1 Timothy 1: 1 – 11
Theme: Sound doctrine that heals
Important is that we must understand and acknowledge the authority of the writer of this letter so that we do not underestimate the content one iota less than the absolute Word of God.
It is Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ.
And he writes by the command of God the Father. The most momentous words, because it determines how we accept the message of the letter. Particularly those parts of the letter we would rather not hear.
The apostles were indeed God’s unique eyewitnesses of Christ after His resurrection, and their authority was therefore also unique and never to be repeated.
Paul saw himself as a man under command! It is by command of the Master that he spoke and served.
Moreover, God the Father is the source/origin/fountain of the deliverance of the chosen. And that is why the Apostle calls the FATHER the Saviour.
And Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the true anointed of God – who is the hope of the believers. That means He is their certain assurance as regards the eternal future. A Christian is someone who has assurance about the future. Because Christ is the assurance of the future!
The word HOPE in the NT always means future assurance. With the accent on ASSURANCE.
But take note: Jesus does not GIVE future assurance. He IS that! Yes, our assurance is a Person – who lives for eternity.
Timothy was the Apostle’s spiritual child in the faith – meaning the content of the faith – the truth of the Gospel message. There was nothing suspicious or false about Timothy‘s connectedness to Christ and the Truth of the Word. There was also nothing improper about his relationship with the Apostle. Paul was his spiritual father and he was Paul’s spiritual child. That means that it was through the labors of Paul that Timothy came to faith-assurance in the Lord Jesus Christ. And Paul guided and helped him in his walk with the Lord.
What can be compared with faith-connectedness between true believers? Nothing can compare with it. It is divine and people who are without Christ cannot understand any of it.
All these things are brought about by the free favor (grace), compassion (read: mercy) and, His peace. Because it is God’s mercy that has forgiveness and deliverance from sin as a result.
Just for a moment, think about these three great gifts from God to undeserving people: free favor, forgiveness/deliverance and, peace. This peace is the fruit of grace.
If one gets to know the grace of God, peace is the result. A healed conscience: nothing convicts you any longer. When you wake up in the morning, there are no guilty feelings, no old issues from the past, no charge hanging over you. You know that you are right with God based on the perfect work of atonement done in your place and you know that you are right with all people. And you know that your past is cleaned up. The bridges behind you have been burned. Your future is brilliant because Jesus is your future. What a Gospel! What an inspiring power!
And all of that is found in the first two verses of this 1 Timothy letter.
And now we move on to verses 3-4. And we are curious to hear and understand what the Holy Spirit is teaching us from these two verses. Because they are His verses. Come, let us hear.
We know that Paul was twice imprisoned in Rome. The first time was with that which the Book of Acts ends. You may wish to make yourself familiar with it yourself. After that, he was free for approximately 2 years and then returned to Rome where he was eventually executed. The two letters which he wrote to Timothy were shortly before his death.
During those two years though, he was in Ephesus, and he left Timothy there as minister. But there were things in the church in Ephesus that were not right. And Timothy, who was a little nervous, had to remain behind at all cost to counteract the false teachers in the church, and to preach the real truth – that is the teaching of the Apostles.
It seems clear that – even at that early stage – there were confessions of faith available, wherein the teaching of the Apostles were summarised and could help the elders to differentiate the false teaching of the false teachers from the truth. False teachers were already active from as early as 35-40 years after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
In Ephesus, there were the so-called Judaists. They were Jews who claimed to be Christians, but then merely combined the orthodox Jewish legalism with the Gospel message, and were particularly known for their arguments and religious controversies for example to analyze the OT-genealogies and to learn things that are of no spiritual edification and benefit. It was dead, there was no LIFE in their ministry.
False doctrine is always opposite to true spiritual edification which strengthens faith-confidence in Christ and the Gospel message. Yes, by His Spirit God is busy creating and shaping children of the Lord, but He does it through the true teaching of the Word and in no other way. Therefore Christians should learn to discern between the truth and subtle error. Thereby a Christian has to become part of and attend a church where the plain truth is preached.
But WHY must false preachers be exposed, censured and, disproved? Paul commands Timothy in verses 3-4 to remain in Ephesus – however difficult it might be – and to stop the false teachers from teaching false doctrines. Wow, it almost sounds like war. Conflict at hand! And that is what it is! To the Lord and seen from His point of view, the unadulterated truth of His Word is non-negotiable. But from Paul’s command, it almost SOUNDS as if Timothy must deal with them unkindly. The Judaists must be stopped in their tracks.
But now look at the surprise in verses 5 and 6: The purpose of this command is love! Yes, the purpose of dealing roughly with the false doctrine and false preachers, is to stir and create love. Love that comes from a pure heart – and a clear conscience. Undefiled and sincere faith. If you wander away from THIS, your faith becomes meaningless. And that is exactly the place where the Judaists (who were troubling the Ephesian church) were.
We should though, understand one thing very well: The Gospel message fits like a puzzle. Everything STARTS with the truth. The foundation must be laid securely. False doctrine sounds and looks like love, but actually, it is hate. The Apostle is very clear about that: the true teaching of the Scriptures produces divine love and cancels out futility, and creates meaning and significance. Out of love comes the faith-confidence which rests upon the truth of Scripture. And that is why it is just logical that flowing out of this, the believer’s conscience and inner heart also finds rest and is without self-reproach. Yes, conscience and inner heart which is stable because of the stability of the Truth, is itself the foundation upon which the conscience and inner person rests.
Thus, the false teachers who importuned the Ephesians were Judaists, and because they were Jews, they thought that they were very skillful with the OT and in particular with the Law of Moses. They wanted to regard themselves to be preachers of the Law. They wanted to teach others. But because the Lord Jesus Christ was absent in their theology and teaching and religion, their boasting was empty and without substance. The Apostle does not beat about the bush. These people are false, he is saying. False teachers who have no idea about how God’s Gospel message works. But, they are influencing the Christians and worries the life out of the church.
Today the attack is 1000 times more severe because we have a world of information available to us through the internet and other media – on our cell phones. A Christian who does not stand firm and is not correctly instructed in the truth can easily be misled. Particularly those who are not entrenched into a proper church where the Scriptures are accurately and solidly taught.
Flee from churches where Christ is not 100% central and the Word and the full counsel of God is not preached, and the infallible authority of the Scriptures are not honored to the last letter. Flee!! As you would flee from a burning building.
False teachers, says the Apostle, have a lot to say, they do not hesitate to preach. And they are convincing. And self-assured. They sound so confident that one wants to believe them. But the way the LORD looks at it is that they do not know what they are talking about so confidently.
Rather remain with the reliable preaching and stay away from everything that is so-called “new” and exciting. Christ Jesus is ALL that matters.
That is what verse 7 teaches.
Let us look in which manner verse 8 connects to it, and with that, we conclude the explanation of the first paragraph of the letter.
The Judaists told the Ephesians that Christ’s work of atonement should be supplemented by certain aspects of the Law of Moses for example the circumcision and the keeping of the Saturday Sabbath. Yes… BUT… and then comes the additions. Which draws a line through grace. Their Christ is a false christ.
Paul says these people abuse the Law. Yes, God’s law is good and right because it expresses His moral will and because it shows sinners HOW accountable they are to God and how much they need a savior (Gal 3:24).
But the Judaists thought that the Law confirms them in their righteousness because they work so hard at it to try and keep certain stipulations of the law. God will possibly commend them for that. They did not understand that the same law condemns them to eternal judgment. And consequently, they despised and contradicted the sound doctrine – which the Apostles preached.
The sound doctrine is the pure Gospel message of salvation only by grace and by Christ’s completed work on the cross – which only has to be BELIEVED. The sound doctrine is the Gospel message according to which the lost sinner places his faith-confidence on Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection as his ONLY salvation – without all kinds of human fads of doing this and doing that. The sound doctrine heals people! That means delivered from blame and sin and temptations and addictions, which leads to a holy life of deliverance from sin which is condemned by the law. Indeed the law cannot bring any charge against a holy life.
But false doctrine causes sin to flourish. False doctrine strengthens the hands of sinners to live with those things that are clashing with the sound doctrine. The Apostle lists several of these sins. In verse 9 THOSE which desecrates the first part of the Ten Commandments and in verse 10 the things which desecrate the second part of the Ten Commandments:
Lawlessness, rebellion, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, those who kill their father or mother, murderers, adulterers and perverts, sexual immorality, slave traders and liars and, perjurers. The Greek talks about men who commit indecent acts with other men – exactly the way the 2020 Afrikaans translation puts it. But it certainly includes lesbians, because Romans 1:26 includes them.
In the church debate about homosexuality, you may have heard that some ministers are saying that it is only a side issue and have nothing to do with the essence of the Gospel message. If homosexuality is condoned, it does not menace the Gospel, say these ministers.
But the Apostle Paul teaches what is exactly opposite to the ministers of today! He says homosexual behavior runs counter to the sound doctrine! It has everything to do with the sound doctrine. And so too is cohabitation before marriage. It is the immorality he is speaking of. The Greek word porneia means all sexual practices outside the marriage between one man and one woman! Porneia and homosexual behavior cut against the grain of sound doctrine just the same as murder, lies, falsehood, and everything else that is mentioned in the list.
Can you see how one should measure everything that you hear according to the SCRIPTURES? Then you find out very quickly what is truth and what is false.
All these things mentioned in the list of sins, are contrary to the Law and also in conflict with the sound doctrine and are the product of false doctrine and the teaching of false preachers.
Believers who love the truth and want to be devoted to the Lord, must discern what is true and what is false and embrace and pursue the sound doctrine!
Verse 11 once more imparts important information. The Apostle did not in the previous 10 verses give his own opinion. As an Apostle, the truth of the Gospel was entrusted to him by God. That is why we should sit on the edge of our chairs and listen because it is not the human opinion that we hear when we read 1 Timothy. It is God’s truth. It is the Good News that proclaims the glory of the Triune God and it heals those who embrace it. And the greatest example of the healing power of the pure Truth of the Gospel message is Paul himself!
I close with the healing hope which the Gospel message brings to everyone who is caught up in the chains of sin that is listed in verse 10. You hear these words and you realize that the Lord is speaking to you and that He is working with you and that you have a burning desire to be delivered and to know that you are forgiven by God.
In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul names a similar list of sins as this one in 1 Timothy, and then he says these wonderful words in verse 11: “And that is what some of you WERE. BUT you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God”.
The Lord Jesus’s work of atonement on that cross and His resurrection from the grave is strong enough to make new and to deliver sinners from their enslavement and burden.
Why not humble yourself before Him, give Him all honor and, place your trust in Him?
Translated by Marthie Wilson