Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Sword Drill: 1 Timothy

Incredibly, for the first time in a very very long time, I have just read (or been read) a whole book! Admittedly 1 Timothy isn't long, a mere 6 chapters, but I really would have struggled to read it. However, whilst I listened to the lovely man read it I actually spent most of the time reading along, even pausing him sometimes to read back over passages. I think this really works for me!

Passage is: 1 Timothy 1-6
SAYsoaps Day 238

OBSERVATION:

As with a lot of Paul's letters to individuals, we have almost a complete set of instructions on starting (or in modern parlance "planting") a church (read a local group of believers) and them guiding through an initial period of growth - this was, of course, Paul's speciality.

Two important concepts come up right at the beginning and repeat throughout the letter: true teaching and love. "stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work— which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1:3-5, all quotes NIV unless otherwise stated) Again, "I give you this instruction... so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience" (1:18-19)

Instruction on worship is always good, so "first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone" (2:1) and Paul really does mean everyone (the kings and rulers of most people he was talking to were the Romans, including Emporer Nero). Why? "Christ Jesus... gave himself as a ransom for all men" (2:5-6, emphasis added) Paul gives another useful lesson in personal devotion and public worship later: "devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching." (4:13)

I'm really struggling with the passages about women in 2:11-15. It just doesn't seem to fit with anything else I've ever seen or heard... I'll have to look into this more and then perhaps I'll get back to you.

Next Paul goes on to instruct Timothy in how to choose leaders. As I understand it, Overseers are people who oversee Deacons and Deacons lead a group of believers. So we're talking Bishops and Priests or DCs and COs... I think... To be honest, Paul doesn't expect much more from one than the other. Importantly, what he's asking should be possible of all leaders and indeed all believers: "be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well" (3:2-4)

On the subject of leaders, Paul also says something useful later on - this time not about selecting them, but about how Timothy should deal with them: "Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning." (5:19-20) If the elders are to be above reproach and respectable, a single accusation will likely be an attempt to damage their name, but more than 1 should be investigated. When it comes to rebuking elders publicly, the Church (and I'm thinking particularly about The Salvation Army) has been particularly bad at this, preferring to brush it under the carpet lest the reputation be ruined. Perhaps it's time to deal with it?

Chapter 5 is jam packed with instructions about all sorts of things and Pauls instructions about widows fascinate me. I think, in summary, he's saying: "concentrate on helping those that no one else can/will help". Importantly, Paul says to Timothy "keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism" (5:21) Treat everyone the same, all the elders, treat them the same, all the widows, treat them the same - but the same goes for people he hasn't mentioned, be impartial. Add to that the key aspects of true teaching and love and we have a fair and structured and well taught group of believers.

Chapter 6, again, is almost just a collection of sentences of wisdom, each relating to something different: not least the concepts of good and faithful service (whatever our circumstances) and the important matter of money (don't love it, and if you have it don't rely on it).

Finally, in closing, some good advice to us all "guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith" (6:20-21)

APPLICATION:

Here's the key stuff I'm taking from this:
  • Love
  • Keep focused on good teaching
  • Be a source of good teaching
  • Worship
  • Be focused on the word
  • Be impartial
  • Don't love money
  • Be above reproach
  • "set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity" (4:12)
  • Fight the good fight
PRAYER:

Father God, thank you for the wisdom and teaching contained in the scriptures. Help me to be a wise and faithful servant, loving all and showing impartiality towards all your people. Keep me ever focused on your word, listening to sound teaching and avoiding false gospel. Help me to be an example, help me to be above reproach. Help me not to be a lover of money, or to depend on it too much. I ask all these things in and through the name of Jesus. AMEN!
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