1 Timothy 1:1-11 “Emphasis Ephesus”
This morning we start a sermon series on Pastoral Epistles. I challenge you to say that five times fast! They are letters from the early church that were shared from one pastor to another. In this case we have Saint Paul writing to Saint Timothy in Ephesus.
I have always thought that Paul’s choice in sending Timothy to Ephesus was inspired. I think the Holy Spirit put Timothy there in Paul’s place to fight a very different kind of spiritual battle in Ephesus. According to the Bible, Timothy came from the town of Lystra—not too far from Ephesus. They would have spoken a similar dialect and had a shared culture. Timothy is actually a second generation Christian. His mother and grandmother had converted already. So, Timothy was one of the very first “raised-as-a-Christian” Christians. He was never converted but rather grew up in the faith. He was personally trained into ministry by Paul. He had traveled with Paul and had even helped him to write letters to churches when he was in prison. The Second Letter to the Thessalonians that comes right before this in the Bible is written in Timothy’s hand.
Timothy knew the suffering that Paul had endured. He knew very well what it could mean to his own person when telling the gospel out to others, the truth that could save a soul to eternity. There are no reports of Timothy ever being in prison. For the most part he was able with his gentler disposition to keep the peace in Ephesus while still sharing the gospel. That is not to say that he did not also have his troubles. Church tradition says that he died as a martyr when in a crowd of people in Ephesus he was hit from behind with a rock to his head. He was under a great deal of stress before that that even Paul alludes to when he tells Timothy to take a little wine to settle his stomach.
Paul’s letter to Timothy is meant to encourage him to continue on in what he himself calls the “good fight of the faith.” His encouragement is to hold fast to the confession of Christ. In other words, when Jesus was put before Pontius Pilate, Jesus confessed to the truth of who he was. For that he suffered and died. But, Jesus could not deny the Truth. Timothy is also called to lift up the Truth of this same faith.
Paul’s reason for writing this letter to Timothy, comes from a letter that Timothy has written previously to Paul complaining that folks in Ephesus were taking over the church with false teachings and basic lies. Paul mentions the telling of myths. The town of Ephesus had an altar to the Greek goddess of the hunt, Artemis, and it seems that people were mixing the two belief systems to suit their own lifestyles.
In this letter there is a definite shift from Paul’s previous writings because in most of what he has written out to the churches thus far has been about the spreading and sharing of the gospel. The word he uses in the Greek is “euangelion.” He does not use that word with Timothy in this letter. He uses a similar sounding word “parangelion.” You will probably remember from high school geometry that “para” means “around.” This means that which has to happen around the Message of salvation. This word is translated here as “doctrine.” It is simply a sense of “orderliness” in the church.
You see, it is wonderful to have Truth. It is wonderful to no longer live lives of deception, but without Christian love and faith, we are perhaps better off not knowing the truth about ourselves and our lives. The commandment is not just to walk in the Truth, but also to live in love.
Bruce Larson tells the story of a couple that were both very committed Christians. They both sang in the choir. They went to Bible Study together. They prayed at every meal and in the evening before bed. But, they could not get along. At home it was terrible. There was bickering, complaining, fussing. After both of them had devotions one morning—separately of course—the wife said to the husband, “You know, I have been thinking. I have the answer to our endless bickering and all of our troubles together. I think we should both pray to the Lord to take one of us home to be with Him. And, once that happens, I can go move in with my sister!”
The commandment is to love one another in the Truth! It is to look at all of the faults of others around you, and knowing them full well, coming to the conclusion that you can do no other than to love as Jesus did. Christ’s victory over the world was not just that he spoke words of ultimate Truth before Pontius Pilate. His victory was that when he was on the Cross suffering for our sins, He still loved the world and asked the Father in Heaven that we might be forgiven. For Truth without love and forgiveness is not the ultimate Truth of God at all.
As Apartheid ended in South Africa with the victory of the African National Congress, headed by Nelson Mandela, that country came to realize that they would not be able to move forward as a country until the Truth of the atrocities of Apartheid were made known to all. The policemen who beat little African children and shot their parents would have to face justice. The entire repressive Truth would have to come out for all to see.
The African National Congress set up a special tribunal to bring the truth to light. It was understood that without this, there would never be a true victory over the evils of Apartheid. They called the tribunal the “Truth and Reconciliation Council.” They knew that the victory was not just in telling the Truth. For if the truth came out without the reconciliation to follow, there would be more violence. The Bantu would most likely want to seek revenge for the atrocities perpetrated by the Whites. Truth was not the victory—truth AND reconciliation was.
When we look at our own island home, this Island of Kauai, we like to call it our “island paradise.” Many of the tourist brochures are plastered with “Welcome to Paradise” on them. Yet, on our island, we are still coming to terms with certain truths about the repression of the native Hawaiians, about economic disparities, and racial tension. Learning these truths does not make for the victory we want for Christ on this Island. We learn the Truth, but then apply the commandment to love. Knowing the truth of the matter, we ask for reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace through gentleness. You see, our island will be that paradise when we accept Christ’s Truth and Love into our lives. Our homes, our places of work, our schools, will be paradise when we win this victory for Christ in truth and love.
In thinking about what it is that Paul is asking Timothy to do in Ephesus, the one line stands out “instruct to love.” Jesus, before this, had commanded us all to love one another. How do we do that? Paul is stating that we need to be instructed on how to love. For Timothy the question is whether it is a loving thing to let the people continue on in their falsehoods and myths—try not to rock the boat, be gentle and patient. Paul is saying that it is not a loving thing to let people continue to believe in untruths. That really speaks to our world today! We must speak the truth in love. And, when we see our loved ones being led astray, we speak up and tell them the truth in love once more.
Paul calls Timothy his child. And, the order that is being laid out for the church is one of family. WE love one another in the church like we are family. What parent would want to see his or her child led astray in false teachings and miss the goal of eternal life? A you would instruct your children, so you should instruct how to love others.