November 13, 2016
Scripture and Commentary, November 13-19
Haggai 1, Jn 20
Haggai 2, 1 Timothy 1
1 Timothy 1
Paul wrote First Timothy in Rome or in Macedonia after his release from house arrest in Rome. Timothy is in Ephesus overseeing the Church in that city and the surrounding area, especially the ministers, some of whom have begun to teach things contrary to the Gospel (3-4, 7). Their attempts to teach the law, whether by intention or merely ignorance, has led some of the ministers into error. So, Timothy's task is to charge them to teach no other doctrine but the Gospel (3 & 4). The "commandment" of verse 5 is not the Old Testament law. It is the charge Timothy is to give to the ministers. The end (goal) of this charge is love from a pure heart and good conscience. This means it is real Christian charity, not phony or of mixed motives. A good conscience means to be able to say or do something without their consciences convicting them. The Christian minister should be able to say, without his conscience convicting him otherwise, that he loves God and His Church. Not just "The Church" but his own congregation and every member of it. The same is true of every member of the congregation. All should be able to say they love each other. A minister who loves his church will preach the truth to them. He will lead them into the means of grace and the life of Godliness. A congregation that loves its minister will gladly receive his ministry to them and will ensure that they are present for his sermons and other ministries (1 Thess. 5:12 & 13). If someone is unable to say he is doing this, without his conscience convicting him otherwise, it is his duty to change his own attitude and heart.
The Ephesian ministers attempting to teach the Old Testament law do not understand what they are saying. Their teaching does not lead people to Christ; it binds them with burdens. So Paul gives some instruction about the law. Obviously Timothy already knows this, and Paul probably put it in the letter so the ministers can see it and know that the things Timothy is saying are from Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment (authority and decree) of God (1). The point of these verses is that the law of God is not given for theologians to debate and discuss how far a person can walk on the Sabbath. It is given to direct people into the way of God and to show us the things we ought to be doing. In this sense, it is for the disobedient and ungodly (9 & 10). It is for those who are doing anything that is contrary to sound doctrine in accordance with the Gospel, which was committed to Paul by God (11). To such people the law is a warning that they are not living according to the will of God. Thus the law gives sinners (all have sinned, Rom. 3:23) an opportunity to repent and seek God's forgiveness in Christ. The point of the law is to lead us to Christ.
Verses 5-11 refute the use of the law as a source of futile speculation. It is not given so men can spin it into fables and genealogies as some do (3 & 4). It is given to show God's standard of righteousness, and how far we have departed from it. In short, it is given to lead us to Christ. Paul's own life is an example of this. He rejoices that he has been called to the service of the Gospel (12), but recalls that he was previously a blasphemer of God and a persecutor of His Church (13). It was the grace of God in Christ that forgave His sins and called him into Christ's service (14), for Christ came into the world to save sinners (15). For Paul to call himself chief of sinners is to recognise that he had departed far from the standard of God in the law. But because he learned of his sin, he was moved to repent and seek God. God had a dual purpose for Paul when He saved him. First, through Paul's conversion the world can see the longsuffering (patient love) of God (15). Second, Paul's conversion is to be a pattern, or, example, to all who believe in Christ to everlasting life (16). Future believers, including Timothy, those to whom he ministers, and us, can see in Paul's conversion the pattern by which God calls others to faith in Christ. Paul's example ends in a doxology (17), thanking and praising God who has saved him and the Church through Christ.
Finished with his example, Paul continues to delineate Timothy's task in Ephesus (18, 19). We remember that Paul is committing to Timothy the task of charging the ministers in Ephesus to preach the Gospel of Christ instead of their own views and speculations (3-4). Thus, Paul says in verse 18, "This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy." "Prophecies" (18) are not things foretold about Timothy, but the revelation of God taught to Timothy through Paul and others, and to which Timothy has devoted his life. It is by the Apostolic teaching, which is really Christ's teaching, that Timothy is to "war a good warfare." It is the Gospel of Christ that will cast down Satan, free the spiritual captives, and deliver them safely into Heaven, and it is Apostolic teaching which Timothy is urged to teach the ministers in Ephesus.
He is to teach in "good conscience" (19). This means he is to first believe the Gospel, then teach it. He cannot teach what he does not believe without being a phony and a liar. Some have turned away from the Gospel, and suffered shipwreck on the rocks and storms of false teachings. Hymenaeus and Alexander stand out in Paul's mind, and they have been excommunicated, which is to be turned over to Satan as unbelievers until they show signs of repentance and true faith.
Zechariah 1, Jn. 21
Zech. 2, 1 Tim. 2, 3
1 Timothy 2 and 3
Though chapter 2 begins a new section, it is still part of Paul's instruction to Timothy about the charge he is to give to the people and clergy of Ephesus. Instead of false teachings (1:3) and fruitless speculation about the law (1:4), Timothy is to charge them to devote themselves to prayer and Godliness. The prayers of verses 1 and 2 follow the ancient liturgies, and Paul probably has them in mind as he writes these verses. Note the similarity between verse 2 and the Liturgy of St. Mark as quoted in the Pulpit Commentary;
"Preserve our king in peace, in virtue, and righteousness... incline him to peace towards us and towards thy Holy Name, that in the serenity of his reign we too may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all piety and honesty."
Rather than their own speculations, the ministers are to remind the people of the Gospel of the only Mediator between God and man, "who gave himself a ransom for all" (3-6). It is to proclaim this Gospel that Paul was ordained a preacher and Apostle (7). The implication is that if Paul was ordained to preach the Gospel, then the clergy of Ephesus, ordained by Paul and Timothy, are ordained to preach that same Gospel.
Verse 8 refers to the public prayers in the churches of Ephesus. "Everywhere," means, in all the congregations. "Lifting up holy hands" is the common position for prayer. Meeting in the homes of the church members, which often have only a few stools or chairs, the Ephesian Christians stand for hymns, Scripture reading, and sermons, and kneel for prayer. Rather than folding their hands in front of them, they hold them at their sides, waist high and palms up during prayer. They do not wave their hands or sway their bodies.
Verses 9 and 10 instruct women to dress modestly. This, of course, includes the need to dress in ways that cover, rather than in ways intended to allure. But it also means to dress in ways that do not call attention to the cost and beauty of the apparel. "Modesty" in this sense is used the way we use it when we say, "modest means." The apparel should be adequate and comfortable, not shabby or poor. The intent of the woman is not to have people admire her, but to worship God.
1 Timothy 3
The Church belongs to God. He established it for His own purposes, and He has given pointed and direct instructions regarding its nature and function. The Church is His body, His kingdom, and His people. In this regard, it is the fulfillment of Old Testament promises, such as the one in Isaiah 60:3, "The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." New Testament books elucidate the fulfillment of this promise in passages like Galatians 6 and Ephesians 2 and 3. Galatians 6:16 teaches that all who walk according to faith in Christ are "the Israel of God." Ephesians 2 and 3 teach that Jewish and Gentile Christians are "fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel."
God also gave the Church its doctrines, worship, and organisational structure. They are found in the New Testament, which records and explains the life and teaching of Christ, which He gave to the Apostles, and which He commissioned them to teach to the world (Mt. 28:19-20). The Apostles taught others, and ordained them to teach others also (1 Tim. 4:6-16, 2 Tim. 2:2, 4:1-2). 1 Timothy 3 addresses those called to offices of leadership in the Church. Specifically it refers to those called to be bishops and deacons.
The bishop is the overseer of the church in a particular area. It is his task to ensure that the ministers teach the truth in accordance with what they have been taught by the Apostles. He is also responsible for ordaining properly called and equipped men into the ministry, and for seeing that the local churches receive the pure Gospel of Christ and remain free of the false teachers that constantly attempt to infiltrate the Church. The abundance of false doctrines and false teachers make it very important for for the early Church to be able to distinguish between true and false ministers. One of the "tests" they use is called apostolic succession, meaning a bishop should be able to trace his line of ordination and teaching back to the Apostles. During the life time of the Apostles this was quite easy, for the Apostles visited the churches and affirmed the ministers in them. As the Apostles began to die out, ministers ensured that they were taught and ordained by men who had been taught and ordained by the Apostles. Careful records were kept. Thus we know Irenaeus, was taught by Polycarp, and Polycarp was taught by the Apostle John. A similar process helped determine which of the many books circulating through the early Church were to be included in the Bible. Those included had to be of Apostolic authorship, such as the Gospel of John, or written at the direction of an Apostle, such as the Gospel of Mark. So it is very important that the clergy in Ephesus can say they were taught and ordained by Paul, or by Timothy, or by a bishop taught and ordained by them. It is not a status symbol; it is a matter of keeping and teaching the Apostolic faith.
Charged, by the Apostle Paul with the task of of teaching and ordaining clergy in the churches in and around Ephesus, Timothy is well acquainted with the qualities and qualifications required of ministers. Paul put them in this letter to be read to the churches, so all would know that Timothy is not inventing them, but is doing all in accordance with the directive of the Apostle.
The requirements are clear and unambiguous. The bishop is to be of good moral character (1-3), a Godly leader in his own home (2, and 4), mature in the faith (6), and known for these attributes in the community (7). As the primary pastor of the Church in his area, he will continually lead the clergy and congregations into the things of God, therefore he must be apt to teach (2).
The requirements for deacons are no less stringent. Deacons assist the bishop and local pastors in the services of the Church and the care of the poor. They also preach and evangelise like Phillip in Acts 8. Their practice and knowledge of the faith must be in keeping with the importance of this ministry.
It is Paul's intention to go Ephesus as soon as possible (14). But, in case he is detained, Timothy is to carry on the work in Ephesus. So Paul takes time to pen a few words of encouragement and instruction for him. He has already reminded Timothy of what he should look for in candidates for the offices of bishop and deacon (1-13). Now he turns to Timothy's personal character and work. Timothy, of course, is already well aware of these things. Paul put them in this letter so Timothy can show it to the Ephesians, so they will know that he is acting in accordance with the instructions of Paul. Having this in writing from Paul, Timothy can show it to presbyters wanting to become bishops, and laymen wanting to become deacons. This will give them something to evaluate themselves by, and give the Church the standard of what to look for in the men holding these offices.
It is important to note that Paul calls the Church "the house of God" (15). This is a significant change, for prior to Pentecost the Temple was called the house of God. Paul realises that no building is actually God's dwelling. His real house is His people. It includes both the whole body of believers, and the local congregation, and it is assumed throughout the New Testament that true Christians are active members of the local church (Heb. 10:25). It should also be noted that the Church is the Church of the Living God. It does not belong to us, we belong to it, and it belongs to God. It is, therefore, to be conformed to His will as taught in the Bible, not run according to our whims and creativity, or by our own views of what it "ought" to be. This is very important, because people have a tendency to become confused on this point.
In fact, Paul warns Timothy that people will depart from the faith and fall under the spell of seducing spirits (5:1-5). They will follow the temptation to re-invent the Church, and the faith to make it more comfortable to themselves and to the world. 5:2 should frighten everyone who reads it, for it teaches that those who follow false teachings and engage in wrong practices can become so entrenched in them they can no longer see their error. In one sense we can recognise this in sinful attitudes and actions we have allowed to become habits in our lives. But Paul is talking about taking this even further, to the point where a person has left the faith, and doesn't even know it.
Zech. 3, Acts 1
Zech. 4, 1 Tim. 4
1 Timothy 4
This passage has two primary points. First, put the people "in remembrance of these things." Second, "exercise thyself unto godliness."
"These things" (6) refers to the things written and referred to in this letter. They are the true doctrines of the Gospel of Christ, which have been entrusted to Paul (1:11), which he has entrusted to Timothy, and which Timothy is to entrust to the ministers and congregations of Ephesus (1:3-5). One of Timothy's tasks in Ephesus is to consecrate bishops to oversee the churches of Ephesus and the surrounding areas. Another task is to ordain men to the deaconate (3:1-13, 5:22). He is to instruct clergy in the patterns of worship, daily prayer, and Christian love (1:5), so they, in turn, can instruct the churches (4:11, 1:3). He is also to teach them to actively avoid falsehood and vain speculation about Scripture and Heavenly things (7).
To "exercise thyself unto godliness" (7) is to practice the discipline of living for God daily. It includes habituating ourselves in the patterns of public worship, daily prayer, the Scriptures, and conduct and conversation that develop faith and faithfulness in us. Our goal is to "Draw nigh unto God" (Jas. 4:8-10) and to be "transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom.12:2). It is to be continually in the process of becoming more a person God wants you to be, and less a person of self and sin. Thus, Timothy is to meditate in and give himself wholly to this discipline.
Timothy is to give attendance (devote himself to) reading the Scriptures, exhortation to Biblical thinking and living, and doctrine, which is teaching and applying what the Bible says (13). He will naturally spend much of his time teaching the clergy. But the reading, exhortation, and doctrine will be part of his public duties in worship, and in private meetings as well. Timothy is to be a man of prayer and diligent in the means of grace. He is to teach the clergy to do the same, and they are to lead the people into the same pattern.
So, diligence in exercising unto godliness is the calling of all. It is not just for Apostles, or bishops, or clergy; it is the way of life for all Christians. I wonder how different our own lives would be, and what a difference we might make in the Church and the world if we would simply apply ourselves unto Godliness.
The gift and laying on hands of verse 14 refers to Timothy's ordination to the ministry of the Gospel, and the gifts of the Spirit that enable him to accomplish his task. It especially refers to the ability to teach the Scriptures, called here "prophecy."
Zech. 5, Acts 2
Zech. 6, 1 Tim. 5
Kindness and deference are to mark Timothy's treatment of others. Timothy is an important leader in the Church. He has authority to consecrate bishops and ordain clergy. He has authority to teach and command both clergy and congregations (4:11). Timothy is organising the churches in and around Ephesus into cohesive presbyteries, and consecrating bishops to oversee each. Thus, Timothy serves not only as a representative of Paul, but as a kind of archbishop and ruler of those who have rule of the Church. This is a position of great authority, worthy of great respect. Yet, he is not to be arrogant or puffed up. Instead he is to be humble, to remember that callings may differ, but people are equal. So he is to treat older men and women with the same loving respect he would show to his own father and mother. He is to treat younger Christians with the same love and respect he would give to his own sisters and brothers (see also 2 Tim. 2:24-26).
In Timothy's time, the Church provides for widows and orphans within the congregation. Naturally, some women join the church just to get a handout, and Paul instructs Timothy that even widows are to provide as much for themselves as possible. Especially young widows should remarry and be provided for as a wife rather than as a ward of the Church (14). Those with families should be provided for by them (4, 16). But a true widow, meaning one with no income and no prospect of getting one, of proven Christian faith, who has long been a member of the Church and demonstrated her faith in her life, is to be aided by the Church (16).
Paul turns from the financial support of widows within the congregation to the financial support of clergy (17-18). The double honour owed to the elder (presbyter/clergy) while carrying the meaning of respect and cooperation, also means financial support. It is the honouraria given to a person whose services are valued. It is the same word used in 1 Tim. 5:3, which leads into the instructions about providing for destitute widows. Verse 18 refers to the Old Testament principle of not muzzling the ox who treads the grain, for to do so is to deprive him of his due compensation. If it is wrong to deprive the ox of his compensation, it is also wrong to deprive the clergy of his.
Having broached the treatment of ministers again, Paul says accusations against them are not to be lightly received. This refers to accusations of serious sin or heresy, which require disciplinary action. Two or three witnesses are required to verify the charge (19), and the guilty are to be rebuked before all (20) without partiality (21). The same principles apply to all members of the Church. We neither speak nor hear idle gossip, complaints, or accusations against our fellow servants of Christ.
Because the authority and responsibility placed upon the clergy is so great, Timothy is to take great care that he ordains (lays hands on) only those who have proven themselves faithful (22). They are to have faced a time of testing and examination so that their views and practices are well known. To ordain someone without this is to be a partaker of his sins, if he later proves to be of heretical views and unorthodox practices which he has spread to the people.
Zech. 7, Acts 3
Zech. 8, 1 Tim. 6
1 Timothy 6
Servants are to count their masters as worthy of all honour. Here again, "honour" carries the double meaning of respect and payment. So the servant is to consider the master worthy of respect and worthy of his share of the servant's production. This has tremendous meaning for Christians in the work force today. It means we are to honour those who create our jobs and pay our wages. Likewise, masters/employers are to pay wages that are fair and just, and Christian charity and equality is to bring masters and servants into mutual love. Thus Paul urges Philemon to receive Onesimus not as a slave but as a brother (Philemon16). This principle is so important, Paul says anyone who teaches otherwise does not consent to the words of Christ or the doctrine that is in accordance with Godliness (3). Instead, he is proud, ignorant, and destitute of the truth (3-5).
Then, as now, some taught that Godliness is a pathway to financial gain. It is true that hard work and frugal living generally produce prosperity, but there are no guarantees in the Bible about this. A Christian's business may fail. His job may be eliminated. Office politics may deny him promotions, or, even get him fired. We live in a fallen world where sinners sin and evil things happen, so this should not surprise us. God gives no promises to make us rich. Especially does He not promise to reward holy living or giving money to the Church with financial success.
There is gain in Godliness, but it is spiritual, not financial (7) and we should content ourselves with food and raiment (8) knowing that the rich fall into many temptations that can drown them in destruction and perdition (9-10). In contrast to those who seek primarily wealth, Christians are to seek contentment, and follow after Godliness (11).
Paul reminds and encourages Timothy to flee the things of unGodliness and follow after the things of God (11). These words convey a picture of running away from unGodliness, and running to Godliness. It is important to note that the things to be run from, and the things to be pursued are not just actions, they are character traits. Thus, Timothy, and we through him, is reminded that a major part of the Christian life is the reformation of personal character. It is being changed in who and what we are. To pursue the things of Godliness means to cultivate them and to work at making them a part of us. This is not easy. Paul compares it to a fight, a battle (12, see also 1 Tim. 1:8). And the enemy is within us. The enemy is our own desire to please ourselves at the expense of others and to the neglect of God. Thus, John Chrysostom, in his Homilies on Timothy, XVIII, calling our desires, "passions," wrote:
"For of what advantage, tell me, is it to reign over nations of our fellow-men, and to be the slaves of our own passions? Or what are we the worse for having no one under our rule if we are superior to the tyranny of the passions? That indeed is Freedom, that is Rule, that is Royalty and Sovereignty. The contrary is slavery, though a man be invested with countless diadems. For when a multitude of masters sway him from within, the love of money, the love of pleasure, and anger and other passions, what avails his diadem? The tyranny of those passions is more severe, when not even his crown has power to deliver him from their subjection."
The good fight also includes contending for the faith and standing firm for Christ against the darkness. The entire Christian life is a battle against the forces of evil, both outside of and within our own hearts. Thus, Paul urges Timothy to "lay hold on eternal life" (12). He is to hold fast to Christ and the salvation given to him by the sacrifice of the Lord. This is not a once for all thing, it is a lifelong process and it is part of fighting the good fight. Timothy has professed Christ. He has made the decision to trust Christ as Lord and Saviour. Now he must continue to lay hold of Christ throughout his life, for it is those who persevere to the end who are truly saved. Paul refers here to what he calls walking in newness of life (Rom. 6:4), and what John calls walking in the light (1 Jn. 1:7). Each of these verses refers to a continuous action. Walk and continue to walk. Keep on laying hold of the eternal life you laid hold of in your profession of Christ.
Christ Himself is the ground of our faith. The hope of His appearing, both in His word and Spirit, and in His Second Coming, is what keeps us laying hold of Him. It is also the ground of Timothy's charge, and his reason for continuously keeping it. Verses 14-16 show the glory of Christ.
Paul gives a final exhortation about the rich ((17-19), and ends with a heartfelt plea that Timothy will "keep that which is committed to thy trust." What has been committed to his trust? The Gospel and the ministry of reconciliation; the care of souls and churches, the shepherding of the shepherds, the responsibility to pass on the faith pure and undiluted, and to continue to fight the good fight. It is everything Paul has placed into Timothy's care in this epistle.
Zech. 9, Acts 4:1-22
Zech. 10, 2 Timothy 1
2 Timothy 1
Second Timothy is Paul's final letter to Timothy. Written from the Mammertine prison in Rome, the letter shows the courage and faith of Paul in the face of death, and his concern for the continuing ministry of Timothy. By this time, early in the year 69 A.D., Timothy is in Ephesus again. Meanwhile, Paul has travelled westward, possibly as far as Spain and Britannia. We do not know how Paul came to be imprisoned in Rome a second time, though we know that Rome's growing hostility to Christianity became a full-fledged persecution after Nero blamed Christians for burning Rome in A.D. 64. By the time Paul writes 2 Timothy, he is in prison facing execution, John is imprisoned on Patmos, and Peter has been executed in Rome.
Yet Paul's letter begins with encouragement to Timothy. His words are those of deep friendship and love; words like, "my dearly beloved son," "I have remembrance of thee in my prayers day and night," and "greatly desiring to see thee." He reminds Timothy of his ordination (6), and asks him to stir up the gift of God, meaning the calling and ability to perform the ministry of the Gospel of Christ, in spite of opposition and persecution (7-11). As Paul has suffered for the Gospel (12), he encourages Timothy to be willing to partake of the afflictions of the Gospel (8), having the same faith Paul has, that Christ is "able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (12). What has Paul committed unto Christ? His life here and now, and his soul forever. "That day" is the Day of the Lord when all will be judged and those in Christ will be taken into Heaven forever. Paul's faith that Christ will take him in on that day sustains him now in trials and death on earth. Paul gives another exhortation to hold to sound words (doctrine) received from Paul, and to remain true to his calling, the "good thing committed unto him by the Holy Ghost.
The words of this epistle were written to Timothy, but their application to all Christians is evident. All are called to the service of Christ, to endure hardship, and to remain true to their calling in Christ even unto death. This charge is not just for those in the offices of ordained ministry, it is for all Christians.
How sad the words of verse 15 are. They present the personal hurt Paul felt by the rejection of Phygelus and Hermogenes. Having devoted himself to these very people, having brought the Gospel to them, nourished them in its teachings, suffered beatings, stonings, and prisons for their sakes, and having established a church in which they can worship God and hear the truth, he now sees them forsake him. Surely he must feel here what he wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:15, "And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved." But Paul's words also express a deeper sorrow, for these people are deserting God to follow their own desires and ideas. So Paul's pain is more for them than for himself. In their heresy and rebellion, they have sealed their fates as enemies of God. Contrast verse 15 with verses 16-18. Onesiphorus, because of his love for God and God's truth, also loves Paul, and shows his love in his actions as well as in his words. As Paul suffers and sacrifices to share the word of life with Onesiphorus, Onisiphorus shares good things with Paul. This, naturally causes Paul to rejoice, but he rejoices even more to know that Onesiphorus walks in Biblical faith rather than following vain babblings (2 Tim. 2:16:-17).
Zech.11, Acts 4:23-37
Zech.12, 2 Tim.2
2 Timothy 2
In chapter 2, the epistle turns to the ministry again. Timothy is to be strong in grace (1), and to commit what he has learned from Paul to "faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." We err when we ask our ministers to spend their time planning social gatherings and recreational activities for us. We err when we ask our clergy to organise soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Their calling is to teach the Scriptures to us; to "commit" the Apostolic teachings to us. Our responsibility, just as Timothy's, is, first, to receive their teaching. Timothy had to be a learner before he could become a teacher. We, also, must be willing learners of the word of God. We are, as Peter wrote, to "desire the sincere milk of the word" that we "may grow thereby" (1Pet. 2:1-2). Primary among God's appointed means for this is the ministry of men called and consecrated to teaching us. Clergy, there is a legitimate sense in which your people may and should become followers of you, and in following you, become followers of the Lord (1 Thes. 1:6). Laity, there is such a thing as a legitimate and good attachment to those who serve you in the name of Christ. Often laymen become sermon critics and develop an attitude of consumerism and entitlement toward the Church and her ministers. This is as great an offense to God as a minister preaching false doctrine.
Second, we are to transmit the Christian faith to others. Having it committed to us, it becomes our task to commit it to others, who will commit it to others, on down through the generations. The Christian faith is not an individualistic faith. It unites us to the whole company of faithful people. We are part of a Family, a Temple, a River flowing into God. We are like runners in a relay race. Others have gone before us; others will come after us. We have received the torch from those who have gone before. We now run our course with perseverance and faithfulness, and pass the torch to others to carry on till the Lord Returns. While it is true that we are part of the fellowship of all faithful people, we can never allow ourselves to believe we can be a part of that broader fellowship without also being faithful in the local fellowship, which is the local church. And it is in the local congregation that our worship, fellowship, learning, and service primarily take place.
Paul illustrates our work with examples from military service, athletic competition, and agricultural labour (3-6). All three require learning complex skills, self-discipline, and self exertion. A soldier ignorant of the use of weapons will soon be dead. An athlete not dedicated to his sport will soon be a spectator. A farmer too lazy to plow the fields and gather the harvest, will soon have no harvest to gather. Likewise, a minister who does not apply himself to teaching the Bible will soon have a congregation of heathens, and the layman who will not hear and learn the word will soon be one of them.
In verse 8, the epistle turns to the historical reality on which our hope is based; "Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead." We do not hope in feelings or experiences. We hope in a historical fact; God came to earth, died for our sins, and rose from the dead. Paul would not suffer and die for a feeling or an emotional experience. He would not die for a theory, or even a religion, and neither should we. We live for, hope in, and serve a real, living God who has made Himself known in history and in flesh and blood. For Him alone we will suffer, knowing that if we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us" (12).
Both of Paul's letters to Timothy are about Timothy's charge as a minister and bishop in the Church of Christ. Timothy is charged to do two things. First, he is to keep himself pure in faith and life. Second, he is to preach and teach the pure faith and life to others. This means he will commit this charge to the ministers, who will then commit it to the churches. It also means he will carry this charge directly to the churches in his capacity as their bishop.
We see both aspects of this in our reading for today. Verse 14 continues the charge Timothy is to give to the ministers and laity over whom the Lord had made him a shepherd and an overseer. Look back at 2:2, and you will see that this chapter is a continuation of Paul's instruction to commit the Apostle's teachings to the ministers and churches. Part of this ministry is to instruct them to walk together in peace. Verse 14 requires them to refrain from striving about words that do not profit. The key words here are, "strive not," which means don't fight about things that are unimportant. Such babblings are profane and vain, increasing ungodliness in the people and the Church like canker (17). Instead of fighting over trivialities, Christians must pursue and actively work for faith, charity, and peace with one another (22). Timothy himself is charged to be a man of peace.
He is to study the Scriptures (15). Again Paul emphasises that learning comes before teaching. The implication is that divisive babblings come from those who are either immature in the faith and the ways of Christ, or are complete strangers to them. Hymenaeus and Philetus are examples of this (17). Wanting to become teachers before they have been learners, they have spread error and dissent throughout the Church in Ephesus. By contrast, Timothy, who has studied with Paul and has been ordained and sent to Ephesus to teach, is not to be aggressive and divisive like Hymenaeus and Philetus. He is to be gentle and meek (24-25). This does not mean he cannot take a firm stand for truth. He has been encouraged to do so throughout this epistle. It means his methods must be as kind and helpful as his motives. The goal and hope is always that people may be recovered out of the snare of the devil (26). Paul intertwines his charge to Timothy, with the charge Timothy is to give to the clergy, and the charge the clergy are to give to the Church. This is because the same things apply to all. The same faith, the same faithfulness, the same pursuit of peace, the same abhorrence of strife, the same meek and cooperative attitude, the same teachable attitude, and the same character traits are for both clergy and laity. Our functions in the Church may differ, but our calling to holiness of life is the same; "Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity" (19).