Paul begins his first letter to Timothy with a reminder of who he (Paul) is- an apostle of Christ because of God and a reminder of who Timothy is- the spiritual son of Paul. We find out in 2 Timothy that Timothy was raised in the faith by both his grandmother and mother. This spiritual fathership is important because Paul knows the value of fathers, especially spiritually-strong ones.
Timothy’s purpose in Ephesus is simple, to be a wall between “certain men” who would teach false doctrines and the people in need of the gospel. These false doctrines, myths and genealogies do nothing but promote controversy. Because these things have been promoted in the church, people who were once believers have wondered away. Timothy’s attitude in this teaching is to come from love, defined as “a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
Paul continues by pointing out that the law is made for lawbreakers to keep them in check, and to use it as a vehicle of God’s grace. It reduces us to knowing that we cannot “be good.” As a reminder, Paul tells Timothy who he really was, “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.” And, Christ came to save men just like Paul.
Chapter 1 closes with a powerful statement and call to Timothy; Paul tells him that the reason for the instruction to be the buffer against false teachers is because of the prophecies made about Timothy, and in doing so, he’d “fight the good fight, holding on to faith, and a good conscience.” When people (those false teachers) have rejected those three things, they’ve “shipwrecked their faith.”
Leaders within the church are to be on the look out for people teaching false doctrines. Leaders need to check their own hearts and motivations in their instructions. Are these things evident in our teachers?
- Pure Heart
- Good Conscience
- Sincere Faith
Some people want to be teachers, but in reality are merely lawgivers and as such, have no clue what they’re talking about (1:7). And yet, there is hope for them. This hope is in the mercy of Christ, demonstrated not only on the cross but in the life of Paul, “the worst” of sinners.
I’m struck by verses 18 and 19. Like many pastors, we enter ministry with the hope of proclaiming the gospel, seeing lives changed and introducing people to Jesus. Likely, we had words pronounced over us about those very things; I believe Paul would call them “prophecies”…all of the good things God was going to accomplish through us. If we stick to them, and to “a pure heart, and a good conscience and a sincere faith,” we will “fight the good fight, holding onto faith and a good conscience.” When leaders diverged from their calling, as they clearly did in the time of Timothy, their faith was shipwrecked and they became the very false teachers that they are called to protect against.
This happens today. There are leaders who’d rather promote controversy than do God’s work. They’d rather teach law than grace. Leaders ought to be in a constant state of prayerful evaluation, asking God for pure hearts, good consciences and sincere faith. The moment that we walk away from these, the words we speak from our pulpits become “false doctrines…myths and endless genealogies” because we have no clue what we’re really talking about. In short, a pastor, elder, or church leader becomes merely a historian. Historians only report facts…myths…genealogies. Historians have a shipwrecked faith. Paul handed historians over to Satan in the hopes that they’d return.
Is your pastor a historian? Are your church leaders historians?
Would you know?