The Beauty of Gospel Truth: Paul’s Ministry to Timothy: Part I
Paul’s Legacy: Passing the Torch to Timothy
This series: The Beauty of Gospel Truth highlights The Holy Spirit’s and Paul’s ministry to the Church through Timothy. Paul authored the first letter to Timothy as a private communication to him. In it, Paul impressed upon Timothy several truths: 1. The beauty of gospel truth; 2. The importance of sound, healthy, hygienic words and doctrine; 3. Paul’s responsibility to have this legacy passed on. 4. Timothy as God’s vessel to carry on. Paul was Timothy’s spiritual father and he was passing the torch to him as God’s agent.
Timothy was faced with false teachers and he needed the fullness of the beauty of gospel truth in order to refute false teaching and grow the congregation as children of the King. To that end, both Timothy and the flock needed to be educated and encouraged regarded preaching and listening, public worship, church organization, church discipline, and the duties of officers.
Paul was not coming back any time soon. He also knew that Christ’s return was not imminent (2 Timothy 1:14; 2:2). Paul was preparing Timothy to continue the work that he had been doing: shepherding God’s people. Paul knew of no thing better than the beauty of gospel truth both as a recipient of it and as an agent of its proclamation.
Timothy was a trusted, timid disciple. Moreover, the congregation faced false teachers and Paul warned the congregation through Timothy about that danger (1:3-11). The people needed to know and enjoy the beauty of gospel truth. Timothy had to be prepared and Paul’s letter was the Holy Spirit’s instrument for that preparation.
Paul wrote the so-called pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus), in part, to help Timothy and Titus address the problems mentioned above. Twice in chapter 1 of 1Timothy Paul spoke of a command or authoritative instruction entrusted to him (v.5, 18 – see Acts 16:24; 1 Thessalonians 4:2). The word indicates a proclamation, a command, and a charge received from a superior delivered to others. Paul’s letter to Timothy contained authoritative instruction for Timothy which involved the proclamation of truth. Truth was the key then as well as today. Paul knew that truth, life, and ministry were a tripod and were linked. If one leg was defective the whole stool would not stand.
In the 1 Timothy passages (1:5, 18) Paul set the standard for serving God and His people: God’s word. Paul marveled at the beauty of gospel truth which included simplicity of life. Paul gave an instruction which was authoritative because it was God’s revelation to His people through Paul by the Holy Spirit. Paul’s instruction/command set the standard for determining how to live in God’s world then and for every believer and the Church in every age. Timothy was to take up the mantle of presenting pure doctrinal truth in his preaching, teaching, and living for the glory of God and the good of the Church. Timothy was experiencing the beauty of gospel truth in his own life which motivated to serve the living Triune God.
One end or aim of Paul’s apostolic instruction to Timothy was the proper ministry to the sheep. This was to be done by confrontation of and silencing the false teachers (1:3-4, 6-11, 18-20). Paul summarized the aim, purpose, and design of sound, hygienic, healthy teaching as a trio. The trio consisted of love out of a clean heart, a good conscience, and a genuine faith (1:5). This love which promotes every aspect of the trio is itself promoted by sound biblical teaching. The trio focuses on the beauty of gospel truth. The trio took the people back to the Old Testament and Israel’s sacrificial ritual system (see the book of Leviticus).
A pure heart meant a clean heart. Clean refers to cleansing resulting in a heart set apart for service to and for God (Acts 2:33; Titus 3:5). If a person has not been washed and cleaned by water and the Holy Spirit, he will have an evil heart. He will not worship God; he will reflect the glory of the creature. The second component is a good conscience. A good conscience is a function of a clean heart which is one that has been moved from darkness and deadness into the marvelous light that is Jesus Himself and God’s Word (John 14:6; 17:17). The conscience excuses or accuses based on a standard. The word of truth is foundational for the conscience to function properly and for the believer to respond to that judgment properly. A good conscience is necessary for Timothy to fight the good fight.
The third element in the trio is genuine faith. A man cannot have genuine faith without a pure heart and a good conscience. As in 2 Timothy 2:17-19, Paul equates faith and truth. Truth refers to objective truth and its source rather than a subjective feeling. Paul is speaking of the content of truth and thereby the content of faith (Jude 3). Paul highlighted the power, effectiveness, and beauty of sound, hygienic doctrine. Its source is from above – it is heavenly in origin (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64; James 3:13-17). Paul expected Timothy to follow in his footsteps as Paul had followed in Christ’s (1 Corinthians 4:16-17; 11:1).
Paul knew that truth frees the believer, simplifies life on this earth, and builds up and edifies moving the person toward more Christlikeness. In contradistinction, falsehood divides and destroys – corporately and individually (see Acts 20:29-31). Paul was following the teaching and example of Jesus. Jesus was asked by the lawyer what was the greatest commandment (Matthew22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34). Jesus answered with a verb: to love. Jesus emphasized doing but the doing is associated with proper thinking about God, self, and others. Love is a simple four-letter word but it is anything but simple. Jesus’ answer indicates that man must have a proper vertical and horizontal reference in order to love God’s way.
Sadly, the word love is overworked, misunderstood, and profaned. The word reaches to the very depths of God’s essential Being who is love (1John 4:7-12). Moreover, both Jesus and Paul taught that love is the sum of the Old and New Testaments (Matthew 22:34-40; Rom. 13:8-10). Love of God, of Timothy, and of the brothers to this day was expressed in Paul’s call for the teaching of sound, hygienic (health-producing) doctrine. Moreover, God’s love of His Church is expressed in Paul’s passing the torch which is true apostolic succession.
1. False teaching abounds. What is God’s antidote?
2. After studying 1Timothy 1:5, determine what changes you noted in yourself as a result of preaching, teaching, and fellowship?
3. Do a spiritual inventory according to 1Timothy 1:5 examining your heart, conscience, and faith.
a. Examine your heart using James 1:22 and Hebrews 4:12. What do you find?
b. Examine your conscience. Are there unrepentant sins and non-reconciled relationships they you must address?
c. Examine your faith: what doctrine and biblical truth do you need to study further and apply?
Paul’s Ministry to Timothy: Part II
Paul’s Legacy: Passing the Torch to Timothy: 1 Timothy 1:18-20
Paul continued his ministry to the churches through Timothy in verses 18-20 of chapter 1. In verse 18, Paul also emphasized authoritative instruction (see v.5). Paul gently, tenderly, but firmly reminded Timothy his son that he was not alone. In and by faith, Timothy had been entrusted with truth – the beauty of gospel truth! Paul desired that Timothy would fight the good fight and run and finish the race well (1Timothy 4:7-8; 2 Timothy 4:4-8; Hebrews 12:1-3).
The Holy Spirit through Paul had entrusted/deposited the word of truth in Timothy’s heart in part as fulfillment of prophecies about Timothy (1:18; 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:5, 14; 3:15-17). The word translated as entrust in verse 18 also occurs in 2 Timothy 2. It is a banking term picturing someone depositing money into the bank. The person expected safety and interest on his investment. Paul knew the Depositor and the Sender –the Triune God Himself. The message, the beauty of gospel truth, had been given to Paul by God. Therefore, the message rather than Paul and Timothy who were messengers, was most important. Timothy was to function as a mouthpiece for God and a protector of the God-given deposit. Most likely Paul, as he did in his own case, knew by special revelation that Timothy would succeed him (Acts 9, 22, 26).
Paul encouraged Timothy by reminding him of the value of the deposit supernaturally given to him. Paul and the Holy Spirit desired, expected, and anticipated a grand return on the Spirit’s investment. Although Timothy was young in the faith, it was the gospel truth that Timothy was to declare. He was to preach and teach the congregation in the context of false teachers (1:3-4, 6-11).
Paul’s instruction to Timothy was given, entrusted with, in part, for the purpose of fighting the good fight (v.18). Paul referenced the good fight in 1Timothy 6:12: fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called….. The good fight involves living in God’s world cognitively, soberly, and purposefully His way, for His glory, and for the good and blessing of the church, of individual believers, and of the individual person. Paul knew that a Holy Spirit-produced and Holy Spirit-directed living had an eternal focus which gives a proper perspective of life on earth (1 John 3:1-3).
Timothy as did Paul required the deposit to be entrusted to him (v.18and 2 Timothy 2:2). In Timothy’s case, Paul was speaking of the fight that he himself had been waging. That fight was twofold: it was the gospel ministry that was entrusted to him by God. He was forever and amazingly grateful for his salvation and for his place in the kingdom and gospel ministry (1:12-15). Second, Paul was always scrutinized by friend and foe alike. Was he for real or was he a hypocrite? Paul had his own growth in Christ to actively pursue.
How was Timothy (and all believers) to fight the good fight? How was he to conduct himself 24/7 in terms of thoughts, desires, and actions? In verse 19, Paul gave the how of fighting the good fight. He was to hold on to genuine faith and maintain a good conscience as he referenced 1Timothy 1:5. Timothy was to prove himself faithful as Paul had done but most importantly as Christ had done. Timothy had the Spirit and he was in Christ as Christ was in him through the Spirit. He had been mentored by Paul. Thus Timothy had no reason to fall away and every incentive to stay the course and gain the victory Christ and the congregation.
Paul reminded Timothy of the reality of what was at stake by recalling the third commandment. These false teachers were guilty of blasphemy. They had used harsh words against the gospel, God, and those who teach sound, healthy doctrine. Paul knew that God’s name and honor were at stake. False doctrine dishonors God and strikes at the heart of Matthew 16:18. It attempts to erode the Church thereby declaring God a liar.
Paul returned to the topic of false teaching/teachers which he had begun to discuss in verses 3-4. Paul mentioned two rejecters of the good news of Jesus Christ and called them by name (v.20). Paul drew the line in the sand: hygienic, sound teaching and truth in contrast to false teaching. These rejecters had pushed away the truth of God with dire consequences. The false teachers had faith but it was directed at and to self, and thus away from God. False teaching reflected the shipwrecked faith of the false teachers. Its continuance would only further divide and harm congregations.
God had an answer. Paul gave it in verse 20. Paul used the same banking word to describe his actions against these two men and for God’s church (1 Corinthians 5:5). He deposited them with Satan. Paul put them outside the church – excommunication. He gave one of the purposes for his disciplinary action: so the men would be taught not to blaspheme. Paul’s actions were meant to honor God, to protect the church, and to bless and reclaim the two men. The Church is the bride of Christ which He protected with His life and protects by His Spirit of truth. Timothy was to function as a protector as well. Possessing and applying biblical truth is foundational for honoring God. Paul had it given to him and he was passing on the gift and treasure to Timothy who was to follow Paul’s example.
1. What is your view of doctrine and truth? What is the origin of truth?
2. How do you fight the good fight? What is good about it?
3. Reassess your goals in your relationship with God and others: according to your assessment where does love as the springboard for a pure heart, clean conscience, and genuine faith fit?