Reading for Friday, Aug 17: 1 Timothy 1
I’ve never noticed until today the way Paul begins his letter to Timothy: “Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior,” (v1). This tells us a lot about Paul’s self-identity. His life is devoted to the commanding authority of God. Paul has relinquished his own story for engagement in the grand, sweeping story of God revealed through Christ Jesus. Paul considers his position as God’s “slave” or “servant” (terms he often uses in his introductions throughout the epistles) superior to being “god” of his own little world. This is instructive for us.
Paul also calls Timothy “my true child in the faith” (v2). Paul, who never marries and never has a child by blood, adopts Timothy, a young man whose mother and grandmother possess deep faith, but about whose father we know very little. Could it be that Timothy is a template for today’s “unfathered” generation, a generation hungry for true paternal figures in the wake of their biological fathers’ absences and failings? And Paul help us imagine how to reach out to these young men to disciple them and mentor and shepherd them “in the faith”?
“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith,” (v5). God’s command over Paul’s life is aimed at demonstrating love. For all of our indebtedness to Paul for his teaching ministry, perhaps his greatest contribution is his ongoing insistence that love remains the core Christian doctrine, “the greatest of these” (I Cor. 13). This love is manifest first in the person of Jesus and this is the basis of Paul’s teaching: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost,” (v15). But this love becomes personal, extending beyond mere theology into testimony: “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life,” (v16). And this truth comes spilling out of Paul in doxology: “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen,” (v17).