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This section of 1 Timothy is the center of the letter, perhaps the center of the three Pastoral Epistles as a whole. The main metaphor Paul works in this letter is the Household of God. Timothy is a pillar in that household and responsible for the spiritual life of other members of the household. Some people in Ephesus have rejected key doctrines of the faith and have developed some behaviors which are not scriptural. In order to argue against these opponents, Paul first describes what he calls the “mystery of godliness” before turning to some examples of the un-truth which the opponents are teaching.

HandsPaul expresses his desire to join Timothy (3:14). This is fairly typical of Paul’s letters, he often expresses a desire to be there even if that is not possible in the immediate future. He is expressing his desire to work alongside Timothy, but even if he cannot be there Paul is confident that Timothy will be able to do the task to which he has been appointed.

Paul’s concern in 1 Timothy is that the churches in Ephesus see themselves as part of the “household of God.” If one is a member of a particular household, they must behave according to that household’s rule. Members of a Roman household had very clear roles and expectations. Fathers, children, and servants all had clearly defined roles in Roman society and it was honorable to do what was expected of you as a father, child, servant, etc.

In fact, it would bring shame upon a household if a father did not perform his role as leader of the family properly, or a child behaved in a way so as to dishonor on the family name. As an analogy, think of a powerful political family in America. Since the family name is well known, there are some things which a family member cannot do without bringing some kind of shame or scandal to the family, endangering their political aspirations. Paul has taught throughout this letter that people within the church are part of a new household, God is their father and they have a role to play within the order of the household of God.

Paul describes the Church as a “pillar” in that household, and a “buttress of the truth.” The metaphor shifts from a household to a Temple, with a foundation and pillars. Both of these metaphors refer to a building. Paul called Peter and James “pillars of the church” in Galatians 2, indicating that they were the chief leaders. Here Timothy is the “pillar” and main support for the churches at Ephesus. A buttress or bulwark (ἑδραίωμα) is like a foundation, the verb is used for founding something on a good foundation.

While the church is like a pillar in the household of God, the church itself is built on the truth (v. 15). This is not unlike Eph 2:19-22, the church grows into a holy temple for God, built on the prophets and apostles (pillars?) and built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

In both cases the point of the metaphor is that the Church stands on the foundation of truth, that it is to guard and defend the truth of the Gospel against defections from the truth. This looks back to how Paul started the letter; in 1:3-7 he warned Timothy about people who were swerving from the truth, both in doctrine and practice.

True godliness begins with Jesus and his work on the Cross (3:16) Paul describes the godliness expected by a member of the household of God as a “great mystery.” He uses the word “confess” (ὁμολογουμένως) perhaps indicating that this short description of the work of Jesus was used as a public confession or doctrinal statement in the early church. The word has the sense of agreement, “this is something that we all agree on.”

This mystery of godliness is called “great.” While it is hard to know if Paul had this in mind, the riot in Ephesus in Acts 19 culminated in the Ephesian crowds chanting “great is Artemis” for hours. Rather than a great god like Artemis, Paul proclaims a living God, rather than a great temple like the temple of Artemis, Paul declares that the church itself is the household of God.

How is this a mystery? The word (μυστήριον)often refers to God’s revelation of something which could not be known unless it was revealed by God. It is the secret which the church guards, how to be “godly.”

In 2 Timothy 1 Paul has told Timothy to model his life and ministry after Paul, recalling the examples of both his family (Lois and Eunice) and Paul’s co-worker Onesiphorus. He ought to avoid the example of the false teachers in Ephesus, namely Phygelus and Hermogenes (1:15) and Hymenaeus and Philetus (2:17).

In order to avoid these faithless men, Timothy is to train the elders to be “approved workmen” (2:14-19). In fact, Timothy is to be an approved workman before he trains others. Like Paul’s warning to Titus, Paul warns Timothy to avoid quarreling about words or other theological babble. On the one hand, this is a difficult command since one has to have defined the “core” of the Christian faith very well in order to decide what qualifies as “babble.”

ApprovedOn the other hand, sometimes the theological “babble” seems fairly obvious, mostly since it is the sort of thing people are passionate about! (Like the famous definition of pornography, I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it!)

“Do your best” (ESV) in v. 15 has the sense of being diligent in fulfilling an obligation (σπουδάζω), “make every effort” (BDAG). The KJV translated this word “study,” a word which has shifted considerably in modern English. The verb is used in Gal 2:10, for example, for the reminder to care for the poor. In Eph 4:3 Paul says that the believer ought to “be eager” to maintain the bond of unity. It is used twice in 2 Peter with the sense of diligence in spiritual development (1:10, 3:14). This word stands in contrast to being “diligent” in senseless theological babble. While the opponent in Ephesus is busy with their “endless myths,” Timothy is to be busy presenting himself as God’s approved workmen.

Timothy is to be an approved workmen, properly handling the word of God. 2 Tim 2:15 is classic verse for modern “noble Bereans” since it implies that the maturing person of God will become increasingly able to read the scriptures with intelligence and confidence. We sometimes talk about “learning a trade.” The more one works at being a carpenter, for example, the better one gets.

Osteen GrinningThe analogy is excellent since studying the Bible is a skill and an art. There are technical elements which can be taught and learned (parsing Greek verbs, reading background studies, finding parallel texts, etc.), but there is an art to knowing what to do with that information! An unskilled carpenter can build a bookshelf with boards and a few nails, but a master carpenter builds an excellent piece of furniture that is of great value.

The modern church has created a class of professional Bible interpreters. This gives the impression that the Bible is too difficult to fully understand without professional training. People in churches want to leave Bible reading to the professionals, the approved workmen. But this is not at all Paul’s point here. Timothy (and by analogy all believers) ought to be busy training themselves as best they can to handle the Bible correctly so that they will avoid the errors that are plaguing the churches in Ephesus.

This is the point of the phrase “rightly dividing” in the KJV. That translation is also not helpful, since the word refers to guiding the word of truth along a straight path (BDAG). Perhaps Pual has in mind a Roman Road that moves from one point to its goal, without any unnecessary deviation. So too the believer ought to read and study the Bible without being turned aside by wordy debates or impious talk.”

Paul’s point is that we ought to use the Scripture in a way that it was intended: do not twist scripture to make it say what you want it to say, or would prefer it to say. This raises several problems with contemporary church life. A growing majority of Christians are biblically illiterate and unable to read the Bible properly. They take verses out of context and claim the Bible teaches things which it does not. An additional problem is people do not think very deeply about issues, preferring to repeat what they have heard on talk radio (or worse, facebook!)

In 2 Tim 1 Paul has told Timothy to model his life and ministry after Paul, recalling the examples of both his family (Lois and Eunice) and Paul’s co-worker Onesiphorus. He ought to avoid the example of the false teachers in Ephesus, namely Phygelus and Hermogenes (1:15) and Hymenaeus and Philetus (2:17).

In order to avoid these faithless men, Timothy is to train the elders to be “approved workmen” (2:14-19). In fact, Timothy is to be an approved workman before he trains others. Like Paul’s warning to Titus, Paul warns Timothy to avoid quarreling about words or other theological babble. On the one hand, this is a difficult command since one has to have defined the “core” of the Christian faith very well in order to decide what qualifies as “babble.”

Mortelmans_FransOn the other hand, sometimes the theological “babble” seems fairly obvious, mostly since it is the sort of thing people are passionate about! (Like the famous definition of pornography, I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it!)

“Do your best” (ESV) in v. 15 has the sense of being diligent in fulfilling an obligation (σπουδάζω), “make every effort” (BDAG). The KJV translated this word “study,” a word which has shifted considerably in modern English. The verb is used in Gal 2:10, for example, for the reminder to care for the poor. In Eph 4:3 Paul says that the believer ought to “be eager” to maintain the bond of unity. It is used twice in 2 Peter with the sense of diligence in spiritual development (1:10, 3:14). This word stands in contrast to being “diligent” in senseless theological babble. While the opponent in Ephesus is busy with their “endless myths,” Timothy is to be busy presenting himself as God’s approved workmen.

Timothy is to be an approved workmen, properly handling the word of God. 2 Tim 2:15 is classic verse for modern “noble Bereans” since it implies that the maturing person of God will become increasingly able to read the scriptures with intelligence and confidence. We sometimes talk about “learning a trade.” The more sone works and being a carpenter, for example, the better one gets.

The analogy is excellent since studying the Bible is a skill and an art. There are technical elements which can be taught and learned (parsing Greek verbs, reading background studies, finding parallel texts, etc.), but there is an art to knowing what to do with that information! An unskilled carpenter can build a bookshelf with boards and a few nails, but a master carpenter builds an excellent piece of furniture that is of great value.

The modern church has created a class of professional Bible interpreters. This gives the impression that the Bible is too difficult to fully understand without professional training. People in churches want to leave Bible reading to the professionals, the approved workmen. But this is not at all Paul’s point here. Timothy (and by analogy all believers) ought to be busy training themselves as best they can to handle the Bible correctly so that they will avoid the errors that are plaguing the churches in Ephesus.

That is the point of the phrase “rightly dividing” in the KJV. That translation is also not helpful, since the word refers to guiding the word of truth along a straight path (BDAG). Perhaps Pual has in mind a Roman Road that moves from one point to its goal, without any unnecessary deviation. So too the believer ought to read and study the Bible without being turned aside by wordy debates or impious talk.”

Paul’s point is that we ought to use the Scripture in a way that it was intended: do not twist scripture to make it say what you want it to say, or would prefer it to say.

Paul charges Timothy with the task of to faithfully keep the commands of this letter. This is a solemn charge made before two witnesses: the presence of God and Christ Jesus. Paul uses two metaphors for this pursuit of godliness: fight the good fight and take hold of eternal life.

Boxing GlovesThis may be a sports metaphor since the verb translated “fight” (ἀγωνίζομαι) used for competing in a context ( Cor 9:25). But it can also be used in the context of warfare (John 18:36, 2 Macc 8:16). Paul uses the verb to describe his own ministry (Col 1:29), and Epaphras is described as “struggling in prayer” for the church at Colossae (Col 4:12, cf. 1 Tim4:10)). In 2 Tim 4:7 Paul uses a similar phrase when looking back over his ministry (he has fought the good fight).

“Taking hold” (ἐπιλαμβάνομαι) sometimes has a violent implication as well. It was used when the Romans pressed Simon of Cyrene into carrying the cross of Jesus and twice in Acts for someone being seized or arrested ( Acts 16:19; 18:17). The LXX uses this verb in Prov 4:13, the wise person takes hold of instruction. (There are violent connotations often in LXX Judges, 2 Sam 13:11 it is used for a rape). Taken along with “fight the good fight,” Paul is telling Timothy to compete in a way that will “win the prize.” The victory is not really won until the competitor takes the prize, an Olympic crown, for example.

Timothy is reminded his public confession of faith. What does Paul have in mind with this “confession”? There are three options (Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 355-6).  One possibility is that Timothy was arrested at some point prior to this and he made a confession of faith before some civil tribunal. This would explain the reference to Jesus making ‘the good confession” before Pilate. The witnesses were those at the court who heard Timothy confess his faith in the face of persecution. The most significant problem with this view is that there is not clear reference to Timothy’s arrest in any New Testament literature.

On the other hand, Paul may refer to Timothy’s commission to ministry. In this case, the witnesses are other elders and leaders of the church who heard Timothy make a public commitment to ministry. Paul has referred to Timothy’s commission (1:18-20) and his gift “given by prophecy” (4:14). If this is true, then Paul is saying to Timothy, do not be like Hymenaeus and Alexander, who shipwrecked their faith (1:20), follow through on your commission to ministry.

But Paul may be looking even further back than Timothy’s commission to ministry. Since the “prize” that awaits him for finishing the contest is eternal life, it is most likely that Paul has in mind Timothy’s initial confession of faith in Jesus. If this is the case, then the people in the church who witnessed this confession are the “many witnesses.”

Just as the letter began with a charge to Timothy to guard the faith which was entrusted to him, now Paul once again solemnly charges Timothy to remember what he has already committed to when he began his ministry. Timothy is to keep these commands are to be kept perfectly. Unstained (ἄσπιλος) is sometimes translated as “spotless” in the context of a sacrifice (Lev 4:3, for example). In 1 Peter 1:19 Jesus is described as the “pure spotless lamb.” A “blemish” (σπίλος) is used as a character fault in Hermas, Similitudes 9.4.4. The verb cognate of this word refers to a stain or defilement.

Free from reproach (ἀνεπίληπτος). Paul has already used this word in 1 Tim 3:2 (the overseer must be above reproach) and in 5:7 (widows have to be above reproach). The word has the sense of “above criticism” (Cf., Titus 2:8). L&N suggests the word here means that Timothy ought to keep the commands of this letter “in such a way that no one can criticize it.”

This is a very high goal set for Timothy, but if he is fulfill his commission from God, he cannot have anything when ruins his reputation. Everyone can think an example of someone who was an excellent preacher and servant of God, but they had some behavior or character flaw that changed the way people thought of them and hindered their ministry. Paul tells Timothy here that he has to live his life so perfectly that there is no stain or blemish on his character which drives people away from the gospel.

[The audio for this week’s evening service is available at Sermon.net, as is a PDF file of the notes for the service. You should be able to download the audio directly with this link, if you prefer (right-click, save link as….) This concludes the 1 Timothy Series in the Evening Bible Study, although I plan to continue through 2 Timothy through the rest of the summer.]

There are many examples of people who seem to have started the Christian faith well, but seem to have deviated from the course at some point. In the context of 1 Timothy, these would be the opponents who are troubling Paul’s churches. They stared well, but they have not competed well and are in danger of not finishing the race. When Jesus appears, they face ruin (6:10).

But this collapse of faith is not what Paul expects from Timothy. In the conclusion to 1 Timothy, Paul uses a few sports metaphors to encourage Timothy to continue with endurance to the end of the race and receive the prize to which he was called. Timothy started well by making a public confession of faith, and he has been faithful to that confession as he carried out the ministry to which God had called him. But Paul wants him to also look forward to the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he will finally “finish the race.”

Flee!

Flee!

Timothy is told to flee from the sorts of evil Paul described in the previous vew verses and to pursue virtues that are reminiscent of the Fruit of the Spirit. “Fleeing evil” and “pursuing righteousness” is common in the Hebrew Bible. Both are very active metaphors, implying that there are things which can hinder reaching a goal. Flee and pursue are common in both Plato and Aristotle, but Paul reflects several Jewish texts (Flee, Sirach 21:2; Tobit 4:21, and 2 Tim 2:22, flee youthful passions; Pursue Prov 15:19, T.Reub 5:5).

Righteousness (δικαιοσύνη) is one of the most important terms in Paul, in the context of a series of descriptions of ethical expectations Paul probably has “moral uprightness” in mind. To “pursue righteousness” appears in Deut 16:20 and Prov 15:9 (cf., Sir 27:8, but also Herodotus 1.96.2). The righteous person on Judaism was the person who was faithful to the covenant in tangible ways, they doing acts of righteousness.

Godliness (εὐσέβεια) is a very general term which has been used often in the Pastoral letters. Like righteousness, godliness refers to observable responses to God.

Faith (πίστις) and love (ἀγάπη) often appear as a pair in Paul’s letters (1 Tim 1:5, for example). Faith/faithfulness refers to being consistent, keeping one’s promises and commitments. Perhaps the combination of the two terms is more or less the Hebrew idea of hesed, covenant faithfulness. This would be important in the context of Paul calling Timothy to recall the commitments he made when he first began his ministry.

Steadfastness or endurance (ὑπομονή) is occasionally added to faith and love (1 Cor 13:3), the word highlights the sort of attitude one must have in order to complete a task. It is one thing to begin strong, but the one who endures also finishes strong. Again, this is particularly appropriate if Paul is reminding Timothy of his initial commitments.

Gentleness (πραϋπαθία) is rare word in the New Testament although it is related to other words which have the same sense of meaning (πραΰτης is used in Gal 5:23). The word refers to courtesy and humility. In 2 Tim 2:25 Timothy is told to gently correct opponents, and in Gal 6:1 the believer is to gently help another with their burdens. “a willingness to waive an undoubted right” (Martin, Colossians and Philemon, 111).

Like the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians, Paul sets a very high goal for Timothy.  But if he is going to fulfill the commission given to him by God, he has to be a model leader in the Ephesian churches.  Timothy must make sure his character is virtuous and that he is living his life in order to bring honor to the household of God.

Paul stands in the tradition of Judaism in warning about the folly of relying on riches Godliness itself can be of great gain (the same word is repeated), but only if it is combined with contentment (αὐτάρκεια). The book of Ecclesiastes warns against relying on one’s wealth in this world.

Having sufficient blessings from God is found also in Psalms of Solomon 5:18-20.  Having too much wealth can cause a person to sin

Psalms of Solomon 5:18–20 (LES)  Blessed is he whom God remembers in due proportion to sufficiency; 19 if the person abounds too much, he sins. 20 Moderation in righteousness is sufficient, and in this is the blessing of the Lord for satisfaction in righteousness.

Moderation and self-sufficiency was also a virtue among philosophers, the Cynics, Stoics and Epicureans. Describing the views of Epicurus, for example, Diogenes Laertius says:

 Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 10.130-131 Again, we regard independence of outward things (αὐτάρκεια) as a great good, not so as in all cases to use little, but so as to be contented with little if we have not much, being honestly persuaded that they have the sweetest enjoyment of luxury who stand least in need of it, and that whatever is natural is easily procured and only the vain and worthless hard to win. Plain fare gives as much pleasure as a costly diet, when once the pain of want has been removed, [131] while bread and water confer the highest possible pleasure when they are brought to hungry lips. To habituate one’s self, therefore, to simple and inexpensive diet supplies all that is needful for health, and enables a man to meet the necessary requirements of life without shrinking, and it places us in a better condition when we approach at intervals a costly fare and renders us fearless of fortune.

Paul says that having food and shelter (σκέπασμα can refer to clothing or a house) we will be content.  This is not far from Phil 4:10-13, where Paul says that he has know what it is to have much, or very little.  The secret to contentment (αὐτάρκης, same root as the word in 1 Tim 6:6) is the realization that he can do all things through Christ.

But Paul is not teaching self-sufficiency like a Stoic or a Cynic, rather he is consistent with Philippians 4:10-13, he emphasizing “Christ-sufficiency.”  If your motivation is money, then you are in danger.  If your motivation is being “in Christ,” then personal gain is not relevant.

The real problem with wealth is that the desire for wealth is a snare. Notice that it is the person who desires to be rich that will fall into temptation. As with the proverb which follows, wealth itself is not condemned, but the desire is a snare.  The second word Paul uses here (παγίς) is a trap used to catch animals, the same word which he used in 3:7 to describe the “snares of the devil.” This is perhaps another hint that Paul is dealing with leaders appointed too soon (Cf. 2 Tim 2:26).

Wealth tempts people into senseless and harmful desires.  Senseless (ἀνόητος) is a softer translation, the word means dull-witted or unintelligent.  It is sometimes translated as “fool” (Gal 3:1; Prov 17:28; 1 Clement 21:5; 4 Macc 8:17).  But these desired are not merely foolish, they are harmful (βλαβερός). Someone might do something foolish that does no harm, to rely on wealth will lead to some sort of disaster.

The ultimate end of the person that desires great wealth is to sink into ruin and destruction.  Paul uses the rather picturesque metaphor of sinking (βυθίζω). The word was used to describe the utter ruin of Sparta (Philostrat., Vi. Apoll. 4, 32). Destruction (ὄλεθρος) is used by Paul in 2 Thess 1:9 “eternal death” (Cf. T.Reuben 6:3, the destruction of Beliar;” “Destruction brought about by Satan” IEph 13:1).

Grubbing for MoneyThe love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  While this saying sounds like a proverb and is common in contemporary culture, there is no real source for the line.  There is no exact form of this saying in the Hebrew Bible or in Greco-Roman philosophy.   The Hebrew Bible warns that desire for wealth corrupts (Exod 23:8, Deut 16:19). This is another hint that the opponents are elders or deacons in Paul’s churches, since in 3:3 he said that the elder is not to be a “lover of money.” (Luke 16:14, Pharisees are called “lovers of money.”)

Paul’s concern is not that Christians have wealth, but that Christians are motivated to serve in order to enrich themselves.  It is the use of godliness, religion, “the Faith” to become rich that is the problem.  He does not appear to be condemning wealth, but the love of wealth.

Paul concludes by saying that some of those who have “wandered away from the faith” did so because they craved wealth.  Rather than gaining wealth, the opponents in Ephesus have destroyed themselves. The opponents have “pierced themselves” (περιπείρω), a rather violent metaphor, the word is usually used in military contexts, they impale themselves!

It is easy to read this passage and think about “someone else.” You may not really consider yourself “wealthy.” In America, from the perspective of history, we are the most wealthy, prosperous people who have ever lived!  The American church over all is wealthy and most Americans are the 99%, from a global perspective.  To what extent does the American church “use religion as a means to gain wealth?”

In 1 Tim 6:2b-5, Paul contrasts his teaching in chapter 5 (and the whole letter) with that of the opponent in 1 Timothy. Paul started the letter to Timothy by charging him to confront those people in Ephesus who are teaching a “different doctrine” (ἑτεροδιδασκαλέω). The word only appears in 1 Timothy, and it may have been coined by Paul. The word appears in contrast to “healthy” or sound doctrine. This description of correct teaching appears often in the Pastoral letters (cf., 1:10; 2 Tim 4:3;Titus 1:13, 2:2).

Sound TheologyThe “sound words” come from “our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul’s teaching (doctrine and practice) are correct because they come from Jesus himself. Paul does not claim here that these words come from his own theological imagination, rather, he claims that the teaching comes from Jesus. On the one hand, this might refer to the traditions of the actual teaching of Jesus found in the gospels, but there is no real allusion to Gospels in this letter. It is more likely that Paul is claiming to be inspired by Jesus to write the content of this letter. Timothy is to treat the principles found in the letter as if they are the words of Jesus, since they are the words of Jesus!

Several times in the letter, Timothy is told to ensure that there is healthy teaching in the Ephesian churches. Paul’s opponents, on the other hand, are unhealthy both in doctrine and practice. They are “puffed up” with conceit, yet understand nothing. The verb (τυφόω) is a perfect passive, they “have been puffed up,” although BDAG comments that the verb almost always appears in the passive. Perhaps one does not make themselves conceited, other factors effect a person to make them arrogant. The word has the sense of “becloud, delude,” although in this case it is a self delusion. Marshall points out that the REB translates this phrase as “a pompous ignoramus” (The Pastoral Epistles, 640).

In 1 Tim 3:6 Paul said that a potential deacon ought not be a recent convert because they might become conceited, using the same word as this passage. It is possible, therefore, that these opponents are people who had risen to leadership in local churches too quickly and have consequently become conceited.

While the opponents think that they understand things better than Paul, they actually do not understand anything. The word that Paul uses (ἐπίσταμαι) has the sense of grasping things in your mind. This is like someone who uses big words in order to sound educated, but they are really not sure what the words mean.

They have an unhealthy craving for “controversy and quarrels.” In contrast to “healthy teaching,” Paul describes the opponent as sick. They desire to argue over “myths,” but this desire is making them more unhealthy (νοσέω, to be diseased, BDAG suggests “morbid craving”). “Controversies” (cf., 2 Tim 2:23; Titus 3:9; 2 Tim 2:13 uses the verb) can refer to a simple discussion or debate, but along with “quarrels” (λογομαχία; literally, word-battles) it is clear that the opponents are picking fights over minutia. The words are rare in secular Greek, although one writer describes debate between the Stoics and Epicureans as a λογομαχία (TDNT 4:143). These quarrels produce envy, dissension, slander and evil suspicions. This is something of a generic sin-list, but in the context of 1 Timothy, these are public debates that create chaos in the congregation. Marshall suggests that “evil suspicions” (ὑπόνοια) might be translated as “innuendo,” in the context of slander (641).

They are a “constant friction.” This noun (διαπαρατριβή) is a compound form of a word which means “irritation” (παρατριβή). They are like a pebble in your shoe! The opponents cause discord among those who have already had their minds corrupted and have already been “turned from the truth. This means that the opponents have already made followers, both verbs are perfect and passive. The second verb (ἀποστερέω) has the connotation of taking something through illicit means – the followers of the opponents were defrauded, robbed for the truth through false teachings.

They imagine that godliness is a “means of gain.” The noun πορισμός is the word which might describe how one makes a living. The verb is used in an Aesop’s Fable for a “swindling magician” (BDAG). The word appears in inscriptions dating to A.D. 44 Ephesus complaining about the misuse of funds coming from Rome by the Artemesion, which were used for the personal gain of the management of the Temple (NewDocs 4, 169).

In each case, Paul’s opponents are the opposite of a qualified leader for the church (1 Tim 3). It is easy enough to draw applications from this description of the opponents, and point fingers at any number of irritating people who claim to be leaders of the Church but are in fact unhealthy in doctrine and in practice.  There are websites dedicated to pointing out the most inane attempts by pastors and evangelists to get rich from the Gospel.  It does not take long to find Christians who love “constant friction” on the Internet!  All we need is for Rob Bell to write a book denying some important doctrine and everybody goes a bit crazy. Controversy sells books and makes everyone a little more money.

But I really do not think that Paul intended this list as an opportunity to mock “those other people.” In every sin-list there is a chance for introspection – to what extent am I a person that loves controversy and friction? Do I have an “unhealthy desire” for quarreling? Does my church have that sort of a reputation? Paul is dealing with a real danger in the Ephesian churches, but it is a danger which every person who serves in any kind of a ministry encounters in their own life.

[The audio for this week’s evening service is available at Sermon.net, as is a PDF file of the notes for the service. You should be able to download the audio directly with this link, if you prefer (right-click, save link as….)]

There is nothing new about people trying to get rich from religion. There are many examples in the Hebrew Bible of priests who abused their role for personal gain, the sons of Eli for example. The prophets regularly condemn priests who take bribes or other prophets who give their messages for a price (Mic 3:11, for example). The medieval church is one of the worst examples of extreme wealth generated by religious leaders.

In America, this is a real problem since there are many evangelists and media preachers who have made extreme (obscene) amounts of money from their religious practices. I would also include sub-Christian groups here as well; many cults form around a central, charismatic teacher who has the “real truth,” you only have to donate all your money to him to learn the mysteries of the universe!

Elmer GantryPaul faces a similar problem with the opponents in Ephesus. Some of the elders and deacons in the churches are teaching things that deviate from Paul’s gospel in both doctrine and practice. It appears from this passage that at least one motivation for this deviation is personal gain. Perhaps the wealthy women who were the subject of serious correction in chapter 2 are patrons for these opponents. Patronage was a standard way for a philosopher to support himself in the Roman world, so it is not too far-fetched to think that some of the elders and deacons who have rejected Paul’s gospel have found some patronage among the wealthy in the church.

Paul is not against supporting those who teach in the church. Only a vew lines prior to this passage Paul stated that elders who teach ought to be paid because they are worthy of “double honor” (1 Tim 5:17-18). The problem is that the elders who are teaching unhealthy doctrine are doing so for personal gain. Just as in the modern world, it is likely that the unhealthy doctrine taught by these teachers was more popular that the Pauline gospel.

This is such a serious problem that Paul calls this a “different doctrine” which causes those who teach it to be “depraved in their minds” and “deprived of the truth” (v. 5). Paul is not dealing with a difference of opinion on serious theological or practical issues, he is dealing with a defection from the gospel which prevents people from hearing the truth.

[The audio for this week’s evening service is available at Sermon.net, as is a PDF file of the notes for the service. You should be able to download the audio directly with this link, if you prefer (right-click, save link as….)]

In the first part of this paragraph Paul has stated that the “mystery of godliness is great.”  He then defines what that mystery is in a series of confessional statements about Jesus. It is possible that each of these lines could be expanded more fully, unpacked from the brief three word statement into a short sermon. It is impossible to know for sure, but this short description of Jesus could have functioned like a creed.

Jesus on CrossEach statement is an aorist passive verb with a dative phrase (all with a preposition, except the third). Some take these as three pairs (NIV2011, NA26), with each pair contrasting heaven and earth.  Others take the six items as two triads (ESV, NRSV),the first three lines focus on the life (and death) of Jesus and the vindication of the resurrection, the second triad focuses on his ongoing exaltation in the ascension and preaching of the gospel. Another option is that the six lines are chronological, from incarnation to Second Coming. The problem is that the final line is better associated with Pentecost than the second coming. (For a survey of the options, see Marshall, Pastoral Epistles, 500-2.)

Manifest in the flesh. This short line refers to Jesus as God made flesh, the incarnation from birth to death. It is possible that this line only has post-resurrection appearances in mind, but it is not far from Phil 2:6-7, Jesus humbled himself to become human, “making himself nothing.”

Vindicated by the Spirit. While this could be a reference to the miracles Jesus did in the incarnation, it is more likely this is a reference to the resurrection. “Vindication” here has the sense of being proven right or innocent. While Jesus was executed as a sinner might be, God raised him from the dead, proving that he was in fact innocent.

Seen by angels. Consistent with the view that these phrases are post-resurrection, this may refer to the witness of the angels to the resurrection, or perhaps the exaltation of Jesus in heaven.

Proclaimed by the nations. This line refers to the ongoing mission of the church, presenting the gospel of Jesus to the world. Paul has in mind here his own mission of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. LXX Ps 17:50 (18:49 ET) has a similar phrase, “I will give confess you among the nations, O Lord.”

Believed on in the world. Paul here refers to the success of the mission to the nations, the gospel is being believed by the “known world.”

Taken up in glory. This final line seems to refer to the ascension, although chronologically this is out of order. The verb ἀναλαμβάνω appears in Acts 1:11, two angelic beings state that Jesus was “taken up into heaven.” The ascension obviously occurs well before the gospel was preached to the nations and believed by the world.

The “mystery of godliness” is therefore a statement about who Jesus is, what he did, and what the church continues to do after the ascension of Jesus. What Jesus has already done provides the basis for the ongoing mission of the church.

This climactic statement about proper belief and proper conduct naturally draws Paul back to the main subject of the letter, the specific problem of the opponents in Ephesus. They are not conducting themselves in a way that is honorable within the household of God and they may very well have some defective views about who Jesus was.

[The audio for this week’s evening service is available at Sermon.net, as is a PDF file of the notes for the service. You should be able to download the audio directly with this link, if you prefer (right-click, save link as….)]

This section of 1 Timothy is the center of the letter, perhaps the center of the three Pastoral Epistles as a whole. The main metaphor Paul works in this letter is the Household of God. Timothy is a pillar in that household and responsible for the spiritual life of other members of the household. Some people in Ephesus have rejected key doctrines of the faith and have developed some behaviors which are not scriptural. In order to argue against these opponents, Paul first describes what he calls the “mystery of godliness” before turning to some examples of the un-truth which the opponents are teaching.

HandsPaul expresses his desire to join Timothy (3:14). This is fairly typical of Paul’s letters, he often expresses a desire to be there even if that is not possible in the immediate future. He is expressing his desire to work alongside Timothy, but even if he cannot be there Paul is confident that Timothy will be able to do the task to which he has been appointed.

Paul’s concern in 1 Timothy is that the churches in Ephesus see themselves as part of the “household of God.” If one is a member of a particular household, they must behave according to that household’s rule. Members of a Roman household had very clear roles and expectations. Fathers, children, and servants all had clearly defined roles in Roman society and it was honorable to do what was expected of you as a father, child, servant, etc.

In fact, it would bring shame upon a household if a father did not perform his role as leader of the family properly, or a child behaved in a way so as to dishonor on the family name. As an analogy, think of a powerful political family in America. Since the family name is well known, there are some things which a family member cannot do without bringing some kind of shame or scandal to the family, endangering their political aspirations. Paul has taught throughout this letter that people within the church are part of a new household, God is their father and they have a role to play within the order of the household of God.

Paul describes the Church as a “pillar” in that household, and a “buttress of the truth.” The metaphor shifts from a household to a Temple, with a foundation and pillars. Both of these metaphors refer to a building. Paul called Peter and James “pillars of the church” in Galatians 2, indicating that they were the chief leaders. Here Timothy is the “pillar” and main support for the churches at Ephesus. A buttress or bulwark (ἑδραίωμα) is like a foundation, the verb is used for founding something on a good foundation.

While the church is like a pillar in the household of God, the church itself is built on the truth (v. 15). This is not unlike Eph 2:19-22, the church grows into a holy temple for God, built on the prophets and apostles (pillars?) and built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

In both cases the point of the metaphor is that the Church stands on the foundation of truth, that it is to guard and defend the truth of the Gospel against defections from the truth. This looks back to how Paul started the letter; in 1:3-7 he warned Timothy about people who were swerving from the truth, both in doctrine and practice.

True godliness begins with Jesus and his work on the Cross (3:16) Paul describes the godliness expected by a member of the household of God as a “great mystery.” He uses the word “confess” (ὁμολογουμένως) perhaps indicating that this short description of the work of Jesus was used as a public confession or doctrinal statement in the early church. The word has the sense of agreement, “this is something that we all agree on.”

This mystery of godliness is called “great.” While it is hard to know if Paul had this in mind, the riot in Ephesus in Acts 19 culminated in the Ephesian crowds chanting “great is Artemis” for hours. Rather than a great god like Artemis, Paul proclaims a living God, rather than a great temple like the temple of Artemis, Paul declares that the church itself is the household of God.

How is this a mystery? The word (μυστήριον)often refers to God’s revelation of something which could not be known unless it was revealed by God. It is the secret which the church guards, how to be “godly.”

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Christian Theology

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