We are beginning a new book today which is 1 Timothy. This book is part of a trilogy, made up of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, which were written to Timothy and Titus by Paul for the establishment of the churches in Ephesus and Crete, and which were to serve as a manual for the operation of all churches among the Gentiles.
It’s tempting to disregard these letters as if they are really only pertain to pastors and deacons and not really applicable to the congregation. But in fact, the sound doctrine of the church is the goal of these letters, that they would know how the church was to operate in alliance with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul writes in chapter 3 vs14, “I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, [I write] so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” And part of God’s plan for the church is to have the right kind of spiritual leadership, pastors and teachers, that are faithful to the truth of the gospel.
So that’s the purpose of these letters, to tell Timothy how the church is to be conducted. Now at the outset, we note that Paul introduces himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Vs1 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, [who is] our hope, To Timothy, [my] true child in [the] faith: Grace, mercy [and] peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It’s kind of interesting that Paul uses his official title in this letter to a young preacher whom he calls my true child in the faith. We know that Paul was Timothy’s father in the faith, meaning that he led him to the Lord. He brought him to maturity in Christ. And we also know that Paul loved Timothy like his own son. He had traveled extensively with Timothy for many years. So they were very close. You would think that it was a little superfluous, or even prideful perhaps, of Paul to emphasize that he was an apostle.
But considering what Paul was writing to Timothy about, I believe that it was not only an appropriate title, but an important emphasis in order to remind him of his authority in Christ to say the things that he says here. An apostle was a special, one time office, which was given by Christ for the formation and foundation of the church. The apostles had the authority and responsibility to act on behalf of Christ to erect and establish His church.
In Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul says, “And He gave some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] evangelists, and some [as] pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” Notice that the first gift God gave to the church was apostles. They were the foundation of the church.
Paul says in Ephesians 2:19-22 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner [stone,] in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” Notice there that the foundation for the church is the apostles. Their doctrine, their teaching, their establishment of the offices of pastor and teachers, their order of conduct, was for the establishment, and the building up of the church to be a holy temple of God.
So Paul writes to Timothy, who he has stationed in Ephesus to act as his minister, his agent, in the establishment of the churches there. Timothy, the young man that has been mentored by Paul, that knows Paul’s doctrine, that has worked alongside Paul to establish churches throughout Asia, that has proven himself faithful again and again. This is the man that Paul uses as the agency of his apostleship to establish the conduct of the church.
So we see here a chain of command; from God to Christ to the apostles to the church. Apostleship is a reference to an office, given authority by Christ, sent by Christ, witnesses of the risen Christ, endowed with the gift of an apostle by the Holy Spirit, and given for the establishment and foundation of the church. So the chain of command is from Christ to Paul to Timothy to the church. That means that there are no modern day apostles. That is a sure sign of a false prophet, to claim apostleship. Because the true apostles spoke with a special one time authority to establish the church. And those that claim to be apostles today are seeking to establish their own doctrine, their own version of the church. And if they call themselves by that title, then we can know for certain that they are false apostles and we should stay away from such people.
Now these false teachers are the primary focus of Paul’s concern in these opening verses. Notice vs 3, “As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than [furthering] the administration of God which is by faith.”
These certain men that Paul spoke of, were teaching strange doctrines. We aren’t sure exactly who or how many men that phrase includes, but we can assume that Hymaneus and Alexander, mentioned down in vs 20, were part of that group. In their case, Paul says he was delivering them over to Satan, that they would be taught not to blaspheme. We will explore more fully what Paul meant by delivering them to Satan means next week, but for now we can assume that blasphemy was a part of their strange doctrine that they were teaching.
Another aspect of their teaching was that they gave undue attention to myths and endless genealogies, which gave rise to speculation rather than true faith. The idea that Paul seems to be saying is that these teachers were becoming known for a new doctrine, some new speculation, some new mystery that they claimed had been revealed to them alone. And they gleaned their doctrine from the study of genealogies and myths surrounding certain figures in the scriptures. We know that the Jewish rabbis of that time period were known for a similar type of teaching, and then concocting myths about certain Biblical figures and from some hint or vague reference in scripture, building a doctrine that was not any where supported in scripture. Things like the angels practiced circumcision, or the angels observed the Sabbath. And to make things worse, these fables were written down in the Talmud, which was a Jewish commentary of sorts about scripture, and which after a while were given sometimes more emphasis than the actual scriptures themselves.
We still have such speculative writings today, such as the Book of Jubiliees and some of the books in the Apocrypha. But besides such books as those, today there are more modern day options in the media, with movies about the life of Christ and other so called Christian fictional movies, as well as an untold number of books such as The Shack and many others like it, that portray myths and speculation as spiritual truth and based on Biblical doctrine. And many churches today embrace such nonsense wholeheartedly.
Paul said such things were not to be taught in the church, and that they weren’t to pay attention to such things. People are always suggesting that I read some new book that came out, or watch a new movie about Jesus or Paul, or Joseph, or Moses. I don’t bother with them for the most part. The best of them still fall short of the gospel in most cases. The last time I saw a Hollywood movie about the Bible was the one with Russel Crow playing Noah. I think it was called Noah. And sad to say, it was total garbage from a doctrinal truth standpoint. I recommend when these Hollywood films come out, you will do better to save yourself the $14 ticket and read the book instead. The Bible is God’s word, and it doesn’t need any help or embellishment from Hollywood to make it more relatable.
Ironically, Paul had known beforehand that in due time, these false teachers would arise in Ephesus in the church. In Acts 20 we read, vs17 From Miletus [Paul] sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. … 25 “And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. … 28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.”
And so it was happening as Paul had warned them. So Timothy was supposed to stay there and quell the insurrection. Because the flock were naive, and were drawn to the theatrical, to the dramatic, and were enthralled by the seeming intellectualism of these teachers. I think naive Christians today are just as easily led astray by false apostles, false teachers, who claim to have a special knowledge, special revelation, special gift of the Holy Spirit, and they teach immature Christians to believe that they are rich in faith, when in fact they are poor. It’s like someone giving monopoly money to children who think they are rich, when in fact, their money is worthless in the real world. A lot of Christians think they are rich in faith, able to command this and bind that, and speak this knowledge and that knowledge, and speak in an angelic language that they don’t even know what they are saying, and they don’t understand that they are poor.
Jesus said to the church in Laodicea, in Rev 3:17-19 ‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and [that] the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.”
So rather than the false teaching which focuses on strange doctrine, unsound myths and fables, things that puff up with false knowledge, rather than edify, in contrast Paul says in vs 4, the goal of the apostles teaching was love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Well, that sounds simple enough, and love sounds innocuous enough. But what does that all mean?
First of all, love is the fulfillment of the law. And secondly, love is the essence of the gospel. Love is the reason that Christ died for us. Love is redemption, where Christ paid the penalty for our sins which was due to us, and took our place by His death on the cross so that the wrath of God was satisfied. In salvation, the love of God is planted in our hearts, so that we love even as He first loved us. We love God, and want to please Him in all that we do. We want to abide with Him, to walk with Him, to follow Him. And we love one another, even as He loved us.
Not everything we call love is really love. Not all love is love. Paul says love is a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith without hypocrisy. The heart is the soul, the mind, emotions and will which are regenerated in salvation, made new, with a new capacity for holiness. Ezekei 36:25 talking about this regeneration of the heart says, ”Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
So a pure heart is one that doesn’t practice sin, but practices righteousness, and righteousness is defined by the law. A good conscience is a clean conscience, knowing that you have been forgiven for your sins, and then having the Spirit to help you stay away from sin. That produces a good conscience. And that is what constitutes a faith without hypocrisy. A faith that lives in sin is a hypocritical faith. Because Jesus came to save sinners, to deliver us from sin, to cleanse us from sin. So to walk in sin is hypocrisy.
1John 3:4, 7 says, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. … 7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.”
So pure instruction, sound doctrine taught by the apostles produces righteousness, faith without hypocrisy, but he goes on to say in vs 6 “For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.”
James said, “let not many of you become teachers brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” But unfortunately, not a lot of pastors and teachers out there take that admonition seriously. Everyone wants to teach, but the problem Paul said is they stray from the purity of the gospel and turn aside to fruitless doctrines. Fruit is the evidence of righteousness, correct? The things they espouse are not fruitful. They don’t produce righteousness. In fact, they produce lawlessness.
Paul says these men want to be teachers of the law. But they don’t understand the law or the things about which they make confident assertions. There are two ways you can teach the law. One is that the law is the means of salvation. Or the other is that there is no more use for the law, it’s to be cast aside. Both are incorrect. I’m not sure which view these men were teaching, but it was an incorrect view. Paul tries to set that doctrine straight in vs 8; “But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.”
The gist of what Paul is saying is that the law was given to teach us of our need for a Savior. It was given to convict us of sin. Jesus said, ““I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” And the law convicts us as sinners in the sight of God.
Paul said in Romans 7:7, 12 “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” … 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”
And in Gal. 3:24 he says, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor [to lead us] to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” It would seem that the problem with these false teachers in Ephesus was they weren’t concerned about the law, they thought it didn’t apply to them. They were puffed up in their vain imaginations, taking their stand on visions they had seen, some experience that they had, all of which affirmed to them their righteous standing before God.
You know, I believe that’s why so many people are drawn to these charismatic churches where they think they can experience God. They want some sort of experience that gives them assurance of faith, they want some sort of evidence of regeneration which they think they will find in these ecstatic experiences. The fact of the matter is, the evidence of saving faith in Jesus Christ is repentance and regeneration. It’s a new heart, a pure heart, a clean conscience because you no longer desire the things of the world, and an unhypocritical faith, a faith that lives out the righteousness that it professes. In short, the evidence of salvation is sanctification.
That’s why Paul says all these people, the lawless, the immoral, those who practice the abominations of the world, are under the condemnation of the law. The law is good, it condemns sin. It points us to Christ, to recognize our need for a Savior, who took the penalty for our sins upon Himself and transfers His righteousness unto us, that we might be righteous and holy before God.
That is the gospel, that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, to which Paul adds in vs 15, among who I am chief. He claimed to be the formost of sinners. That was before I came along. But by the grace of God, I have been forgiven through the payment for sin of Jesus Christ, I have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and I have been given new life in Christ, that His Spirit may live in me, that I may do the works of righteousness through His power in me.
Folks, you can’t live a sinless, perfect life by which you gain entrance into the kingdom of God. You can’t do more good than you do bad and so hope that your good outweighs the bad and in the judgment you will get a pass. The law requires that the penalty for all sin, any sin, is death. Rom 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
You might think, well I am better than most people. I haven’t killed anyone. Look at the sins Paul lists; he goes from worse to less worse. From unholy to murderers to immoral to liars. Jesus said if you hate you are guilty of murder. He said if you look with lust you are guilty of adultery. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. So under the law we are all guilty and deserving of death. None of us are righteous.
Only one man was righteous. Jesus Christ the Son of God. And by faith in Him and what He accomplished for us through His death we can be credited with His righteousness. I trust that you have repented of your sins, and trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, that you might receive the righteousness which comes on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ. That is the way we can come to know God and be accepted by God.