Icon of St Timothy

Icon of St Timothy

This week we are reading 1 Timothy as a church.

Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus are referred to as the "pastoral epistles" and contain specific words of encouragement and teaching to the second generation of Christians. Since they assume much of Paul's work and status it is appropriate to think of these as being written by the aged Apostle at the end of his ministry. He is concerned to tell Timothy about the ordering of Christian worship, the offices of leadership he felt were relevant and the qualifications of those who should be selected to lead. As in many other letters, the instructions Paul gives can be a clue into the issues facing the church at the time. For example, in directing men to pray "without anger or quarrelling" imples that there was perhaps some issue of disharmony or lack of respect being shown in the life of that body. Though we cannot know for certain the specific occasions for many of the instructions in this letter, it remains relevant as a rich insight into the life of the early church and how it was organized after the first Disciples had passed on.

Paul opens this letter with the immediate issue of false teachings and "vain discussions". It might be that Paul here as elsewhere has to deal with legalists who were instructing the Church in laws of conduct rather than the wonders of God. Paul explains the place of the law of God in calling unbelievers to account, but he implies that "sound doctrine" is the goal of the law (1 Tim 1:10) and that matters of immorality are actually rooted in misunderstanding about the Gospel. Therefore Paul instructs Timothy remain in teaching the Gospel, confident that all these other matters of morality will be worked out from this point.

Paul identifies himself as one such immoral person, being a "persecutor and insolent opponent" due not to the law, but because he did not know Jesus. It was overwhelmingly Paul's experience of the work of the Gospel in his life and ministry which allows him to have patience with acts of immorality and insist that the preaching of the life, death, and ressureciton of Jesus which will produce real transformation. 

One key function of the people of God, for Paul, are that they pray for the world. Prayer for the community, the city and for leaders allows the people of God to fulfil their calling to proclaim the Gospel. The following section on the ordering of worship is directly correlated. Both men and women are asked to act and present themselves respectably. We learn here something of the reason behinf Paul's decision to not let women speak in church-so that the prayers offered would be fulfilled and "all people" would be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. If there were quarrelling men and women shouting and interrupting then the carcophany would not create the unity and harmony necessary to sustain church life. 

There is no avoiding the seeming judgement Paul levvies against all women in this chapter. He implies that women will decieve men if they are allowed to teach and that the only role they should have in a church is having babies. However it is not clear that Paul is referring to the women today in the church in 1 Tim 2:15. Since the previous sentence is concerning Adam and Eve the 'she' referred to here could well refer to Eve and the promied child who would kill the Deciever (Genesis 3:15). Paul is suggesting therefore that women do not have the burden of sanctifying the people of God in the same way that men do not: There has come that promised Son of Eve who would kill the Deciever. The only authority over the church and over each believer is Jesus, and if this is the case not anyone can have authority over someone else, but rather those called and qualified may exercise that authority. 

Therefore a section instructing Timothy about who he should appoint at Overseers and Deacons logically follows. This is the different kind of authority which exists in the Church. No quarrellings or impressive displays  of wealth and status through clothes, no lording authority over one another. No, authority figures in the church ought to be appropriately qualified by their knowledge, experience and purity in the Gospel. 

The end of Chapter 3 is a return to that first idea that godliness is rooted in the correct teaching of the Gospel. What Paul describes as "how one ought to behave in the household of God" is not some imposition of legalistic purity, but rather for the sake of elevating that mystery of the Gospel.

3 Formation Questions

1. What stuck out from Paul's words in this letter? What might he instruct us to change or introduce into our worship gatherings for the sake of Gospel clarity?

2. How can we be confident that we are preaching the true Gospel and not irrelevant ideas or myths?

3. Who has been left with an unclear understanding of the Gospel based on their experience of church? How can you pray for them?