The Epistles to the Evangelists

1 Timothy Chapter 1
1 Timothy 1:1 - Apostles and Evangelists
1 Timothy 1:1-2 - Initial Greeting in I Timothy
1 Timothy 1:3-4 - Problems with the Law System
1 Timothy 1:5 - The Goal of our Instruction
1 Timothy 1:6-11 - Fruitless Discussion
1 Timothy 1:11 - The Gospel of Glory
1 Timothy 1:12-13 - Thanks to Jesus our Lord
1 Timothy 1:14 - Abundant Grace
1 Timothy 1:15-16 - Christ Came to Save Sinners
1 Timothy 1:17 - To the King...
1 Timothy 1:18 - "Fight the Good Fight"
1 Timothy 1:18-20 - Keeping Faith and a Good Conscience

1 Timothy Chapter 2
1 Timothy 2:1-4 - Call to Prayer
1 Timothy 2:3-4 - The Knowledge of the Truth
1 Timothy 2:5 - One God, and One Mediator
1 Timothy 2:6-7 - The Testimony
1 Timothy 2:8 - Instructions for Christian Men
1 Timothy 2:9 - Some Instructions for Christian Women
1 Timothy 2:10-13 - More Instructions for Christian Women
1 Timothy 2:13-15 - The Role of Men and Women

1 Timothy Chapter 3
1 Timothy 3:1 - Introduction to Overseers
1 Timothy 3:1 - Another "Trustworthy Statement"
1 Timothy 3:2 - Some Qualities of a Bishop
1 Timothy 3:2-3 - More Qualities of a Bishop
1 Timothy 3:2-7 - And Still More
1 Timothy 3:8-13 - Deacons
1 Timothy 3:14-15 - Conduct in the House of God
1 Timothy 3:16 - The Mystery of Godliness
1 Timothy 3:16 - Three Points in the “Mystery of Godliness”
1 Timothy 3:16 - More “Mystery of Godliness”

1 Timothy Chapter 4
1 Timothy 4:1-3 - The Coming "Apostasy"
1 Timothy 4:2 - More on Demonic Forces"
1 Timothy 4:4-5 - Wrong Focus
1 Timothy 4:6-7 - Nourished on Words
1 Timothy 4:7-9 - Godliness
1 Timothy 4:8-11 - Prescribe and Teach “Godliness”
1 Timothy 4:12 - “Show Yourself an Example”
1 Timothy 4:13-16 - Insuring Salvation

1 Timothy Chapter 5
1 Timothy 5:1-2 - Interpersonal Relations
1 Timothy 5:3-5, 8-10 - Windows Indeed
1 Timothy 5:6, 11-15 - More on Widows
1 Timothy 5:7-8, 16 - Financial Considerations
1 Timothy 5:17-21 - Interactions with Elders
1 Timothy 5:22-25 - "Random" Points

1 Timothy Chapter 6
1 Timothy 6:1-2 - Slaves and Masters
1 Timothy 6:3-4 - Sound Words
1 Timothy 6:4-6 - Constant Friction
1 Timothy 6:6-8 - Some Poignant Thoughts

Apostles and Evangelists

The epistles to Timothy and Titus open with the same phrase in their greetings: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus” (or “Jesus Christ”). The word apostle means “one sent out,” someone on a special mission, or someone sent as an ambassador or authorized to speak for the one who sent him. In new covenant writings, there are basically two kinds of apostles: those sent out by congregations, such as when Paul and Barnabas were sent out by the church in Antioch of Syria as recorded in Acts chapter thirteen; and, apostles of Jesus Christ, specifically commissioned by Him. The original Twelve were chosen by Jesus as recorded in the gospel accounts. Judas betrayed the Lord, and went out and hanged himself; hence Matthias was selected to take his place as recorded in Acts chapter one. The apostle Paul was chosen, “as one untimely born,” by special calling as recorded in Acts chapters nine, twenty-two, and twenty-six. These thirteen “apostles of Jesus Christ” were the only ones able to make a legitimate claim to being the inspired apostles, and were the only ones who could represent themselves as the specific messengers of Christ. Consequently, the new testament teaching is also styled “the apostles’ doctrine,” and any doctrines that would contradict that body of teaching would therefore be false. “Even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you,” asserted Paul to the Galatian brethren, “let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6). Thus the former Saul of Tarsus, when introducing himself by letter to two of his closest associates, still uses the authoritative phrase, “an apostle of Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:1). That phrase carries the appropriate weight, not only for Timothy and Titus, but also for anyone who happens to read these letters!

God did indeed give apostles of Christ for the instruction and direction of the church. Another important office that Jesus gave to the church, according to Ephesians 4:11, was that of evangelist. The word evangelist comes from evangel, the Greek word meaning “the good message” or “the good news,” usually translated gospel. The primary function of evangelists is to preach the gospel; hence the term preacher is often a new covenant synonym for evangelist. “But you,” the apostle of Christ instructed Timothy, “be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5). Timothy clearly was an evangelist, and since Titus was given a parallel set of instructions to what Timothy received, Titus clearly was an evangelist also. Furthermore, the men who often traveled with Paul and performed the same functions as Timothy and Titus were evangelists also. The only one so named was “Philip the evangelist” (Acts 21:8).

The apostles of Jesus Christ were to receive the inspired instruction from Jesus through the Holy Spirit, and get a widespread base established for the continuing development of the church. Thus “the apostles’ doctrine” was identified as authoritative, and all future teaching was to be compared to that doctrine. Even Jude, whose epistle was included in the new covenant writings, makes his appeal: “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:17).

The evangelists of the first century were to follow the direct instructions of the apostles. The job of the evangelists of the twenty-first century is to follow the instructions of the apostles as indicated in the teaching and examples of the New Testament. Hence the epistles to the evangelists figure prominently in God’s plan.

The office and function of evangelists, doing the work as directed in the New Testament, is critically important. Often, as in the case of Titus, they would work an area, setting things in order and appointing elders (or bishops) in congregations, and rebuking the bishops when necessary. So significant is the role of evangelists in the structure of the church that the developing Catholic Church of the late first century destroyed the office of evangelist as it simultaneously elevated one man and called him the Bishop. Modern saints need to learn and pay attention!! Thus these are “epistles to evangelists” rather than the perverted term “pastoral epistles.”

Initial Greeting in I Timothy

The apostle Paul wrote the first epistle to Timothy after the closure of the history recorded in the book of Acts, sometime around AD 62 or a little later. Paul had been released from prison, and, as he indicates, he had departed for Macedonia [Philippi, Thessalonica]. Timothy is in Ephesus at the time of this letter, but where Paul was at that time is unknown. The congregation at Ephesus had been started or greatly augmented by the apostle on his third missionary journey, had grown rapidly, and had elders [bishops, or pastors]. Timothy, working as an evangelist in that area, needs this instruction from Paul to do his part in guiding the direction and expansion of the church in Ephesus and all Asia.

These personal and sincere words of greeting to Timothy testify to the genuineness of the letter, and not something made up by a later imposter. These are the “true words of God”!!

Problems with the Law System

Men who did not understand the difference between “the Law of Moses” and “the faith of Christ” dogged the apostle Paul all his Christian life. Barnabas and Paul had just finished up the first missionary journey, coming to the base church in Antioch of Syria, and there arose a major problem over this issue. Luke recorded the statement of those from the “converted” Pharisees in Jerusalem, “It is necessary to circumcise them [the Gentiles], and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.’ ” (Acts 15:5). From that point on a significant portion of Paul’s public teaching and letters are devoted to clarifying the difference between “the Law” and “the faith.” The congregation in Ephesus, having begun with Jews converted from the synagogue, apparently continued to have these problems. Thus the apostle has some instructions for Timothy.

“Therefore the Law,” Paul informed the Galatian brethren, “has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). Without the backdrop of the Law, with its teachings, types, foreshadows, and history, the significance of the new covenant system of faith would not be very understandable. But with the aid of the “tutor,” interested people can understand the faith of Christ, and through obedience to its gospel, be justified. “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:25). The system of law served its purpose; now it is time to move on to “furthering the administration of God, which is by faith.”

The Goal of our Instruction

There have always been those who are most concerned about outward appearance. The “whitewashed tombs,” the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, stand as a great example. “You outwardly appear righteous,” was Jesus’ divine analysis, “but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:28). The Jewish society, operating under the full knowledge of the Law, tended to produce this type of hypocrisy among its leadership. The Pharisees were the teacher/leaders, and therefore to be the examples to the rest of their synagogues, but in failing to live up to the law and shackled by guilty consciences, they then put up the pretense of living the law. “They do all their deeds to be noticed by men,” was the Lord’s blunt exposure (Matthew 23:5).

Such was the society of the synagogue out of which grew the congregation in Ephesus. The “loud mouths” of Jewish background which had not processed the difference between Christianity and Judaism were still locked into a similar type of hypocrisy and exercising influence in the congregation wherein Timothy was laboring. Paul therefore explains: “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). The word “instruction” here is not just a recommended list; it embodies the force of teaching that needs to be carried out!

The goal, the end product, of new covenant teaching cannot be accomplished by the old covenant system. Hence those who are attempting to hold on to the old covenant in any way are locked out of the spiritual blessings of the new covenant: no new covenant love, no new covenant “good conscience,” and no new covenant “sincere faith.” New wine cannot be put into old wineskins, and those who attempt to live as old covenant people end up being hypocrites without the sincere faith of those who have come under the terms of the new!

Fruitless Discussion

The attempt to live under the terms of the old covenant ends up being the way of death! The apostle Paul called the law system “the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones” (2 Corinthians 3:7). Who, then, in an undeluded, right mind, would promote such a dead system? One of the key “take-aways” of the apostle’s exhortations to Timothy here is that there are many people who can’t think straight, who are somewhat ignorant, or who make big conclusions based on incomplete information or understanding. The “god of this world,” Satan, does indeed “blind the minds of the unbelieving” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

The congregation in Ephesus needed to be kept on the right doctrinal path, otherwise she and most of her souls would end up in the lake of fire. Timothy would indeed have to have the information and courage to “instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines.” Through this letter, Timothy clearly had Paul the apostle’s backing!

The Gospel of Glory

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the great theme of the ages! All history from “in the beginning” through Jesus’ ascension pointed to that time, and all the important work of God from that moment on was and is based on that gospel. The gospel, the “good news,” is variously described as “the gospel of Christ,” the “gospel of God,” the “gospel of peace,” the “gospel of grace,” the “gospel of your salvation,” and here in Paul’s first letter to Timothy “the glorious gospel,” or alternatively, “the gospel of glory.” This is interesting terminology, and deserves a deeper look.

In his first epistle to the Corinthian brethren, the apostle spoke in some detail of the gospel, noting that it contained the basic concept “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3,4). Hence, in comport with the expression “obedient to the gospel,” a repentant individual dies to sin, is buried in the watery grave of immersion into Christ, and is raised in the likeness of Jesus’ resurrection to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-11). Thus, the “gospel of peace” contains the mechanism by which the formerly alienated sinner can have “peace with God” through His reconciliation accomplished in his obedience to that gospel (Ephesians 6:15). It is “the gospel of salvation” because in it the individual receives forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:13). Likewise it is the “gospel of the grace of God” because in obedience to its terms the manifold grace of God is extended to the now blessed saint (Acts 20:24). But the gospel is the vehicle to more than even these awesome and wonderful blessings.

This, then, is gospel, as Paul described it, “with which I have been entrusted” (1 Timothy 1:11). This gospel saves; this gospel grants forgiveness and peace; this gospel opens the way into the grace of God; and this gospel makes possible the transformation of the inner man through the revelation of the glory of God in the face of Christ. What a stewardship indeed, since it had not yet been written and recorded in the completed sacred writings. Paul held that trust in high regard, and defended the gospel against all those who would pervert or twist it, especially against those who claimed “to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.”

Thanks to Jesus our Lord

It is clear from the word of God that the Almighty is less concerned about where we have been than where we are going! No matter how seemingly “saintly” a life an individual might have led prior to his immersion into Christ, his “small” sins (“small” to him, maybe, but “giant” in the sight of God) separated Him from his Maker, and transformed him into an enemy. “For if while we were enemies,” the apostle Paul had reminded the Roman brethren, “we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10). The raw materials for God’s instruments of righteousness are abject sinners, strangers to the covenant of righteousness, without hope and without God in this world. The man who penned those words and expressed those concepts was very conscious of his own standing before the Lord prior to his immersion at the hands of Ananias, and was grateful to the All Merciful for giving him another opportunity to serve Him in carrying out the greatest of all purposes.

Conscious, then, of the great mercy of God exhibited through Jesus Christ, Paul was willing to offer his life as a living sacrifice to the One who saved him. Persecutions, privations, punishments, and prison could not turn him from proclaiming the gospel to the lost, and serving to preserve the saints. His example is worthy of our emulation!!

Abundant Grace

It cannot be overemphasized: there is no grace under law! The system of law is inflexible: “one and done”; one sin and the person is dead spiritually and separated from God. The apostle Paul, to illustrate this point, quoted from the Law of Moses itself, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, to perform them” (Galatians 3:10). It is evident, in order for God to save truth-seekers from the cursed fires of hell, another system, a system of “grace,” must be brought in. “The Law was given through Moses,” thus affirmed the apostle John, whereas “grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). God in His mercy covers the negatives of the saint’s life; His grace is His giving the saint all the positives of the terms of the new covenant. “We believe,” stated the apostle Peter at the first formal welcoming of the Gentiles into the early church at a meeting in Jerusalem, “that we [the Jews] are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way they [the Gentiles] are” (Acts 15:11). The salvation of the Gentiles by faith through grace (operative at immersion into Christ) was clearer than the salvation of those coming out of Judaism because it was not cluttered with remnants of the Law.

The extreme hostility that the former Paul had for Christianity made him conscious of how great an effort God had gone to reconcile mankind to Himself, and to reconcile Paul personally. His words are worth restating: “I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.” Amen!

Christ Came to Save Sinners

Man, in general, is afraid of facing God. He is only one step away from his first ancestor, Adam, who hid in the garden because he was afraid. The guilty conscience, built into every human being who has crossed the line and has committed sin against his Creator, condemns the individual, and his tendency is to figure out ways in which he thinks he is hiding from God. It is roughly equivalent to the small child covering his face with a dishcloth, and then crying out, “You can’t see me!” To bring man out of his hiding, God sent the gospel of Christ into the world. The first portion of the gospel brings the individual to accountability before God, and acquaints him with the penalty of eternal punishment as the consequence for that sin. The next portion of the gospel brings the message of what Jesus did through the cross to redeem man to Himself. The third portion then gives the specifics of how each lost soul might secure for himself the blessings of that salvation.

God’s patience is extended to anyone who is currently processing the fact that Jesus died for him, was buried, and was raised to the power position to save him. But “today” is the day of salvation, and “now” is the acceptable time, before it is too late. “Repent, and be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit!!” (Acts 2:38).

To the King...

How many words could be used to praise God? With what words could anyone describe the Majestic God? The apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, has some of best that could be offered. In describing Jesus Christ, revelation of the awesome God, the apostle states that He is “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:21). He runs out of superlatives!

Similarly, after speaking of the great mercy and grace extended to sinners (of which Paul regarded himself as “foremost”), the apostle launches into another set of descriptive words and phrases setting forth the greatness and worthiness of the Prince and Savior: “Now to the King eternal,” he opens his doxology, “immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17). Certainly these descriptions are worthy of examination.

The apostle Paul, considering the wretchedness of his condition prior to his immersion into Christ, certainly would have the highest praise for his deliverance and his Deliverer. Having been a “blasphemer and persecutor and violent aggressor,” and very well aware of the eternity in the lake of fire for those found “not knowing God,” he lauds the Jesus who met him on the Damascus Road and sent Ananias with the words of what he should do to secure his salvation. The mercy, grace, patience, and love that Jesus extended to him were not taken lightly. This doxology is sincere, every word ringing with gratefulness toward the Christ who died and rose again that Paul might live forever in heaven. “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen!”

"Fight the Good Fight"

There are many temptations for any saint who tries to keep his focus on Christ. Even for someone like Timothy, protégé of the apostle Paul, the pressures from the forces of darkness would be intense. Hence, the apostle has an exhortation (a command, even) for the younger man and co-laborer in the gospel. But before the exhortation is issued, Paul reminds Timothy of some important history in the evangelist’s life, and uses that history as a basis for his exordium.

The Lord is using the church — His saints — to wage war against the forces of darkness. The battle for each soul is raging, as the new covenant writings consistently point out. Timothy is encouraged to “fight the good fight,” not only maintaining his faith for his own soul, but having the character and preaching/teaching power to continue to reach the lost and work with the brethren.

It is a “fight”; it is absolutely brutal spiritual warfare. In the physical realm, troops are recruited, armaments amassed, and armies take the field under swirling banners with navies standing offshore; then the opposing forces proceed to cut each other to pieces. It is comparatively easy to process just how brutal warfare is in the physical realm, both for those who have experienced it firsthand, and for those who have to some degree processed that warfare through actual photographs or verbal pictures. But God wants His children of faith to use the physical as a basis to process the spiritual, and draw the conclusion about the horrific brutality of that war for men’s eternal souls. This war is the one worth engaging in. Timothy, and all moderns, “fight the good fight!”!!

"Fight the Good Fight"

There are many temptations for any saint who tries to keep his focus on Christ. Even for someone like Timothy, protégé of the apostle Paul, the pressures from the forces of darkness would be intense. Hence, the apostle has an exhortation (a command, even) for the younger man and co-laborer in the gospel. But before the exhortation is issued, Paul reminds Timothy of some important history in the evangelist’s life, and uses that history as a basis for his exordium.

The Lord is using the church — His saints — to wage war against the forces of darkness. The battle for each soul is raging, as the new covenant writings consistently point out. Timothy is encouraged to “fight the good fight,” not only maintaining his faith for his own soul, but having the character and preaching/teaching power to continue to reach the lost and work with the brethren.

It is a “fight”; it is absolutely brutal spiritual warfare. In the physical realm, troops are recruited, armaments amassed, and armies take the field under swirling banners with navies standing offshore; then the opposing forces proceed to cut each other to pieces. It is comparatively easy to process just how brutal warfare is in the physical realm, both for those who have experienced it firsthand, and for those who have to some degree processed that warfare through actual photographs or verbal pictures. But God wants His children of faith to use the physical as a basis to process the spiritual, and draw the conclusion about the horrific brutality of that war for men’s eternal souls. This war is the one worth engaging in. Timothy, and all moderns, “fight the good fight!”!!

"Keeping Faith and a Good Conscience"

It’s a good fight, indeed, in which the saints are enlisted. What greater cause could there be than one wherein souls are turned from darkness to light, from the dominion of Satan to God? What greater battlefield could there be, where the spiritual swords of the saints clash with opposing demonically driven forces? What greater purpose could there be than one in which people’s future is changed from one of eternal darkness and pain to one of eternal light and pleasure? It is a good fight, and worthy of each saint’s total participation, and fulfilling to the greatest degree!

But it is a fight! It demands full time concentration on the part of the saint just like any physical battle. “Our wrestling is not against blood and flesh,” states the apostle in his letter to the Ephesians, “but against principalities” and all the world forces of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). Wrestle is a great description because in a wrestling match the combatants are extremely intensely engaged for the full round, and if either lets up or loses concentration for even a moment, he is pinned. The saint, then, is engaged in spiritual warfare with an opponent who does not give up or let down; hence the Christian must continually recognize that he is involved in a spiritual fight from which there is no release until God calls him home!

This is indeed life or death combat in the spiritual realm. It was for Timothy, and it is for us. The key ingredients in this fight are maintaining faith and a good conscience. Those are not the “properties” which a person would normally think of in terms or protecting territory in a fight. But such it is in the spiritual realm, and this instruction to Timothy should guide modern saints in the raging battles to come. GO, FIGHT, WIN!!

Call to Prayer

“Christ Jesus,” said Paul, “came into the world to save sinners.” Jesus Himself, during His years on the surface of earth, engaged in tremendous spiritual warfare with the prince of darkness in carrying out His mission, and was personally tempted by “the big bad one.” Even as the hour of His crucifixion was approaching, as Jesus was finishing inaugurating the Lord’s Supper, He stated to the apostles, “the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me” (John 14:30). Judas Iscariot, however, had succumbed to pressure, and the scripture states that when he ate the morsel that Jesus gave him, “Satan then entered into him” (John 13:27). These examples show that the battle for the soul is fierce, and Jesus deserves maximum praise for winning that battle. That battle is also that to which Paul called Timothy in exhorting him to “fight the good fight.”

These prayers are necessary, as Paul restates in his point about the purpose of spiritual warfare. “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,” he notes, “who desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3,4). Timothy, and all who are likewise addressed and challenged in this epistle, remain open to the possibility that anyone can be saved. Hence comes the exordium from Jesus Himself, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Each saint is reminded that at one point he too was an enemy of God: “For if while we were enemies,” Paul reminded the Romans, “we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10). Children of faith are greatly encouraged to take on the character of their Father in loving their enemies and praying for those who persecute them, “in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…” (Matthew 5:45). Let entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men!

The Knowledge of the Truth

The Law, although it was spiritual, did not produce a spiritual people. It took the coming of Christ in the flesh, and the gospel message emanating from that event, to begin to reach the calloused hearts of men, and move them to desiring spiritual and important truths. It is in the gospel that the love of God for each member of the lost race of man is expressed in the death of Christ on the cross. As Jesus put it, referring to His upcoming crucifixion, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32). Hence comes the exhortation to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Once the individual is enrolled in the school of Christ, and is immersed per Acts 2:38, then the next step kicks in: “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Naturally, as the spiritually awakening descendant of Adam recognizes his dreadful condition as a sinner before the justice of the Almighty God, his major concern is to be reconciled to God through his obedience to the gospel of Christ. Once he has peace with God, then he can continue his education in the all-important spiritual realm, revealed only through the scriptures. The apostle Paul expresses the concept in these terms, building off the base that saints should pray for all men: “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3,4). First the salvation, then the rest of the truth!

God truly desires all men to be saved, and He truly desires that His disciples come to a knowledge of the truth. Understanding the Father’s desire for each of His spiritual children enables us to put the process of continued discipleship in the right context and to spur the heart’s desire for more than just the basics. God is in the process of producing a truly spiritual people who have their minds set on the Spirit rather than the flesh. Time, tribulation, and torture have ways of sorting out who those people are.

One God, and One Mediator

The written revelation makes it clear, from even the earliest scrolls, that there is but one God. “Hear, O Israel!,” cried the prophet Moses, “The Lord is our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). All other “gods” or idols are figments of men’s imaginations, stirred up by demonic forces. “We [as Christians] know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world,” posited Paul, “and that there is no God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4). “I say,” he fervently pointed out, “that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons” (1 Corinthians 10:20). Hence God’s long war against idolatry is really God’s long war against the Satanic/demonic forces working in the minds of men. God had to work long and hard to drive idolatry out of Israel; thus the brethren are warned, “Therefore, my beloved, flee idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14).

The desire of God “for all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” is indeed intense, and the willingness of Jesus to carry out His part is more than incomprehensible. God is indeed “a righteous God and a Savior.” He rightly and justly condemns to an eternity in the lake of fire those who reject His love, His sacrifice, and His offering on their behalf. “Every knee will bow, and every tongue will swear allegiance” (Isaiah 45:23). “In the Lord all the offspring of [true] Israel will be justified, and will glory” (Isaiah 45:25). The ransom price was paid in full!

The Testimony

If someone has an apartment for rent, and no one knows about it, the apartment will remain vacant. If God has a tremendous plan for the redemption of all mankind, but no one ever knows about it, redemption’s rolls will remain empty. Thus, with the plan of redemption, God also had to have a plan for the distribution of the message. What little dissemination of the knowledge of the God of Israel was accomplished through the Jews and their dispersion through the Gentile lands. But there was no aggressive attempt on the part of the Jews to spread that information; in fact, the Jews were told to keep separate from the Gentile peoples of the world so that they were not destroyed by their association with pagan religions. But with the coming of the new covenant, the message of the gospel is to be taken to the world, as Jesus commanded the apostles following His resurrection: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and been immersed shall be saved…” (Mark 16:15,16).

Paul himself came into the whole mix at the proper time. He explained to the Galatians that he had been set apart, “from my mother’s womb” to be an apostle to the Gentiles, and at the right time God “called me through His grace…that I might preach Him [Jesus] among the Gentiles” (Galatians 1:15,16). “For this,” the apostle reaffirmed to Timothy, “I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Timothy 2:7).

Instructions for Christian Men

Paul did point out to Timothy that he had been called as an apostle. Speaking to the point of his participation in the gospel as a preacher, a teacher, and an apostle, when he spoke of his apostleship he emphasized, “I am telling the truth, I am not lying.” As an apostle, Paul is about to give Timothy some in-structions to pass along to Christian men and women in the congregation in Ephesus (and ultimately to all congregations in Christ), and he wants Timothy and the listeners to know that these are coming with apostolic backing. It is similar to the specific statement that he made to the church at Corinth in his second epistle, where he spoke of “the authority [exousia] which the Lord gave me, for building up, and not for tearing down” (2 Corinthians 13:10). Functioning in “faith and truth,” the apostle stated, “Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension” (1 Timothy 2:8).

Paul established his authority as an apostle of Christ, tested and trusted by the Lord Himself. Timothy, then is to pass the apostle’s instructions on to the congregation in Ephesus with the full force of Christ’s command and the apostle’s exhortation. “Therefore,” began the injunction, “I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath or dissension.” We got it, Paul, we got it!

Some Instructions for Christian Women

Saints need guidance as to how to conduct themselves in the church of the living God. Just as men need direction, so do the Christian women. These directives come underneath the heading of these words: God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Men in the church are therefore to pray to this end, live holy lives, and not engage in wrath or dissension; these are absolutely necessary for the church to carry out its role in seeking and saving the lost. The instruction for Christian women dovetails with the instruction to the men, and is for the same purpose.

The exhortation from the Holy Spirit is for saintly and godly women to use good judgment in their dress and overall adornment. Godly character is of paramount importance, and that is the “attractiveness” that the Father desires in His girls. Part of that character is exhibited in modest and discreet dress, coupled with intelligent hair styles and jewelry. Christian women are to be lights in the world and salt of the earth; they can’t wear the costumes of the ancient world or not-so-ancient world and do that. But they can be tasteful without being trendy, they can be effective without being “edgy.” They can focus on showing the character of Christ to the people around them without exposing an undue amount of skin. They can be those “lights” without the flash of precious metal. They can be clothed with Christ without having to use earth’s “costly garments.” In that fashion, the mission of seeking and saving the lost can be most effectively accomplished as saintly ladies intermingle in their societies, without the distractions of indiscretion getting in the way!

More Instructions for Christian Women

Usually, more than half the population in a congregation are female. Women tend to live longer than men, and there are often “Lydia’s” who are very interested in the word of God. Those coming into Christ from the world often need instruction on how to conduct themselves in their new life; having been made disciples, having been immersed, they need to continue to be taught how to observe all that Jesus has commanded. Some of that education involves a new way of dress and a new way of acting in the public or congregational arena. Instead of being “attention-getters” in their clothing, hairstyle, or exhibition of jewelry, they are to be modest and use discretion.

The forces of darkness have long been at work in “overthrowing the existing social order.” Because Western Civilization was, in a broad sense, Bible-based, and its foundational philosophy provided the basis for freedom in teaching and practicing the scriptures, from the perspective of those who are promoting “the new world order” that foundation must be destroyed. A key part of that overthrow is the fundamental God-ordained relationship between men and women, and their respective roles. “For it was Adam who was first created,” Paul reminds Timothy, “and then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:13). While the supposed goal of “leftists” in the modern world is “empowering woman,” the actual purpose is to devalue men. When men are devalued, women also are actually devalued as well, families are thrown into chaos, and the “existing social order” is destroyed. It is therefore understandable that one of the major Communist holidays is International Women’s Day on March 8. Congregations should not allow themselves to be pulled into the modern public agenda, but simply follow scripture and explain its tenets to those being converted to Christ.

The Role of Men and Women

“But from the beginning of Creation,” said the Lord Jesus Himself, quoting from Genesis, “God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6). Only in a world gone crazy would a person be able to be persuaded that someone could “choose a gender” or be able to tell other people by what pronoun he (or she, for clarity in today’s world) wished to be addressed. A boy is born a male, and a girl is born a female, and nothing earthly is going to be able to change much more than some surface body chemistry or some changes by surgery. The way the bones are shaped and the way the brain is “wired” cannot be changed; God made mankind “male and female.” Since God made them “male and female” from the beginning, there are also some built-in roles; females are destined to be mothers and homemakers, and males are destined to be fathers and bread-winners. The scripture has much to say about how both husbands and wives are to conduct themselves, but the roles are spelled out. In a society being increasingly driven by a “woke agenda,” fomented by forces that would bring about “a great reset” and “a new world order,” the teaching of the scripture is castigated and ultimately censored. God and His word, however, are unchanging!

Christian men are to be godly, lifting up “holy hands,” not engaged in wrath or dissension. Christian women are to exhibit an intelligent (using discretion in dress and conduct) demeanor and lifestyle, giving the appropriate honor to the Christian men with whom they associate. They are to be examples of what a faithful woman should be, serving and honoring God and His word. They are to be depositories of scripturally defined love in the family and in the church of God. These daughters of God are likewise to be holy (in sanctity) in all their behavior. And the word also stresses that they are to be examples of self-restraint, using discretion or good judgment in their disciplined character and lifestyle.

Introduction to Overseers

The church has been designed by God. It was designed before the foundation of the world and existed in God’s mind so that its substance could cast the shadow backward in earth’s time to the Old Testament foreshadow. The old covenant tabernacle and its appurtenances were called “the copies of the things in the heavens” (Hebrews 9:23). The substance (“the things in the heavens”) must be in existence in order for a copy to be made. As the tabernacle and the temple of Solomon were clearly designed by God, it is also therefore clear that the church of God was designed by God.

The building of the tabernacle was overseen by Moses. “Moses,” said Hebrews’ author, “was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle” (Hebrews 8:5). This warning came in the words of a strict command, as the writer of Hebrews quotes from the Old Testament narrative: “ ‘See,’ He says, ‘that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.‘ ” The tabernacle was built by Moses; the church is to be built by Christ, as He commented to Peter, “Upon this rock [the bedrock confession that Jesus is the Christ] I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). As Moses was commanded to build according to the pattern shown him, even more so would Christ build according to the pattern given Him by the Father. “Christ is faithful as a Son over His house, whose house we are” (Hebrews 3:6).

Jesus, following His crucifixion and resurrection, ascended to the power position at the right hand of the Majesty on high. At the same time, He was positioned spiritually as the chief cornerstone in the true temple of God. The church, then, is built “upon the foundation of the apostles and [new covenant] prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). The apostles and prophets built according to “all that Jesus commanded” (Matthew 28:20). The result is a complete set of instructions in the writings of the New Testament for how the church of Jesus Christ is to continue to be built. If Moses was warned with regard to the copy of the church, how much more are moderns warned to build according to the instructions given them in the completed word of God!

The church of the Lord is not a physical building, but it consists of individual spiritual building blocks or stones called Christians. “You also,” was the apostle Peter’s instruction, “as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). These “living stones,” however, are not to float aimlessly about on the surface of planet earth; they are to be organized into congregations that regularly assemble. These local assemblies are to be organized according to the instructions given in the New Testament writings. When Paul wrote to the congregation at Corinth, he reminded them that “as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it” (1 Corinthians 3:10). He further adds, “If any man destroys the temple of God [the local congregation in this context], God will destroy him” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

The apostle Paul did not organize one congregation one way and have a different plan of organization for another local church. He mentioned to the church in Corinth that he was sending Timothy to straighten out a few things that had gone awry. “He will remind you,” Paul assured them, “of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:17). Not only did Paul establish congregations with the same practices and doctrines throughout the first century world, but the other apostles did the same. When the apostle Paul met the apostles Peter and John in Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15, he found that they were laying the same foundations, and they “gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship” (Galatians 2:9).

When Paul therefore gives Timothy instructions on overseers, these are the same instructions given to all the congregations by all the apostles. And they are the same instructions given to evangelists and congregations today!!

Another "Trustworthy Statement"

When Paul met with the elders of the congregation of Ephesus in Miletus in what is now southwestern Turkey, this was part of the conversation: “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock,” he exhorted, “among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). As the apostle Paul introduces the topic of overseers in his first letter to Timothy, it is worth recalling that elder (older man), bishop (overseer), and pastor (shepherd) are different descriptions of the same office in the local congregation. These are the men who, in conjunction with evangelists (preachers), guide the local congregation. Because overseers are appointed by evangelists, the instructions to Timothy are relevant today in the process of selecting elders.

The office of overseer is critical in the stability of a congregation over several generations. That office is worthy of a young man’s aspirations, and worthy of his commitment to all the training and skill-development necessary for him to be an effective overseer in the future. And he must also remember that it is commitment to work.

Some Qualities of a Bishop

The apostle Paul is taking some time to list some of the qualities that man must possess in order to be appointed an elder (or bishop). The purpose of listing these qualities is to form a set of guidelines to illustrate the character of the man rather than a mere checklist of externals. These are brought forth against the backdrop of a man who aspires to do the work of a bishop; the man must first be interested in serving the Lord, in keeping the mission of the church as seeking and saving the lost, and he must truly love the eternities of the sheep for which he will be their shepherd.

All the above are “people-oriented” terms. They illustrate the persona of one who has good people skills, one who has overall good judgment in his interaction with fellow men and fellow saints, and one whose character cannot be legitimately attacked. He does not have to thrust himself forward as a leader; his leadership qualities shine through and brethren automatically look to him for direction and wisdom. The true elder can engage socially with older saints, he can intersect well with younger brethren and couples, and he can have positive interchanges with children as well. He is drawing people in rather than pushing them away. The same qualities we see exhibited in Christ in the sacred writings!

More Qualities of a Bishop

The office of overseer or bishop requires that the office-holder be a “people person.” Disciplined in thought, speech, and action, this man exhibits leadership in his bearing and his conduct. He uses good judgment in his interaction with the saints, there are no legitimate complaints against him, and his home is a welcoming environment for brethren locally or in transit. But that is not all.

The bishop must truly be interested in the work, and therefore interested in the people. He will clearly develop the personal and communication skills necessary for him to provide the proper leadership for the local congregation. He will become skilled in teaching and preaching the word of God, and knowledgeable in exhorting in sound doctrine and refuting falsehoods. And he will be personally disciplined financially, and a contributor rather than a drone.

And Still More

Overseers, or bishops [always a plurality], intelligently and spiritually guide and govern the local congregation. These are the men who provide, by God’s design, the flywheel of momentum in evangelism and sound doctrine from one generation to the next. “Be on your guard for yourselves and all the flock,” the apostle Paul warned the elders of Ephesus. “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert…” (Acts 20:28-31). These men keep the congregation trained in sound doctrine, and they have the solid character base which enables them to speak with doctrinal authority. Hence, they must be good family men, and Paul has some things to say about that.

All of these qualities listed in 1 Timothy and Titus paint a picture of a man who has done a good job with his family, is known to be of high reputation within and without the church, and can manage people and operations. When the early church moved away from evangelists’ requiring these qualifications for a man’s being a bishop, then the destruction of the primitive church occurred, and the Catholic perversion began developing.


The word deacon means “servant.” It is a diakonos type of servant rather than a doulos type of servant. The first is like one who waits on tables at a restaurant, the second is a slave or a bond-servant, a slave by choice. Diakonos is a broad word, used in all kinds of service-types of contexts in New Testament writings; it primarily describes the relationship of the “server” to the work he is doing as contrasted to doulos, which more generally describes the relationship of the one doing the work to his master. But there is what might be called a “special servant” who works in the congregational setting, which the translators generally render “deacon,” the Anglicization of diakonos. For example, when the apostle Paul greeted the congregation in Philippi, he spoke of “all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including overseers and deacons” (Philippians 1:1). Deacons, along with the elders, are signaled as those holding a special office in the midst of the brethren.

What do deacons do? In a large congregation such as in the cases of many new testament congregations (Jerusalem: 3000 immersed on Pentecost, then 5000 men, then “multitudes”), there would be many major projects the elders and evangelists would not be able to supervise properly. Deacons would be those valuable, trustworthy men who could get any project done or situation handled that the other leadership couldn’t get to. “For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3:13). These are spiritual rewards in Christ worth a dedicated saint’s time and life!

Conduct in the House of God

“Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant,” exposited Hebrews’ writer, “but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house” (Hebrews 3:5,6). This must be an awesome “house,” wherein Moses is merely a servant, but Christ, as the first-born Son, is the Head of this house! The writer of Hebrews adds, “whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” What is termed “the church” is thus this “house.” While the church is often pictured as an “assembly,” or “the temple of God,” or “the kingdom,” one of the most endearing descriptions is that it is God’s house!

A capsulation of George Orwell’s books Animal Farm and 1984 has been well stated: “In time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” Modern saints live in that time of “universal deceit” where outrageous lies are being presented as truth by the government, by the educational establishment, and by the media. The only individuals who will be able “to stand in the evil day” for the whole and relevant truth will be those who are strengthened with power through the Spirit in the inner man (Ephesians 3:16). The only institution that will stand as “the pillar and support of truth” is the church of the living God.!!

The Mystery of Godliness

There are a number of “mysteries” in the new covenant writings, one of which is “the mystery,” another name for the indwelling Holy Spirit. Mystery contains the concept of something that was once hidden but now revealed. It was hidden in the Old Testament that the Gentiles would eventually be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but it was couched in language which takes the New Testament revelation to unravel “the mystery.” There is also the “mystery of lawlessness” which was already at work when Paul wrote the second epistle to the Thessalonians, which was the grasp for power wherein one man took the title “Bishop” over the elders. There is also the “mystery” about our receiving our resurrection bodies at Christ’s coming. But here Paul speaks of “the mystery of godliness” (1 Timothy 3:16).

The “mystery of godliness,” then, focuses on Jesus Christ, as it should. When a person “turns to the Lord” in immersion (compare Acts 2:38 and Acts 3:19), what the apostle Paul calls “the body of sin” or “the body of flesh” is removed in a spiritual crucifixion or spiritual circumcision (Romans 6:6; Colossians 2:11). This removal of what he also calls “the veil” results in the inner man being able, through the scripture, to behold the glory of God and to be transformed into the image of that same glory by the power of the indwelling Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:14-18). This is the “mystery of godliness.” And what a great mystery!!

Three Points in the “Mystery of Godliness”

“The church,” averred the apostle Paul “is the pillar and support of the truth.” While truth is important in the courtroom and in news reporting, it is especially important in regard to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The human race’s eternities are generally not directly impacted by someone’s lying under oath or by false reporting. But twisting of the gospel of Christ does. Hence, the church is the pillar and support of that truth, expounding it and pointing out the errors of its enemies. The “common confession” of the saints therefore focuses on Jesus Christ, as well as salvation and transformation through Him. The “great mystery of godliness” is fully centered upon the complete revelation of Jesus Christ as recorded in the sacred writings.

The linchpin of God’s revelation is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, appearing with the same body He had in His death on the cross with nail marks on His hands [wrist area] and the spear wound in His side. For that to happen, He had to “be revealed in the flesh.” Then He was raised from the dead in order for God’s eternal plan to move forward, and thus He “was vindicated in the Spirit.” Those first involved in His resurrection were the angels. Thus, as Paul expounds upon this mystery of godliness, his next point is that the resurrected Christ was “beheld by angels.”

More “Mystery of Godliness”

Jesus positively exhorted His disciples, in the “Sermon on the Mount,” to “be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:45). It is the picture which consistently runs through the entire set of new covenant writings that God’s children of faith are to imitate their spiritual Dad’s character. For example, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,” is part of this exhortation, as well as “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Matthew 5:44; Galatians 5:22,23). This “godliness” springs from the revelation of God’s character through Jesus Christ, “He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, beheld by angels, proclaimed among the nations [Gentiles], believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).

Through the “bullet-pointed” summary of the gospel of Christ enumerated by the apostle Paul, the “mystery” of what had been concealed is brought into the open by the revelation given to the apostles and new covenant prophets. This information, when believed and obeyed, will result in the initial transformation of the inner man and the resultant stepwise transformation of the outer man. “Great,” indeed, “is the mystery of godliness”!!

The Coming "Apostasy"

How wonderful it would have been to have been an apostle of Jesus Christ! It would have been awesome to have been a witness to the things Jesus did and said during the years of His earthly sojourn. It would have been so exciting to have the special revelation from the Holy Spirit as He made clear what happened with Jesus in glory, how He was exalted to the Father’s “right hand as a Prince and a Savior” (Acts 5:31). But what also would have been intensely interesting and all-consuming for the apostles would have been for them to see the church of the living God come into existence, and for them to shepherd it through its early years. Many of the early spiritual battles were concerned with the influence of the Judaizers, who attempted to force the new covenant “wine” back into the “wineskin” of the old covenant. Then came the attempts to “turn the grace of God into licentiousness” (Jude 1:4). Working through false teachers, Satan tried to turn the doctrine of the church to “law”; failing that, he tried to turn the church to “lawlessness.” The apostles, particularly the apostle John, lived long enough on earth to see those battles progress. The apostles, inspired by the Holy Spirit, had an idea what the future held, and warned the churches of the first century of what was coming. This included the apostle Paul.

It is a strong and continual warning for all congregations, that the Deceiver works “by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Timothy 4:2). They may look like “holy men” and position themselves in highly visible “spiritual” situations, but underneath the veneer they are ambitious and wicked men! All generations, beware!

More on Demonic Forces

There are those who claim that Satan and his demons are not currently at work in the world! Such views are generally based on a constricted look at some things in Revelation chapter twenty, and fly in the face of statements such as Jesus made to Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus Road, saying that He was sending Paul to the Jews but especially to the Gentiles. Saul’s mission would be “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18). Satan hath no more dominion? No, the prince of darkness has continued to operate “with great wrath” throughout the entire church age, holding everyone who commits sin in his grip, and only those who turn to the Lord (mostly Gentiles) are no longer “the nations deceived.” These, of course, were the same forces at work when the apostle Paul described the development of the Apostasy, speaking of those who were “paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:2). What is the origin of Satan and his demons?

The advice of Peter still stands. “Be on the alert,” stated the apostle. “Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Those following the first century church did not stay on the alert, the roaring lion got them, and the result was the apostasy!

Wrong Focus

Only God is the Creator! Satan cannot create anything; what he does is take that which is good and twist it so that it becomes something evil. “By faith,” reiterates Hebrews’ author, about the realm which cannot be seen with the physical eye, “we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3). Only God can create something out of nothing. Satan twists that which God has created.

From the time, then, that the new covenant was instituted, all foods—if sanctified by prayer and received with thanksgiving—are clean. Any doctrine that would say otherwise, whether coming from Catholic dictates, or views of vegetarianism from Hindus, New Agers, or Seventh Day Adventists, is driven by demonic forces. Furthermore, any promoters of such doctrines are hypocritical liars, and their own consciences are seared as with a branding iron (1 Timothy 4:2).

Nourished on Words

“You foolish ones,” was Jesus’ pointed remark to the Pharisees, “did not He who made the outside [of man] make the inside also?” (Luke 11:40). God created the entire earth as a giant ecosystem designed to support and sustain the outer man. “Everything created by God is good,” the apostle Paul had stated, “and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude” (1 Timothy 4:4). That is a tremendous amount of creative genius and technical capability, just to feed the outer man. So what about the inner man?

Paul commends Timothy, commenting that it is the words of the faith and sound doctrine “which you have been following.” He urges his charge to continue on that path, stating “have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women” (1 Timothy 4:7). There is a tendency on the part of some to get carried away by the “wild and wonderful” fables (flat out “fiction”) that some who are skilled “story-spinners” are able to foist on an undiscerning audience. There are those who are adept at weaving together tales that “warm the heart” and “stir the emotions,” particularly directed at the female audience. The warning is absolutely clear for Timothy and moderns: stick with sound doctrine and the words of the faith!”


“Discipline” is a major key to living victoriously through life’s trials and to entering the gates of glory. “Discipline,” from a scriptural perspective, not only has to do with the mind’s making the body do what it is supposed to do, but it has the broader context of “training,” or “regular and consistent exercise.” It is a matter of clear observation that no one is going to have “instant discipline”; true discipline is the result of constant and consistent effort and bringing about certain desired habits.

“Discipline yourself,” was the emphasis of the apostle. Discipline is going to come from within, and ultimately cannot be delegated to someone else. The habits of regular prayer, Bible reading, developing positive attitudes, maintaining a strong work ethic, making the most of each opportunity to share Bible truths with the lost, consistent attendance in the assembly… these all are attributes of the godliness the Almighty expects of His children. The idea that such discipline is what holds the promise for eternal life is hugely significant and worthy of contemplation and implementation. “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance” (1 Timothy 4:9).

Prescribe and Teach “Godliness”

Not many things hold “promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Any individual honestly thinking about where to focus his life and set his priorities would certainly conclude that the one thing which holds those promises would be worth his total commitment and devotion. And what is that one thing? Godliness!! It is worth restating Paul’s point: “Bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). Then the apostle adds, “It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance” (1 Timothy 4:9). Five times in the letters to Timothy and Titus the apostle Paul uses the phrase “it is a trustworthy statement.” Each of those times the phrase is clearly pointing to something of major significance; in this case the apostle is emphasizing the importance of personal godliness.

These are tremendous truths! Timothy is therefore exhorted, “Prescribe and teach these things” (1 Timothy 4:11)

"Show Yourself an Example"

Exemplary character is what puts power behind spoken words. No one particularly listens to what are properly called “light weights” because of their lack of consistency, of talking much but getting nothing done. This is true especially if the speaker is going to be exhorting others in the area of discipline; when people feel a little pressure to do better and be more, their natural tendency is to look for character flaws in the person from whom they feel the pressure. If Timothy, then, is going to be preaching on godliness, following Paul’s instruction of “prescribe and teach these things,” he is going to need to provide leadership himself in these areas in order to secure a hearing and a heeding.

As in all Christian endeavor, but especially in the work of an evangelist, character counts! Because the preaching of the word is so important in the plan of God in saving souls, Satan jumps in and gets his false preachers into the mix. On the surface, they can seem genuine. But if a person were to look intently at the character qualities Paul calls on Timothy to exhibit, the fakes show very quickly that their speech is off the mark, their conduct underneath the surface is sinful, they have no true love for the saints, they don’t have the faith of Christ as their guide, and they definitely do not have pure motives. It is critical, then, for Timothy and for all who would follow in his steps, to “show yourself an example of those who believe.”

Insuring Salvation

Timothy was laboring as an evangelist at the congregation in Ephesus. The formation of this congregation under the efforts of Paul on his third missionary journey is significantly recorded in the book of Acts, and the congregation at Ephesus is one of the seven churches featured in the book of Revelation. Thus Paul (and the Lord) was concerned about Timothy’s work in this congregation, and the apostle has further instruction for his son in the faith, following up on his exhortation that Timothy be “an example of those who believe.”

Saints are greatly impacted by those who do the public teaching and preaching. It is in that context that James comments, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). When Paul wrote to the congregation in Corinth, he emphasized that he had laid the proper foundation for the church, doctrinally and in character exhibition. He then added, “But let each be careful how he builds upon it” (1 Corinthians 3:10). The apostle was justly strident in telling Timothy, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” Modern teachers and evangelists should heed these exhortations as well!

Interpersonal Relations

Working with the lost and working amongst the saved involves working with people. Many of the Bible’s examples, true history, and teachings have to do with making saints more effective in working through these “people issues.” Although the brethren have been called out of this world, they often are in states of growth toward putting on the full character of Christ, and thus all the instruction on how to handle these interpersonal relations has great meaning and importance. Timothy is going to get some of these instructions from the aged Paul, Timothy’s father in the faith.

When a rebuke is necessary, it is one of the more difficult situations with which a person in charge has to deal. In his second epistle, Paul told Timothy to “reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). The instructions for dealing with older men, younger men, older women, and younger women would remind Timothy about what would be effective, rather than his just checking a box on the “to do list.”

Windows Indeed

God has always been concerned about widows and their care. In Moses’ going over the Law for the generation that had come through the wilderness, he emphasized that they were not to “take a widow’s garment in pledge” (Deuteronomy 24:17). Widows are often in difficult straits financially, with the husband gone and with age and increasing infirmity coming upon those poor ladies. Even James commented in new covenant writings that pure and undefiled religion is “to visit orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). One of the first problems the church faced while it was still primarily located in Jerusalem was in caring for the widows. Those Jewish ladies with Greek surnames were being neglected while those with Hebrew last names were receiving assistance. This happened because the synagogues took care of their widows, but when these ladies became “disciples of Christ,” then they were booted from the synagogue and now were dependent upon the church’s care. Thus the subtle prejudice against the widows who were “Hellenistic” had to be handled.

These instructions for Timothy concerning “widows indeed” are somewhat restrictive, and designedly so. God doesn’t want free-loaders coming in and trying to live off the church. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he had denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Proper stewardship of finances and family is definitely a spiritual issue!

More on Widows

God said to put a widow on the church support list “only if she is not less than sixty years old.” People and saints then, baring accident or untimely disease, lived about the same length of time as people do now. “As for the days of our life,” wrote Moses, describing the experience of most of the human race, “they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years” (Psalm 90:10). So a widow of sixty would be worthy of support; a younger widow would not be. But this older widow had to be a dedicated and disciplined saint. If she, for example, after the loss of her husband, allowed herself to get disoriented and plunge headlong into the world, she would certainly lose her standing with God and her salvation. “But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure,” explains the apostle, “is dead even while she lives” (1 Timothy 5:6). The loss of companionship and intimacy is real, but the widow cannot allow herself to go down the road of “wanton pleasure.”

Both older and younger widows face challenges peculiar to widowhood. That period following the death of a spouse can be very disorienting, with relational and financial challenges. The Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul has given advice for such widows, and has made sure that it has been recorded for all generations to follow.

Financial Considerations

It is not random that mankind puts more value on gold than on silver. It is not accidental that national economies develop and there are prices on goods and services. It is what God put into the programming of man, and it is one of the means by which He teaches the value of one day’s labor. Hence it is that the Almighty, through the scriptures, puts a significant emphasis on the stewardship of financial resources because it is of major spiritual importance. Jesus Himself said, “If therefore you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon, who will entrust the true riches to you?” (Luke 16:11). In the teaching regarding the care of widows and “widows indeed,” the instruction of necessity turns to financial matters.

Money is a place where the physical realm and the spiritual realm come into contact in a very clear way. Money is measurable, and in some sense tangible, so there is no way to obscure the accountability of this spiritual entity. How financial resources are handled is one clear indicator of the true spirituality of one making a claim to godliness. Because “unrighteous mammon” is such a clear indicator, saints who are defensive about their finances often show anger or resentment to someone who is pointing out their need for improvement, possibly verbally attacking the one who is trying to help them in this major spiritual issue. In all the arenas in which Paul has been instructing Timothy, but especially in regard to widow care and family finances, he has this exhortation, “Prescribe and teach these things as well, so that they may be above reproach” (1 Timothy 5:7). The message to Timothy is straightforward: preach and teach these things, regardless of whether any of the saints like it or not!

Interactions with Elders

The local church needs instruction. The apostle has been giving Timothy some directives in areas where the congregation at Ephesus and others need that instruction. Furthermore, Lord made sure those were recorded in the eternal record, that all saints may look at that instruction and desire to implement the principles in their own lives. Near the core of those inculcations are the interrelationship between elders, evangelists, and the congregation. For a congregation to function as the Lord intended, those relationships need to be in the process of being put in order in accordance with Paul’s divinely inspired directives.

Timothy is getting this instruction from Paul, and so is the congregation. This is necessary because if Timothy needs to take action against an elder, the congregation is going to have to back that action. “Those [elders] who continue to sin,” the apostle charges the evangelist, “rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest may be fearful of sinning” (1 Timothy 5:20). If the local church is working against the evangelist in this case, the rebuking action is not going to be effective. But Timothy has to be objective. “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in the spirit of partiality” (1 Timothy 5:21). The spiritual warfare is so intense, and the challenge before the church is so large, that there is no room for petty games. Furthermore, this is all carried out in the clear sight of the Father, the Son, and the good angels! All of those should guarantee that everything done in regard to a sinning elder is done in the right spirit and for the future of each saint in God’s kingdom.

"Random" Points

Internal workings of the congregation are, for good reason, a major focus of the new covenant writings. The local church is the key to the forward movement of the gospel, and the gospel distribution is therefore tied to the proper functioning of each congregation. Hence the instructions. Widows indeed are to be cared for. Elders who are working hard at preaching and teaching are to be respected and paid. An elder whose sin is serious enough that it requires public rebuking is to be straightened out “in the presence of all” by an evangelist. Evangelists or preachers must be unbiased in their functioning, without partiality. What next, Paul?

But most of the shepherds working for the Lord will be engaging in solid work for his glory; to fit the picture that Paul and Peter painted of good shepherds, their character would be such that they would be upright, loving the sheep entrusted to their care, and wanting to please Christ openly and privately. “Likewise also,” says Paul, playing off the statement that the sins of some men are out in the open, “deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed” (1 Timothy 5:25). The exordium to all elders, indeed to all saints, stands: “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Slaves and Masters

In New Testament times, slavery was quite common. Writings of Roman historians indicate that perhaps as much as one-third of the population were slaves, and that the church had a higher percentage of slaves than that. God’s instructions for slaves and masters thus shows up in the sacred writings, as well as direct references to slaves themselves. Philemon, for example, was a Christian slaveholder, and Onesimus was his runaway slave. Tertius (which means “Number 3”) was an educated slave referenced in the scriptures, who wrote down the book of Romans at Paul’s dictation (Romans 16:22). Spiritually, slaves and masters had equal standing before the Lord, while in the flesh they had separate roles to carry out. In Christ, there is neither slave nor free (Galatians 3:28).

It follows that the slave would, for the sake of God’s holy and righteous name, conduct himself in exemplary fashion toward his earthly master. “And let those [slaves] who have believers as masters,” encourages the apostle Paul, “not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but let them serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved” (1 Timothy 6:2). Because the slave is a saint and the master is a saint, the slave might have a tendency to pull the “brothers in Christ” card and not conduct himself in a respectful fashion. The Holy Spirit says to reverse that flow, and serve with all due respect! In the long-term, everyone benefits, and the name of God is further glorified. Clearly, there is no room for selfishness here, or for having feelings of resentment because of the slave condition. The masters are “beloved.”

And to Timothy, in this slave/master culture: “Teach and preach these principles.”

Sound Words

There are “sound” words, and there are “shaky” words. “Sound” words and “sound” promises can be counted upon; “shaky” words and “shaky” promises are worthless and the purveyor of such is not to be trusted. Hence it is that the scripture brings forth “sound” doctrine and warns strongly and repeatedly against false doctrine.

Sound doctrine has a foundation that is solid and stands all the challenges that can be thrown at it. Hence Hinduism, Islam, Catholicism, and Calvinism (and any other false religion) can all be shown to be manufactured, fabrics of someone’s imagination. Sound doctrine has its basis in the established truthfulness of the Bible, and can be shown to be true objectively. It is worth reiterating: “But know this first of all,” stated the apostle Peter, “that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20,21).

Words, by God’s design of language, have meaning. Ultimately, God’s goal has been to educate spiritual men to the point where He can use words “taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:13). One of the devil’s goals, working through complicit human beings, is to confuse the language, to move people away from “sound words,” and shade, spin, and twist the meanings so that endless controversy can occur. And in the midst of that controversy, those with “morbid” interests will continue unabated and unchallenged in their sins.

Constant Friction

The human race always has been a selfish, violent, bloody race. The exhibition of the man of flesh was on full display when Cain refused to master the sin crouching at his door, and spilled Abel’s blood upon the ground. Whether it is through physical or verbal abuse, the rebellious man or woman is characteristic of the world gone astray. The problem is that when this rebellious “mere man” becomes a Christian, sometimes those destructive elements in his character do not go away soon, or possibly not at all if there is no continuing repentance. Their throat is still “an open grave,” their tongues keep deceiving, the poison of asps is still under their lips, destruction and misery are still their paths (Romans 3:13-16). This rebelliousness will cause a person to advocate false doctrine because the doctrine of Christ brings the individual to conform to godliness. Such a conceited, non-understanding person is always interested in veering off the course of important teachings from the word of God, and “has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words.”

True godliness, however, is a blessing for the godly, and enables the godly to be a blessing to others. “But godliness actually is a means of great gain,” affirms the apostle, “especially when accompanied by contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6). Those who are engaged in constant friction are never happy, and often are trying to hurt someone else as an outgrowth of their own frustrations. But those who live godly lives, as defined by the scriptures, really do experience great gain and satisfaction in knowing that their labors contribute are laying up treasure for themselves in heaven, and that God is glorified. When all this is “accompanied by contentment” in the life of one who is living by precious faith, that individual is blessed and happy!

Some Poignant Thoughts

“The devil,” pointed out the apostle Peter, “prowls like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). This is a sober warning, and there are others similar to it throughout the new covenant writings. These should bring the saint to an awareness of the importance of each decision and each action he is taking and cause him to consider his personal motive in such decisions and actions. Is envy a driving force? How about evil suspicions? What about the possibility that someone supposes “that godliness is a means of gain”? There are those who put on a veneer of godliness and use that to lure unsuspecting victims into their lairs of deceit and fraud.

The saint would do well periodically to contemplate the blessing of the discipline which produces godliness. Bringing the mind around so that it puts the same value on things as God does, as revealed in the scripture, has tremendous benefits. The apostle Paul in the jail cell could be godly and content; the nearby Emperor was ungodly, corrupt, and committed suicide.