Reflections on 1 Timothy – chapter 1: One Way, Jesus!

The study translation Bible 2009

In my last entry, oh Bible-ographist, I said that Paul wrote 1 Timothy to teach Timothy, his congregation and us that we should be passionate about the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone as taught by Paul God’s appointed spokesman – because that is what God is passionate about.

But are we passionate about that? Or do we listen to other spokespersons that take us off in all sorts of other directions? 1 Timothy has a lot to say to us about living as God’s people with His passion and following His direction.

After planting this church that Timothy was now pastoring, Paul in Acts 20 warned the Ephesian leaders of the following in Acts 20: 29, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock”. And it seems from Paul’s letter to Timothy that this is exactly what was happening (1: 3). Certain men had come to prominence and were teaching false doctrine and were leading people away from the truth to the extent that some had “shipwrecked their faith” (1: 19). This false teaching obviously didn’t contain only small theological differences, it was serious. Paul writes as someone dealing with life and death issues.

What a wakeup call for us! Paul had planted this church and for three years had grounded them in the gospel. You would have expected this church to be strong in the faith. And yet false teachers come along with their different direction and wham, everything starts to unravel!

What were these false teachers teaching that was shipwrecking this church? It seems they were (amongst other things) misusing Old Testament law (1: 7). They were probably happy to concede in some way that Jesus saves but then wanted saved people to become law focused in order to grow or perhaps to confirm their salvation? And Paul says that the law is good only if you use it properly (1: 8). And using it properly starts with understanding that the law was not made for those who are righteous and in the kingdom but for those who are not yet righteous, not yet part of the kingdom. In fact the law exists to show up the fact that people are not yet part of the kingdom (1: 9 – 11). The law must be used to show people outside of the kingdom how sinful they are (and the consequences of that) so that they will run to Jesus for salvation. And Paul uses his own life as an example of this (1: 12 – 16).

You see, once we are saved God doesn’t direct us to the law as a way to grow or confirm us in our relationship with Him. The same Jesus that saved us by grace is the Jesus who grows and confirms us in our faith by grace, through the work of the Holy Spirit, as He enables us to love God and others with everything we have (to bring in the teaching of Jesus)… not by keeping the constitution of the nation of Israel. Of course loving in that way fulfills the law but that is very different to trying to generate love by law-keeping.

And that is why Paul says what he does in one of the three important “trustworthy sayings” in 1 Timothy in 1: 15, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst.” Paul speaks of being saved by Jesus only by grace not by law (12 – 14). In fact while trying to keep the law he had done terrible things which lead him to perhaps use the title “worst of sinners” (was it that he had been mocked with this title?). And maybe there is also a hint of his ongoing sinful condition (even though saved) where he still relies on Christ Jesus (grace not law) to grow in his relationship with God because he uses the present tense “of whom I am the worst”. He certainly seems to talk in this way in Romans 7.

We must be passionate about Jesus! If we rely on anything else other than Jesus for salvation and growth (even Old Testament law) we are on a different direction which will not lead us from sin and judgment to Jesus but away from Him and to a shipwrecked faith… or perhaps more correctly to show that we never really had saving faith.


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