Theme: From Paul to Timothy
In this week’s lessons, we are reminded of the importance of sound doctrine if the church is to function properly and be protected from false teaching.
Scripture: 1 Timothy 1:1-11
As we begin a study of the Pastoral Epistles of 1 and 2 Timothy, I can’t imagine a portion of the Word of God that is more appropriate or needful for us in these days. These are letters written by the apostle Paul to Timothy, who will in a sense take up the mantle after Paul’s life and ministry are over. In order to do this, Timothy very much needed the divinely-inspired and inerrant instruction that Paul gave. This is relevant and important to us because we find ourselves in something of the same situation. We’re not pioneers, at least not in the sense that Paul was. We’re not blazing new ground in the sense of establishing churches in new areas, working out all of these things for the first time. We’re more in the role of Timothy, picking up where someone else leaves off, and we very much need this kind of instruction.
I think, too, we probably can easily identify with Timothy because he was not the kind of figure Paul was. Paul was undoubtedly a tower of strength and an aggressive personality, so much so that people didn’t always like him. Timothy, by contrast, was younger and timid. Paul tells him to let no one despise his youth, apparently because people were doing that very thing. And in 2 Timothy, in particular, he encourages him to be strong and to press on.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I can identify with that pretty easily. Recently, when R. C. Sproul was talking about Elisha picking up Elijah’s mantle, I didn’t have any trouble identifying with Elisha. Elijah was the pioneer; Elisha was the one who has to carry on after him, and no doubt worried about how he was going to do it. It’s easy to identify with people like that. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be a great pioneer like Paul or Elijah? But we’re not all like that, and most of us are entrusted to the task of continuing the work that another has done before us.
It is interesting to see that Paul begins with doctrine. Of all the things that he could say to Timothy here at the beginning of his letter, Paul begins by giving him what we might call a course in pastoral theology. Paul begins with doctrine, because Christian doctrine is the basis of it all.
In our passage, the word doctrine occurs twice, in verses 3 and 10. In verse 3, Paul refers to false doctrines and the word is therefore plural. And in verse 10, Paul speaks of sound doctrine and the word is singular. There are false doctrines today, just as there were false doctrines in Paul’s day, which sadly are found even within the church. On the other hand, you have sound doctrine, which has been committed to the apostles by the Lord Jesus Christ and has been taught in the church down through the ages, including in our own day.
This does not mean, of course, that Christians don’t sometimes see things differently. But when it comes to false doctrine versus sound doctrine, in the main matters of the gospel itself and basic Christian belief, there is a unity and consistency that have been preserved down through church history. So if we are going to learn the practical lessons of Paul’s letters to Timothy, we have to give attention to the sound doctrine of the Word.
Why does Paul mention doctrine first in this letter to Timothy?
How does Paul use the word “doctrine” in our passage?
Application: In your service to the Lord, how can you make sure that doctrine is the basis for your service?
Key Point: So if we are going to learn the practical lessons of Paul’s letters to Timothy, we have to give attention to the sound doctrine of the Word.