Today: [1 Timothy 1:] Do We Need Apostles Today? The majority of professing Christians today reject the idea that God would call anyone to be an apostle in modern time. In 1 Timothy we get a look at what we are missing. This letter is a personal communication between a seasoned apostle and a younger trainee. Chapter 1 imparts the love and firmness of a father in the faith demonstrating for us the maturing influence and strength of ministry from an apostolic perspective that we could all benefit from today.
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[1Ti 1:1-20 KJV] 1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, [which is] our hope; 2 Unto Timothy, [my] own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, [and] peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. 3 As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: [so do]. 5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and [of] a good conscience, and [of] faith unfeigned: 6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; 7 Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. 8 But we know that the law [is] good, if a man use it lawfully; 9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; 11 According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. 12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did [it] ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15 This [is] a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. 17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, [be] honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 18 This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; 19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: 20 Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
1 Timothy is written to Paul’s most recognizable protege. Timothy was born to a Jewish woman and Greek father and began traveling with Paul at an early age. His mother and his grandmother’s name are known to us establishing Timothy as one of the earliest converts born under a multi-generational Christian influence. By the time this letter is written Timothy is established in a ministry of his own right serving as an apostle in training in the city of Ephesus.
This letter of Paul to Timothy is classified as one of three pastoral epistles that Paul has written along with Titus and 2 Timothy. The letter contains general instructions to Timothy regarding the conduct of his ministry, his personal life, and church order. The time of writing for this letter is believed to be between 59 and 70 AD depending on different scholar’s determinations concerning authorship. Because other early figures in the church do not widely mention 1st and 2nd Timothy there is much dispute as to whether it may have been written a century later by a writer unknown to us. The question of authorship is common regarding many New Testament texts as an artifice devised to undermine the suggestion of divine inspiration and infallibility of the scripture.
This first chapter addresses many negatives regarding false teachers and certain disorders in the church in Ephesus specifically and the church at large generally. Paul begins by greeting Timothy and quickly focuses upon those that are teaching doctrine beyond the scope of his apostolic teachings. When Paul criticizes teachings described as “no other doctrine” it is a reminder to us that Paul maintained in his lifetime that all humanity would one day be judged by the doctrine that he established as mentioned in Rom. 2:16; Rom. 16:25 and in 2 Tim. 2:8. This gives us a little-referenced understanding of what the scope of an apostles’ authority is. Apostles are in our midst to establish doctrine by taking the eternal truths of Jesus’ teaching and applying them in a current context. Peter himself referred to this as “present truth” in 2 Peter 1:12. This helps us to understand that the eternal truth of God’s word as applied in matters of discipleship change from one culture to the next regarding how they get lived out.
In v. 4 Paul warns that we are not to give heed to fables and endless genealogies which minister questions rather than godly edifying. This calls into question two types of teaching, first of all, fanciful revelations, visitations, narratives of fantastic dreams and out of body experiences by various believers who turn them into the basis for a launch into full-time ministry. On the other side of the spectrum, there are those that want to delve deeply into Jewish questions such as heredity, claiming one race has special grace upon them in the plan of God that transcends the teachings of Christ. One example would be famous teachers today who claim being born Jewish is equivalent to being born again. We are to be mature in these things and as Paul states in Eph. 4:14 not carried about by every wind of doctrine that crops up to sell books or drawing attention to this ministry or that.
The end of the matter concerning the commandment is the predominance of love out of a pure heart, living out your life in good conscience and maintaining faith without pretense. In Paul’s day and our day, many have swerved into controversial teachings and tantalizing so-called revelations because they desire to be seen as authorities that none can call in question all the while they (v. 7) neither understand what they are saying or what they affirm.
Touching the law and the demand that Christians pay homage in their personal lives to Jewish culture and traditions Paul says the law is good if you use it lawfully. What is the lawful or proper application of the law of Moses in the church age? Gal. 3:24 tells us – the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Keeping religious law, adopting Jewish culture, or any other constrained religious affectation is entirely without merit regarding your standing before God. The law was given not to qualify you before God but to bring you to a sense of moral and spiritual bankruptcy outside of Christ, so you thoroughly understand then your need for a savior. If you embrace the law, Jewish law or any performance-based approach to God you admit that you are an offender, disobedient, ungodly and a sinner because that is who the law is for and not for those who understand according to 1 Cor. 1:30 that Christ is their righteousness. We are to commit ourselves to the truth (v. 11) of the gospel of God that Jesus in His person is our basis of approach to God and the indwelling resource that causes us not to adhere outwardly to the law but to live in spiritual fulfillment of it.
Paul’s appreciation for the transforming power of Christ that the law could never produce is made plain by his constant confession (v. 12-13) that as a law-keeper he was nothing other than a blasphemer but having encountered Jesus he was transformed into an apostle of heaven not by performance-based striving or attainment but by the unconditional grace of a loving God. It was what happened on the road to Damascus that changed Paul not his fierce commitment to a religious lifestyle.
Paul turns then (v. 18) and charges Timothy to remember the prophetic words that were spoken over him with laying on of hands by Paul himself. Timothy and by extension, we as well are to war good warfare by the prophecies that go out over our lives that we might live overcoming lives. What is good warfare? It is the war you win. Victory or defeat then hangs in the balance by your attitude concerning the prophetic. Paul reminds Timothy of this and admonishes him as a leader to hold faith and the exercise of a clear conscience as a priority unlike many in his day and our day as well who turn from the faith and focus on the gospel and made shipwreck of their lives. He then mentions Hymenaeus and Alexander that once were committed disciples who fell into blasphemy and apostate teachings apparently after being trained by Paul himself just like Timothy was.
What is our takeaway from 1 Timothy chapter 1? We are being made privy to personal counsel between an elder statesman apostle in the kingdom of God and his younger protege. Timothy was not fully seasoned in his ministry when Paul leaves him in Ephesus, but there comes the point that young ministers must come out of training and test their mettle. In instructing Timothy, we get a sense of what it would be like if apostles were recognized today and to what degree they would benefit the church. In our day this ministry is almost entirely absent, and the church is not enriched by that sad fact. We need apostles. They were given by Jesus in Eph. 4 to perfect us and bring us to the full measure of the status of Christ.
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