(Download the sermon pdf below for overview graphics that help you to see the landscape of 1st Timothy)
Many years ago, around AD 62-63, the Apostle Paul penned two letters to a young pastor named Timothy, in which he outlined what God expected of him as a leader and shepherd of the first century church of Ephesus (1st and 2nd Timothy). In 1 Timothy, Paul’s concerns seem to be two-fold: He is worried about the conduct of the church, as well as its leaders. Paul recognizes that the spiritual health of a given local church will rarely rise above the spiritual health of its leaders. Thus, he challenges Timothy to be a godly role model for his flock.
From 1 Timothy 1-4, we get the impression that Pastor Timothy was ready to move on and find a new place to minister. Ministry at Ephesus was difficult. While there was a large colony of Jews in Ephesus, it was a pagan city, which resented Christianity’s growing influence. Christians were mocked for their faith and Biblical values. Paul knew Timothy needed to be encouraged if he was to stand up under this kind of societal pressure. But the problems Timothy faced weren’t just out there in the world, they were also inside the church, as false teachers had infiltrated the church and were confusing many. Paul writes Timothy urging him to maintain sound doctrine while refuting false doctrine.
The danger of false teaching still plagues the church. We live in a pluralistic culture, where people from various ethnic, ideological, and religious backgrounds live together. In fact, pluralism has become an ideology unto itself. It has become the “politically correct way to think.” And that is where, as Christians, we should have a problem. Ideological pluralism argues that every religion is a culturally-conditioned phenomenon, and frowns upon any attempt to convert people to a particular way of thinking. One of the chief tenants of ideological pluralism is that there is no such thing as objective truth, let alone universal and eternal truth. In such a society, “tolerance” becomes the highest virtue. Today, we tolerate virtually any kind of absurd thinking except the intolerance of those who insist that certain ideas are true and others are false, and that certain practices are good and others are evil. Our society is intolerant of that! You cannot be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ and embrace this kind of comprehensive subjectivism, because Jesus claimed to be the truth and to bear witness to the truth. Furthermore, he claimed that this objective truth sets us free. Church, truth matters…specifically, the truth which God has revealed through Christ and by his Spirit. Both Jesus and the Apostles warned us to beware false teachers who would pervert God’s revealed truth.
Paul goes on to contrast this false, divisive, speculative teaching with the goal of Biblical instruction (1 Timothy 5). Let’s face it. There are a lot of things that our society proclaims as good that the Bible condemns as wrong, sinful, evil, and unhealthy. False teachers ignore those things, and tell their audience what they want to hear. We don’t do that here at TCC. If that is what you are looking for, you are in the wrong church. We practice exegesis, where we uncover and explain what is clearly in the Biblical text—whether it makes us feel good or not. My goal as your pastor is to lovingly and faithfully represent the Biblical text, not to expand my popularity.
Beginning at verse 12, Paul turns his attention away from false teachers, and writes about himself and the gospel which has been entrusted to him by God. He retells the story of his conversion and commissioning, and as he does so, he breaks out in praise and thanksgiving. Not only did God forgive him, He commissioned Paul to be an Apostle (1 Timothy 12-17). From these verses, we clearly see that God’s grace is greater than our sin. If you are thinking “God could never forgive me for what I have done,” you are wrong. If God forgave Paul, he will forgive you. Come to him, admit your sin, and ask him to forgive you. And when you receive his forgiveness, you too will have reason to break out in praise!
Paul concludes this section of the letter with a challenge (1 Timothy 18-20). He urges Timothy to use his pastoral authority to silence the destructive false teachers and to affirm the true gospel, without allowing a different gospel to take root. Timothy had to choose sides, and when it comes to defending the Biblical truth, so must we.
We are engaged a great spiritual battle, and in that battle, there will be casualties. Some will abandon the faith because they desire the favor or men more than the favor of God. How about you? As our culture and Biblical Christianity continue to diverge, which path will you take? Will you continue to defend Biblical truth, or will you become a casualty of our culture’s war on truth? Let’s join Timothy and remain at our post here at Triangle Community Church. Let’s love people enough to tell them the truth.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- If you have not received the grace of God in Christ, do so today. Admit your sin and ask God to forgive you as you place your trust in Him. If you would like to know God personally, contact us here. Scroll down to the Ministry Information Request section and mark the first or second checkbox. We look forward to helping!
- If you are a Christian, thank God regularly for his faithfulness, love, mercy— and for looking beyond your faults.
- In the next several days, meet with a friend and sharing your testimony of God’s goodness.
- If you are married, share your testimony with your spouse.