Teach the Good Stuff

Posted: September 22, 2008 in 1 Timothy

1 Timothy 1:1-11, “Teach the Good Stuff”
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Introduction/Background:
Put yourself in Paul’s shoes. You’re the pre-eminent missionary and evangelist of the day, but with all the churches that have been planted, there’s no possible way you could look after them all. So you entrust the ministry to ministers called by God to do the work. Do you just throw them into the churches to see if they sink or swim? Of course not – you’d try to guide them & instruct them for what they’re sure to encounter. And that’s exactly what Paul does with his pastoral letters to Timothy & Titus.

Probably written after the Book of Acts had ended…some scholars think Paul had been released from Roman prison once (probably on lack of evidence) & was later imprisoned again & killed under Nero. During his free time, he might have written this letter to Timothy as he saw his own ministry starting to come to a close. 62AD(?)

Authorship questions… Under attack by modern liberal scholars, but for the 1st 1800 years of the church, no one had any problems with Paul being the author. 🙂 The primary objections of terminology & events not lining up with Acts are easily answered by the idea that Paul wrote this after Acts had ended. Luke makes it perfectly clear that Paul had just gotten to Rome by the time Acts ended – and he lived quite a while afterwards. Considering he would have written this later in his ministry, it makes sense that times have changed a bit & different issues would have been addressed to Timothy than to the Thessalonians.

Who was Timothy? We know he has a terrific name, but what else? 🙂 We 1st read of Timothy in Acts 16 on Paul’s 2nd trip to Derbe & Lystra. At that time, Timothy was already a young disciple (possibly saved by Paul’s evangelism towards Timothy’s mother & grandmother…he seems to have grown up in the gospel) & he started traveling with Paul & Silas. Throughout the rest of the NT, we see Timothy either traveling with Paul or going wherever Paul sent him…it’s no wonder Paul calls him a “son in the faith.”

Timothy has been dispatched to Ephesus – and because Paul spent a lot of time there (3 years), there had been much growth in the church. There were many elders & likely many different fellowships (it’s doubtful that the church continued to meet in the School of Tyrannus after Paul left). Because there was also a strong pagan influence in the city (Diana of the Ephesians), there was a high likelihood of error being brought into the church through false teachers…Paul even warned about this before he left for Jerusalem (Acts 20:29). Whatever had happened in the time since that last meeting, he now needed to leave the proven & trusted (though still young) Timothy with the church to lead it & bring it back on-track to the gospel.

Paul doesn’t waste too much time getting into the meat of the matter. With his commissioning of Timothy to Ephesus, he wants to ensure that Timothy (as much as he is trusted by Paul) is teaching nothing but the pure gospel of Christ. Nothing for the young pastor could be more important! In laying this out to Timothy, Paul shows both what Timothy should stay away from & what he should stick to.
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1 Timothy 1:1-11 (NKJV)
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope,
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A. What was Paul? An apostle… Why was he an apostle? “By the commandment of God.” We’ll see the grace of God behind this next week, but suffice to say for now that Paul didn’t choose this for himself…God chose this for him.
__a. Seems to be an indication that although this was a personal letter to Timothy, the ultimate intent was for Timothy to read it to the church. Paul is establishing his apostolic authority for the practices that he’ll be writing about.
B. “God our Savior”: Interesting that this description is referring to God the Father instead of Jesus Christ (whom we’d normally expect). It’s actually a very common description of God in the OT – graphically demonstrated through the Exodus out of Egypt. Underscores the fact the interworking of the Godhead within the Trinity. Jesus Christ isn’t our Savior to the exclusion of God the Father; neither is God our Savior in place of Jesus. The whole Trinity is involved in our salvation…from His eternal plan from the beginning of time – to Jesus’ incarnation & work on the Cross – to the Holy Spirit bringing conviction of sin, judgment, and righteousness – to God drawing men & women through the gospel. Truly GOD (all 3 Persons in 1 Godhead) is our Savior!
C. “Jesus Christ our hope”: Not our wishful, maybe, “hope” (in the way we think of “hope” today) – He’s our confident hope! He’s the very basis on which we can have a confident expectation and assurance of forgiveness and eternal life (because it’s not based on US; it’s based on HIM)! He’s the hope of glory (Col 1:27)…
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2 To Timothy, a true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
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A. Usually Paul introduces the letter with grace & peace…but in the 3 pastoral epistles (Timothys & Titus), he changes it a bit: “grace, mercy, and peace.” Why mercy? Because pastors & leaders within the church not only need mercy, but they need to be in the habit of extending mercy.
B. Note the equal platform of God the Father & the Lord Jesus – both of them are the source of grace, mercy, and peace. Simply another of many examples that the Lord Jesus Christ is fully and completely God.
__a. Most cults start erring here…and it’s an ancient error of demoting Christ and promoting the works of man. After all, the less Jesus can do for us, the more we have to earn our own salvation. True Christianity hangs on the fact that Jesus Christ IS God in the flesh risen from the dead. The resurrection itself declares Him to be the Son of God (being fully God) – and none less than God could purchase our salvation.
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3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.
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A. Where exactly is Paul at this point? Impossible to say – the Acts narrative had long ended by this writing. Some think that Paul would have been with Timothy in Ephesus & then left Timothy there while he went on to Macedonia. But vs. 3 could also mean that Paul had been in a completely other city & had sent Timothy into Ephesus by himself & that now he was giving him instructions to stay. All minor speculation – what’s important is not where Paul was, but what he wrote.
B. “teach no other doctrine” – In his 2nd letter to Timothy, Paul will say it more directly – “Preach the word!” (2 Tim 4:2). There’s only one thing that Timothy is supposed to teach & preach to the church & that’s the truth about Jesus Christ revealed through the Scriptures. “Doctrine” isn’t a reference to a single tenet of the faith (the doctrine of the resurrection, the doctrine of holiness, etc) – it’s the overall doctrine of the gospel. Whatever it was that Paul taught in his ministry, Timothy was to teach the same thing. …
C. What’s the result of other doctrine? Distractions & disputes. When people get caught up in “fables & endless genealogies,” all that ends up happening is that people fight & argue & neither proclaim nor demonstrate the love of Christ. In Paul’s day, the “fables & endless genealogies” seem to have been Jewish practices, where a minor tradition not found in Scripture was picked up & scholars would argue back & forth about it. Genealogies were very important to the Jews – but the only genealogy that really matters (and the only one the Bible traces all the way through) is Christ’s.
__a. If these were Jewish practices, can 21st Century Christians get caught up in this today? Yes – it’s very common. For example: How many books & websites are dedicated to the identification of the “Nephilim” found in Genesis 6? Or how many hours are spent trying to locate and identify the Bible codes? With all due respect, these things cause disputes among believers & really have very little to do with the gospel of Christ Jesus.
D. What’s one evidence of good, sound doctrine? “godly edification…in faith” When the church receives the word of God in truth on a regular basis, we are going to be nourished & built up in the faith. And this is necessary for us – we need to grow in the Lord…and the way God chooses to do that is through His word. It’s no accident that when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness to eat bread, He responded quoting Deuteronomy – Matthew 4:4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” [Deut 8:3] It’s as necessary for sustaining life as food is – that’s how we grow.
__a. Don’t buy into the lie that ‘doctrine doesn’t matter’ – it does!
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5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,
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A. The purpose of the commandment? Love…not fables, not distracting teachings – the proper declaration of the doctrine found in the law of God is agape love. That is its ultimate aim/goal.
B. Where does love originate in the life of a born-again Christian? “from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith” – IOW, from our new life in Christ Jesus. It’s simply not possible to love someone as Christ loves us before we’re born again…our hearts are too selfish & our consciences are too afflicted. But in Christ our hearts have been purified – our consciences have been cleansed – and our faith is in Him alone.
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6 from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.
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A. Why is it so important that we understand the underlying purpose of the commandment is love? Because some don’t get it & teach otherwise. They want to be seen as learned, but don’t really have a clue of what they’re talking about. How can we say that so certainly? Because over & over again, the NT affirms that the summary of the OT law is love.
__i. Mark 12:30-31: the Great Commandment is to love the Lord our God & the 2nd is to love our neighbor as ourselves
__ii. John 13:34: Jesus gave us a new commandment to love one another
__iii. John 15:12: Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us
__iv. Rom 13:9-10: love is the summary of all the law & it’s fulfillment
__v. 1 John 4:21: He who loves God loves his brother
__vi. And that’s not even a complete list! It could hardly be clearer what the ultimate end of the law is…no wonder Paul proclaims that legalistic teachers just don’t get it.
B. When the law doesn’t lead to the loving gospel of Christ, what is it? A waste of time. Idle talk (KJV, “vain jangling”)…Gk refers to babbling. We can have the most intelligent lecture, the most fiery sermon, the most passionate discussion of the law, but if it only ends in legalistic practices that we are doomed to fail, it’s a waste of words.
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8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully,
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A. The law is what?! Good! Ever get the idea from some Christians that the law is a bad thing? … Perish the thought! The law is a wonderful gift from God!
__a. The law shows us what sin is, bringing conviction. Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” [] …
__b. The law takes us from conviction & condemnation to Christ. Galatians 3:23-24 (23) But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. (24) Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. [] …
B. But don’t miss the condition! The law is indeed good, IF. If what? “If one uses it lawfully.” This is the whole reason Paul’s writing on this subject to Timothy, because some within Ephesus were not using the law lawfully. They were using the law in vain speculation leaving people both confused & condemned. Like the Pharisees, they would strain out a gnat & swallow a camel, having no understanding of the purpose of the law.
__a. So how was the law supposed to be used? See vs 9…
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9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,
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A. Before we look at who the law WAS made for, Paul shows us who the law was NOT made for: the righteous. ‘But I thought there was none righteous, no not one…?’ Absolutely – the Bible is absolutely true that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But this is no contradiction. We WERE lawless; but because of Christ we’ve been made righteous! (2 Cor 5:21) We’ve been fully justified in Him & God put His righteousness to our account (Rom 4:5).
__a. The law was not made for you who are in Christ! Too often, people look at the law as a 10-step program for Christians in ‘getting right with God.’ It’s completely impossible (and illogical) – as a Christian, you’ve ALREADY been made right with God! …
B. Who was the law made for? The lawless…and that’s a broad category. Starts with groupings loosely corresponding to the 10 Commandments:
__a. “lawless” thru “sinners”: Seem to correspond to the 1st 3 (possibly 4) Commandments regarding man’s relationship to God.
____i. 1st Commandment = no other gods… Those who are lawless disregard the holy & righteous God who gave us the law.
____ii. 2nd Commandment = no graven images… Those who are ungodly are really turning to other gods of their own making – even if only in their mind.
____iii. 3rd Commandment = do not take God’s name in vain. Why? Because God is supremely holy – thus those who act unholy and profane defile the very character of God.
____iv. Even without a direct correlation, the lawless insubordinate ungodly unholy profane sinner is in grave danger of judgment when they come in contact with the Holy Righteous Creator God. The law makes this perfectly clear!
__b. Murderers of fathers & mothers: 5th Commandment = honor your father and mother…those that murder them commit the ultimate example of dishonoring them.
__c. Manslayers: 6th Commandment = don’t murder
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10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine,
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A. Continues the list:
__a. Fornicators & sodomites: 7th Commandment = don’t commit adultery. Any sexual act outside of God’s plan of husband and wife would be considered “fornication”…and homosexuality falls directly into this category. Obviously homosexuality is a “hot button” issue today – one camp tries to claim that the New Testament is ambiguous on the matter (it’s not – the NT clearly & universally condemns the practice). The other camp makes it into some kind of “special sin” deserving of extra condemnation. Let’s be clear – if there is a special sin, it’s not merely homosexuality…it’s ALL sexual sin. 1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. [] The adulterer is just as guilty as the homosexual…and ALL of us are in desperate need of the grace and mercy and forgiveness found in Christ.
__b. Kidnappers: 8th Commandment = don’t steal… Some translations refer to “slave trader” – the emphasis isn’t so much on slavery as it is stealing someone away. There’s no more valuable thing that can be stolen than a person.
__c. Liars & perjurers: 9th Commandment = don’t bear false witness…which “perjury” is directly linked to. The heart of it is lying. Question: is lying really all that bad of a sin? Does it need to be in the same list as those who murder their parents? Absolutely. Ask Adam & Eve about the effects of someone lying to them. If it wasn’t for the lie of Satan, other sins like murder would never have existed.
B. Wraps it up with the all-inclusive “if there’s any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.” We can’t say, “I’m not a kidnapper or a manslayer, so I must be good to go!” Paul used the extreme cases that violate the Law of God, but ANY sin that is contrary to what God teaches us is a violation of the Law. And when we’ve broken even one of the commandments, we’re guilty of the whole thing…thus he who lies is just as guilty before God as he who murdered someone. God is THAT holy & righteous – ALL sin will one day be punished: either at the cross of Christ, or in eternity in hell.
__a. Note the qualification here: “sound doctrine.” We don’t need to be convicted according to someone else’s preferences. If something is contrary to the truths and principles found in the Scripture – that’s supposed to be our plumbline.
__b. Gk “sound” literally refers to one’s health… Good doctrine is healthy for the Body of Christ; whereas bad doctrine is like a cancer…
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11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.
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A. What’s according to the gospel? Take in the last few verses for context: the law wasn’t made for the righteous, but for the lawless…but the law is what brings us to Christ, who makes us righteous. Which is why it’s glorious!
B. Praise God for the gospel! No wonder Paul calls Him the “Blessed God” – what could be more glorious news than the message of forgiveness through Christ Jesus? All of those things Paul just got done writing about is what we USED to be (past tense). We may not have thought we were a fornicator, but if we’ve looked at another person with lust, Jesus said we committed adultery in our heart (). We may not have killed a man in anger, but the Bible tells us if we hate someone without cause, we’re guilty of murder (). The truth is, we HAVE done all those things – we’ve broken God’s law (numerously, flagrantly, and willfully) & we are fully deserving of all the wrath He can possibly pour out on us. But because of Christ Jesus – because He went to the cross, died for our sins, and was resurrected on the 3rd day – because of this glorious gospel message, we have been forgiven, we have been saved! …
C. This is what we’ve been entrusted with through the Great Commission…this is what we have the privilege of sharing with every man, woman, and child that we meet. It was committed to Paul’s trust when he least deserved it (as we’ll see next week) – as it was also committed to us. When we were least worthy to be saved & most worthy of condemnation – that’s when Christ saved us & gave us the mission of sharing the gospel message around the world.
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Conclusion:
Bottom line from Paul to Timothy: “Teach the good stuff!” Don’t get caught up in distracting teachings – don’t get mired down in legalistic nonsense – just keep teaching the pure gospel of Jesus Christ so that people might be saved to the glory of God. Bottom line to us: the same. Most of the church may not be in vocational ministry, but we all have a ministry in our vocation. Wherever God has placed you, that’s the mission field that He’s given to you…and that’s where we can simply proclaim and demonstrate the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But when we proclaim the gospel – be careful not to get caught up in vain speculation, or fables, or rumors, or legalism…these things are distractions from the Lord Jesus. And know this: the enemy WANTS us to get distracted from the gospel. Instead, we keep lifting up and exalting Christ – using the law lawfully to bring someone to the feet of Jesus & then proclaiming the love He offers to each one.

Maybe you’re here today & the law has brought conviction to your conscience – that’s not the preacher making you feel guilty; that’s the Holy Spirit getting your attention. The fact of the matter is we HAVE broken His law & we deserve everlasting punishment. So what’s your response to that? When we come to the realization that one day we will stand before the Holy Righteous God & give an account for every sinful word, deed, and thought that ever crossed our mind, it should be pretty sobering. What are you going to do in that day? The answer is that you can’t do anything – but God can. God sent Jesus Christ to the cross to take the punishment that you & I deserved – and because Jesus rose again, He offers forgiveness & eternal life to all who call upon Him…but you must respond.

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