Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Pastoral Focus (1 Timothy 1: 1-20)

It is a bit strange that readers of I Timothy tend to focus on the simple, easy parts (leadership qualifications) or the culturally difficult (women’s roles) but almost never have much to say about the overriding emphasis of the letter. Paul writes to Timothy with a very clear, simply stated, and often repeated charge. He is to deal with and stand against false teachers.

The nature of these specific false teachings is never fully spelled out. I for one believe that to be intentional on the Holy Spirit’s part. What is important to generations throughout the history of belief is not what the false teachers in Paul’s day were teaching, but the fact that false teaching in all its forms is highly poisonous to the body of Christ, and it should be guarded against.

We still struggle with this issue today. And even though we don’t know exactly of what the false teaching Paul was addressing consisted, we can be sure our examples today are similar.

Paul was dealing with elaborate concoctions. He refers to myths and genealogies. Today the church is overrun with people trying to come up with new spins on minor details; new flashy, elaborate ways of presenting old simple truths. All with an aim to create a following and influence. To set up a name for themselves, a brand, a source of income.

Paul points out the true nature and aim of the law, so we can assume that the false teaching in his day was a legalistic variety. We are never too far from this slant in many of today’s popular teachings. Paul speaks of God’s mercy on him as a sinner and on the impulse towards love that the true Gospel brings. Rather than elaborate systems of discipleship based on behavior modification and rule following, we need to present a picture of the Gospel that inspires love and an obedience—not to a system or a teacher—but to a vibrant relationship with a God who wants to direct us in love.

If we are to understand the Pastoral Epistles as the primary instruction to church leadership in the New Testament, then we also ought to recognize that the primary role of pastoral leadership is to guard the body against pervasive, corrosive false teaching.

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