COMMANDED TO COMMAND
Lord, give me the proper estimation of authority in the church.
Read 1 TIMOTHY 1:1–11
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,
2 To Timothy my true son in the faith:
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Timothy Charged to Oppose False Teachers
3 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 4 or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 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, 10 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 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
New International Version (NIV)
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Give thanks and pray for those who raised you in the faith (2a).
Paul, an apostle by the command of God (1), urges Timothy to continue his work of restoring the church in Ephesus. When Paul commands Timothy, he uses the same word throughout the letter (1:3,5,18; 5:7; 6:13,17). Its root meaning is “to transmit a message.” Timothy is to exercise authority through public commands in Paul’s name, silencing the false teachers (3).
Why is this necessary? Passing through on his way to Macedonia, Paul has found God’s household in Ephesus in a mess. Key leaders have been teaching differently (3), that is, not in accordance with the “sound” teaching (10) that comes from the good news entrusted to Paul. Paul gives us few details of that different teaching. “Myths” (4) may be idiomatic usage for far-fetched stories about the gods of Olympus. “Endless genealogies” might refer to speculations about lineage from the Pentateuch, perhaps to justify a right to Levitical heritage and explaining the desire to be “teachers of the law” (7). The law, Paul insists, has no jurisdiction over those made righteous by faith (9–11).
This reconstruction is tentative, not least because a letter between two close friends assumes common knowledge and Paul doesn’t spell this out. What’s clear is the impact on the church: controversy, disunity, and devotion to meaningless talk, rather than a “stewardship of God in faith” (4). Restoring this stewardship is at the heart of Timothy’s commission. It might be best understood as pursuing God’s order of things. Sometimes there is no alternative: a line between truth and error has to be drawn, for to do anything else is to collude with darkness; no compromise is possible. Where might you be facing such a choice?
Read Philippians 4:8,9 in the light of Paul’s contrast between “healthy” and “diseased” teaching. What are you taking into yourself that’s healthy and what might be less positive?
Lord, make me more sensitive to teaching and keep our leadership doctrinally straight.