Monday, December 2, 2013
Scratching the Surface of 1 & 2 Timothy
Scratching the Surface of 1 & 2 Timothy
When I received the September/October 2013 catalogue for Christianbook Distributors, I was stunned by the headline offering on page 1. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 10 volumes (9081 pages), edited by Gerhard Kittel, considered the granddaddy of all Greek dictionaries, was on sale for $99.99 after I bought it almost 40 years ago for nearly a grand.
On the other hand, I gave it to a seminarian a few years ago when I discovered I had been spending more time in books than on the book when the book is pretty easy to get when it's just read; and believing it is inspired - God-breathed - it is the best way to encounter who He is, what He has done, and what He expects of us as His.
It's kinda like we say at the end of just about all worship services on the corner of Lincoln and Main in Belvidere, Illinois, "The answer to every question is Jesus."
While I don't need to flesh that out for the folks in our family of faith, I probably do for some others: "The answer to every question is Jesus as attested in the Bible."
In short, our best mentor for life and ministry from here to eternity is Jesus; or as Paul often urged, "Be imitators of me as I am an imitator of Jesus."
Paul's letters to Timothy require comprehension in this context.
Paul is mentoring Timothy as a Christian called to undershepherding after the perfect pattern of the Good Shepherd Jesus: "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. 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. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. This charge I entrust to you, Timothy..."
While Paul's letters often touch on many topics, with these mentoring letters to Timothy being no exception to that style, here's an abbreviated list of some of the advice offered by the older undershepherd to the younger one.
* Pray: "First of all,...I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people...that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, Godly and dignified in every way." He never shied away from direct counsel; yet knew there are often times when it's more prudent and productive to talk to God about someone than to talk to someone about God.
* Recalling how Elihu was used by God to counsel Job and his friends despite being youth-filled, Paul reminds Timothy that it is His Spirit in us more than our age that matters most in life and ministry: "Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity."
* Put God's virtues first in life and ministry: "Rightly handle the word of truth...avoid irreverent babble...Have nothing to do with ignorant controversies...that breed quarrels...teach faithfully and endure patiently...correct...lead to a knowledge of the truth...and they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil..."
* Disciple or teach Christianity by example, exhortation, and example: "Manage yourself in obedience to Him...[for]...in later times, some will depart from the faith...preach the word...reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching; but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, enduring suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."
* Share the reward of remaining faithful: "The time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing."
Surely, Paul's greatest reward as a mentor is knowing his student will follow him to glory; or as John put it, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."
Paul understood a basic axiom of undershepherding that he passed on to Timothy to prepare him to overcome false teachers, false witnesses, inauthenticity, apostasy, and self-destructive instincts: shepherds don't follow sheep and true shepherds of Christianity know they are only undershepherds to the Good Shepherd Jesus.
Simply, summarily, and definitely, Jesus is the answer to every question by the book.
That's mentoring by the Master and His manual.
...to be continued...
Blessings and Love!