STABILIZE THE SITUATION
I solemnly believe that we need to exercise great care in studying God's word. We
should not knowingly "make it" teach things the authors did not teach. We should not
use it to create emphases and teachings that are not true to what the authors said.
1 Timothy 1
That is an extremely difficult commitment to make. There are things that we can
understand today that were not known 20 years ago. There will be things that can be
understood in twenty years that we do now know about today. The more that is
discovered about Greek and Hebrew, the basic languages of the Bible, the more
accurately we can translate the emphasis and the meaning of the texts. The more we
can know about the worlds, the times, and the historical context of the writings, the better
we can understand the message of the author.
- In my understanding and judgment, the accuracy of our understanding of and
use of the material in the letter we call 1 Timothy should be significantly
influenced by our understanding of the situation in the city of Ephesus.
- When Paul left Ephesus for Macedonia, he left Timothy in Ephesus.
- This letter was intended to remind Timothy of his focus among the Christians
in that city.
- Paul may have written this letter shortly after Acts 20:1 when Paul left Ephesus
- The riot that occurred in Ephesus marked the end of Paul's stay.
- The circumstances created by the riot may have left Paul too little time to
give full instructions to Timothy.
- Or, Paul may have thought about things he needed to tell Timothy after
- Ephesus was the most important Asian city in the Roman empire.
- In every way, from architecture to business, it was a very impressive city.
- At that time its population is estimated to exceed 300,000 people, almost four
times the size of Fort Smith.
- Its amphitheater located in the middle of the city could care for approximately
- It had three temples that were built for the purpose of worshipping the Roman
- In fact, Ephesus was the center for emperor worship and strongly promoted
- The book of Revelation was addressed to seven congregations in this area
when emperor worship was a major threat to Christians.
- Paul had an important relationship with this city.
- He made a brief stop in Ephesus in Act 18:18-21.
- On that visit he left Aquila and Priscilla there.
- He also briefly studied with receptive Jews in the synagogue.
- In Acts 19 Paul returned as he promised the Jews and continued studying in
the synagogue with them.
- In Acts 20:17-38 he met with the elders of the congregation in Ephesus.
- Paul had serious concerns about the future of the congregation.
- They would be successfully invaded by savage people who would destroy
- Some of the elders themselves would teach perverse teachings in order to
create their own disciples.
- Acts gives us a lot of insight into the complex religious situation in Ephesus.
- Paul baptized twelve men who had been baptized with the baptism practiced
by John the baptizer but who had never heard of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-6).
- The Jews in the synagogue hardened against Paul's teachings and Paul left
the synagogue (Acts 19:9).
- Paul spent two years teaching his disciples in the school of Tyrannus which
resulted in the message of the gospel being shared with all Asia (Acts 19:20).
- Paul performed so many miracles that people brought pieces of cloth for Paul
to touch, and when those cloths were used with the sick, the diseased, or the
demon possessed, these people were cured (Acts 19:12).
- Some Jewish exorcists figured that if Paul could use Jesus to do this, they
could use Jesus to do this (Acts 19:14-16).
- They tried to cast the demons out of a possessed man by invoking Jesus.
- The spirits said they knew Jesus and Paul, but not them.
- The men were attacked, stripped naked, and fled wounded.
- People who had magical arts books for spiritual practices burned those
books--the books were worth 50,000 days wages (Acts 19:19).
- Christianity was growing so fast that it cut into the living being made by those
who profited from the temple of Diana, and they started a city wide riot
- Religiously, these are the key factors we need to remember about the city.
- The temple of Diana was a powerful religious force in the world.
- The temple building itself was the largest single building in the Greek
- It was one of the seven wonders of the world.
- It also functioned as a wealthy banking institution.
- This area served as the core area for supporting and advancing emperor
- Many years later, the book of Revelation was addressed to seven of the
congregations in this area.
- The first congregation mentioned is Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7).
- It sounds like they got a great report card: they worked hard and
persevered, they did not tolerate evil men, they tested false apostles, they
endured without getting tired, and they hated the evil works of the
- But they did not love Jesus as they did at first, and if they did not restore
their love for Jesus, they would be removed.
- Jewish Gnosticism seemed to be a religious influence.
- It stressed the importance of genealogy.
- It could easily get Christians to focusing on the kinds of speculations that
would hurt the congregation.
- With that background in mind, I call these things to your attention in 1 Timothy
- Timothy was urged to stay in Ephesus for these specific reasons:
- To instruct certain Christians not to teach strange doctrines (verse 3).
- Or to pay attention to myths--myths (legends or fables) played an important
role in idolatrous teachings as well as Jewish teachings.
- Or to pay attention to endless genealogies which played an important role in
one of the early heresies.
- These things encouraged Christians to devote their thought and spiritual
concerns to speculation instead of building faith in God.
- Paul reminded Timothy of the goal of their teaching (verse 5).
- The goal of their teaching was to produce love.
- The love their teaching produced came from:
- Pure hearts.
- Good consciences.
- Sincere faith.
- It was when Christians stopped pursuing the love that came from pure hearts,
good consciences, and sincere faith that they turned to the fruitless
discussions of strange doctrines, myths, and endless genealogies (verse 6)
- It was the desire to speculate that created a desire to turn to the law [as
opposed to Christ] (verse 7).
- These people made confident assertions, but did not understand what they
- They did not even understand the purpose of the law.
- The law did not exist to direct the righteous man but to control the evil,
- Paul had been entrusted with the glorious good news of the blessed
gospel--God's power to use Christ to rescue sinners from sin.
- Paul clearly understood the purpose of creating love through understanding the
power of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection to rescue the evil person.
- What God did to save him was proof positive.
- Only God's mercy and grace could serve a person like him.
- God had a special reason for saving an evil man like him--to prove that God
could save anybody.
- That is why Jesus Christ came--to save sinners.
- Paul trusted Timothy enough to give Timothy "this command."
- What command? In my judgment, the urging to stay in Ephesus and pursue
the goal of their instruction: teaching people to love from a pure heart, a good
conscience, and a sincere faith.
- In doing this, Timothy was to care for two things.
- Take care of your own faith.
- Keep your good conscience.
- Anyone who fails to do this will spiritually shipwreck.
In some ways, little changes through the centuries. In every generation, in every
century, Christians spend more time promoting speculations than in creating love from
pure hearts, good consciences, and sincere faith.
The consequence is that too many Christians do not know how to love. Not their
families, not their friends, not their neighbors, not those who have not escaped evil, not
their brothers and sisters in Christ. Too many Christians see love from pure hearts, good
consciences, and sincere faith as either weakness or as being of minimal importance.
Love sent Jesus to this world. Love put Jesus on the cross. Love kept Jesus on
the cross. Love raised Jesus from the dead. Love shared the gospel with the world. Is
that weakness? Is that unimportant?
If Paul left a preacher in Fort Smith to spend time teaching and working with us,
what would he command him to do?
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
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Evening Sermon, 3 October 1999
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