Wednesday, January 07, 2015

1 Tim 1:1-17

The idealist in us wants to have it that Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, dealt with the biggest and most significant issues and problems, like a CEO, among the churches.  We read here that Paul was not so, and dealt with details and the messies.  But first, look at the interesting salutation of this letter.

"According to the command of God our Savior" sticks out as somewhat unique; of all Paul's letters, only Titus has something similar.  If there is any difference between a phrase like that, and something from the other salutations like "by the will of God," it adds sequence to the job.  Paul, regarding his apostleship, was apostle, by being "called" (Rm, 1Cor); by "the will of God" (2 Cor, Eph, Col, 2Tim); "through Jesus Christ and God the Father" (Gal); Titus expands (1:3), saying "entrusted."

But "according to" allows for a sequence of things, not just a one-time event.  The gospels describe a narrative, a sequence of events, not just one.  The sequence is "according to" their respective writers.  Possibly one of the greatest "according to" sequences is in Romans 8:4, that we walk not "according to" the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  Neither God's gifts, nor God's jobs, are given by someone who runs off.

Here in this supposedly doctrinally paucous letter, we have, in a phrase, an answer to everyone who has started a job could well ask: does God give us jobs and then it's all on us?  No, the job is a sequence of events, not just an event.  Paul, in the other words that he used about his apostleship, didn't give out that aspect that comes out here.

No paucity in this chapter!  Not only is he dealing with people who have really veered off (1:4) into "strange doctrines," but he deals with them while giving us interesting plus-insights to one of his biggest themes in other letters.  He had said, way back, in Romans 7, that we died to the Law.   Here, he goes bazookas and says "the Law is good ... but ... law is not made for a righteous person" (1:8)!  In the same way that the Christian is, by definition, someone who has  Spirit of Christ (Rm 8:9), the Christian is, by definition, someone whom the Law is not "made for."  Christians -- don't mistake this, we use rules all the time, but ... -- we weren't made for rules.

For some reason, this makes Paul think of the example of himself, toward our understanding of God's patience.  Our natural tendency is to draw for ourselves a god who is unconcerned about the small sins, but gets really madder and madder, the "bigger" the sins.  Paul excels himself in 1:9-10 by writing down the "big" sins.  Lots of people truncate 1:10 that way, only thinking of some of the big sins there, and don't realize that the Law, and Paul here, goes down from all those sins to "whatever else is contrary to sound teaching."  James and the Lord all make a similar point (Jm 2:10; Mt 5:22).  One of the great things about a country is to see it set down small things in law. Unbelievers constantly and repeatedly misunderstand Christianity here, disputing with what it says the Law covers, thinking that a particular thing is covered, and if it weren't, they would have their righteousness restored.  But God's Law reflects His perfection, and covers all that is contrary to sound teaching, even the small stuff.

Paul makes a statement about "the administration of God which is by faith" (1:4).  Did you know that?  That the _administration of God_ is by faith?  Wow!  This so-called pseudo-Pauline letter is sure good at completing what Paul was saying about Law in Romans 4: "the Law brings about wrath" (4:15).  We glory that it does so, and glory even more (2 Cor 3:9-11) that the administration of God is by faith.

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