Submitting to authority was just as difficult in the first century as in the 21st century, which makes 1 Timothy such a practical letter. So, let’s hear and heed Paul’s teaching on how to respond correctly to authority.
In Israel's northern city of Caesarea Philippi, among the ruins of a worship centre dedicated to the Greek god Pan, a cave exists that was long believed by those who worshipped there to be the doorway into the netherworld. It was in the vicinity of this grotto, the alleged gateway to hell, that Jesus promised: "Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it" (Matthew 16:18).
From Pentecost in the first century to the present day, Satan has attempted to destroy Christ's Church—yet it endures. From a small group of Jewish outsiders in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, Christ built His Church to reach even the remotest parts of the world. Despite controversies, wars, and denominational splits, the Church continues to be the means through which God announces to a dark and dying world that light and life have come in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.
For these reasons, and many more, we learn about and appreciate the body of Christ, the Church.
We could consider 1 Timothy the handbook on biblical ministry within the church. The first half focuses on the work of ministry—the service. The second half focuses on the workman who performs ministry—the servant. The interlude between these two halves (1 Timothy 3:14-16) focuses on the why of ministry—the soul. The ministry may be theologically and biblically correct, but it’s all head and no heart.
God doesn’t always spell things out in such stark “thou shalt” terms. When we get to the epistle of 1 Timothy, however, we discover virtually a whole chapter devoted to a black-and-white list requiring little interpretation but a lot of application. In 1 Timothy 3:1-7 Paul puts his finger on the essential qualities God is looking for in pastors and elders. Qualities applicable for church leaders in the 21st century as they were in the first century.
The role of women in the church is a hot issue, best handled with sensitivity and compassion—and maybe a pair of asbestos gloves! This is not because Scripture is controversial but because the role of women in the culture is different from what Scripture teaches about the role of women in the church. So, questions rise like steam from a boiling kettle.
We all wrestle with doing things in order of importance. One of the reasons for this struggle is that we often don’t know what deserves our immediate attention. For ministry our first priority is clear: prayer.
In this brief vignette, we read of Paul—called Saul—before his conversion to Christ. Saul was “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” who, by his own admission, “acted ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13). Ironically, Saul was a religious zealot, an intense rabbi, sincere to the core…but sincerely wrong. And so? Mercy in the form of Jesus Christ came to the rescue!
This study offers insight on the biblical theology of ministry—as opposed to an approach to ministry based on experience, opinion, prejudice, culture, and preference. Let’s keep a keen eye on what is written in God’s Word and then do our best to let it shape our thinking.
Over the centuries, tradition has often outshouted biblical principles and caused the church to get off course, which has resulted in every conceivable extreme in teaching and doctrine, including heresy. In this expositional study of 1 Timothy, we return to the source—the Bible—and discover afresh how God planned the church to function.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). As believers today, we must renew that same spirit of determination and commitment to faithfulness, to constancy, to endurance—no matter how sombre the road or how grievous the cost.
“Be realistic! One person can’t possibly change the course of the world.” From the vortex of pressing problems swirling around us, the task looks too difficult to even try. We need to get to high, dry ground, a place of perspective so we can see that our struggles are not unique but have occurred through the ages.