Thursday

16 February 2012

"For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified by God's word and by prayer. If you put these instructions before the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound teaching that you have followed." (vv. 4-6)

Background

Timothy was young to be in a position of leadership, but was trusted as a son by Paul who had employed him on several of his missionary journeys. It was Paul who had circumcised the young Timothy, child of a mixed marriage so that he would be more acceptable to the Jews with whom he would have contact (Acts 16:3).

Now Timothy finds himself in a church where there are the beginnings of division, with the teaching of some contradicting the truth which both Paul and Timothy held so dear. We can look back and see this as a form of Gnosticism, which taught that all matter was essentially evil and spirit alone was good. This had severe theological implications but also led to the spreading of myths, the laying down of food laws and a worrying trend towards immorality.

These false teachers seemed to have forgotten that God created all things and then declared pleasure with all had been made (Genesis 1:31). If God had given the produce of the earth to humankind as food, who were they to say it should not be eaten?

How to deal with these people was the problem that Timothy faced. One solution could have been to have thrown them out of the church, to insist on orthodoxy and allow no room for discussion. No, says Paul, he should take a gentler and more humble position, advising these false teachers that they ought to remind themselves of the truth they were taught and know deep in their hearts.

A gentle guidance will always be more effective than bullying.

Paul's advice to his friend is to live the life - speak the truth through his words and actions, and remember that it was God who called him to this position and God who will uphold him and bring all who hear him to the truth.

To Ponder

Christian denominations are often subject to divisions on matters of conscience and doctrine. How well do you think they (and we) follow Paul's advice to Timothy?

Within every congregation there will be a variety of views on some deeply held beliefs of the Church. How strong is your faith when challenged, and how could your church spend more time building up the faith of its members?

Is there a natural human tendency to give greater respect to an older minister than one fresh out of college? How can this be avoided?

Bible notes author: John Birch

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