1st Timothy: devotional guide #2

1st Timothy: devotional guide #2 January 6, 2023

Monday: Read 1 Tim 3:8-16

Paul continues his teaching on the requirements for ministry by addressing the role of deacon. The word “deacon” literally meant one who waits on tables or serves. It is used in the NT of Jesus (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45), the apostles (Matt 20:26; Mark 10:43), Timothy (4:6), and as a common designation of a NT leader (1 Cor 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6; 6:4; Eph 3:7; 6:21; Col 1:7, 23, 25; 4:7). In the present passage, Paul appears to be using the term for a specific office.[2]

That Paul begins with “likewise” (8) indicates that what he has set forth with regard to pastors (3:1-7) applies to deacons also: note the repetition of “above reproach” (10). It does appear, however, as though Paul omits teaching responsibilities from this list as deacons were not required to be teachers.

Paul notes that they should first be tested (10; cp 5:22, 24-25). Though he doesn’t specify what the testing consists of, it may well be that Paul is referring to something along the lines of what he stated with regard to pastors: namely, that they should not be new converts (6).

Paul’s reference to women in 3:11 has caused much stir. That Paul may be referring to female deacons (see the note above regarding the fact that the feminine for “deacon” was not yet in use at this time) is suggested by his repetition of “likewise” (11). Paul used “likewise” in 3:8 to indicate a change from pastor to deacon and so it appears he may be using it in 3:11 to indicate a transition from male deacons to female deacons. ‘Their wives’ or ‘deaconesses’? It would be odd for Paul to be referring to the wives of deacons since he did not refer to the wives of pastors above.

Paul concludes this section by noting that he writes these things “so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (15). Paul seems to understand the Church as the household of God. And, he adds, that it is the “pillar and support of the truth” (15).

Questions to ponder/discuss:

  • Deacons are servants. But this does not mean that non-deacons have no responsibility to serve. How might you better serve the Church?
  • Though it is easy for many to be disillusioned with the Church these days, we must remember that the Church is the body of Christ. In addition, it is also through the Church that Christ builds His kingdom! So, perhaps it is our responsibility to step back and ask: what am I doing to build up the church?

Tuesday: Read 1 Tim 4:1-16

We would do well to recall that Paul is addressing Timothy. This is quite evident in the present passage.

Paul now turns to Timothy and reminds him that the nature of the times is that many will fall away (1). Note that Paul attributes the false teaching to demonic spirits. This should be understood in terms of the contrast between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world. The kingdom of God is predicated on truth and love and it is ruled by Christ. The kingdoms of the world are predicated on deception and self-centeredness and it is ruled by the devil.

There is great difficulty in understanding some of Paul’s exhortations to Timothy here. The problem is that we are not certain who the false teachers were that Paul was addressing and what the problem was that they were promoting. Nonetheless, Paul’s instructions to Timothy are still of great value to us.

Timothy is to instruct the others in accord with the truth and to train himself in godliness (7-8). He is to teach the truth (11) and not worry about his youthfulness (12). It is likely that some were responding to Timothy’s teaching by putting him down on account of his age.

Paul closes this section with a powerful exhortation (which too many do not know what to do with because of the potential theological implications): “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (16).

Questions to ponder/discuss:

  • We should note that the kingdoms of the world are not always deceiving and self-centered. Therefore, even though all humanity is sinful, it doesn’t mean that all humans do is sinful. Many people are kind, loving, and truth-seeking individuals.
  • Paul’s advice to Timothy to “show yourself an example of those who believe” (12) is advice that more than one professing Christian using social media these days needs to heed! We should note that this encouragement comes to Timothy immediately after Paul reminds Timothy to not worry about what others say about him (i.e., that you are too young; 12). In other words, when slandered respond with “love, faith and purity” (12)
  • Whatever Paul’s point in 2:16 is it entails the fact that the Gospel is a lived gospel. And the more we live it the more it is effective.

Wednesday: Read 1 Tim 5:1-16

Paul now turns to Timothy’s responsibilities toward various groups. His advice is at times proverbial—sound wisdom.

Paul’s advice on widows (3-16) suggests that the church had some sort of formal arrangement for caring for widows. Caring for widows is a central concern in the OT (Exod 22:22-23; Deut 10:18; 14:29; 24:17-21; 26:12-13; 27:19). We know that providing for widows had become a feature of the early Christian movement as early as Acts 6:1-3. The book of James describes “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (Jas 1:27).

It appears that some may have been taking advantage of the Church’s generosity. As a result, Paul advocates for some sort of controls. Care for widows appears to have included an agreement in which the widow would reciprocate by serving the local church. This is why Paul cautions Timothy about younger widows (11-14). The concern would be that a widow who chooses to remarry would have to forgo their commitment to the church.

Questions to ponder/discuss:

  • Caring for the poor has unfortunately been a measure of debate among Christians. There is no question that some will take advantage of charity. At the same time, we should ask if it is better to err on the side of being too charitable or too stingy. There are surely dangers with either. What do you think?
  • Too often the elderly are neglected in churches. The desire for church growth and the need for young families have made older people feel expedient. What does your church do for older persons? How might you help?

Thursday: Read 1 Tim 5:17-24

Paul continues his advice to Timothy by instructing him on the church’s responsibility toward elders. That Paul refers to such elders as those who “rule well’ (17) and “preach and teach” (17) surely indicates that he has the office of pastor in mind.[3]

Paul begins by asserting that they should be paid (17, 18). Paul defends his conviction that they should be paid by citing Deut 25:4 and Luke 10:7. What is intriguing here is that both are called ‘Scripture’ (18). This led some to conclude that the Gospel of Luke was already written.

Paul then exhorts Timothy to be careful in handling an accusation against an elder (19-21). This is followed by instructions on laying hands on people for ministry. His instruction is “be careful not to be too rash in ordaining people (22).

Paul then inserts a parenthetical concern for Timothy’s health: “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach” (23).

Questions to ponder/discuss:

  • Most pastors (but certainly not all) are overworked and underpaid. Pastors are often the first ones people call when a crisis hit the family. They spent hours visiting hospitals and nursing homes. They provide counseling for struggling marriages, parenting, and all sorts of things. They study and prepare so that others may know the Word. There are many dangers in underpaying paying pastors; including the fact that it could cause resentment. We should understand that when we underpay pastors we are asking their entire family to sacrifice. Of course, many churches simply lack the resources to pay pastors well.
  • Some church attendees decide to withhold their tithe dollars because they have trouble with “x” or “y” in their local church. This may seem like a wise practice but at times this may amount to nothing more than an attempt to hold the church hostage unless their personal demands are not meant.

Friday: Read 1 Tim 6:1-10

Paul next addresses slaves as another group. Slavery was a significant part of the Roman world. Paul addresses slaves in several of his letters (see 1 Cor 7:20-22; Phile 1:10-22; Eph 6:5-9; Col 3:22-4:1; Tit 2:9).

Paul’s instructions to Timothy with regard to slavery continue the theme of honor (1-2). Of course, we would do well to recognize that Paul has likely spoken to Timothy about slavery on prior occasions. It was not necessary, therefore, for him to repeat everything here.

Interestingly, when Paul gives instruction on other institutions (e.g., marriage and family) he appeals to creation ordinances. But he makes no such appeal with slavery. Of course, in 1 Cor 7:21, he encourages slaves to become free if possible.

Paul’s instructions towards slavery also continue his emphasis on the missional value of a Christian slave’s conduct. The problem may have been that some of the Christian slaves were not being respectful (though in 6:1 it may have been non-Christian masters who had an oppressive attitude). And although a bad attitude may be justified, Paul urges them to treat their masters as worthy of honor (see Rom 13:1-7; Tit 3:1-2; 1 Pet 2:13-17). For Paul, the ruler may not personally be worthy of respect but they are in a position to be so regarded.

In 6:3-10, Paul returns to the theme of false teachers (see 1:3-11; 4:1-5). In sum, they teach a different doctrine (3) and their life does not conform to the life of Christ (4-5). This is to be with godliness that is accompanied by contentment (6). For Paul, we should be content with food and covering (8). After all, the desire for wealth is “a temptation and a snare, and many foolish and harmful desires” come from it (9).

Paul adds that “the love of money is a/[the] root of all sorts of evil (10). We should note that there is some disagreement among the translations as to whether the love of money is the root of all “sorts” (NAS) or “kinds” (ESV, NIV, NLT, NKJ, NRS) of evil, or if it is just the root of all evils (NET). Regardless of which option we chose we should not minimize the force of what Paul is saying. As Knight says, “the term itself designates love of money as a radical source of evil.”[4]

Questions to ponder/discuss:

  • I cannot stress enough how significant these words of Paul are. When Paul says, “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil” (10), he is reaching into the heart of humanity. His words are exponentially more true in a modern western, capitalist world. In our world, money is power. And power rules the world. It would take more than a book to address this issue.
  • My exhortation is to meditate on 1 Tim 6:6-21 until you have memorized it. Then ask the Lord to show you how you may have fallen prey to the lure of wealth. Then repent. After you have done that, then begin to examine how our society is caught up in the quest for money and power. But do so only with a deep and rich prayer life.

 

[1] This guide is meant to be done either as a group study over the course of 2 or 4 meetings (Day 1-5; 6-10; 11-15; 16-20), or as a private devotion over the course of 4 weeks (or a calendar month—5 lessons per week).

[2] Note that the use of this word in the feminine had not arisen yet. Thus, Phoebe is called a “deacon” (Rom 16:1)—though the translations will differ on whether it was used as a title for her or not (hence, some translations opt for “servant” in Rom 16:1). The argument, however, that it was not a title because Paul would have used the feminine is anachronistic. The feminine noun for deaconess did not exist at the time.

[3] This is a very controversial topic. Paul does not use the same word in 5:1 that he used in 3:1. This has led some to suggest that he does not have pastors in view here.

[4] Knight, 257.


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