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
1 Timothy 6:9-10 - The Love of Money
1 Timothy 6:9-10 - Destruction Associated with Money
1 Timothy 6:10-12 - Proper and Positive Pursuit
1 Timothy 6:12-13 - The Good Confession
1 Timothy 6:12-15 - A Weighty Charge
1 Timothy 6:14-16 - Dwelling in Unapproachable Light
1 Timothy 6:17-19 - More on "Riches"
1 Timothy 6:20-21 - Falsely Called “Knowledge”
Titus Chapter 1
Titus 1:1,4 - Opening of the Epistle to Titus
Titus 1:2-3 - The Proclamation
Titus 1:5-9 - Appointing Elders
Titus 1:10-11 - Handling Rebellious Men
Titus 1:12-14 - Reproving the Cretans
Titus 1:15-16 - Purity
Titus Chapter 2
Titus 2:1-5 - Sound Doctrine and Christian Conduct
Titus 2:4-5 - Instructions for Christian Young Women
Titus 2:6-8 - Instructions for Christian Young Men
Titus 2:9-10 - Instructions for Bond-Slaves
Titus 2:11 - Grace of God Has Appeared
Titus 2:11-13 - Grace "Instructs"
Titus 2:13 - What to "Look for"
Titus 2:14 - What Christ Did
Titus 2:14 - A People for Himself
Titus 2:15 – “These Things Speak…With Authority”
Titus Chapter 3
Titus 3:1-2 - Some Divine Reminders
Titus 3:2-3 - A Backward Look
Titus 3:4 - God's Kindness and Love
Titus 3:5 - He Saved Us!
Titus 3:5-6 - Out of God’s Riches
Titus 3:7-8 - “Justified,” “Grace,” “Heirs,” “Hope”
Titus 3:8-9 - More on "Good Deeds"
Titus 3:9-11 - Reject a Factious Man
Titus 3:12-15 - Closing out Titus
2 Timothy Chapter 1
2 Timothy 1:1-2 - Paul to Timothy: Second Epistle
2 Timothy 1:3-5 - Remembrances
2 Timothy 1:6 - Timothy's "Spiritual Gift"
2 Timothy 1:7 - Courage!
2 Timothy 1:8 - Not Ashamed of Jesus
2 Timothy 1:9 - The Power of God
2 Timothy 1:10-11 - The Revelation of the Gospel
2 Timothy 1:12 - Strength for Suffering
2 Timothy 1:13 - Retain the Standard
2 Timothy 1:14 - Guarding the Treasure
2 Timothy 1:15-18 - Some Losers and Winners
2 Timothy Chapter 1
2 Timothy 2:1 - Be Strong in Grace
2 Timothy 2:2 - Entrust to Faithful Men
2 Timothy 2:3-7 - Soldiers, Athletes, and Farmers
2 Timothy 2:8-10 - Hardship for the Gospel
2 Timothy 2:10 - Chosen, Salvation, Glory
2 Timothy 2:11-13 - Major “Trustworthy Statement”
2 Timothy 2:14-17 - The Main Thing...
2 Timothy 2:17-19 - The Firm Foundation Stands
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.
- Paul’s apostleship - “Paul,” is the opening word, “an apostle of Jesus Christ according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope…” (1 Timothy 1:1). As indicated earlier, Paul states his authority as an apostle of Christ (of which there were only the Twelve plus Paul). Very possibly Timothy needed that authoritative back-up to solve some issues in Ephesus. When the Lord spoke to Ananias about Saul of Tarsus (his “given” name) on the Damascus Road, He explained that “he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My Name before Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15). This “chosen instrument” was set apart from his “mother’s womb” to be an apostle of Christ, and at the right time God “was pleased to reveal His Son” in Paul (Galatians 1:15,16). Hence Paul writes that his apostleship was “according to the commandment of God.”
- Source of Paul’s authority - It is interesting that Paul says that his apostleship derives from “God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope.” Sometimes, as in his letter to Titus, he will speak of “Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5), whereas here in the opening of his first epistle to Timothy, he uses “God our Savior” separated from “Christ Jesus” by the conjunction and. The scripture is non-Trinitarian (separate but equal), but often it shows “interchangeable but not always equal” roles, ultimately using Jesus to give all glory to the Father. The role of God (or Jesus) as Savior figures prominently in the early portion of this letter to Timothy, Paul being very conscious of his own personal need of the Savior. But he also pictures Christ Jesus as being “our hope.” The apostle generally uses “hope” as an expression of our ultimate resurrection from the dead. “I am on trial,” said Paul to the Sanhedrin, “for the hope and the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 23:6). It is not surprising, then, that he should term Christ Jesus as “our hope,” since the Lord Himself stated, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
- To Timothy - This epistle is openly directed to Timothy, but the apostle knows there will eventually be many people looking over Timothy’s shoulder to read these words. Timothy, says he, “is my true child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). Timothy was converted in Lystra on Paul’s first missionary journey, circumcised on Paul’s second, and often traveled as a trusted associate with him from that point on. At one juncture he remarked concerning “his true child in the faith” that he had “no one else of kindred spirit” (Philippians 2:20).
- The greeting - “Grace, mercy, and peace,” are the standard but not empty words flowing from Paul’s pen, “from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” Grace has to do with all the good gifts which come forth from the Father, but especially His willingness to give us the spiritual blessings of salvation, the indwelling Spirit, all that derives from those. Mercy is tied to God’s willingness to withhold the punishment that is entirely due us because of our initial rebellion against Him and His principles. Peace is the result of the cessation of our hostility toward God, and our reconciliation to Him through the provisions of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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.
- Dealing with “strange doctrines” - A careful reading of the inspired record shows that there was a lot of confusion within Judaism itself, and many charlatans of Jewish inheritance preying on that ignorance and confusion. When Paul and Barnabas met with Sergius Paulus on the island of Cyprus, the preachers were challenged by a “Jewish false prophet” who doubled as a “magician.” In Ephesus, the sons of “Sceva, a Jewish chief priest,” were supposedly casting out demons (and how is it that there was a “chief priest” in Ephesus, with no temple and no sacrifices to be offered there?). Lots of confusion! This confusion carried over into the congregation at Ephesus. Hence the apostle wrote this letter to Timothy, with a particular opening emphasis on those bringing the confusion of those in the Jewish system into the church. “As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia,” Paul reminds Timothy, “remain on in Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not teach strange doctrines” (1 Timothy 1:3). Timothy was going to have to get “confrontational” with some of the brethren over what they were teaching, dealing with whatever “crazy stuff” these guys were trying to inject into the church’s teaching.
- “Myths and genealogies” - The Jewish heritage placed great emphasis on the genealogical record, and rightly so. The genealogical record provided the skeleton on which the rest of Israelite history hung, culminating in the coming of Christ as a descendant of David according to the flesh. But with the establishment of the new covenant, the physical is replaced by the spiritual, and the important aspect of genealogy is whether the individual is “born…of God” (John 1:13). If, in the spiritual sense, God is a person’s Father, his human heritage is irrelevant. The directive, then, to Timothy includes telling these “talkers” not “to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God” (1 Timothy 1:4). Who knows what myths were circulating!! “Mere speculation” was a problem then, just as it is now. What is always needed is sound doctrine, based on a solid “thus saith the Lord.”
- “By faith” - “The administration of God” is furthered “by faith.” The point here is that the entire purpose of God, being set in motion in Genesis, having groundwork laid in the Old Testament, being built under the terms of the new covenant, and culminating in the return of Christ, is to produce and reward a people who operate “by faith.” This “faith” is a system of thought and action as contrasted to the system of thought and lack of action under “the Law.”
“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!
- Love from a pure heart - Purity is always the key to Christianity. Nothing really good is ever going to come from an impure heart, especially new covenant agape love. This pure heart can only live in those who are under the covenant of faith, who have been purified from their sins and their evil ways through their immersions into Christ, who have obeyed the truth of the gospel (1Peter 1:22). The law system cannot grant a pure heart, nor does it provide for the development of Christ’s love within the saint. “We know love by this,” said the apostle John, “that He laid down His life for us; and that we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
- A good conscience - The system of law has no mechanism for granting a clean conscience. “Through the law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:19), but there is no true provision for forgiveness, and no means of granting the individual a new beginning. But the new covenant, “the faith of Christ,” has all that! To those who have come under the terms of the new covenant, it is written, “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 10:17). The new heart is thus spoken of as “sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” (Hebrews 10:22). Through immersion into Christ, the appeal to God is made for a good conscience (1 Peter 3:21).
- A Sincere Faith - The word of God is so designed that it exposes the dishonest heart. When Jesus, for example, spoke of the good soil in His parable, He spoke of the seed of the word of God falling on or being sown “in an honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15). Only in the honest heart is where the seed bears fruit; all other hearts are not the honest and good ones. The dishonest heart’s claim to faith is a bogus one; it is not a “sincere faith.” A sincere faith results as described by Paul: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). The person of Jewish background would need honestly to process the Old Testament foreshadows and prophecies, and see that they point to Christ and the faith of Christ as the future system.
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!
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).
- Straying away - There is a path that leads to eternal life, and Jesus called it the “small gate” and the “narrow way” (King James Version used “strait and narrow,” meaning constricted at the gate) (Matthew 7:13,14). That path is the new covenant doctrine and application which results in “love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” The apostle Paul continues his education of the younger preacher Timothy, “For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion…” (1 Timothy 1:6). Any discussion which leads away from the truth is guaranteed to be unfruitful.
- Law experts? - The “big talkers” were certainly at work! The particular way in which these men were trying to use their “straying” influence was in trying to get saints in the congregation to go back into the ways of the Law of Moses. Paul describes them as “wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are teaching or the matters about which they make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:7). The apostle Paul had been a Pharisee and a teacher of the Law prior to his conversion, and after his conversion to Christianity he was receiving instruction and revelation from the Holy Spirit Himself. When he comments that these “big talkers” did not know what they were talking about, that is hugely significant. The problem Paul had was that oftentimes his apostleship was not sufficiently recognized, or it was attacked. Timothy will have the same problem trying to get the congregation to understand that these men operating inside the church really are dangerous! They obviously position themselves as experts since they “make confident assertions” that are totally wrong, and that will require much teaching on Timothy’s part to expose the paucity of truth in their remarks.
- No problem with the Law - The Law served a major positive purpose in God’s overall plan. “But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully…” says the apostle (1 Timothy 1:8). The purpose of the Law was to bring the whole world into a position of being accountable before God (Romans 3:19). By exposing the individual as a sinner and law-breaker through the principles of the Commandments, he can now be convinced of his need of a Savior. This law is good, if the teacher uses it for what it was intended, as the apostle adds in his comments, “realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching” (1 Timothy 1:9,10). Quite a list! It even has the catch-all expression “whatever else is contrary to sound teaching” at the end so that there is no “wiggle-room” for the sinner to escape the exposure of his unrighteousness before God. This is the “lawful use” of the law, and that is why it is “according to the gospel of glory of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted” (1 Timothy 1:11).
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.
- Gospel of the glory of Christ - Writing again to the congregation in Corinth, the apostle Paul made this blockbuster statement: “And even if our gospel is veiled,” he remarked, commenting that most people will not believe in and obey that gospel, “it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:3,4). It is not simply the “gospel of glory”; it is “the gospel of the glory of Christ”!! Christ is the One who possesses glory; the gospel reveals that glory, and through that revelation becomes the gospel of glory, or “the glorious gospel.”
- Christ glorified - Jesus, magnificently, became “for a little while lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:9). In this process, He divested Himself of any spiritual advantage that He might have above mankind; in taking the form of a bond-servant, He “has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). The Word truly was made flesh, and had to ascend the fortieth day following His resurrection to return to the glory He once possessed. The apostle John noted, in explaining the “rivers of living water” flowing from within the Christian, “this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39). The “gospel of the glory of Christ” reveals the awesome glory which is Christ’s from that point on. “He is the radiance of [the Father’s] glory,” exclaimed Hebrews’ author, “and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3).
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.
- Paul’s thanksgiving - Every thoughtful new covenant saint is very conscious of the grace and mercy of the Lord in God’s rescuing him from Satan’s domain and from the fires of an eternal hell. But not only is the saint rescued, more importantly he is turned into a useful vessel, fitted to be a temple of God and serving the positive purposes of the great King. “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord,” are Paul’s words of great gratitude, “who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service” (1 Timothy 1:12). Once the former Saul of Tarsus recognized that Jesus was raised from the dead, due to his encounter with the Christ on the Damascus road, his belief system changed. Now ready to lay aside the system of the Law of Moses, he was ready to embrace the system of the faith of Christ, and to serve according to its terms. Because the Lord now considered Paul to be faithful, he strengthened him! The “new man,” in the process of laying aside the old self, has to be “strengthened” in order to be of use in this new system, “strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16). “Born from above,” and now strengthened, the new Saul of Tarsus was ready and grateful to be “put into service.”
- Paul’s past - Paul’s past is instructive in that it shows that God is willing to use, and can use, any faithful individual who turns to Him on His terms, regardless of his past life. Paul can write about his past life without twinges of a guilty conscience, almost like it was another person, because of the grace and mercy of God. Christ put Paul into service, “even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” (1 Timothy 1:13). Certainly the record of Saul of Tarsus as noted in the book of Acts shows him to be all those things, described as one who was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1).
- Ignorant unbelief - Anyone who is running counter to the will of God is in some sense ignorant of the eternal consequences of his rebellion or his neglect. Paul did hear the gospel of Christ from the lips of Stephen, and actively engaged in Stephen’s execution for his preaching the gospel of Christ. But he really did not “hear” the words because of his own mental preset, so there was a “willful ignorance” on Paul’s part. That is why Jesus, in meeting Paul on that Road, stated, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14). Thus, the apostle writes, “And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13).
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!!
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.
- Grace of the Lord - Paul, then, the former blasphemer and persecutor of the church, was justified at his immersion and introduced to the grace of God. “I was shown mercy,” he said, “and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant” (1 Timothy 1:14). Before the coming of Christ, the apostle explained to the Romans, sin entered the world through one man, and so spiritual death spread to all men because all sinned. The result was a world in which sin reigned. But with the coming of the gospel of the glory of Christ, the means by which God, out of the goodness of His heart, could graciously forgive even the worst transgressions was inaugurated, and grace now reigns in righteousness. At Paul’s immersion, that grace became personally operative in his life, and, as he put it, “more than abundant” to cover his sins and make him worthy to serve in newness of life.
- Faith - Paul, former Pharisee and zealous for the Law and customs, understood the value of the new covenant, the covenant of “the faith of Christ.” But the foundations for that coming faith were laid in the old covenant writings. “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather in the flesh, has found?” he queried (Romans 4:1). Abraham had obviously found something of great value, rudimentary as it was in his time, and that something was a belief and trust in God that resulted in God’s justifying Abraham. The apostle’s use of the term “found” with regard to Abraham expresses his own wonderment at what he “found” in regard to the “faith of Christ,” which is far superior to the “faith of Abraham.”
- Love - When the Law of Moses issued the commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might,” that love was based on His creative power and His deliverance of Israel from Egypt. But the apostle was aware that much more of God’s love was expressed in His sending Christ into the world to seek and save that which was lost. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us,” the apostle noted, “in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). That demonstration significantly impacted Paul, and produced in him a love for God and for the lost.
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.
- Trustworthy statement - The sinner, having his conscience verify the message that he is separated and running from God, now has to be convinced that there is a real mechanism for turning the wrath of God from him. Hence the apostle writes, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance…” (1 Timothy 1:15). What the apostle is about to say is backed by everything that establishes that the Bible is true, and that Jesus Christ is indeed risen from the dead. The statement is “believable and certain.” The statement furthermore, deserves a total and complete acceptance. If it does not, the scripture will not accomplish its purpose for that doubting individual.
- To save sinners - The trustworthy statement, in part, is “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” The lost individual, perhaps having a long habit of hiding from God, needs the reassurance that the reason Jesus came into the world was to redeem wretches like himself. Many a person has been doubtful that God would be interested in someone who had fallen so low as he. But the scripture makes it clear that any sin, no matter how big or small from a human viewpoint, separates the individual from God. The “little white lie” is just a monstrous as cold-blooded murder; both separate the man from his God. The record is clear: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
- Paul is foremost - To further reassure the wavering prospect that God is willing to forgive him, the apostle is willing to put himself forward as the extreme example. His basic point is that if God was willing to, and could save, the former Saul of Tarsus, He is willing to, and can save, any person examining the gospel of Christ. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” Paul is not using the present tense “I am” to say that he currently, as he walked and worked among the first century churches, was the foremost of sinners. He is using “I am” in the sense that he is an example of how God’s gospel can save anyone. God’s loving invitation truly is extended to all!
- Perfect patience - For quite a period of time, Saul of Tarsus ravaged the church as “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.” But the Almighty was patient, waiting for the right time to turn him who was “kicking against the goads” to the Christ in glory. Further reassurance for the quavering sinner: “And for this reason I found mercy,” the apostle explains, “in order that in me as foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16).
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 King eternal - “Jesus Christ,” stated Paul, “in me demonstrated His perfect patience.” Christ, as is commonly known, means “the Messiah,” “the Anointed One, “the King.” Hence, the apostle is talking, in this context, about Jesus Christ, when he offers his praise to “the King eternal.” Jesus has always been “the King,” but it took the revelation of the scriptures and plan carried out in the realm of time, to make that point known to the sons of men. As the apostle Peter noted in his first gospel message, preached on Pentecost, that “God has made Him Christ” (Acts 2:36). This is how the eternal King was revealed to man! Always has been, and always will be!!
- King immortal - Jesus, the King immortal, took on mortality to save man from his sins. Following His crucifixion at the hands of godless men, He arose from the dead on the third day, appeared to witnesses for forty days, then ascended to glory, to return to immortality. That is powerful immortality! Though dead, He lives!!
- King invisible - The eternal and immortal King took on flesh and became visible to the eye of man. Once He had completed His work in the visible realm, He entered again into the invisible realm, that which must be revealed to the sinful race by what became the written word of God. “We look,” then, says Paul of those who have been called out of darkness into light, “not at things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Therein we behold “the King in His beauty” (Isaiah 33:17)!!
- The only God - To some, to apply the ascription of “the only God” to Jesus is too far a stretch. But other scriptures from the inspired apostle need to be considered. For example, in regard to Jesus’ second coming with the shout of the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God, the NASB says “God with bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:14) The construction shows that Jesus is the God who is bringing the spirits and souls out of Paradise to return with Him. But the NIV, having trouble with the idea of Jesus being “the only God,” translates the 1 Thessalonians passage thusly: “God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” The point of Paul’s praise here in 1 Timothy is that Jesus is “the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God.”
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.
- Timothy’s being “set apart” - What are called gifts or “manifestations” of the Spirit were given by the laying-on-of-hands of one of the apostles. Paul, for example, laid hands on twelve men at Ephesus who had been immersed into Christ after previously having been immersed into John’s immersion. When he did so, the men “began speaking with tongues and prophesying” (Acts 19:6). Paul also had laid hands on Timothy. This is how the apostle noted that in the inspired record: “I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6). Whether Timothy could prophesy or cast out demons or whatever is not recorded for us; but he has at least one of the gifts of the Spirit through Paul’s laying his hands on him. But Timothy received the gift of being an evangelist through the laying on of hands of the eldership (presumably Lystra). “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed upon you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery [eldership]” (1 Timothy 4:14). Just as Barnabas and Saul of Tarsus were set apart by the laying on of hands by the leadership of the church at Antioch of Syria (Acts 13:1-4) to go and preach to the Gentiles, Timothy was “set apart” to do the work of an evangelist by the laying on of hands of the leadership (the group of elders) of the congregation to which he was closely connected.
- Prophetic utterance - In the case of Barnabas and Saul, one of the prophets in Antioch, directed by the Holy Spirit, made a prophetic utterance. Here is how Luke the beloved physician noted the occasion: “And while they [five leading men of Antioch] were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’“(Acts 13:2). Notice that in Timothy’s case a similar “prophetic utterance” was tendered, the result of which was that Timothy was set aside to do the work of an evangelist. The apostle Paul, then, refers back to these events when he exhorts his true child in the faith: “This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you…” (1 Timothy 1:18).
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.
- Timothy’s being “set apart” - What are called gifts or “manifestations” of the Spirit were given by the laying-on-of-hands of one of the apostles. Paul, for example, laid hands on twelve men at Ephesus who had been immersed into Christ after previously having been immersed into John’s immersion. When he did so, the men “began speaking with tongues and prophesying” (Acts 19:6). Paul also had laid hands on Timothy. This is how the apostle noted that in the inspired record: “I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6). Whether Timothy could prophesy or cast out demons or whatever is not recorded for us; but he has at least one of the gifts of the Spirit through Paul’s laying his hands on him. But Timothy received the gift of being an evangelist through the laying on of hands of the eldership (presumably Lystra). “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed upon you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery [eldership]” (1 Timothy 4:14). Just as Barnabas and Saul of Tarsus were set apart by the laying on of hands by the leadership of the church at Antioch of Syria (Acts 13:1-4) to go and preach to the Gentiles, Timothy was “set apart” to do the work of an evangelist by the laying on of hands of the leadership (the group of elders) of the congregation to which he was closely connected.
- Prophetic utterance - In the case of Barnabas and Saul, one of the prophets in Antioch, directed by the Holy Spirit, made a prophetic utterance. Here is how Luke the beloved physician noted the occasion: “And while they [five leading men of Antioch] were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’“(Acts 13:2). Notice that in Timothy’s case a similar “prophetic utterance” was tendered, the result of which was that Timothy was set aside to do the work of an evangelist. The apostle Paul, then, refers back to these events when he exhorts his true child in the faith: “This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you…” (1 Timothy 1:18).
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!
- Maintaining faith - Because Timothy (and each of us as well) was engaged in spiritual warfare of the utmost magnitude, it was important for him not to lose his faith as defined by the new covenant. He was to maintain the sound doctrinal positions of the apostles, he was to keep his mission of seeking and saving the lost in focus, and he was to endure all opposition and obstacles in continuing to move forward in serving the Lord Jesus. If Satan could get him on any one of those points, he would score a tremendous victory and Timothy would suffer tremendous loss.
- A good conscience - God has granted to each follower of Christ a “good conscience” at his immersion into Christ. “Let us draw near” to God, says Hebrews’ author, “having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22). Only God can grant that clean conscience which Jesus purchased with His own blood; no amount of human effort could ever accomplish that spiritual cleansing. That clean or good conscience is therefore worthy of maintaining, regardless of what external pressures might come. Paul is thus exhorting Timothy to “fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (1 Timothy 1:18,19).
- Some bad examples - A disciple of Christ is about to violate his conscience whenever he starts to make long explanations and excuses about what he is getting ready to do (or getting ready not to do). His conscience has already triggered what the decision should be; now the saint has to process whether he is going to do “what is right” or whether he is going to do something the flesh would rather do. Paul is warning Timothy that anyone who starts down that road is going “to suffer shipwreck” and lose his faith on the coral reef of that particular temptation. Lest Timothy think that Paul is speaking in hypothetical terms, the apostle brings the names of a couple of men whom apparently were known to Paul’s protégé: “Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:20).
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.”
- Spiritual warfare - Spiritual warfare is not fought with the weapons of spears, mortars, or “cruise missiles.” “The weapons of our warfare,” explained Paul, “are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Corinthians 10:4). What, therefore, would be the first weapon in the arsenal? “First of all, then,” is Paul’s imploring, “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men” (1 Timothy 2:1). The apostle has a series of logical points: 1) Christ came to save sinners; 2) Timothy, set aside to preach, is to fight the good fight, which would be for the souls of those lost sinners; and 3) he is to pray. Prayer, as it fits in with God’s design, is the first weapon is seeking and saving the lost. In the book of Acts, the record is that the apostles and the early church prayed, then the preaching began!
- Entreaties, etc. - Entreaties are humble and earnest prayers; begging, pleading, appealing to the One who could answer the requests. Petitions carry the picture of making formal requests to the King. Thanksgivings have the connotation of gratefulness for past requests granted.
- For all men - The baseline is that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” The sweet incense of the saints in prayer on behalf of even the most abject of sinners is pleasing to the Almighty, and the brethren are obviously urged to add their contribution in modern times as was Timothy in his.
- For kings and all in authority - The baseline still is that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Often it is that the most despicable, most brutal, and most ruthless of human beings rise to the top of the rubble heap of humanity. Pray for these? Yes! “I urge,” says Paul, that prayers be made “for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we might lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2). One of the purposes of such prayers is for peaceful conditions of comparative freedom in which the gospel might spread, and saints might live their quiet lives in their communities while setting up Bible studies with their neighbors and acquaintances.
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!
- Desire for all to be saved - The word of God emphasizes that God’s desire is for all men to be saved, or, as the apostle Peter phrased it, the Lord does not wish for any to perish but “for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Thus the scripture emphasizes that ultimately all individuals have a choice to make in whether they desire to pursue the information pointing to the truthfulness of God’s written revelation to man. God is not in the process of “cherry picking” those with whom He desires to have fellowship; the information is available to all. There is enough information in the orderliness of Creation to give each person a start in following the threads of truth in his life to lead him to Jesus Christ. Therefore, “they are,” said Paul, “without excuse” (Romans 1:20). “The light is come into the world,” said Jesus, and men in general “loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil,” and they avoid coming into the light. “But he who practices the truth comes to the light,” is the contrast, “that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (John 3:19-21). God desires that all men be saved; those who end up not being saved chose that condition!
- The knowledge of the truth - Being immersed into Christ and thus having been “saved from sin,” the new saint begins his marvelous educational journey. Step by step the manifold wisdom of God is revealed in the pages of God’s word, as he learns from reading the scriptures and from teachers and preachers who challenge his thinking to move from an emphasis on the physical to an increasing understanding of the spiritual realm.
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).
- One God - “For there is,” Paul reminds Timothy, “one God”(1 Timothy 2:5). There is much idolatry in the world, some direct and some subtle, but the scriptures are consistent and insistent that the God who created everything is the only God. “There is no other God besides Me,” the Almighty stated through Isaiah, “a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me. Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:21,22).
- One Mediator - The holy and righteous God is separated from sinners, and has only wrath for those who remain in that condition. For the sinner to be able to approach the great and righteous King, he must have a go-between, Someone who could interact with mankind and yet sinless and able to be welcome in the presence of Him who said “I am the first, I am also the last” (Isaiah 48:12). Hence cometh into the world Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man! Yes, “there is one God,” and there is “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Jesus came in human form and “bore our sins in His body on the ‘wood’ ”(1 Peter 2:24). But in order for His mediation to be in effect, He had to be raised from the dead and ascend to glory and intercede for us as the great High Priest of the order of Melchizedek. He was “the man Christ Jesus.” “Christ Jesus is He who died,” observed the apostle Paul, “yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34). He is the mediator!
- Gave Himself as a ransom - Christ’s taking the form of a bond-servant on behalf of mankind was not without cost. Something had to be offered to extricate man from sin’s deadly lair, and the only thing of sufficient value was the life and blood of Jesus Himself. “Christ Jesus,” explained the apostle, “gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 1:6). Himself!! The Son of God in exchange for the sons of man. The deal was set forth, and Christ showed up on Calvary’s hill at the deadline. The payment was met, Christ resurrected and ascended, and the whole process was consummated in the propitiatory action of Jesus in the true Holy of Holies. What a plan, and what a Man!
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!
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).
- The testimony - The core of the message of the gospel depends on the testimony of eyewitnesses, particularly the apostles. The apostles were physically eyewitnesses of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and witnesses of His bodily resurrection (Paul was the exception, being a witness of the same events by special revelation). All the apostles by revelation were witnesses of the events that happened in heaven following Jesus’ ascension (such as the beginning of His High Priestly ministry) by special revelation, and the truthfulness of their testimony was backed by their ability to perform miracles that no one else could. The apostle Paul, when his apostleship was under fire in Corinth, called the Corinthian brethren’s attention back to this: “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles” (2 Corinthians 12:12). Thus, in Paul’s reminders to Timothy, he speaks of Jesus who “gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:6).
- The proper time - Jesus could not come into the world until the stage was properly set. The Jews themselves had to be moved out of their tendencies to idol worship, and they had to be scripturally literate because of the reading of the Law and the prophets in the synagogues. They had to have experienced enough oppression from the hands of their rulers to welcome John the Immerser with his twin message that the “kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and that he was the one to make the Messiah manifest to Israel. The way was now prepared for Christ to make His presence among the people known, and the events were in motion for His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to be believable by a percentage of the Jews. “At the right time,” said Paul to the brethren in Rome, “Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Not only were things prepared for Jesus to come into the world, but things were also prepared for the distri-bution of the gospel of the glory of Christ. When the Samaritans were coming in droves to listen to the Lord after He visited with the woman at the well, He explained to the apostles about the future spread of His message, “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered their labor” (John 4:38). The Jews were prepared, the Greek language was a universal language, and Roman order and Roman roads were available, so that all things were prepared on a very broad basis for “publishing abroad the glad tidings”! It was “the proper time.”
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).
- Men must pray - One of the functions of prayer is that it reminds men of their need for God. Natural man has a tendency to think that he doesn’t need God’s help—a form of pride. Thus in natural man there is often no acknowledgement of the major things God does to even make crops available, or His work in having metals in the ground or trees for wood. The simple statement out of Jesus’ model prayer illustrates the need to recognize God’s hand in making man’s labor productive: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). The apostle opened this section of the epistle with an exhortation that prayers and entreaties, petitions and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men. Here, then, he adds, “I want the men in every place to pray.”
- Holy hands - Paul requests that men in their prayers to be “lifting up holy hands.” The “hands” are only holy if the petitioner has pure and sincere motives in that prayer. Jesus, for example, spoke of the hypocrites whose desire was “to be seen by men” in their prayers (Matthew 6:5). “They have their reward in full,” was His analysis. Many modern “religionists” make quite a show of “lifting” up their hands, which actually is the fruit of manipulation techniques of those herding the crowd down the wrong road. No saint needs to “lift up” his hands in prayer; he can kneel, he can stand, he can sit, he can have his eyes closed, he can have his eyes open. A picture that could have been in Paul’s mind was Solomon at the dedication of the temple. “Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the as-sembly of Israel,” is the record, “and spread out his hands toward heaven” (1 Kings 8:22). The point of emphasis by Paul is that those hands had better be holy, and if there is prayer done in pretense, that by definition is unholy and defiled.
- No wrath or dissension - An angry man is hard to deal with; no one knows when that cauldron is going to burst over. Such anger in a Christian is a result of not having put to death the flesh, and needs to be firmly and summarily handled by the saint with the problem; wrath is not caused by another person’s action or inaction in the context of which Paul here speaks. Dissension is another major issue. Those who cause division, who create factions, are walking by the flesh rather than by the Spirit, and are incredibly destructive to the body of Christ and its ability to get its job done.
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.
- Adornment issues - Women have a huge and complementary role inside the church and in carrying out its Christ-designed mission to the world. Hence Paul’s words of wisdom to the women begin with “likewise.” “Likewise,” begins the apostle’s exhortation, “I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments” (1 Timothy 2:9). The manner in which women adorn themselves is important in the overall forward movement of the gospel. Females, at even a fairly young age, are conscious of their apparel, and increasingly conscious of the affect their attractiveness has on other people, both men and women. Immodest dress will attract attention, but not the correct attention. “Modesty” has the general thrust of being willing to take a step back, not being ostentatious or attention-getting, as a “modest house.” “Discreetly” is a form of “discretion,” which has to do with using good judgment. A Christian woman’s being costumed in 16th century middle European garb would neither be modest nor discreet in a 21st century culture. Proper clothing and proper amount of covering is modest and discreet, and every aware Christian female knows exactly what that is. The goal of God and the scripture is to have the saintly women carry out that good judgment.
- Allurement and entrapment - Certain women have used various means to attract attention to themselves, this being the means by which they attempt to gain value. Overall, the scripture encourages children of faith to “get their value” from God, who again and again communicates in sundry ways how much He loves and values each person in the body of Christ. But if a female is not clearly processing this, she will tend to try to attract attention to herself, often by how she fixes her hair or with the flash of “bling.” It isn’t the “braided hair” that is the issue; it is how she braids it. It isn’t the “gold or pearls” (it could be platinum or silver or diamonds); it is how she uses those to allure her prey. It isn’t the “costly garments” per se that are the problem; it is how those expensive garments are designed to show off her figure that is the problem; it is how she is spider-like entrapping the intended target of her game.
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 best clothing - Having been clothed with Christ in immersion, and having had the inner person transformed, with what will the outer woman be clothed? “Not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments,” affirms Paul, “but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness” (1 Timothy 2:10). The apostle, later in this letter, as he describes under what conditions widows might be on the church’s “list,” gives us an overall idea. She qualifies if she has “a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work” (1 Timothy 5:10). The “good works” of a godly woman are exhibited in the overflow of a true servant’s heart: a willingness to extend herself on behalf of others, and a willingness to carry out even the most “lowly” of tasks. And, yes, “good works” require WORK!
- Demeanor - The Christian woman is a new creation in Christ. Gone is any semblance of a loud-mouthed hussy fresh from the bar scene. “Let a woman,” explains the apostle, “quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness” (1 Timothy 2:11). Intelligent questioning and an unchallenging demeanor befit this woman. “Let it be the hidden person of the heart,” similarly stated the apostle Peter, “with the imperishable quality of the gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4). These instructions apply to a woman “making a claim to godliness”; of course, if she makes no claim to godliness, this need not apply.
- Authority - In his first epistle to the Corinthians, the apostle states the order of authority: “But I want you to understand,” he said, “that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:3). Christ has no issue in submitting to the Father, so the man should have no problem in submitting to Christ, and the woman should have no problem in submitting to the man. “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet” (1 Timothy 2:12). No matter how it is “pitched,” women have no place in leading the audiences in Christian assemblies, in preaching or in teaching or in singing.
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!
- Male leadership in the assembly - “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet,” states the inspired apostle Paul. There is no room for a “Marge in charge” in the assembly of the saints; women voluntarily need to take a step back, and be content with the male leadership guiding, teaching, and preaching. The apostle has a “cultural” argument to bring forth here: “For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:13). The culture on which Paul bases his statement is the culture that began with Adam and Eve! Another point in his argumentation: “And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Timothy 2:14). The conclusion to be drawn here in the argumentation is that women have a little more tendency to be deceived (by their emotions for example) than men, and therefore spiritual leadership rests with the men.
- Primary role of women - When God created the human race as consisting of male and female, He designed the interrelationship to be complementary rather than competitive. Someone has to be the provider for the home, and someone has to be the keeper of the home. Since women are the ones who give birth to children, and children need their mothers early on, it makes sense that they would be the keepers of the home. “But women,” avers Paul, “shall be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint” (1 Timothy 2:15). This pretty clearly does not mean that a woman must have children or she can’t have eternal salvation; it is a statement on the apostle’s part about women’s carrying out their God-given role of being the keepers of the home.
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.
- Desire to do the work - When it comes to guiding the flock of God through the maze of doctrinal issues, keeping them on good feed instead of weak or harmful spiritual nutrition, or protecting them from wolves and other predators, there is much work for the overseers of a congregation. Thus the apostle emphasizes, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do” (1 Timothy 3:1). Clearly, one of the prime qualifiers for the office is that the man must desire the work rather than aspire to the position. This is a major issue, since history shows that the men who were driven by “position ambition” ended up making a distinction between “elder” and “bishop,” and unscripturally elevating the office of “bishop” over the office of “elder” in their already twisted turn away from primitive Christianity. A man who truly desires the work will have demonstrated that by already doing most of the “behind-the-scenes” work that an overseer would do: having Bible studies in homes to educate and strengthen the saints, having a portion of his time devoted to reaching the lost, developing the skills of helping saints and their families through the multitude of issues that challenge the nuclear family, and having acquired the interpersonal and communication skills necessary to share publicly and privately his own knowledge of the scriptures. A man who is primarily interested in doing the “visible” aspects leading up to the position of eldership is a dangerous man; he does not desire the work!
- Aspiring to the office - “Aspiring” has to do with an upward reach, a willingness to put in hard work now in the hope of reward or goal later. A person who wants to be a doctor, for example, must receive the necessary education and training over a period of years before he is ready to begin to realize his aspirations. Question: what is more important, the office or function of a doctor for the physical side of man; or the office or function of an overseer for the spiritual side of saints? The man who aspires to the office of overseer must be willing to go through all the training and education necessary for him to be able to carry out the functions of that office.
- “Overseer” - A person who “oversees” is a person who makes sure everything is functioning as it should; he could also be described as a “manager.” A true bishop does his part to make certain that all the “moving parts” of a congregation work together and accomplish what needs to be done. He is responsible for the overall attitude and atmosphere of a congregation. He is responsible for the training of teachers and development of future leadership. He is responsible for making certain that the local congregation stays true to new covenant doctrine. He is, and very importantly, responsible for the church’s maintaining its commitment and vision to seeking and saving the lost.
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.
- Above reproach - One of the first qualities on the list in assaying the character of the man who is being considered for the office of overseer is that he “must be above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2). This means that any charges that might be brought against this man by his enemies or detractors would simply fall to the ground because there would be no solid basis for them. This is important because overseers are highly visible leaders in a congregation function in accordance with the directives of scripture. Disgruntled members or members who are going to undergo discipline must not be able to secure a foothold to direct criticism toward the church leadership, which grumblers generally do in order to divert attention away from themselves.
- Temperate - The core thrust of “temperate” is to be free from the influence of alcohol (which is why it is often translated “sober”), but the broader meaning in its application to the office of overseer has to do with being able to think clearly and evaluate issues in their relative order of importance. There has to be a great deal of “mental control” for the elder to function dispassionately in many situations, and to keep the congregation on its God-ordained course.
- Prudent - Prudence and discretion involve using good judgment. People in the congregation are described as “sheep,” and sheep have to be led rather than pushed. Much “good judgment” is necessary when the eldership is dealing with the saints in the congregation, in motivating them, in interacting with them intelligently, in providing an atmosphere of spiritual growth and sustenance, in thinking ahead.
- Respectable - Just as the godly woman is to be discreet in her choice of clothing, and modest in her exhibition of herself in accordance with the time and customs wherein she lives, so the bishop is to be discreet in his interaction with people, and he is to be modest or respectable in his exhibition of character. He is able to engage socially with people in accordance with the manners and customs of the times and the culture in which he negotiates, and his honesty, integrity, and uprightness of character garner for him respect from those around him.
- Hospitable - The root meaning of this term is “love for strangers” from the Greek, and similar for the Latin roots of “hospitable” (enjoying the company of guests or strangers). The home of the bishop or pastor is a welcoming one, which draws people into discussions about Christ and their own spiritual growth.
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.
- Not self-willed, etc. - The apostle Paul’s letter to Titus also notes some character qualities that an overseer must possess. “For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward,” Paul notes, echoing some of what he had mentioned to Timothy, “not self-willed, not quick-tempered…not pugnacious” (Titus 1:7). A person who would have the appellation “self-willed” would be someone arrogant and hard-headed, someone who would not be willing to sit down for a reasonable discussion; the bishop must be someone with sufficient compassion to give those with whom he works a fair hearing. Nor can he be quick-tempered; a “bad temper” or “quick temper” is actually a defense mechanism an individual has to isolate himself from important personal interactions with others. It is not befitting for the general Christian not to be able to govern this passion, much less someone in a leadership position. “Not pugnacious” shows up in both the lists to Timothy and Titus, along with words like “uncontentious.” Some people like to escalate tensions, so that the opportunity for verbal violence breaks out; such a one is “pugnacious” (the root “pug” is the same as in “pugilisim,” which is boxing or fist-fighting). The true shepherd, following in the footsteps of Jesus, is “gentle,” and in strength of character able to sooth things down, and provide an atmosphere for providing solutions rather than reveling in problems. The letter to Titus includes, parallel to the points in 1 Timothy, that the bishop is described as “loving what is good, sensible, just [fair], devout [holy], self-controlled” (Titus 1:8). This man is clearly in control of himself, so that he can engage in “crowd control” and provide great leadership in any situation.
- Ability to teach - Paul remarks to Timothy that the elder must be “able to teach.” His comments to Titus give more information on what the apostle’s thoughts were on that topic: the bishop must be “holding fast the faithful word in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). Such a man must have had some years of experience in personal studies as well as public expositions, converting the lost and edifying the saved. He must be skilled in the use of the word of truth in order to exhort in sound doctrine; he must be able to think clearly to expose the false propositions of those “who contradict.” He must be able to reason correctly, express his thoughts precisely and concisely, and engage in the disputation which necessarily comes with all important doctrines. This man cannot be appointed to the presbytery [eldership] simply because he is a big financial contributor.
- “Free from the love of money” - The comments in Titus include “not fond of sordid gain,” whereas in Timothy the scripture records “free from the love of money” (Titus 1:7; 1 Timothy 3:3). There can be quite a bit of financial resources flowing through the local congregation as it engages in its various ministries. It is absolutely critical, therefore, that the bishop not be interested in any illicit pecuniary gain. It calls to mind the apostle Paul’s comment of exhortation to the elders of Ephesus, “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes” (Acts 20:33).
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.
- Husband of one wife - Both the epistle to Timothy and to Titus contain the expression “the husband of one wife” in reference to bishops (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). The bishop “must be” married!! The bishop cannot be a polygamist, and he will be free of a lot of unnecessary baggage if he has never been divorced.
- Children - Raising a godly family is clearly part of the training ground for the future shepherd. He must have “children who believe,” is Paul’s comment to Titus, “not accused of dissipation or rebellion” (Titus 1:6). The overseer [manager] must be “one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity” (1 Timothy 3:4). The proper training of children obviously impacts their adult lives, and the future bishop and his wife need to be a tremendous team in nurturing and directing their charges in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Children, particularly as they grow toward adulthood, need to be “managed” rather than micro-managed. The manager needs to recognize abilities and capabilities of each of those whom he oversees, and needs to put them in positions where they can function and grow. The apostle asks a great and important question: “If a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5). This has to be done “with all dignity”; children are like trees in this sense–they grow up straight through the application of constant pressure rather than an occasional kick. The raising of a Christian family is the training ground for the future bishop.
- Alcohol issues - Both letters contain the phrase “not addicted to wine” (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7). Many new converts coming into the body of Christ are coming in seeking victory over alcohol and drug “addiction” issues. For their benefit, the best policy of any church leader is total abstinence of alcohol, marijuana, or other mind-altering substances.
- Devil issues - There is a general understanding that the devil, before he was cast out of heaven, ended up with an overinflated picture of who he really was. Paul uses this understanding to make a couple of points. He says that the bishop must not be “a new convert, lest he become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6). Too high a position too soon without the appropriate sacrifice and suffering to get there often results in those people getting all “puffed up.” The devil, everyone needs to remember, eventually got booted from heaven. The apostle adds, “And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he may not fall into the reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:7). While the world’s perspective is not always correct, if a person is known around town as “Freddy the Freeloader” or “a ladies’ man,” he is not a fit candidate for the office of bishop.
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.
- Some qualities - “Deacons,” enumerates Paul, “must likewise [as in the case of bishops] be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain” (1 Timothy 3:8). “Not double-tongued” stands out as an additional thought. Deacons must not be the kind of men who bend to please the audience, saying one thing to one group of people, and saying the opposite to another.
- Spiritual examples - Paul points out that deacons must be those “holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” (1 Timothy 3:9). Again, “the mystery of the faith” is an interesting expression. “Mystery” has to do with something that has been hidden in the past but now has been revealed. Mankind has the ability to observe, and to reason about what he observes. But the combination of observing and reasoning will not produce any information about the spiritual realm, the realm of “faith.” “Faith,” in this case, refers to the saints’ believing what the scripture says about the unseen realm. Hence, “the mystery of the faith” refers especially to the revealed new covenant teachings, the apostles’ doctrine. Those who would serve as deacons must be those who stand firm in the faith, and who also maintain clear consciences in the sight of God Almighty.
- Tested - The basic principle running through new covenant teaching on leadership is that a Christian must be doing a lot of the work voluntarily before being formally granted the office. In the case of deacons, “these also must first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, if they are beyond reproach” (1 Timothy 3:10). It’s okay for the prospective deacons to be given training projects and assignments; if they pass, they can be deacons, and if not, they can’t.
- Women - “Women must likewise be dignified,” notes the apostle, “not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things” (1 Timothy 3:11). Whether the apostle is referring to women who serve or deacon’s wives is not entirely clear; whatever the case, they must comport themselves in a professional manner—disciplined and faithful. Deacon’s wives would be privy to a lot of private information, and would have to be the kind of ladies who could keep their mouths shut about stuff that is nobody else’s business.
- Family - Deacons have the same family requirements as elders, except that their children do not have to be old enough to be described as “children who believe.” “Let deacons be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households” (1 Timothy 3:12).
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!
- Paul’s instructions to Timothy - Timothy is in Ephesus, and Paul is in prison in Rome. The best the apostle can do is to write to Timothy. “I am writing these things to you,” he therefore says, “hoping to come to you before long…” (1 Timothy 3:14). By the hand of the Almighty, the apostle ended up writing this epistle, and we are much indebted to Him for the information in this short set of directives to Paul’s son in the faith.
- Timothy’s conduct - Paul continues the thought, “...in case I am delayed.” We moderns know, because we can look back on the history, that he was indeed delayed. The purpose of this letter is thus brought to the fore—the instructions about those who would want to bring the law of Moses back into the church, about men, about women, about bishops, about deacons... “I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15). It is God’s house, and He has standards of conduct which He expects that His children will execute in the house. The message is clear: if you do not want to abide by the standards, then you will be kicked out of the house!
- Support of the truth - “The whole world,” emphasized the apostle John, “lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Since “the evil one,” Satan, is a liar and the father of lies, who will be able to stand up for truth? The answer: “The household of God, the church of the living God,” Paul replies, is “the pillar and support of the truth.” Every person who is not a Christian, as the new covenant writings define “Christian,” is a slave to sin (Romans 6:6) and a captive of the devil (2 Timothy 2:26). Hence, while the non-Christian might be able to stand for truth in some areas, he cannot stand for all the truth. Only the Christian as an individual can be in favor of all truth, and only the church as an institution can be “the pillar and support of the truth.” While the Bible as a whole contains “everything pertaining to life and godliness,” it is only a tool. Just as a tractor has to be taken out of the shed and driven by the farmer into the field for the ground to be tilled, even so it requires the church to pull the Bible off the shelf and take its message to the world in order for “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” to be supported.
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. So...church...stand!!
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).
- Common confession - The saints in New Testament times had one belief system, known as “the faith of Christ,” and so it is to be today. Another name for a belief system is “confession” in the sense that it is a belief system held in common. Thus the writer of the book of Hebrews uses it in this fashion, exhorting, “Therefore , holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession” (Hebrews 3:1). “And by common confession,” says Paul, “great is the mystery of godliness...” (1 Timothy 3:16). [A down-to-the-roots rendering would be, “we all say the same thing”; hence some versions loosely render this “without controversy great is the mystery of godliness”]. Some versions will also use “profess” and “profession” rather than “confess” and “confession”; this rendering emphasizes that the common faith is to be “spoken forth.” Properly understood in context, they are synonyms.
- Mystery revealed - “Great,” expostulated the apostle, “is the mystery of godliness.” That which produces true godliness (god-like-ness) was hidden in the old covenant times, but now is revealed through the coming of the new covenant of Christ and the teachings of its precepts. Even the best of those in old covenant times were locked in; there was no full forgiveness of sins, no clean consciences, no “new creations.” But for those who can now participate in the gospel of the glory of Christ, that which was hidden has come to the fore, and saints can be “imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1).
- Basis for godliness - “No man has seen God at any time,” explained the apostle John. “The only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:18). The entire progress of Jesus, from His being made flesh through His crucifixion and bodily resurrection, culminating in His ascension to glory, was designed before the foundation of the world to reveal God to the inner man of those who are redeemed (to “explain Him”). In order for anyone to be “godly,” as the scripture defines it under the terms of the new covenant, he has to be able to know God in order to imitate His positive characteristics. No one “knows God” unless he has been properly immersed into Christ; the others He does not know! Godliness (God-like-ness) is going to begin with that revelation of God through Jesus Christ. There is no other way to know God but through what is revealed in that scriptural revelation.
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.
- Revealed in the flesh - A core part of that revelation is that Jesus came into the world as a 100% human being. “And the Word became flesh,” asseverated the apostle John, emphasizing that Jesus came in a human body, combatting the antichrists of the late first century, “and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Jesus “emptied Himself” and took “the form of a bond-servant” (Philippians 2:7). He put Himself in the position where He could be tempted and could have yielded to that temptation, and gave Himself no character advantage over the rest of mankind. He showed us how to overcome! As Paul notes, as he begins to bring out the salient points of “the mystery of godliness,” he speaks of Jesus, describing Him as “He who [some versions God] was revealed in the flesh.”
- Vindicated in the Spirit - The second listing of the “mystery of godliness” is describing Jesus as “vindicated in the Spirit” (1 Timothy 3:16). The “vindication” here is that God is proving that He is “right,” and has been “right” from the beginning. How is that tied to “the Spirit”? God’s “Son,” said the apostle Paul, “was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3). But He “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection of the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness” (Romans 1:4). The Holy Spirit is the One who, in this context, raised Jesus from the dead and thus declared Him to be the Son of God. Thus Jesus “was vindicated in the Spirit” by virtue of His resurrection from the dead and exaltation to the throne on high. God is using this resurrection as the basis for all that He does and will do in His eventual total destruction of the domain of darkness, having proved that He was right!
- Beheld by angels - Just as the angels were involved in announcing Jesus’ birth as a descendant of David according to the flesh, they were also involved in announcing Jesus’ birth from the dead as the Son of God according to the Spirit. Mary Magdalene, the first person to see Jesus following His resurrection from the dead, first saw that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. When she came back to the tomb, and she saw two angels sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying. Matthew recorded that an angel came down and rolled the stone away and sat on it, and was involved in speaking with the women when they arrived. Mark’s record indicated that there was “a young man sitting on the right, wearing a white robe,” pretty clearly an angel. Luke’s account noted that “two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling apparel,” also angels from the description. The point is that Jesus was “beheld by angels” following His resurrection prior to His being seen by any of the human witnesses (1 Timothy 3:16).
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).
- Proclaimed among the nations - The old covenant writings consistently show that God had a plan to get His message to the Gentile peoples of the world. When Peter was doing the first preaching to the Gentiles, to Cornelius and his household, he noted, “Of Him [Jesus] all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43). Salvation and the indwelling Holy Spirit to the Gentiles was there, but no one recognized it until the Holy Spirit began to make those points clear to the apostles. Jesus Himself went only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). At first, then, the gospel was preached only to the Jews. The Samaritans are brought in next in Acts chapter eight, then the Gentiles were welcomed in Acts chapter ten. From that point on, the gospel spread through the pagan peoples of the Roman Empire and beyond, so that eventually the apostle Paul could say that the gospel “was proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (Colossians 1:23). This, of course, was in accordance with Jesus’ command in Mark’s version of the Great Commission: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
- Believed on in the world - Biblically, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). The apostle Paul, for example, whether he was preaching and teaching those of Jewish background or of Gentile, always made reasoned presentations, beginning where he needed to begin depending upon their backgrounds and basic knowledge of God and the scriptures. The exposition of the testimony of the Old and New Testaments is the means by which an honest individual comes to the “faith of Christ,” and makes his decisions from that point on what he is going to do about the information he has received. The natural effect, then, of the gospel being “proclaimed among the nations” was that Jesus was “believed on in the world.”
- Taken up in glory - After Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, He was “taken up in glory” at His ascension ten days prior to Pentecost, AD 30. The “mystery of godliness” would not even come close to being complete without this final phase concerning Jesus the Christ. It was in His ascension that the revelation of who God is was made complete, and without that complete revelation of who God is, godliness is impossible in His children. Hence, while the presentation of Jesus “revealed in the flesh” is accurate, it is complete. Likewise, the testimony of Jesus’ resurrection, His “vindicated in the Spirit,” is accurate and gives more information regarding the character of Christ, it is still incomplete. It is only when He ascends to glory is the revelation both accurate and complete. The writer of Hebrews noted concerning the Christ who was at the right hand of the Majesty on high that “He is the radiance of [the Father’s] glory, and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3).
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.
- The Spirit explicitly says - The manner in which the apostle brings this matter to the attention of Timothy is interesting and significant. “But the Spirit explicitly says,” expounds the apostle, “that in later times some will fall away from the faith…” (1 Timothy 4:1). This should cause Timothy (and anyone else who reads this epistle) to sit up and take notice! When it is pointed out that the Holy Spirit explicitly, emphatically says something, no one should miss the point.
- What is going to happen - All Christians—those alive at the time Paul writes this letter, and to all future Christians—are to be aware that major work is being done to destroy the original church and the original gospel. The Holy Spirit states that “in later times some will fall away from the faith.” Another word for this is apostasy, coming from the Greek apo [away] and stasis [static or base point]. This is not going to be an occasional individual departing from commitment to Christ; this is going to be a massive, major scale falling away from the “faith once delivered.” How disheartening, in a way, it would have been for the apostle Paul to write about the future of the movement, to which he so diligently and at such cost gave himself, to have to note that most would depart from the original faith and embrace a twisted form.
- Description of future movement - A couple of salient points of the coming apostasy are expressed in terms of “men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods” (1 Timothy 4:3). Moderns have the advantage of being able to look back at “church” history and see that this is talking about the development of what is called “Catholicism.” It is no secret that the Catholic perversion began forbidding marriage to the “clergy,” and that certain foods were not permitted on certain days.
- Who did it? - History in general is replete with the accounts of men (and sometimes women) of ambition for position, perks, and power. As the early men of ambition began to set up the bishop over the elders, then the structure was such that it was advantageous for such men to engage in a power struggle. Satan and his minions had their opportunity, as these spiritual perverts were “paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.”
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?
- Origin of the devil - All the heavenly host are created beings. In Psalm 148, for example, angels are listed among the first of those who were to praise the Almighty. This listing is followed by these words: “Let them praise the name of the Lord, for He commanded and they were created” (Psalm 148:5). But the angelic beings got to watch the Maker of all things bring into existence the material realm, as described in the book of Job (wherein angelic beings are called “sons of God”). “Where were you,” God asked of Job, “when I laid the foundation of the earth?” Where were you, He continued, “when the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4;7). The one who acquired the appellation “the devil” was one of those angelic beings before the physical creation. Examination of Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:12-19 indicates that there was someone bigger than simply the king of Babylon and the king of Tyre, respectively, in view. Herein is painted a picture of a shining one (Lucifer, in the KJV), a “covering cherub” thus pictured as near the Throne, who was blameless “until unrighteousness was found” in him. His problem was that he “wanted to be like the Most High” and his “heart was lifted up” because of his beauty. The New Testament writings let us know that this creature who was cast down was the devil—the tempter—who desired to receive the worship reserved only for God (Matthew 4:8-11; Luke 4:5-8). [It is the writer’s opinion, based on Luke and Matthew’s order, that the devil offered the same temptation twice!] Hence he and the angels who followed him in the Rebellion were eventually cast out of heaven in connection with Jesus’ resurrection from the dead: “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into [Tartarus] and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4). From those headquarters, Satanic forces operate in trying to move mankind away from God.
- Angels and spirits - Speaking of what might be called “good angels,” the writer of Hebrews rhetorically queries, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). It follows that “bad angels” are the evil spirits oft mentioned in the new covenant writings. Demons are another name for these evil spirits: The unclean spirit is the demon in the case of the man who was demon possessed (Luke 8:29), and the demons were cast into the hogs, who rushed into the Sea of Galilee.
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!
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.
- Food for man - When Barnabas and Paul tried to restrain the crowds from offering sacrifice to them (the crowds were thinking that the missionaries were Greek gods), they explained about the true God and Creator: “You should turn,” they said, “to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them.” They further explained about this God, “He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:15,17). “Every moving thing,” the Father instructed Noah and his sons, “that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant” (Genesis 9:3).
- Israelite dietary restrictions - If everything is good, why did God impose dietary restrictions on Israel in the giving of the Law of Moses? Some postulated that the Lord did so for health reasons, that the clean animals were healthy and the unclean animals were unhealthy. When their own research showed this not to be universally true, their solution was to become vegetarians! While the scripture does not directly say why God did limit Israel in their food, the overall effect of God’s directives on what was “clean” and what was “unclean” for Israel made a necessary and important separation between Israel and the Gentile world. Only in this way could God’s plan to bring Jesus into the world go forward.
- Under the new covenant - The issue of “clean” and “unclean” arose when Jesus’ disciples did not ritually “wash” their hands before eating their bread in accordance with Jewish custom, and hence in the eyes of Jesus’ detractors the apostles were “unclean.” As the Lord commented on that position, He pointed out that “whatever goes into the man from the outside cannot defile him,” and that “from within, out of the heart of man” is where the evil things come that defile. In the midst of that exchange comes this commentary by the gospel writer Mark and the Holy Spirit: “Thus He declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:18-23). Thus the dietary restrictions imposed on God’s people under the Law have been removed, as Paul commented to Timothy: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 1:4,5).
- Judaizer problems - One of the problems the early church faced was from those of Jewish background trying to impose the Law of Moses, including its dietary regulations, on the Gentile Christians. “It is necessary,” boldly stated some of those who had been Pharisees, regarding the new Gentile converts, “to circumcise them, and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses” (Acts 15:5). The only restrictions on the Gentiles came in these words: “they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood” (Acts 15:20). Those still stand!
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?
- Backdrop - The apostle’s comments to Timothy, as would be expected, build upon another. He had pointed out that he was writing these things to his son in the faith, that Timothy might know how to conduct himself in the church, the “pillar and support of truth.” He reminded the evangelist of the basics of the “confession” concerning Christ, and warned of a coming apostasy. In that context, Paul made his comments about how the forces of confusion would introduce doctrines forbidding marriage and the abstinence from certain foods, and how everything created can be used for food. But the focus is on the inner man. “In pointing out these things [summarized above] to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 4:6).
- Teaching the brethren - The apostle emphasizes “pointing out” these basic doctrines and concepts to the brethren. It is pretty clear that Paul expects that Timothy will engage in teaching and preaching in some depth, and working through issues that some brethren in Ephesus would consider controversial. The apostle led by example, reminding the elders of this same congregation that he “did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable,” and that he “did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:20; 20:27). Timothy was in this way admonished to be “a good servant of Jesus Christ.” The model, then, is depth of teaching on all topics; not “spiritual cotton candy” designed to bring people into a modern entertainment circus!
- Constantly nourished - God designed the need for “daily bread” for the outer man to help His children of faith process the need for “daily spiritual bread” for the inner man. The terminology of the apostle is “nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.” Timothy himself was thus to be constantly nourished, and to be in the process of providing that nourishment to the brethren as well.
- Words of “the faith” - “The faith” is an expression of the entire belief system based on what Jesus Christ brought into the world by virtue of that great “mystery of godliness”; everything from His coming in the flesh through to His ascension into glory itself. This new covenant doctrine, in the context of 1 Timothy, is somewhat in juxtaposition to words of “the Law.”
- Words of “sound doctrine” - “Doctrine” means “teaching,” in this context a body of teaching comprising the entire new covenant instruction. “Sound doctrine,” an expression commonly used by the apostle in these epistles, means that the system of thought sometimes termed “the faith of Christ” is taught in its entirety and without deviation from its terms and its principles. It is “sound” because it is based on firmly established truth.
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 for godliness - There are many who are disciplined in the arena of athletics, physically disciplined but totally ungodly in morals and character. While those moral laxities are deplorable, physical discipline does provide an avenue by which saints can understand the principles of “discipline for godliness.” Good physical discipline is going to begin with good physical nutrition; a diet that is lacking key minerals and enzymes, or a “junk food” diet, will not enable the athlete to be able to discipline himself to perform at a high level. The apostle Paul tells Timothy that he and his hearers need to be “constantly nourished on the words of faith and sound doctrine” and to avoid the spiritual junk food of “worldly fables.” “Discipline yourself,” exhorts the apostle, “for the purpose of godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7).
- Godliness - “Godliness” is the English contraction of God-like-ness, and thus it means to imitate the character of God in all word, thought, and deed. It is sometimes translated as “piety,” which has to do with dutifully carrying out the actions which please God. There are those who maintain that disciples of Christ are always going to sin as long as they live in a physical body, and therefore actual godliness is impossible. That unbiblical position really makes no sense in face of straight forward exhortations from the apostle Paul such as this one: “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” If godliness is unattainable, why try?
- Physical discipline - “Bodily discipline,” because it takes place in the physical realm, has tangible lessons that can be used to process the principles necessary for spiritual discipline. Workouts at the gym need to be regular, consistent, with goals and progress noted. (Similarly, spiritual habits need to developed by this same system of regularity, consistency, with goals and progress noted.) The Christian needs to engage in physical discipline, as Paul commented in his epistle to the undisciplined brethren in Corinth: “I buffet my body,” explained the apostle, using himself as an example, “and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Disciplining the body is obviously serious business.
- A contrast - But mere physical discipline will not gain anyone access to heaven. In that context, “bodily discipline is only of little profit” (1 Timothy 4:8). By contrast, “godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Discipline of the body, coupled with the important spiritual disciplines, produce the best possible life on earth (meaning that a saint will be able to maintain his spiritual focus and thankful attitude regardless of his external circumstances). But the key point is that godliness is what gives the only promise of life eternal. “Pursue the sanctification,” is the imperative from Hebrews’ author, “without which no one will see the Lord”(Hebrews 12:14). That sanctification is equivalent to the godliness of which Paul wrote, and it is the result of discipline.
“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.
- Deserving full acceptance - The push on Paul’s part for personal godliness is underscored by the words “deserving full acceptance.” Many of the saints, in regard to this commitment to godliness, would likely be satisfied by “partial acceptance.” But for the dedicated saint (and each saint needs to be dedicated) Christ is his life, and his all. “For to me, to live is Christ,” Paul had commented, “and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). “I have been crucified with Christ,” the apostle had stated in another place, “and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Total dedication; godliness; deserving full acceptance!
- Labor and strive - Continuing on the theme of “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness,” the apostle further emphasizes, “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God” (1 Timothy 4:10). The words discipline, labor, and strive all carry the picture of consistent, sustained effort. There are many in the denominational world who operate on the false proposition that the only righteousness or godliness a person will ever have is that which God confers without effort on the individual’s part. But this proposition is clearly false, based on the apostle’s inspired words. “Discipline yourself,” he had said. “It is for this we labor and strive,” he emphasized under the banner of the “trustworthy statement.” If the apostles had to labor and strive for godliness, certainly the rest of the brethren must also.
- Motivation - “A worker’s appetite works for him,” noted Solomon the sage, “for his hunger drives him on” (Proverbs 16:26). An empty belly is a major motivation to get off the couch and into the job market. “Necessity may be the mother of invention, but it certainly is the father of motivation!” So what is the motivation for the saint to live a godly life? “For this we labor and strive,” asserted the apostle, “because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” While fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the desire for our proper resurrection from the dead—our hope—is our long-term motivator. Reaching for heaven is a much more powerful and consistent motivator that running from hell.
- How great a salvation - Every person on the planet should take a good look in the word of God for a picture of what gehenna, the hell fire, really will be. Because most live in some sort of delusion about the afterlife, they are not initially motivated to turn to the Lord, and they don’t process how great a salvation has been brought forth for the human race. God is indeed the Savior of all men, and has opened the possibility of repentance for any who will come on His terms. Only those with “an honest and good heart,” however, according to the Savior Himself, will take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime offer. Hence He “is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”
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.
- Youthfulness - As a younger man, Timothy would find it harder to find traction in exhorting older men. But Paul tells Timothy not to let that hold him back, exhorting him with these words: “Let no one look down on your youthfulness” (1 Timothy 4:12). In order to make that operative, the apostle adds, “show yourself [as] an example of those who believe.” Example is hard to argue with!
- Speech - The apostle then specifies to Timothy some of the areas to which Timothy should pay close attention in his personal conduct, and the first one which shows up is speech. What a person says, and how he says it, are critical components in building relationships and spreading the gospel. “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth,” Paul had enjoined upon the Ephesian brethren, “but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
- Conduct - Another area the apostle puts to the fore is conduct. Conduct can be a little hard to define in words, but a saint who is in the right places at the right times, who knows how to lead when appropriate, to follow to make the teamwork effective, and positively to interact with brethren, would be exhibiting the kind of conduct the apostle calls for from Timothy.
- Love - A major area of Timothy’s positive example would be love. Love of the lost and love of the brethren cannot be overlooked. This, of course, is Biblically defined love, with the honest concern for each person’s eternity at the core.
- Faith - Timothy’s faith would be exhibited in his faithful participation in the assemblies where he taught and preached. But “faith” is bigger than that. It would involve his willingness to take on new challenges, such as coming into Ephesus to work as an evangelist. This faith would require Timothy to “prescribe and preach” necessity of godliness to the brethren, to stand for sound doctrine, to take the gospel to the lost, to go into the synagogues and potentially suffer persecution. The brethren would need to see Timothy as a man of courage and conviction, who continually moved forward in the face of any opposition.
- Purity - The necessity for Timothy to possess purity in thought, in deed, and in motive cannot be overstated. The wisdom, for example, that Timothy would need to exhibit in his conduct would be the heavenly wisdom, which is described by James as first of all “pure” (James 3:17). If Timothy’s mind were to drift off the pure things of God, it would render him ineffective in the spread of the gospel, and possibly cost him his own salvation.
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.”
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.”
- Public reading of scripture - During the time of Jesus’ earthly sojourn, the only scriptures in existence were the scrolls of the Old Testament, to be read in the synagogues. However, by the time Paul wrote this epistle to Timothy around 61-63 AD, letters that became part of our New Testament were already in circulation and read aloud in the congregations. For example, Paul told the congregation in Colossae, “And when this letter [Colossians] is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part, read the letter that is coming from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16). Hence, the apostle’s instructions, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). The scriptures they had were to be read to the congregation (no one, for the most part, had a copy of his own), taught about, and preached on!
- Gift of evangelist - Timothy, as discussed earlier, was declared an evangelist through the laying on of hands of the elders (presbytery) of the congregation at Lystra as a result of one of those who had the gift of prophecy in that local church. The apostle exhorts Timothy, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift [of being an evangelist] within you” (1 Timothy 4:14).
- Efforts at improvement - The apostle Paul is encouraging Timothy as a younger preacher to mature spiritually and in wisdom. “Take pains with these things,” he adverts, “be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all” (1 Timothy 4:15). When the apostle used the expression, take pains with these things, the more literal phrase is “do not neglect these things.” The idea is that much consistent effort on Timothy’s part should be applied to implementing Paul’s advice on Timothy’s character growth, and that his mind should be intensely focused on those issues. If he would take that advice, his personal progress would be obvious, and that would increase his credibility among those with whom and over whom he labored. “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching,” are some supplemental thoughts; “persevere in these things” (1 Timothy 4:16).
- Insuring salvation - The core of Timothy’s improvement and effectiveness in the congregation at Ephesus or any of the churches where Timothy might end up is connected with “the public reading of the scriptures.” The word of God, taught effectively, consistently, without distortion, and in love, is what brings the message of salvation and the indwelling Spirit to the lost and continues to disciple the saved. When that would be coupled with Timothy’s personal example of purity, prowess, and power, then the gospel would root and flower in the hearts of those impacted through the younger evangelist. “As you do this,” Paul projected, based on his own experience and special knowledge as an apostle of Jesus Christ, “you will insure salvation both for yourself and those who hear you.”
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!
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.
- Older men - There are “older men” and there are “younger men”; the difference sometimes depends on the age of the individual assessing that difference. In countries where the average age of death is higher, then “older men” is going to be an expression for men of older chronological age than in societies where the average life expectancy is "55", for example. In America, the language even provides the term “middle-aged” to buffer the movement from “younger man” to “older man.” In any case, the apostle instructs Timothy, “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father” (1 Timothy 5:1). One of the themes running strongly through scripture is the idea of honoring older people. “You shall rise up before the grayheaded,” was some of the instruction in Moses’ law, “and honor the aged” (Leviticus 19:32). Without that honor for the older generations, the younger generation has no appreciation for the labors that made their lives possible, and they become a bunch of entitled brats. Hence, as Timothy, even as an evangelist, were to approach an older man to rebuke him, he is told not to rebuke that man sharply but to appeal to him, maintaining the respect that is so important to God.
- Appeal - The operative word in Timothy’s interactions with the brethren is “appeal.” The picture this word generates is one of having someone sit down alongside on a bench for a rational conversation. So when the younger evangelist is instructed in dealing with older men, he is not to sharply rebuke them, but with respect intelligently guide the conversation in the direction it eventually needs to go.
- Younger men - Timothy is exhorted to appeal “to the younger men as brothers.” If Timothy’s goal is to be effective in giving some correction, it is better for him to approach the younger guys from a position of brother-to-brother. Talking from a position of standing on the same ground is much more effective than talking from an elevated platform if the goal is to get someone to what he is supposed to do because he wants to rather than because he has to.
- Older women - Yes, it is true, sometimes older women need a mid-course correction. If that conversation has to take place, Paul’s son in the faith is to appeal to “the older women as mothers” (1 Timothy 5:2). Once again, the elements of respect for older people is to be maintained. If Timothy can get the older lady to a spot where she is feeling respected and he is sort of having a son/mother conversation, then he can bring up the issue that needs to be discussed in a delicate fashion, and make real progress in getting a positive resolution.
- Younger women - If a younger single man is going to have a discussion with a younger woman, many factors could pop up in that interaction. Timothy is exhorted to appeal to those “younger women as sisters, in all purity.” The picture is sitting down over a cup of coffee, and having the conversation—with all the elements of personal concern—eventually directed toward the issue where the rebuke is necessary. “In all purity” emphasizes that the interaction needs to be professional, while at the same time personal and businesslike.
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.”
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.
- Instructions - The care of widows was not going to be limited to the church in Jerusalem. As the gospel was distributed and congregations started, then there would be widows in every place and they were going to need extra consideration. Hence the apostle passes these instructions to Timothy: “Honor widows who are widows indeed” (1 Timothy 5:3). “Honor” not only has to do with giving the proper respect, but also the appropriate financial considerations.
- Widows with family members - When Paul uses the expression, “widows indeed,” the context indicates that he is talking about widows in the church with no other source of support. The “widows indeed” would include widows who had family members, but who would not help them because they had become Christians. “But if any widow has children or grandchildren,” the apostle further instructs, “let them first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family, and to make some return to the parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God” (1 Timothy 5:4). It is interesting that God regards financially taking care of family needs as part of “piety,” or regular religious habit! It is also interesting that the apostle uses the expression “learn to practice piety.” The natural tendency of people is to be a little on the greedy side, and to keep what they can and let other family members suffer. When God set up the family, one of the learning tools He put in motion is caring for the older members of the family as they age and are no longer able to be as productive as they once were. One of the lessons is that people are more important than possessions, regardless of age or capacity.
- “Widow indeed” defined - A widow is to be supported by the church if she is a “widow indeed.” “Now she is a widow indeed,” says Paul, “and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God, and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day” (1 Timothy 5:5). A very dedicated saint! “Let a widow be put on the list [for support from the church] only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work” (1 Timothy 5:9,10). Clearly, this type of lady is deserving of help from the church, having made the kingdom of God first place in her life during the years of her marriage.
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.”
- Younger widow challenges - It is a general fact, by God’s design, that younger people’s bodies have a higher level of hormonal activity than older people’s bodies. One of the difficulties in aging is that the hormonal drop-off creates issues that were not there earlier in life. But there is also a decrease in passionate urges that accompany that drop-off; hence younger widows are often driven by desires that an older widow would not face so strongly. Paul’s instructions to Timothy concerning widows also deal with this. “But refuse to put younger widows on the list,” says Paul to Timothy and to the churches, “for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married [implicit in the flow of thought here is that they want to get married to any guy hanging around rather than following scriptural spiritual directives], thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge [cast off their first faith – NKJV]” (1 Timothy 5:11,12). They allow their drive for the companionship and intimacy they tasted before widowhood to overrun their spiritual commitments, and thus they incur the condemnation of those who fall away. Definitely should not be put on the “list”!
- Further issues - These younger widows, following sensual desires and not having the structure that a Christian marriage provides, tend to fall into the destructive lifestyle of their neighboring non- Christian ladies. “And at the same time they also learn to be idle,” is the apostle’s observation, “as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention” (1 Timothy 5:13). Idle hands, as many proverbs point out, are available for the devil’s use. When the young widows are drifting into the world, and possibly into a non-Christian environment because of the guy they latched onto, then their talk sinks to the lowest level. Gossip, and especially malicious gossip, is regarded as evil by the word of God. And the “busybodies” can’t manage their own lives, much less the others that they seem to want to direct.
- Solution - The solution is for the young widow to get the structure necessary for her life to be a glory and blessing to Christ. “Therefore,” Paul logically concludes, “I want younger widows to get married [flow of logic indicates marriage to a good Christian man], bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach; for some have already turned aside to follow Satan” (1 Timothy 5:14,15). This is clearly serious advice for a serious issue: get married, have kids, keep house, and mind your own business!
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.
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.
- Dependent widows - Sometimes widows would live together, probably for mutual protection and for company. It would make sense that a wealthier widow might help provide for her sisters in Christ who were less financially blessed. A good scriptural example is Dorcas of Joppa, who “was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did” (Acts 9:36). When she passed away, brethren sent for Peter to see if he could restore her to earthly life, and he was willing to come to her home. “All the widows stood beside him weeping,” is the description of the upper room where the body lay, and to which they escorted Peter, “showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them” (Acts 9:39). The indication is that these widows were staying in her home. About such, the apostle Paul writes, “If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, let her assist them, and let not the church be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed” (1 Timothy 5:16). It makes sense that widows have no other means of support be assisted by the church, but not the others, so that maximum resources could be directed to evangelism or other needs.
- Worse than unbelievers - If Christian family members have a widow for a mother or grandmother, Paul had stated that they were to take care of her, using the terminology “let them first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family” (1 Timothy 5:4). Implicit in the idea of “learning” is that the family must be taught. The word of God, therefore, is in the process of teaching the brethren the importance of handling financial priorities properly; in this case, the widow’s needs come ahead of the desire for a family vacation if there is a need to prioritize. In this regard, the apostle has a powerful statement for family finances: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Any head of a household needs to process the potency of these words. Anyone who does not prioritize family needs and has some other agenda in place has denied the faith! Worse than an unbeliever!!
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.
- Paying elders - The work of a true elder is really a full-time position. It is one thing for an overseer to stand off at a distance and superintend at a surface level; it is another thing for said bishop to be busy calling on the sheep, getting down in the trenches and being involved in their personal lives. When shepherds are truly doing their shepherding, that is full-time work and they should be paid. “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor,” explains the apostle Paul, “especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17). The word “honor” needs to be re-emphasized: it not only has to do with respect, but also with financial considerations. “Honor your father and your mother” means to provide for them financially when they are no longer able to do so themselves, in addition to giving them the Biblical respect to be accorded to them as parents. “Honoring” hard working elders means paying them. These elders who “rule well,” intelligently guiding the congregation through all the doctrinal and interpersonal challenges connected with the functioning of the local church, are worthy workmen, joyfully plugging away day by day helping the saints maintain the road to heaven. “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.’ ” (1 Timothy 5:18).
- Possible problems - Not only did God place elders/pastors in His organizational pattern for the church, He also placed evangelists. Evangelists may be located in one congregation as was Timothy in Ephesus, or they may work in an area, as Titus was working with the congregations on the island of Crete. Since elders are appointed by evangelists, problem elders are also dealt with by evangelists. “Do not receive an accusation against an elder,” Paul informs the evangelist Timothy, “except of the basis of two or three witnesses” (1 Timothy 5:19). The principle all through the word of God is that accusations have to be made by more than one witness; one “witness” may have a personal “axe to grind” which renders the accusations null and void. The witnesses, of course, need to reliable people, unlike the “worthless men” who testified against Naboth when evil Queen Jezebel was maneuvering to get Naboth’s vineyard for the king. If the witness accounts line up, and the accusation is serious enough, then the evangelist needs to take action.
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.
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?
- Laying-on-of-hands - Elders (bishops/pastors) are appointed by evangelists, as Paul instructs Titus. “For this reason I left you in Crete,” the apostle gives his reminder, “that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). When Paul and Barnabas, serving as evangelists from the perspective of the congregations which they were establishing, “appointed elders in every church,” that appointment was carried out “by the stretching forth of their hands” (Acts 14:23). Thus when Paul, in the context of paying elders and rebuking those who have gone off course, talks about the laying-on-of-hands, he is speaking about the appointment of elders. “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thus share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin” (1 Timothy 5:22). It makes good sense that care and some caution is to be taken in appointing elders and thus setting in motion much of the future of that congregation.
- Stomach ailments - Having to deal with godliness issues, widow problems, and elder shenanigans might be enough to give someone a bit of an upset stomach. “No longer drink water exclusively,” indicates the apostle, “but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Timothy 5:23). The Greek word translated “wine” [oinos] generally refers to fermented grape juice, but it can also be used to describe the unfermented product of the grape as well. Research, even from wine producing companies, shows that while wine is helpful to the stomach, grape juice is a bit better. Even in those far off days, people like Timothy were fighting health issues while trying to accomplish the Lord’s work.
- Obvious and not-so-obvious sins - Paul has been talking to Timothy about the necessity of rebuking sinning elders, but only on the basis of the testimony of two or three witnesses. Such sins, in order to be testified about, would have to be fairly obvious. This seems to trigger a thought from the apostle, based on his experience in the churches. “The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after (1 Timothy 5:24). Falling-down drunkenness or being caught in adultery are “quite evident”; other sins, such as sowing the seeds of division, are not. One of the great lines from the Old Testament comes in the statement of Moses to the tribes who had already settled east of the Jordan before the west side was conquered under the leadership of Joshua: “Be sure [of this],” was the thought-provoking lead in, “your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). No one, even elders/bishops, get past the revealing and consequences of sin.
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).
- Giving honor - God deserves honor as both the Creator and the Savior, and parents have honor due them. An individual who refuses to honor his parents will subvert the process of honoring God. Hence slaves have some instructions in regard to the conduct toward their masters. “Let all who are under the yoke as slaves,” says the inspired Paul, “regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine may not be spoken against” (1 Timothy 6:1). Better for a Christian slave to voluntarily honor, respect, and obey his master with a great attitude than to be whipped into submission and serve with smoldering resentment.
- Name of God and our doctrine - One of the things very important to God is that His name be upheld by those who claim to be His representatives on earth. In Satan’s long war with the Almighty, he counsels rebellion against God’s name and His authority. Thus one of God’s purposes is to vindicate the holiness of His great name (Ezekiel 36:23). It is not because of the saints’ righteousness apart from God or their personal goodness that He has acted. “I am writing to you, little children,” stated the aged John, “because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake” (1 John 2:12). Paul also noted that one of his purposes was “to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake” (Romans 1:7). The great God, then, because He has acted for His name’s sake, wants slaves to be outstanding slaves so that His name will not be spoken against! Likewise, the doctrine of Christ needs to be exalted. The gospel of Christ is a challenge to the syncretism of the world; the doctrine says there is only one way to God and that is belief in and obedience to the gospel, whereas the world says that there are many paths and everyone chooses the one which he wants. Hence there is hostility toward the message of Christ. God, therefore, not wishing for any to perish, wants slaves to exhibit the positive fruit of the gospel in their lives so that there is no possibility of there being any legitimate criticism of the gospel.
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.”
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).
- Sound words - In the list of instructions to Timothy concerning various aspects of life in the church of God, Paul exhorted, “Teach and preach these principles.” These principles had come from the Holy Spirit to the apostles, and are part of the objective doctrine of Jesus Christ. “If anyone advocates a different doctrine,” superadds the apostle, “and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing” (1 Timothy 6:3,4). That is a powerful statement, and its conclusion might be somewhat unsuspected. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus did indeed lay the foundation for the goal of the new covenant: “Therefore,” He said, “you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The doctrine conforming to godliness is that the sons of the Father in heaven might be imitators of God, walking in the footsteps of Christ, laying aside the old man and putting on the new self which has been created in the image of Christ. It is a tall order, but it is an order! Any person making a claim to godliness but who denies this “is conceited, and understands nothing.” The subtle desire to fulfill the lusts of the flesh but still stand justified in the sight of God is a major source of false doctrine. Many are those who claim to preach the word of God but who in fact are scratchers of itching ears.
- Spiritual death wish - Paul gives the inspired look at those who advocate “a different doctrine.” “He has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words” (1 Timothy 6:4). This brings to mind the proverb: “He who loves transgression loves strife” (Proverbs 17:19). The technique of the transgressor’s creating a commotion in order to direct attention away from himself is very common, and those who desire to run Satan’s program instead of God’s use it often. The apostle says that such a person “has a morbid interest in controversial questions.” That person is exhibiting a spiritual death wish, and intends that others fall under that same influence. The ten-dency to focus on unclear, unrevealed, or irrelevant issues rather than on focusing on the important and clear teachings of the new covenant is a characteristic of someone who really wants to duck the arrows of scripture which are aimed directly at his heart. The desire to argue speciously about the meaning of the Greek word eis, translated “for” as in immersion for the forgiveness of sins, is a great example of those who use “disputes about words” to create chaos and confusion.
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.
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.”
- Morbid interest at work - The rebel, when something positive is going on, throws a grenade into the conversation. “Out of which,” avers the apostle, “arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction” (1 Timothy 6:4,5). By creating a ruckus, this morally depraved individual (who might be a “member in good standing” in the local congregation) directs attention away from himself and his need to “repent and get right with God.” The list of those things which arise from the actions and words of this individual is an impressively bad one. By his fomenting envy, good cooperation and teamwork is destroyed. By his generation of strife, much effort is expended in patching up broken relationships instead of being focused on evangelism and the edification of the church. By his introduction of abusive language and character assassination into the conversations, a general bad attitude sinks over the congregation, and all the positive attributes of Christianity end up in the trash can. By his subtle injection of evil suspicions here and there, trust between brothers is destroyed. One such individual can cause tremendous destruction to the name of Jesus Christ and the furtherance of His cause.
- Result of morbid interest - All this, in the words of the apostle Paul, might be summarized as “constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth” (1 Timothy 6:5). These people (could be men, and could equally be women), while in the guise of being Christians, are actually on Satan’s side, being of a depraved mind. This is not surprising, since Satan’s goal is to disrupt. The devil has no positive plan; all he and his minions can do is to attempt to throw as many difficulties in the way of those who are doing God’s will. So those who engage in “constant friction” are really hindering the work of God, and the saint needs to recognize one of those when he sees one.
- “Godliness for gain” - People have a lot of different motives, some open and some hidden, some good and some devious and destructive. The ones about whom Paul is commenting are those with hidden and evil motives, who parade through the congregations cloaked with the appearance of righteousness. These supposed saints, are “deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.” (NKJV and the Byzantine stream add: “From such withdraw yourself.”) (1 Timothy 6:5). They use their appearance to further their personal, petty, or financial goals!
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.
- Great gain - Earlier in the epistle, the apostle had pointed out that the purpose of preaching and teaching is to help saints to be godly and to live godly lives. “It is for this we labor and strive,” the apostle had reminded Timothy (1 Timothy 4:10). The continuation of the thought in the sixth chapter is that true godliness, as contrasted to the deceptive veneer, “is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6). The great gain is in matters of spiritual importance as contrasted to mere material desire or comfort. What price could be paid for a clear conscience? What value could be placed on the security of knowing from scripture that the saint is pleasing to the heavenly Father, and that God is continually watching over him? As the child of God in Christ processes these things and learns more and more, the result is a contentment. “I have learned,” said Paul to the Philippian brethren while imprisoned in Rome, “to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:11). Godliness indeed is a means of great gain, especially when accompanied by learned contentment.
- Back to a foundational point - The saint needs to be reminded regularly that earthly life is short; it is very temporary. As James put it, life is a “vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Setting the priorities necessary for living a godly life requires the perspective that earthly life is short, and eternity is long. It also requires that material things have their proper place of being used but not elevated to where there is a driving desire for their acquisition. “For we have brought nothing into the world,” is apostle Paul’s observation on this point, “so we cannot take anything out of it either” (1 Timothy 6:7). While the Egyptian Pharaohs may have thought they could take their possessions into the afterlife, the actuality is that the treasures placed in the pyramid tombs were left for the grave robbers and the archeologists!
- Contentment - Godliness, Paul has stressed, is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. Since there is no particular benefit in laying up treasures on earth, “if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:8). The person who has a hole in his psyche that is calling out, “More, more!” is never going to be content. John D. Rockefeller, it is said, commented that the thing that would make him happy was just one more dollar. Rich, empty, malcontented, and headed for hell—that’s what his striving after more got him. The saint, having food and shelter and living a godly life, being productive in the kingdom of God, and knowing that what he is doing counts for all eternity, lives a godly and contented life. No amount of money can buy that, and no amount of force can acquire it. What a precious gift from God!!
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.
The Love of Money
- Dangerous desire - The apostle Paul, like the author of Hebrews, was quick to point out, that “if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” The burr of discontent under the saddle of difficulties and persecution can quickly become a major sore, driving the saint away from first principles and trust in God. The warning: “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). “More money,” is the subtle thought, “will solve my problems, and enable me to carry out my desires.” The problem is that when the desire for more strikes, the individual’s thought processes have now been opened to the possibility of theft, for example, or embezzlement. The “scammers” are well aware of the weakened moral and disciplined codes in their targets, and are pretending to offer “something for nothing,” or running a “bait and switch” operation. The fact that the term “scammer” exists, or that the other expressions in quotes are commonly understood, underscores the widespread use of such techniques by those who are skilled in separating their targets from their money. “Snare,” “foolish,” and “harmful” are words carefully chosen by the Holy Spirit to help the saint understand the severity of toying in that devil’s playground. It is a quick “plunge” into the barrel of spiritual ruin and destruction.
- Love of money - It is not money, per se, that is the problem; it is the love of money! A person can have a lot of money and not have the love of money, and a person can be destitute and have the love of money. So it is not money by itself that is the problem. “For the love of money,” instructs the apostle Paul, “is a root of all sorts of evil...” (1 Timothy 6:10). Much could be written on this point, but perhaps a series of illustrative questions would be in order: What is behind the drive to push fentanyl and other destructive drugs onto victims? What would cause a family, because of a “better” job offer, to move to a location where they would die spiritually? What would be the reason that an individual’s credit card is always “maxed out”? Why would “big pharma,” “big tech,” “big business,” and “big education” combine with big government to suppress competition in the market place?
The devil preys on people’s unholy desire for “more and more and more.” Once an individual, a saint even, starts down one of those appealing rabbit holes, it is difficult to get out, and the destruction in the physical realm is tremendous, to say nothing of the destruction in the spiritual realm. It is worth repeating: “Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have!” (Hebrews 13:5).
Destruction Associated with Money
Since the Fall of man as recorded in Genesis three, this has been an evil world! The apostle Paul, for example, spoke of how God delivered us “from this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4). Just how evil it is, man himself is not able to process completely or objectively. It requires the perspective from God Himself for saints progressively to understand the spiritual malaise that has fallen upon the race and the various layers of evil that have enveloped the descendants of Adam. At the core of all this evil is a certain selfishness of which the Tempter takes advantage, a driving desire to “want what I want, and I want it no matter what destruction I have to cause to get it.” James states it this way: “Each one is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:14,15). So where does money come in? Money, as the instrument of purchase, becomes a primary means by which selfish desire is implemented. Hence, as the apostle Paul noted, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). The rush to the gold camp or the trample of crowds cramming to get in “on the ground floor” are pictures of those desires, and provide a good glimpse into the attendant destruction which befalls most who are so driven.
- More on love of money - The screaming, squalling, brawling brats who are the “grown up” progeny of the first Adam, then, are usually in this tremendous scramble for money—often dishonest, sometimes scheming, sometimes brutal. The Holy Spirit and Paul make a statement whose truth cannot be overemphasized and which should be deeply processed: “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil...” (1 Timothy 6:10). Small, family-sized tempests, such as a family fight over an inheritance, to large global wars and impositions of tyranny all have the same root!
- Warning for saints - While these statements are understandably a description of the non-Christian world, the warning is directed toward the brethren. Paul’s experience in preaching for about 30 years and having worked in many congregations in the first century, led him to state, concerning the love of money, that “some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith...” When viewed from a spiritual perspective, this is the most grave or serious matter. “For what will a man be profited,” asked All-knowing Jesus, “if he gains the world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Poignant, and permanent, questions!! The enticement of more money causes the glance to look away from Jesus for a little bit, then a little more, and more, and finally the individual is not looking at Christ at all. He has “wandered away from the faith” in a gradual but deadly fashion.
- Unhappy results - How many a man has lost his relationship with his family in his pursuit of unrighteous mammon? How many a woman destroyed her opportunity for happiness in a home-centered family because she desired career and more money? The wide variety of unhappy results for the Christian who allows himself to go down that path are summarized by the apostle, who observes that they “have pierced themselves with many a pang.” Sounds really painful!!.
The positive thrust of this section of Paul’s epistle is contentment. “Godliness,” he had noted, “is actually a means of great gain, especially when accompanied by contentment.” The apostle further emphasized, “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” It is that lack of being content with what God has given that often drives saints into those snares and temptations, thinking that more money will buy the things that result in contentment. The resultant wandering “away from the faith” will end up in an eternal fire and eternal discontentment! Be content with what you have!!
Proper and Positive Pursuit
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today,” said God to the new generation of Israelites, before they crossed the Jordan, “that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life, that you may live...” (Deuteronomy 30:19). The physical blessings promised to Israel, and the physical curses, were recorded for the benefit of modern saints, “those upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). The physical was recorded so that Christians might understand that there are spiritual blessings for those who follow Jesus, and a curse upon those who lose their focus on Christ, who become discontent, and who therefore get pulled into all kinds of destructive allurements, and pierce “themselves with many a pang” (1 Timothy 6:10).
- Flee from these things - There are some types of temptation from which the child of God can carefully back away. But some of these other temptations, such as a desire to get rich and the pull of “the love of money,” require stronger action. “But flee from these things, you man of God,” exhorted the apostle Paul to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:11). Timothy was not merely to stroll away from these things, he was to flee! Every saint, generally speaking, is “a man of God.” The message should be plain for all those making a claim to godliness.
- What to pursue - The disciple of Christ, then, is to run from the snares connected with lack of contentment, and to use that energy to chase after more beneficial qualities. “Pursue righteousness,” pointed out the apostle, “godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” Righteousness is not the mere absence of doing wrong things; “the righteous acts of the saints” are deeds which must be pursued—thought about and then executed. Similarly with godliness, faith, and love. It is interesting that perseverance should show up on this list. The ability to keep going “when the going gets tough” is absolutely necessary for the saint to maintain his faith firm to the end. Pursue perseverance!
- It’s a fight! - The rebellious nature of the outcast angel and his minions results in a tremendous hate for mankind, a desire to pull the race into the same destructive path he is on and the end as he will experience. That hate is particularly directed against those who follow in the steps of Jesus. One of the pictures from the book of Revelation is that “the dragon was enraged with the woman [the people of God, the church from the time of the institution of the new covenant onward], and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring [also the church], who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 12:17). It is war! Hence the apostle would encourage Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). There are many battles in which the saint could be embroiled. But the only one which is eternally productive is the “fight of faith.” Since time, energy, and other resources are limited, it makes sense that everything should be funneled into that which lasts forever as contrasted to frittering those resources away on that which is a vapor. But, the saint needs to be reminded, it is a fight! This spiritual wrestling match requires all the effort all the time in order for the saint to be victorious in the battle for his own soul. But it is a good fight. It is not over land or kingdoms or bank accounts; it is a fight for the saint’s eternity.
The need clearly is to flee from the love of money and related issues. In the warfare, righteousness, godliness, faith, gentleness, and love are to be pursued. But because it is a fight, and weariness can strike the Christian soldier, the instruction is particularly noteworthy: pursue perseverance. And the exhortation is for Timothy and all brethren, to “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called”!
The Good Confession
“Fightings within, fears without” beset the Christian in his walk of faith. He is to flee the snares connected with discontentment and the love of money, and to pursue righteousness, faith, love, gentleness, godliness, and perseverance. Fighting on, he is take hold of that which is life indeed. Taking the young evangelist back to the time of his conversion, and emphasizing the confession which Timothy made in order for him to be immersed into Christ, were designed to bolster the ability of Timothy to fight that good fight of faith. A deeper look into the good confession is thus warranted.
- Peter’s pronouncement - In a series of questions concerning the identity of Jesus, Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus stated that the truth embodied in this “confession” would be the basis on which He would build His church. Jesus was not ready for this truth to be announced to the Jewish people yet, so “warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ” (Matthew 16:20).
- Increasing awareness - Because of the many and amazing miracles which Jesus was performing on a consistent basis, many people were beginning to draw the conclusion that He must be the Christ, which they equated with the expression “the Son of God.” Martha, for example, sister of Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead, at Jesus’ approach to the village, stated in the conversation, “I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world” (John 11:27). The Jewish hierarchy reacted against this crescendo of belief by threatening punishments for those who would openly state that proposition. When Jesus healed a blind man on the Sabbath, the Pharisees eventually put the man’s parents on the witness stand, but his parents refused to answer direct questions about what had happened to the blind man. They were afraid, “for the Jews had already agreed, that if anyone should confess Him to be the Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue” (John 9:22). The general pressure from the Pharisees was so strong that even though “many of the rulers [of the synagogues] believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue” (John 12:42). It is not surprising, therefore, when Jesus is on trial before the Jewish high priest, that the priest would bring the issue to the desired point: “Tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” When Jesus basically answered in the affirmative, having gotten the priest to say the words himself, the Jewish hierarchy tore their robes, crying out “Blasphemy!” (Matthew 26:63-65). Even before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor and the only one who could issue a death sentence, the Jews eventually had to charge Jesus, asserting that the Lord was “saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.” When Pilate queried Jesus in these terms, “Are You the King of the Jews?” the Son of God again answered, “It is as you say.” (Luke 23:1-3). By the time of Jesus’ trials and crucifixion, nearly everyone knew about the contested claim that Jesus was the Christ.
With all that pressure against any public statement about Jesus’ being the Christ, it is easy to see how that affirmation would become a requirement for any person desiring to be a Christian. Anyone not willing to state the confession publicly did not have enough conviction to stand for Christ. Hence, near the close of the apostle John’s gospel account, he noted for later readers that the events concerning Jesus “have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).
This, then, is the required good confession. As Paul is helping Timothy to “gin up” his courage, the apostle reminds his son in the faith that “you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12). The apostle even reminds Timothy that Jesus Himself courageously “testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate” (1 Timothy 6:13). Timothy had courage at the time of his conversion, and he therefore should have it going forward in his work as an evangelist.
A Weighty Charge
The “call to eternal life” is also the “upward call” (1 Timothy 6:12; Philippians 3:14). It not only requires a heavenly focus, but it also requires a fight to overcome the downward pull and pressures emanating ultimately from Satan’s realm. Hence the apostle reminded Timothy of the courageous “good confession” that he had made in the presence of many witnesses, prefaced with these words: “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus...” Timothy was being “charged” in the presence of God and of Jesus Christ to fight the good fight of faith, and take of hold of eternal life! The point is well emphasized—it is a tremendous fight!
- Keep the commandment - Paul rephrased his charge to Timothy. Following the thought process through, the apostle says, “I charge you... that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach” (1 Timothy 6:13,14). The commandment, from a new covenant perspective, is connected to loving God, loving yourself, loving your neighbor, loving the church, and loving others as Christ loved the world. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God,” was the apostle John’s exhortation, “everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7,8). This “love” is concerned first of all about the next person’s eternity, as exhibited by the apostle Paul in his instruction to Timothy.
- No blemishes - “Without stain,” Paul challenged Timothy, in regard to keeping the commandment, “or reproach.” Timothy, in doing the work of an evangelist, would need to keep himself morally on track because sin issues impact the mind and the effectiveness of the one entrusted with carrying the gospel. “Abstain from fleshly lusts,” was Peter’s general exhortation, “which wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). The less internal warfare there would be for Timothy, the more energy could be expended in reaching the lost and helping the saved stay on track.
- Focus to the finish - Part of the mental perspective for the Christian is that his suffering is only for a short time - “momentary, light affliction” was the terminology of the suffering apostle. Similarly, the mental perspective of the saint is that the return of the Master Jesus is imminent. “Therefore be on the alert,” instructed the Christ Himself, “for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, at cockcrowing, or in the morning - lest he come suddenly and find you asleep” (Mark 13:35,36). Timothy, then, is “to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:14).
- Proper time - There are always those who try to calculate the time of Jesus’ return, based on various and vagary assumptions from the Old Testament writings or some contrived hidden meanings in those of the new covenant. The scripture is plain about the appearing of Christ, “which He will bring about at the proper time” (1 Timothy 6:15). Apparently saints can do something (probably evangelism) to hasten “the coming of the day of God,” but as Jesus said during the days of His earthly sojourn, “of that day and hour no one knows” (2 Peter 3:12; Matthew 24:36). God, pointed out the apostle Paul to the Athenians on Mars Hill, “has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Timothy: keep your focus to the finish, and beyond!
The challenges to preaching the gospel in the first century were great, and the persecution was often intense. Timothy himself was going to have personal jail time, as noted by Hebrews’ author, “Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released” (Hebrews 13:23). Timothy needs to be reminded of the courage he had when he made the good confession, he needs to keep the commandment without stain, and he needs to be firm in faith while expecting the Lord’s sudden return. True of all modern saints as well…
Dwelling in Unapproachable Light
God had said to Moses, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (Exodus 33:20). While God appeared in different types of visions under a variety of circumstances as recorded in the Old Testament, it remained to the appearance of the Messiah to bring the knowledge of God to mankind. “No man has seen God at any time,” commented the apostle John. “The only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:18). This “explanation” culminates in the ascension of Christ to glory, and the revelation of Him in that shining and powerful position given to the apostles and new covenant prophets by the Holy Spirit. Jesus, said Peter and the other apostles while on trial before the Sanhedrin, “is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior…and we are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:31,32). Christ, stated Hebrews’ author, “is the radiance” of the Father’s “glory, and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). This, then, is the complete “explanation” of God revealed in the scriptures through the presentation of Jesus Christ to the world! The apostle Paul draws on this information to exhort his young charge Timothy. “Fight the good fight of faith,” Paul had encouraged Timothy. “Keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ which He will bring about at the proper time” (1 Timothy 6:14,15).
- Who is the “He”? - The text continues with a description of the One who will bring about the appearing [second coming] of Christ, using these words: “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality” (1 Timothy 6:16). Who might be this “King of kings and Lord of lords”? The “Lamb” says the book of Revelation! “The Lamb will overcome” His opposition consisting of the beast and those who co-ordinate with him, “because He is Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14). And the One pictured as leading the armies of God, riding on the white horse in His return is described thusly: “And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS’ ” (Revelation 19:16). Jesus, then, this “blessed and only Sovereign,” is bringing about His own return, and the “He” points back to Jesus as its antecedent.
- Trinitarians struggle - Those who believe God is “Trinity” (a term never used in the scriptures) have a “separate but equal” concept, wherein the Father has very separate and distinct roles from the Son, one of those being that the Father sends the Son to return in the second coming. Hence the New International Version, being willing to paraphrase to some extent, sticks the word God into the text twice in order to make the scripture fit the translators’ preconceived Trinitarian notion. Thus the NIV speaks of “the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords…” This has significant bearing on the following text.
- Who alone dwells - The text speaks of “the King of kings and Lords; who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:15,16). What is the number here; one or three? Jesus was not using metaphorical language when He said to Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Jesus is the great God over all, the great I AM the scriptures reveal to mankind. He dwells in this “unapproachable light” also called glory, and no one with physical eye has seen or can see Him. “Beloved, now we are children of God,” asserted the apostle John, “and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Who is this “God” who is going to appear? The Lord Jesus Christ! “To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen!” (1 Timothy 6:16).
More on "Riches"
The apostle Paul goes back to a thread of thought that he had been working on, concerning the danger of “the love of money.” More money can mean more options, more ability to hire people to do work, and more opportunities for expansion. These aspects could cause a poor evangelist’s head to turn; hence the apostle had given a stern warning that “some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith” (1 Timothy 6:10). Paul had even warned the elders at Ephesus in his parting words with them about the proper handling of money and a subtle warning about covetousness, “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:35). So, some further instruction for Timothy.
- Fix their hope on God - People with money generally have influence; in fact, they are often spoken of as “influential people.” Sometimes the money bought the influence; sometimes they ended up with money because they were influential. The apostle has a special message that he wants Timothy to get through to these saints: “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). There has to be a bottom-line reminder that God is the supplier of all things. The question of the apostle to the church at Corinth is worthy of tendering to all who “are rich in this present world” (Paul’s way of keeping wealth in the proper perspective): “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). No reason, then, for the rich folks in Ephesus (or anywhere else) to be conceited, trying to hold themselves in some sort of elevated position above the “commoners.” Riches are a very uncertain thing, but tend to give a false sense of security. An economy can collapse, banks can steal the money, hackers can get into accounts and take everything—riches are uncertain! The solution is for them to “fix their hope on God.” God is very generous, having His delight in the sons of men, and “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” It is not wrong for a Christian to be rich; it is just how he handles those riches. A key point in the conversation, however, is that directly spiritual interests must come first; trust in God must be in the forefront of saints’ thinking and that trust in Him must be unwavering.
- Be rich in good works - “Instruct them to do good,” the apostle guides Timothy, “to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share” (1 Timothy 6:18). Getting “more,” and hoarding “more” is one of the most destructive forces on the planet. Jesus stated the solution in this fashion: “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys” (Luke 12:33). What a great line of encouragement for those who want to trust God and be generous: “make for yourselves purses which do not wear out!”
Earth is very temporary, and brethren in whom is still the breath of life need to be reminded of that. Christians who have financial resources are encouraged to be “storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed” (1 Timothy 6:19). What children of God do with their finances here does count when the “books” are opened and the dead are “judged from the things written in the books, according to their deeds” (Revelation 20:12). It is that “unfailing treasure” of which Jesus spoke, wherein He added, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). The correct focus for “those who are rich in this present world,” and indeed for all brethren, is “take hold of that which is life indeed!”
Falsely Called “Knowledge”
Humanist Manifesto I, first published in the May/June 1933 issue of The New Humanist, contains fifteen points for the establishment of a new religion to shape the thinking of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. (Forces of darkness have been very successful in effecting these fifteen points in Western Civilization, by the way). In that document, the signatories call for the “intelligent evaluation, transformation, control, and direction” of all human associations and institutions (that would include the definition of marriage!). “Certainly religious institutions,” said these movers and shakers, “...must be reconstituted as rapidly as experience allows” (Thirteenth point). This reconstitution of the church of the living God, for example, is contemplated, and all this restructuring is going to be couched in the highest of intellectual terms. What is called science will be appealed to, with numerous studies pointing to a foregone and anti-God conclusion, and consensus of scientists arguments will be trotted out on the stage of public opinion. It is all a big lie, emanating from the big Liar, whether it be from the modern proponents of evolutionism or whether it be from the Gnostic antichrists of the late first century. Timothy, of course, will be warned about these charades by the apostle Paul.
- Guard what has been entrusted - As Paul closes his first epistle to Timothy, he makes a serious and deep appeal. “O Timothy,” he begins earnestly and intimately, “guard what has been entrusted to you” (1 Timothy 6:20). The apostle is in prison, and it won’t be many years before he makes his exit from planet earth. He has willingly given up everything for the promulgation of the apostles’ doctrine, and he is thus charging Timothy to continue to carry the gospel message forward.
- Avoid nonsense - There is always a sense of urgency about spreading the gospel; time is short, and the lost are dying. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders,” the apostle had counseled the church at Colossae, “making the most of the opportunity” (Colossians 4:5). Timothy, therefore, is to be “avoiding worldly and empty chatter.” Conversation is only valuable if it is leading to some important point.
- “Opposing arguments” - The devil, said Jesus, “is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44). The big Liar pushes well thought-out arguments and well financed propaganda. In modern times, for example, the myth of “evolution” has been so promoted to the extent that it is believed worldwide, and any belief in a Creator or even “intelligent design” is greatly disparaged. The same type of “hype” was being orchestrated in the first century, and Timothy is to avoid “the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’ ” (1 Timothy 6:20). Like the Gnostics of the first century, these purveyors of falsehood position themselves as being the ones “in the know,” and those who have other paradigms are presented as ignorant.
False philosophies and false paradigms have many proponents and many more adherents, and as such exert tremendous pressure. Weaker saints often fall victim to such pressures and lies (although there has to be a bit of willing participation on their part). Paul is concerned about the loss of those who were once faithful, mourning that the pressure from these “opposing arguments” is such that “some have professed [these arguments] and thus have gone astray from the faith” (1 Timothy 6:21). The words, “O Timothy” underscore the importance of the apostle’s concern about “what is falsely called ‘knowledge.’”
The apostle opened his first letter to Timothy urging him to counteract the “strange doctrines” of certain men in Ephesus, warning him of the dangers of those who really did not understand where the Law of Moses fit in God’s overall plan. The young evangelist is instructed on the issues of elders, deacons, and women in the church. He is forewarned of the coming Apostasy from the church as it was set up by Christ, and of the inherit dangers of “the love of money.” Through it all he is encouraged to “fight the good fight of faith” and to “take hold of that which is life indeed.” Then the letter closes abruptly, “Grace be with you.”
Opening of the Epistle to Titus
The apostle Paul, over a period of time, developed a team of evangelists and a network of communication. We see how Luke the beloved physician labored in Philippi and beyond. Aristarchus shows up often, and men such as Tychicus and Trophimus, Epaphras, and many others were part of Paul’s preaching companions. Titus appears very early in the record, at the close of Paul’s first missionary journey. He traveled with Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem where they met with the apostles and elders over the issue of whether the Gentiles had to be circumcised and keep the Law. It seems he was converted in Antioch of Syria (or at least located there) and was clearly from Gentile background, as is evident from this statement by the apostle Paul concerning the events in Jerusalem: “But not even Titus, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised” (Galatians 2:3). A trusted evangelist, he was sent by Paul to Corinth to help solve problems there (2 Corinthians 7:6,7). It is fitting, then, near the end of Paul’s preaching life on earth, that he send some directives for Titus as well as Timothy.
- Opening greeting - The apostle has a standard but very important opening greeting for Titus: “Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior” (Titus 1:4). This grace and this peace is not available under the Law of Moses, or any other system of thought or religion. Hence it is easy to understand how it would become a standard greeting for those functioning under the terms of the new covenant—a greeting in prayer form for those addressed, and glorifying the Father and the Savior Jesus Christ. In this greeting, Paul specifies that he in a general sense volunteered for his duty as embodied in the term “bond-servant of God” (Titus 1:1). And he is willing, even in Titus’ case, to emphasize that he is “an apostle of Jesus Christ.”
- For the faith - When Paul (still known as Saul of Tarsus) met Jesus on the Damascus Road, the Lord delivered the future apostle’s mission to him: He explained that He was sending Paul to the Gentiles, “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). Paul was commissioned, as he explained it to the church in Rome, “to bring about the obedience of faith among the Gentiles” (Romans 1:5). As perhaps the greatest exponent of the faith of Christ, it is fitting that he open his epistle to Titus, noting that his apostleship is “for the faith of those chosen of God” (Titus 1:1). Those who are described as chosen are those who hear the gospel, make their decision to believe and obey it, and hence become a part of God’s team or Christ’s body; this is how He chooses His team members.
- Knowledge of truth - Man, using his limited reasoning powers and restricted to the boundaries of observation, could never know anything about God other than that He is the Creator. Thus it takes the injection of information into man’s sphere of thinking in order that man might be taught (brought into a system of discipleship) about the only God, who is revealed through the gospel of Christ. That which brings about the obedience of faith (which equates to godliness) is knowledge from on high. Paul, then, an apostle of Jesus Christ, is “for…the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness” (Titus 1:1)
Paul, apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:8), recruited Timothy and Titus to work with him to multiply the efforts to reach the lost. Timothy, whose mother was Jewish, was circumcised so that he had access to preach in the synagogues; Titus, not “compelled to be circumcised,” worked as one of Gentile background. Both were given similar instructions in their work, co-laboring in Christ with Paul until his execution. The driving mission: “I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, that You should bring salvation to the end of the earth” (Acts 13:47).
Paul, in writing to the church at Corinth, explained that human wisdom would not be able to arrive at any real knowledge of who God is. “The world,” averred the apostle, “through its wisdom did not come to know God” (1 Corinthians 1:21). Knowledge of God has to come through God’s own efforts in injecting information into the realm of man’s thought, and this ultimately has come through the scriptures themselves. God spoke directly to the patriarchs such as Abraham. With the coming of Moses, God began to have the message written down, adding books to the scriptures through the Old Testament scribes and prophets. For four hundred years this message simmered as the words of the Old Testament scriptures were read and preached in the scattered synagogues of the Jews. But as the new covenant made its advent, the message exploded upon the whole world through the preaching and writing of the apostles, bringing the “words of life” through Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
- Hope of eternal life - The apostle Paul, in his opening lines to Titus, indicated that his purpose was to be a promoter of “the faith of those chosen of God” and a proponent of “the knowledge of the truth.” The purpose of his efforts, he states, is “in the hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2). This eternal life is found in Jesus Christ. “The witness is this,” asserted the apostle John, “that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11). Hence those who have been immersed into Christ and have maintained their faith are spoken of as already possessing eternal life. “Truly, truly, I say to you,” Christ informed His hearers, “he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). Because, however, certain tests of faith must be passed for each who treads the pilgrim road, Paul uses the terminology “in the hope of eternal life.” This will be accomplished in our positive resurrection from the dead.
- Promised long ago - As Moses approached the burning bush, the angel of the Lord spoke to him in these words: “I am … the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). He did not say that He was the God of the patriarchs; He said I am their God. The thrust of the emphasis here is that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were very much alive, and that the truthfulness of eternal life is, by this process, being promised. David, upon having the death of his first son by Bathsheba confirmed, noted, “I shall go to him, but he will not return back to me” (2 Samuel 12:23). And the angelic messenger informed Daniel that “many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake—these to everlasting life—but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). The apostle was drawing upon these points as well as others in thus speaking of “the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago.”
- Manifested at the proper time - The promise of eternal life did not become particularly clear until it was “at the proper time manifested”; specifically, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead brought the concept of eternal life into clear focus (Titus 1:3). Jesus Himself said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). He also had noted that “he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life” (John 5:24). Life indeed is in the Son.
But who would really know about this eternal life if the message were hidden, if it were cloistered? Hence the message is to be proclaimed, heralded as the only eternal good news for eternal life. Thus the great apostle Paul, in his comments to Titis, speaks of this message as “at the proper time manifested, even His word, the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior” (Titus 1:3). May that proclamation reach the entire world!! Soon!!
On Paul’s first missionary journey with Barnabas to Cyprus and the interior of what is now Turkey, there were only three people on the team (and one those, John also called Mark, bailed out on them and went back to Jerusalem). But within two decades of hard work, much suffering, and tremendous travel, the apostle had a team of preachers, teachers, and other workers spread out over his mission field—what he called his “sphere” in his second epistle to the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 10:13). A number of his letters are instructions to members of that team, including this epistle to Titus. The apostle reminds Titus that Paul himself was entrusted with the proclamation of the gospel, and that this was in accordance with the commandment of God our Savior. As he greets Titus, he sends grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. An interesting description of the relationship between the Father and Son...
- Reminder of mission - As one of Paul’s trusted team members, Titus receives some reminders from the apostle, Paul’s tweaking his previous instructions or providing points of emphasis. “For this reason I left you in Crete,” comes one of those reminders, “that you set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). Two big jobs to be accomplished (if possible) for all the congregations on the island of Crete: 1) set things in order, and 2) appoint elders! Titus was well-experienced by this time in his labors for the Lord, and would necessarily have the respect from the congregations to be able to come in from the outside and to correct what needed correcting, and to redirect what needed redirecting. He would not only need that respect, but he would need to have the good judgment necessary for his efforts to have positive outcomes. The apostle Paul trusts this man!
- Appointment of elders - The appointment of elders has already been covered in the sections on the subject in the comments on 1 Timothy. Some brief review points are in order:
- Elder (older man), overseer (bishop), and pastor (shepherd) are different terms describing the same office. Hence Paul tells Titus to “appoint elders” but speaks of the man being appointed as an “overseer” (Titus 1:7).
- Elders are appointed by the laying-on-of-hands by an evangelist.
- There is a plurality of elders in a congregation (not just one bishop)
- Elders must be married, have children who believe, and be of exemplary character.
- Elders must “hold fast to the faithful word” in accordance with the apostles’ doctrine.
- The elder must be able “both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).
- The teaching on the eldership is given by the Lord Jesus Himself through the Holy Spirit, and is not subject to negotiation or compromise.
- Importance of Biblical eldership (presbytery) - Congregations consist of sheep who are intelligent, but who need shepherding. A look at the seven churches of Asia as recorded in the book of Revelation (in which Paul, Timothy, and Titus were involved in varying degrees) shows that it is very difficult to keep a congregation on track. Not only are there doctrinal issues that need constant shepherding, but also the evangelistic thrust, as given in Jesus’ marching orders to the church, needs to be maintained. A well-functioning eldership provides the stability that a congregation needs, and provides a God-ordained mechanism for dealing with problems.
Momentum is such a huge topic. The word momentum doesn’t appear in the sacred text, but the concept is there every step of the way, from God’s calling Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees stretching to the gospel’s being preached “to the remotest part of the earth” and millions being converted (Acts 1:8). Momentum is super important for each congregation as well. The presbytery is God’s way of providing momentum so that sound doctrine and the mission of the congregation carry over in a positive way from one generation to the next.
Paul’s statement to Titus is not to be glossed over: “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you” (Titus 1:15). This is also the pattern for all modern true evangelists, working in the specific areas where they have been placed by God’s strategic hand.
Handling Rebellious Men
The Old Testament prophets, looking ahead, often give pictures of the future church or kingdom. The ideal for the church is laid out in many ways by many prophets, but the pictures are very encouraging for those who do labor in God’s spiritual vineyard. Both Isaiah and Micah graphically portray the church an elevated mountain where the nations (Gentiles) stream to it to learn the ways of the God of Jacob, and former enemies beat their swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks (Isaiah 2:1-4; Micah 4:1-4). The church is a place of peace, where each one sits under his vine and under his fig tree, with no one to make him afraid, and where the wolf dwells with the lamb (Micah 4:4; Isaiah 11:6). But to reach that ideal, much work has to be done continuously, and challenges have to be overcome.
- Rebellious men in Crete - One of the major challenges that early congregations faced came from the Jewish community, the “circumcision.” Jewish opposition to the gospel was, by definition, irrational (because the gospel is God’s reasoned presentation to mankind). Hence it is not surprising that the apostle would have to encourage Titus in fighting off this opposition. “For there are many rebellious men,” is Paul’s Spirit-inspired observation, “empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision” (Titus 1:10). Titus, in “setting things in order” in the congregations in Crete, was going to have this kind of opposition inside the churches. These guys are “deceivers,” indicating that they put up an urbane false front, probably using their Jewish background as a tool to position themselves as being authoritative on Biblical issues. They are described as “empty talkers,” pointing out that for all their high-sounding words and convincing appeals, there was nothing of real substance underpinning their propaganda. This is parallel to what Timothy had to deal with in Ephesus, where the same types of characters were “wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:7). Rebellious men, wanting to turn others aside from the truth and down the same road of destruction on which they themselves tread.
- Must be silenced - Titus has a big and difficult job in front of him, having to root out these deceivers and expose them intelligently to the congregations into which they had inserted themselves. These are men, says Paul, “who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain” (Titus 1:11). The false teachers, using the principle that the one who is taught should share “all good things” with the teacher, were twisting the gospel message and accepting money and donations for their twisted work — “sordid gain.” Having ingratiated themselves in the Cretan congregations, having gotten “whole families” off track, these rebellious men were going to be difficult to expose and to be dealt with. But, Paul, says, “They must be silenced.”
The appeal of those who, like these from the “circumcision,” is to go back to something physical rather than the proper focus of the spiritual elements of new covenant teaching. A “Passover seder” is much more exciting and unusual in its once-a-year observance than the simple loaf and cup of the new covenant Lord’s Supper observed as the weekly basis for congregational assembly. The killing of a “Passover lamb” is much easier to process than Christ’s being the great unseen High Priest of the covenant of the Spirit, offering His spiritual blood in the spiritual inner sanctum in heaven. A once-a-week physical Sabbath holy day is easier to comprehend than the soul’s being at rest through reconciliation which God provided through Christ. And a physical clergy with distinct clothing is more easily processed than a holy spiritual priesthood for whom every day and everything is holy.
False teachers then and now are rebellious men, using whatever fleshly appeals they can to upset whole families. They are still “empty talkers,” regardless of their high-toned rhetoric. And they must still “be silenced”!!
Reproving the Cretans
The congregations on the island of Crete (a comparatively large island southeast of Greece in the Mediterranean Sea) were struggling. It is exciting to realize some zealous saints had taken the gospel and that there were local churches on the island. But, like so many of the first century congregations, Judaizer influences had come in and were pulling the saints back under law. ”Rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers” had come in and were destroying the work of Christ. Hence it was necessary for Paul to “leave” Titus in Crete to set things in order and to appoint elders in every congregation in an effort to stabilize these struggling churches.
- A Cretan “prophet” speaks - That the apostle Paul used the terminology that he “left” Titus in Crete indicates that he himself had been to the island after his initial imprisonment in Rome. As an apostle involved in beginning these congregations, he would have imparted to them some spiritual gifts through the laying on of his hands, and some of those would have received the gift of being prophets. Because the new covenant prophets controlled their gift, it was possible for them to stray from the truth. Hence Paul told the other prophets in Corinth, for example, to “pass judgment” on the one prophesying (1 Corinthians 14:29). So it is possible that the individual Paul refers to here was a prophet that joined the rebellious men, or it is possible that Paul was being a little bit “snarky” in his comment. “One of themselves,” he remarks, “a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ “ (Titus 1:12). [Even today, crowd manipulators can use the “how bad everything is” line to garner support for themselves.] Paul agrees. “This testimony is true,” he says (Titus 1:13).
- What Titus is to do - So, the Cretan Christians are coming out of a society where basically everyone is a liar, is sinking to the level where they are following their animal instincts, is engaged in evil, and are described as “lazy gluttons.” Whew! Since the church tends to reflect the society out of which it is derived (because new saints tend to bring with them their bad habits and world outlook before they can be educated in the ways of Christ), the saints in Crete had some of these bad characteristics also. Paul tells Titus, “For this cause reprove them severely that they may be sound in faith.” Rough words! But truth-seekers can take “severe reproving” because they know it’s necessary, and they won’t fall into the “kill the messenger” mode.
- Sound in faith - The goal is to get people to heaven. That means continually pointing God’s sheep in the right direction, and exposing false teachers and false doctrine. Paul phrases it thusly, “that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth” (Titus 1:13,14). The “weird, wild, and wonderful” elements of mythology have a lot of appeal (such as thinking that angels came down and had offspring through women before the Flood). Paul says not even to pay any attention to such stuff. Nor were they to listen to the bold commandments supposedly based on God’s laws issued by empty talkers. For the brethren to be “sound in faith” was the goal, as contrasted to any law system.
The details of modern day challenges are different, but essentially the games are the same. Modern society is on a downhill run, and converts to Christ need to leave the weaknesses of modern thought and modern elements that are contrary to the ways of Christ behind. Occasionally, saints may need to be reproved severely. Saints need to be educated on the difference between the faith of Christ and the Law of Moses. They need to understand how modern “empty talkers and deceivers” still pull people in on issues that sound somewhat Biblical but are far from new covenant teaching and application. The goal is for modern brethren to be “sound in faith.”
“Everyone,” said the apostle John, who has this hope fixed on seeing God as He is, “purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). The issue of purity is a major one, as evidenced by Jesus’ statement in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). To be “pure in heart,” a person must not have any hidden motives or deceitful actions or words; his concern must be honestly to glorify God and truly to bless the brethren and members of the human race. Such purity and honesty is rare, as illustrated by Jesus’ comment concerning the future apostle Nathanael at his first encounter with the Christ: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (John 1:47). That comment would not have been made about the high priest and the ranking Pharisees, who conspired to put Jesus to death!
- Purity pervades - There is no such thing as “partial purity” in the spiritual realm. Things are either pure or they have been corrupted. “To the pure,” affirms the apostle Paul, “all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure…” (Titus 1:15). There are some things in nature which give us a picture of purity, such as freshly fallen snow or cold water from a clear and unpolluted spring. “Though your sins are as scarlet,” the Lord had prophesied, “they will be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). The saint, having thus been redeemed from lusts of the flesh and lusts of the mind, can have and can maintain that purity of thought, motive, word, and action; in fact, he is obviously encouraged to do so. When the individual is pure, everything he touches or uses is pure and holy. In every situation, the pure and holy disciple of Christ will be working to edify, to turn things positive, to turn people to Christ.
- Defilement abounds - If the individual is not pure, like a drop of dye in a bucket of water, the defilement spreads through his entire thought system, and corrupts his perspective and his motives. “To those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled” (Titus 1:15). Impurity twists everything! “The wisdom from above,” noted James, “is first pure…” (James 3:17). But those who have bitter jealousy or selfish ambition in their hearts end up with an “earthly, natural, demonic” wisdom which, while often clever, is tremendously destructive. “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing” (James 3:15,16). The pure in heart produce order and spiritual productivity; the twisted mind and evil conscience of the impure produce chaos.
- Deceptive appearance - These instructions are written to Titus about the saints on the island of Crete. The problems, then, are not the problems of those who are still in the world; the problems are those that stubborn saints were bringing with them into the church. The person with the hidden motive, some personal agenda rather than for Christ, is counter-productive to the spread of the gospel. “They profess to know God,” is Paul’s inspired analysis, “but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:16). It is interesting what the Holy Spirit sees beneath the smiling and suave exterior of those who are impure. Detestable! That is a powerful word, creating a powerful picture of how truly despicable this one who professes to be of the faith of Christ is. And worthless! Worthless for any good deed, because everything he touches is defiled. These are spiritual factors that Titus would seriously have to take into account in setting things in order in the congregations on Crete.
Titus, doing the work of an evangelist on the island, would have to be aware of the hidden motives of the impure and, shrewd as a serpent but innocent as a dove, continue to move forward and preach and teach the gospel. Rather than getting pulled downward by the hidden corruption of the impure, Titus is exhorted, “But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Pure motive; straight teaching!
Sound Doctrine and Christian Conduct
God fully intends for His teaching and direction to produce people who are voluntarily productive in His kingdom. “Man shall not live on bread alone,” Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy while tempted in the wilderness, “but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). In order to “live,” the child of God has to be nourished continually from the pure word of God and sound teaching derived from it. Hence, as Titus was in the process of setting things in order in the churches of Crete, he was instructed, “But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). “Sound doctrine,” of course, is the unadulterated and un-watered-down teaching of the new covenant scriptures, and how the things of the old covenant relate to the new. Words from God, received in a good and honest heart and processed by an attentive mind, will produce a character that walks in the footsteps of Christ. Do not discount the importance of sound doctrine!
- Older men - Sound doctrine, if it stays on the shelf, does no good. It is God’s intention that His teaching be lived out in the lives of His children of faith, so that there will not only be the teaching but also the application of the teaching. “Older men,” says Paul, “are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance” (Titus 2:2). Older male saints need to have worked through the doubts that occasionally plague a younger saint; they need be “sound in faith,” solid in their belief system, and able expound on it or defend it. Like some of the qualifications for elders, they need to be temperate, denying self and taking up their crosses for Christ. They need to be gentlemanly and dignified, not sinking to the level of so many old men according to the flesh. They need to exhibit the quiet love of Christ, and they need to be examples of perseverance under the stresses of an aging body or a series of persecutions. Sound doctrine!
- Older women - The older saints from the female side of the spectrum also need to be good role models. “Older women,” adds the apostle, “likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good” (Titus 2:3). These older ladies should show proper respect for the things of God and for the morality of God, not being pulled down to the level of the proverbial British fishwife. They really need to be examples of those who focus their attention on things above, and helping to stop gossip and keep malicious gossip from circulating. The record of the bad effects of alcohol are legion; older ladies’ best example is to abstain from participating. Furthermore, they need to not only live good lives, but to be teachers of the good things of God.
- Younger women - The older ladies in the congregations are to work with the younger ladies. Paul notes that they are to “encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored” (Titus 2:4,5).
The first institution that God ordained was the institution of marriage. When He “created them male and female,” He made the husband and wife with complementary roles rather than being competitive. In modern times this model for the family and for the general interaction of male and female has been under Satanic attack from many directions, with the obvious destructive fall out. Imagine trying to tell some of the modern celebrity males to be temperate and dignified, or sensible. Picture what it would be like try to explain to some modern female politicians that they need to be reverent in their behavior, and for them to encourage the younger women to love their husbands and be submissive to them. The implementation of these teachings from Paul certainly has everything to do with “sound doctrine”!
Instructions for Christian Young Women
Young people naturally tend to look to older people around them for role models. Imitation is certainly the sincerest form of admiration, but it is also the clearest and most efficient way to be taught. Inside the church, then, there are older people and younger people, by God’s design. The apostle Paul, in discussing purity and sound doctrine with Titus, brings up some instruction on older men, older women, younger women, and younger men. These older women in particular are to be role models for the younger women in the church, and the list of qualities he mentions are worthy of more contemplation, particularly to moderns wherein the society around them is totally going “off the rails.”
- Love their husbands - Older women are to “encourage the young women to love their husbands” (Titus 2:4). Life is full of challenges and difficulties. When such difficulties arise in life, young women may decide that they just don’t love their husbands any more (love is a decision) as a means of avoiding their responsibilities in facing the challenges. Good instruction from older Christian ladies could be a major help here. A wife who follows scriptural instruction in loving her husband and showing that care, affection, and appreciation for him will have a much more fulfilled life than those who harden their hearts.
- Love their children - Young women are also to be encouraged by the older female saints to “love their children.” Children, at any age, require attention and attendance by their parents, often especially their moms. If a younger woman gets into the mode where her children are a “burden” to her, she will want to run away from her responsibilities to those whom she has borne, and go have “fun” in life. Older ladies’ wise counsel and encouragement could be helpful in pointing out the real value of children over any of the “fun” things, and the importance of maintaining a caring heart for those entrusted to her charge by God.
- Sensible - The word “sensible” shows up often in Paul’s instructions. Younger women are to be encouraged by the older ladies to be “sensible,” which has to do with being disciplined in finance, being diligent in keeping the home, and exercising good judgment in the use of the tongue.
- Pure - The apostle has already pointed out that for those who are not “pure,” all kinds of destruction await. A “pure” young wife would be a total delight to a husband.
- Workers at home - The scripture teaches, and emphatically so, that a woman’s primary focus has to be the home. The family, including the husband, needs that solid base to grow and to function effectively in a hostile world. “The wise woman,” stated Solomon, “builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands” (Proverbs 14:1). She is responsible for making the home a happy one, comfortable, and conducive to spiritual growth. To do that, she will have to be a worker, and she will have to be at home.
- Kind - It is God’s plan that “kindness” is part of the fruit of the Spirit. Kindness is that extra consideration for the feelings and needs of others that so be befits a Christian younger wife.
- Subject to their husbands - God made the woman to be a helper, not the driver. God’s order is that the husband is the head of the household (and he has his own set of instructions to follow) and the wife needs to fit unselfishly into that pattern. This pattern is not intended to block communication, but it does put the final decision-making responsibility on the husband, and the younger ladies may need to be taught by the older ladies that God really does “know best” in this area also.
Christians are to be God’s representatives on earth. Young women are to be encouraged by the older godly women to develop these qualities and habits, “that the word of God may not be dishonored” (Titus 2:5). Young women are important, and their godly and exemplary conduct is of critical importance in the continuing distribution of God’s word!
Instructions for Christian Young Men
Young men who are classed as saints of the Lord can bring a lot of energy and positivity into Christ’s church. Because of their age range and because of the social interactions that occur at that stage of physical life, they are also the key to a chunk of the evangelistic outreach of the local congregation. Hence, as Paul has given Titus some directives for older men, older women, and younger women, he is going to devote a section of this epistle to instructions for younger men.
- Sensible - The word “sensible” just keeps showing up in Paul’s letter to Titus. “Likewise,” the apostle continues his instruction on saints’ conduct, “urge the young men to be sensible” (Titus 2:6). Spiros Zhodiates comments on “sensible” in his “lexical aids to the New Testament” are instructive: “a person who limits his own freedom and ability with proper thinking, demonstrating self-government with proper restraint on all the passions and desires.” Good advice for the young men in the congregation.
- Example of good deeds - The dark world out there needs lights pointing truth-seekers in the right direction. Actions that back the words of an individual are powerful, and Paul sends instructions for younger men in the faith for them “in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds” (Titus 2:7). Jesus wants those “lights of the world” to be set up on a hill and shining brightly.
- Purity in doctrine - Jesus wants His disciples to be able to make disciples. Thus the young men are to be “pure in doctrine.” It isn’t just the teachers and preachers that the Lord wants knowledgeable and solid; He wants the young men to step up to that line also.
- Dignified - It is interesting that “dignified” should show up on the list for young men in the body of Christ as well as for the older men. Living out the scripture is serious business; for young men to be dignified in their comportment is very desirable.
- Sound in speech - Satan, the god of this world, is a liar. It is not surprising, then, that this world is filled with lies at every level. Young men in Christ are to go against this flow and speak truth. Paul exhorts them to be “sound in speech which is above reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:8). Not only are these saints to be truthful, but the things they talk about are to be “above reproach.” In the apostle’s comments to the church at Ephesus, he exhorted the brethren, “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:3,4). Dignified young men of the faith, being sound in speech which is above reproach, will be great examples of this teaching which emanates from Christ Himself.
The word “devil” comes from the Greek word which means “a slanderer,” and Satan uses slander as one of his most powerful weapons. When young men follow the instructions that Paul gives, it causes Satan’s tools to fall to the ground. Because “the opponent is put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us,” then the cause of Christ can move forward without distractions.
The list of qualities Paul passes on to Titus is a handy reference for young men. If they have areas where they need some more work, this list points those out. In areas where they are doing well, they are to be commended. The overall goal is to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24), to “lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12). The young men who do this are truly the “knights in shining armor”!
Instructions for Bond-Slaves
A significant percentage of first century Christians were slaves. Slaves, not being able to own property and therefore not able to move about whenever and wherever they wished, had special challenges that are not part of the free man’s life. One of the problems a slave would have would be able to be motivated. Whether a person worked hard or slacked off, he was still a slave, with no upward mobility for the most part and no increase in “wages.” It is easy to see how a slave’s attitude could drift toward the bottom, and he could become surly and lazy. The apostle Paul, and the Holy Spirit, have some instructions.
- Subject to masters - The natural tendency for a slave would be to be as rebellious as possible, and to do as little as possible. Paul tells Timothy, “Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything…” (Titus 2:9). As Paul reminded the slaves in his epistle to the Colossians, “It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:24). Being able to see past the earthly master, and recognizing that a slave should have a servant’s heart for Jesus, he could carry out Paul’s exhortation. He could be subject to his master, and he could be subject “in everything”!
- Well-pleasing - God’s goal for the slave is that he do more than a merely average job; “well-pleasing” is the word He uses. That means “going the extra mile,” showing creativity and initiative within the guidelines that the master expects, exhibiting a great attitude, thinking ahead, and setting up the person who follows with a good work situation.
- Not argumentative - It is no fun working with someone who wants to argue about every point; in fact a person who wants to fight every step is actually using resistance as a means to get out of work. Paul says slaves are not to be “argumentative.” As the saying is, “Just do your job!”
- Not pilfering - One of the core Commandments is, “Thou shalt not steal.” When a slave might feel that he was being overworked and underappreciated, he might drift into the mindset that he is “owed” something for his work that he is not receiving directly. At that moment of temptation the words of Paul to the slave need to kick in: “not pilfering.” Big or small, pilfering is stealing, and wrong for all.
- Showing all good faith - Something done “in good faith” is done with honest and sincere intentions. Paul wants Titus to have slaves always “showing all good faith”; they need to demonstrate their trustworthiness to all around them. A slave such as this could be trusted with cash, or to carry out a mission faithfully. A good example comes from the days of Abraham where he trusted one of his servants to take a retinue of men, ten camels, and a lot of jewelry to Paddan-Aram and to bring back a bride for Isaac. That trusted servant was “showing all good faith”!
Christian slaves, then, were to recognize that ultimately, they were serving Christ, and their mission was to serve their masters in such a way that Christianity would be highly regarded rather than denigrated. Slaves were “to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect” (Titus 2:10). Once again, the teaching of Christ is to translate into the actions of the disciple.
Lessons can be drawn from the instructions for slaves. Many modern saints are employees. It is true that they are voluntarily employed rather than conscripted, but if a slave who was in his position involuntarily was instructed by Paul, how much more the free man would desire to implement those instructions in his place of employment. It is worthy of careful consideration: “Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect” (Titus 2:9,10).
Slave or free, the saint wears the uniform of “the doctrine of Christ,” and as Christ’s representative to those around him, he is to bring glory to Christ by his exemplary conduct and attitude. Consistent good cheer and high-performance count!
Grace of God Has Appeared
As the apostle John noted early in the opening of his gospel account, “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). There was grace in the Old Testament period, but it was vague and not necessarily recognized by those who had been covered by its blessing. Grace is a separate entity from the Law; there is no grace under law.
With the coming of Christ and His covenant into the world, grace has been clearly defined, and its boundaries have been established. This new covenant could also be called “the apostles’ doctrine,” “the covenant of the Spirit,” or “the faith of Christ” [Acts 2:42(KJV); 2 Corinthians 3:6; Galatians 2:20(KJV)]. As Peter was speaking to the congregation in Jerusalem concerning the requirements to be placed on the Gentiles (that is, whether they had to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses), Peter noted, “We [those of Jewish background] believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also [those of Gentile background] are” (Acts 15:11). Another name for the new covenant is the covenant of grace!
- Grace has appeared - There are comparatively few verses on the favor of God or the grace of God toward men in the Old Testament writings, especially about His willingness to have grace in regard to sin. A prophetic look about “grace” occurs in Zechariah which, when viewed through the lens of the New Testament writers, is talking about the church: “And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication” (Zechariah 12:10). Hence the apostle Paul uses this language in writing to Titus, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11). The arrival of Jesus Christ on the face of the earth was the beginning of the final stage of God’s revelation to man. As Christ then was crucified, buried, raised from the dead, and ascended to the power position as High Priest and King, grace now was “realized” as the gospel spread in steps to all mankind. “Let us therefore draw near with confidence,” says Hebrews’ writer, “to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and my find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
- Bringing salvation - Mankind does not deserve to go to heaven. The record is, for anyone old enough to be able to process at an adult level, that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Hence any reconciliation with the Mighty Judge of the universe is going to be by His grace and mercy. Jesus, then, given the name that means “Yahweh saves” before His birth, would be the One to save God’s people from their sins. There is therefore much depth in Paul’s words, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” What a magnificent plan, to bring salvation to all men!
Consider also what God had to do to make the appearance of Christ and His grace believable. Beginning with Abraham, He laid down the proposition that through one of his descendants all the nations would be blessed. Working through Isaac and Jacob, He brought the physical nation Israel into existence, and thus established a land base for His operations. In that “the Law was given through Moses,” the establishment of regular and meaningful sacrifices impressed on Israel’s mind their sinfulness and thus their need for a Savior. Through the temple and the sacrifices offered there, the foreshadows were in motion for Jesus Himself to be the ultimate sacrifice and High Priest, and the pattern was in motion for the church to come into existence. Progressively, and intertwined clearly in human history, the prophetic basis for the coming of Jesus to the Jewish people was established, and the prophesies given were incontrovertible. Therefore, Jesus could say to the apostles, following His bodily resurrection, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46,47). Grace has appeared, and salvation has been brought to all men!
One of the literary techniques used by scripture is “personification.” “Personification” is giving inanimate objects or concepts human characteristics. A simple example would be, “The wind sighed as it passed through the forest.” People sigh, but the attachment of that characteristic to the wind gives life to the picture. Another personification was used by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Roman brethren: “We have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Romans 5:2). This is a picture of faith telling the newly immersed individual to shake hands with grace. This is a form of personification. Similarly, the apostle writes these words to Titus, explaining that the grace of God is “instructing us to deny ungodliness...” (Titus 2:11,12). A scene has been created through this literary device wherein saints see grace in front of a classroom instructing the students.
What, then, are some of the instructions coming from the grace of God?
- To deny ungodliness and worldly desires - Jesus Himself, during the time of His earthly sojourn, instructed all those who would desire to be His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). Grace, not surprisingly, also instructs all those who desire to participate in the salvation of Christ, “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires.” Ungodliness has a powerful pull; if it didn’t, fewer people would participate in those activities which cause so much destruction throughout the human race. The appeal of “worldly desires,” which the apostle John describes as “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” is obviously strong; the apostle did attach the word “lust” to those desires. The saint must have his mind firmly set that he will deny himself in any of those areas, and make a consistent and conscious effort to walk humbly with his God.
- How to live in the present age - Here is the positive instruction from grace: “to live sensibly and righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12). It is interesting that Jesus, in listing the evil things that come out of the heart of man, finished with “foolishness” (Mark 7:22). The contrast, of course, is to live “sensibly,” as Paul again stresses. Older men are to be “sensible,” younger men are to be “sensible,” and older women are to teach younger women to be “sensible.” The Father in heaven clearly expects His children of faith to “use their heads” and not be impulse-driven. Doing what is “right” in the face of a hostile world is critical. Being “imitators of God, as beloved children,” is what is expected of those who wear the name of Christ as living examples of what is “godly” (Ephesians 5:1).
- Looking for Christ’s coming - Jesus also warned all future disciples to be aware of the possibility of His second coming. “Be on the alert,” were His words, “for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42). The exhortation is for the disciple of Christ to be on good behavior, to be in prayer, to be faithful in the assembly of the saints, and to be spreading abroad the glad tidings. “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when He comes” (Matthew 24:46). Paul exhorts Titus to encourage the brethren on Crete to be “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).
If the saint really believes the scripture that Jesus could come “at a time” when the saint might not expect him, then the saint will be very conscious about consistently denying himself, putting aside ungodliness and worldly desires. The saint will happily work on being sensible and thoughtful, at putting on righteousness. He will determinedly work at renewing or reprogramming his mind so that he will “follow” in Jesus’ steps, dying to sin and living to righteousness (1 Peter 2:21-24). Turn to God, and live!
What to "Look for"
Where a person “looks” is where he is going. That is not only true in the physical realm, it is also true in the spiritual realm. Jesus phrased it this way: “The lamp of your body is the eye” (Luke 11:34). The “clear eye” is focused in the proper spiritual direction; the “bad eye” is focused on earth and destruction. The word of God encourages saints to be “fixing our eyes on Jesus...who has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). “Set your mind on things above,” was another of Paul’s encouragements, “not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). The goal of God is to motivate His children of faith to follow “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
“The grace of God,” Paul had reiterated to Titus, instructs us, then, to be “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).
- The blessed hope - Hope is generally tied to Jesus’ second coming and specifically to the saints’ resurrection from the dead. All earthly hope can be stripped away, but the faithful saint has the certain hope of his positive resurrection and entrance into the eternal courts of glory. When the apostle Paul was on trial before the Roman governor Felix, he informed the governor that he and fellow members of the church (which the opposition called a “sect”) have “a hope in God, which these men [specifically the Pharisees] cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked” (Acts 24:14,15). Before the Roman governor Festus and King Agrippa, Paul asked this question, “Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?” He had prefaced that question with this statement, “And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by the Jews” (Acts 26:7,8). For the dedicated Christian, this is the blessed hope, the “happy” hope of the resurrection to be with Christ forever. Another name, then, for the indwelling Spirit, who is the guarantee of the saint’s resurrection to life, is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
- The appearing of the glory - There are three Greek words which are pretty much interchangeable in describing Jesus’ second coming: epiphaneia, apokalupsis, and parousia. Epiphaneia most directly describes an “appearing,” apokalupsis gives the connotation of a “revealing,” and parousia gives a picture of Christ’s coming “near.” Notice, then, what is going to “appear” [epiphaneia], according to the apostle Paul, is the glory of our great God. This is the tremendous brightness of the Lord, revealed to the saints’ eye of faith through the writings of the apostles and new covenant prophets. This is the glory that will vaporize the material universe, the “face” or the “presence” of Christ at His return. “And I saw a great white throne,” recorded the apostle John in his Apocalypse, “from whose presence earth and heaven fled away” (Revelation 20:11).
Who is it whose glory is to appear? Paul says it is the glory “of our great God and Savior.” The scriptures are not “Trinitarian” [separate but equal]. In Trinitarian thought, God the Father is a separate being from God the Son, and God the Father is only approachable through God the Son. But that separateness is not how the word of God pictures the Godhead (KJV]. Jude praises “the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Jude 1:25). Pretty clearly “God our Savior” is the Father. But as Paul speaks of “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior,” he specifies “God and Savior” as being “Christ Jesus.” Definitely not Trinitarian! Jesus Christ, completely understood, not only in the flesh but in His ascension to glory, is the comprehensive revelation of God. This is God’s “face” whom the true child of God is seeking, described by Paul as “the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). “When He appears,” affirmed the apostle John, “we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). The grace of God does indeed instruct us to be “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”
What Christ Did
The people of God need memorials and reminders. Whether it is God’s putting the rainbow in the sky to remind His people that never again will He destroy the earth with water, His institution of the Passover in Israel to remind them of their freedom from slavery in Egypt, or Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper as a reminder of His sacrifice on their behalf, God knows that memorials are critical in keeping key events uppermost in the minds of the saints. Hence the messages in the book of Acts often refer back to historical events that were key in Israel’s history, and the writers of the epistles sprinkle the events connected with Christ liberally throughout their pages. The apostle Paul, in encouraging Titus about exhorting the brethren on the isle of Crete, calls attention to the return of the Lord, speaks of “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus.” In the process, he will call attention to the things Christ did on behalf of the brethren, reminders for their benefit.
- Gave Himself for us - As Paul glorifies the Lord Jesus and reminds the brethren, he comments, describing Jesus as the One “who gave Himself for us” (Titus 2:14). This is not to be minimized or trivialized! The word of God in various ways tries to drive this picture home so that its significance is processed sufficiently, and so that it will not get lost in a pile of comparatively irrelevant information. “Greater love has no one than this,” was Jesus’ emphatic statement, “that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). He gave Himself for us! “God demonstrates His own love toward us,” Paul superadds, “in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He gave Himself for us! The entire spectacle of Christ’s arrest in the Garden, His trials, His journey carrying His cross, His crucifixion, His crying out over being forsaken, and the tremendous signs at His death is designed to punch the message deep into mankind’s hearts. He gave Himself for us!
- Redeem us - So He gave Himself for us. For what purpose? The apostle continues, “that He might redeem us from every lawless deed.” One of the main thrusts of scripture is that men, by their own choices, commit sin and are therefore separated from God. Having thus been lost and thus captured by sin and death, the wayward “sheep” must be redeemed (bought back) or ransomed (purchased from a kidnapper). “No man can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him,” stated the sons of Korah, “for the redemption of his soul is costly” (Psalm 49:7,8). This redemption is so costly that the only price that could be paid was the blood of Christ, shed in His death and sprinkled in glory.
Once mere man is conscious that He is answerable to the Almighty and All Knowing God, and that Jesus has paid the redemption price, the question for many is “how much of my sin is paid for?” The apostle Paul is careful to note that the redemption is “from every lawless deed.” Forgiveness and mercy are full and complete, with no tiny hold-overs. King David was aware that human nature is not very forgiving; when he sinned in having a census taken of Judah and Israel, he petitioned, “Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man” (2 Samuel 24:14). God, speaking through Isaiah, contrasted Himself with man, having noted, “My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). Those “higher thoughts” include the concept that if the wicked were to forsake his own ways and the unrighteous to turn his thoughts positive according to God’s direction, God stated that “He will have compassion on him,” and that “He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). Jesus indeed gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed”! He is certainly worthy of all praise and honor, and our joyful submission to His will.
A People for Himself
God has had a long-term plan, very broad in scope and in motion before the foundation of the world. As the apostle Peter expressed it, Jesus “was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:20,21). God began working with Abraham, bringing Isaac into existence by miraculous, or very special, action. Through Isaac and then Jacob came the twelve tribes of Israel, and thence the nation. By God’s working as recorded in Israel’s history, His establishment of the types and foreshadows, and His speaking through the prophets, God laid the basis for Jesus’ coming into the world, and for that coming to be believable. Finally, the apostles’ eyewitness accounts of the earthly life of Jesus—including His death on the cross, His resurrection, and His ascension into the cloud—followed with their revelation of Jesus’ exalted position in heaven established the new covenant doctrine. Salvation has come to all men, and they can be born again through water and Spirit. God indeed “raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory.” The result, then, for any willing to be true disciples of the Lord, is that their “faith and hope are in God.”
- Purify for Himself - God’s goal in sending Christ into the world was not simply to grant forgiveness of sins. The words of the angel to Joseph were, in giving the Child the name Jesus, “It is He who will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The goal was beyond forgiveness; it was to deliver people from the power of sin! In Paul’s comments to Titus, he records that Jesus gave Himself to redeem us from every lawless deed and “purify for Himself a people for His own possession” (Titus 2:14). The purity that is God’s goal is not a mere “imputed” purity wherein God sees the saint as pure when in fact he is not. As noted earlier, everyone who has his hope truly fixed on Jesus’ appearing “purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). Using slightly different vocabulary, the apostle exhorted the brethren in Corinth, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). God, through their faith in Christ and obedience to His gospel, initially cleanses/purifies the saints, but He also expects the saint to continue to be active in the purification process “until we all attain...to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
- Zealous for good deeds - Personal holiness and purity definitely are qualities that God wants His children of faith to possess. The apostle Paul, however, takes it another step further, extending the focus beyond the saint himself, adding “zealous for good deeds.” The good deeds for the Christian are not just helping little old ladies across the street or helping someone jump-start his vehicle; while those things should be done, the disciple of Christ is really looking to help a lost soul get his eternity correctly lined up with scripture. When Jesus introduced what He called “a new commandment,” He defined the “love” in that commandment in terms of “as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Jesus loved the souls of mankind, and sacrificed Himself for that purpose. The purpose of the “good deeds” is to save the lost and edify the brethren.
God, when He gave orders for Israel’s encampment in the wilderness, had the intention of having the tabernacle in their midst, and for Him to dwell in their midst. “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me,” stated the Almighty, “that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). But from the beginning, Israel went into idolatry, and God never did dwell among them; the tabernacle was pitched “outside the camp” (Exodus 33:7). God, under the new covenant through Jesus Christ, has truly redeemed a people from their lawless deeds and purified them “for His own possession.” This is the people of whom it is written, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (2 Corinthians 6:16)!
“These Things Speak…With Authority”
Speakers and writers through the ages have generally ended their messages on a positive note, something motivating. (Indications are, that because the book of Malachi and the Old Testament canon ended on a negative, the Pharisees and scribes would restate the part about “Elijah” coming and turning the hearts of the fathers to the children rather than have the ending be “lest I come and smite the land with a curse.”) But Jesus closed the Sermon on the Mount with what many would have considered a negative ending. “The rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house,” spoke the Lord, using a parable to describe a life built on shifting sand instead of solid rock, “and great was its fall” (Matthew 7:27). Message over; definite “downer.” Jesus was unconventional. “The result was that when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28,29). If He wanted to close on a negative to generate to proper effect on His audience, He closed on a negative! Teaching with authority.
- “These things speak” - Paul has just given Titus quite a list of instructions for edifying the congregations on the island of Crete. Some of those instructions were pretty strong and pointed. “To the pure,” the apostle had stated, “all things are pure, but for those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure” (Titus 1:15). Straightforward and pointed. Instructions were given for older men, older women, younger women, and younger men. Some of the qualities required in an overseer were listed. “Rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers” were exposed. General exhortations were given for all saints to deny ungodliness and worldly desires, and to be set apart as a purified people for God’s own possession. “These things speak,” the apostle Paul encouraged the younger evangelist, “and exhort and reprove with all authority” (Titus 2:15). Whether the congregations wanted to hear those words or not, Titus was to deliver the message.
- “Exhort and reprove” - Individual saints and congregations tend to drift off-course. Hence corrective changes in direction are necessary, and this comes under the heading of “reprove.” Words of reproof are not necessarily easy to deliver, and to deliver in the correct scriptural way — “speaking the truth in love,” — and they also are not necessarily easy to accept for those who need the reproof. But those course-corrections are requisites for individuals and congregations for the sake of their eternities. Similarly with exhortations. There is a definite downward pull in the world around the brethren, and there are times when exhortations are required by the exigencies of the moment, when brethren need to be encouraged to step up spiritually and emotionally. Not necessarily easy to deliver, and not necessarily easy to accept. But necessary!
- “With all authority” - Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount with an authority that amazed the multitudes; it was the message from heaven to earth and needed to be announced rather than sold. Titus was exhorted by the apostle to have his instructions delivered also “with all authority.” The picture here is like that of a ship’s captain giving orders to the crew, or a military officer commanding his troops. The message was from heaven, and needed to be announced rather than sold.
There is natural resistance to forward movement or upward change, similar to the groaning of pack mules as they start the morning’s trip up the mountain trail. There is resistance to doing and speaking the right things because doing and speaking the right things requires discipline. “I am afraid,” said the courageous apostle Paul to the struggling congregation in Corinth, “that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish...that perhaps there may be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances” (2 Corinthians 12:20). These things happen. To correct these types of problems, Titus was instructed to “speak and exhort and reprove with all authority.” To which were superadded these words, “Let no one disregard you.” Still true advice for evangelists today.
“Some Divine Reminders”
The apostles were divinely inspired men. The apostle Paul, in writing to the congregations of Galatia made it clear that the gospel and the connected teachings which he delivered did not originate in mere man. “For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12). The apostle Peter, in discussing his authority as an apostle and the seriousness of the exhortation he was giving in his second epistle, commented, “For we did not follow cleverly designed tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). That eyewitness was not just the time of Jesus’ earthly sojourn, but included His ascension to the power position on high as well. “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also,” averred the aged apostle John, “that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). The instructions coming from the apostles, and their reminders, are stressed as important by the inspiration of the Spirit Himself. Hence Paul has some things for Titus to pass on to the brethren on Crete.
- A submissive attitude - A part of the apostle’s earlier instructions were to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.” Gone then is the rebellious spirit so characteristic of the outcast angels and a lost and raging world. “Remind them,” says Paul of the brethren, “to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient...” (Titus 3:1). If a saint has the character of being an anarchist against governmental authorities, that will carry over and he will be an anarchist inside the church. The brethren need to be co-operative and team players, including working with governmental authorities wherever possible. This is not mindless submission, but a general willingness to move forward.
- Ready for every good deed - It takes extra energy to be helpful. Noticing that someone needs help with some packages, or help getting out of a snowbank, isn’t of value until the help is actually given. It is easy to pretend that the help wasn’t necessary, or that need was even noticed. The wording, then, of the apostle Paul is significant: “Remind them,” he says, “to be ready for every good deed.” The saint has the character of looking for an opportunity to “do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6:10).
- Control the tongue - The word of God has warnings and exhortations concerning the tongue. When the tongue is uncontrolled and destructive, bad things happen! “How great a forest,” observed James, “is set aflame by such a small fire” (James 3:5). Remind the brethren, Paul continued, “to malign no one” (Titus 3:2). The word translated malign [similar to malignant – evil and destructive] is rooted in “blasphemy,” which literally means deliberately to ruin the reputation of someone. Also, the apostle says, “be uncontentious.” No reason to use the tongue to provoke a fight; “blessed,” said Jesus, “are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
- Thinking things through - Interactions with fellow saints and people in the world can be difficult at times. Remind the disciples to be “gentle,” Paul instructs Titus. That means taking into account the circumstances of the other person’s life and giving him some grace when he might not say or handle everything perfectly. The apostle closes this section with these words: “showing every consideration for all men.”
Christians really are to be “lights in the world.” God intends for His children of faith to be shining examples of conduct, exhibiting the morals consistent with the name of Christ. He desires that “sons of the Father in heaven” love and care for the saints and for the lost. He wants His name to be vindicated and glorified; and a major way in which He gets that done is through individual Christians, working alone or in concert. Brethren, then and now, need these words: “Remind them...”
A Backward Look
It is possible for a disciple of Christ to quit working diligently on his forward progress in the faith. The apostle Peter noted that such a one “is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins” (2 Peter 1:9). Israel had to be reminded that they were once slaves in Egypt, and therefore they had some commands about how they were to interact positively with foreigners in their land. In the same way, followers of Christ under the new covenant encounter scriptural reminders of what their former lives were like, in order that they may show “every consideration for all men” (Titus 3:2). Every saint started in the same place as every other human being on the planet: lost, without God and without real hope in this world. No reason for the brethren to be supercilious.
- Foolish - “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived …,” the apostle tells Titus to remind the Cretan brethren (Titus 3:3). One of the things that proceeds out of the corrupted heart of man, pointed out Jesus, is “foolishness” (Mark 7:22). Such foolishness arises from having the wrong basis for making decisions; when selfish or emotional interests run ahead of scriptural directives, disastrous decisions are going to be made. Jesus had said, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (Matthew 12:30). A person who is “disobedient” is on the wrong side of the battle, pulled into opposing Christ by being “deceived” by the Deceiver.
- Enslaved - In a hostile exchange, Jesus told the ranking Jews, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). Everyone — that means “no exceptions.” In these comments by Paul to Titus, the apostle thus says “we also.” “We also once were … enslaved to various lusts and pleasures” (Titus 3:3). And from that enslavement, in the words of Jesus, only the Son can make people “free indeed” (John 8:36). “Lusts and pleasures” do have an immediate appeal, but just around the corner this “sowing to the flesh” reaps a fearful harvest. Saints need to be reminded that is what their condition once was, and that Christ delivered them. Compassion for the enslaved is now needed, and a corresponding desire to make certain that the saint himself is not pulled back into the painful enslavement.
- Malice and envy - Out of the corrupted heart flow all kinds of perverse and twisted behaviors. Malice — setting destruction in motion out of an evil intent and a desire to hurt — is certainly one of the most perverse activities of a twisted mind. Disciples of Christ are always exhorted to “put aside” malice and its evil sisters — “guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1). The apostle Paul notes that “we” were “spending our life in malice and envy.” Envy is a powerful force driving people to put others down and be hostile to what is right and profitable and good. It is instructive that the Jewish hierarchy, spiritual sons of Satan, delivered Jesus to Pilate “because of envy” (Matthew 27:18). If the saint fills his life with thankfulness, malice and envy will vanish away.
- Hateful - It is pretty clear that the outcast angels, beginning with the devil himself, are filled with hate for God and hate for the human race as a whole. The utterly senseless war of destruction waged by those evil forces pulls people away from God and His redemption and into the permanent pits of darkness and pain. It is the supreme example of Satan’s perversity that preaching against sin and calling lost men into the blessed light of Christ would be called “hate speech.” “We were foolish ourselves,” is the divine reminder, “hateful, hating one another.” The solution is to replace that hate with scripturally defined love for the souls of men.
The “backward look” being used by the apostle Paul helps brethren to process properly the great redemption which Jesus accomplished for them. It also helps them to engage in a bit of self-reflection to ensure that they are not falling back into the same destructive habits that once plagued their lifestyle. Finally, it helps them to continue to show “consideration for all men.” Prayers for the lost and repeated attempts to reach them with the gospel are always activities desired by the Father!
God's Kindness and Love
If God were to execute only His justice, all of accountable age would be lost forever. The late Don DeWelt said with great insight that “the love of God searched the wisdom of God to find a means of satisfying the justice of God” in regard to the problem of what to do to salvage lost men. “The result,” said DeWelt, “was the cross of Calvary.” The thrust of his insight was correct; but it took not only the shed blood at Calvary to deliver mankind, but also the sprinkled blood by the action of the great High Priest of the order of Melchizedek to make the redemption operative. Hence there was a loving and kind plan in motion for Christ’s sacrificial offering to satisfy the justice of God and thus provide a mechanism for the release of captive souls. “He made Him who knew no sin,” asseverated the apostle Paul, “to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
- God’s kindness - God’s kindness is a topic not often considered; while God’s love is generally bandied about, the kindness of God takes a distant second seat. “Do you think lightly,” queried the apostle Paul in another place, “of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). If it is the kindness of God which leads us to repentance, that is clearly worth some careful consideration. “Friendly, generous, considerate,” says the dictionary of kindness. It was very kind of the Most High to consider the lost and helpless condition of mankind without His intercession. He has been very generous in providing “out of His riches” the mercy which was undeserved. “But when the kindness of God our Savior…appeared,” in the form of the coming of Christ into the world, then the somewhat vague “lovingkindness” of old covenant expression now began to be much more clearly defined (Titus 3:4). Though He came into the world and the world did not know Him, and though He came to His own (the children of Israel) and His own did not receive Him, it was still a significant effort on Jesus’ part to be friendly and open the door of reconciliation.
- God’s love - “But God demonstrates His love toward us,” emphasized the apostle Paul, “in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Anyone who would honestly consider and contemplate the suffering of Christ and His separation from the Father during the crucifixion would realize that this was a tremendous exhibition of God’s love for each individual. As Paul again phrases it, “His love for mankind appeared” (Titus 3:4). So many scriptures paint this picture; God gave His only begotten Son, for example. “We know love by this,” was another of John’s contributions, “that He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16).
“The Word became flesh,” the apostle John pointed out, “and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). This “Word,” cloaked in human flesh, was a step by which the glory of God was eventually beheld by the apostles by revelation, and the fulness of His character exhibited through the new covenant writings. This Word was “full of grace and truth.” Having laid down this point, the apostle John goes on to note that while “the Law was given through Moses,” this same “grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). The clarification of these big concepts such as grace, truth, kindness, and love is pin-pointed through the revelation of who Jesus is and what He has done for the lost race of man. “No man has seen God at any time,” was John’s definitive remark, “the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:18). Without the coming of Christ into the world and the attendant gospel revelation, man would still be in the dark. As Paul had stated, “the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared.” What an appearance!!
He Saved Us!
The dreadfully lost condition of man apart from God must be processed in order for the wonderful awesomeness of the gospel to be appreciated. One sin is all it takes for the struggling earthling to be separated from God. James stated it this way: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10). Mankind as a whole may think of that judgment as being overly strict, but mankind as a whole does not make the rules! Those who remain in that guilty condition, whether they “do not know God” or whether they “do not obey the gospel,” “will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8,9). One of the pictures from the Apocalypse of John is “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night” (Revelation 14:11). So these are tremendous words of joy and release coming from the apostle Paul, “He saved us” (Titus 3:5).
- Not on basis of deeds - One sin, then, separates a person from God. From that point forward there is no amount of “good deeds” that can be done to pay the price for that one sin. Thus when the apostle writes, “He saved us,” he also adds for emphasis and clarification, “not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness” (Titus 3:5). Every person must clear the idea out of his head that somehow there is a scale where if enough good things can be put in the pan on one side to outweigh the bad on the other side, the person will go to heaven. Not the way it works!!
- According to His mercy - The justice of God requires that all sinners be punished by an eternity in hell. Since the record is that all have sinned, the eternal picture is bleak for all of mankind, except that God has mercy! Mercy is basically God’s willingness not to meet out the punishment due, because of the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ and intercessory ministry of Christ as High Priest. “He saved us,” Paul reminds Titus, “according to His mercy” (Titus 3:5). Saints in Christ are blessed that Jesus became “a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). “For God has shut up all in disobedience,” explained the apostle, establishing that both Jew and Gentile need the redemption found only in Christ, “that He might show mercy to all” (Romans 11:32).
- Washing of regeneration - How, then, is this mercy to be obtained by the lost individual, since it is not automatically granted to the entire mass of humanity? Paul, consistent with his other writings and that of the other apostles, says “by the washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5). When the apostle penned his epistle to the brethren in Rome, he pointed out that as the old self is buried with Christ in immersion, the new self is raised from the waters “to walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). This is clearly “regeneration,” “born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5).
- Renewing by the Holy Spirit - Forgiveness and mercy meet the individual as he is lowered into the watery grave, provided he truly believes, is repentant, and has confessed Christ as the Son of God. But the regenerative power must be provided by the Holy Spirit, as Jesus expounded, “It is the Spirit who gives life” (John 6:63). The “washing of regeneration” must therefore be coupled with the “renewing by the Holy Spirit” in order the individual to be a new creation in Christ Jesus.
God has indeed “saved us”! But He did not merely save us from sins by granting us forgiveness; He “regenerated and renewed” the lost by causing them to be born again to a living hope, being called out of darkness into a new abundant life in Christ. The Christian is not only free from past sin; he walks in the liberty of Christ provided by the Holy Spirit, free to walk in the footsteps of Christ and follow the upward call of God.
Out of God’s Riches
Much scripture points to the purpose and power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the saints. The day of the visible miraculous workings of the Spirit has passed. With the coming of the complete written word, there was no need to confirm the word “by signs and wonders and miracles and by various gifts of the Holy Spirit” because the word was now established as written and immutable. But all the power of the Spirit in the unseen realm is still operative, and will be on behalf of the brethren until the day of Jesus’ return. “The inner man,” stated the apostle Paul, “is being renewed day by day.” Hence “we look, not at the things which are seen, but at the things that are unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:16,18).
This “renewing by the Spirit” (Titus 3:5) is powered by “riches.” Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian brethren (and applicable to every faithful saint) was “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16). This “riches of His glory” expresses the immeasurable resources provided to the Holy Spirit for His ministry to the faithful followers of Christ.
- More on renewing - “He saved us,” Paul had noted, “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” Through the waters of immersion in Jesus’ name, the Holy Spirit caused the individual to be “born again” to a living hope and created him as a new creature in Christ Jesus; this is a major accomplishment in and of itself, and beyond human capacity. The Holy Spirit also continues to renew the fighting saint, assisting his prayers and providing grace if he stumbles in his spiritual walk (Romans 8:26,27). This “strengthening” provided by the Holy Spirit is also a major factor, because without this benefit, the saint would not have the capacity to withstand the arrows of the evil one, and would lose his salvation.
- “Poured out” - The apostle Paul comments here that God our Savior “poured out” the Holy Spirit “upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:6). The expression “poured out” as used in the book of Acts refers to the immersion in the Holy Spirit, happening to the apostles on the day of Pentecost and to the household of Cornelius some ten years later. But here in Paul’s epistle to Titus, the expression “poured out” is a picture of the overflow from the riches of God’s glory, and letting brethren know that the full spiritual power of the indwelling Spirit is available to the saint.
The connection between immersion (“the washing of regeneration”) and the indwelling Spirit goes back to the first preaching of the gospel, wherein the apostle Peter and the others told the crowd to “repent, and let each of you be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Forgiveness of sins cleanses the “vessel” so that it is now a fit dwelling place for the Spirit of God; the goal is for the Spirit to be “poured out richly” upon the saint that he might stand on his feet and fight the good fight of faith. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law,” Paul reminded the Galatian brethren, “in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles,” which he then rephrased for clarification, “so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13,14). The goal of God has always been to find a people spiritually interested enough that He, out of the riches of His glory, might grant them His indwelling Spirit. “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ” the apostle emphasized to the brethren in Rome, “he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9). On the other hand, “if Christ is in you” (Christ in you being another name for the indwelling Spirit), “though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10). Be alive, and live for Christ!
“Justified,” “Grace,” “Heirs,” “Hope”
Sometimes the apostle Paul in his wordcraft brings together massive and sweeping concepts in one sentence. After speaking of the Holy Spirit’s being poured out on the saints richly, then the apostle superadds “that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7). The entire picture of the gospel’s being preached to the lost individual, his redemption through his obedience to the gospel and his sins being covered by the sprinkled blood of Christ, his acceptance into the family of God, and his expectation of his resurrection and entrance into heaven itself are all covered in just one portion of one dependent clause!
- Justified - It is worth the saint’s time occasionally to circle back through some of the basic tenets of the faith and pause to reflect on their majestic significance. Consider, then, “justification.” When Christ comes to sit on His glorious throne, there are only two possibilities: the first would be for the trembling soul to attempt to justify himself before the King’s awesome presence and power, and the second would be for Christ Himself to provide the justification. The one who would attempt to justify himself and explain to the Judge of all the earth that he should be allowed into heaven, listing his excuses along the way, will find his mouth “closed.” The Lord did not send Jesus to earth and subjugate Him to the humility, suffering, and bearing the sins of the world in His body simply to have all that set aside so that some sniveling wretch could justify himself. The other option: to be justified, to be declared righteous by the intercession of the Christ Himself. That justification is, properly considered, the difference between eternal life and eternal death.
- His grace - God’s willingness to grant His children the indwelling Spirit, a clean conscience, strength and refreshing within…these are all blessings flowing from His grace. Not to be glossed over or taken lightly, but greatly appreciated.
- Heirs - There are, unfortunately, many residents of planet earth who are waiting anxiously for a rich relative to die so that they can shove their way into the family pile and garner their share out of the family inheritance trough. But what about a true inheritance? What about an inheritance that “is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away” (1 Peter 1:4). What about being joint-heirs with Jesus in the spiritual riches of glory? It is worth giving up everything of earth, where necessary, to obtain this inheritance.
- Hope of eternal life - Earthly life is short; eternity is long. Those who are separated from Christ by their personal sins have only the prospect of a dark and painful eternity stretching out before them. They are “excluded,” averred the apostle Paul, “from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). No hope! By major contrast, the saint, in looking to his positive resurrection from the dead at the Lord’s coming, has “the hope of eternal life”!
The gospel, stated the apostle Peter, does not consist of “cleverly devised tales,” but rather is based on the verifiable eyewitness accounts of Christ’s majesty, including the vast panorama of the details of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, appearances to the chosen witnesses, and ascension to glory. Hence these statements concerning justification, grace, the inheritance, and the hope of eternal life are not mere emotional concepts, thrown out into the world for those who have fluffy minds; these are powerful truths to be grasped tightly by the persevering saint, and not ever released. Thus the God who provided such for those, who by their own power would be unworthy, is deserving of the greatest praise and thanksgiving. “This is a trustworthy statement,” emphasizes the apostle Paul, in one of the five times he punctuates a point with those words, “and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently” (Titus 3:8). Confidently spoken then, and confidently spoken now!
More on "Good Deeds"
For what purpose did the saint undergo a new birth? For what purpose was he called out of darkness and into God’s wonderful spiritual light? The answers are clear and explicit: 1) “to proclaim the excellencies” of Him who so called, and 2) “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (1 Peter 2:9; Ephesians 2:10). The new creation in Christ is not merely to bask in the glory of God’s presence and relax in the blessedness of God’s grace; he is to get to work. Saints are not rescued to rest; they are saved to serve!
How awesome it was for Christ to descend from the glories of heaven to interact with man on a personal basis; to leave the majesty of the spiritual realm to leave sandal tracks in the mud of earth’s existence. Paul’s writing thus states, “The kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared.” Not only that, “He saved us,” granting us “the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” The “justified,” the heirs, those who truly have the hope of eternal life, are to get to work.
- Confidence - The capsulation of the expansive plan of God, recorded in this epistle to Titus, Paul called “a trustworthy statement,” one of the five in these epistles to the evangelists. “Concerning these things,” the apostle added, “I want you to speak confidently” (Titus 3:8). The message from God is to be delivered as if heralded from on high, not hesitatingly or merely put forward as a possibility. The preacher first must be certain that he is correct in his presentation, having checked his basic paradigms to make certain that he is in line with God’s overall perspective as revealed in the pages of the New Testament. Then with confidence he is to deliver to the lost and exhort the saints with the message of salvation and hope.
- Engage in good deeds - One of the major purposes of teaching the sound doctrines of the new covenant is to help each of the brethren build a solid platform of Biblical faith from which he can operate. Once the stable base has been established, the confidence of evangelists such as Titus radiates to the congregation as a whole. Thus Titus is to “speak confidently, so that those who have believed God may be careful to engage in good deeds” (Titus 3:8). The “good deeds” are not to be “stand alone” actions; they are carefully to be crafted so as to strengthen the local congregation and reach the lost.
- Good and profitable - In his epistle to the Roman brethren, Paul described Abraham as one who “believed God” and who therefore acted upon what was directed (Romans 4:3). It wasn’t that Abraham simply “believed in God,” the point was that Abraham believed God. The apostle uses the same terminology in depicting the brethren, directing that; “those who have believed God may be careful to engage in good deeds.” He then superadds, “These things are good and profitable for men” (Titus 3:8). Undirected good deeds are soap bubbles in the wind, aimless and disappearing quickly. But when good deeds are carefully directed they become “good” and “profitable.” Ultimately, then, the profit accrues for the glory of King Jesus!
The disciple of Christ, then, “constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine,” will be careful to engage in those good deeds (1 Timothy 4:6). “But shun,” says the apostle, “foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law; for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9). One of the main purposes of those who put forward the foolish controversies and waste-of-time discussions is to avoid the thrust of the scriptures pointed straight at them. Sometimes their purpose is to avoid scriptural teachings which destroy their false belief systems; sometimes it has to do with scriptures that would convict these individuals of their moral failures. The instruction for the saint comes in the form of a very strong word: shun! Shut the unprofitable discussion down, and redirect the arrows so that they are pointed toward the hearts that need pierced! These are the really good and profitable deeds!
Reject a Factious Man
Those who practice the “deeds of the flesh,” pointed out the apostle Paul, “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Sounds serious!! In the midst of this list recorded for the Galatian brethren are “enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying...” (Galatians 5:20,21). These evils are contrived to cause division among the brethren and thus hinder the important work of seeking and saving the lost. Ultimately these evils come from the Adversary (Satan), the devil (Slanderer), Apollyon (Destroyer). He generated rebellion in heaven and has carried that to earth. To the extent that he can get into the mind of the individual, that individual exhibits the character of the outcast angel of darkness, and engages in the same destructive work. A Christian who loses his way can become victim of Satan’s work and fall into the same destructive actions as the lost. Hence the warnings!
- Shun foolish controversies - When a saint is face to face with scripture, he has two choices: he can either humbly yield to and joyfully follow its instruction, or he can try to justify his unscriptural behavior. Often the attempt to justify behavior or desires that run counter to the word of God is covered by the generation of “off the topic” disputes and distractions. Paul tells Titus, “But shun foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law” (Titus 3:9). It is a conversational art to be able to turn the discussion away from those “foolish controversies,” but it has to be done. The Jewish emphasis on “genealogies” or perhaps a Gentile’s overconcern about his ancestry needs to be shunted aside; what is important is whether an individual is “born from above” and maintains the proper scriptural priorities. Some people want to cause “strife,” but again those discussions to be turned aside, requiring some real discipline of the mind in men like Titus. Some want to argue about the Law, as Paul also warned Timothy; even though “they make confident assertions,” “they do not understand what they are saying” (1 Timothy 1:7). “Shun” these conversations, is the apostle’s sage advice, “for they are unprofitable and worthless.”
- A factious man - A person who goes about causing strife and division has an agenda, sometimes hidden and sometimes a little more open. Paul’s instruction to Titus the evangelist is to “reject a factious man after a first and second warning” (Titus 3:10). Often the congregation as a whole does not recognize the divisive nature of the wayward saint. This is often due to his having carefully cultivated his targets, or some of the brethren’s lack of spiritual maturity to recognize the agenda-driven activities of such a person. The evangelists have to be able to recognize factious men (and women), and give them “a first and second warning.” If the warning is not heeded, then the destructive individual needs to be “rejected,” and removed from the congregation.
- Understanding the roots - Whatever controversy is being generated, or whatever unprofitable discussion is being forwarded, it is a cover for more deeply rooted issues. Paul and the Holy Spirit explain: “knowing that such a one is perverted and sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:11). Because of the individual’s refusal to face himself as revealed in the scripture, his thinking gets perverted or twisted, and he continues to justify the sin he should leave behind.
Titus was working in numerous congregations on the island of Crete. Considering the problems that arose in the congregations which are directly discussed in the New Testament epistles, it is reasonable to conclude that the same types of issues would arise in the churches of Crete. Factions and divisions, unfortunately, are fairly common. Some of the seed falls on rocky soil, and some in the midst of the weeds. Such soils, not being of a “good and honest heart,” are breeding grounds for factious and divisive thoughts and behaviors. Titus and all future readers are duly warned of the seriousness of such behavior, and are given the appropriate and divinely-approved actions to take in response.
Closing out Titus
The openings, and especially the closings, of epistles such as this one to Titus, are valuable for special information. They give the modern reader the assurance that these are real letters, written to real brethren, often at a time which can be tied to the record of the book of Acts. Personal details about Paul come to the surface, as well as information about the people in the congregations to which he is writing. By God’s design, they give the letters the ring of authenticity necessary to shut the mouths of the scoffers and doubters of the present age. There are too many threads in too many directions and too many interconnections for these names, places, and events to be anything but real history.
- Artemas and Tychicus - Here the apostle makes mention of two men, saying, “When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you…” (Titus 3:12). This is the only mention of Artemas in the scripture, but he must have been very trusted. Tychicus was one of the men guarding the offering from the Gentile churches to the poor saints in Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). He was a hard-working saint, apparently from Ephesus, and entrusted by Paul with some important missions and ministries.
- Wintering in Nicopolis - After mentioning Artemas and Tychicus, the apostle goes on to say, “make every effort to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there” (Titus 3:12). Nicopolis (getting its name for the Greek word for victory nike) was established by Octavian (soon to be Emperor Augustus) in 29 BC to celebrate his defeat of the combined naval and land forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra in his battle to be Emperor. It is on the west side of the Grecian main peninsula, and opposite the “boot heel” of Italy across the Ionian Sea. So after Paul was under house arrest during which time he wrote the letter 1 Timothy, he was released and eventually made his way to Nicopolis. Nicopolis is not far from Illyricum, where Paul indicated in his letter to the Romans that he had preached the gospel there. This is possibly Paul’s last winter as a free man rather than being imprisoned.
- Two more men - The apostle gave Titus further direction. “Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way,” he advised, “so that nothing is lacking for them” (Titus 3:13). This is the only mention of “Zenas the lawyer,” but the Apollos is probably the same “mighty in the scriptures” preacher who followed Paul into Corinth. The teamwork here is instructive, showing the positive interactions with men like Titus, who was “diligently” to work to get what provisions and finances those two laborers needed.
- Two more men - Titus personally would not have the resources necessary for Zenas and Apollos. “And let our people also learn to engage in good deeds,” further noted Paul, “to meet pressing needs, that they may not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14). Brethren need to be taught to be generous, and to realize that supplying the wherewithal for the gospel to go forward must be a priority. God can and will supply, but it is clear that He wants to use willing people in that process.
The apostle closes: “All those who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all” (Titus 3:15). It is an interesting variation is his close that he uses the expression “love us in the faith.” The fellowship of the faith and participation by faithful brethren is a key part of God’s plan.
The letter to Titus is a rapid-fire set of instructions, covering everything from instructions on the eldership to warnings about encroaching Judaizers. Saints—male and female, young and old—are to exhibit in their lives the doctrines of God. They are to turn away from the deeds of darkness and recognize that they have been saved by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. And there is a major emphasis on the brethren’s need to be zealously “engaged in good deeds.”
This instruction and encouragement to Titus stands out, and is a signal for all other evangelists: “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:15).
Paul to Timothy: Second Epistle
The great apostle Paul, close to the time of his death, incarcerated in Mamertine Prison (as near as we can tell), wrote his last recorded letter to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy. To the end, the apostle was concerned about the continuing forward progress of the gospel, desirous that Timothy have courage in its proclamation and that the sound doctrine delivered through the apostles be preserved. The epistle also informs Timothy that Paul knew that his death (“the time of my departure”) was imminent, and his words provide great encouragement and a great example of how to close earthly life with a strong finish.
- Paul’s apostleship - Timothy knew Paul intimately. Timothy is called “my beloved son” in the opening of this epistle, and Timothy had labored for and alongside Paul for a long time. It is interesting that, even considering the close relationship between the two, Paul and the Holy Spirit chose to open with these words: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (2 Timothy 1:1). Timothy knew that Paul was an apostle of Christ, so it is pretty clear that the Holy Spirit knew that other people would be reading this letter, and the stated apostleship of Paul needed to be clearly established to put the official stamp on the key points and doctrines being iterated. Not physically present with the other apostles during the three and one-half years of Jesus’ earthly sojourn following His immersion, Paul was able to walk by revelation and receive exactly the same information and experiences of the others. Referring to his late entrance into the apostleship as “untimely born” (1 Corinthians 15:8), nevertheless he repeatedly affirmed his standing as an apostle, not sent “from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father” (Galatians 1:1). Thus he would say to his challengers in Corinth, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles” (2 Corinthians 12:12).
- Promise of life - The apostle says that his apostleship “according to the promise of eternal life in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:1). His apostleship, in other words, was for the purpose of helping others have the eternal life found only in Christ Jesus. The prospect of living eternally with God is still hanging in the balance; earthly challenges must be overcome and the faith of the saint must be intact and strengthened. Hence God sets forth “the promise of eternal life,” and grants the indwelling Spirit as the guarantee of His promise to grant the faithful the positive resurrection from the dead. “God,” said Paul to the Corinthian brethren, “gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge” (2 Corinthians 1:22).
The apostle’s greeting to Timothy is somewhat standard, but the content is not to be minimized. “To Timothy, my beloved son,” says he, “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (2 Timothy 1:2). The new covenant is the covenant of grace, as contrasted to the covenant of law wherein there is no grace. The appeal for grace, then, is the appeal for God to overlook any short-comings in the saint. Mercy is another characteristic of that which is found only in Christ, where God is willing to withhold the punishment and wrath rightly due the transgressor; it is worth recalling that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It is appropriate to call for the blessings of grace and mercy as Paul did for Timothy. Peace, then, is the wonderful and awesome result of mercy and grace. Peace with God stems from His having broken down the barrier between the former sinner and God through what He accomplished in Christ, and the Christian’s having participated in the gospel of peace. Peace with God sets the stage for inner peace because the redeemed, again by the powerful action of Him who sits on the throne, has the clean conscience purchased by the sprinkled blood of Christ (by His own High Priestly action). This in turn allows for the development of peace between brethren, and the continuing attempt to have the lost reconciled to the heavenly Father and Creator.
When Paul, along with Silas, made what is called “the second missionary journey,” he traveled across what is now the nation of Turkey, coming to the town then named Lystra. Lystra was one of the locations where Paul and Barnabas had preached the word of God on the first journey. This was the location where Paul healed a man “lame from his mother’s womb, who had never walked” (Acts 14:8). The crowd’s response to this apparently open-air healing was to call the itinerant preachers “gods,” and for the priest of Zeus to want to offer sacrifice with the crowds. It took significant effort to restrain the crowds from making this offering, so impressed were they by the healing that had taken place. But crowds are fickle; shortly the hostile Jews persuaded the mob to stone Paul, drag him out of the city, and leave him for dead. Timothy was either a witness of all this, or at least knew of these events. Luke, in his account in the book of Acts, recorded the selection of Timothy in these words: “Paul wanted this man to go with him” (Acts 16:3), as Timothy “was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:2). Paul and Timothy had a long and deeply established relationship in Christ.
- Thanking God - The apostle Paul, straight-forward and intensely honest, mentions his prayers on Timothy’s behalf. “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did,” states he, “as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that you may be filled with joy” (2 Timothy 1:3,4). What the apostle is driving at, in regard to both himself and Timothy, is that the Jewish system was the correct system until the coming of the new covenant. Both Timothy and Paul were of Israelite ancestry, and Paul emphasizes that he served God in that sense with a clear conscience in accordance with the system handed down from the forefathers. Having laid the groundwork for establishing a common bond, the apostle then goes on to mention how he prays for Timothy on a continual basis. This is not surprising, considering (among other things) how much Paul depended upon Timothy as a faithful and trusted co-worker in the great work to which Paul was totally devoted. The aged apostle truly longs to see Timothy while he is languishing in the prison, later re-emphasizing, “Make every effort to come to me soon” (2 Timothy 4:9). Somehow the poignant memory of Timothy’s “tears,” whenever that happened — whether at Timothy’s immersion or at some other point along the way — floods to Paul’s mind, as he desires to see Timothy and thus “be filled with joy.”
- Sincere faith - “For I am mindful,” adds the apostle, “of the sincere faith within you” (2 Timothy 1:5). The implication is that there are some whose faith is “insincere”; that is, that they are pretending. Not so with Timothy. Paul then gives credit to Timothy’s upbringing in following the way of God, noting that the same sincere faith “which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice,” closing the comment with “and I am sure it is in you as well.”
For it to be recorded that Paul knew Timothy’s grandmother and mother well enough to know how sincere their faith was, and what kind of training they had given Timothy in matters of the Lord, shows how well Paul knew Timothy and his immediate family. This is evidence of the deep bond of fellowship, friendship, and the love of Christ between the two, Paul’s having trusted Timothy so many times with important missions for the kingdom of Christ. “For I have no one else of kindred spirit,” the apostle had stated of Timothy to the Philippian brethren, “who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare” (Philippians 2:20).
It is easy to see, then, why Paul earnestly desired to see Timothy one more time before he passed from this life into the Paradise which he had seen by revelation!
Timothy's "Spiritual Gift"
There is much devilishly-driven confusion about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as “speaking in tongues” and prophesying. The purveyors of false doctrine find room to press their agenda because the scriptures on the topic of the Holy Spirit are scattered, and they have to be connected properly in order to process correctly the scriptural teaching on the “immersion in the Holy Spirit,” the “indwelling Spirit,” and the “gifts” or “manifestations of the Spirit.” For example, in the apostle Paul’s instruction to the church at Corinth about the proper use of the gifts such as prophesying, miracles, and speaking in tongues, he commented, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11). A surface reading of that verse opens the idea that each Christian is to receive one of these miraculous capabilities, and the false teachers drive through that apparent crack in the wall to get their hearers to think that they will be able to possess one of these gifts if they pray enough, believe enough, or have a multitude of people “lay their hands” on them. The key phrase in 1 Corinthians 12:11 is “just as He wills.” An examination of the rest of the scriptures shows that the Holy Spirit willed to give these gifts or manifestations of the Spirit through the laying on of the apostles’ hands!
- Control of the gift - One of the key points in understanding gifts of the Spirit is found in Paul’s exhortation to Timothy. Paul had commented about the sincere faith that was in his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois, and added that he was sure it was in Timothy as well. “And for this reason,” he continues, “I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6). Timothy is to exercise his sincere faith to “stir up” the spiritual gift within him. The picture is a residual set of coals for a fire, still warm, but which need to be stirred with a stick so that the flames rise and more fuel can be added to get the fire going. Since Timothy had not been using his gift and Paul was reminding him to kindle it afresh, it is clear that this gift is one Timothy controls. This is an important piece in “connecting the dots” in understanding how gifts or manifestations of the Spirit were given in the first century; Timothy had control of his gift just as those in Corinth (such as those who prophesied and those who spoke in tongues) controlled their gifts and thus were instructed how to use the gifts.
- Laying on of Paul’s hands - The apostle says that this gift of God was in Timothy “through the laying on of my hands.” This also is an important bridge between the epistles and the book of Acts; this clue points to the “laying on of the apostles’ hands” in Acts concerning receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 6:5,6, the apostles laid hands on Stephen and Philip; in Acts 6:8 Stephen is exercising gifts of the Spirit in “performing great wonders and signs among the people,” and in Acts 8:5-8 Philip is also exhibiting gifts of the Spirit in casting out demons and healing many who had been paralyzed. But only after the apostles laid hands on them. In Acts 19, the apostle Paul, after immersing twelve men in the name of Jesus, laid his hands on them and they were speaking in tongues and prophesying.
Without exception, anyone who has these gifts of God as recorded in the pages of the New Testament has them because one of the apostles of Jesus laid hands on him. (Even those who possess the gifts but who are not apostles, such as Philip in Acts chapter 8, do not have the ability to pass on the gifts; only the apostles.) Timothy is to “kindle afresh” his gift which was in him through the laying on of Paul’s hands, get out there, get to preaching, and have his word confirmed by the signs that would be performed through his use of the gift!
The god of this world has set many things in motion to intimidate God’s saints and to keep them from opening their mouths about the gospel of Jesus Christ. The church in Jerusalem, for example, underwent tremendous persecution fairly soon after its inception from the hand of Saul of Tarsus (the future apostle Paul). Hence the new covenant writings are filled with encouragement and guidance in handling that persecution and intimidation so that the word of God could still be spread.
Timothy himself, from the city of Lystra, became a Christian in the crucible of tribulation that came upon the congregations founded on Paul’s first missionary journey in what is now central Turkey. The persecution and threatening toward him as an evangelist would increase. Herein the apostle exhorts his son in the faith with these words: “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
- Spirit of timidity - The apostle had encouraged Timothy to “fire up” the gift of God which had been bestowed through the laying on of Paul’s hands. For whatever reason, Timothy had backed away from using that gift as much as he should have for the demonstration of the truth of the gospel. Paul then reminds the younger preacher that Timothy had received the indwelling Spirit at his immersion, and the Spirit he received was not a “spirit of timidity.” It is understandable how some fearfulness had set in for Timothy, and it is encouraging that the scripture records this mental battle for future saints to ponder. Paul says, “the timid spirit is not what we received”!
- Power - By contrast, Paul intimates that “we received a Spirit of power.” This is not so much the power connected with miracles as it is power connected with character, a radiation of confidence and ability to control. When Paul wrote to the congregation at Corinth, he was asking them if they wanted him to come in love and gentleness or whether he would have to come “with a rod.” If he had to go head-to-head with miscreants, he was pointing out that “the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:19,20). He would win the confrontation if it had to occur. In Luke chapter four, after Jesus completed His message in his home synagogue at Nazareth, the hostile crowd wanted to throw Him off the cliff where the city had been built. “But passing through their midst,” the scripture recorded, “He went His way” (Luke 4:30). There was a sense of character power about Jesus such that the crowd knew at this point to let Him pass through! That same Spirit of power is available to disciples of Christ today.
- Love - Biblical love is based upon concern for another’s eternity. The apostles and New Testament writers delivered some strong statements to their hearers and readers, endeavoring to help the brethren refocus when necessary so that their eternities could be certain rather than lost. Paul and Timothy received that Spirit of love, and modern saints do also. “Little children,” the aged John exhorted the brethren, “let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth”(1 John 3:18). Seeking and saving the lost is where this love is actuated, followed by working with the saved.
- Discipline - The same Spirit of discipline that pushed Jesus as He made His way to Jerusalem—knowing that the cross awaited Him there—lived in Paul, and as Paul reminded Timothy, in Timothy also. The tremendous power of a mind disciplined and voluntarily controlled by the Holy Spirit is exhibited in the scripture through the lives and events recorded there. Modern saints are indwelled by this same Spirit of discipline, but they need to heed the exhortations and instructions of the New Testament in order for that discipline to be exhibited in their lives.
These words, “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline,” must continue to echo through the minds of each Christian. The chant must be raised in unison, “WE CAN DO THIS!” Let us, then, get it done!!
Not Ashamed of Jesus
The truth of God’s word and the testimony of Christ Jesus has been attacked from the first. All through the Old Testament times, the truth spoken by the Law and the prophets was attacked and twisted, as Peter noted in his “at large” epistle: “False prophets also arose among the people,” he stated (2 Peter 2:1). He went on to apply that same principle to the doctrines of the new covenant, pointing out that “just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” To re-emphasize, then, the pressures to bend, to compromise, to be silent, and to back away are ever present and directly or subtly powerful. Timothy, reminded that he did not receive a spirit of being timid, is thus being encouraged by Paul to overpower the pressures and wiles of the darkness.
- Of the testimony - Based on the statement of Timothy’s receiving the Spirit of power and love and discipline, Paul encourages, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (2 Timothy 1:8). The “testimony of our Lord” is not some sort of “personal testimony” centered upon a person’s feelings when God somehow reached into his life and “touched him,” which is Calvinist-based nonsense. The “testimony of our Lord” is the testimony of the apostles’ eyewitness accounts of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, backed by verifiable miracles as well as Old Testament prophecies and foreshadows. For modern saints, the testimony is what is recorded in the sacred writings. Timothy, then, was not to be ashamed of that testimony, but rather boldly to proclaim it!
- Me, his prisoner - When people are sent to prison, there is a stigma associated with that. In the case of those who committed crimes, the stigma is legitimate; in the case of those jailed for other reasons (such as saying something counter to the current “accepted narrative”), the stigma has been created to intimidate others from saying what needs to be said. Of course, the apostle Paul was not guilty of any crime, but his preaching the gospel and pointing out that man-made gods are not gods at all was bothersome, and he was made to look like a criminal as much as the propaganda organs could paint him as such. Paul thus exhorts Timothy to be bold and not be ashamed “of me His prisoner.” If Timothy were to stand with Paul, he might be jailed also, but the message from heaven is still to “not be ashamed.” It is also interesting that Paul did not consider himself to be a prisoner of Rome, but a prisoner of God, carrying out the Almighty’s purpose from a place in prison. “Do not be ashamed,” he said, “of me His prisoner.”
- Join in the suffering - Bold proclamation results in persecution as the forces of darkness engage their pushback against the gospel of God. “Join with me,” Paul calls Timothy forward, “in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.” The perspective of the apostles, early on when they were flogged for preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the temple grounds, was that they were “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). The challenge issued to Timothy, and indeed to all modern saints, is to charge—rejoicing—into that suffering by boldly teaching and preaching the gospel. If a person will not sacrifice “in the green tree,” what makes him think he will be ready to suffer “in the dry”?
It is interesting how the first century Christians were able to go through such intense suffering, first at the hands of the Jews and later at the hands of the Romans. The scripture records the persecution that came on the church in Jerusalem, and mentions similar types of suffering that came as the gospel spread. Even secular history notes the persecution and deaths of those early saints. How did they come through it victoriously? Paul, as he encourages Timothy to join him in suffering for the gospel, brings out the point that suffering successfully comes through “the power of God.” That same power is available today!!
The Power of God
The power of God in modern times is primarily operative in the realm of the unseen. Forgiveness of sins, the indwelling Spirit, a clean conscience...these are not visible. Their effects might be, but that is not definitive enough as proof for the objective inquirer. While Moses visibly parted the Sea, and the walls tangibly fell on Israel’s enemies, the power of God — while less spectacular in the material realm — is of significantly greater importance to the saint. “Join with me in suffering for the gospel,” Paul had exhorted Timothy, adding, “according to the power of God.” The apostle then begins to list some things that Timothy might draw upon in being strengthened by that power.
- Saved us - “God,” Paul reminds Timothy, “has saved us” (2 Timothy 1:9). It is good to be reminded of our lost condition apart from Christ, the penalty of the eternal fires of hell, what it took on Jesus’ part to go through the agonies of the crucifixion, and the power it took to raise Him from the dead and seat Him triumphantly on the throne. It is good to be reminded of the tremendous effort the Almighty exerted in orchestrating the history necessary to bring Christ into the world, to consider what it took for that history to be recorded and preserved. It is good to be reminded of the efforts of God (who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son) to stage the first preaching of the gospel on the Day of Pentecost AD 30, and to watch over the spread of that saving gospel. Lots of power was required in every step to get the gospel to the Jew, to the initial Gentiles, to the world.
- Called us - The concept of God’s “calling” the saints is a thread that runs through the epistles; another word for the brethren is “the called.” “He called you,” Paul pointed out to the Thessalonians, “through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:14). The apostle again notes for Timothy that He “called us with a holy calling.” The Christian has truly been “set apart” for God’s purposes, and that “holy calling” is to leave the world behind and get on with the business of reaching the lost and caring for the saved.
- According to His purpose - The scripture repeatedly comments that our salvation is “not according to our works,” the idea that somehow people are good enough on their own to merit an entrance into heaven. No, it took God’s love, God’s power, and God’s initiative through His strong right arm to bring salvation to a lost and darkened race. It was “according to His own purpose and grace”; without this purpose and grace there would have been no gospel, no “calling,” and no hope.
- From all eternity - Saints are referred to as those “whose name has been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain” (Revelation 13:8). It has long been a conundrum for the limited mind of man to comprehend how the All Knowing can provide for the free will of man and yet have the foreknowledge as to who will choose the way of life as opposed to the way of death. Paul notes that it was according to God’s purpose that His grace “was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.” God knows; we chose!
The apostle Paul wants Timothy to be strong and courageous in the proclamation of the gospel. He wants him (and ultimately the same for us moderns) not to be ashamed of the testimony of Jesus, and to be able joyfully to join in the suffering for the sake of the gospel. We moderns as well as Timothy need the reminders of God’s power that works on our behalf — evidenced in the plan of salvation, the holy calling provided by God, and the grace granted to His saints. Those points, held tenaciously in the forefront of the mind, are critical in the brethren’s successful suffering for the sake of the gospel.
The Revelation of the Gospel
The seeds of the gospel are there in the Old Testament writings, but they were hidden from the view of man. The apostle Paul, in writing to the Corinthians about “hidden wisdom” connected with the gospel, quoted from the prophet Isaiah: “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). These things which were hidden were given to the apostles, as Paul also noted, “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:10). What awesome “things” God has prepared through Jesus Christ for those who truly love Him! God “saved us,” Paul has reminded Timothy, and “called us with a heavenly calling,” in conjunction with His purpose and grace “from all eternity.” But it was not made known to the sons of men until the coming of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Now revealed - One expression which occasionally shows up in Paul’s epistles to the evangelists is connected with Christ’s “appearing.” God’s grace “appeared,” the apostle had noted (Titus 2:11); and His kindness and love for mankind “appeared” (Titus 3:4). Thus in his second epistle to Timothy, in speaking of God’s overall plan to reach mankind, he writes, that it “has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 1:10). God’s envisioning for the redemption of the lost and His granting the indwelling Spirit could not have been accomplished without Christ’s coming in the flesh, without His crucifixion and burial, without His resurrection, and without His appearances to qualified witnesses following that resurrection. Through the preaching and teaching of the apostles and new testament prophets from the Day of Pentecost onward, this complete plan of God is now said to be “revealed.”
- Death abolished - “Our Savior Jesus Christ,” averred the apostle Paul, “abolished death” (2 Timothy 1:10). Two simple, but powerful words: “abolished death”! “Fear of death” is one of the strongest forces affecting the minds of men. The writer of the letter of Hebrews, for example, pointed out that “through fear of death” men “were subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:15). “Christ,” Hebrews’ author emphasized, partook of flesh and blood that “He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). Christ indeed “abolished death” and His adherents are freed from “fear of death” to carry out their missions for the Savior and King.
- Life to light - This coming of Jesus into the world, culminating in His ascension, “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). “Life and immortality” were there “from all eternity,” but their substance was not able to be processed by man until the disciplined spiritual educational process was put into effect through the gospel. Jesus, during the years of His earthly sojourn, brought saliency to this concept, stating, “he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). Or, as the Lord had pointed out to Martha as He approached the village wherein lay the body of Lazarus, “everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:26). The Christian, if he remains faithful, is in fact alive forevermore! Life and immortality have been brought to light through the gospel.
The apostle Paul counted it a tremendous privilege to be a purveyor of the message of eternal life. “I thank Jesus Christ,” he had stated in his first epistle to Timothy, that He “considered me faithful, putting me into service” (1 Timothy 1:12). But he not only was grateful to be a part of God’s reconciliation of the world to himself, he also had tremendous confidence in its truthfulness and in his proclamation, as he had reminded the Thessalonians, “our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). For this gospel Paul was “appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher” (2 Timothy 1:11). What a legacy!
Strength for Suffering
Paul had just told Timothy that he was not to be ashamed of the apostles’ testimony about Christ. In fact, he added that Timothy was to “join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8). Suffering and proclamation of the gospel (and its concomitant “sound doctrine”) go together. Jesus had warned the apostles, while He was making the trek from the upper room (where He had instituted the Lord’s Supper) to the Garden of Gethsemane, about the hostility of what He called “the world” to God’s truth and God’s ways. “If the world hates you,” He explained, “you know that it has hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18). Satan and his angels rebelled in heaven, and have done their part to extend that rebellion to earth by working in the minds of the sons of men. “Therefore,” noted the Lord, “the world hates you” (John 15:19). That enmity can even carry over into the heart of the Christian if he does not maintain his proper focus; “the mind set on the flesh,” said Paul to the saints in Rome, “is hostile toward God” (Romans 8:7). “Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” the apostle queried the Galatian brethren, who were in danger of drifting into the mind set on the flesh. Suffering, then, is going to be a part of the experience of the dedicated saint during his years on earth.
- Not ashamed - Paul was appointed, as he put it, “a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.” Certain of the validity of his immersion, confident in his ability as a teacher, having been set aside by the laying on of hands of the leadership at Antioch to do the work of an evangelist and missionary, and having specifically been marked out as an apostle of Jesus Christ, he was not deterred by sufferings and persecutions. “For this reason,” he says, referring to his appointment, “I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed” (2 Timothy 1:12). These words are here to encourage Timothy likewise not to be ashamed.
- I know - There are a couple of important pieces in the foundation for Paul’s confidence. One of those he expresses in these terms: “I know,” he states, “whom I have believed.” Paul, by revelation, experienced the same things as the other apostles; hence much of the work going into Luke’s gospel came from Paul, and it parallels the other eyewitness accounts concerning Christ during His time on earth. He also had by revelation seen the events connected with Christ in His ascension to glory, and describes himself as a witness of these things. “I K-N-O-W.” He not only knew Christ in the flesh, but he knew Him as the revelation of the great God of glory.
- I am convinced - The second point in his foundation for confidence is this: “I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). What a blessing to have these words of assurance, “He is able.” Paul is not dependent on his strength alone. He rightly is convinced that he can entrust to the Almighty all that is necessary for him to attain to the resurrection of the dead. The apostle was trusting the Lord to keep His promise of granting remission of sins through the gospel; the apostle also was counting on the indwelling Spirit given him at his immersion as the guarantee of his positive resurrection.
The apostle could use the terminology “I know,” and “I am convinced,” with power and conviction. The modern saint, if his faith and appropriate obedience are based correctly on what the Bible says, can use that same terminology. “By this we know,” also affirmed the apostle John, “that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given of us His Spirit” (1 John 4:13). With the same full assurance of faith, the Christian of today can go through the upcoming suffering without being ashamed, and confident also of his positive resurrection from the dead!
Retain the Standard
The devil is real, and the demonic forces are working in every area of human existence. The goal of the realm of darkness is to keep people from the light in the first place, and to knock them out of the light in the second. Paul, in writing to the church at Ephesus, had commented that “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14). The pressures for an evangelist to cave in to the whims and vagaries of a fickle public are strong also. The apostle Paul emphasized in his epistle to the Galatian brethren, who were being subjected to pressure to cave in to the Judaizers, “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). Timothy, who had to be encouraged to use the gift of God which was in him through the laying on of Paul’s hands, needs some strengthening here.
- Sound Words - There are empty words, doctrines conjured up out of the imaginations of men, without substance or backing. By contrast, Paul tells Timothy to “Retain the standard of sound words” (2 Timothy 1:13). These “sound words” are those with the backing of God, who exerted tremendous effort in establishing the truthfulness of the Old Testament, and used those to lay the groundwork for the New Testament. These sound words, Paul says, are those “which you have heard from me.” God showed his support for the testimony of the apostles, as Paul noted in his comments to the church at Corinth, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles” (2 Corinthians 12:12). These words, then, are trustworthy, and there are no other words used on planet earth that match the scriptures for having been established as embodying “the truth.”
- Retain the Standard - As mentioned, the pressures to conform to the world are strong. When Paul therefore tells Timothy to “retain the standard of sound words,” that is an injunction for him (and all future teachers and preachers) to hold the line against encroachments of false doctrines. Sometimes the encroachments come from the “law side,” as Paul pointed out to the Galatian brethren, saying that “false brethren who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage” (Galatians 2:4). They “sneaked in”! And sometimes the encroachments come from the “lawless side.” “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed,” was Jude’s concerned comment, “ungodly persons who turn the grace of God into licentiousness” (Jude 1:4). They “crept in”! There are always powerful forces at work against the truth of scripture doctrines, and Timothy is going to have to be very mentally tough and determined to “retain the standard.”
There is a tendency, when a saint is trying to maintain the standard of sound doctrine, to be defensive about it, and not handle the situation well. So when Paul was discussing the “winds of doctrine” and the “trickery of men,” he followed that with these words: “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Stephen, the first recorded martyr for the faith, was a great example of so doing. When men from the Synagogue of the Freedmen (which apparently included one Saul of Tarsus, later this very same apostle Paul) argued with him, “they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking” (Acts 6:10). The apostle Paul therefore exhorts Timothy to retain the standard of sound words “in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). The faith would be a necessary ingredient in Timothy’s being able to conduct himself well, Timothy’s believing that God would strengthen him with power through His Spirit in the inner man. Likewise, the love would be necessary, giving the lost or straying maximum opportunity to change their lives to align with God’s word. The Father’s mission is still to seek and save that which was lost; but that seeking and saving can only be done through the truthfulness of “the standard of sound words.”
Guarding the Treasure
In writing to the brethren in Rome, the apostle Paul spoke of “the Spirit of God” who “indwells you” (Romans 8:9). So how is it that some say that the Spirit does not indwell the Christian? Sometimes the question is asked, “How does the Holy Spirit dwell in Christians?” as a hostile question, meaning that if the answer cannot be perfectly explained, then the Spirit cannot dwell in the saint. A counter thrust in the argumentation would be (taking a cue from Jesus), “I will answer your question about how the Spirit indwells the Christian when you answer this one: ‘How did the Holy Spirit overshadow Mary so that she conceived Jesus in her womb?’ ” Both of those questions are unanswerable by the human mind, so the questioner simply has to accept the straightforward statement of the scripture; the Holy Spirit did overshadow Mary, and a person who is obedient to Acts 2:38 receives the gift of Spirit. The apostle Paul is emphatic that if a person is not indwelt by the Spirit he is not a Christian, stating it in these terms, “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9). In writing his second recorded epistle to Timothy, Paul gives this charge: “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:14).
- The treasure - The apostle had stated, just a few verses earlier, that he truly believed in the power of the Christ who had abolished death and brought life and immortality to life through the gospel. “I am convinced,” he had added, “that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). Now he tells Timothy to guard the treasure entrusted to him. Timothy, like all disciples of Christ, would need, in the words of the apostle Peter, “to make certain about His calling and choosing you” (2 Peter 1:10). The “treasure” of Timothy’s salvation of his own soul would definitely need to be guarded; Paul pointed out to the Corinthian brethren that he would “buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Since the possibility of being disqualified is there, the treasure of Timothy’s fellowship with Christ certainly would need to be guarded. But Paul had also enjoined Timothy to “retain the standard of sound words.” Another thing to which Timothy had been entrusted was the preaching of the true doctrines of Christ. That “standard” would strongly need to be guarded as the treasure which would work to ensure the salvation of others.
- The indwelling Spirit - Guarding the treasure is “through the Holy Spirit who indwells us.” The battle for the saint to keep his salvation intact is very intense, as indicated by many scriptures on different aspects of this point. The apostle Peter, for example, has some very strident warnings. “Abstain from fleshly lusts,” he adverted, “which wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). He also added, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Clearly, there is an intense Satanically driven campaign to destroy the salvation of each saint, and he is going to need to be “strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” to win that battle (Ephesians 3:16). Similarly, the pressures to compromise on “the standard of sound words” are very intense. The record of what was happening to the churches in Galatia as noted by Paul, and the tremendous battle against the ravages of the Gnostic antichrists referenced in John’s epistles establish how much strengthening and encouraging each promulgator of the truth needs.
The modern saint would be well served to ponder, meditate upon, contemplate, and apply these words: “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who indwells us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you”!!
Some Losers and Winners
The epistles of Paul occasionally bring forth some personal points about people in Paul’s life, or circumstances which he underwent. Such glimpses lend credibility to the authenticity of the letters, but they also provide some encouraging examples for modern brethren. But these same letters bring out some negatives about people who became Paul’s enemies (and thus enemies of the Lord, although they probably did not see it that way); these negatives are also instructive, and help modern saints to keep their focus in the midst of major confusion and disruption. Every word of these epistles is inspired, and designed to be passed on by the Holy Spirit Himself.
- Turning away - The apostle Paul often demonstrated his apostleship by the types of miracles he could perform, as contrasted to false apostles. In Ephesus (where Timothy apparently was at the writing of this epistle), Paul had performed some really awesome miracles to verify his eyewitness account of the events concerning Jesus and his inspired presentation of the way of salvation. “And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul,” states Luke is his history, “so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out” (Acts 19:11,12). The result was “that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10). And yet, less than 20 years later, the apostle writes, “You are aware of the fact,” he emphasizes, “that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes” (2 Timothy 1:15). What sad words for the man who gave so much to get the gospel to the province of Asia, and who is now languishing in prison for the cause of Christ, to have to report. If “all Asia” could be turned away from Paul, moderns get a sense of how intense the spiritual battle is, and how destructive men like Phygelus and Hermogenes must have been to be specifically named in the eternal scriptures as possible leaders in the turning away. Learn and take warning!
- Onesiphorus - But in the midst of all the gravel there are jewels. In contrast to the other two, Paul writes in glowing terms of Onesiphorus, “The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chains” (2 Timothy 1:16). When there is a repressive government, as in the case of Rome as it ratcheted up its persecution of Christianity, a question might arise in the mind of a person as to whether he would like to have his name associated with such a visible “miscreant” as the apostle Paul. Hence the praise for Onesiphorus is high: “often refreshed me,” and — this is a big one — “was not ashamed of my chains.” The effort of this faithful saint is appreciated and noticed, as Paul commented, “but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me, and found me” (2 Timothy 1:17). What an effort that must have been, to work through the chaotic streets of Rome, and to search through the dank prisons to find the apostle! But this was not the only accomplishment of merit in Onesiphorus’ case. “You know,” Paul recalls for Timothy, who apparently was physically present, “very well what services he rendered at Ephesus” (2 Timothy 1:18). This was a truly awesome saint, unnamed except in this epistle, but certainly receiving due recognition in the Lamb’s book of life.
Two different directions: Phygelus and Hermogenes turning away from Paul and the gospel; Onesiphorus, a faithful and humble servant, willing to do the things of low visibility, but of great value. The first two do not have a happy eternity. But Paul prayed for Onesiphorus, that the Lord would grant him mercy for his service to Paul, and again, “the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day.” That day is coming soon, as Jesus returns at the last trumpet. May each of us find mercy on that day also!
Be Strong in Grace
The apostle Paul, possibly more than any other of his contemporaries, knew first-hand of the tremendous pressure placed on promulgators of the true gospel of God. Early in his teaching career in Christ, his enemies tried to put him to death in Damascus. When he made his way to Jerusalem, before long the Hellenistic Jews there were attempting to execute him. That pressure never let up until he was released from his body shortly after the completion of this epistle. If he would have compromised his message a bit, much of that pressure would have gone away, the concessions satisfying his opposition.
In writing to the congregations in Galatia, the apostle detailed the intensity of these forces placed upon those who preached the true and unadulterated gospel of Christ. The apostle Peter, for example, caved in to the Judaizers working in Antioch of Syria, refusing to eat with Gentile Christians. “He began to withdraw and hold himself aloof,” Paul recounted, “fearing the party of the circumcision” (Galatians 2:12). The fact that even the apostle Peter was driven into hypocrisy by these forces shows how intense these coercive elements were. But Paul is very straight forward about how important it is to stand firm in the face of such opposition. “If I were still trying to please men,” he noted, “I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). He was able to withstand such pressures because, as he put it in his first epistle to Timothy, “Christ Jesus our Lord … who has strengthened me” (1 Timothy 1:12). Such strength is available to all Christians, as Peter encouraged the brethren who speak forth the word of God to do so “by the strength which God supplies” (1 Peter 4:11). It takes extra strength, but it is exciting that God will assist the faithful saint, offering for each “to be strengthened with power in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).
- Be strong - To Timothy, then, the apostle exhorts, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1). Paul knows that he is about to make his departure from planet earth, and it is his earnest desire that Timothy continue the legacy of unbending preaching of the whole gospel of God. With Paul’s passing, the forces of darkness would leap at the opportunity to make further inroads into the church and in public defamation of the church and the name of Jesus Christ. Having seen his fellow apostle Peter crumple under pressure, and having witnessed the hypocrisy of his fellow preacher Barnabas, the apostle Paul is appealing to Timothy to be strong enough to withstand those coming storm winds of persecution and false doctrine. In fact, shortly after Paul’s death, the writer of Hebrews commented that Timothy himself had been in prison, and that he had just been released (Hebrews 13:23). Timothy clearly needed that strength!
- Grace in Christ Jesus - “Grace,” as mentioned, not only refers to God’s providing a mechanism for forgiveness of sins, but it is more than that. The previously detailed “strength” is part of what is supplied through God’s grace. But even things like circumstances, or special people at the right time, or food and clothing for the soldier of Christ come under the heading of “grace.” An example of God’s grace in Paul’s case, or His Providence, occurred when more than forty Jews took an oath to neither eat nor drink until “they had killed Paul.” The plan was to overpower Paul’s Roman guards while he was being escorted from the jailhouse to the courthouse and “slay him.” Here the grace of God came in: “But the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, and he came and entered the barracks and told Paul” (Acts 23:12-16). The plot was thus foiled, and Paul was able to begin his journey to Rome.
Timothy was very familiar with the details of Paul’s life, and knew that Paul’s end would not come until the Lord Himself decided that his work on earth was done. He therefore could take good courage from the words, “my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
Entrust to Faithful Men
The earnest desire of God is for His word to reach out to all men. In fact, these words of Jesus in giving His commission vibrate with that intensity: “Go into all the world,” said He, “and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). But one person’s trying to do everything by himself is not going to get much done. Jesus Himself early in His ministry selected twelve to help multiply His efforts, and later He enlisted another seventy. Not all of the twelve worked out, Judas betraying Jesus at the end of the Lord’s earthly ministry. But of the others Jesus noted in commendation, “You are those who have stood by Me in My trials” (Luke 22:28). It is clear, then, that He had implemented a selection process in which He had recruited tested and trusted men, who would be able to carry out His commission faithfully. This process also the apostle Paul had learned and implemented.
- Things you have heard - The apostle had exhorted Timothy to be strong in Christ’s grace. The elements of that grace had been communicated to Timothy, as well as all the other aspects of “the apostles’ doctrine.” Paul phrases the point in these terms: “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses...” (2 Timothy 2:2). These “things” would comprise what the angel told the apostles as he was delivering them from jail in Acts chapter five: “Go your way, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life” (Acts 5:20). This would include everything from the life of Jesus, to the way of salvation through immersion, to the teaching about the church as the kingdom of God, to the events of Jesus’ second coming, and all doctrines in between. Timothy heard it all from Paul, “in the presence of many witnesses.”
- Entrust to faithful men - It is a facet of reality that not all Christians are faithful or spiritual. When the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatian brethren, he commented on the issue of handling saints who have sinned. “Even if a man is caught in any trespass,” he stated, “you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1). Unspiritual brethren would not handle well the delicate matter of holding the trespassing saint accountable, and yet restoring “such a one” to fellowship with Christ and with the brethren. Similarly, Paul writes to Timothy about all the teachings of the new covenant, saying, “these entrust to faithful men.” Those in church leadership, such as Timothy, have to be very objective about the current capabilities of those who desire to serve in the body of Christ. Some are new, some haven’t grown much, some lack the communication skills necessary, but some are the “faithful men” who have the desire and the capacity to learn, and to communicate as teachers, the words of life.
- Teach others - Entrust these things “to faithful men,” asseverated the apostle, “who will be able to teach others also.” It is in the process of the faithful men’s continuing to teach “the whole purpose of God” that the multiplication of effort is going to take place. This statement of Paul to Timothy, then, is one of the most critical of the instructions that he gave his “son in the faith.”
Having an effective system of discipleship is also critical in today’s distribution of the gospel. “The whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27) must still be taught; disciples must be made, immersed, and then continue to be taught all things that Jesus has commanded. That system must include the process of proving definitions of key words, since this takes the doctrines out of the realm of opinion and puts them on the firm footing of scripture itself. The system must be “learnable”; that is, it must be similar to the process of how Math is learned, beginning from “pluses and take-aways” all the way through the complexities of calculus. It must be “teachable”; organized in such a way that a faithful brother can step into the process and be effective. And it must be “duplicatable”; it must be a system wherein the new Christian can be brought to the point where he is a faithful saint, and thus able to teach others also.
Soldiers, Athletes, and Farmers
An effective evangelist is going to face many challenges along his journey as a faithful proclaimer of God’s living word. In the physical realm, there will be many travel obstacles such as bad roads, long hours, mechanical breakdowns, and other unforeseen (at a human level ) hazards (no different from anyone else out there working in earth’s physical environment). There will be “strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances” (2 Corinthians 12:20). There will be “dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from countrymen, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers from false brethren” (2 Corinthians 11:26). There will be pressures to compromise the word of God “just a little bit,” to make it more “palatable,” and to be “less offensive and more loving” in its presentation. The apostle Paul set the example, as he emphasized to those Corinthian brethren, “For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 2:17). Hence the apostle has some advice with which to challenge and encourage the young preacher.
- Soldier - The spiritual warfare in which the evangelist is engaged is aptly compared to a soldier in battle. “Suffer hardship with me,” Paul encourages Timothy (and all other evangelists in the future), “as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3). There will be a lot of slogging through the mud, and bearing up under enemy fire. “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4). A true evangelist knows that his work is primarily seeking and saving the lost, coupled with establishing and stabilizing congregations so that the new and older brethren will be sustained spiritually. The soldier knows what his duty is; and he is to focus on that, rather than going AWOL (Absent With Out Leave). If a preacher gets pulled into thinking that he has a “job” of being a “minister” to a congregation with office hours and a lot of nonsense, he is actually being entangled. “Everyday life” must not interfere with the tremendous mission of getting the gospel out!
- Athlete - For an athlete to be competitive at a high level, his discipline and training must be consistent and adhered to strictly. Any sport has its rules, boundaries, and often time limitations, and part of the training is disciplining the body to stay inside those boundaries and pay close attention to the markers. “And if anyone competes as an athlete,” Paul further illustrates for Timothy, “he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5). Stepping outside the boundaries or breaking the rules results in disqualification; the doctrines of the word of God must be carefully preached and taught by the budding evangelist, and his character must match the principles contained within the scriptures’ contents.
- Farmer - Farmers definitely sow “in hope,” weed the crop “in hope,” and harvest “in hope” of feeding themselves, having enough for next year’s planting, making expenses, and garnering a bit of profit. The work of an evangelist is very similar; much work must be done before there is any semblance of a return. “The hard-working farmer,” notes the apostle, “ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops” (2 Timothy 2:6). There needs to be some financial compensation for the laborer; even Jesus, who could have had manna fall from the sky or could have turned stones into bread, put himself in the position where He too had to be sustained by contributions from His followers. In the same way, those who preach the gospel need to get their living from the gospel in order to maintain their proper focus.
“Consider what I say,” is Paul’s summary statement, “for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:7). Timothy’s continuing life experiences —in earnestly desiring to make and keep disciples — would give him, by God’s providential hand, an understanding of the principles the apostle is herein setting forth.
Hardship for the Gospel
The gospel of God faces tremendous opposition from Satan and his assembled forces of darkness. Because Satan is a spirit, the evidence of his activity can only be properly appraised by those whose minds are trained by scripture and experience to recognize the effects of his machinations. The intense spiritual battles con-nected with the spread of the gospel tend not to be recognized by those who citizenship is only on earth; hence struggle for souls experienced by an evangelist like Timothy is often a struggle that, from a human perspective, is a struggle alone. The apostle Paul, in writing to the brethren in Philippi, had positive comments about Timothy which also illustrate that even among saints there can be a lack of understanding of the full force of the battle. “For I have no one else of kindred spirit,” stated the apostle, “who will genuinely be concerned about your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:20,21). It is from prison, then, that the apostle now writes words of encouragement to one who also knows the intensity of the warfare for the souls of the saints and of the lost.
- Remember Jesus Christ - Return, then, to first principles! “Remember Jesus Christ,” the apostle exhorts, “risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel” (2 Timothy 2:8). It is good to go back to basic but powerful principles and points whenever a person is in the chaos of battle. It truly is all about Jesus Christ, “for from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36). But what about Jesus? He is a “descendant of David according to my gospel,” and thus the fulfillment of hordes of Old Testament prophecies which laid the foundation for the truthfulness of the gospel. He is “risen from the dead,” exalted as Prince, Savior, and High Priest, and worthy of all glory and honor and victory. This, then, is in accordance with the gospel which Paul delivered to Timothy, which, Paul stated, “I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12).
- Suffer hardship - As the apostle considers the awesomeness of the revelation he was given concerning Jesus Christ, and as he considers the value of the souls it is designed to save, he notes his willingness to endure difficulties in order for the gospel to progress. Of this gospel he says, “for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal” (2 Timothy 2:9). “For this reason,” he superadds, “I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Jesus Christ and with it eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10).
- Not imprisoned - Even though Paul was in prison in Rome (possibly in the famed Mamertine Prison), he encouragingly says, “but the word of God is not imprisoned.” It is exciting to know that God is “watching over His word, to perform it” (Jeremiah 1:12). The apostle knew that even though he “labored more then all of them [the other apostles],” and thus scattered seed over more acres of ground, that it is “God who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 15:10; 3:6). How comforting it would have been for this valiant warrior of the faith to know that the word of God was still working, even though he was languishing in prison.
A proclaimer of the gospel such as Timothy is thus warned that in the spiritual conflict of darkness vs. light that much hardship is to be expected. The things concerning Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David according to the flesh, are unchanging and eternal. If therefore the servant of Christ suffers, even to the point of imprisonment, the word of God will continue to go forth. “So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth,” stated the Almighty through Isaiah. “It shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
Chosen, Salvation, Glory
Sometimes those who penned the scriptures under inspiration from the Holy Spirit brought forth massive, awesome, and sweeping concepts in a space smaller than a single sentence! The apostle Paul had told Timothy to be in remembrance of Jesus Christ in all that he did and taught, a Jesus that was risen from the dead, and the truths about Him revealed in the gospel which Paul preached. He then added that it was for these gospel truths that he suffered hardships, hardships which even included being locked up in prison as if he were some sort of criminal. He then adds, “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10). Massive, awesome, sweeping concepts!
- Those who are chosen - The issue of “chosen” is one of the major themes of the scripture, and also one which has generated a lot of controversy. Calvinist teaching, which infects almost all Protestantism, inculcates that man does not have a choice in his salvation, that God in His sovereignty cherry-picks who will be saved and who will not. But the scripture is clear and emphatic in its presentation of the gospel that individuals themselves decide whether or not they will obey the gospel. As Peter (and the other apostles) first proclaimed the good news of Christ’s being the Messiah and the salvation found in Him, the scriptures records, “And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation’ ” (Acts 2:40). Every person on the planet is in the process of deciding where he will spend eternity, by intent or neglect. Each is “called” through the gospel of God, and becomes part of “the called” when he obeys that gospel. He also becomes part of “the chosen” in the same process, having met the terms by which the All Wise determines who will be a part of His team. But His “calling” and “choosing” must be sustained by the disciple of Christ or he will be disqualified; he must remain “faithful.” “The Lamb,” wrote the apostle John in his apocalypse, will overcome all the forces of darkness, “because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).
- The salvation - The word of God periodically reminds its readers of the dreadful consequences of not obeying the gospel of Christ in repentance and immersion for forgiveness of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. God will be “dealing out retribution,” the apostle saliently pointed out, “to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” And what is the nature of this retribution? “These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8,9). Only in processing the penalty of not obeying the gospel can the saint put a proper assessment on the great salvation offered through Jesus Christ. The Lord indeed “loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood” (Revelation 1:5).
- Eternal glory - With “the salvation,” affirmed the apostle Paul, is “eternal glory.” Paul commented that his personal glimpse of Paradise was such that he heard “inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak,” and the glimpse was contained in what he called “the surpassing greatness of the revelations” (2 Corinthians 12:4,7). If that terminology was applied to mere Paradise, the temporary stop on the way to heaven, how much more glorious would be the description of heaven itself. Properly understood, the awesomeness of such glory is worthy of all our efforts in attaining to the proper resurrection of the dead.
Paul considers his participation in the gospel as worth all the hardship and imprisonments for the benefits which would accrue to those who heard and heeded his message. For others to be considered “the chosen,” to have the “salvation which is in Jesus Christ,” and for them to enter into the attendant “eternal glory” was the driving force in his life!
Major “Trustworthy Statement”
There are five of what the King James Version called “faithful sayings” in the epistles to the evangelists. In the order in which these are being covered, the fifth shows up here in 2 Timothy. After speaking of the wonders of saints’ being chosen, possessing salvation, and attaining to eternal glory, the apostle Paul then brings this to Timothy’s attention: “It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him; If we endure, we shall also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:11-13). When the apostle speaks of the “trustworthy statement,” another way of putting it is, “You can believe this.”
- If we died with Him... - “For if we died with Him...” is the proposition put forth by the apostle. Paul is taking brethren back to their immersions into Christ as a beginning point. “We were buried with Him through immersion into death,” he had stated, speaking clearly of a spiritual death and burial rather than a physical one. Immersion in water certainly looks like a burial, and it is the key to the saint’s old self being crucified and buried spiritually. “Or do you not know that all of us who have been immersed into Christ Jesus have been immersed into His death?” (Romans 6:3). “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God,” is the way the apostle phrased it in writing to the Colossian brethren (Colossians 3:3). No one can claim to have “died with Him” apart from being properly immersed into Christ.
- We shall also live with Him - The key part of the quotation is the following phrase, “we shall also live with Him.” As important as dying to self is, being alive in Christ is much more significant. “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God [literally: by the faith of the Son of God], who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). What has been built is more important than what has been destroyed. The new structure supersedes what was destroyed.
- If we endure... - The road of faith which the Christian must walk successfully (with help from the indwelling Spirit if the saint avails himself of the help) is not an easy road. Jesus Himself walked that path ahead of us, and it was not easy for Him. The apostles and first century saints were challenged in finishing their journeys in victory, as both the scripture and secular records show. Hence the saints are exhorted, “if we endure, we shall reign with Him.” Clearly, the rewards of endurance greatly outweigh whatever persecution and privation the saint may face in walking in the footsteps of Christ.
- If we deny Him... - “Whoever shall deny Me before men,” stated the Lord Jesus, “I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33). The good profession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God is to be maintained under all circumstances, and the terms of the faith of Christ are to be upheld. Even being ashamed of Jesus and His words are grounds for disqualification (Mark 8:38).
- If we are faithless... - “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.” James described God as “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). The fickleness of man and his failures to keep his commitments is no measure of God; He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). “Let God be found true,” wrote the apostle Paul, “though every man be found a liar” (Romans 3:4). How comforting and encouraging it is to know that He will keep the promises He has made, and that He will not in any way renege on His word.
This “trustworthy statement” is a significant encapsulation of the faithfulness of God, and the exhortation for saints to maintain their Biblically defined faith regardless of circumstances. Much oil is needed for the lamp of faith!
The Main Thing...
It has been well-said that “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” It is so easy for focus to be lost, for discussions to drift into the irrelevant, and for honest enquirers to be turned aside because of nonsensical wastes of time. Timothy, as an evangelist, has to be very conscious of this, both in his presentations of truth on an individual basis, as well as maintaining “crowd control” in group settings. To do that effectively, Timothy would have to exhibit the “power, love, and discipline” mentioned earlier in the epistle.
- Another reminder - The apostle Paul had just mentioned that Timothy should have a focus on remembering Jesus Christ and the gospel of God. Then followed the poetic exhortation that would encourage the brethren to endure in living for Christ, knowing that the reward of reigning with Him would come with that endurance and faithfulness. “Remind them of these things,” Paul instructs Timothy (2 Timothy 2:14).
- Solemnly charge - The apostle then superadds, “and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless, and leads to the ruin of the hearers.” This must be a very significant point: an emphasis on “solemnly charge” indicates that some of the brethren have a tendency to hone in on petty points, and thus miss (maybe deliberately so) the thrust of the issue being discussed. In addition, the apostle calls to mind that these discussions are done “in the presence of God,” putting further weight on this exordium. In the first epistle to Timothy, Paul warned about the type of person who has “a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions” (1 Timothy 6:4). There is no reason for the person with the “morbid interest” — a spiritual death wish — to drag everyone else down also. Just creating controversy and wrangling about words to fill up class time does indeed lead to the ruin of the hearers. “Killing time” leads to “killing” people’s eternities.
- Workman - Paul therefore urges Timothy to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The expression “handling accurately” as the NASB translates it, has its roots in the idea of making a “straight cut.” A picture of a skilled stone-cutter, for example, making his precise cut in the quarry rock comes to mind. If he doesn’t execute correctly, the whole piece is ruined, and he has to start over. A young man would have to be willing to serve his apprenticeship and learn what was necessary to be able to handle the tools effectively, and to develop the attendant skills as well. This is a great picture of the process of being able to handle the word of God effectively, to know how to begin from the proper beginning point in dealing with a question or issue, and how to “exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). “Be diligent,” in this, says Paul. Being a skilled workman and able to handle accurately the word of truth is no minor point!
- Another warning - Speaking of the tongue, James stated, “the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity” (James 3:6). “How great a forest,” he said, “is set aflame by such a small fire” (James 3:5). Thus the apostle Paul follows up his exhortation to Timothy in proper handling of the word of truth by warning about people’s undisciplined tongues. “But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene” (2 Timothy 2:16,17). A clear picture...
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Worldly and empty chatter, wrangling about words, and morbid interest in controversial questions are destructive diversions, getting the important discussion and teaching off course, and leading to the destruction of the hearers. Since these are “words of eternal life,” these injunctions of Paul to Timothy should resonate with all those who desire to teach and preach today, as well as for those who participate in those settings.
The Firm Foundation Stands
The war for the minds of men is, at the core, a war of words. Words are carriers of thought and concept, and it is on these that the eternities of mankind rests. Hence God chose to communicate to the whole world by “the sacred writings,” and He chose to have that word preached and taught. Satan, the god of this world and the god of confusion, uses false and lying words to confuse, distract, and redirect mankind away from the path of truth and life. Paul had just charged Timothy to instruct the brethren not to wrangle about words because such wrangling leads to the ruin of the hearers. Worldly and empty chatter, he said, leads to further ungodliness. All about words!
- A prime example - Disconcertingly, the apostle has a prime example for Timothy, in discussing how the wrong kind of talk “will spread like gangrene.” “Among them,” adverts Paul, “are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth”(2 Timothy 2:17,18). He is willing to name names, and flatly says that they are gone! The crime: they were “saying that the resurrection has already taken place.” Words!
- Taken place? - It is possibly a little difficult for the modern Christian to process how someone could go around saying that the resurrection had already occurred. That is because the saint of today has the complete teaching concerning Christ’s coming and the concomitant resurrection. Furthermore, the words are in print. In the case of the first century Christians, they often did not have the words in print, and had to rely upon trusted leaders for information. It is easy for rumors to abound where there are shadows around, and thus the talk spread.
- The resurrection - While the false teachers were spreading the lie that the resurrection had taken place, it is clear that the resurrection had not. The word of God is very consistent in speaking of only one, not multiple resurrections as would have to be the case if the pre-millennial “rapture” system were true. Looking to the faithful saints’ participation in the loaf and the cup, Jesus said, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:54). That “raising up” — the resurrection — will be on the last day. The Lord also spoke of “an hour” in which “all who are in the tombs” would hear His voice and would come forth in either a resurrection of judgment or a “resurrection of life” (John 5:28,29).
- Foundation - In his argumentation with an imaginary Jew described in the book of Romans, the apostle deals with the unbelief of some and that relationship to the authenticity of the message preached. “If some did not believe,” Paul posited, “their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?” (Romans 3:3). Similarly, the fact that “the faith of some” had been upset because of some “empty talkers” does not invalidate the truth of the scriptures concerning the resurrection of the dead. “Nevertheless,” intones the apostle, “the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness.’” (2 Timothy 2:19). No matter how confusing the rumors or how turbulent the events might be on earth, the firm foundation of God stands!
The faithful saint knows what he believes because he has studied and tested the word of God and found it to be true. He has examined his own salvation and checked his belief and obedience against the word of God and found it to be consistent with what is written. He knows that he is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ because he can point to his obedience to God in immersion in Jesus’ name. He has set his mind on things of the Spirit rather than the things of the flesh. He is confident, then, on an objective basis, that he is in good standing with the Supreme Judge, based on what God’s word says. How encouraging and strengthening these words from the firm foundation then become: “The Lord knows those who are His”!