Holiness. It’s often been misunderstood, even by God’s pople. What are we to make of it? For a start, holiness begins with God. He is ‘holy, holy, holy’. Holiness is his chief characteristic and everything about him (his love, his wisdom, his mercy etc.) is holy. Holiness is also defined by Jesus. As he was and is God, we should expect that everything he did was holy, and this was true. Though he hung around with ‘sinners’, his life was holy in every way. Then also, holiness is necessary for believers. It is needed to prove that we know salavtion. It is needed so that we can have fellowship with God. It is needed if we want to be useful to God. Holiness is a path to take, a battle to fight and a desire to be pursued. It begins with God but ought to be seen in his people who are called to be like him in this way.
Guest preacher, Rev Stuart Withers (Rochester Presbyterian), preached from three main texts in his message on the importance of prayer (Philippians 1:9-11, Romans 15:30-33 and Colossians 4:2-6.). Just as Paul exhorted us to make ‘all kinds of prayers for all the saints’ (Ephesians 6:18), so also in these texts we are reminded that prayer is the key for the encouragement of God’s people, the strengthening of His gospel workers and the means by which unbelievers are brought into the Kingdom of God. Great things happen when God’s people pray!
In the final section of Paul’s letter to Timothy, the Apostle reminded this young pastor of one of the major snares that would entrap the believers at Ephesus – riches. Although it is no sin to be wealthy, those who do enjoy riches face the temptation to give their hearts to their wealth or their material possessions and in so doing, fail to make use of their wealth for God’s glory. Paul therefore instructed Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17-21 to teach the wealthy at Ephesus to beware of the uncertainty of riches, to be generous with their wealth and to see their wealth in the light of eternity, knowing that everything belonging to this world will be destroyed at the end of the age. It is possible to be godly and wealthy, but to do that God must always come before wealth. To do otherwise is to fail to be faithful stewards of all that God has given His people to enjoy.
The first part of Paul’s concluding statements to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:11-16 address Timothy directly. the whole letter was written for his benefit, this section would leave Timothy in no doubt as to how he should go about the task that was a ahead of him. The section of text centres around 5 commands that Timothy ought to put into practice and all these commands are reminscent of language that might be employed by a senior army officer to a junior. The commands are ‘flee’ (sin), ‘pursue’ (godliness), ‘take hold’ (of eternal life), ‘fight’ (the good fight) and ‘keep’ (the commandment). Paul also called upon two witnesses, the Lord Jesus and God the Father, in making this solemn and urgent charge to Timothy. God’s people may feel as though the fight is wearying and hard, but we are not to ‘lay down arms’ until death or until Jesus returns.
Life is full of dangers. Believers face dangers too. In 1 Timothy 6:3-10, Paul wrote to Timothy concerning very real dangers at Ephesus. To make that clear, Paul reminded Timothy first of all of the root and fruit of sound doctrine. The gospel was not invented by the apostles but came to them direct from Jesus. The aim of such teaching is godliness, a life transformed by grace. Paul also wrote of the root and fruit of false teachers. Not all who profess to follow Jesus adhere to his truth and false teachers often have false motives and the reult of these motives will become clear in their divisive behaviour. Paul also spoke of the root and fruit of the desire for material wealth. It is the love of money that can become a root of all kinds of evil. Jesus said ‘where your treasure is there your heart will be also’. God’s people need to guard their hearts against the dangers of false teaching and the more subtle danger of the love of money.
As a ‘Handbook on Church life’, Paul’s first letter to Timothy contained many intructions as to how Timothy was to treat members of his church family, of which salves were a major part in the first century world, up to one third of the population. Slavery in the Roman Empire was nothing like the brutal slavery known throughoutthe world in more recent times and so Paul encouraged Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:1-2 to remind the slaves that as believers, their responsibility was to honour their masters so that the Word of God may not be reviled and to do that even more (not less) when their masters were fellow brothers in the Lord. The principle behind all this is that in all of our employment, wherever and for whoever that may be, we are to live and work in such a way that our Master (Jesus) is honoured.
If we understand Paul’s letter to Timothy as a ‘Handook on Church life’ then Timothy must have been glad to have this section written to him. As a young man, called to be the pastor of the Church at Ephesus, Timothy would need to know how he should manage and care for the other appointed elders he was to work with. Among the instructions that Paul gave were reminders of how elders were to be supported financially, disciplined carefully and appointed cautiously. Above all, Paul directed Timothy to manintain his own personal purity and holiness which is what his people, the flock, would most need. Holiness matters because the gospel matters and the witness of the church can be seriously impaired by a lack of it.
Because Paul loved the church he wrote to the younger pastor at Ephesus, Timothy, with many instructions on how Timothy should manage church life and various sub-groups within the church. According to 1 Timothy 5:1-16, Timothy was not only to preach the Word faithfully but show resepct and honour to all, treating older men as he would his father, younger men as his brothers, older women as he would his mother and younger women as sisters. There is an inter-generational aspect to the church that is special and unique. But Timothy was also to especially care for and help the widows in his congregation. With no pensions or other social security offered to them, their needs were great. The church is to be a place where people ‘be the church’ to each other. Our witness to the world only begins when we truly show the love of Christ to one another.
The verses of 1 Timothy 4:11-16 form some of Paul’s main instructions to Timothy as a younger pastor of the church at Ephesus, describing the kind of ministry Timothy was to exercise over his flock. It is very clear from what Paul wrote that of the many things Timothy was expected to do, the main calling upoon his time and energies was to be given to preaching and teaching the Word of God. This was not to be done in a vaccuum or with no reference to the needs of his people and was also something that Timothy would need to do to himself. He would need to ensure that his own faith, discipleship and service for the Lord were all an example for the rest of the flock to follow. These instructions of Paul’s are also applicable to all God’s people, whether they preach or not. All are called to model the gospel of Christ to a watching world.
1 Timothy 4:9-10 forms the third of Paul’s five ‘faithful sayings’ that are found in the Pastoral Epistles. These ‘faithful sayings’ were truths that Timothy, and other young pastors like him, could trust and depend on. This particular faithful saying deals with hope. On the one hand, by it, Paul gave Timothy hope, reminding him that the believer’s hope in this world is to be fixed on God and Him alone. Paul also spoke of hope for the world by reminding Timothy that the saving power of Jesus and the fruit that the gospel brings is not limited to Timothy’s area but includes the whole world. And then Paul also gave all believers hope by reminding Timothy that the Lord Jesus is especially the Saviour of ‘all who believe’. We love Him because He first loved us and God’s people, His Church, know Him because of what the Apostles taught and because of our experience of His grace.