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I and II Timothy

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
January 3, 2024 12:01 am

I and II Timothy

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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January 3, 2024 12:01 am

As the day of his martyrdom approached, the Apostle Paul wrote letters to a young pastor named Timothy to prepare him for the challenges ahead. Today, R.C. Sproul discusses the instruction these letters provide on church leadership.

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We've come to the place in many circles where we say, well, we shouldn't be engaged in the study of doctrine at all because all it does is end up in controversy and divisions and the like. But that idea would be utterly foreign to the thinking of the Apostle Paul because Paul always saw an unbreakable relationship between a true understanding of the Word of God and righteous relationships. It would have been a false dichotomy for the Apostle to have a wedge driven between doctrine and practice. What is your response when you hear someone bring up doctrine or theology? Does it make you bristle?

Perhaps as R.C. Sproul just said, give you pause because you feel it simply stirs up controversy and division. I'm glad you're with us for this Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind. We're beginning this new year looking at the New Testament epistles, New Testament letters. These letters deal significantly with controversy in the church. Why was there controversy then, and why is there controversy and division in the church today? Because of false doctrine and false teaching. So even in these pastoral letters, two of which we'll look at today, the Apostle Paul was deeply concerned with doctrine, and we should be too.

Here's R.C. Sproul to give us an overview of 1 and 2 Timothy. Today as we continue our study of the New Testament epistles, we're going to look briefly at three epistles that are known historically as the pastoral epistles of the Apostle Paul. The pastoral epistles are those letters that Paul wrote to Timothy, 1 and 2 Timothy. There's only one Timothy, but there are two letters to him and to Titus.

And they are called the pastoral epistles because one of the chief concerns that the Apostle expresses in these brief letters is the concern that he has for the orderly administration and ruling of the local church. Paul, we have seen, was a missionary, and where he went on his missionary journeys, he was engaged in the planting of churches. And when he would establish a church, such as in Ephesus, for example, he would find people who were local, he would train them, he would set apart elders to engage in leadership in the local church. And the tradition is, of course, that Timothy was put in charge of the Ephesian congregation for a period of time after Paul departed from Ephesus. And the relationship that Paul enjoyed with Timothy is one that stands out in the New Testament. If we ever have an example of mentoring in the Bible, we see it in the relationship between Paul and his beloved disciple Timothy. And the personal care that Paul shows for Timothy comes across very dramatically in these pastoral epistles, particularly in 2 Timothy, because at that point, Paul is on the brink of his own execution, and he realizes that the end of his life is near. And so, he writes to his beloved disciple Timothy, and we get some of the most poignant expressions of personal concern and love for Timothy in the church that come from the pen of the Apostle in the latter part of 2 Timothy. Now, in the pastoral epistles, we see again Paul's functioning as a task theologian, and we see his constant wrestling with the problems that are affecting the infant church. And one of the most egregious of those problems is the infecting of the congregations with false doctrine.

And I'm amazed in our day and age how little attention we want to give to matters of sound doctrine. We are perhaps the most relationally oriented generation of Christians in the history of the church. What I mean by that is that we want to put so much emphasis on community and fellowship and relationships, and we see the tendency of doctrine and doctrinal differences to provoke debate and quarrels and divisions that we've come to the place in many circles where we say, well, we shouldn't be engaged in the study of doctrine at all because all it does is end up in controversy and divisions and the like.

But that idea would be utterly foreign to the thinking of the Apostle Paul because Paul always saw an unbreakable relationship between a true understanding of the Word of God and righteous relationships. It would have been a false dichotomy for the Apostle to have a wedge driven between doctrine and practice, and he was very much concerned as the church was beginning to grow in its original setting with the invasion of false teaching. And there's that tendency, particularly in any new enterprise that's more or less in its formative stages where it seems to be up for grabs and everybody wants to impose their particular perspective or their views on the nascent institution.

And so we see the tendency to impose their particular perspective on the nascent institution. And so we see this concern repeated over and again in the pastoral epistles. But we've also seen that Paul was concerned to give guidelines for the administration of the local churches. And in the third chapter of 1 Timothy, we have the classical location in the New Testament of qualifications for church leadership. It begins with these words, this is a faithful saying, if a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous, one who rules his own house while having his children in submission with all reverence. For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God? Not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride, he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover, he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and into the snare of the devil. Now, many people who have read this particular list of qualifications or credentials for a bishop or for an elder in the local church have been brought to a point of despair, saying, if I measure myself against these qualifications, how could I possibly be worthy of such a sacred office or such a holy vocation?

I feel that way when I read these qualifications that are set forth. And if we look at them in an absolute sense, it would seem that all of us would be manifestly disqualified from serving in positions of leadership in the church. Now, it is the theory of some New Testament scholars that the literary genre that the Apostle is using here in this segment of the pastoral letter is what is called a panegyric. Now, a panegyric has its roots in public acclamations of heroes or in the setting of a funeral oration where somebody is eulogized, and the process in that kind of a circumstance when we are honoring somebody publicly, whether at their death or at some other event, we have a tendency to extrapolate the most prominent qualities that they exhibit in their life or had exhibited in their life before they passed on, and in a sense set them forth in a prominent way in almost an idealized, exaggerated form. Now, if that's what Paul is doing here, he's saying here are the character traits that we're looking for among the leaders of the church.

Nobody has them absolutely, but when a person manifests these in some measure or in some qualitative degree, then they emerge as a candidate for this kind of leadership. Now, there are controversies that have emerged in the history of the church over some of these specific qualifications that are raised. Of course, the first one, a bishop or an elder must be blameless. And there's the first cue that we're talking in idealistic terms here because none of us is without blame, and so obviously the apostle is not speaking in an absolute sense. But it's the second one that has provoked a lot of controversy, the husband of one wife. What does he mean here? Well, he doesn't explain what he means.

There are various possibilities that he could have had in view here. One is that a person who is going to be an elder or a bishop cannot be divorced. And there are many churches who have taken the position that elders or bishops or officers in the church cannot be divorced.

Even if they are judged to be the innocent party in a divorce suit, it doesn't matter. They are ineligible for church office. And as I say, there are many churches that take that position. But if the text here means that you can only be the husband of one wife and it would preclude anyone who was divorced or divorced and remarried, it would also by extension have to preclude a widower who takes a second wife, which would raise questions of why in the world would that disqualify somebody from holding a church office. And the other option is the option I favor is that what Paul is talking about here in the first century setting is that one of the qualifications for church leadership is monogamy, that a pastor or the bishop or the elder cannot scandalize the Christian community by having multiple wives, that the statement simply prohibits polygamy.

Well, there are other questions in here about ability to teach. To what degree must a bishop or an elder have to have the capacity to teach? They don't necessarily have to be PhDs or gifted to an extreme, but they should be able to be knowledgeable of the things of God and able to communicate that knowledge in some sense and for some degree of proficiency to the flock. Likewise, we read in verse 8, deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, nor given to much wine, nor greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested, and let them serve as deacons, being found blameless.

Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. And so here, as well as in the letter to Titus, the apostle sets forth the qualifications for church leadership, and he sets a high standard indeed to which everyone who is placed in a position of authority and leadership in the church should aspire. Now, in the second letter of Paul to Timothy, as I said, this one is written near the end of Paul's life, and the affection that he feels for his disciple is almost tactile as we read this text. Remember that Timothy had been recruited by Paul and joined Paul on his missionary journeys after Paul had to go through the unenviable task of dismissing one of his travel companions and chief assistants who had worked with him closely on his previous missionary journey, and I'm thinking about John Mark.

And we know that Barnabas and Paul had some discussions about this relationship with John Mark because John Mark just simply wasn't working out in this particular field of endeavor. And I often think of this when I hear of people who have gone through the difficult task of losing their job, of being fired, and we think it could be a catastrophe when a person loses their job. But in the providence of God, when a person is dismissed from a particular job, it could be seen by that individual as a catastrophe, or it could be seen more properly as an act of providence whereby God is redirecting the energy and the labor of that individual to a task more fitting for that person and for the purposes of God.

And here is the supreme example of it. John Mark is an abysmal failure as a missionary. He has to be fired by the Apostle Paul.

Well, two things result from this dismissal. The first one is the emergence of Timothy, who replaces John Mark and who becomes of gigantic importance to the development of the early church. The second has to do with John Mark himself. He doesn't have anything to do, so he goes home, picks up his pen, and in conjunction with the Apostle Peter writes the gospel according to Saint Mark, which is a labor that has edified the church of all ages. And so God redirected the labor of John Mark and used him in a magnificent way as a blessing to the whole church. Now, again in this second epistle, as Paul is facing his imminent execution, there's a sense in which he focuses the energy of his concern and his passion to his disciple, Timothy. We could almost read this as a last will and testament, where Paul is saying to Timothy, Timothy, I'm about to leave. You are going to have more and more responsibility and leadership in the church. Here are the chief things that you need to be careful about.

Here are the things that I must warn you against. And again we see Paul's tremendous concern for truth. He says in chapter 3 of 2 Timothy, But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good traders, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Here the apostle is talking not about the degeneration of the pagan world, but he's talking about what will happen in the midst of the church, where there will still be an outward display of religion.

There will be the show, and people will still embrace the creeds, but it will all be outward form, and the substance of the reality will be missing. And he says, from such people turn away. And then in verse 10 he says, But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, and out of them all the Lord delivered me.

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution, but evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them. Now, what Paul is doing here is emphasizing the importance of the biblical tradition or what is called in the Greek the parodysus, which literally means the giving over. And in this case, it is a giving over, a handing down of a body of truth that is to be transferred from one generation to another.

From one generation to the next. We saw that when we studied the Old Testament and how God was zealous with His people Israel to make sure that the precepts that He had communicated to His people would be transferred to each subsequent generation, that the parents were expected to teach these things to their children. In this sense, the Scripture is profoundly conservative.

Conservative not in the reactionary sense, but conservative in the classical sense of holding us accountable to preserve or conserve that body of truth that has its roots not in human tradition or in human opinion or human insight, but in the fountain of all truth in God Himself. And what Paul is talking about here is what we call the apostolic tradition. And so, Paul says to Timothy, hold on to it.

Preserve it. Remember from whom you have learned it. And then he talks of the faith of his mother and of his grandmother and then goes to the ultimate source of this tradition, to the Scriptures themselves, where he gives this magnificent statement about the Scriptures, all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work. Now, this has become a classic text for the self-testimony of the Bible, that is, for the biblical claim that it is the inspired Word of God, that all Scripture is God-breathed.

Its origin is what Paul is talking about here, that it comes not from human ability, but it comes from the very mind of God. And then Paul completes this letter and the pastoral epistles with a solemn personal charge. Chapter 4, I charge you, therefore, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and dead at His appearing and His kingdom, preach the Word.

Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching, for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers, and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things. Endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill your ministry. Again, the urgency of this apostolic charge that is laid upon you is laid upon Timothy focuses on what? On the proclamation of the Word with faithfulness, with courage, with perseverance, and with patience, knowing that one who is faithful to that truth will of necessity suffer persecution. And as the prophets endured in the Old Testament, they will always be in competition with the false prophets who preach and teach what the people want to hear. The worst thing that we can have before God is an ear that is itchy.

The itchy ear that is described here is an ear that has a yen or a desire to hear the things that distort the truth of God. And then finally, Paul's swan song, verse 6, For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. And finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing. Very shortly after this, under the dictates of the Emperor Nero, Paul was executed with the sword in Rome. And he fulfilled this prophecy. He was poured out as a drink offering.

And that's how he saw his whole life. Remember, in his letter to the Romans, he said that we are to present ourselves as living sacrifices to God, which is our reasonable service. And the Apostle Paul not only preached it and lived it, but he died it. He gave his life as an offering of praise to Christ.

What would I like to be able to say at the end of my life and at the end of my ministry that I have fought the good fight, and I have finished the course, and I have kept the faith? And R.C. Sproul did. And we're thankful for how the Lord used Dr. Sproul's life and ministry to proclaim and defend truth.

You're listening to Renewing Your Mind, and that was R.C. Sproul from part of the New Testament section of his Dust to Glory series. That series has helped both new and seasoned Christians gain a fuller understanding of the Bible, its structure and framework, and the key portions of each of its books. You can own this monumental 57-part overview when you give a gift of any amount at or by calling us at 800 435 4343. When you do, you'll receive a special edition DVD, as well as lifetime digital access to the messages and study guide.

Call us today or visit If R.C. Sproul could only have access to one book of the Bible, what would he choose? Romans? Genesis? Find out tomorrow, here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-03 03:20:35 / 2024-01-03 03:28:48 / 8

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