Friday, December 01, 2006

Ruminations: 1 Timothy 1

I thought that today I would give you a little peek into the mind of Euphrony (don't worry, I'm only inviting you into the parlor, where things are relatively neat and tidy). These are some raw first impressions on reading through 1 Timothy chapter 1. In general, my Bible study is approached very simply: just me, a Bible (or several translations, actually), and a Greek and Hebrew dictionary. No commentaries, no sidebars, no distractions; just me and God and we see where the Spirit leads my study.

Actually, this is from two separate readings of 1 Timothy 1, about three weeks apart. I was struck by very different parts of this passage in the two reading, with the first focus being on versus 8-11 and the second reading focusing on versus 3-7. I hope my rambling thoughts make some sense to you.

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3binstruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, 4nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. 5But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

1 Timothy 1:3b-7 (NASB)
  • I wonder as to whom some men were attempting to tie themselves with these "endless genealogies"? Were they trying to claim relationship to Jesus? As John the Baptist held some status as a cousin of Jesus, also his brothers held some status, and possibly the apostle John (who may have also been a cousin of Jesus), were some men trying to elevate themselves through tenuous relations to the Christ? As succession to a throne is oft determined through bloodlines, did some claim importance and power as shirt-tail relatives of Jesus?
    Also, "myths and endless genealogies" seems to have an uncanny relevance today, in light of the recent attention on the gnostic gospels of Thomas and Mary and The Da Vinci Code. Perhaps the seeds of these speculations and rumors were already widespread by the time of Paul's writing to Timothy.

  • The "goal" is "love from a pure heart and a good conscience" and "sincere faith". So the point is not the thorough exogenesis of each verse of the Bible, nor is it "fruitless discussion" to reach a consensus as to what we believe and teach. The goal is not the intellectual pursuit of understanding the Gospel of Christ, but the acting out of that gospel. We do not merely proclaim TRUTH, having barely a toe-hold on what that is, but we live and act in righteousness to show love, from a heart and conscience washed pure by the blood of Christ and the boundless grace and mercies of our Father.
    We do not "hear of God" but rather see Him (
    Job 42:5) as we grow a sincere faith and leave behind the childish, trivial chasing of definition and law. (This thought bridges to the rest of Chapter 1.)

  • Define "fruitless discussion":
    1. Should there be a water fountain / kitchen in the church building?
    2. Was Jesus married? (We are told very clearly those things of relevance to His mortal passage, that hyperstatic union of God and flesh. The rest is mere speculation.)
    3. How should we "do church"? (The endless, primarily generational, conflict as to how a worship service should be conducted, and what is it's point.)
    4. How may we legislate morality? (The Pharisees and teachers of the law tried this, with endless minute definitions of what was permissible and what was tantamount to sin. Jesus verbally flayed them for this.)

8But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
1 Timothy 1:8-11 (NASB)
  • So, law is good; but only if we apply it "lawfully"? Sounds like double-speak, an empty contradictory statement. Does "lawfully" mean "appropriately"? That seems to fit the context, telling us to apply the law only where it applies. Law cannot and should not dictate morality, good actions to be done. A people, or an individual person, is not to be forcibly bound to righteousness - this idea of free will we have, that God's love compels us but does not force our response. Law, Paul rightly tells us, is a means for defining that which is contrary to God's nature and some of the consequences for lawless behavior. (In the New Testament, this boils down to one thing: "the wages of sin is death".)
    This shines a light on the statement "we are not under law, but under grace" in Romans 6:14. Though sinners, we are not "rebellious"; rather errant. Though we find unrighteous acts in our lives, we are not lawless people; we are under "a law of faith" (Romans 3:27). Thus, to those whose choice is to yield to the compelling call of Christ, there exists a different "law", that spells out not what is lawful, what is sinful, where a line is crossed or what a proper and fair punishment is (this is for that noncompliant, unyielding people who look only to how they can do as they wish with minimal repercussions); the "law of faith" is more, as Paul says twice in 1 Corinthians "all things are lawful to me, but not all are profitable."
    So, we who are under faith do as we wish, with our actions guided in the Spirit to be those which are profitable. While we may see something as "lawful" (i.e. no written proscription banning such action) we will faithfully see times when "lawful" actions tear down the body, work in the Enemy's plan rather than in Jehovah's. Faithfully, we will edify and act for profit of the soul rather than selfishly take what "law" gives and, in so doing, deny the heart of God and His Son.

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
1 Timothy 1:15 (NASB)
  • Paul, in versus 12-17, exemplifies himself as proof that law leads to death, but grace to life. He is the chief of sinners, with bloody hands and violent past; yet he finds salvation in Jesus' incarnation.

This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you
1 Timothy 1:18 (NASB)
  • Timothy has "prophecies" made concerning him!?!? I find that significant and very interesting. I had never noticed this before.
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5 comments:

Anne said...

Well, I have read this several times and have some curious questions about your post but prefer not to post them here. I couldn't find an e-mail address for you - mine is at my profile.

Would love to here from you.

euphrony said...

Anne, I updated that on my profile.

If it involves theological discussion, then feel free to agree, disagree, flay, etc. here. This is just the impressions I got while reading this passage in 1 Timothy, and I'm not even sure they are all good or meaningful. I welcome discussion.

Out of consideration for Mrs. Euphrony, I try to keep everything on the blog, not off, so that she is involved in and knows everything I say. We've had people close to us whose marriage is on the rocks because of inapproriate internet activity. Not trying to imply or assume anything, but the more transparent this is, the better.

euphrony said...

Anne raised a few good questions to me. First of all, let me clarify that this is a consideration of this one passage, a small slice of my thinking on a subject and not the whole picture. I did not go into a lot of detail on how this fits into the total perspective of my faith, just the impressions I got in the reading. In retrospect, it does perhaps suggest that I believe that we are a people saved by faith alone: that is true, in so far as I believe that we are saved “by grace, through faith” and that no good actions can win us heavenly purchase without that faith.

Perhaps an illustration will help. Faith is a tree that grows within each of us, while our good works are the fruit of that tree. No apple grows separate from the tree; you may produce something out of thin air and call it an “apple”, but it will not be of the same substance. Just so, many without faith can do good things, be it in their own name, in the name of humanity, of even in the name of God, but without that faith “growing” the work it is not done in righteousness. The faithful man will produce those fruits in accordance with that faith, as a nature and extension of the faith that grows within. They are inseparable, the fruit and the tree, just as faith and works are inseparable. The faith that bears no fruit is no real faith at all, but a sham and a fraud. Thus, we come around to “faith without works is dead.”

I believe that my baptism is a result of the faith growing inside of me, a necessary growth of that faith, as natural a piece of my salvation as is confession of His deity and sovereignty over my life. I believe that the help I give to those who are sick, or hungry, or world-weary is a nature extension of that faith; they are “good works I was created for.” I believe that my repentance is a response to the holiness of the God who calls me, a humbling of myself to be bent to His will. I believe that we are not under law, because law is restrictive and indefinite; we are help to such a higher standard that the law, to “be holy, for I am holy,” that makes the law seem a trifle by comparison. Perhaps this clarifies this post a little.

Another point Anne, raised was that, to the best of her knowledge, divisions over things like those I listed as “fruitless discussion” do not seem to occur within the Catholic Church. While the Catholic church has, over the past two millennia, had several divisions, they are all on big issues and not the tedium that I was talking about. This is, I think, an extension of the deference to papal authority that Catholics as a whole hold. We Protestants have a problem with authority. I don’t agree with the Pope having a mandate and direct line of authority over the church, extending back to Peter; but I do say that he does a lot for unity.

Thanks for your thoughts, Anne.

Anne said...

Okay, I've read your comment several times. You are saying we are saved by faith?

euphrony said...

To try to speak more clearly, my position is not that we are saved by faith alone. Faith and works are no more independent than are hands and fingers or fruit and trees. James speaks clearly in James 2 of how "faith without works is useless" (James 2:20) and "a man is justified by works and not by faith alone" (2:24) and that "faith without works is dead" (2:26).

Paul groups these (faith and works) in Ephesians 2:
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
but then immediately tells us in the next verse that we are "created in Christ Jesus for good works" (2:10).

If we were under the law, we would have no chance at salvation; my own would have been lost a thousand times over in the sin in my life. But the grace that surpasses that law, and comes through our faith in He who is full of grace, is our salvation (the tie to my thoughts on 1 Timothy 1). But faith without action on that faith is shown to be a sham, empty and hollow and baseless, and thus was no real faith at all.

So I guess the best answer to your question, Anne, if I am saying that we are saved by faith, would be
1) yes, because we could never work our way into salvation, but
2) that faith is never alone but is part and parcel with works.

Maybe this clarifies it a little, or maybe not.

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