In the introduction to 1 Timothy, I explain that Timothy and Titus are apostles, not pastors. That is important to remember as we go through the book.
I get blasted every time I say that the Athanasian Creed contradicts the Nicene Creed, the Apostles Creed, the Christian writings from before those creeds, and the Bible itself. Nonetheless, it is true.
The line I particularly object to is:
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
This is the most popular modern way of describing the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but there is nothing scriptural or historical about it.
We believe in one God, the Father … and one Lord, King Jesus, the Son of God … and the Holy Spirit.
This is the same terminology used by Paul:
For us there is but one God, the Father … and one Lord, Jesus the King … (1 Cor. 8:6)
We see an example of this at the start of all of Paul’s letters, and 1 Timothy is not an exception.
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and King Jesus our Lord.
You will never find Paul or anyone else saying, “Grace to you from God the Son and the Father.” Nor will you ever find any biblical reference to “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.” The Son is regularly said to be seated at the right hand of God, but the Father is never said to be seated at the left hand of God.
There is an order in divinity. There is only one divinity, and it comes from God the Father. The Son shares the divinity of the Father, but the Father is the source. The illustration the early Christians used was that of a spring and the stream that flows from it. They also used a root and the tree rising up from it and the sun and its sunbeam as figures of the relationship between the Father and the Son.
The Holy Spirit? It appears to me, and to many others, that the early Christians were all over the place in discussing the Holy Spirit, and their statements are as difficult to put together as are those of Scripture. The Council of Nicea, after many descriptions of King Jesus, the Son of God, ended its creed (since added to): “… and in the Holy Spirit.” No explanation at all was attached.
Those who know me know how seriously I take the concept of blessing. Like most people in history, I believe blessings have power. A “Bible believer” believes blessings have power by definition because the Scriptures regularly teach that blessings are effective.
Paul starts and ends his letters with a blessing. I don’t think the blessing was rote. I think Paul had chosen the blessing he thought was best.
This was later in Paul’s life, so maybe he added the “mercy” along the line, but in all his letters he blesses his readers with “grace and peace.” A run through the apostles’ writings looking for those two words will make it clear why he chose them to bless the churches with.
Yes, only the churches. Paul blesses with peace only those who “love the Lord Jesus in truth” (Eph. 6:24).
Call No Man Father
Jesus told us not to call anyone father, but here Paul says Timothy is his “true son” in the faith. In other passages, he claims to be a father to the Corinthians, not just a teacher.
There are people who object to Paul or anyone else being called “father.” We Protestants like to pick out snippets of a verse, a verse out of a passage, or a chapter out of a book to teach things that violate other verses, passages, or books (of Scripture).
The Protestant interpretation of Matthew 23:8 is not just false; it’s hypocrital. We excoriate Catholics for calling their priests “Father,” but we are as much violators of Matthew 23 as they are.
- We have isolated only “father” in that passage, ignoring rabbi and teacher.
- We ignore the obvious context of the passage, which applies as much to Pastor Jones as it does to Father Martin, and I think even more so to the “Right Reverend” Thornton. (Names made up.)
Those were not real names.
The context of Matthew 23:8—I don’t have to prove it; you can see it yourself without trying very hard—concerns titles and receiving honor for your title. Thus you can be called Teacher Jones, Evangelist Jones, Deacon Jones, Reverend Jones, Paster Jones, Father Jones, or the Mighty Apostle Jones, and you have taken on yourself a title of honor that Jesus told his disciples neither to take up themselves nor to give to others.
Timothy’s Apostolic Work
Timothy is a traveler, not a pastor.
Verse 3 tells us that Paul left Timothy in Ephesus for a purpose. He stayed to instruct certain ones not to teach falsely.
Paul does not say to silence them, as he tells Titus (1:11), and he doesn’t say that these are divisive people who need to be rejected (Tit. 3:10). The problem in Ephesus appears to be that they got bored and are entertaining themselves with “myths and endless genealogies,” and whatever else promotes “speculations.”
We Americans need to take that warning to heart!
I said in the introduction that I love the letters to Timothy and Titus. They were written late in Paul’s life (though by my reading, they seem to be among the earliest quoted letters by the early Christians), and he was (in my opinion) tired of Christians not getting the central message. As we say today, they were majoring on the minors.
To me, the letters to Timothy and Titus shout: “HEY! IT’S ABOUT GOD CHANGING YOUR BEHAVIOR. DON’T GET OFF TRACK. ALL THIS OTHER STUFF IS USELESS.”
Jesus had similar things to say to the Ephesians (Rev. 2:1-7). They were doing all sorts of good things which Jesus commended them for, but they had departed from the main focus. They had lost their first love. Don’t get confused, though. Their first love was still all about actually DOING something. “Repent and do your first works over again” was Jesus’ advice to them.
Well, command, actually. When the King shows up, it’s not a suggestion. Ignore his “suggestions” and you wind up blotted out of the Book of Life (Rev. 3:5), spewed out of his mouth (3:16), losing your candlestick (2:5), and even having Jesus fight against you! (2:16).
His yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matt. 11:30), but that sort of ease, power, lightness, confidence, mercy, and peace is for those who know he is the King and have bowed their knee to him in utter submission, losing all other worldly ties.
Anyway, the point is that Jesus and his apostles don’t want us wandering from this eloquent teaching to that one. Paul tells Timothy that the purpose of our teaching is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a faith that is not pretended.
Some people have deviated from this purpose, Paul tells us, and they are producing “meaningless talk.”
Well, that’s long enough for today. This trip through the apostles’ writings could take years!