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1 Timothy 1:37, 1220comment (0)

January 31, 2013

By Michael Wilson

Related Scripture: 1 Timothy 1:37, 1220

Bible Studies for Life
Director, Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence, Samford University


1 Timothy 1:3–7, 12–20
“You can take that to the bank” is a saying sometimes used to refer to confidence about something or the truth of something. Of course these days the saying isn’t used quite as much, given the bank failures and economic challenges some trusted financial institutions have experienced.

Our unit of lessons this month includes some trustworthy sayings of the apostle Paul regarding the life of faith. These are important, practical teachings that we can “take to the bank.” They have timeless truth relevant for our challenging lives in these challenging times.

Avoid Distractions to the Truth (3–7)
Vance Havner, a popular Baptist preacher from a few decades past, was sometimes compared to Yogi Berra because of his comical, wise sayings. He preached at the Alabama Baptist State Evangelism Conference in 1975. I still recall him saying, “Some Christians are so heavenly minded they do no earthly good.” Maybe you have listened in on or been part of a conversation about some topic related to faith that, while important to discuss, was certainly no topic needing lengthy debate or consideration. Yet, based on the passionate presentation of ideas and opinions, one might have thought the very foundation of the Christian faith was dependent on conclusions drawn from the conversation.

Paul may have had in mind these kinds of distracting debates that can adversely impact the practice of one’s faith. Paul calls for Timothy to instruct teachers who engage in such time-wasting doctrinal debates to move on to more important teachings of the gospel. Faith applied and active in one’s life is more important than words about faith with little application in real life. 

Take Your Stand on the Truth (12–17)
“This saying is trustworthy” (15), a phrase found only in Paul’s letters, gives emphasis to the insight or teaching that followed. A self-described first-class sinner, Paul experienced firsthand forgiveness and salvation through Christ, who “came into the world to save sinners.” For him, the gospel was not merely the words of Jesus and teachings of the Church passed along through the testimony of apostles and recognized leaders of the early church. The gospel was a bona fide reality in his life and was much more than concept or idea. He experienced in real time the truth of the gospel, that through Christ one can be put in a right relationship with God.

Battle for the Truth (18–20)
Both of Paul’s letters to Timothy contain metaphors related to military service. The meaning of the metaphors would be easily understood among people living under Roman authority, subject to Roman military might. The apostle instructs Timothy to “fight the good fight” for the faith. Like a good soldier Timothy should stand firm, not retreat, in the presence of the enemy. In Timothy’s context the battle involved false belief and improper teaching about the faith. Paul identified two persons as examples of the enemy Timothy should be aware of. These persons made a “shipwreck” of their faith. This is an interesting and vivid metaphor for the catastrophe that occurs when one abandons the teachings of Christ and the gospel way of living Jesus modeled. Just as Paul experienced being saved the three times he was shipwrecked, so too can shipwrecked, disobedient, faithless people who have turned away from the way of righteousness. 

Sometimes God allows us to go our own way even when the way we choose leads to a “shipwreck” in our life and faith. These times can be instructive; they can be redemptive. Sometimes we have to experience brokenness, helplessness and a sense of being lost without hope before we realize our need for rescue and restoration. Paul’s instruction to Timothy is a good word for us as well.  

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