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The First and Second Epistles of Paul the Apostle to Timothy and Titus
Encounters with God
By Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, Thomas Blackaby, Melvin Blackaby, Norman Blackaby
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2008 Henry Blackaby, Th.M., D.D. Richard Blackaby, M.Div., Ph.D. Thomas Blackaby, M.Div., D.Min. Melvin Blackaby, M.Div., Ph.D. Norman Blackaby, M.Div., B.L., Ph.D.
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THE IMPORTANCE OF SOUND DOCTRINE
Doctrine: a rule or principle that forms the basis of a belief system
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.
But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust (1 Tim. 1:3–11).
The apostle Paul had taught in Ephesus for two years, but at the time he wrote his first letter to Timothy, he was again traveling in ministry. Timothy, his long-time colleague and frequent representative, had been left behind in Ephesus to continue to give doctrinal and organizational stability to the church there. It appears that shortly after Paul left Ephesus, teachers arrived on the scene to offer a message that was a mixture of regulations from Judaism, speculations from pagan Gnosticism, and genuine Christian doctrine. These false teachers created discord, and hearing of it, Paul wrote not only to encourage Timothy but also to provide a document Timothy could read authoritatively to the church.
Paul wrote first and foremost that the purpose of God's commandments is to produce genuine godly love in the human heart. Idle speculations, fables, and a preoccupation with one's ancestry do not produce love but rather, disputes. In just a few sentences, Paul gave a template for evaluating every doctrine-oriented message a person might ever hear. We are wise to ask, "Does the message produce godly love, or does it generate discord?" The message that produces godly love is the right message!
Paul then brilliantly provided a succinct reason for the law of Moses: to bring about conviction in the hearts of those who are failing in their love for God or other people. Paul listed ten categories of people that are corrected by the law. These ten categories of people line up with the Ten Commandments.
The law, Paul wrote, addresses those who are lawless, insubordinate, ungodly, unholy, and profane—in others words those who do not honor the Lord their God, who have other gods before Him, make for themselves carved images, who take the name of the Lord in vain, and who refuse to keep the Sabbath holy. The law confronts those who are the murderers of fathers and mothers, those who do not honor their fathers and mothers. The law stands against those who are manslayers, fornicators, sodomites, kidnappers (also translated thieves), liars, and perjurers—those who commit murder and adultery, covet and steal, and bear false witness against their neighbors.
Keeping the law is not the end game for the Christian, but rather the foundation for "the glorious gospel of the blessed God." Paul pointed toward a message of good news that creates love in the human heart. Whereas the law stands against sin, the gospel creates newness of spirit—it generates sincere faith and purity of heart. Whereas the law convicts, the gospel calls a person freely to receive and extend forgiveness, which produces a clean or "good" conscience. Paul pointed Timothy toward sound teaching that is based upon the law but not limited to it. The word for sound in this passage, hugiainein, literally means health-giving. The law stands against anything that tears apart the fabric of human life, and the gospel in turn, promotes everything that fosters healing and wholeness.
Both the law and the gospel were vital, Paul taught; one does not negate or replace the other. Even so, the two are different in purpose and effect. Whereas the law defines sin and the need for reconciliation, the gospel presents salvation for the sinner and offers the means of reconciliation. Whereas the law contains and restrains, the gospel unleashes the human spirit and allows it to soar. It is the gospel that has true transformative power to those who believe.
Many believers today experience a degree of tension between following both God's commandments and the traditions of the faith, and living in freedom in Christ Jesus. We each want to be free of anything that might shackle us or keep us from fulfilling our potential. However, we also know we need moorings and rules to keep us from dashing our futures against the rocks of error and from destroying relationships in our haste for personal accomplishment. The exact balance between what is fluid and what is fixed is often difficult to determine.
How much of the Old Testament law are we to keep as believers in Christ Jesus? Which laws apply to us and which don't?
How can we discern which teachings are diverting us from the true gospel message with the potential to destroy us individually and as a church?
How can we stay pure in our love, clear in our consciences, and sincere in our faith?
These questions are just as pertinent to us today as to believers in Paul's time.
Application for Today
"I just don't seem to have time for personal daily devotionals," a woman confessed to her spiritual mentor. "My life is so busy I seem to be racing from the time I get up to the time I go to bed."
"Do you truly want to spend time with the Lord?" her mentor asked sincerely.
"Oh, yes!" the woman said, secretly hoping that wanting to have a daily devotional time counted for something.
"Then keep a time log for this coming work week," her mentor said. "Write down everything you do on a time schedule that is blocked out in fifteen-minute segments. Write every hour. I know this will take some effort, but probably not more than a minute for each waking hour."
The woman agreed. She was certain that her schedule would amaze and overwhelm her mentor. However, the next Sunday evening when she met with her mentor she opened their conversation with these words, "OK, so I do have time for devotionals."
"Oh?" her mentor said.
The woman confessed, "I felt really guilty every time I wrote down things such as 'read e-mail jokes, surfed the 'net, watched a soap opera while eating lunch, watched TV for an hour in the evening, talked about trivial things with someone at the water cooler,' and 'read a chapter of a novel before going to bed.'"
"Were you surprised at your use of time?" her mentor asked.
"Very!" the woman said. "I've been spending at least three hours a day on things that are fun or interesting, but which have nothing to do with feeding my spirit for eternal benefit, and I didn't think I had a spare minute."
What about you?
The apostle Paul warned against heeding "fables and endless genealogies" and "idle talk." These things were being used as a filter for interpreting or giving added meaning to the Christian life. To what extent do you rely upon the common-sense wisdom of natural man, the principles taught by pop psychology gurus, or the conclusions of secular media talk show hosts for your worldview or for your interpretation of Scripture? How much time each day do you spend taking in the Word of God or reading or hearing expositions of sound doctrine?
You may benefit from keeping your own time log for the coming work week.
Supplementary Scriptures to Consider
As he had advised Timothy, the apostle Paul told Titus, too, to avoid foolish disputes and contentions, calling them unprofitable and useless for the gospel. Paul took a second step with Titus, however, telling him how to "reject a divisive man":
Avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned (Titus 3:9–11).
What is the difference between "contention" and a discussion based on differing viewpoints?
How does Paul say a divisive person should be admonished?
In what ways do people who are divisive condemn themselves?
What perceived profit or benefit might be linked to disputes, genealogies, and contentions? Why do these perceived benefits turn out to be hollow and useless?
The apostle Paul wrote this to Timothy about persevering in right doctrine:
Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. (2 Tim. 1:13–14)
How do we "keep by the Holy Spirit" the truth we have heard and believed?
Who speaks into your life a "pattern of sound words"? How do you know with certainty these are words of truth?
The apostle Paul taught that Scripture is highly beneficial in several different ways:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16)
Recall an experience in which you were equipped for good work because you read and applied Scripture.
Scripture tells us what to believe (doctrine), what is contrary to God's will (reproof), what needs to be changed for "natural man" to become "spiritual man" (correction), and how to live in right standing with God (instruction in righteousness). Cite at least one practical example of the way you have benefited from a study of Scripture in each of these four areas:
Instruction in Righteousness:
The apostle Paul warned about specific things that detour believers from genuine faith:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. (1 Tim. 4:1–5)
How does a person refrain from "giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons"?
How does a person keep their conscience from being "seared with a hot iron"?
Paul identified beliefs related to "forbidding to marry" and abstaining from certain foods as having potential to lead people away from the faith. In what ways do you perceive this might this happen?
The apostle Paul gave a profile of the person who does not heed a doctrine that produces godliness:
If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds an destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself (1 Tim. 6:3–5).
How might a believer withdraw in a godly manner from a proud, contentious person?
Have you ever encountered a person who is obsessed with disputes and arguments? How does such a person impact a group? What did you do? What was the outcome—short-term and long-term?
Introspection and implications
1. How do you distinguish between being Law-abiding (keeping the law of the Old Testament) and being legalistic?
2. How does the law of God impact your life personally and practically?
3. What do you consider to be sound doctrine?
Communicating the Good News
What is your doctrine on these issues related directly to evangelism:
Who is Jesus?
Why did Jesus die?
What is required to be reconciled to God?CHAPTER 2
PRAYING FOR THOSE IN AUTHORITY
Authority: one who has the right or power to enforce rules or give orders
This charge I commit to you, son Timothy ... that ... you may wage the good warfare....
I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth (1 Tim. 1:18, 2:1–7).
This very brief passage from Paul's first letter to Timothy is like a cascading waterfall—one truth spilling over to a related truth, in turn spilling over to yet another truth.
Paul charged Timothy to wage the good warfare, or in other words, to fight the good fight or engage in the winning military campaign. The fight is for the gospel and all of its life-giving, wholeness-producing, spiritually-enriching power. The fight is simultaneously against the devil and all the forces of evil that might thwart the gospel. To win this war is to be successful in ministry.
How is the good fight fought? In prayer. Paul exhorts Timothy and the church he leads to pray, and specifically to engage in supplications (identifying their needs and framing them into requests), prayer (going to God with their requests), and intercession (petitioning God in intimate conversation), all with an attitude of thanksgiving.
For whom are we to pray? For all people we encounter and for those in authority over us.
Why do we pray for these? Because they hold the key to our being able to live a quiet and peaceful life. Our ability to lead calm, purposeful lives is directly related to our ability to live favorably with those we routinely encounter as neighbors, employers, co-workers, clients, vendors, customers, and colleagues. Our ability to lead godly lives is also directly related to those in authority over us. Those who make and enforce the laws that frame our society determine to a great extent the degree to which we can freely exercise our faith.
Why desire a peaceful, quiet life of godly behavior and reverence? Because this is our greatest witness to the world! It is the overall witness of our lives as Christians that attracts sinners to Christ, far more so than our occasional words of testimony. The world watches how Christians live and when the world sees Christians loving one another in peace and harmony, the world is drawn toward that way of life. The attractiveness of our life in Christ gives us a platform for introducing others to Christ Jesus so they might receive Him as their Savior.
We must remain acutely aware, Paul taught, that God honors godliness and reverence, and that God desires for all men to be saved. This does not mean that all men are automatically saved or that all will respond favorably to the gospel. It does mean that we at all times must have the heart of God—we must desire to live in a way that attracts lost souls to Christ Jesus.
What is the heart of the message we are to share with the world? That there is only one God and that there is only one mediator between God and men. Who is that one mediator? Christ Jesus. How is He the mediator? He gave His life as a ransom.
What is our responsibility? To testify to this truth with faith—we are to herald or proclaim this truth at every opportune moment given to us.
In a nutshell, Paul gave Timothy the outline for successful ministry: pray, live a godly life, and proclaim the supremacy and uniqueness of Christ Jesus our Savior. The successful ministry belongs not only to ordained clergy, but to every lay person who calls himself or herself Christian.
Are you engaged in good warfare today?
For whom are you praying and how are you praying for them?
How are you living?
To whom are you witnessing?
Excerpted from The First and Second Epistles of Paul the Apostle to Timothy and Titus by Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, Thomas Blackaby, Melvin Blackaby, Norman Blackaby. Copyright © 2008 Henry Blackaby, Th.M., D.D. Richard Blackaby, M.Div., Ph.D. Thomas Blackaby, M.Div., D.Min. Melvin Blackaby, M.Div., Ph.D. Norman Blackaby, M.Div., B.L., Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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