothy’s efforts to restore the church to order and orthodoxy, Timothy could appeal to Paul who sent him as a delegate for the sake of the true gospel in the Ephesian church.

(3) The fact that God is “our Savior,” Christ “our Hope,” and both the source of grace, mercy and peace will bolster what Paul has to say about the gospel over against those who “want to be teachers of the Law.” The gospel’s availability to sinners (1:15) and indiscriminate call to salvation (2:4) would probably have scandalized Paul’s opponents. But Paul and Timothy are set on stabilizing and maintaining the Ephesian church as the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (3:15).

What might be thought of as a dogmatic and power-hungry move from Paul is shown to be something entirely different when, among other times, he pens the unique phrase, “Christ Jesus our hope” (see Col 1:27). Paul’s defense of the gospel against heresy is not grasping for power but battling for truth—and not just any truth, the ultimate truth, that the divine Messiah who conquered sin and death will save from wrath those who trust him and deliver them to a kingdom of righteousness and life.

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).

10 February 2007

1 Timothy -- Introduction

TimotheusI'm thinking about posting this semester on the theology and application of 1 Timothy. The posts will be a product of a class I am taking in seminary, but I hope to get beyond the academic and post something of the significance of each paragraph for present-day affairs.

This will probably be the main thing I do with the blog over the next couple of months, but it will not be the only thing. If I have time, I may do a few Westminster Wednesday posts, and I'm not finished saying what I have to say about Christ and Culture. But this 1 Timothy material will be central.

Writing on a book of the Bible will have drawbacks. I decided long ago that blogging and exegesis of the original languages are not yet compatible. Some of my readers will probably be grateful that they don't have to wade through that, and that's okay. I am just warning others of you that I'll be very reluctant to address exegetical details in this venue, even when provoked. But discussions on theology and application are eagerly anticipated and will be warmly welcomed.

Like many of Paul's letters, 1 Timothy arises from a situation in which his apostolic authority is being questioned. However it seems that the rejection of Paul's (and therefore Christ's) authority is seen through the rejection of Paul's representative to the Ephesian church, Timothy. The letter is written to authenticate Timothy's authority and to encourage him to keep up the battle for the truth in the minds of the Ephesian believers.

The battle for truth, the battle to maintain the gospel from distortion, is a battle that continues today. So Paul's letter to Timothy has compelling relevance for our situation.

05 February 2007

Lukenya Bible Conference - March 2007

I was just invited to participate in a team blog for members of a ministry team headed for Kenya this spring. We will be participating in a conference for national pastors and deacons held near Nairobi. The conference will center on themes of progressive sanctification and pastoral counseling. Pray that God will use us for the spread of his fame and guide us in future ministry planning.

02 February 2007

Vote for Weaver

A friend from college and seminary has entered a picture to win a camera at engadget.com. Paul Weaver's photo shows a Maasai fiddling with his ipod! What a pic! Please vote for him here.