Today you should read: 1 Timothy 1:1-11
As always, when studying a new book of the Bible, I like to get the 30,000-foot view. There is hardly a better resource out there than the guys at the Bible Project.
As we open 1st Timothy, Paul identifies himself as the author. Although his introduction, invoking the divine, was a standard practice in his day, Paul understands that their ministry and correspondence is in the context of Christ’s completed work on the cross. Everything they say and do matters because of who Christ is and what he’s done. How often do we begin things and forget that fact—we begin days, begin projects, begin relationships, begin one venture after another forgetting the work of Christ. Too often we are guilty of breezing past “apostolic introductions” forgetting that how a thing begins shapes how it ends and impacts everything in between.
The body of Paul’s message begins in verse 3, when he reiterates instruction previously given. False teachers have arisen teaching “strange doctrine,” “myths,” and “endless genealogies.” These things have generated “speculation” and do nothing to “further the administration of God.” Frankly, it’s sometimes easier to focus on the peripherals of the faith rather than furthering the Great Commission. Although Paul battled the Judaizers (those who said a Gentile Christian still had to keep Jewish Law) and other heretical teaching, there is a warning here about anything that distracts from believers spreading the Gospel.
1 Timothy 6 exposes these false teachers as lovers of money. Contrary to the false teachers, Paul urges Timothy that the “goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Some men want the power and prestige associated with becoming a teacher of the Law (1:7); however, Timothy’s task is to combat with truth what these men proclaim in ignorance.
This is a stiff warning for us all—selfish ambition has no place in the hearts of those who proclaim the mysteries of God. This is true of church staff, but also true of church members. Selfish ambition creeps in through many forms. It might be falling into the approval or performance traps. Selfish ambition might be trying to garner recognition for an idea or strategy, or conversely, working to combat the idea or strategy of another. Although it can look very different, selfish ambition craves two little words above all else, “You’re right.” Hearing those words makes us feel warm and fuzzy; but it should ring an alarm in our brain that we might have made something more about us than about Jesus.
Selfish ambition also twists God’s Word. In the case of Timothy’s church at Ephesus, verses 8–11 give us an idea of how the false teachers sought to make allowance for sin. The Gospel is not to teach good people a “better” life. The Gospel is that Christ died to conquer sin so that we who rebelled can be made righteous. Redefining sin or the cost of righteousness undermines the very essence of the Gospel—it devalues the sacrifice of Christ rendering it needless and cruel. It was far from needless and cruel. It was the single greatest act of love the universe has ever known. That is the “glorious gospel of the blessed God.”
So, what can we learn from today’s passage? A few ideas might be to begin with the Gospel in all things. Cultivate a love for truth—even when uncomfortable. And, in everything, strive for love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate