When beginning to plan this past semester’s content for the women’s discipleship group that I lead, the first thing I decided was what we were not going to study: Proverbs 31, Ruth, or Esther.
Now, please don’t hear what I’m not saying. Those three parts of Scripture are absolute treasures, immensely worthy of our attention. My soul is stirred by the providence and perfection of God displayed in these texts. Notice, however, this stirring does not occur because of what they say for me as a woman. What moves me in the depths of my being is the revelation of God.
The beauty of this is that “ALL Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man (or woman) of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV, addition and emphasis mine). The complete revelation of God in the Scriptures is for all people, not just parts of it for some and parts of it for others. I wanted to illustrate this reality for the young women that I disciple even in the book I chose for us to study.
So, we went to some books that aren’t exactly typical for women’s studies: The Pastoral Epistles (Unless, of course, the study were to consist solely of 1 Timothy 2 and Titus 2… who knew, those books actually have other chapters!) Throughout the last several weeks of our study, a few things about 1 Timothy have become abundantly clear:
1. Pastors Exist For The Church
Paul’s direct addresses to Timothy in the salutation (1:2) and throughout the course of the epistle are, in large part, what categorize it as a personal letter to the young leader. Several sections feature Paul’s individual instructions for Timothy, (including one very particular bit about Timothy’s physical health in 5:23). Yet even in these seemingly more private sections, it is clear that Paul addressed Timothy personally so that he may be more effective in leading others to obedience. It is vital that he persevere for the sake of his flock (4:6-16).
This being said, the personal exhortations do not comprise the majority of the letter. Though the writing is all addressed to Timothy, it is primarily regarding that which is being taught to others. He is to carry to them the instructions given for men (1:8), women (1:9-15), overseers (3:1-7), deacons (3:8-13), widows and families (5:3-15), and bondservants (6:1-2). Truly, the family of God (Note the language used in 5:1-2 of fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters) is the audience of Paul’s authoritative words, with Timothy serving as a medium.
2. The Church Exists to Protect the Truth
Paul states plainly near the middle of the letter states the underlying reason for all of these instructions to Timothy and to the church in Ephesus:
“I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (3:14-15).
Throughout the letter, Paul’s unrestrained condemnation of false teaching and his particular directions for proper behavior within the church point to the demand for orthodoxy and orthopraxy. The church acts as a foundation for the truth by seeking to uphold right doctrine and live in light of that doctrine. Timothy is not the only one who must behave rightly in the household of God; rather, the charge is for all members therein.
3. The Gospel is the Central Truth
What is this truth that the Ephesian church must protect through their espoused beliefs and the proceeding holiness of their conduct? It is the gospel itself, the great 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” (3:16).
This hymn is central to the letter of 1 Timothy. It showcases the beauty of salvation history, including the incarnation and resurrection of Christ and the proclamation of believers. The foundation for this key truth is the Ephesian church, and presumably the Church in the universal sense, as well. The truth is the good news itself. This gospel is at the core of 1 Timothy, and it is the blessed responsibility of the entirety of the household of God.
It is evident that 1 Timothy is not only for pastors, nor only for men, but also for the whole church. Women and men, old and young, poor and rich- we as a household have been entrusted with precious truth. Let us steward it well, striving together toward godliness in our words and behavior.