St. Wendreda's

March Cambridgeshire

 

Article by Tim Curtis Click here

 

1 Tim 6 Outline

We continue today with Paul’s letter to his close companion Timothy with it’s encouragement, instruction and practical advice for him. And this letter was written it seems when Paul knew that he his window of opportunity to minister to the churches  was coming to an when he would soon be arrested for a second and final time, something which really concentrated his mind as he gave these instructions to Timothy. 

What stands out is in these solemn instructions is Paul’s concern at all times to uphold  God’s name and to  keep to “the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to the godly teaching which has been given” during their ministry and amongst the believers and churche. It’s about sticking to Scripture as the basis for teaching in the church. This fundamental theme, this exhortation and solemn reminder to sound instruction based on sound doctrine and insistance upon it, is in order to counter false teaching, and this runs throughout this epistle.

The church in the Roman empire faced many challenges. The Gospel was preached in a multi cultural empire, Roman, Greek Jewish and Barbarian societies with their respective barriers, the reality of slavery, great wealth and great poverty, Jews and Gentiles, Greeks and Gentiles, and for example, the challenges faced by new believers amongst both slaves and masters which comes up at the beginning of chapter 6.   

But whatever the difficult context or challenging situation, Paul is passionate about honouring God’s name, nothing should be allowed to bring dishonour to his name amongst believers, so it was important for both slave and master to respect one another that there should be no bad behaviour that might lead to the slandering of God’s name and the affect the teaching that he and Timothy had been giving. This was absolutely vital for the integrity of the church. Relationships had to be worked out, even between master and slave in an unjust system. This was part of the reality of the early church. And we have an example of Paul difusing a potential serious problem between master and slave in his letter to Philemon. The good news of the Gospel meant that all relationships were now being transformed by God’s grace. 

Here in the Paraguayan Chaco with its large cattle ranches or estancias as they are called, on occasion, workers, cowboys and their bosses also need to show mutual respect.  Social mobility is still very limited in this region of the country. And the challenge here in Paraguay is for Christian ranch owners to be devoted to the welfare of their indigenous workers and for their workers to work extra well, to serve them better. We are brothers and sisters in Christ and we are called to lvoe and serve one another.

Whilst we no longer live in a society based on slavery, (although the historical hurts are still being acutely felt) as was the case with the Roman Empire, many of the same dangers to the church persist, in our relationships, or situations similar to which Paul and Timothy faced -- false teachers leading the believers astray, or being corrupted by the love of money to the extent that they were viewing godliness as a means to financial game. 

 This was obviously a major problem, as Paul highlights this along with the accompanying symptoms that manifested themselves – un unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that resulted in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction. All these negative things were are sure sign something was wrong. Foolish and harmful desires were plunging people into ruin and destruction. The vital qualities of a pure heart , good conscience and sincere faith, were missing (1 Tim 1:5).  So the need for sound doctrine was vital to counter the teaching of false doctrines, and myths and other practices which were hindering the advancement of God’s work mentioned at the beginning of the letter. 

Paul had to remind Timothy with his important role in church leadership of godliness and contentment amongst the believers are basic virtues,  “in contrast, godliness with contentment is great gain”. For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 

So Paul urges Timothy to flee from all those things mentioned and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, endurance and gentleness. And to “fight the good fight of the faith”. Here we are reminded of the things we need to do that, things that Paul mentioned in his letter to the Ephesians, in order to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power, putting on the full armour of God, to stand firm, the belt of truth buckled around our waist, and the breastplate of righteousness, to mention some of the armour needed. 

Paul and Timothy were contending and battling for the faith, as Jude also urged his readers “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”

Truth, as shown by Jesus Christ, the way the truth and the life, and Paul reminds us “making the good confession before Pontius Pilate”. Jesus said that he had come to bear witness to the truth, and Pilate had answered with that most modern of questions ¿what is truth? We don’t know, and the debate rages as to whether Pilate said that in mockery, or whether he really was acknowledging that truth is hard to ascertain. But the moment when we have to do that is never far away, as we are challenged.

So Timothy is solemly charged to “Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession. I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time. 

The reality of this should concentrate our minds.  We too have to flee certain things. I was reminded in my Scripture Union notes, reading Genesis 35  just the other day of how Jacob, after he had been reconciled with his brother Esau needed to get back on track. “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” Génesis 35: 2 Jacob needed to spiritually declutter himself before he could return to the spot where he met Almighty God, and get rid of the tin pot idols.

 And so we need to take stock, see where we are, and remove those things which draw our hearts away from God ad warm our hearts with his promises.

We are people awaiting the return of our Lord Jesus Christ at a time appointed by God, in his own good time 1 Tim 6: 15, and we are serving God the blessed and only Ruler, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

So as Christians we should be constantly reflecting on how we should then live. How do we live in the light of  the Gospel, and in the light of what God has done for us and what he is planning. We remind ourselves of his promises, and what he has said to us through his word, the faith that was once and for all entrusted to the saints.  And chapter six ends giving us practical advice. We are to hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Good deeds, generosity should caracterize our lives, a willingness to share, laying up treauses as a firm foundation for the coming age so that we may take hold of the life that is truly life, and turning away from the godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, so that Christ can be honoured and glorified in the church. 

So let us also contend for the faith, take regular stock of our lives.

God the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who alone is inmortal, and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might for ever. Amen.