PAUL’S EXHORTATION TO TIMOTHY
“I urged you..that you command certain men not to teach false doctrines…these promote controversies rather than God’s work – which is by faith” (1 Tim. 1:3-4). Paul went on to say: “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
Notice how love, faith, holiness (pure heart and good conscience) feature prominently in our Christian faith – these have bern highlighted in the church in Thessalonica. Later on in the first chapter, Paul again wrote: “I give you this instruction…that you might fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience” (vv 18-19). Paul’s instruction is especially important in the light of false teachers, doctrines and the onslaught of the evil one (hence the need to fight a good fight in spiritual warfare). “Faith” is mentioned more than once in this chapter.
Faith has been chosen by God to receive salvation because it does not pretend to create salvation, nor to help in it. Someone rightlysaid,”Faith is the tongue that begs for forgiveness, faith is the hand that receives it, and faith is the eyes that sees it; but faith is not the price that pays for it”. Faith understands forgiveness comes only through the blood of Christ. Faith has also been chosen because it gives all the glory to God. It is through faith so that it can be by grace, and it is by grace so that no one can brag about it. God cannot tolerate pride and remember that it was pride that caused the evil one to rebel against God, for he desires to be ‘god’. Faith saves us because it makes us to cling to God and so joins us to Him.
God gives salvation to faith because by creating faith in us He touches the emotion in us to stir us to action. When we believe in Christ, the heart belongs to God. We are then saved from sins and are moved toward repentance, holiness, zeal, prayer, dedication, and every other gracious thing. What wings are to birds, what sails are to a sailboat, that us what faith is to all holy duties and service. If we have faith, all other graces will follow and continue to stay on course.
Faith in Christ also has power because it is motivated by love. Faith influences us to love God and draws the heart after the best things. God gives salvation through faith because it is closely related to love; and love is the caregiver of every holy feeling and act. Loving God leads to obeying Him. Loving God leads to living a holy life. To love God and to love mankind is to be conformed to the image if Christ; this is what salvation is. And faith creates peace and joy – this is part of preparing us for heaven Faith will work a life and spirit within us that will be seen in us forever in the higher and better world. Faith provides us with “armour” for this life and it educates us for the life to come; it equips us to live and to die without fear. It prepares us for both action and suffering; it prepares for glory with the Lord; it gives us joy and peace, and causes us to enter into God’s rest.
HOLDING ON TO FAITH AND A GOOD CONSCIENCE
Paul told Timothy ‘to hold on to faith and a good conscience….some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith’.
There seemed to be dissensions in the church in Ephesus and Paul wanted Timothy to help sort out the problems. Some of the trouble makers were excommunicated by Paul but these problems apparently had to do with wrong doctrines and speculations taught by some individuals in the church.
We are all inclined to subjectivism in our theology – God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and the God-centred approach which the Bible makes to problems of life is unnatural to the minds of sinful and self-centred men. It is entirely natural to think of ourselves as wise not by reason of divine teaching but through the independent exercise of our own judgements, and to try to justify our fancied wisdom by adjusting what the Bible teaches to what we have already imbibed from other sources.
Sadly, we may be ‘unconscious’ of our own lapses in this regard, and pride and unopenness to correction, accompanied by searing of our conscience and unwillingness to check and test our understanding in the light of the accurate teachings of Scripture make us vulnerable to believe and to propagate the distorted teachings. The problem is compounded if those led astray are holding some form of leadership in the church. All of us can fail in this area because we are all saved sinners and sin still is present with all of us. We need to come before God regularly and ask Him to examine us and to search our hearts. Otherwise we may not be even aware that we are sowing wrong teachings in the church. Hence Paul exhorted us to hold on to faith and a good conscience before God.
PAUL’S INSTRUCTIONS TO TIMOTHY
After telling Timothy to appoint elders and leaders in Ephesus and outlining the ‘qualifications’ for leadership, Paul directed his personal instructions to Timothy in chapter 4:
“..set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching….Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch yourself and your doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers (vv 11-16).
Notice the comprehensive instructions covering personal life and example, emphasising love, faith, purity, speech, with focus on reading, preaching and teaching the Scripture.
Paul told Timothy not to neglect these instructions, exhorting him to be diligent and totally immersed in them, so that everyone can see his progress.
Specifically, Paul told him to pay close attention to his life and doctrine and to persevere in them, because in doing so, he will save himself as well as the hearers (vv13-16).
Realise that Paul was saying that our life, example, and our devotion to God and His Word directly affect the effectiveness of our ministry and service. And Paul spared no effort to emphasise the need to be diligent, persevering, and consistent in these matters – there should be no letting off and lack of vigilance.
We cannot hope to serve God effectively if we ignore all these exhortations. It is fatally easy to become so busy in the Lord’s work that we leave no time for the Lord Himself, to be so concerned for the welfare of others that we fail to keep a watchful eye on ourselves. It is only by careful discipline that Christian servants achieve a balance, determined not to neglect either duty for the other. Lack of vigilance in this makes us vulnerable to the attacks if the evil one.
When Paul said that if Timothy persevere in these duties, he will save himself and the hearers, Paul did not forget that salvation is by grace alone in Christ alone through faith alone. Salvation of course always and everywhere originates not in us but only in the grace and mercy of God.
Perseverance is not the meritorious cause, but rather the ultimate evidence, of our salvation. Paul was using dramatic language which ascribes to evangelists and ministers direct the salvation which God Himself effects directly through the gospel which they proclaim.
In that sense Christian ministers and evangelists are ‘ambassadors’ of God in the gospel ministry and stewards of God. They are required to be faithful but the salvation, growth, and glory belong to God alone.
And God Himself would evaluate and judge the work of God’s servants. In that sense Paul declared that he would not even judge himself with regard to his own work and ministry, but his focus was to be faithful to God and to what had been entrusted to him.
MORE SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS TO TIMOTHY
In chapter 6, it is interesting to note that Paul did not address Timothy by name, but instead used the title “man of God”. Paul probably did this deliberately to contrast the mature Christian worker from the false teachers, who were described as covetous, conceited and quarrelsome (vv4-10), men of the world rather than men of God.
Notice Paul’s exhortations along a threefold appeal.
Firstly the ethical appeal. Timothy is to flee from the love of money and its many associated evils; the wayward passions of the flesh; everything incompatible with the wholesome will of God. He instead should pursue righteousness and godliness; faith and love; endurance and gentleness (v11).
Notice the two aspects -fleeing from evil and pursuit of holiness and goodness. We are to deny ourselves and follow Christ; we are to say ‘no’ to unrighteousness and ‘yes’ to righteousness; we are to put off the ‘old man’ (which belonged to our previous life) and put on the ‘new man’ which belongs to our Christian life.
The doctrinal appeal
As evil and goodness had been contrasted, now the contrast is between truth and error. Doctrinally, we are to avoid error and ‘fight’ and contend for truth. Why fight? Because truth is precious and sacred; truth is from God and we cannot neglect it without displeasing Him, and even bringing about His wrath. Truth is needful for the life and health of the church.
The experiential appeal
“Take hold of…eternal life (v12a). Eternal life refers to the life of the age to come, the new age which Christ has inaugurated. Christ defined this in terms of knowing Him and knowing the Father. Does not Timothy already possess eternal life? It is possible to possess something without embracing and enjoying it! Christ came not just to give us life but life abundant, overflowing and rich. How is it that experentially, our lives do not reflect this reality?
Our deeds, actions, behaviours, are meant to reveal to those who see them something praiseworthy about God; it is as non-Christians see the church functioning in love, unity, filled with the joy and life of God that they become convinced of the reality of Christianity. But if what they see are just bickerings, grumblings murmurings, quarrelings, and the definite lack of love, joy, and peace, surely this is not the life that Christians claim that the gospel presents. Our living and behaviour becomes the experential backdrop against which the promise and life from Jesus take on meaning and true significance. Brethren, let us take hold of the etetnal life God has given us in Christ.