Introduction and Greeting

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1 Timothy 1:1-2

INTRODUCTION: Please take your Bible and turn with to the book of 1 Timothy. 1 Timothy is in the New Testament towards the back of your Bible, just a few books before Hebrews. Today we start a new messages series on the book of 1 Timothy called, “Doing Church Together.”

1 Timothy is the first of three books in the Bible known as the Pastoral Epistles, so-called because they give instructions to church leaders about church life and ministry. The other two Pastoral Epistles are the next two books in the Bible, 2 Timothy and Titus.

It is also the first of four letters in the Bible that Paul wrote to individuals rather than to local churches. These include the three Pastoral Epistles, plus a fourth, more personal letter to a man named Philemon. Philemon comes right after Titus in your Bible.

1 Timothy is a brief but highly practical book full of instructions for and about the church. And so I look forward to studying it together as a church over the next number of weeks. Let’s read the first two verses as we get started this morning.

1 Timothy 1:1-2 – 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,
2 To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Every church has its own personality, and different churches have different styles, approaches and emphases in their ministries. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, that is the way it should be. But there are some things that all churches should do or have in common. And those are the things the Bible instructs the church to do. The Bible is our instruction manual for all of life, including church life.

1 Timothy does not contain all that the Bible says about the church, but it covers a lot of ground, and any church that seeks to be biblical in its life and ministry should have a good grasp of this important letter.

I want us to do three things by way of introduction this morning as we get started with our series. First of all, I want to take a couple minutes making sure that we understand the background to this letter. Understanding the background of a letter helps us to put certain things in context and assists us in proper interpretation of specific verses. Secondly, I want us to look at the purpose behind this letter. Knowing why an author wrote a letter is also key to understanding the letter as a whole and its various parts. And then thirdly, we will look at Paul’s greeting in verses 1 and 2 which opens and sets the tone for the letter to follow.

I. Understanding the Background

So first, let’s look at the background to this letter. We have already said that 1 Timothy is one of the three Pastoral Epistles. The word epistle simply means letter. Most of Paul’s letters were written to churches, but the three Pastoral Epistles were written to individuals who were in positions of leadership in the church. 1 & 2 Timothy were both written to Timothy, who was in the city of Ephesus. Titus was written to Titus, who was on the island of Crete.

Another characteristic of the Pastoral Epistles is that they are highly practical in nature. Most of Paul’s letters to the churches can be broken down into two sections. First, there is a highly doctrinal section where Paul expounds doctrine and theology, and then a second, more practically oriented section where Paul applies the doctrines from the first section of the letter to the present life situation of the church.

The Pastoral Epistles are a little different in that they are full of practical instruction and application from beginning to end. It’s not that they do not contain any theology, or that theology isn’t practical in and of itself. But they are more practical, nuts-and-bolts oriented than some of Paul’s other letters. And although they are addressed individually to Timothy and Titus, their instruction is clearly meant for the whole church, and the whole church has benefited from these letters ever since they were written.

Another difference between the Pastoral Epistles and Paul’s other letters is the historical situation. The book of Acts records three different missionary journeys for Paul. In most of Paul’s letters you can pick out certain historical details and then go back to the book of Acts to figure out when in Paul’s journeys he may have written the letter. The Pastoral Epistles also have historical clues scattered throughout them, but none of the clues seem to line up with what we read in the book of Acts.

This has caused some skeptics to question whether Paul even wrote these letters to begin with. But these letters were always accepted by the early church as written from Paul, and it was not until the nineteenth century that anyone really proposed otherwise. So how do you fit these letters into the chronology we find in the book of Acts? I think the simplest solution is that you don’t.

Turn with me for a moment to the last chapter of the book of Acts, the last two verses. “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 28:30-31) The book of Acts ends with Paul living in Rome under house arrest awaiting his sentence. You will notice that Acts does not mention either Paul’s death or his release from prison.

Although Paul was eventually martyred for his faith in Rome, the historical evidence would suggest that Paul was released from this particular imprisonment and went on a fourth missionary journey encompassing Greece, Asia Minor, Crete and possibly Spain. This would mean that Paul could have written the three Pastoral Epistles after the events recorded in the book of Acts. And that solution makes the most sense to me.

When Paul writes the book of 2 Timothy, it is clear that he is also in prison in Rome. But that imprisonment seems much different from his house arrest at the end of the book of Acts. He writes of suffering as a prisoner and being in chains. He no longer expects to be released but speaks of his imminent death. This would suggest that Paul was imprisoned in Rome twice. The first time would be the one described at the end of the book of Acts, and then the second time would be the imprisonment described in the book of 2 Timothy. Although Titus comes after 2 Timothy in your Bible, Paul probably wrote the letter to Titus before his second imprisonment, sometime between the two letters to Timothy.

Drawing from other historical accounts, if we were going to put dates on all this, Paul was most likely released from his first Roman imprisonment in AD 62. He continued his missionary work, including writing this first letter to Timothy in Ephesus and then the letter to Titus in Crete. He was then imprisoned in Rome a second time in AD 66 and eventually martyred under the emperor Nero sometime before AD 68 (when Nero himself died).

II. Discovering the purpose.

Now that we have looked at the background to the letter, let’s talk about the purpose. Why did Paul write this letter to Timothy? This is always a helpful question to ask when you are studying a book in the Bible. Knowing why the author wrote the book will help you grasp the big picture and help you interpret the specific details more accurately.

Sometimes it is difficult to know exactly why a certain book was written. You have to study the book in detail and look for clues as to the author’s overall purpose. But sometimes the author comes right out and tells you why he wrote the book, and that makes it a whole lot easier! For example, do you know why the apostle John wrote the gospel of John? That is an easy one because he tells you why right near the end. “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

Fortunately for us, 1 Timothy is also one of those books where Paul tells you why he wrote this particular letter. Turn with for a moment to 1 Timothy 3:14-15 where Paul tells Timothy: “I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household.” (1 Timothy 3:14-15) Some people would argue that these verses only apply to what Paul has just said in chapter three, but I find that they seem to apply to the letter as a whole.

Paul is writing this letter to tell Timothy how people should conduct themselves as the church of Jesus Christ. That is why I have entitled the series on this book, “Doing Church Together.” As we study the book of 1 Timothy together, we will find rich instruction on what we should be doing as a church, on how the church should be structured, on how the church should conduct its life and ministry, and how the church should care for its members.

We will look at these verses from1 Timothy 3 in more depth when we get to that chapter in our study, but for now just notice that Paul calls the church “God’s household.” The word itself can mean either a “house” (the building), or “household” (those people who live in the building, that is, a family).

I think the NIV translates it well here. God does not live in a house or a building, but he does have a family, and he indwells his church through the Holy Spirit. The church is not a building. The church is the people. And so when we talk of doing church together, we are not talking about how to decorate the building, or just what we do on Sunday mornings, but we are talking about how we should live and work together as a church, as a people committed to God and to each other.

This is why Paul writes this letter. Paul is an aging apostle, probably in his sixties at this time. He has given the last thirty years of his life to mission work and church planting. Timothy is the next generation. Paul is passing the baton.

Paul is also shifting in his priorities from church planting to church establishing. It is important to keep planting churches, but what good does it do if those churches do not survive and grow and then plant other churches? Now that a church has been planted, Paul addresses the following concerns in 1 Timothy: how should the church be organized and what should it be doing?

For example, we will see that false teaching was one of the things threatening this particular church in Ephesus, and so Paul spends quite a bit of time in this letter talking about the importance of sound doctrine and urging Timothy to stop these false teachers.

As we said earlier, this letter was written to Timothy, but it was also written to churches of all ages. It was written so that local churches might better understand their mission and priorities. This is doing church by the book. This is doing church together.

III. Examining the greeting

Now that we have spent some time understanding the background to this letter and discovering Paul’s purpose in writing this letter, let us get a head start on the book itself by examining the greeting of the letter found in verses 1-2. Let us look at verse 1 first: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” (1 Timothy 1:1)

This is the typical way a letter in Paul’s time would begin. In our day we usually start a letter, “Dear Somebody,” and then end with the writer’s name, but in Paul’s day the writer would usually begin by identifying himself – which makes a lot of sense. You know right away who is writing you the letter without having to scan down to the end of it.

Paul starts most of his letters by introducing himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus.” This was not pride on his part but rather an assertion of his authority under Christ. The word apostle means a messenger or a delegate. By introducing himself in this way, Paul was showing that he did not write these letters by his own authority but rather as a representative of Jesus Christ.

Paul did not choose to be an apostle. Sometimes he says he was “called to be an apostle” (Romans 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:1). Sometimes he says he is an apostle “by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:1). In the book of Galatians he says he is an apostle “sent by God.” (Galatians 1:1)

Here in 1 Timothy he says that he is an apostle of Christ Jesus “by the command” of God. The word “command” here refers to a commission. It was used of royal commands that must be obeyed. God had commissioned Paul as an apostle, and Paul had no choice in the matter if he was going to be obedient to God’s call upon his life.

Paul says that this command came from “God our Savior and Christ Jesus our hope.” Let’s look at that phrase “God our Savior” first. (Note: The phrase “God our Savior” appears six times in the New Testament, and five of those are in the Pastoral Epistles.) This was a common way to refer to God in the Old Testament. For example we read in Psalm 25:5: “You are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” God says in Isaiah 43:3, “I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Nowadays we usually speak of Jesus as our Savior. That is appropriate. Jesus is our Savior. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. But we should not forget that in a larger sense, God is our Savior. Jesus did not save us despite God or apart from God. It is not that God wanted to punish us, and that Jesus somehow saved us. No, it is God himself who saved us. God the Father sent his Son to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus came willingly in loving obedience to the Father. When Jesus came, he came filled with the Holy Spirit. After he died, he was raised to life by that same Spirit. God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is our Savior. And Paul reminds us of this truth here at the beginning of 1 Timothy. He will return to this important theme throughout the letter.

Secondly, Paul is an apostle by the command of “Christ Jesus our hope.” Did you notice how naturally Paul links the names of God and Jesus together? He says this one command came from both God and Christ. Throughout his letters Paul links God and Christ together in this way, for Paul understood that Jesus truly is God’s Son and part of who God is.

Here he calls Jesus “our hope.” Jesus is our hope in so many ways. He is our hope of salvation. He is our hope of eternal life. He is the fulfillment of all of our deepest longings and hopes in life. The Christian’s blessed hope is the second coming of Christ. Paul will return to this theme of hope several times in this letter.

After identifying himself, Paul goes on to name the recipient of the letter. This was also common practice for letter writing in Paul’s day. Look at verse 2: “To Timothy my true son in the faith.” (1 Timothy 1:2a)

Timothy was from Lystra, and we first read about him in the book of Acts during Paul’s second missionary journey. “He [Paul] came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek.” (Acts 16:1) Timothy became one of Paul’s faithful traveling companions and a fellow worker for the gospel.

Notice that Paul calls Timothy “my true son in the faith.” Elsewhere Paul uses this father/son terminology to indicate spiritual converts to Christ. Listen to what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in chapter 4: “Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” (1 Corinthians 4:15-17)

Paul says that he is a “father’ to the Corinthians because he led them to Christ through the gospel. And then in the very next verses, in the same context, he calls Timothy “his son” again. His point here is that children should imitate their parents. The Corinthians should follow his way of life even as Timothy his son does.

So did Paul lead Timothy to Christ? Some people say no, because when we first read about Timothy in Acts 16, he is already a believer. But Paul had been to Lystra before, on his first missionary trip (Acts 14:8-20), and it is possible that Timothy came to faith in Christ at that time. I think Paul led Timothy to Christ, and that this is what he means by “true son in the faith” in verse 2.

The word “true” here carries the idea of “genuine” or even “legitimate” such as a legitimate versus an illegitimate child. Timothy was the genuine article. He not only professed faith in Christ, but he had proven himself faithful to Christ. He had followed Paul’s example as Paul had followed Christ’s. He was a true son in the faith.

Finally, Paul gives his actual greeting at the end of verse 2: “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (1 Timothy 2:b) This is a slight variation from Paul’s standard greeting in his letters. Paul almost always wished his readers grace and peace. For Paul grace was central. It was God’s grace that sent Jesus into the world to bring us salvation. We are saved by God’s grace; we stand by God’s grace; we grow in God’s grace. Paul also loved the word “peace.” “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) Paul speaks about peace with God which then brings about the peace of God in our lives.

But here Paul also adds the word mercy – “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” This threefold combination of words only shows up three times in the whole Bible. You find it in the greetings of 1 and 2 Timothy, and then again in the greeting of 2 John. Paul will return to this theme of mercy later on in this first chapter of Timothy, as he reflects on God’s mercy to him in Christ Jesus. Here it is a reminder to Timothy, who had a tendency towards being timid, that God is also merciful to him.

CONCLUSION: So, what are some things we can learn from this introduction to 1 Timothy?

1) God gave us salvation and hope through Jesus Christ – therefore we should trust him.

There is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ, and apart from Jesus Christ there is no hope. We must all stand before God one day to give an account for our lives, and every sin will receive its just punishment. God loves you and sent his Son to die for you so that you might receive forgiveness for your sins and the free gift of eternal life. Will you trust him with your life?

2) God gave us spiritual fathers through the gospel – therefore we should share the gospel with others.

If you already know Christ as Savior this morning, it is because someone shared with you about Christ along the way. It may have been your parents, it may have been a friend, it may have been a speaker in church or on the radio or on TV. Either way, we all have spiritual fathers – people whom God used to bring us into his kingdom. Therefore, we all have the responsibility to share the gospel with other people. As Dawson Trottman, founder of the Navigators ministry, used to put it, “You were born to reproduce.”

Timothy was Paul’s “true son in the faith” I wonder, do you have any sons or daughters in the faith, people that you have personally led to Christ? If not, why not? If you have been sharing your faith on a regular basis, then you need not worry. You have planted the seeds. God will make them grow in his time. But if you are not sharing your faith, how can God make a seed grow that has not been planted? You should be praying daily for God to give you the opportunity and the boldness to share your faith.

Here is a rule of the kingdom. Spiritual life does not skip a generation. Each generation must pass on the gospel while it can. A church that does not share the gospel is a church that dies. And when we say the church, remember, we are speaking about the people that make up the church. That’s you and I. We all have the responsibility to share the gospel with other people.

3) God gave us instructions for the church – therefore we should follow his instructions.

When you get a car or a major appliance, you get an instruction manual that goes with it. If you follow the instructions, usually your car or appliance will perform much better for you. Why is that? Because the instruction manual was put together by the people who designed the product. They know how it is supposed to work and how best to maintain it. It is the same with the church. God designed the church, and he knows how it works best. God has given us instructions for the church in the Bible, and a lot of them are right here in 1 Timothy. We will do well to follow his instructions.

© Ray Fowler

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