Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Life together: Introduction to 1 Timothy (Part 1)

We’re beginning a new series in 1 Timothy. The series is called Life Together because of all that 1 Timothy has to teach us about our life as a Christian church—our life in community together. 1 Timothy is in a section of the New Testament called the Pastoral Epistles or Pastoral Letters. The Pastoral Letters are Paul’s 1st and 2nd letters to Timothy and his letter to Titus. They’re called Pastoral Letters because Timothy and Titus were close disciples of Paul, and Paul left them in charge of churches in their respective towns. Titus was in Crete, which is a large island just south of Greece, and Timothy was in Ephesus, which was a city right about in the middle of the west coast of what is now Turkey.

Paul trained these men, and as we’ll see, developed a close friendship with these men. He also trained them to be Pastors or Overseers of their churches, perhaps multiple local congregations in their areas. These letters were written near the end of Paul’s ministry; they were the last letters he wrote. They give a clear overview of what mattered most to Paul in ministry. They were a kind of final charge. They are a kind of philosophy of ministry for Paul’s successors in ministry.

The reason we’re calling this series “Life Together” is that in 1st Timothy, we see Paul’s clear instruction about how Timothy is supposed to organize and lead the church. He talks about public worship, he gives instructions about identifying godly leadership, how to confront sin, how to handle money, the roles of men and women in the church. All of these are very practical matters for us right now.
Paul writes this to Timothy in chapter 4:12. “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example.” Timothy would have been in his thirties when he was installed as a minister in the church in Ephesus. We too, like Timothy, are young in our twenties and thirties, and I think that many of us forget that we have the responsibility to live our lives before God right now. We usually think of things like church leadership, and selecting leaders, and serving as committee members, and pursuing service as deacons or elder, or taking any active role in ordering our common ministry here, as things that will happen in the future. We think maybe these things will happen in the future when I have my life together.

But the truth is you will never make a practice of your faith—whether that means setting an example for others, or making holiness into literal daily habits, or repenting of your sins and your own pet idols, or whatever—you’ll never have these things together in the future if you don’t start now. My point is you may not feel like all of these apply to you directly yet. But if you are a Christian—a believer and follower of Jesus—and the GAP is your primary Christian community, then these instructions apply to you today. Our community needs you—all of you.

The second point here is that if you feel like you can’t implement these things directly—like, say, observing for moral qualities in selecting pastoral leadership, then you can always begin to search your own heart. Interestingly, the list of moral qualities for leadership in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, are remarkable for being so unremarkable. Except for the requirement of teaching ability for elders, the rest of the list is basically what all Christians are aiming for. So when you think about a topic like church leadership or public worship, and you can’t apply it to the whole community the same way Timothy could, you can apply it in the way you order your own life or in your own approach to worship—we can all do that.

With God’s help, 1st Timothy will lead us to live together well as a connect group, a body of Christians. Now, I’m going to read our verses. We just have two today: verses 1 and 2 of 1 Timothy. Then we’ll pray again, then we’ll get into today’s lesson.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
In our passage today, we’re introduced to Paul and Timothy. How many of you have ever been a part of a discipling relationship before? A group of two or three people maybe, committed to reading God’s word together, maybe a devotional work, and committed to putting what you learn into practice?

The image I get in my mind’s eye is something like d-groups in high school. Maybe you had a youth pastor who made a point to disciple a few students together, or provide helpful resources for a small group of students. I think specifically of a few classmates of mine at school in tenth grade and one of our teachers, Mr. Edgar. I learned a lot about the basics of the faith, because one of my teachers really believed in the importance of what he was teaching, and because I had a few peers who believed it too. I think of other times—I called them hallway conversations—in grad school back in the residence hall. After learning challenging things about missions, or about doctrine, we’d spend time together really trying to work it out.

Both of those are examples of discipleship, but here in 1 Timothy, Paul calls Timothy his true child in the faith. This is discipleship, to be sure, but it’s so much more than my examples. We have a few parents in the class. What is it that parents feel toward their children? Love. Affection. Another is a strong desire that they should be kept away from harm. Another is a strong desire that they grow up to be healthy, both physically and emotionally and that they would learn what they need to be productive and happy in adulthood.

From what we see in Paul’s pastoral letters and elsewhere in the New Testament Timothy was like a son to Paul. Timothy was likely converted under Paul’s ministry. Paul was there when Timothy was born again, and Paul invited Timothy into his ministry. Paul was like a father to adult children he was training up to work in the family business. Just like Jesus sent his disciples out in Matthew 28, the great commission—“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” Jesus made disciples and sent them out to make other disciples. Paul did the same. He led Timothy to Christ and in our passage he is sending Timothy out to make disciples.

I hope that today, we can observe a little about that process and emulate it. Where we need to grow up into maturity, let’s observe Paul and Timothy. In those areas we have seen some evidences of God’s grace, let’s try to find some others who can also benefit from that grace.

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