Saving Us From Our Sins is God’s Top Priority
[First Timothy chapter 1]
Today we will be moving on to the apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy, better known simply as First Timothy. As we begin our study of chapter one, we find Paul giving a serious warning to Timothy about false teachers and bogus pastors. Evidently there was a problem with this almost right from the start of the early Church, as we have previously seen in other studies such as the books of Thessalonians, Ephesians, Romans and others, all of which was written by the apostle Paul. This problem still exists today, and in some ways it is far more prevalent than in the 1st century AD due to the earth’s huge growth in population since then. The proliferation of religious cults, along with the popularity of the so-called “prosperity gospel”, which is sometimes referred to as the “word of faith” movement within Christendom, are prime examples. We should all be very wary of these types of “churches” who distort the true Gospel in order to fit their message to please their congregants, when it should be the other way around. Having established that fact, or having reinvigorated it to fit with modern times, let’s commence today’s study beginning at verse one.
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy my true son in the faith: grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work – which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these things and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers – and for whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” (1 Timothy chapter one, verses 1-11, NIV)
“… grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” How many of us today greet one another similarly today when we come together to worship? Better yet, how many of us greet total strangers this way? I have done this numerous times in the past with people I don’t know, with special attention paid toward those who look like they could use some significant encouragement. I see them all the time; the homeless, the long-term unemployed, victims of foreclosure fraud that is so rampant within banks both large and small, the sick and disabled, the mentally ill, the elderly, widows and orphans, kids from single parent homes or from homes with at least one parent incarcerated, and (speaking of incarceration) those who have obviously been recently released from prison. It is these people, and others who have suffered similar misfortunes, that Jesus went to minister to, as do I. Paul comments further down in this letter about this very thing, but I’ll get to that in just a minute.
“… command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work…”. What was Paul writing about here? Generally speaking, it is most likely that Paul was referring to what he called “Judaisms” in his letters to the Corinthian church, which we have studied previously, when he wrote of “false doctrines”. He was referring to a “teaching” that persists to this day that new converts to Christianity were/are required to worship Jesus Christ while also practicing traditional Judaism. According to this “teaching”, the Law of Moses and the salvation of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins must be practiced side by side, and all male children must be circumcised when they are eight days old as a sign of their complete salvation (among other things). But what did Jesus say about this when he preached? “I have come to fulfill the law”, he said. What law? Today we call the Law of Moses the Old Testament, which is exactly what they were referring to. And what of “myths” and “endless genealogies”? It is a virtual certainty that Paul was referring to people worshiping pagan gods of Greek and Roman mythology. It would appear, then, that certain churches were trying to combine them into one religion, mixing Greek and Roman gods with the One true God, whose only begotten Son saved us all from condemnation. Jesus was and is the only one who can do that; no other “god” can come even close to making such a claim. Those who do otherwise are polluting the Word of God, and they need to repent of this while they still have the chance. We’re almost out of time, you know.
“Some have wandered away from these things and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about”. What can we compare this to in modern times? For one thing, I would compare it to various denominations preaching and teaching against other denominations, even condemning those who don’t believe as they do, or those who don’t walk, talk, think and act exactly like their church does (as if it was “their” church to begin with). Other examples of meaningless talk would include tithing (you must give exactly 10% of your income each and every week or else), the debate about same-sex marriage (the same ones who accuse gay people of immorality have issues of their own, such as rampant adultery and being addicted to porn), as well as the ultimate hot-button issue of abortion (abortion is murder, but it’s perfectly OK to wage undeclared wars overseas and kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians). If anyone reading this is currently in a church such as I have described, you really should consider finding a better church.
“We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers… and for whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God…”. As the old saying goes, rules are made to be broken. Unfortunately for those who take this adage literally, the teachings of Jesus Christ are made to be kept and to be guarded zealously within our hearts and minds. Jesus taught similarly when he said, “I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”. It is an important fact that we all have so very little time left since the second coming of our Lord is so very close now. In fact, it could be as little as a couple of years or so until this occurs, so we are all just about out of time. It is for this very reason that we must redouble our efforts, first to purify ourselves from the inside out, and second to minister to others from the outside in so they will open their hearts to Jesus and allow Him to come in and live there. That is the second step to salvation in and through Christ. Preceding this is our own conversion (or re-dedication for those who have fallen away from the church and “forgotten their first love”), which begins when we go to the cross and confess our sins before the Lord. We first confess our sins, faults, and deficiencies, and then ask forgiveness as we devote the rest of our lives to service to Christ, performing any works or tasks that we are led to do by the power of the Holy Spirit. Having said that, let’s conclude our study beginning at verse 12.
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even tough I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Jesus Christ. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance; Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might demonstrate his unlimited patience as an example of those who believe on him and receive from him eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. (1st Timothy chapter 1, verses 12-20, NIV)
“Even tough I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.” This verse speaks volumes about the apostle Paul and others like him. At one time I would have had to include myself in this category, even though – like Paul – I did these kinds of things because I didn’t know any better. I used to curse and swear and use profanity a lot, and I also used to have a violent temper. I even carried a loaded pistol everywhere I went, and I was once jailed briefly after getting into an altercation with someone in traffic (please don’t worry, this was years before I embraced the Lord). There are countless examples of others who were once the same way – ex-convicts who find the salvation of Jesus Christ while serving time for God-knows-what is just one example – only to have their lives and themselves completely transformed by “having the mind of Christ”, as Paul wrote in an earlier letter in the New Testament. But today, thanks to Jesus Christ and only Him, I have in its place “the peace of Christ which surpasses all human understanding”, as Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippian church that we studied previously. In short, I am a radically changed individual compared to what I was prior to 1992 when I gave my heart and surrendered my life to Christ. If this is something that you aspire to but have not yet attained, take heart because it’s a process that all Christians go through once they make a lifetime commitment to Jesus. Everyone can do this, not necessarily by their own will, but rather by the Spirit of Christ that inhabits the hearts of every true believer.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance; Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners… so that… Christ Jesus might demonstrate his unlimited patience as an example of those who believe on him and receive from him eternal life.” Jesus was crucified, died, and was resurrected on the morning of the third day so that all of us may secure eternal life in and through Him. He died, only to be resurrected from the dead, as an atonement for all the sins of mankind, including the really bad ones like Paul, who persecuted the early Church and supervised the death by stoning of saint Steven (see Acts chapters 6 and 7 for details). Paul, in the eyes of God and the early Church, was a murderer – actually a “hit man” by 21st century standards – of innocent Christians, and yet God forgave him when he humbled himself on the road to Damascus (see the book of Acts chapter 9) and ordained him to be a minister of the Gospel. If God can do this for a murderer of his people, how much more than this can He do for us, for all who call upon the name of Jesus for eternal salvation and as an atonement for our sins (and I had plenty of those, you can be sure of that)?
“I give you this instruction… so that by following [it] you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience.” So if anyone likes a good fight like I used to all those decades ago, fight the good Spiritual fight for Christ instead of a down-and-dirty fight in the flesh for the domination, intimidation and control of others. Love – unconditional love – always wins and triumphs over hate, aggression, fear, and greed. There are no exceptions that I can think of at the moment. So I urge you all to fight the “good fight” and to “run the good race” as Paul wrote in an earlier letter that we studied previously. Besides, with the return of Jesus being so imminent, what else would we do? How else can we live and still profess and practice allegiance to Jesus and unconditional worship? There is no substitute.