ďThe Church and The GospelĒ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††May 5, 2013

1 Timothy 1:1-11

 

SI:Iím starting a sermon series today that will take several months.

†† Weíre going to study 1 Timothy and possibly 2 Timothy.Iíll see how it goes.

1 Timothy is part of a trilogy of letters usually called the Pastoral Epistles.

†† The Pastoral Epistles are 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus.

The reason they are called Pastoral Epistles is because Paul wrote them

†† to pastors.Timothy was a pastor in Ephesus.Titus was a pastor in Crete.

 

Most of Paulís letters were written to churches.Romans, Corinthians, etc.

†† He wrote them with the whole congregation in mind.

But these three letters he wrote to individual pastors about their churches.

†† And thatís what makes these letters so unique and interestingó

†† in them we hear pastors talking shop.

Paul the great apostolic pastor talking to pastors in local churches.

 

Sometimes when you hear people in different professions talking shop,

†† itís boring.Maybe they get too technical.But sometimes itís fascinating.

I will never forget, as a teenager, going to a couple high-profile trials with one of

†† my friends whose father was the district attorney for Colbert County.

During recess we would go to his dadís office

†† and listen to him and the assistant DA talk shop.

†† Their analysis, their concerns, their strategies.††

There was a bluntness and a depth to their insider talk

†† that shed a new light on what was happening in the courtroom.

 

Pastor to pastor, what was Paulís analysis of church?What were his concerns?

†† These letters provide a fascinating glimpse into early church life.

They also show us that very little has changed from then till now.

†† This letter from a pastor to a pastor sheds light on the church today.

†† It even enables us to see Christ Covenant more clearly.

 

Credit where credit is due.Two sermon series on 1 Timothy

†† one by Dr. Robert Rayburn, the other by Dr. Ligon Duncan.

 


 

INTRO:When I graduated from college, I got a job teaching in a large Christian

†† school in Ft. Lauderdale.My immediate boss was a woman named Claire K.

†† She was the head of the English department, teacher for many years.

Before school started, she asked me to meet with her in the department office.

†† The very first thing she said was:Andrew, I want to tell you something

†† important and I want you to listen to me and take this very seriously.

I was prepared for an inspirational nugget from this veteran teacher.

†† Teach your students to love language and literature.

†† Strive to be fresh and creative in all your lessons.Something like that.

 

Instead she said:Never, never be alone with a female student.

†† It was a strange place to start.

It wasnít that she didnít care about good teaching and literature and writing.

†† She did.And she told me all those things also and held my feet to the fire.

†† She was all about teaching and excellence in the classroom.

But she had seen the careers of two teachers ended by accusations.

†† What she was really saying was:If you love teaching, guard your reputation.

†† If you lose that, then literature and writing and other good stuff is over.

 

If you had four pages to write to a pastor to give him instructions

†† on how to carry out his ministry, how to be a good pastor, how to lead church,

†† where would you start?What would be the first thing you would write to him?

And what if you knew that your letter would not just be read by this young pastor,

†† but that it would become part of Holy Scripture, and be read by tens of thousands

†† of pastors through the ages and around the world?

Once again, where would you start?

 

I bet it wouldnít be with what Paul wrote to Timothy.

Most of us would probably start off saying:

†† Love your people.Love them like they are your own children.

†† Or, whatever else you do, pray for your people.

†† Or, feed your people, study hard and give them the very best teaching.

Paul says all of those things to Timothy later on, but thatís not how he starts.

†† He says something that you and I would never have started with.

 

He says:ďCharge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.Ē

And then Paul bluntly criticizes these different doctrines and those teaching them.

†† He doesnít use diplomatic language.Calls it myths, speculation, vain discussion.

He says that those who teach this donít know what they are talking about.

Timothy, hereís my first counsel to you as one pastor to another.

†† Oppose false teaching.Charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.

†† And do so with bluntness.Donít hesitate to call a spade a spade.

It sounds like such a strange place to start.Some might think itís too negative.

†† But Paul was making a profound point by starting here.

He was telling Timothy, and he is telling us,

†† that there is one thing of supreme importance for the churchó

†† and that one thing is the Gospelóthe good news about Jesus Christ.

 

So anything in the life and teaching of the church that detracts from,

†† erodes, or contradicts the Gospel must be opposed.

Because if the Gospel loses its preeminence, then the ministry of the church is over.

†† The church may continue institutionally, but there will be no heart and power.

†† And if there is no heart and power, then people will not be changed.

 

The reason God has saved us is so that we will be changed.

Forgiveness is not just release from guilt and freedom from punishmentó

†† it is also liberation to live righteously.

In fact, thatís the ultimate reason weíve been forgiven,

†† so we will have freedom to live as God has made us to live.

 

Look at verse 5.Paul has just told Timothy, deal with this different doctrine.

†† Hit it head on.Donít hold back.Make this your first priority.

†† As I said, at first it sounds negative and a strange place to start.

And then he tells him why:

†† The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience

and a sincere faith.

 

Whatís the aim of Paulís charge to ruthlessly attack wrong doctrine?

†† Love.Where does that love come from?

It comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, sincere faith.

†† Where do those amazing things come from?Only from the Gospel.

†† Only from God our Savior and Christ Jesus our hope.

So anything in the life and teaching of the church that detracts from,

†† erodes, or contradicts the Gospel must be opposed, because doesnít lead to love.

 

As we work our way through this letter, you will see Paul taking up one issue

†† after another, one aspect of church life after anotheró

 

And he will explain to Timothy how these issues are to be handled in the church,

†† so that the Gospel is magnified and not detracted from in any way.

You will be amazed at how timely many of these issues are.

†† So timely, that Iím nervous about preaching some of them.

But remember, the aim of all this is loveó

†† the preservation and magnification of the glorious Gospel.

 

Iíve spent a lot of time on the introduction.

Letís consider three faith lessons about the church that we gather from these

†† opening verses.Stick with me.This is a big picture sermon.

†† Sometimes we need a view from 30,000 feet.

Sometimes we need to hear the big picture concerns for the church

†† that Apostles and pastors talk about when they are with each other.

Paul and Timothy wanted the best for the Ephesian churchó

†† and we want the same for our church.

 

 


 

MP#1The life and health of the church is a continual struggle.

The church is always walking on the edge, always hanging by a thread.

We have this marvelous truthóthe Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The good news of Christ gives us pure hearts, good consciences, sincere faithó

†† it enables us to live with obedience and love that glorifies God.

But the church has proved over and over that it very easily lets the truth slip

†† from its fingers.The church can very quickly turn aside in doctrine and life.

 

Just consider this church where Timothy was pastoróthe Ephesian church.

†† Do you know who planted this church?Paul did.

†† Weíre told in Acts that he spent three years there.

Just think how solid Paulís preaching and teaching must have beenó

†† his officer training, his worship leading, his pastoral counseling.

I doubt there has ever been a church built on a more firm foundation.

 

Thereís a very moving episode in Acts 20 where Paul is on his way to

†† Jerusalem to be arrested, and he meets with the Ephesian elders.

He reminds them of all he has taught them, he urges them to be careful,

†† and to guard the teaching and life of the church.

Warns them that there will be people who will try to disrupt it.

 

You would think that with that history, if anyone in the Ephesian church

†† ever tried to teach anything that did not agree with Paul,

†† that they would have been thrown out on their ear!But guess what?

Just a few years later, this church started sliding off the foundation.

†† Timothy went there to try to get them back on track.

 

Itís hard to figure out exactly what this different doctrine was.

†† Paul mentions myths, speculations, and genealogies.

It wasnít out and out heresy, it wasnít out and out denial of Jesus.

†† It seems to have been the introduction of novel ideas, new concepts from world

†† into the life and teaching of the church to make it more exciting.

 

If this could happen during the time of the Apostles, in churches founded

†† by Apostles, then it could happen any time.

†† And it has.Itís happened throughout church history and itís happening today.

Just look at the Protestant church in America over the past half century.

†† Virtually all of the mainline Protestant denominations changed their doctrine

†† in order to fit in with the culture.

Presbyterians have been some of the worst.

They bought in to the idea that the church has to adapt its teaching to stay relevant.††

†† If we donít change our stance on some things, weíre going to

†† turn off the next generation.Influential leaders were saying this.

 

So today there are large portions of American Presbyterianism that fiercely

†† defend abortion rights as official church policy.Presbyterian churches that

†† preach identity politics and redistribution of wealth as the way of salvation.

In an effort to be attractive to the world, the church became so much like the world

†† that it lost the ability to say anything meaningful to the world.

Thatís why the mainline Presbyterian church is losing 60,000 members a year.

 

Iíve picked on the Presbyterians because I am one.

†† But this was the story of almost every mainline denomination in America

†† during the 1900s.Voices in the church saying that we have to change with times.

And great denominations, with glorious histories of sound doctrine and

†† strong pulpits and world missions fell right off the edge almost overnight.

 

What happened then to the American church?

†† There was an evangelical resurgence in the later years of the 20th century.

Out of the ruins of the mainline churches emerged a great many Bible-believing,

†† Gospel-preaching churches, solid para-church ministries, Bible colleges and

†† seminaries, mission agencies.And it seemed to be a happy outcome.

But the momentum of the evangelical churches in America is being stalled

†† by the very same idea that torpedoed the mainline denominationsó

†† a desire for cultural relevance.

 

In some ways it looks very different from the path the mainline churches took.

†† Health and wealth teaching which adapts the Christian message to materialism.

†† Entertainment-driven and consumer-driven ministry models that mimic world.

But in some ways, the American evangelical church is following the same path

†† as the old mainline churches, in adapting doctrine to the culture.

†† The influence of feminism on the evangelical church is one telling example.

 

The life and health of the church is a continual struggle.

†† The church is always walking on the edge, always hanging by a thread.

Christians are drawn towards voices in the church that advocate a new way,

†† a new approach that makes living in this world just a little easier.

 

How does this apply to us?This could never happen to Christ Covenant.

†† This could never happen to the PCA.Yes, it could happen, and quickly.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

†† When church leaders express their concerns or doubts about the big new thingó

†† they arenít being a stick in the mud.

Come on Paul, come on Timothy.Youíre over-reacting.This isnít heresy.

†† Itís new and itís helpful to people.Itís exciting.

No, itís a different doctrine.The life and health of the church is at stake.

†† That perfect meshes with the second big point.†††


 

MP#2The life and health of the church is dependent upon leadership.

Paul says to Timothy:

†† Remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.

It was certain persons who were troubling the church.

†† Paul mentions a couple of them by name later, Hymaneaus and Alexander.

†† These men were leaders.May have had official leadership roles, may not.

†† But they were leaders none the less.They were influential, articulate.

People in the church were listening to their teaching and ideas.

†† They had a following.And that was the problem.

†† Their influence was detracting from and eroding the Gospel.

 

How did Paul address this problem?

Did he say to himself:The Ephesian church is full of good people who

†† love Jesus.Theyíll figure this out themselves.

They will recognize that what these men are teaching isnít right.

†† They will see that itís not really helping them grow in Christ.

†† They will see this is subtly undermining the Gospel.

Iím just going to trust that the folks in the pew will take care of this in time.

 

No, thatís not at all what Paul did.

He urged Timothy to stay there and duke it out.

†† And Timothy was no lightweight.He was an extremely gifted man.

†† He had been educated and trained under Paul as his protťgť.

He had done the follow-up work of establishing numerous churches

†† Paul had planted.He is mentioned by name in three of Paulís prison epistles.

†† Heís mentioned by name in the book of Hebrews.

He was one of the most influential leaders in the early church

†† apart from the Apostles themselves.

Timothy was an intelligent, articulate, theologically-astute pastor.

 

Paul did not think for a minute that the people in the Ephesian church

†† could handle this own their own.He believed that Timothyís leadership was

†† absolutely necessary to recover from this bad teaching.

The life and health of the church, both good and bad, depends on its leadership.

 

Iím sure you think you would stand for the truth if your pastor began to subtly

†† teach errors.Maybe you would.But not all of you would.

The reason I know that is because thatís the way it was in the Ephesian church

†† and in many, many churches through the centuries.

Christians are easily persuaded by people they admire

†† to change their views about very important matters, even fundamental truths.

Christians are quick to adopt different doctrine when it is presented

†† to them in an urgent or exciting way.

 

No preacher or pastor stands up one Sunday and says he wants you to forget

†† the Gospel and follow the world instead.

It starts as a deeper insight, or a new and exciting way of looking at Christian life.

†† Or a way of dealing with a common difficulty or a particular sin that

†† makes it so much easier and less controversial.

Or it starts with a focus on some particular cause that seems good,

†† but that takes the place of the Gospel focus.

The Devil always disguises himself as an angel of light.

†† And before the church knows it, it has moved far from the fundamental truth.

 

And just as the church is lead away from the Gospel by certain men,

†† it is also led back to the truth and kept in the truth certain menó

†† by godly, able leaders.

It takes humility to admit we depend on able leadership, but we do.

†† We depended on our parents when we were children,

†† we depended on our teachers when we were students,

†† and we depend on our pastors, elders, and deacons as Christians.

 

If you want the church to thrive, you must pray for and do what you can to

†† encourage good leadership in the church.

That is what 1 Timothy is mostly about, getting rid of bad leadership,

†† and replacing it with reliable, solid leadership.

 

Now, Iím sure that to this point, you may have found this interesting.

†† If you love the church, itís more than just interesting,

†† it has shown you some big things to hope and pray for church.

But is there a practical application to me and my family in all this?

 

Yes, very practical.Brings us to the third point.

 


 

MP#3The life and health of the church affects every member.

I canít help wondering what kind of world my children and grandchildren

†† will live in when they are adults.I wonder how hard it will be to live as

†† a committed Christian in a society as hostile to Christianity as ours is becoming.

The signs are not encouraging.Every day, it seems that there is a troubling story.

 

I read this week about a new policy of the Defense Department that military

†† personnel could face court marshal for sharing their faith with others.

†† How will Christian men and women in the military navigate that?

There are other professions where similar policies have been instituted.

Where in order to graduate or be certified or to be employed, a person must

†† affirm certain positions about morality and sexuality that are contrary

†† to historic Christian teaching.Particularly true in social services work.

Even though the courts have generally affirmed religious liberty,

†† there is a rising tide of resistance to any expression of Christian faith.

†† How will the next generation of Christians handle that?

 

At an even deeper level, American culture is sick, and that sickness will

†† make it harder for our children and grandchildren to be faithful.

Just two examples.Itís getting harder and harder for young women,

†† who are committed Christians, to get married.

You find this issue being raised more and more often in Christian circles.

†† Where are all the good young men to marry our young women?

 

Talk to any campus minister and he will tell you

†† that the majority of students involved in campus ministry are women.

And he will also tell you that itís much more difficult to get committed men.

†† That spiritual lethargy extends to a lack of interest in marriage.

Why?Itís the poison of our culture.The disintegration of masculinity.

†† And that will make the Christian life harder for a great many Christian woman.

Not because of any sin on their part, but because of the evil times, there will be

†† many who would make wonderful wives and mothers who will not get to.

 

The difficulty that Christian men are having in our time with sexual temptation

†† is not just the common problem of lust.It is made much worse by the culture

†† of pornography and the technology of pornography that are unique to our time.

We could list other examplesódivorce, materialism, homosexuality.

 

God only knows where American culture and society will go in next 30 years.

But this is something we do knowó

For the sake of our children and grandchildren,

†† the church must maintain faithfulness in doctrine and life.

Where is the next generation of Christians going to find strength and

†† encouragement but in the church?

The church must be an lighthouse of the Gospel, a place where Christians

†† learn love that comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

The church must not pursue novelties and different doctrines,

†† but it must tell the old story well, and walk in the old paths with eagerness.

 

Preachers must proclaim whole counsel of God courageously and winsomely.

†† Elders must govern wisely.Deacons must serve graciously.

†† Husbands and wives must be loyal to God and each other.

†† Parents must pursue the spiritual formation of their children.

The body must follow Christ, particularly in those areas where the world scoffs.

 

If the church is not faithful, then most of our children and grandchildren wonít

†† remain faithful either.This is a historical reality.

When the church fails in life and doctrine, it inevitably loses future generations.

†† As Paul himself put it, there are some who make a shipwreck of their faith.

 

Letís work and pray so that does not happen here.

Letís be conscious that this precious gift we have, this precious gift of a good

†† church must be maintained.That it is balanced on a narrow edge of right

†† doctrine and right living.

Letís demand and expect and submit to good leadership.

†† Do all we can to raise up from our number young men who will step into office.

 

Letís open our hearts to this inspired pastoral letter,

†† and make every effort to apply it to Christ Covenant, even if itís hard.

Because there is one thing of supreme importance for the churchó

†† and that one thing is the Gospelóthe good news about Jesus Christ.