Today we begin Paul’s letter to Timothy. The best date for this letter is that it was written between A.D. 62 and A.D. 67. It is written by Paul, to his traveling companion and friend Timothy. It has A LOT to say about the structure of the Church in the first century.
First, remember who Timothy is. He has been traveling with Paul for many years. In fact, he CO-SIGNED six (6) of Paul’s letters. Paul WASTES NO TIME, in getting to the heart of the matter:
3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.
1 Ti 1:3-7
We can see several things from this passage:
1. “As I urged you” – it was Paul who told Timothy to stay in Ephesus.
2. “..that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine..” – Timothy is CHARGED with the job of stopping those who are teaching different doctrine. Timothy has AUTHORITY from Paul.
3. “…promote speculations rather than the divine training that is in faith…” – The people who are doing this are speculating about things – UNLIKE Timothy who traveled with Paul for years to get “divine training”. Not regular training but DIVINE training. Notice, Paul does not say that the Holy Spirit just makes things known to others. Training is divine but it is STILL TRAINING. What of the people in Ephesus who are teaching the false doctrine? NO DOUBT, these people would believe they are doing right and claim that “they are inspired by the Holy Spirit”, but Paul is having none of it. Good intention and strong feelings that you might be inspired or granted insight into theology are not a substitute for “divine training”.
4. “…have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law…” – These people intentions may be good, they desire to be teachers but their discussions are in vain b/c they are not properly trained. It follows that to be properly trained the person doing the teaching must have authority.
So we see Paul, right off the bat in this letter to Timothy, talking about how important it is to have sound doctrine. And this is a FRIGHTFULLY important issue. Look what happened:
18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
So two men have not followed the teaching of the Church. They have gone off on their own and “made a shipwreck of their faith.” Paul has therefore excommunicated two of the men who have gone off the reservation. He has delivered them to satan. (As an aside that makes 3 people that Paul has kicked out of the Church for things they have done wrong – remember the man sleeping with his mother-in-law).
Consider carefully what is happening here is this first chapter or the letter to Timothy. These are CHRISTIANS, whom Paul has written to before. They love the Lord and they want to know more of the Gospel. It’s safe to presume that they are so excited about their conversion that they want to learn more. They discuss it constantly. They ask questions. They try to follow logically where it leads. They want to teach it, so they engage in discussions, some of which have led to speculation. But rather than conform their ideas to “divine training” they have persisted in teaching their own doctrine. Paul has left Timothy behind with Authority to correct this behavior. But before he left, he kicked two people out of the Church who would not repent and conform their beliefs to the Apostolic message.
Here, in this first chapter, we have a structured Church, we have a hierarchy, we have authority, we have sound doctrine, we have heresy, we have apostolic succession, we have seminary training and we have excommunication.
Doesn’t what is happened in Ephesus circa A.D. 65 sound like happens today? Can’t you hear people saying, “Well the Church teaches X, but I don’t think X is right, so I will go to this other Church”. Or, “I love the Lord and I want to teach, so I am going to start a Church.” What would Paul say if you told him that?