Who was Paul anyway?
The book of 1 Timothy opens with a brief intro by the writer, Paul, to Timothy, his student in the faith. Paul, formerly Saul – one of the early church’s greatest enemies – begins by introducing himself as, “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” I just read in Acts 7:58 yesterday wherein this same man held the coats of the men while they were stoning Steven – a devout Christian. Little wonder why he qualifies the fact that he is an apostle with, “by the commandment of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope.”
Saul turned Paul ever remembers whose doing his salvation really was. In his humility, he wants his students and his disciples to know and remember it, too. This introduction is a far cry from announcing, “Hey little brother, I’m an apostle. You’d do well to listen to me, son.” No. Someone with a past this evil and antagonistic to the gospel never forgets where he came from, how he escaped, and why he is even saved at all. Such should be the story of us all.
Clearly, it was only by God’s own volition, grace, and mercy that Saul was changed and became Paul. Therefore, with this humble introduction, Paul is teaching us all that salvation is of the Lord, God can save anyone, and our only hope is Jesus Christ.
In this letter, Paul writes to Timothy – a student, friend, and fellow minister of the gospel. He offers a salutation of grace, mercy, and peace from God. This greeting is quite important. It shows us that Paul, being the good leader that he is, understands just how much grace a minister needs if he is to rightly discharge the gospel. He knows what mercy must be afforded for even the most godly men – especially those who are called to lead by example. And, doubtless, Paul thoroughly understood the great need of God’s peace which passes all understanding as a man called to preach the gospel in a city of idols, false religion, paganism, and worldly punishment for anyone who proves faithful to Christ. Good leaders know how to sympathize with their students.
Apparently Timothy had wanted to go with Paul, but Paul urged him to stay in Ephesus. Ephesus was a city of idolatry and lustful pagan worship. Therefore, Paul’s instructions were primarily for Timothy to teach sound doctrine, put away false teachings, and urge the Christians to stop allowing themselves to become entangled in foolish disputes over ungodly superstitions and arguments.
Paul was a great leader. He led by example. Like him, as Christians, we ought never forget where we came from. None of us came out of the womb crying, “Jesus is Lord.” The more people we lead, the clearer and more transparent our indebtedness to Christ ought to become. If we hold a title – be it in God’s church or Our Father’s world, we ought always qualify our position by attributing it to the Sovereign grace of God alone. No, we’re not Paul. We are, however, God’s children and he should be honored whenever we are. Every great leader exhibits great humility.
Furthermore, if we ourselves should ever gain the privilege of leading another to Christ, let us offer dignity, respect, and love towards those we are called to lead. Like Paul, before we instruct, we should always encourage.
Finally, it’s not enough to teach truth. We must always teach truth alone. Sola scriptura, if you will. In every church there are those who would bring religion on one hand and paganism on the other. It’s never ok to ignore the “I-trust-Jesus-and-my-work” crowd. It’s never appropriate to fail to correct the “I-can-live-however-I-want-to-because-I-believe-in-Jesus” crowd either. Both are false religions resulting from false teachings and false beliefs. Both damn. Both must be adequately and firmly addressed and dispelled. Paul teaches his disciple to charge others in love concerning these very issues. We are his disciples if we so do.
Things to remember:
Salvation is of the Lord.
God can save anyone.
Our hope is in Christ alone.
Lead by example.
Good leaders know how to sympathize with their students.
Encourage before you instruct.
We are called to charge and correct our brothers and sisters in love.