The Gospel of the Glory of the Blessed God
1 Timothy, Media, Sermons | by Pastor Adam Sinnett
Podcast: Play in new windowAudio | 1 Timothy 1:3-11
No matter who you are, what your background or where you come from, we all live life based on a set of truths (or doctrines) whether we’ve sat down to articulate them or not. This is important to understand as we approach First Timothy. Though this letter is nearly 2,000 years old, he too lived in a city that gave plausibility to anything, but certainty to nothing. That is why the Apostle Paul wrote this letter and that is why we are studying it. To Paul, getting the gospel of Jesus Christ right, and keeping it right, was the most important issue and it remains so today too.
We are on the very front end of a new sermon series through one of the Apostle Paul’s letters to his close friend, disciple and gospel-parter, Timothy. Today, this letter is known as First Timothy. In fact, this letter is one of three letters (also 2 Timothy and Titus) that are referred to as the pastoral epistles (or letters) in which Paul urges Timothy and Titus to fulfill their responsibilities as pastors over God’s people. The fundamental issue at stake is the matter of truth. What we believe to be true is the most important thing about us. Why? Because what we hold to be true informs how we view and understand God (or not), live life, relate to others, view ourselves, handle our emotions, use our words, understand our reason for being and more. In fact the Bible tells us that the entire overflow of our life, now and forever, finds its source in what we hold to be true. Therefore, this is no small issue. No matter who you are, what your background or where you come from, we all live life based on a set of truths (or doctrines) whether we’ve sat down to articulate them or not. This is important to understand as we approach First Timothy. Though this letter is nearly 2,000 years old, he too lived in a city that gave plausibility to anything, but certainty to nothing. That is why the Apostle Paul wrote this letter and that is why we are studying it. To Paul, getting the gospel of Jesus Christ right, and keeping it right, was the most important issue and it remains so today too.
It is striking to recall that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven happened just 30 years prior to the writing of this letter from Paul to Timothy. At this point, everything that is recorded in the book of Acts has taken place. Acts ends with Paul under Roman house arrest. We know that he was eventually released for a short while, before being rearrested and, ultimately, murdered by the Roman emperorer Nero. It was in between his two Roman imprisonments that he wrote First Timothy. From what we know he is about five years out from being rearrested and killed.
Let’s flip to Acts 20:17-32. This scene happens five years previous to Paul writing Timothy. Paul is on the beach in Miletus giving his final words of warning and encouragment. There he tells them to beware of “fierce wolves” who will arrise from your own number to destory Jesus church.
Now, zoom back ahead 5 years and Paul is writing Timothy on how to deal with those “fierce wolves” (aka false teachers). This letter contains no thanksgiving, which was contrary to his common practice. That means this is no light-hearted letter. Paul’s game face is on.
Q: Why is the Apostle Paul writing to Timothy?
Verse 3 makes this very clear. Paul’s “charge” to Timothy is to command false teachers to stop teaching. There was an internal threat to church.
Q: Who were the false teachers?
Many think that they were actually elders/pastors, for four primary reasons:
#1 They “desire to be teachers of the law” (vs7) and teaching was role reserved for elder.
#2 Paul, not the church, excommunicated Hymenaeus/Alexander (vs20) which seems to imply they were in unique leadership positions (i.e. pastors).
#3 Paul spends a good chunk of time unpacking the qualifications of elder in great detail in ch 3. This seems to implpy that there were unqualified men serving and needed replacement.
#4 Lastly, towards the end, Paul places a good amount of emphasis on dealing with pastors in sin and being slow to appoint (5:19-22).
But, on the whole, Paul’s concern is not so much with who they are, but with what they were doing.
Q: What were they teaching?
No one knows for sure, but we get some hints throughout Paul’s letter to Timothy.
1:4 “Myths” Legends. Fables. Old wives tales. 4:7 “have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths”
1:4 “Genealogies” Biblical genealogies.
1:7 Elements of law. Sum’ed 10 commandments. Works-righteousness. Pleasing God thru good works.
4:3 Forbid marriage and eating of certain foods
SUM: These false teachers were apparently teaching that you could gain acceptance/favor from God through a list of rules, various regulations and speculations. You might think, “What is that?” It’s nothing. It’s meaningless. That’s Paul’s issues. This still happens today.
In Ephesus, and in Seattle, central issues had become peripheral and peripheral issues became central. This often happens when we either get tired of the plain meaning of Scripture (or just don’t like it) and, therefore, start to play around with it. Listen to how Paul describes false teachers and those who follow throughout the letter…
1:6 swerving from a pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith
1:6 wandering away into vain discussions
1:7 lacking understanding
1:10 practicing something contrary to sound doctrine
1:19 making shipwreck of their faith
4:1 devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons
4:1 departing from the faith
4:2 insincere, lying, having a seared conscience
4:7 perpetuating irreverent, silly myths
5:15 straying after Satan
5:20 persisting in sin
6:10 wandering away from the faith
6:20 irreverent babble and contradictions
6:21 swerving from the faith
Q: Why is Paul so concerned?
Why is Paul being so intense? Why is he so concerned? Why is he using such strong language? “shipwreck faith”, “straying after Satan”, “devoting…deceitful spirits” Because, to Paul – and the Bible -To believe wrongly about the saving gospel of Jesus is to beutterly lost. Tampering w/ gospel is deadly b/c it can lure us, even unknowingly, to eternal destruction. Paul is not playing games. Looking for a debate. Not correcting them for sake of correction. Not mincing words. Not pointless argument. Couldn’t be anything moreserious.
God is the most precious reality in the universe. But, He is not whoever you want him to be and you can’t get to him however you want to get to him. He will not be manipulated. You don’t invite Him into your world, you exist in His. Think of how personal this was to Paul. He spent three years laboring in the work of the gospel in Ephesus. Real names and faces were coming to mind as he was writing. Imagine that. We have been at it for just under three years (including 10 months of prep). This is very personal for me too. Imagine someone else coming in and telling you something different about Jesus and how to get to God via myth, etc. Maybe even some of same guys who he knelt down with on the beach with Paul in Acts 20.
1:4 “…which promote speculations rather than stewardship from God that is by faith”
Speculative theology. Philosophize, conjecture, speculate, guess » confusion, irreverent babble.
Stewardship theology. Stewards of God’s revealed truth (Bible) to which we are to respond to by faith/trust. Christians are to be stewards not speculators. We are to be faithful with what has been passed down, not inventors of something new. If the local church is not instructed faithfully/regularly in God’s Word it is susceptible to wolves who look like sheep, coming in drawing people after then and ultimately destroy the church. More than anything it is crucial that those who follow Jesus be instructed fromscripture. That is why we go through books of the Bible. Not as exciting if we had fireworks, circus, fog machine, disco balls. We don’t do that. We’re not going to start. We hold fast to Jesus/Bible and hand that on to next generation. That is why Paul is concerned and that is why he is writing to Timothy.
Q: Are you a speculator or are you a steward of what has already been entrusted to us? Speculators rarely throw out the whole Bible. Wouldn’t be nearly as believable then. Question/tweak/edit. That’s what these guys are doing and the same is true today. Nothing new under the sun.
When we think of false teaching, some of the more obvious examples come to mind, such as cults and other false religions that use the Bible but twist it for their own purposes, such as:
Mormons give free Bibles, but what they don’t tell you is that you need another book, The Book of Mormon, to understand it. Here’s the thing. If you don’t understand importance of deity of Christ, doctrine of trinity and atoning death of Christ, then you’ll think those who practice Mormonism are just nice folks who want to have a Bible study. You won’t know unless you are grounded in God’s Word.
Christian Science reading room windows often have Bibles right in the front. It is easy to think, “Oh, Christian is in the name, they must be Christian.” They’re not, nor are they scientists. But, again, you don’t know that if you’re not grounded in the Bible itself.
Jehovah’s Witness. The Jehovah’s Witness’ really know their Bibles – especially their own translation that removes all references to deity of Jesus.
Every cult, false religion mixes in some measure of the Bible and Jesus and twists it for their purposes.
Now, clearly, these are the more obvious examples, but the central issue of the gospel and the radical grace of God in Jesus can become peripheral much more subtly. How? When churches emphasize all sort of good things that keep people from focusing on essential thing. Those these things are often good, they become bad when they eclipse the one thing that is power of God for us – gospel. Let’s look at some examples:
“Charismatic” churches emphasize having experiences with the Spirit » Prophesies, tongues, interpretations, healing.
“Seeker-sensitive” churches emphasize clear practical action steps for Christian living » 5 steps to a new you, 3 lessons for a better love life, 1 path to a better marriage.
“Fundamentalist” churches emphasize proper behavior » what to do, not to do…especially what not to do.
“Reformed” churches emphasize particulars of the Reformed traditions, upholdingTULIP, Solas, and various creeds.
“Prosperity” churches emphasize the victorious, blessed life God wants you to have – typically in the form of health and wealth.
“Discipleship-focused” churches emphasize radical, sacrificial commitment.
“Emergent” churches emphasize holistic nature of salvation, esp. social justice and racial reconciliation.
In sum, while these are caricatures, they are helpful. In almost each case, issue not with what’s being taught, but what is being emphasized. “We can lose Christ by distraction as easily as by denial..Christless Christianity happens through addition as well as subtraction.” Michael Horton
What is the essential thing that Paul is fighting to keep central? We see it in verse 11 “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God.” Paul is incredibly gospel-centered. Gospel-centered churches most emphasize news of what Christ has done » Everything else flows from that.
1:5 “The aim of our charge is love…”
At this point, it may be easy to think, “Man Paul, seems a little harsh” That’s true in our day as well when you can never say anything is wrong. But, here Paul reminds Timothy – and us – that the result of the gospel is love, unlike the speculative rambling. “Aim” = result of true teaching = “love” » comes from pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith.
Love (agape) – love of choice, of will. Involves self-denial and self-sacrifice to benefit others.
“pure heart” vs rather than one filed w/ sinful desires.
“good conscience” vs one filled w/ guilt. Conscience free of offenses against God or man. “I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” Paul (Acts 24:16) When we violate our conscience it results in guilt, shame, doubt, fear, remorse, despair. Maintaining a clear conscience results in peace, confidence, joy, hope, courage, contentment
“sincere faith” vs formality. Genuine love for and trust in Jesus.
Q: Where do get those – pure heart, good conscience, sincere faith? Nothing but the gospel, can give you a pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith. By faith in Christ, Spirit cleanses our hearts, removes our guilt, and gives us a genuine love for God. Take a moment, right now and assess your condition: pure heart? good conscience? sincere faith? When these things are interwoven in your life and the life of a church, the inevitable result is genuine love. When they are not, it often results in bickering, anger and division.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” – Jesus Mt 22:37-40
1:6-8 “Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully…”
That is in distinct contrast to these would be teachers of the law. Instead, “swerved from these…” and instead go the law.
What is law? Sum of God’s directives to his people re: the life he requires, summed in 10 commandment.
What’s wrong w/ teaching the law? Nothing is wrong with teaching the law, provided one use the law lawfully. That’s Paul’s point in verse 8. There is a right way and a wrong way to use the law. The clear implication is that the law is being used improperly by these false teachers.
How are they using the law? Paul is not explicit, but it is likely that they thought they could please God through own efforts and use the law as a means of salvation. That is a role the law could never fill (see Rom 3:20, 28; Gal 2:16; 3:11)
The Reformers woudl talk about three uses of the law. It is helpful way to understand the law.
#1 Condemn. Reveals sin, makes inexcusable and drive us to Christ.
#2 Curb. Deters and restrains sin, so that things aren’t worse than they otherwise would be.
#3 Conduct of believers. Proper place among believers in whose hearts Spirit of God lives/reigns.
So, which is in view here? While all of them are related, it seems that the first is primarily in view here. The fundamental purpose of law is meant to show us need for a savior, not to save us.
”It is a mighty hammer to crush the self-righteousness of human beings. For it shows them their sin, so that by the recognition of sin they may be humbled, frightened, and worn down, and so may long for grace and for the Blessed Offspring.” – Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 1535 (see also Calvin Book II. Ch 7)
”By works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since thru the law comes knowledge of sin.” Ro3:20
The law is morally right and good, but the law alone is not good news – that’s where the false teachers were mistaken – and we doo too. Because we are fallen we tend to think much more highly of ourselves than we ought and, therefore, don’t see our need. We don’t see our great spiritual need because we’re comparing ourselves to everyone around us and not God’s standard – that’s the role of the law here.
The law comes in like a dirt-revealing mirror to those who thought they were clean. The law forces us to recognize that bad news that all are guilty of violating God’s standards. You can understand why Paul was so upset they were viewing the law as a means of salvation. It is not meant to save, but point to savior! They were using it wrong. They are “without understanding either what they are saying…” vs7
1:9-10 “understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the…”
Paul then gives examples of law-breaking and moves from general to specific. There are clear allusions here to the 10 commandments:
- lawless and disobedient » Intro statement. Live as though there is no God.
- “ungodly and sinners” » without regard for God or His ways
- “unholy and profane” » indifferent to what is right, indifferent to God, indifferent to his duty towards HIm
- “strike their fathers and mothers” » #5 “Honor your father and mother” 20:12.
- murderers » #6 “shall not murder” 20:13
- sexually immoral, homosexuality » #7 “shall not commit adultery” 20:14 » any sexual expression outside marriage
- enslavers » #8 “you shall not steal” 20:15 » worst kind of stealing.
- liars, perjurers » #9 “shall not bear false witness” 20:16
- whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine » #10 “shall not covet” 20:17
Someone might say, “Yes, but Paul says the last is not for the just. Who is that?” Some translate that “righteous”. Paul is not saying that there exist some people who don’t need to be saved; only they think they don’t. Jesus said something similar when he said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Mk 2:17 Jesus is not saying that there are some righteous/just people who don’t need to repent. Rather, there are some who think they don’t need to repent. In a word, they are “self-righteous”. Those who think they are righteous on their own terms will never be saved.
Paul’s point? This law is for us, but not like those other guys are talking about. We’re the ones w/ ungodly, unholy, profane, murderous hearts. We tell lies. We have lustfulthoughts. Where do I see that? Have to read ahead. Read 12-14 Paul doesn’t say (vs15) “here is a trustworthy saying…for all of you filthy scum bags…No. He says “he came into the world to save sinners…I am the worst sinner of them all…”
That is the message people on the streets of Seattle do not get. Why? Well often because our self-righteousness is sticking out of us more than the gospel. We present the image that we “got it together” “more than conquerors” “no need” “nothing hurts” “know it all” But, only when we let the law crush us, will be in the position to receive the good news of the gospel. Only then I do realize my need for help outside of myself and my own resources. What is it that changes people? Will power? Behavior? Self-sufficiency? Fixing yourself? No. Result of being crushed, humbled by God’s law…and then, you see him, in all his saving power.
There are three groups of you in here right now:
#1 Some feel devastated right now. You know you don’t have a pure heart, clean conscience, sincere faith. You fully know that the law of God condemns you and you need a way out. If you feel any sense of dawning awareness that you are outside of Jesus Christ, you should be thankful.
#2 Some of you are resisting Him even now. You’re thinking, “There still might be another way”, “I don’t want to surrender”, “I’m fine as I am” or “I’m comfortable playing games with Jesus but not giving him my life.” You’re trying to convince yourself, but it won’t work. You need him.
#3 Lastly, there are some of you that hear me every week and have never felt devastated…but self-satisfied. You don’t understand why I get worked up. You’ve never been crushed. You see no need of rescue. You are in the worst condition of all.
Now, to those who feel devastated. That is a sign that the Spirit is working in you to prepare you to receive the glorious news of Jesus. Right now, turn from your sin, self-sufficiency, self-righteousness and fly to him. He will relieve you of your burden. He willpurify your heart, clean your conscience and give you a new desire for Him. That is what Paul calls the gospel of the glory of the blessed God. But, know this. You will never feel good until you first feel dreadful. Have you been crushed? He can’t lift you up until you have. God is most precious reality in universe and, therefore, it matters above all else that we get Him right.
Downtown Cornerstone, if the minds of those that were part of the Ephesian church were filled w/ the great central truths of gospel they would’ve realized how ridiculous this other teaching was. They would have just laughed at it and moved on. When God’s people not caught up in great truths of gospel, susceptible to all kinds of ridiculous things. Let’s be stewards, not speculators. He has entrusted us with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God. Let’s ask him to make us a community pervaded by the love of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that all who are crushed, broken, devastated, worn, perverted, guilty, shame-ridden know where to come to be made right with God.