1. Marks of Faithful Christian Soldiers (1 Timothy 1:1-7)Related Media
From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy, my genuine child in the faith. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord! As I urged you when I was leaving for Macedonia, stay on in Ephesus to instruct certain people not to spread false teachings, nor to occupy themselves with myths and interminable genealogies. Such things promote useless speculations rather than God’s redemptive plan that operates by faith. But the aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Some have strayed from these and turned away to empty discussion. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not understand what they are saying or the things they insist on so confidently.
1 Timothy 1:1-7 (NET)
What are marks of faithful Christian soldiers?
First Timothy is a special epistle. It is called a pastoral epistle along with 2 Timothy and Titus. Paul sent Timothy this letter to encourage him to be faithful and to give him instructions on how to run the church. First Timothy 3:15 is a theme verse for the book. It says, “in case I am delayed, to let you know how people ought to conduct themselves in the household of God, because it is the church of the living God, the support and bulwark of the truth.”
Who was Timothy? Timothy was a disciple of Paul, whom he met in Lystra in Acts 16. The disciples in Lystra spoke highly of Timothy, and therefore, Paul took him on his missionary journeys. He calls him a true son in faith (v. 2). Many people think Paul led Timothy to Christ, but Acts 16 reads as though he was already a believer. Plus, Timothy’s mother and grandmother were Jewish Christians who taught him the Scripture from infancy (cf. 2 Tim 1:5, 2 Tim 3:15). His father was a Greek unbeliever (Acts 16:3). “It seems probable that after Paul’s first imprisonment at Rome, he visited Ephesus with Timothy. When Paul moved on to Macedonia, he instructed Timothy to stay in Ephesus for a while to teach the word of God and to warn the believers against false teachers.”1
Though Paul writes this letter to Timothy, it is also for the Ephesian church. We can discern this because the contents explain how the church should be run, but also because Paul closes the letter with, “Grace be with you all” (1 Tim 6:21). The “you” is plural, as the entire church was meant to read this letter.2
In 1 Timothy 1:1-7 specifically, Paul writes using military terms. In verse 1, when Paul says he is an apostle by the “command” of God, it actually means by a “royal commission.”3 Christ, the King, commissioned Paul as an apostle, and therefore, Timothy and the Ephesians were receiving a royal command directly from the King. This command was mandatory and nonnegotiable.
We also see military terminology in Paul’s command to Timothy in verse 3. He said, “instruct certain people not to spread false teachings.” Warren Wiersbe’s comments on the meaning of “instruct” or “charge” are helpful:
Charge means “to give strict orders from a superior officer.” Paul used this word (sometimes translated “commandment” and “command” in kjv) eight times in his two letters to Timothy (1 Tim. 1:3, 5, 18; 4:11; 5:7; 6:13, 17; 2 Tim. 4:1). He was conveying this idea: “Timothy, you are not only a pastor of the church in a difficult city. You are also a Christian soldier under orders from the King. Now pass these orders along to the soldiers in your church!”4
Timothy and the church were to operate under the very authority of Christ—the head of the church. They were all Christian soldiers in a spiritual war. Sometimes attacks come from without, as the world persecutes the church, but the worst attacks come from within, as it is often propagated by demons and false teachers (cf. 1 Tim 4:1-3). Paul had warned the Ephesian elders while on his way to Rome that wolves would come even from their midst teaching perverse doctrines. He called them to be on their guard (Acts 20:28-31).
Now, just five years later, Paul, Timothy, and the Ephesians were in a war fighting to save the sheep from wolves.5 They were to fight this battle based on the command and authority of their King and so are we. In fact, when Christ said in the great commission, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:18-19b), he commands all of us to complete this ministry in his authority. We are all under military orders from the King!
Like Paul, Timothy, and the Ephesians, we must be faithful soldiers of Christ. What are marks of faithful soldiers? We can discern a great deal from this passage.
Big Question: What marks of faithful Christian soldiers can be discerned from 1 Timothy 1:1-7?
Faithful Christian Soldiers Know Their Assignments
From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy, my genuine child in the faith. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord! As I urged you when I was leaving for Macedonia, stay on in Ephesus to instruct certain people not to spread false teachings
1 Timothy 1:1-3
Interpretation Question: Who were the apostles? Do they still exist today?
In verse 1 of this text, we see Paul’s commission—his assignment. He was called to be an apostle of Christ by the command of God. The word “apostle” means “sent one.” It could refer to a missionary sent out by a church, or as in Paul’s case, it referred to a limited group of people who were witnesses of the resurrected Christ: the Twelve disciples and a few others. They were with Christ during his earthly ministry and testified to his resurrection. Paul was an apostle with an “abnormal” birth in that he was not one of the original apostles. Christ first appeared to him after Christ’s earthly ministry and sometime after Christ’s resurrection and ascension (cf. 1 Cor 15:8, Acts 9:3-6). Apostles were given the ability to perform miracles to prove and authenticate their ministry (2 Cor 12:12).
Paul seems to indicate that he was last of this special group of men in 1 Corinthians 15:8. He says, “Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also.” There are no apostles today in the sense of the original apostles. In Ephesians 2:20, Paul called them the foundation of the church, as they taught and were inspired to write Scripture. The names of the Twelve are also placed on the foundations of the heavenly city of Jerusalem (Rev 21:14). However, there are still apostles with a lower case “a”—meaning those God calls to be founders of ministries, church planters, and missionaries (cf. Eph 4:11).
As mentioned, when Paul says he is an apostle by the “command” of God, it means a “royal commission.” Paul knew his assignment; he was following the command of the King. Therefore, he calls for Timothy and the church of Ephesus to follow his commands, as they originated from God.
This is important to see because we all have orders from God. Paul was ordered to be an apostle and to write this apostolic letter, among others. Timothy and the Ephesians were ordered by God, through Paul, to protect the church from false doctrine (1 Tim 1:3) and to run the church in a way that honored God’s order (1 Tim 3:15). We all have our God-given calls, and if we don’t know them, we can’t fulfill them.
What has God called you to do? God has a call and commission on our lives as well. We are his workmanship created for good works which he prepared beforehand that we should walk in (Eph 2:10). He calls some to serve the church through teaching, singing, leadership, administration, hospitality, helps, etc. He calls some to be lights in the business world, education, or politics. What has God called you to do?
Application Question: How can we discern our divine assignments?
1. We discern our divine assignments by obeying our general call, as given in Scripture.
Our general call includes everything taught in Scripture. We must flee all appearance of evil and turn away from sin (1 Thess 5:22). We must commit to and serve in a Bible preaching church (Eph 4:11-16). We must share the gospel with others (Matt 28:19-20). This is our general call; however, if we obey God’s general call then it opens the door to discern our specific call. Scripture says if we are faithful with little, God can give us more, but if we’re unfaithful with little (what he has revealed), God will not give us more (cf. Lk 16:10-12).
Are you faithfully studying and obeying God’s Word so you can discern God’s specific call?
2. We discern our divine assignments by God’s work in our hearts.
Philippians 2:13 says God works in us to will and to do of his good pleasure. Often, we discern God’s call by how he works in our hearts. He gives us desires to serve in specific ways and sometimes in specific places or with specific people.
What is God doing in your heart?
3. We discern our divine assignments by the confirmation of others.
Though Timothy was timid and maybe afraid to serve in leadership positions (2 Tim 1:7), God confirmed his call through Paul and through elders. First Timothy 4:14 says, ”Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have, given to you and confirmed by prophetic words when the elders laid hands on you.” Most likely, this refers to Timothy’s ordination and God’s confirmation of his call through a time of corporate prayer. Similarly, when Paul and Barnabas were called to missions, God confirmed it through the elders of Antioch and a time of prayer (Acts 13:1-3). When God called David to be king, Samuel confirmed it by anointing him with oil (1 Sam 16). When God calls us to serve in a certain ministry or go a certain direction in life, he often confirms it through his body. If we are not connected to his body, we will often miss God’s call or struggle to discern it.
Are you connected with God’s body, so you can hear his call?
4. We discern our divine assignments by being intimate with God.
Psalm 25:14 says, “The Lord’s loyal followers receive his guidance, and he reveals his covenantal demands to them.” As we abide in his Word, prayer, worship, and fellowship, God confides in us. He makes his covenant known to us. Some have said, “Those who are near, hear.” Are you being near God so you can hear his words and discern his call—your assignment?
Faithful Christian soldiers know and fulfill their assignments. How has God called you to serve him?
Application Question: In what ways has God called you to serve him and others? How did you discern this? If you don’t know how God has called you to serve, what steps is God calling you to take to find out?
Faithful Christian Soldiers Are Empowered by God
From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy, my genuine child in the faith. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord!
1 Timothy 1:2
When Paul says, “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord,” he essentially prays a blessing of God’s empowerment over Timothy. Throughout Paul’s letters to Timothy, we can discern that Timothy probably had a tendency towards discouragement and feeling like giving up. In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul says, “For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” It also seems that some older members in the church probably didn’t respect him very much. Paul said, “Let no one look down on you because you are young” (1 Tim 4:12). The very fact that Paul “urged” him to stay in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3), may hint that Timothy wanted to quit and leave.
Timothy had many reasons to be discouraged—not including all the false teachers Timothy had to deal with. However, God the Father and Christ the Son would give him everything needed to complete the work, and this is true for us as well. In fact, 2 Peter 1:3 says God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Three of the greatest gifts he gives us is grace, mercy, and peace (v. 2).
Interpretation Question: What does grace, mercy and peace refer to?
1. Grace refers to unmerited favor.
God constantly pours unmerited favor on his faithful soldiers to empower them to do his work. It is totally underserved and based on our relationship with him.
2. Mercy refers to deliverance from the consequences and guilt of sin; it also may refer to help in time of need.
Every soldier fails God—maybe that was something hindering or discouraging Timothy. The enemy works hard to accuse and condemn those faithfully serving God. Every failure is used as a fiery arrow from the enemy, and many get discouraged and quit. However, as we confess our sins and failures to God, he delivers us from the guilt and cleanses our conscience. First John 1:9 says, “But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.” To complete our tasks, God lavishes mercy on his faithful soldiers; he gives them help and refreshment in their time of need.
3. Peace refers to harmony and tranquility with God and others, and in our soul.
God may not always change our circumstances but he will give us his peace. This peace not only gives us rest but also guides us. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart.” “Be in control” comes from a Greek word used of an umpire at an athletic game. The umpire says, “Winner!” “Safe!” or “Foul!” As we walk with God, he guides us by his peace or a loss of peace, as we seek his direction. This was part of Timothy’s enablement to serve God.
In addition, God’s peace helps us have peace with others. Christ died not just to restore our relationship with God but also with others. Therefore, we must be quick to forgive and reconcile with those who harm and hurt us (Eph 4:3, 26-27).
Application Question: How can we operate in God’s empowerment for ministry?
1. God’s empowerment comes through prayer.
Paul prays for Timothy to have God’s grace, mercy, and peace—essentially empowerment for ministry. We must pray as well, and we must ask others to pray. Paul constantly asked for the prayers of others (cf. Col 4:3-4, Eph 6:19-20).
2. God’s empowerment comes through abiding in Christ.
In John 15:5, Jesus said, “‘I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me—and I in him—bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.” As we abide in God’s Word, prayer, worship, and the fellowship of the saints, God gives us everything needed to serve him and others.
Are you walking in God’s power for Christian ministry?
Application Question: Why is God’s empowerment so important for Christian ministry? How do you daily practice abiding in the Vine?
Faithful Christian Soldiers Confront False Doctrine
As I urged you when I was leaving for Macedonia, stay on in Ephesus to instruct certain people not to spread false teachings, nor to occupy themselves with myths and interminable genealogies. Such things promote useless speculations rather than God’s redemptive plan that operates by faith.
1 Timothy 1:3-4
Next, Paul calls for Timothy to confront the false teachers in this church. Most likely, these teachers were actually elders. In Acts 20:25-31, before Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, he met with the Ephesians elders and warned them that wolves would come into the flock, even from their own number. Here, five years later, this seems to have happened.6 John MacArthur gives four evidences that these false teachers were probably elders:
First, they presumed to be teachers (1:7), a role reserved for elders (3:2; 5:17). Second, Paul, not the church, excommunicated Hymenaeus and Alexander [v. 20]. That implies they were in positions of power and the congregation couldn’t deal with them. Third, the qualifications of an elder are given in great detail in chapter 3. Giving those implies that unqualified men were serving in that office, and Timothy needed to see them replaced. Finally, Paul stresses that sinning elders are to be publicly disciplined (5:19–22).7
This means that Timothy probably needed to remove some elders, even as Paul had previously (v. 20). This would have been a difficult task.
Interpretation Question: What exactly were these false teachers teaching?
Their teaching seemed to have many different elements.
1. The teaching had Jewish elements.
Paul says that they were misusing the law (v. 7). This probably included forbidding certain types of food as seen in 1 Timothy 4:3. It may have even included salvation through the law, as the Judaizers taught. Paul said that their teaching did not advance God’s work which is by faith (v. 4). It also included Jewish myths and genealogies (v. 4).
Interpretation Question: What did Paul mean by their teaching of Jewish myths and genealogies?
Obviously, the Old Testament is full of genealogies, primarily given to trace the lineage of Christ. However, it seems that these teachers took a fanciful understanding of these genealogies—leading to controversy and speculation. It is possible these false teachers used an allegorical method of Bible interpretation, which made the Bible more exciting to study. As an example, they might have said, “Adam refers to the spirit, Eve to the flesh, the tree to free will, and the river to baptism.” This fanciful understanding of the Old Testament was common in several ancient Jewish works. Kent Hughes mentions some:
The Old Testament is full of genealogies that made perfect fodder for “Jewish myths” (Titus 1:14)—the fanciful allegorical creation of stories about the people in the genealogies. The Jewish tradition included books such as The Book of Jubilees (circa 135–105 b.c.), a fanciful rewrite of Old Testament history from creation to Sinai. The later Biblical Antiquities of Philo (circa a.d. 70) retells more of the Old Testament story—from creation to the death of King Saul. Thus there were ample allegorical models for the Ephesian elders turned Christian rabbis to imitate. 8
We’ve seen these fanciful interpretations throughout history. We must understand that the OT narratives are meant to detail the events of redemptive history; they are not meant to be a hunting ground for fantasies. But we’ve also seen fanciful interpretation in recent speculations such as with the “Bible Code”:
A few years ago the best-selling book The Bible Code, a tendentious interpretation of the Old Testament, claimed that an Israeli mathematician, Dr. Elijahu Rips, has decoded the Bible with a computer formula, unlocking 3,000-year-old prophecies of events such as the Kennedy assassination and the election of Bill Clinton—”everything from the holocaust to Hiroshima, from the moon landing to the collision of a comet with Jupiter.”9
The false teachings in Ephesus included common Jewish elements such as mythological teachings from the narratives and genealogies. We must be careful of teachings like these as they create speculations rather than holiness (v. 5).
2. The teaching had aspects of asceticism.
Again in 1 Timothy 4:3, Paul warns Timothy about those who forbid marriage and eating certain foods. Ascetics practiced strict self-denial as a means of attaining a higher spiritual plane (cf. Col 2:20-23). They were known for their rigorous discipline. This may be implied when Paul says “For ‘physical exercise has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way. It holds promise for the present life and for the life to come’” (1 Tim 4:8).
Application Question: How can we apply the Christian soldiers’ need to confront false doctrine?
Sadly, we live in an age full of relativism that denies truth. We can believe anything we like—the only thing wrong is declaring that somebody else is wrong. This thinking is even in the church. At times, to teach doctrine, which includes confronting false doctrine, is considered unloving. However, while Christ was on the earth, he confronted false teachers and warned us about them (Matthew 7:15-23, 23:1-39). In fact, the majority of Paul’s writings were confronting false teaching. In Corinth, he confronted the abuse of spiritual gifts like tongues. In Galatia, he confronted the abuse of the law as a means of salvation and sanctification. In Thessalonica, he confronted false teaching about the end times. In most of his books, he confronts false teaching. He will, in fact, continually call Timothy to guard the good deposit given to him (2 Tim 1:14) and to teach it to others so they can pass it on (2 Tim 2:2).
We must do the same. Doctrine matters.
- In order to confront false doctrine, we must know doctrine so that we won’t be deceived.
The church is very biblically illiterate and, therefore, prone to deception (cf. Eph 4:11-14). We must read the Bible, study it, memorize it, and listen to or read good teaching on it. I highly recommend working through a systematic theology like Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine in order to better understand major doctrines in Scripture like the doctrine of salvation (What is salvation and can a person lose their salvation?), the doctrine of the church (What is the church and who can serve in leadership?), the doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Who is the Holy Spirit and what does he do?), etc. We must own the truth if we are going to guard it.
- In order to confront false doctrine, we must be willing to lovingly challenge people.
Ephesians 4:15 (NIV) says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” This is true as pastors preach the whole counsel of Scripture instead of ducking controversial parts of it (cf. Acts 20:26-27). When they do this, the church grows. But it is also true for the members, they must speak the truth in love when a brother or sister goes astray or accepts unhealthy teaching. The manner of our instruction is just as important as the doctrine. Proverbs 15:1 says a soft answer deters wrath.
Are you willing to study doctrine in order to know and guard it? Are you willing to confront those who have accepted wrong doctrine in a loving manner?
Application Question: Why is it so important to study and know the truth and also confront false doctrine? What makes this difficult in today’s society?
Faithful Christian Soldiers Advance the Gospel
nor to occupy themselves with myths and interminable genealogies. Such things promote useless speculations rather than God’s redemptive plan that operates by faith.
1 Timothy 1:4
Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean by the false teachers failing to advance God’s work “which is by faith”?
Here, we discern the work of a Christian soldier by contrast. False teachers either teach another gospel or neglect the gospel. In the midst of the Ephesian false teachers’ speculations over myths and genealogies, the gospel was lost. Paul describes them as promoting useless speculation instead of advancing God’s redemptive plan. “Redemptive plan” can be translated as “administration” or “stewardship.” Christian soldiers are stewards of the gospel of faith. They are called to protect it from being stolen or tarnished, but they are also called to teach it to others.
In 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, Paul said this about himself and other servants of Christ: “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (KJV).
We are stewards of the mysteries of God, and specifically the gospel. One day, at the return of Christ, God will check our stewardship. Did we protect the gospel? Did we advance it by sharing it with nonbelievers and helping believers understand the ramifications of it? This is what faithful soldiers do. They protect and advance the gospel message.
Are you still sharing the gospel? Or are you neglecting it?
Application Question: What are some effective ways of advancing the gospel? How is God calling you to better participate in the gospel’s advancement?
Faithful Christian Soldiers Promote Love by Teaching Scripture
But the aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Some have strayed from these and turned away to empty discussion.
1 Timothy 1:5-6
Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean by “the goal of this command is love”? Which command?
When Paul says, “The aim of our instruction is love,” he is either referring to his command that Timothy forbid the false teachers from teaching or he is referring to biblical teaching in general. The latter would include all biblical instruction including our call to confront false doctrine. This would then be a contrast between false teaching and true teaching. False teaching promotes controversy, but biblical teaching promotes love for God and love for others. Paul then describes how we grow in love.
Observation Question: What are the prerequisites to love as promoted by biblical teaching?
1. Biblical teaching promotes love by developing pure hearts in believers.
Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” As the Word of God convicts us and cleanses us of sin, we start to see God more and love him. And as we love God more, we start loving others. Sin in our hearts hinders our ability to love. Pride, anger, unforgiveness, untruthfulness, and sexual immorality all must be removed in order for us to love God and others as we should. And that’s what should happen as we hear and study God’s Word.
Are you keeping a pure heart—avoiding sin and confessing it when you fail? Only a pure heart can love, as intended. Sin corrupts our hearts and our ability to love.
2. Biblical teaching promotes love by developing a good conscience in believers.
The conscience is the faculty residing in humanity that either accuses or approves our works (v. 5). It is the moral faculty of man. One day God will judge the hearts of men by their conscience (Rom 2:14-16). Our consciences can be hardened by living in unrepentant sin and eventually stop working (1 Tim 4:2). A hardened and guilty conscience will keep us out of God’s presence and keep us from worshiping him. It also will keep us from loving our neighbor. Biblical teaching challenges and sharpens our conscience.
For these reasons, every believer should aim to keep a clean conscience. In Acts 24:16, Paul shared how he always strived to keep a clear conscience before God and man. Again, we do this by studying and obeying God’s Word.
Are you keeping a clear conscience? If not, it will hinder your ability to love.
3. Biblical teaching promotes love by developing sincere faith in believers.
“Sincere” literally means “unhypocritical” (v. 5).10 It is genuine faith—one without a mask. “Sincere” comes from the Latin phrase “sin cera”—it means “without wax.” In ancient times, potters would go to the market to sell their pots, and they would have signs saying “sin cera”—without wax. When making pots, sometimes they would crack, and a dishonest salesman would put wax on the cracks and paint over them. The only way one could see the cracks was to raise the pot to the sun.
Paul is saying that biblical teaching promotes a faith that is sincere—a faith without pretense. It is not one thing on Sunday and another thing on Monday. It is genuine. And it is this type of faith that leads to loving God and others. Those wearing wax want to hide themselves, lest they be exposed. This prevents them from ever truly getting involved in the church and serving God as they should (cf. 1 John 1:7). Getting involved would expose their insincere faith.
In churches with false teaching, you will find teachers and people who love and promote themselves instead of loving God and others. Their outward righteousness is only a cover for insincere faith. Without the Word of God, people’s hearts, consciences, and faith cannot be changed or produce true love.
Therefore, the Christian soldier is marked by love because he is marked by Scripture (cf. 2 Tim 3:16-17, Ps 1:1-3). Scripture permeates his life, making him someone who loves God and others more. He also constantly shares the Word with others with the goal that they also will love God and others more. When we are not abiding in God’s Word, we don’t love as we should.
Are you allowing God’s Word to permeate your life—making you grow in love? Are you seeking to help others love God and people more through sharing biblical teaching? Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works.” We spur others towards love and good deeds by faithfully sharing God’s Word with them.
Application Question: How can we help others grow through biblical teaching?
Some might say, “Well, I’m not a pastor or small group leader. How can I help others grow in love through biblical teaching?” Here are several things you can do:
- Invite people to church or small group so they can hear the Word of God.
- Be prepared to share with others what God is teaching you through devotions or church. Maybe, this is done in a small group, with an accountability partner, or with someone you are mentoring.
- Consider developing your ability to teach by volunteering for ministries: children’s ministry, youth ministry, evangelism, or small groups. God has called everybody to teach (cf. Matt 28:19-20, Heb 5:12); however, we all have different forums to teach in. The most effective teaching is not from a pulpit; it is one on one or in small groups.
Application Question: How have you experienced a growing love, as you saturated yourself in God’s Word? How have you experienced a lack of love when not saturating yourself in God’s Word? How is God calling you to help others grow in love towards God and others?
Faithful Christian Soldiers Possess the Right Motives for Ministry
They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not understand what they are saying or the things they insist on so confidently.
1 Timothy 1:7
Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean when he says the false teachers want to be teachers of the law?
Paul said that the false teachers wanted to be teachers of the law. What did he mean by that? He probably meant they wanted the esteem that came with being called Rabbi. This also seemed to be happening amongst the Jewish Christians in the book of James. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly.” In considering this, John MacArthur’s comments are helpful:
The false teachers were driven by a strong, consuming desire to be teachers of the Law. They were not concerned about truly learning the law, or knowing the God of the law, or serving people in love by the law. They desired the kind of prestige accorded rabbis in Judaism, only they sought that within the church. Like the Pharisees denounced by our Lord, “they do all their deeds to be noticed by men … and they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi” (Matt. 23:5–7). They were proud and sought the applause of men (1 Tim. 6:4).
Sadly, this is all too common, not only for false teachers, but also for those serving in ministry in general (cf. Matt 6:1-18, 23:7-8). They desire the prestige that comes with being called doctor, pastor, teacher, elder, or deacon. They desire to be lifted up instead of lifting up God and others. They desire to be served instead of serving others. They have the wrong motivations for ministry.
Application Question: What are the right motives for ministry?
1. Christian soldiers desire for Christ to be exalted instead of themselves.
Certainly, we see this in John the Baptist. When talking about Christ, he said, “He must become more important while I become less important” (John 3:30). A faithful Christian soldier is constantly humbling himself so that Christ might be exalted and magnified in his life.
2. Christian soldiers desire for others to be edified, even at great cost to themselves.
Consider what Paul said about the Jews:
I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed—cut off from Christ—for the sake of my people, my fellow countrymen, who are Israelites.
Like Christ, Paul was willing to be cursed and cut off from God for others. True service puts others before ourselves. And this is true of Christian soldiers; they are willing to sacrifice life, career, and comfort in order to serve God and build his kingdom (cf. Lk 14:26). The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep, but the hireling only cares about his pay (cf. John 10:11-15).
A Christian soldier’s motives are to exalt God and edify others. What are your motives for ministry? It is very easy for them to become about money and fame instead of God and others.
Application Question: What are your motives for ministry? How can we protect our hearts from wrong motives?
As we consider Paul and his exhortations to Timothy and the Ephesian church, we learn something about being a faithful Christian soldier. They were fighting a battle for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. What are marks of faithful Christian soldiers?
- Faithful Christian Soldiers Know Their Assignments
- Faithful Christian Soldiers Are Empowered by God
- Faithful Christian Soldiers Confront False Doctrine
- Faithful Christian Soldiers Advance the Gospel
- Faithful Christian Soldiers Promote Love by Teaching Scripture
- Faithful Christian Soldiers Possess the Right Motives for Ministry
1 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2075). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
2 Stott, J. R. W. (1996). Guard the truth: the message of 1 Timothy & Titus (pp. 38–39). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
3 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 210). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
4 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 211). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
5 Hughes, R. K., & Chapell, B. (2000). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: to guard the deposit (p. 26). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
6 Hughes, R. K., & Chapell, B. (2000). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: to guard the deposit (p. 26). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
7 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (p. 15). Chicago: Moody Press.
8 Hughes, R. K., & Chapell, B. (2000). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: to guard the deposit (p. 27). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
9 Hughes, R. K., & Chapell, B. (2000). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: to guard the deposit (p. 28). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
10 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2076). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
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