Devotional # 193. 6/6/16. 1 Timothy 1:3-5.
Intro. Last week when we started 1 Timothy we talked about how the apostle Paul was writing to Timothy to instruct and encourage him. I gave you the list of problems the church in Ephesus was dealing with (see Devotional # 192) and today we’ll see a couple of those. In addition to that we’ll learn about standing against false doctrine, myths and pedigrees, but doing all of this in “love.”
v. 3. Here we see Paul had planted Timothy in Ephesus because they were doing some things that needed correction. Obviously there was no one in the church that was mature enough, experienced enough and competent enough to be trained by Paul to do this job. Let’s apply this to our lives:
I’m an Assistant Pastor at my church and if God moved our Lead Pastor to a different church we should be able to weather the transition. Now let’s say some problems arise within the congregation; if someone from outside our church has to be brought in to keep things in order until a Head Pastor can be brought in then there is a problem. The reason is that in this example, the current leadership in our church relies upon the Lord and is mature and experienced enough to handle any issue. Personally I have been a Christian for 28 years, been in church leadership for 4+ years and have been discipled and discipled others. I have no excuse. And that’s just me, there are other men and women who should be able to prayerfully handle any issues. Sure, we may not have gone through the exact problem before but we rely on the Bible as our foundation and we know that God has placed the perfect people that He has gifted at every ministry to see it flourish. So when I see a lack of volunteers for Sunday School or an overworked pastor I know that there are other people who are resisting the call of God. In the same way that Paul is about to remind us that we do all of this in “love” (v. 5) we are not to be angry or combative with those that we feel are not helping out because we don’t fully know who God wants to put in that position. Often we think a certain person should be stepping up but we’re wrong, and then the most unlikely of candidates answers God’s call and does an incredible job. My point is that you are responsible to answer God’s call of duty in your church. Don’t worry about others (although we can pray!) just make sure there isn’t a Paul having to send a Timothy to pick up your slack!
Therefore, what are Timothy’s objectives?
First, to make sure no one teaches a false doctrine. Why is this first? Because when doctrine is taught people listen and apply it to their life. When false doctrine is taught the danger is that people won’t know it’s unsound and they will apply it to their lives and possibly teach it to others. We just saw how important it was to have the Bible as our foundation, let alone having seen “teach no other doctrine” twice in 2 Thessalonians (Devotional # 191).
v. 4. Second, to make sure no one pays “heed to fables” and third to not entertain “endless genealogies”.
Regarding “heed to fables”, “fables” here is mythos in the Greek, and can be a narrative story that can be fiction or an invention (Source 1). I love that Timothy (and by extension, us also) is told to not allow fictional stories to be put through the church. Have you ever heard someone say “those Bible stories are all just made up” or “the stuff in the Bible didn’t really happen, that’s just where myths came from” ? Well, we believers should hate myths and fables as much as non-believers. In Paul’s day there were teachings passed down through Rabbinical leaders that added fanciful stories to the Bible’s truths. Often people who say the Bible is full of made up stories are actually just uneducated. Or, rather, they were educated on lies. And for some of this they can’t be blamed. If their parents taught them the Bible was full of lies that’s a hard foundation to walk away from. Beyond that they may have had a professor and a few disreputable websites under their belt which causes them to be confident. But if they truly want to know the truth, and aren’t just searching for an excuse, then they will be like C. S. Lewis who set out to prove the Bible was full of fables and errors and ended up being convinced of it’s validity and becoming an outspoken Christian. Yes, a Christian’s enemy are “fables” just as much as the non-Christian says “fables” are their enemy.
When Paul says, “endless genealogies” he is referring to the teaching of the family heritage that was so important to the Jews of their time. Paul isn’t against genealogies since Matthew and Luke trace Jesus’ family line to prove he is the Messiah and some of the Old Testament has family lines, instead Paul says “endless” genealogies are unprofitable. To be caught up in researching and arguing over family lines is non-essential to Jesus’ plan of redemption. This is hard for us to understand in our day and age when we can’t even name our great, great grandparents let alone have our heritage be a part of our everyday life. As Barnes says, “the whole system was, moreover, contrary to the genius of Christianity, for it served to keep up the pride of blood and of birth” (Source 2). So for our application in the present day it would be kind of like if believers had come from a family of Christians and they made a big deal about it. If you were the first Christian in your family then you would feel like you weren’t as spiritual as others who were constantly telling you what a great godly family they had. Again, this takes the focus off of Jesus and puts it on us.
The last phrase here in verse 4 is what is really important and should be applied to our churches today: “which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.” We understand this to mean regardless of what our concern is, we can run it through this litmus test: does the concern cause a dispute or does it edify? Is the concern how short a woman’s skirt is? Well, modesty is commanded in the Bible but the issue shouldn’t cause the body of Christ to split. That’s a non-essential. OK, but what if the issue is bigger? What if the concern is that church leaders are selling pieces of paper that supposedly free you from your sins (“indulgences”)? Was it acceptable for Martin Luther to post his “Ninety-Five Theses”? Yes, it was necessary. Why? Because the indulgences that were being sold taught a false doctrine (v. 3). This should be clear now: if the issue is a non-essential we don’t let it “cause disputes”, if it is essential we stand for what’s right. As I mentioned two weeks ago (Devotional # 191) the desire is always for reconciliation between believers (1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 5:20; James 5:19-20).
v. 5. We’re only going to talk about one thing from verse 5 today and we’ll talk more about the rest of it next week. The reason we’re talking about it at all is because it mentions “love.” In a Devotional about teaching “no other doctrine” and not heeding “fables and endless genealogies” we need to keep “love” as our focus. Love. Not just a pretty word with benign emotion attached but the “love” of Jesus. A love for God first, in the same manner that He loves us. A potent love that commits to honesty yet compassion. A love of others before self. A love of the person rather than the pedigree. Truly our righteous fervor should be shrouded in a warm comforting blanket of love.
Conclusion. Paul had placed Timothy as temporary pastor and leader over the church in Ephesus. God’s power, Timothy’s willing heart and Paul’s encouragement are an unbeatable formula. Our first encouragement is to hold first and foremost to correct doctrine. We’re not to allow myths or genealogies to divide us. If we keep these things in “love”, true love of God, we will be doing His will, while building up our brothers and sisters in the faith.
Source 1: mythos , https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3454&t=KJV).
Source 2: Barnes Commentary, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_timothy/1-4.htm