Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
A man named John Colenso was the Bishop of Natal in South Africa in the 19th century. He wrote a book that denied the historical accuracy o several things in the Bible. Well, a heresy trial followed and Bishop Colenso was deposed. A great battle ensued with Colenso appealing to a synod, which upheld the deposition, and then appealing to a secular court, which ordered him reinstated. And all this created a great schism in the S.A. Anglican church that went on for years.
Well, during this time, Reverend Samuel Stone, a supporter of the truth, became concerned that what happened with Bishop Colenso was a symptom of a wider problem in the church. He was convinced that many people recited the Apostles’ Creed without really understanding it or believing it. So he wrote 12 hymns, with each hymn explaining a line of the creed and defending the truth of the Bible. And his hymn about the line of the Apostles’ Creed that we confessed earlier, “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church,” is called ‘The Church’s One Foundation.’ We are going to sing it after the sermon. The hymn declares that Jesus Christ is the one foundation of the church and several other things about the church, but in recognition of what was going on in the S.A. Anglican church at that time, the hymn also laments the damage that false teaching causes in the church.
But while the truth that Jesus Christ is the church’s one foundation is a wonderful and encouraging truth, He is not physically present on earth to govern and guide congregations, directly. He is not here to deal with false teachers. And make no mistake about it, the danger of false teaching and ungodly living is as real today as it has been in every age of the church. So how is the church to be governed or ruled or guarded today? What are the Who and the How of preserving and promoting true religion today?
Well, there is no better book of the Bible to help us with such questions than 1 Timothy. And that is because matters like these are precisely why the letter was originally written. Timothy was the minister in Ephesus. And if you look at v3 you can see that there were some in Ephesus who were teaching “different doctrine.” And the consequence of this false teaching is explained in v6, where we read that people swerved away from the truth and wandered away into vain or empty or foolish discussion. And some, as v19 explains, “made shipwreck of their faith.” So this was a serious problem – good and true and sound doctrine brings people to faith in Christ, but bad or false or strange teaching leads people away from Christ. So what we have in 1 Timothy is Instruction for the Church that preserves and promotes true religion.
And we are going to work our way through 1 Timothy in just a few sermons. We won’t look at every verse or even every paragraph. Our main focus will be seeing what is laid out in terms of the government and order and discipline of the church.
And I want to tell you why it is important that we do this. I am sure you have heard this before but there is an old saying that says – the first generation does what it does and it knows why it does it, the second generation does what it does but it doesn’t know why it does it, and the third generation stops doing it. It is not enough that we do things, even if they are the right things, if we don’t know why we do them. And we will only do them if we know they are the right things from the Bible; we have to see the Do and the WHY in Scripture. So what we see in 1 Timothy will be well known to some and new to others, but may the Lord bless His word to our hearing and doing.
So today we look at ch’s 1-2 and after Paul provides his apostolic credentials and greets Timothy in the opening verses, there are two major divisions that follow: the problem in the church, and the instruction for the church.
- So first of all, the Problem in the church as it is outlined in vv3-17.
- As I said a moment ago, we see in
v3 that there were some in the church at Ephesus who were teaching “different doctrine.” And this issue is hugely significant for all
of 1 Timothy. Other English Bible
versions translate ‘different’ as ‘strange’ or ‘false’ doctrine. And an obvious implication is that there is a
true or correct or sound teaching.
- For example, look at 1 Timothy 3:9: There we read that Deacons “must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.” So the obvious question is: What is the mystery of faith that they have to hold? And we get an idea of what this is just a few verses alonginv16where it says, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” It’s one of the first confessions of faith and it is about the person and work of Jesus. So if the deacons confessed these truths, they and Timothy and the congregation knew that they were holding the mystery of the faith, but if they denied these truthes or added false ideas, then they did not hold the mystery of the faith.
- And as you read 1&2 Timothy it soon becomes clear that ministers and elders and deacons had an official responsibility for knowing and teaching the body of sound doctrine. Of course, we should all want to know sound doctrine but just as we heard earlier from Ephesians 4, Jesus Christ has given officers to the to help us grow in the knowledge of Christ.
- So this is why Art. 30 of our Confession says that there should be ministers and elders and deacons to preserve true religion and propagate (which means to spread) true doctrine everywhere, and to watch out that that they and the members “do not deviate from what Christ … has commanded.”
- And this is why this church is governed by elders (including me as the minister) and deacons, and why we are a confessional church. The content of this book is what the church holds to be a faithful summary of the body of sound doctrine taught in Scripture; this is what ministers and elders and deacons today must promote and defend.
- And this is why the Elders call us all to attend both worship services, and to be part of a regular Bible study, and to receive the elders and deacons for home visits. It is also why we call on parents to send their children and young people to Sunday school and catechism classes. We need to constantly grow in our knowledge of Christ and to know about error, both in doctrine and life.
- Now, there is one thing about the false teachers in Ephesus that this is very relevant for us and the wider church today. It only becomes plain in chapter 2:11, where Paul says, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” And we will say more about those verses in our next point but we can infer from these words that even apart from what was being said, another part of the false teaching problem in Ephesus was the sex of the person saying it. If you look at 1:3, Paul says there, “Charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.” If it were just men who were the false teachers, Paul would have said, “Charge certain men…” because he is very sex-specific throughout his letters. But his use of the word ‘persons’ reveals that men and women were false teachers, which prepares us for what he will say at the end of ch. 2 But as I said, we will return to this topic in our second point.
- But before we get there, vv8-17 give us more of the body of sound doctrine. If you look at v7 Paul speaks about the false teachers “desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.” And then in vv8-17 he explains the right use of the law and the gospel. And very basically, his point there is one we saw in a recent sermon from 1 John 2, which is that those who truly hold to the body of sound doctrine, who know that their sins are forgiven by the work of Jesus on the cross and that they have eternal life, will strive to live a holy life. And that was clearly not the case with the false teachers. So Paul holds himself before Timothy and all believers as an example of how the law and the gospel work in vv12-16 as he calls himself the foremost or worst or chief of sinners. But he rejoices that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, like him, which is why Paul strived to be like Jesus in every way. And then in v17, as is so typical with Paul, he bursts out in doxology (glory word)! “To the King of the ages…”
- So false teaching was and is a big problem in the church, and this is only remedied by the gospel of God’s grace in Christ, preached and taught by the officers that Christ gives to the church. But secondly, from 1:18-2:15, we see Instruction for the church.
- And first off, it is important that we understand that what is said here and in ch. 3 is instruction about office in the church and public worship. At the end of this section, Paul says, “I am writing these things to you so that … you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God.” These words are not universal words for home and work and school, they are about church office and worship.
this comes through also in that the words come in the form of a charge.
A charge is something official – it is a commission or a duty from a
senior to a junior. So Paul gives Timothy
this charge, and he surely expected Timothy to pass it on to the other elders
and deacons. So a lot of what is to
follow is for church officers. And notice
from the end of v18 that the work of the officers is described as “good
- Later on in 1 Timothy 4 Paul will describe the Christian life as like that of a gymnast who has to practice and train, very hard, every day. And in 2 Timothy 2, alongside the imagery of an Olympic athlete and a hard-working farmer, Paul calls Timothy to work like a good soldier.
- Ephesians 6:10-12 says thatwe battle with “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” And the Bible makes it clear that there are ranks in the angelic realm and in the demonic realm. So if it there is perhaps a ‘lowly private’ demon assigned to tempt your average church member, then there is probably a lieutenant assigned to tempt each office-bearer, and maybe a captain assigned to each congregation. And I am not trying to say that the Bible lays out this exact demonic work assignment template, but to illustrate the reality of the spiritual battle we are in.
- And this is important because we have office-bearers. We have men training for the ministry. Do you understand what men who accept the call to serve in office are signing up for? Warfare. Do you understand why it is dangerous for us to just vote for nice men to be elders or deacons or ministers? The church of Christ needs soldiers. Would you be able to fire a bullet or plunge a knife into the enemy in war? Yes? No? Well, the kind of guy I want in my army is the kind of guy who can shoot someone. And while elders need to be able to speak the truth with love and teach, patiently, they must be soldiers.
- V20 tells us that Paul handed Hymenaeus and Alexander “over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” And H&A might have been nice guys, wealthy benefactors, elders in the church, even. But clearly they were false teachers who needed to be disciplined and General Paul was ready to do it. And that’s the type of man we want in office for the sake of the purity and wellbeing of the church.
- Well, chapter 2 begins with a call to prayer. Before everything else that Paul says to men and women and elders and deacons about church office and public worship, he says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all people…” And there is plenty that we could say about this instruction but it is why we have what we call the congregational prayer in our worship services, it is why we have the prayer calendar in the bulletin, and it is why we occasionally have prayer meetings. It is also why the first deacons were chosen in Acts 6, so that the Apostles/elders could devote themselves to the ministry of word and prayer.
- And that is the perfect segway to v8 and what Paul says to men
about office and public worship, which is, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray,
lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.” So me, if we all had a totally free choice
between coming to a meeting where there would be a debate about serving the
Lord’s Supper around the table or in the pews, or coming to a prayer meeting, I
think we all know which meeting would have the bigger attendance. And it’s not the prayer meeting. And I am sure you have seen this dynamic at
Bible study. Someone makes a
controversial point or asks a tricky question, and the guys lean forward and
they are eager to chip in with their opinions.
And then at the end of the night the Bible study leader says, “Volunteers
to pray?” and there is folded arm silence.
The very fact that Paul calls men to pray and not to anger and
quarreling makes it plain that our natural inclination is to anger and
quarreling and not to prayer. And I hope
that most of us are honest enough to admit that.
- Now, it may be that there was angry quarreling going on in the worship services in Ephesus, but it is likely also that there was angry quarreling instead of prayer in the session room. Whatever the case, we men, and especially ministers and elders and deacons, must be on guard against our sinful inclination to anger and quarreling and instead be men of prayer.
that brings us to vv9-15 and what Paul says about women and office and
- And it is obvious from v9 that there was a problem with the women treating worship services as a high fashion show. And this did not honour the Lord and it was proving to be a distraction for men, so Paul said, “Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire.” The women came to church with a ‘Look at me’ appearance!
- But the problem was not just
about appearance, it was also about attitude.
V9 includes reference to self-control, v10 says that good works are what
should adorn women who profess godliness, and vv11-12 explain that those good
works must not include the desire for office or a public teaching role in the
worship services. Instead, says Paul, “Let
a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man;
rather, she is to remain quiet.”
- Let’s begin with positive – v11 – Women are to be learners! Their desire to learn is not the issue. Of course they should be eager to learn!
- But in the official and public worship of the church they are to “learn quietly with all submission.” Quietly is about worship and with all submission is about office. They are not to be the office-bearers and they are not to lead in worship, whether that be preaching or Bible reading or prayer.
- 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 says the same thing, “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission … If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”
- Now let me quickly say that we are referring here to church office and public worship. None of this is to say that women cannot teach or pray or read the Bible in public, ever. At our Bible studies and prayer meetings, for example, we may all read the Bible and pray and contribute to the discussion. In Acts 18, we read that a husband and wife heard a preacher and realized that he didn’t know some aspects of Christian doctrine, so “they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” And I can tell you that I have learned so much from faithful sisters in Christ who have taught me. But church office and the upfront activities of public worship God has assigned to men.
- And I hope you can see and agree that this instruction is very clear and plain. So what proponents of women leading in worship and serving in office today say is that these words were just for Paul’s day because women were less educated or it was a patriarchal culture. No! Both this passage and the one I read in 1 Corinthians 14 ground the instruction in creation and the Fall. God created man first and woman second, and it is the woman who was deceived. That is why men are to be the officers and the leaders in worship, not women. And this is how it is to be always in the church of Jesus Christ.
that brings us, lastly and necessarily and beautifully, to v15. For having said that
women are not to be the officers or worship leaders, because of creation and
the fall, Paul continues, “Yet she will
be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith and love and
holiness, with self-control.”
- And we have to say right at the outset that this is a general statement. Some women will choose to remain single to serve the Lord with total devotion, which Paul esteems highly and wishes that more would choose in 1 Cor. 7. And also, not every married woman is able to have children, which in no way minimizes her fruitfulness or usefulness in the church community, and which frees her to serve in ways and areas that mothers with young children cannot. But most women will marry and have children.
when the text says “she will be saved by childbearing,” it is not talking about
salvation from sin but from the idea that she is somehow defective or that she
can’t make a meaningful contribution to the church of Christ. And so, almost in the sense of
compensation, if you like, for those areas of church life that are not open to
women, God says I will give you one tremendously important role in life that is
not open to men, which is to bear children.
I mean, just imagine if we men got office,
leading in worship and marriage, and having the children. And I know that is impossible to imagine
because we men are too weak to handle child-birth, but if that were the case
that would put males and females at a complete imbalance. But God says, daughters, they can have office
and leadership, but childbearing is just for you. And you know what? In the church, this is massively
important! It brings the scales right into
balance (and maybe even tips them a bit in your favour, ladies, just between
you and me). How is this so?
- Well, pretty much every minister and elder and deacon who serves well in the church has a mother who was and/or is enormously influential in his life. Mums, I am sure you are happy just to get to the end of each day. Phew. Made it! But your example of hard work, your willingness to put your needs behind those of your children, the Bible stories you read to them, the prayers you pray for them and with them, are the soil of the church.
- G. Campbell Morgan, a very great preacher said, “My dedication to the preaching of the Word was maternal. Mother never told it to the baby or the boy, but waited. When but eight years old I preached to my little sister and to her dolls [set out] in orderly form before me. My sermons were Bible stories which I had first heard from my mother.” And Campbell Morgan had four sons, all four of whom became preachers. And on one occasion when he was explaining all the preachers in his family, someone said to him, “Who is the greatest preacher in your family?” And he replied without hesitation, “My mother.” So Mums, you may not be elders or preachers, but your work is massively important for the church.
- And let me say here that this is why it is so sad that feminism is working so hard to convince women not to have children or to value their career over staying home to raise the children. The thing that women have exclusively is being devalued. But when it rains in the world it drips in the church. We must teach our daughters and our sons that office and leading in worship is for men, and that motherhood is valuable and worthy and desirable and important, also for the church of Jesus Christ!
Well, that’s enough for today. May the Lord bless His word to His people. Amen.