Trouble in Ephesus

First Timothy 1:1-20

by Paul George

First and second Timothy along with Titus were written to two pastors and deal with the life of local churches. Three subjects are addressed in the apostles Paul’s letters to Timothy; false teachers, church government; adherence to the teachings of Jesus and Paul.

Timothy was the son of a Greek Gentile and a devout Jewish mother named Eunice. His association with Paul began during the time of Paul’s second missionary journey. Paul called Timothy his son, because he became a Christian through the preaching of Paul and looked up to Paul as a son looks up to his father for guidance and advice. Timothy filled the role of a faithful son and Paul the role of a loving and caring father. Paul probably wrote the first letter to Timothy from Macedonia while on his way to Nicopolis.

Timothy wanted to go to Nicopolis with Paul but Paul wanted asked him to remain in Ephesus. There was a mission to perform in Ephesus only a faithful servant of Christ could perform. Although Paul had the authority to command Timothy to remain in Ephesus, out of a heart of love, he asked him to remain in Ephesus. From the context of verse three, it appears Paul did not tell Timothy why he wanted him to stay in Ephesus or he is reminding Timothy why he wanted him to remain in Ephesus; there was a problem in the church that needed fixing.

Before leaving Ephesus Paul warned the elders, “After my departure savage wolves will come among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, spreading perverse things do draw away the disciples after them.”

In the Ephesus church, as there were in other churches founded by Paul, there were Jews and Gentiles who gained positions as teachers who brought Judaism and paganism into Christianity. The Jewish teachers were adding Jewish fables and endless genealogies to the teachings of Paul. The Gentiles were adding pagan practices and rituals. The additions to the teachings of Paul and the pagan practices were undermining the foundation of the foundation of the church and the Christian’s hope and filling his mind with perplexing doubts and fears. They were not accomplishing the true goal of teaching, encouraging Christians to improve in godliness and godly behavior. This was a major problem in all the first century churches.

Teachers, as well as pastors must not teach and preach subjects that lack Scripture support and cause fruitless discussions. They must avoid subjects and discussions that draw the mind of the student, the congregation, away from the truth. They must avoid subjects and discussions that do not promote practices and obedience that is vital to spiritual growth as well as faith.

Timothy must not only see to it that he does not preach any other doctrine except the doctrine taught by Paul, he must charge others that they do not teach any other doctrine except the doctrine taught by Paul. Timothy must keep his preaching pure and uncorrupt and it is his responsibility to see to it that the teachers in the church keep their teachings pure and uncorrupt.

The big question is, “Can we apply what Paul wrote to Timothy to local churches of the 21st century?”

We are living in a time when people are trying to establish unity and harmony in the world and the church. This is not a bad thing. In the church unity and harmony is necessary if the church is to achieve the goal Jesus has set for it. Can we honestly say there is unity and harmony in local churches and in Christianity? The major problem in local churches today is the same problem that existed in the Ephesus church. The Christians were tolerating doctrine that was undermining the gospel message. Paul deals with this in detail in his letter to the Ephesians.

We can, as the old saying goes, cut a little slack. The first century Christians did not have the advantage we have. They had to depend upon the spoken word and not the written word. They were the pioneers of Christianity. They were entering hostile territory. They had obstacles to overcome we have never been called on to overcome. Nevertheless, they were doing what many are doing today. They were putting their confidence in human knowledge and wisdom.

The source of the problem in the Ephesus was the same source in local churches today. It was both external and internal. There were men who came into the church and men who were part of the church when Paul left Ephesus who were like savage wolves. They were drawing the people away from the truth, the gospel message. They seemed like honest and sincere men. They wanted to be teachers but lacked the ability to be teachers. These men did not understand there is a call from God involved in the filling of the position of teacher or pastor. There must be a love for the truth. There must be a dependence on the Word of God and not speculation, the words of men, which result in fruitless discussions. Fruitless discussion takes us farther and farther from the truth. Paul did not tolerate false doctrines in the churches he established and we should not tolerate it today.

It is a difficult thing to admit, there are pastors and teachers who are perverting the Word of God. Instead of addressing the issue as Paul did, there is a tendency to hide behind the “you shall not judge” commandment. Instead of trying to justify the toleration of the perverting of the Word of God, we need to remember what God told Ezekiel. He told Ezekiel to stand on the wall and warn the people of coming danger. If he did not warn the people, their blood would be on his hands. If he warned, the people and they did not heed the warning their blood would not be on his hands. I do not want Jesus to find any blood on my hands do you?

Jesus spoke out against the religious leaders of His day because they were driving people away from the kingdom of God with traditions and perverting of the law. Paul would not tolerate the false doctrine in the church because it was undermining the Christian’s hope and faith. In this generation, it is undermining the Christian faith as well as the foundation of the nation. It is the duty of every true believer in Christ to stand firm in the faith and earnestly contend for the faith, it is our duty to speak out against false doctrine.
False doctrine is one of the favorite weapons of the enemy. It enables him to create division, confusion, strife and contention in the church.

We need to also understand if we do stand firm and earnestly contend for the faith that has been handed down to us the ungodly and even some professing Christian will label us narrow minded, out of touch with reality, judgmental. If we truly love Jesus, we will not tolerate unsound doctrine and will earnestly contend for the faith regardless of the judgmental attitude of the enemy of the gospel. If we want to protect those who are not established in the faith we will not tolerate unsound doctrine.

The ungodly of this world, inspired by their master, are working overtime for him. They are using every resource available to destroy Christianity. They are busy trying to drive a spike into the heart of the church and kill her. In the heat of their hatred, they do not know what destruction they are bringing down upon themselves and their master does not care.

There are times when I look back into the late 1950’s and 1960’s. I watched a spiritual revival take place in the United States sponsored by the enemy of God and man. On the most part, the church was silent as thousands of souls slipped into the pit of darkness many never to return. This revival was dismissed as merely a fad that would go the way of all fads. Today we are reaping the harvest of that fad. We cannot do anything about the past. We can make a change in the present. We can make an impact on the future.

As Adam and Eve may have asked themselves standing outside the Garden of Eden, where do we go from here? We need to ask ourselves where we will go from here. Let us pick up the Christian banner, follow our great Captain, Lord Jesus Christ, go out, and meet the enemy head on. When do we begin, today in this service, in our living room.

Paul’s Instructions

First Timothy 1:18-20

by Paul George

Here are Paul’s instructions to Timothy. First, “fight the good fight.” Timothy was involved in spiritual warfare. We are involved in spiritual warfare. Timothy is to fight the good fight. We must fight the good fight. Timothy must diligently, courageously, vigorously and conscientiously discharge his duty as soldiers of the cross. We must diligently, courageously, vigorously and conscientiously discharge our duty as soldiers of the cross. There will be opposition and discouragements. There always is in warfare. We can overcome them if we follow Our Captain Lord Jesus Christ. We can overcome them if we hold fast to both faith and a good conscience. Those who do not hold fast to both faith and conscience will find themselves shipwrecked. Fighting the good fight requires the keeping of the conscience void of sin, and this will be a means of keeping us sound in the faith.

Hymenaeus and Alexander made a profession of faith but turned away from their profession. Paul said he handed them over to Satan, declared them to belong to the kingdom of Satan. There are scholars who believe through some extraordinary power Paul handed them over to Satan to be terrified or tormented by Satan that they might learn not to blaspheme. If Paul literally handed these two over to Satan, the reason why he handed them over, “to be taught not to blaspheme” would not happen. What would happen, Satan would teach them how to be more blasphemous.

Paul was probably referring to a last resort form of punishment, which excluded the help and fellowship of the church. Therefore, let us hold fast to faith and a good conscience. If we let go we do not know where we shall stop.

First Timothy chapter three contains Paul’s instructions to the bishops and deacons. The two epistles to Timothy, and that to Titus, contain a scripture-plan of church-government, or a direction to ministers. Because the church at Ephesus was a newly planted church, the bishops were unsure of their ability to oversee the operations of the church. This is why Paul left Timothy at Ephesus. He was to instruct the bishops and deacons in matters pertaining to the ministry of the church.

The office of a scripture-bishop is an office of divine appointment, and not of human invention. This office is one of the great gifts Christ has bestowed on the church. The ministry of the bishop requires diligence and application. It comes under the definition of a work and not of great honor and advantage, for ministers should always look more to their work than to the honor and advantage of their office. It is a good work, a work of the greatest importance, and designed for the building of the kingdom of heaven. The concern of the ministry is bringing the lost to Christ; open their eyes and turn them from the darkness to light and from the power of Satan to the love of God. The desire in the heart of those who are in the position of a bishop should be to bring greater glory to God, and of doing the greatest good to the souls of men by this means.

In order to discharge the duties of the bishop he must be blameless in character, he must not lie under any situation, he must give as little occasion for blame as he can, because this would bring reproach upon his office. He must be the husband of one wife; not having given a bill of divorce to one, and then taken another, or not having many wives at once, as it was common to do among Jews and Gentiles, especially among the Gentiles. He must be vigilant and watchful and not be caught in the snares of Satan. He must watch over himself, and the souls of those who are committed to his charge because our adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (First Peter 5:8). He must be sober, temperate, and moderate in all his actions, and in the use of all creature comforts.

The bishop must be both able and willing to communicate to others the knowledge, which God has given him. Fit to teach, and ready to take all opportunities of giving instructions in the things of the kingdom of heaven. He must not be a drunkard. He must not be quarrelsome but do every thing with mildness, love, and gentleness. He must not desire the wealth of this world. He must be patient. He must not be covetous. It is not a good thing when covetousness is in the heart, it is worst in the heart of the bishop.

He must be one who rules well over his own house that he may set an example for other fathers to follow and prove he is able to take care of the church of God. The family of the bishop should set an example of good all others families can follow. He must not be a novice, one newly brought to Christ, or one who knows no more of religion than the surface of it; such a man may let pride overcome him and fall into the condemnation of the devil. The devils fell through pride, which is a good reason why we should be aware of the dangers of pride, a sin that turned angels into demons.

I must admit, briefly gone through the qualifications of a bishop, I must ask, “Who is able to fill the position of a bishop?” What piety, what prudence, what zeal, what courage, what faithfulness, what watchfulness over lusts, our appetites, passions, over ourselves and over those under our charge, is required. What watchfulness over self is necessary?  So much is required and work necessary. How far short of the requirements we often come. Yet let us bless God, and be thankful for we have the promise “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”  If He is with us, He will enable us to fulfill our call and carry us through the difficult times.

The deacons had the responsibility to see to the temporal concerns of the church, that is, the maintenance of the ministers and provision for the poor: they served tables, while the ministers and bishops gave themselves to the ministry of the word and prayer. The same requirements for the bishops were the same for the deacons because they were assistants to the bishops and ministers. They must not be doubled tongued, say one thing to one and another thing to another. The deacon must not be addicted to wine; this is repulse in any man but more so in a Christian. Addiction to wine opens the door to many temptations. He must not be a seeker of the power of money this could lead to embezzlement and the converting of church funds for personal use.

When someone who has a trusted position in the church betrays that trust it is heart breaking. Worst it brings reproach upon the body of Christ. There is an old saying; one bad apple ruins the whole barrel of apples. Violating the call to shepherd the lambs of Christ can place a black mark on the body of believers.

The servants in the house of God must see to it that they behave in a godly way so they will not bring reproach upon the house of God. Ministers must not only be involved in preaching and praying they must be aware of the impact their behavior will have on the community. Timothy must know how to behave not only in the particular church where he was now appointed, he must also learn how to behave as an evangelist, and the apostle’s substitute in other churches, where he might be assigned to pastor.

Our God is the one true living God; He is the fountain of life, He is life and He gives life and breath to all His creatures. In Him we live, and move, and have our being. The church is the house of God, he dwells there; the Lord has chosen to dwell there. “This is my rest, here will I dwell, for I have chosen it;” in the house of the Lord we see His power and glory.

It is the responsibility of the servants of the Lord to proclaim the truth, even to the principalities and powers in heavenly places. The servants of the Lord must proclaim the manifold wisdom of God to the foolish of this world. Let us be diligent and impartial in our own enquiries after truth. Let us be careful to keep and preserve it. Let us transmit it safely and uncorrupted into posterity. Let us hold firmly to the mystery of faith. The mystery that is not of philosophy or speculation; but of godliness, designed to promote godliness and it exceeds all the mysteries of the world.  It is a revealed mystery, not shut up and sealed; and it does not cease to be a mystery because now is partly revealed.

Paul said the deacons were to hold firm to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. What is the mystery of faith? It is Christ; and there are six things concerning Christ, which make up the mystery of faith. He is God manifest in the flesh. In the flesh, Christ died on a cross. On the third day, He rose from the dead. Angels worship him. They announced His birth, ministered to Him after His testing in the wilderness. They announced His return to earth. He is the Lord of angels. The greatest part of this mystery of faith is He is the Redeemer and Savior of the Gentiles. The fifth thing in the mystery of the faith the Gentiles believed Jesus is the Promised Messiah and the Jews reject Him as their Promised Messiah. The sixth thing in the mystery of the faith He ascended into heaven.

His ascension into heaven is not the last of the events in the mystery of the faith. Christ’s ascension is the sixth thing in the mystery of the faith because it was the crown of His exaltation. In this present age, Christ is in heaven, seated at the right hand of God where He is making intercession for us, and has all power, in both heaven and earth.

The Grace of God

First Timothy 1:12-17

by Paul George

This is Paul’s testimony concerning the grace of God, his thanks to Jesus Christ for putting him into the ministry. Christ puts men into the ministry (Acts 26:16-17). Men cannot make themselves ministers; for it is Christ’s work, as king, prophet and teacher, of His church. Those whom He puts into the ministry He prepares and qualifies them.
A call to the ministry is a great favor. Those who Christ calls should thank Him for the great favor He has bestowed upon them. This is Paul’s testimony, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me because He counted me faithful, appointing me to His service; though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious. Yet I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love, which are found in Christ Jesus.

Before his conversion Saul, who took the Greek name Paul after his conversion, threatened and slaughtered the disciples of Jesus (Acts 9:1). He made havoc of the church (Acts 8:3).He was a blasphemer of God, a persecutor of the saints, and injurious to both.

It is often hard to explain or understand why Jesus calls those who have fallen into great wickedness. It is evidence sin; no matter how heinous is not an obstacle to the grace of God.  Blasphemy and persecution are heinous sins. To blaspheme God is to speak profanely of God. To persecute His people is to endeavor to wound Him through their sufferings. To be injurious is to be like Ishmael, whose hand was against every one, and every one was against him. It is an invasion of the prerogative of God and an invasion of the liberties and rights of another. Paul’s testimony, “he was shown mercy” is a testimony of the great favor bestowed upon him. If Paul had persecuted the Christians willfully, knowing them to be the people of God his crime against Jesus would have been greater. He ignorantly and in unbelief sinned and he obtained mercy. What we do ignorantly is a less crime than what we do knowingly; yet a sin of ignorance is a sin. Unbelief is the source of what sinners do ignorantly; they do not believe God otherwise they would not do what they do. For this reason, Paul obtained mercy. The conversion and salvation of sinners are due to the grace of Christ, his exceedingly abundant grace, even that grace of Christ, which appears in His glorious gospel.

The Son of God took upon Him our nature, was made flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:14). He did not come to call the righteous but the sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:13). He came to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). The validation of this is “that it is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.”  It is good news, yet not too good to be true, for it is a faithful saying. It is a faithful saying, and therefore worthy to be embraced in the arms of faith: it is worthy of all acceptation, and therefore to be received with love.

Paul confesses he is the chief of sinners. He acknowledges he is the chief of sinners because he threatened and killed the disciples of the Lord. Persecutors are some of the worst of sinners. Paul is not patting himself on the back when he said he was the chief of sinners. He does not take any pride in what he has done even though he did it ignorantly and in unbelief. I am chief of sinners is an expression of his great humility. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul refers to himself as “the least of all saints” (Ephesians 3:8).

Paul closes his testimony with a note of thanksgiving, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever, amen.” Like Paul, those who are aware of their obligations to the mercy and grace of God will have their hearts enlarged in His praise. God’s gracious dealings with us should fill us with admiration of his glorious attributes. He is eternal, without beginning of days, or end of life, or change of time. He is the Ancient of days, (Daniel 7:9). He is immortal, and the original of immortality; He only has immortality (First Timothy 6:16). He is invisible, for he cannot be seen with mortal eyes, dwelling in the light to which no man can approach, whom no man has seen nor can see (First Timothy 6:16). He is the only wise God (Jude 25). He only is infinitely wise, and the fountain of all wisdom.

To Him be glory forever and ever.