That advertisement appeared in a London newspaper and thousands of men responded! It was signed by the noted Arctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, and that was what made the difference.
If Jesus Christ had advertised for workers, the announcement might have read something like this: “Men and women wanted for difficult task of helping to build My church. You will often be misunderstood, even by those working with you. You will face constant attack from an invisible enemy. You may not see the results of your labor and your full reward will not come until after all your work is completed. It may cost you your home, your ambitions, even your life.”
In spite of the demands He makes, Jesus Christ receives the “applications” of many who gladly give their all for Him. He is certainly the greatest Master for whom anyone could work and the task of building His church is certainly the greatest challenge to which a believer could give his life.
Timothy was one young man who responded to Christ’s call to help build His church. He was one of the Apostle Paul’s special assistants. He was so devoted to Christ that his local church leaders recommended him to Paul and Paul added him to his “missionary staff” (Acts 16:1–5). Along with Titus, Timothy tackled some of the tough assignments in the churches Paul had founded.
Timothy was brought up in a religious home (2 Tim. 1:5) and had been led to faith in Christ by Paul himself. This explains why Paul called Timothy “my own son in the faith” (1:2). Timothy was born of mixed parentage: his mother was a Jew, his father a Greek.
Paul often reminded Timothy he was chosen for this ministry (1 Tim. 1:18; 4:14). Timothy was faithful to the Lord (1 Cor. 4:17) and had a deep concern for God’s people (Phil. 2:20–22). But in spite of his calling, his close association with Paul, and his spiritual gifts, Timothy was easily discouraged. The last time Paul had been with Timothy, he had encouraged him to stay on at Ephesus and finish his work (1:3). Apparently, Timothy had physical problems (1 Tim. 5:23) as well as periods of discouragement; and we get the impression some of the church members were not giving their pastor the proper respect as God’s servant (1 Tim. 4:12; 2 Tim. 2:6–8).
Ephesus would not be the easiest place to pastor a church. (Are there any “easy places”? I doubt it.) The city was devoted to the worship of Diana, the patroness of the sexual instinct. Her lascivious images helped promote sexual immorality of all kinds (Acts 19). Paul had done a great work in Ephesus during his three-year ministry, “so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the Word of the Lord” (v. 10). It was not easy for Timothy to follow a man like Paul! Of course, Satan had his workers in the city for wherever there are spiritual opportunities there are also satanic obstacles (1 Cor. 16:8–9).
Paul wrote the letter we call 1 Timothy to encourage Timothy, to explain how a local church should be managed, and to enforce his own authority as a servant of God. In 1 Timothy 1, Paul explained the three responsibilities of the pastor and people in a local church.
Teach Sound Doctrine (1 Tim. 1:1–11)
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous, but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which He entrusted to me.
From the very greeting of the letter, Paul affirmed his authority as a servant of Jesus Christ. Those who were giving Timothy trouble needed to remember their pastor was there because God had put him there, for Paul’s authority was given by God. Paul was an “apostle,” one whom God sent with a special commission. His apostleship came by “commandment” from Jesus Christ. This word means “a royal commission.” Both Paul and Timothy were sent by the King of kings!
Jesus Christ is not only Lord, but He is our “Savior,” a title used ten times in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; 4:10; 2 Tim. 1:10; Titus 1:3–4; 2:10, 13; 3:4, 6). To discouraged Timothy, the reminder that Jesus is “our hope” (1:1) was a real boost. Paul wrote the same encouragement to Titus (Titus 1:2; 2:13; 3:7). Knowing that Jesus Christ is coming for us encourages us to serve Him faithfully.
One reason Christian workers must stay on the job is because false teachers are busy trying to capture Christians. There were teachers of false doctrines in Paul’s day just as there are today and we must take them seriously. These false teachers have no good news for lost sinners. They seek instead to lead Christians astray and capture them for their causes.
Paul used military language to help Timothy and his people see the seriousness of the problem (1:3). Charge means “to give strict orders from a superior officer.” Paul used this word (sometimes translated “commandment” and “command”) eight times in his two letters to Timothy (1:3, 5, 18; 4:11; 5:7; 6:13, 17; 2 Tim. 4:1). He was conveying this idea: “Timothy, you are not only a pastor of the church in a difficult city. You are also a Christian soldier under orders from the King. Now pass these orders along to the soldiers in your church!”
What was the order? “Do not teach different doctrines from those taught by Paul!” In the original text there are thirty-two references to “doctrine,” “teach,” “teacher,” “teaches,” and “teaching” in the three Pastoral Epistles. In the early church, the believers were taught the Word of God and the meanings of basic Christian doctrines. In many churches today, the pulpit is a place for entertainment, not enlightenment and enrichment.
God had committed the truth of the Word to Paul (1:11) and Paul had committed it to Timothy (1 Tim. 6:20). It was Timothy’s responsibility to guard the faith (2 Tim. 1:14) and to pass it along to faithful people (2 Tim. 2:2).
Paul identified the false teaching as “fables and endless genealogies” (1:4). Titus faced the same kind of false teaching in Crete (Titus 1:14; 3:9). The false teachers were using the Old Testament Law, and especially the genealogies, to manufacture all kinds of novelties; and these new doctrines were leading people astray. The false teachers were raising questions, not answering them. They were not promoting “God’s saving plan” (“advancing God’s work,” 1:4), but were leading people away from the truth. Instead of producing love, purity, a good conscience, and sincere faith, these novel doctrines were causing division, hypocrisy, and all sorts of problems.
Paul used the word “conscience” twenty-one times in his letters and six of these references are in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Tim. 1:5, 19; 3:9; 4:2; 2 Tim. 1:3; Titus 1:15). The word “conscience” means “to know with.” Conscience is the inner judge that accuses us when we have done wrong and approves when we have done right (Rom. 2:14–15). It is possible to sin against the conscience, so it becomes “defiled” (“corrupted,” Titus 1:15). Repeated sinning hardens the conscience and it becomes “seared” like scar tissue (1 Tim. 4:2).
It is tragic when professed Christians get off course because they refuse “healthy doctrine” (1:10). Paul calls it “godly teaching” (1 Tim. 6:3), “sound teaching” (2 Tim. 1:13), “sound doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1), “faith” (Titus 1:13; 2:2), and “sound speech” (Titus 2:8). But many prefer the “meaningless talk” (1 Tim. 1:6) of those who teach novelties rather than the pure Word of God, which produces holiness in lives. It is unfortunate today we not only have “meaningless talk” in teaching and preaching, but also in music. Far too many songs not only teach no doctrine, but many even teach false doctrines. A singer has no more right to sing a lie than a teacher has to teach a lie.
The reason for this false doctrine was a misuse of the Old Testament Law. These false teachers did not understand the content or the purpose of God’s Law. They were leading believers out of the liberty of grace (Gal. 5:1) into the bondage of legalism, a tragedy that still occurs today. The flesh (our old nature) loves religious legalism because rules and regulations enable a person to appear holy without really having to change his heart.
Paul listed fourteen kinds of people who were condemned by the Law (1 Tim. 1:9–10). This is one of several such lists in the New Testament (Mark 7:20–23; Rom. 1:18–32; Gal. 5:19–21). The lawful use of the Law is to expose, restrain, and convict the lawless. The Law cannot save lost sinners; it can only reveal their need for a Savior: “For if righteousness could be gained through the Law, Christ died for nothing!” (Gal. 2:21; 3:21–29). When a sinner believes on Jesus Christ, he is freed from the curse of the Law (Gal. 3:10–14) and the righteous demands of the Law are met by the indwelling Holy Spirit as the believer yields to God (Rom. 8:1–4).
It is the “glorious Gospel,” which saves lost sinners. Paul had experienced the power of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16) and he had been entrusted with the ministry of the Gospel (1 Thes. 2:4). The Law and Gospel go together, for Law without Gospel is diagnosis without remedy. But the Gospel without Law is only the Good News of salvation for people who do not believe they need it because they have never heard the bad news of judgment. The Law is not Gospel, but the Gospel is not lawless (Rom. 3:20–31).
Teaching sound doctrine is the first responsibility of the church. What other responsibilities of the church would you add to this list?
In Part 2, we will look at two more essential responsibilities of pastor and people in the church.
To think about and discuss
1. Which is more loving, to keep quiet or to say something when a Christian friend is living in a way that is inconsistent with God’s Word?
2. Identify some of the “meaningless talk” in today’s church. What steps should be taken to avoid it?
3. Do you think there is enough emphasis on God’s commands when the good news is presented? How can the law of God and the grace of God be kept in balance?