Friday, December 11, 2009

1 Timothy 1:1-5

V1-5 – 1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, 2To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work – which is by faith. 5The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Paul, whose Greek name means “little” and whose Jewish name (Saul) means “asked,” declares himself an apostle, which means “sent one;” but Paul uses it to remind his audience (not just Timothy) of his God-given authority, even apart from his desire (likely referring to the Damascus Road encounter). He always notes that his apostleship comes from God and his work is on behalf of Jesus Christ. Paul calls God “our Savior” in v1 probably in direct contrast to the culture of the day, which made it commonplace to call Caesar “savior.” By the time Paul wrote this letter, Christians were being killed for refusing to call Caesar by this title (or by Lord), instead choosing rightly to reserve these titles for Jesus Christ and God the Father (co-equal in monotheistic divinity). Paul may also be thinking of God the Father as Savior in the sense that He is the author of the covenant of grace. Finally in v1, Paul calls Christ Jesus “our hope,” and there are a number of things he could be referring to, such as Jesus as mediator of the covenant of grace; but to keep it simple, one commentator says, “Paul often uses this term in several related senses. Often it is associated with the consummation of the believer’s faith. This can be expressed as glory, eternal life, ultimate salvation, Second Coming, etc. This consummation is certain, but the time element is future and unknown.”

In v2, Paul greets Timothy, whose name means, “one who honors God.” Timothy is mentioned more than any of Paul’s other helpers, some 17 times throughout 10 different letters; he is even referred to as an apostle, along with Paul and other “sent ones,” in 1 Thessalonians 2:6. Paul refers to him as “true son” – the word “my” is not in the Greek text. Paul uses similar phrases elsewhere regarding Timothy (1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Timothy 1:2; 2:1), Titus (Titus 1:4), and even Onesimus (Philemon 10). Jesus referred to his disciples as His children in John 13:33, and John uses the concept repeatedly in his epistles (3 John 4; 1 John 2:1,12,13,18,28; 3:7,18; 4:4; 5:21), referring to spiritual parenthood (“in the faith”) and mentoring. Even Peter and the author of Hebrews use similar phrases but not quite as personally (1 Peter 1:14; Hebrews 2:14; 12:8). Paul issues a standard greeting of grace, mercy, and peace, and as usual, he acknowledges Jesus’ deity by proclaiming that the blessing comes from both God the Father and Christ the Son. Grace is a primary description of the character of God; peace is what humans receive when they trust God; and mercy describes “hesed,” the covenant faithfulness and steadfast loyalty of God to His people, namely by keeping His promises.

In v3, Paul reveals that Timothy is in Ephesus, which at that time was the largest city in Asia Minor. Ephesus was also home to the Temple of Diana (Artemis), one of the Seven Wonders of the World, which made it also a haven for immorality, prostitution, and multi-cultural freedom. It was an “anything goes” city, for as long as peace was kept, Roman government did not interfere. Paul even stayed there for three years during his third mission trip (Acts 20:31), along with Aquila and Priscilla, and presumably Timothy, among others. Tradition asserts that John moved to Ephesus as well, after the death of Mary, the mother of Jesus. It is thought that Paul and Timothy returned to Ephesus as Paul’s first destination upon being released from his first Roman imprisonment. Eusebius, the third century church historian, asserts that Timothy was stoned in Ephesus over arguments with those who worshipped Diana (Artemis).

Apparently Paul left Timothy in Ephesus after they had arrived there together. Paul went on to Macedonia (Thessalonica and Philippi), while Timothy was to stay and give strict orders for certain people who were teaching false doctrine to stop from doing so. This purpose for Paul’s letter was so crucial that he omits the typical beginning to his epistles, which is thanksgiving (see Galatians as well).

In v4, Paul reveals the reason for this urgent command to Timothy. Writing of false doctrine, he mentions myths and endless genealogies, which promote controversies rather than God’s work of salvation by grace through faith. Calvin says, “Vain curiosity has no limit, but continually falls from labyrinth to labyrinth.” Paul is categorizing the pre-Gnostic heresies that stem from a combination of Greek mythology and Jewish apocryphal literature. The false teachers were avoiding the proper duty of gospel stewardship, which involves edification of the saints. Perhaps they were merely looking into the depths of philosophy, astrology, and mythology, but their speculation was causing controversy and failing to edify the body of Christ; Paul judges doctrine by its fruit. They weren’t showing love toward one another; thus, the teaching of false doctrines needed to stop.

In v5, Paul explains the goal of the command Timothy was to issue – love. This love comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. With the phrase “a pure heart,” Paul is emphasizing the whole of a person, their intellect, emotion, and will (Deuteronomy 6:5-6); the heart is the center, the core, of life, both physically and spiritually. So love is to be wholehearted and complete. When he speaks of “a good conscience,” Paul is referring to the inner senses (1 Peter 3:21); the conscience is, as one commentator noted, “a developing understanding of believers’ motives and actions based on (1) a biblical worldview, (2) the indwelling Holy Spirit, and (3) a knowledge of the word of God.” So love is to be wholehearted and complete, and the one loving is to know that they are showing love for the right reason. Finally, Paul writes of “a sincere faith.” He describes faith with a seldom-used adjective, “anypokritos.” It means “sincere” or “undisguised,” and is translated in the King James Version, “unfeigned,” “without hypocrisy,” and “without dissimulation.” One commentator elaborates, “Paul uses this adjective three times in his writings to describe (1) faith (1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 1:5) and (2) love (2 Corinthians 6:6; cf Romans 12:9; 1 Peter 1:22). It has the connotation of genuine, real, or sincere which is opposite of ‘counterfeit’ which describes the false teachers (cf 1 Timothy 1:19-20).” To summarize, we can say that Paul is confirming in this introduction the importance of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy, for the former leads to the latter.

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