An Introduction to 1Timothy

January 13, 2019 | Speaker: Pastor Jurem Ramos

  We are going to look at a new book of the Bible which is 1 Timothy. I have come to have greater interest in studying this book because, for one this has been our study in our last module in our preaching lab. But another reason is because of my recent visit to Turkey where I had the opportunity to see the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus and the other six other places mentioned in Revelation chapters 2 and 3.   That visit has given me a deeper appreciation of the letter of Paul to the Ephesians, Christ’s letter to Ephesians in chapter 2 of Revelation, Even of the letters of John and this letter.   As I continue to study about Ephesus during the NT times, I discovered that in several ways its culture is not very much different from ours today in the 21st century. Like ancient Ephesus, in our country where economy is booming, opposing religions are plentiful, false teachers are abounding, materialism is trending, and things previously considered taboo are generally being tolerated.   To give you a few examples:
  • One of the high school students in our school is having a hard time believing in Christianity because of the opposing religious views that he is exposed to in the internet.
  • An elementary student asked me a few weeks ago, “Pastor, is God a Woman?” I wonder where he was coming from when he asked that question. My 18-year old daughter told me that this question may have been influenced by Ariana Grande’s music video “God is a Woman.” I asked, who’s Ariana? She’s one of the three female singers in the viral music video Bang Bang, with Jessie J and Nicki Minaj.
  • Some of our elementary kids are preoccupied with fashion and make-up. I was again informed by that it could have been because of the influence of the Kardashian sisters in the reality television series, “Keeping up with the Kardashians.” I asked, who are the Kardashians? They are related to Caitlyn Jenner, “the most famous openly transgender woman in the world.” He was a 1976 Olympic decathlon winner identifying publicly as male but announced that she was a transwoman in 2015.
  • Rumor has it that some students are talking about masturbation openly in chat rooms. What was taboo before is not anymore among children today.
  All of these examples of materialism, religious pluralism, tolerance, sexual looseness, etc. would not have been very different in ancient Ephesus. Of course, they didn’t have internet in those days, but they were also humans who like us today struggled with the same lusts and passions and falsehood that we still have today. This means that our study of 1Timothy is going to be relevant because it addresses problems that are no different from the issues that the church faces today.   Today, we will not yet go into the details of this study. Instead we will look at some introductory matters pertaining to this letter, looking into the context and the background of the letter.   1Timothy is part of the three NT letters called the Pastoral Epistles. The other two Pastoral epistles are 2Timothy and Titus. These epistles or letters called “pastoral” because they discuss the responsibilities of pastors in leading and ministering to God’s people. While these letters are similar in some ways, each letter has its own unique concerns.   We’ll look at some of the specifics related to 1 Timothy under the following headings:
  • The author and recipients
  • The occasion
  • The time and the place
  • The value of this letter for us today
  First, let us look at the author.

I.           The author and recipients

  • First Timothy was written by the apostle
  • Timothy is the main recipient of this letter, but it was also for the Ephesian congregation. We know this because of the last sentence in the letter that says, “Grace be with you.” The word “you” in this sentence is plural, meaning that Paul intended this letter to be read by the congregation.
  • Now Timothy was first mentioned in Acts 16:1 during Paul’s 2nd evangelistic Mediterranean tour. He was a native of the city of Lystra, which is now part of present-day Turkey. His father was Greek and probably an unbeliever. His grandmother and mother were Jews who taught Timothy the OT from his childhood in the manner of devout Jews. Most probably, Timothy, his mother and grandmother were converted during Paul’s first visit in Lystra in Acts 14.
  • When Timothy is first mentioned in Acts 16:1, he is already called a disciple, which means that he was already a Christian. He was also well spoken of among believers in Lystra and Iconium (Act 16:2). That is about 32 km, a distance of a day’s walk, during that time. How he became a Christian is not clear. Timothy may have been converted under Paul’s ministry because Paul calls him, “my true child in the faith” (1Ti 1:2). Paul may have led him to Christ (and so became his spiritual father) during his ministry in Lystra on his first missionary journey (Ac 14:6-23). Paul also states that Timothy had followed his teaching on his first visit to Antioch and Iconium and Lystra (2Ti 3:10-11).
  • When Paul met Timothy again in his second visit to Lystra, he invited Timothy to join him on his missionary travels. He was circumcised so that his Greek background would not be a hindrance in their ministry to the Jews (Act 16:3). Timothy served with Paul in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth.
  • Timothy was a young man when Paul wrote this letter to him. In 1Ti 4:12 Paul told him, “let no one despise you for your youth.” And then when Paul wrote his second letter to him, he urged him to ‘flee youthful passions.’ (2Ti 2:22). So how old was he? The ancients regarded the ages between 30 and 40 as being still a youth. (according to Irenaeus, 2nd).
  • Timothy was naturally timid, and needing affirmation, encouragement and reassurance. In an earlier letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes in 1Co 16:10,11, “When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. So let no one despise him.” In 2Ti 1:7 Paul exhorted him not to be ashamed of Christ because “God gave us a spirit, not of fear.”
  • Timothy was sickly. He suffered from stomach problem and other frequent ailments. He even prescribed medicine. 1Ti 5:23 says, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”
  • He may have even struggled with the temptation of youthful passions (2Ti 2:22, ‘flee youthful passions.’). He appears sometimes to have been neglectful, for again and again Paul urged him to be diligent in the use of his spiritual gifts (1Ti 4:14, “Do not neglect the gift you have.” 2Ti 1:6, “Fan into flame the gift of God which is in you.” 2Ti 3:14, “continue in what you have learned.”).
  • Despite Timothy’s weaknesses, Paul regarded Timothy as unequalled in his capacity to care for others (Phil 2:20-22, “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare… you know Timothy’s proven worth.”). Paul knew that the grace of God was sufficient to overcome his weaknesses. In 2Ti 2:1 Paul writes, ‘You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus’ (2 Tim. 2:1).” Because of God’s grace in Timothy’s life, Paul felt confident enough in his ministry ability to send him as his representative to several churches (1Co 4:17; 1Th 3:2; Phil 2:9; 1Ti 1:3).

II.       The Occasion

  Paul’s first letter to Timothy is occasioned by actual historical circumstances. Paul left Timothy in Ephesus as his personal representative in order to stop the influence of some false teachers. In 1Ti 1:3 Paul writes, “Remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.”   Paul had established the Ephesian church early on his third missionary journey, spending about three years there. We know about this because of his last words to the Elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:31: Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.   During the last time he met with the Elders from Ephesus Paul warned them that false teachers, some coming from the leadership itself, would plague the church (Acts 20:29, 30).   29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert… (Notice the phrase “from among your own selves.” Paul predicts that the problem of false teaching will come from among the Elders themselves!)   It seems that the prophecy of Paul in Acts 20:30 had actually been fulfilled at the time Paul wrote this letter: “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”   There is evidence that some of the false teachers either came from the leadership in the church. Perhaps this is why Paul says in 1Ti 3:   1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach…   Paul also mentioned Hymenaeus and Alexander as two individuals who had to be excommunicated, or removed, from the church for rejecting “faith and a good conscience” (1:19) Paul mentions Hymenaeus again in 2Ti 2:17 in the context of leadership.  
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,
rightly handling the word of truth. 18 who have swerved from the truth,
16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.  
  These verses together with Paul’s prophecy in Acts 20 may indicate that Hymenaeus and Alexander may have even been elders in the church.   There were other false teachers in the church. These false teachers were misusing the Law and emphasizing “myths and endless genealogies” that were causing controversies and quarrels and divisions among the members of the church. (1:4). They were those who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods (1Ti 4:3)   The false teachers didn’t just teach wrong doctrines, they also manifested evil conduct. Paul may be referring to them when he writes in 1Ti 6:3-5 “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people… They may also have taught that godliness is a means of gain.”   These false teachers may also be in the mind of Paul when he mentioned about the people who creep into households and capture weak women who are burdened with sins and led astray by various passions. 2Ti 3:6. And it is possible that among these women were some young widows mentioned in 1 Timothy 5, who “are self-indulgent” (v. 6), and have become “idlers” and “gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not” (v. 13), and by so doing are bringing the gospel into disrepute (v. 14). Some of them, Paul says, have “already strayed after Satan” (v. 15).   That background will explain the urgency of Paul’s charge to Timothy to stop the false teachers in chapter 1. This also explains the why prayers should be made for all people and the kind of attitude men should have when they pray. The should lift up holy hands without anger or quarreling (2:8). This is also the reason for Paul’s longer discussion regarding women and their adornment and roles. This background also explains Paul’s instruction regarding the qualifications of elders and deacons in chapter 3. This is also why we find his instruction to the wealthy and for contentment.   As you read the rest of 1 Timothy, you must read it in the light of this background of false teachers and their negative influence upon the congregation or house churches in Ephesus.

III.    The time and place of the letter

  Let’s consider the context for Timothy and the church at Ephesus in the mid 60s of the first century AD. At this time the city of Ephesus was among the great cities, religiously complex, and financially prosperous.   Although the capital of Asia was Pergamum, Ephesus was the greatest commercial center in Western Asia. Along with Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, Ephesus was one of the greatest cities of the Roman Empire.   In Roman times the ancient city of Ephesus was situated on the coast of the Aegean sea. Its location made it the center of travel and commerce with its one of the greatest seaports of the ancient world. The city sat at the convergence of three land routes. One road went south to the Meander Valley, another east towards Babylon via Laodicea and a third to the north via Smyrna.   Because of the excellent port in Ephesus, goods were transported regularly from the west to the Asian interior. Important items of trade around the Mediterranean were olive oil, animals, glass, stone such as marble, tiles etc, wine, grain, pottery vessels, metals such as iron, copper, lead, gold, tin, etc and slaves.   During the NT, the city had the population of some 250,000 people. It had an Amphitheater which could seat some 24,000 people and has such amazing acoustics and everyone sitting in the theater can hear without amplification the voice of the players on the stage. (William Lane Craig) They also had an Agora, or the marketplace, commercial center of the city. Somebody said that it was a like a “mall on steroids.” You could buy all of the best things in life there. You’ll find everything there from fashion and design, goods of all sorts, brothels, baths, gymnasium, etc.   Ephesus was the center of the cult worship of Artemis, the mother goddess. Romans called her Diana. The Ephesus goddess Artemis, called Diana by the Romans, is not quite the same figure as was worshiped in Greece. The Greek Artemis was the goddess of the hunt. The Ephesus Artemis was a goddess of fertility and was often pictured with egg-like objects attached from her waist to her shoulders. They were at first thought to be female breasts as a sign of fertility. Later people thought them to be the testicles of bulls because of the bull sacrifices offered to her honor. But recent studies suggest that they were like the pouches or little bags from Hittite practices that were filled with magical words, incantations and spells and used in gaining spiritual power or protecting themselves from illnesses or evil spirits.   The idol of Artemis was housed in a Temple at Ephesus called Artemision. It was the first temple to be entirely of marble and one of the largest Greek temples ever built, measuring some 377 feet in length and 180 feet wide (larger by twenty feet on a side than a football field). The temple had 127 columns, each sixty feet high.   Ancient writers included the Temple of Artemis as one of the seven wonders of the world. The Greek poet Antipater of Sidon wrote in 140 BC,   "I have seen the walls and Hanging Gardens of ancient Babylon, the statue of Olympian Zeus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the mighty work of the high Pyramids and the tomb of Mausolus. But when I saw the temple at Ephesus rising to the clouds, all these other wonders were put in the shade.” ANTIPATER OF SIDON, paraphrased by Lee Krystek, 2010)   The ancient city of Ephesus continued to prosper over the next few hundred years and was the destination for many pilgrims coming to view the temple. And not only that. In Ephesus there were two major festivals held annually to honor Artemis of the Ephesians. Theatrical performances and games were held in her honor. Pliny the Elder describes the precession in which the goddess’s images were carried through the streets of Ephesus surrounded by young virgins and attracting large crowds.   A souvenir business in miniature Artemis idols grew up around the shrine. The silversmith Demetrius is a craftsman who produces statuetes of Artemis of the Ephesians. He stirred up the populace into a religious frenzy in his reaction to the impact of Paul’s preaching in Ephesus.   According to Acts 19:8-12 Paul’s ministry there was so effective.   8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. 11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.   One incident strengthened the impact of Paul’s ministry. Acts 19:13-20:   13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.   This has caused the sale of the statues to wane. This caused one these business proprietors, a man called Demetrius, to stir up the people in the amphitheater. We read about that in Acts 19:23-41.   23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” 28 When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul's companions in travel. … Verse 34 adds that, “for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’”   When you see images on television of out of control crowds in Cairo for example, chanting, “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, God is the greatest,” I think you can get a picture of what the riot in Ephesus must have been like with the crowds shouting over and over, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians. (William Lane Craig).   So that was the city. It was prosperous but it was also full of superstition and idolatry.

IV.      The value of this letter for us today

  There are important reasons for studying 1Timothy. Paul himself stated clearly in the overarching purpose of the book in 1Ti 3:14-15. It is to teach the proper ordering and conduct of the church.   "I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”   Paul had given instructions regarding the essentials of church conduct during his earlier ministry in Ephesus, but recent events had required that he write them down in a letter to Timothy, to whom Paul had charged the care of the churches there.   But it was not only for the church, the letter was also important in order to help Timothy.  
  • 1Ti 1:18-19 " This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience."
  • 1Ti 4:6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.
  So the letter of 1 Timothy provides the essentials to both leader and congregation as to how they must conduct themselves to the glory of God. This is important now that we see so much confusion about what the church ought to be like.   Here are three common misconceptions about Christianity that many non-Christians and even many Christians believe:  
  1. christianity calls upon the church to solve political and social problems.
  [There are those who say that “pastors should leave their Bible study and pulpits and counseling and evangelism, and put that time into politics and social ministries. [But] we must never lose sight that the greatest issues are not temporal, but eternal. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul (see Luke 9:25)?" (John PIper)   1Ti 1:15-16  The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.  
  1. Christianity brings health, wealth, and success.
“Becoming a Christian doesn’t guarantee financial, physical, intellectual or professional gain.” (Stephen Mattson)  
  • 1Ti 5:23 No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.
  • 1Ti 6:5-10. [There are] people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
“Christianity isn’t a magic cure or a quick-fix solution to everything that’s wrong in our lives. Following Jesus means embracing the hardships of humanity, supporting and helping the poor and the needy who are sick, weak, abandoned and forsake.” (Stephen Mattson) It also includes confronting sinners that could lead to being misunderstood and persecuted.   The Ephesians to whom the instructions in this letter were directed were already saved for some time and yet we find them still falling short of God’s standard. Here are some of the things that Timothy still had to address in that church:
  • False teachers and wrong doctrine had to be dealt with (1:3–20).
  • They needed correction in the area of prayer and instruction on the roles of men and women in the church (2:1–15).
  • They needed instruction regarding elders and deacons (3:1–16).
  • Timothy had to be instructed on how to be a good servant of the Christ Jesus in light of the midst of false teaching and departure from the faith (4:1–15).
  • Paul instructed Timothy regarding the support for genuine widows, for the honoring and discipline of elders, and the attitude of slaves towards their masters (5:3-6:2).
  • Paul had to correct the church’s attitude to material possessions (6:3–21); he also addresses both the covetous and the wealthy.
  1Timothy clearly has relevance both to church members and its leaders. But while the purpose of 1 Timothy has to do with church order and conduct, we need to understand that the practical ordering of the church has everything to do with the revelation of the mystery of Christ to the world.   We know this because just after Paul declared the purpose of this letter found in 1 Timothy 3:14-15 , he quotes an excerpt from a creedal hymn about Christ's incarnation.   Let me read to you again overarching purpose of his letter in 3:14-15:   "I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”   And then see how Paul immediately connects this with verse 16 that speaks of great mystery of godliness which is rooted in the incarnation:   Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels,             proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.   First Timothy is a letter to the church on how it ought to live so as to reveal that "mystery." God tells us in 1 Timothy how the church must look and act if it is to glorify him. It has everything to do with the gospel and the declaration of the revealed mystery. Here we see the power of the gospel at work.   We live today in a world that is lost and confused. It does not know how to walk rightly. But we have the Bible to tell us how to live properly. But let us not forget that even our good works are not possible unless it is rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we cannot live the life God wants. We need to rely upon the perfect sacrifice of Jesus; we need to abide in Him every day, trust in Him, love Him, worship Him, obey Him. God help us as we go through Paul’s letter to Timothy so that we may truly be a pillar and buttress of the truth.