My God and My Neighbor

Jun 5, 2024

Timely Issues in I Timothy

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How can an old book like the Bible address today’s problems? Spend just a few minutes in the book of First Timothy and you’ll be amazed at how current the Bible is. This epistle deals with issues people discuss every day—homosexuality, a Christian’s relationship to government, the role of women in the church, exercise, drinking, money, and much more!


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Kerry Duke: Hi, I’m Kerry Duke, host of My God and My Neighbor podcast from Tennessee Bible College, where we see the Bible as not just another book, but the Book. Join us in a study of the inspired word to strengthen your faith and to share what you’ve learned with others.

Is the Bible really up to date? Does it deal with the questions people are asking?

There is one book in the New Testament that says “Yes.” That book is First Timothy. When you read this book you’ll find answers to an amazing number of topics. And it only takes a few minutes to read it!

Before we get started, I need to ask you a favor. If at all possible, I need you to open your Bible to the book of First Timothy. I need you to follow with me. If you look at these verses yourself in your Bible, you will learn so much more. If you can’t, I understand. Maybe you can listen again later and study these verses. So let’s begin.

Here are some of the questions this short book answers.

  1. Does doctrine matter? Many today say “No.” In fact, a lot of people don’t even like the word. To them it’s a boring, dry subject that has little or nothing to do with their everyday lives. One lady told me, “I don’t care about the doctrine of a church.” Many people feel that way. But is that biblical? Listen to what Paul told Timothy who was a preacher himself in First Timothy 1:3. We only read three verses in this short epistle and find that it deals with this very thing! Paul said, “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine.” If doctrine doesn’t matter, then why did Paul say we’re not to teach any other doctrine? This is what the New Testament says in many other passages. In Romans 16:17 the Bible says, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.” Does that sound like Paul believed that doctrine doesn’t matter? Listen to what John wrote in Second John 9-11: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.” Having the right doctrine is so important that John said we must have it to have God!
  2. Is homosexuality against the Bible? Some people say it is not. One preacher told me their church didn’t say anything about this issue because Jesus didn’t say anything about it. That is wrong. Jesus DID talk about it. He didn’t mention it specifically, but He included it in His teaching. When He used the word “fornication,’ that word included it. The word fornication is used in the King James Version. The New King James Version and other translations use the general phrase “sexual immorality” which is too general for a translation of the Greek word porneia. That word means unlawful sexual union of any kind—adultery, premarital sex, homosexuality, incest, or pedophilia. And, by the way, when religious people say that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, do they realize that Jesus never said anything directly about pedophilia? Would they say that there is nothing bad about it just because Jesus didn’t talk about it specifically? But the other problem with saying that Jesus never mentioned this sin is that the Bible is not just what Jesus said. The word of God is more that the parts in red letters. The other books of the Bible are just as much inspired by the Holy Spirit as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. What Paul and Peter and John and others wrote by inspiration is just as authoritative. Paul said in First Timothy 1:10 that the law is made “for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.” The word “sodomites” goes back to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. God destroyed those cities with fire and brimstone because of this sin. The Bible says in the book of Jude verse 7 that “Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” That sin of “sexual immorality” or more accurately “fornication” was the sin of homosexuality.
  3. Sometimes people say, “I’ve done some really bad things in my life. Can God save me?” Paul answers this in First Timothy 1 beginning in verse 13. He said, “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (I Tim. 1:13-15). Look at what Paul did. He blasphemed Jesus and the church. He persecuted Christians. He threw both men and women in prison and had Christians killed! And he did this in the name of his religion—the Jewish religion! Can you think of anything worse? And Paul said he was insolent— he scorned Christians and insulted them and mistreated and reviled them. He said in Acts 26:9-11 that he was “exceedingly angry” at Christians. And yet Paul said that God was merciful to him and forgave him. The Lord saved this man who said that he was the chief of sinners! And what Paul says in the next verse shows that the same mercy of God applies today. Verse 16 says, “However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.” The forgiveness of Paul is a “pattern” or an example to everyone after him. Paul is saying this: If God can forgive me, He can forgive anybody.
  4. Can a child of God fall from grace? This is a question Paul answers at least seven times in this book. That doesn’t even come close to the number of times the rest of the Bible talks about this. In First Timothy 1:6 Paul said that some had “turned away” and “strayed” from faith. How could they have strayed from it unless they had it? Then in First Timothy 1:19-20 Paul said to have “faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” What did these men do? They made shipwreck of their faith! If they made shipwreck of it, that means that they once had it. And if they made shipwreck of their faith, what was left of it? Then Paul says that he delivered them to Satan. Now, if these two men were never saved, that means they were in the devil’s hands all along. But, how could Paul deliver them to Satan if they were his already? We’ll notice some of the other verses in this book as we go through it.
  5. How should Christians look at government? This is getting to be harder and harder for Christians in the United States. The more corrupt our leaders become the more difficult it is to bear it. But we need to remember that the United States is not the only country in the world with Christians. There are many nations where Christians live under far worse governments. If we think we have it hard, we need to stop and think about them. There are Christians in communist countries. There are New Testament churches in Muslim countries. When they ask the question “How should Christians look at the government?” they are looking at it from a much different point of view. But this was even more true in the first century. Jews were killing Christians. The Roman government was killing Christians and it was “legal.” And yet in this book of First Timothy Paul wrote these words: “I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (I Tim. 2:1-2). Pray for leaders. They have a huge responsibility. And notice what Paul said. He said to pray for them in order that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life. He tells us to pray for government so that our streets and neighborhoods have peace. That is what governments should be doing—keeping peace in society. People today expect everything else from the government. They expect a robust economy. They want government assistance. They demand that the government solve all their problems. But Paul said in this passage that we should pray for the government to do its job so that we don’t have to face war and infighting.
  6. Does God only want certain people to be saved? Some believe that God chooses some to be saved and others to be lost. They don’t believe we make that choice; they say God decides, not us. John Calvin wrote, “All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation.” There is somewhat of a renewed interest in Calvinism today. Some are even saying Calvinism is “cool.” But can you think of anything more cold than saying that God didn’t create all men equally, that He ordained some to be saved and others to be damned forever? How is that cool? Paul denies this doctrine in First Timothy 2:4. He said that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God wants all men to be saved, but He gives everyone a choice. We choose to be saved or lost. We choose heaven or hell. God doesn’t make us saved or lost. We decide that. God doesn’t want anyone to be lost. Peter wrote in Second Peter 3:9 that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt.16:24).
  7. How should women dress? Paul wrote that women should dress in “modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works” (I Tim. 2:9). The main point of this teaching is that women should put more emphasis on who they are on the inside than what they look like on the outside. Paul isn’t saying that it’s wrong for a woman to look nice. He doesn’t forbid them to fix their hair or wear jewelry of any kind. In First Peter 3:3-4 Peter said that women are not to concern themselves with putting on apparel. He can’t be telling women not to wear clothes. He means not to put more emphasis on your clothes than you do on your heart. That’s what Paul is teaching. At the same time, those clothes should be decent. When he says that a woman should dress with “propriety,” that means with a sense of shame or “shamefacedness” as the King James says. When he says she should dress with moderation, that means with good judgment or self-control. The clothes that a woman wears on the outside come from her heart on the inside. If she puts godliness first, she will be careful how she dresses. And, she will focus more on being a godly woman than on how she appeals to others.
  8. Is it right for a woman to be a preacher? This is an easy question to answer if we follow the Bible. Paul wrote in First Timothy 2:11-12, “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” Paul is even more pointed when he talks about the worship assembly of a local congregation. “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.” In the book of First Timothy Paul’s teaching on this subject is more broad. Men are to take the lead in teaching the Word of God and in spiritual matters as a whole. That’s what this section of First Timothy is about: male leadership in the church. In First Timothy 2:8 Paul said that men are to pray in every place. The word for men in this verse is not the generic word for mankind. It is the specific word for males. Men are addressed in verse 8 and women are addressed in verse 9. Why are males in particular told to pray in verse 8? Paul can’t mean that women are not to pray at all. He must be talking about situations where both men and women are present. In those cases men are to lead the prayer. Then in First Timothy 2:11-12 Paul said that a woman is not permitted to do two things. She is not to teach men the Bible. She is to be in submission. When Paul says she is to be silent, that word means quietness, not total silence. If it meant complete silence, then she couldn’t even sing praises to God. But Paul also said she is not to exercise authority over the man in spiritual matters. That would apply to much more than a woman trying to preach, but it would certainly forbid her to do that. Then there is a third area which is our next question.
  9. Can a woman be an elder or a deacon in the church? The Bible is very direct about this. “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife” (I Timothy 3:2). There is no way that a woman can meet that requirement. The same is true of deacons. Paul said, “Let deacons be the husbands of one wife” (I Tim. 3:12). How can any church have women bishops and deacons when the Bible is so clear about this? Some of them don’t even believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God. They think Paul wrote these things as a man, on his own. But that is ridiculous and false. Paul said he wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 14:37). Other churches today say these verses were written by inspiration but they don’t apply today. Who said they don’t apply? Where is the passage that says they no longer apply? This teaching is for the Lord’s church according to what he said in this same chapter in First Timothy 3:15. There he told Timothy that he wrote these things so that he would know how to conduct himself in the house of God which is the church. It is not just that there is no Scripture that authorizes women to be elders or deacons; the fact is that the Bible specifically teaches that they cannot serve in these roles.
  10. Who is supposed to oversee the church? People give all kinds of answers today. Some say one man called the pastor runs their church. If that church is in a denomination, then their pastor answers to a board or group of officials who in turn answer to higher officials in that denomination until its reaches the top. Or they may say that the priest is in charge. That priest in the Roman Catholic Church answers to a bishop who answers to others all the way to the top as well. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that authorizes this form of church government. These plans are manmade. They are not God’s idea. They circumvent God’s plan for church government which is to have a body of qualified men in a congregation who oversee the affairs of that congregation and that congregation only. They have no authority or say over any other church. The Bible says that elders were appointed in every congregation in Acts 14:23. Philippians 1:1 reflects this model when it mentions the bishops and deacons in the church at Philippi. That is exactly what we see Paul teaching here. And, the words “bishop” and “elder” are two words for the same office in the church. Paul uses these words in Titus 1:5-7 to refer to the same men. Bishops and elders are the same position in the church. Paul gives the qualifications for these men in First Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-11. Not just any Christian man can serve in this position. It is a very serious responsibility for mature men in the faith. These men make decisions in judgment matters of the congregation. They answer to God for their work but not to any human form of church government outside and above the congregation. Untold harm has resulted because men have set up their own systems of church organization.
  11. Is Jesus deity? Is He really God? Unbelieving Jews say he was just a man. Muslims say He was a prophet but not the Son of God. Jehovah’s Witnesses say He is an angel, specifically Micheal the archangel. But Paul says in First Timothy 3:16 that “God was manifested in the flesh.” That corresponds perfectly with John 1:1 and 14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus was God in the flesh. He was divine and human at the same time. God is spirit according to John 4:24. That is why the Bible says in John 1:18 that no man has seen God at any time. John 1:1 says Jesus is God. Other verses say the same thing. In Hebrews 1:8 the Father said to the Son, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” But He was also human. Paul calls Him “the man Jesus Christ” earlier in First Timothy 2:5 and here in First Timothy 3:16 he says that God was manifested in the flesh. Jesus partook of flesh and blood (Heb. 2:14-17). It is wrong to say that Jesus didn’t have a body of flesh and blood. It is just as wrong to say that He was not deity.
  12. Notice again another passage on apostasy in First Timothy 4:1. “Now the Spirit speaks expressly that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.” How could they depart from the faith unless they had been part of it?
  13. Can a person harden his conscience to the point that it feels no pain?  Paul gives the answer in I Timothy 4:2 when he says that these apostates will speak lies “in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.” Yes, a person can ignore the pains of his conscience so much that he no longer feels remorse. He no longer feels guilt. Paul said these people are “past feeling” in Ephesians 4:19. Jesus dealt with Jews who were like this. They were so hardened in their heart that they”could not believe” even though Jesus did many miracles before their very eyes (John 12:37-41). The Bible says that some who fall away from the faith become so hardened that it is impossible to renew them again to repentance (Heb. 6:4-6). This is not just one of the most tragic things that can happen to a man. It is also one of the most frightening. If a person’s conscience doesn’t work, then how can he feel guilty about his sins and turn to God? No wonder the Bible says, “Today if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts” (Heb. 3:7).
  14. Is it okay for a Christian to spend time exercising? Yes. Paul wrote to the young preacher Timothy, “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (I Tim. 4:8). There are benefits to physical exercise, but they are little compared to godliness. Paul said it is more important to be godly than to be fit. If you exercise the body you will be healthier and perhaps live longer. But you will die. The Bible says we live into our seventies and sometimes into our eighties. That is what Psalm 90:10 says. That psalm was written 3,000 years ago. But the soul lives forever. So it only makes sense, it is only wise, to give more attention to the health of your soul than the condition of your physical body. This is not an either/or matter. It isn’t that you can exercise and take care of your body or you can exercise your soul. You can do both. But one is far more important than the other. The body lasts for a short time here on earth, but your soul will live forever.
  15. Who should take care of older people? In First Timothy 5 Paul talks about taking care of widows. He says that this responsibility falls first on the shoulders of younger family members. In First Timothy 5:3 he wrote, “If any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.” The children or grandchildren of a needy widow are to take care of her, and Paul says they are first in line to do this. He says they should do this to “repay” their parents for what they did for them when they were young and helpless. Now that the roles are reversed and the parents or grandparents are unable to take care of themselves, the children or grandchildren should do the same thing for their parents that the parents did for them. But what if a widow has no family to take care of her? That’s where the church comes in. Paul said in First Timothy 5:16, “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.” Are young people learning this today? Do children even realize that this is their responsibility? This book is written to a young preacher. But it is not all about preachers. It is about what preachers are to teach the church. And it is interesting that there is so much in this book that pertains to the family. This is just one example.
  16. Again we find Paul warning about leaving the faith in chapter five. In First Timothy 5:8 he said, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” These are strong words. People today need to hear them. Some people say no sin is worse than another and that no one person is any worse than the rest because we’re all sinners. But Paul disagreed. He said the man that won’t take care of his own family is worse than an infidel, an unbeliever! And he also says that man has denied the faith! Then he talks about some young widows who turned away from Jesus. In verse twelve he said they had “condemnation because they have cast off their first faith.” He said they had “turned aside after Satan” (v. 15).
  17. Is it ever right for a Christian to drink alcohol? Paul wrote in First Timothy 5:23, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.” Paul didn’t say to stop drinking water. He said not to drink water only. And he said to use a “little” wine. Then he explained why. Timothy was having stomach trouble and he was sick a lot. In other words, Paul is saying to use wine—again, a little wine—for medicine. He is not telling Timothy it’s okay to have a drink for pleasure. The Bible teaches against that kind of drinking. The Old Testament tells us to stay away from it. In Proverbs 23:30 Solomon warned, “Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly.” In First Peter 4:3 Peter used a word that literally means drinking. Some say the Bible condemns getting drunk but not drinking. That is not true. The word in this verse (I Pet. 4:3) is translated “banquetings” in the King James Version and “drinking parties” in other translations, but the most literal translation is drinkings—drinking in general, drinking of any kind, whether drinking to the point of incapacitation or to the point of enjoyment or a slight “buzz.” But in First Timothy 5:23, Paul is talking about the medicinal use of alcohol, and even then he says “a little.”
  18. How should Christians look at earthly things? Paul said, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (I Tim. 6:7-10). Paul said we are to be content with food and clothing. Are we? He didn’t just preach this lesson. He practiced it. When he was a prisoner of the Roman government he said, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Phil. 4:11-12). And he gave that famous warning about the love of money. It is the root of all kinds of evil. A man who has his heart set on money will do just about anything to get it or keep it. He will be stingy. He will refuse to help the needy like the rich man in Luke 16:19-31. He will lie and deceive. And he will loose his soul. And notice once more that people who have this kind of desire for riches stray from the faith in verse 10. At the same time, Paul shows in this chapter (chapter six) that it is not wrong to have money. He even shows that it is not wrong to have more money than others. In First Timothy 6:17 he said, “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” It’s not having money that’s the problem. It’s having a selfish attitude about it.
  19. And, once more at the end of this book, he mentions Christians who had gone astray. In First Timothy 6:21 he said they had “strayed concerning the faith.” There’s no doubt as to where Paul stood on this issue. He taught that a child of God can fall from grace.

Now if you really want to learn what this book teaches, then let this soak in and come back later—a few hours from now or even tomorrow—and just read the book of First Timothy.

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