Trinity Tenth Sunday Morning Prayer (8 August 2021) 1 Timothy 6:3–21
THE GOOD CONFESSION OF OUR FAITH
Sermon Notes (by Revd Ambrose Oliver)
Good morning, or, for some, good morning again. Thank-you so much for this opportunity to be with you, and to share with you some thoughts from a wonderful part of St Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy, to whom he affectionately referred as his “son in the faith”.
The church (whether local or the wider household of faith) is made up of people! People who relate to one another in Christian love, or should so do!
The name Timothy comes from the Greek timao + theos, so means “fear of God”. Thus Timothy was well named, as now he exemplified reverence and loving obedience, from a Christian perspective.
The term “religion” in the Bible is a word that has been used for false beliefs, for the outward veneer of worship, but also used for demonstrating true Christian living. James the Apostle spoke of true religion, so I still use the term religious for Christians, but this with regard to our Christian piety, faith, practice and ethos.
James the Apostle wrote this: “If any many seem to be religious, but bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, his religion is in vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and the widow, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
Which surely is part of witnessing a good confession!
There is that old song written by folk many years ago, which says,
“Give me that old time religion,-- it was good for Paul and Silas, -- its good enough for me, -- makes me love everybody.” That old-time God-honouring, Christ-glorifying religion has been around for nearly two millennia! The world and we need more of it today.
But back to 1st century Timothy. Let us be reminded that Paul had selected Timothy, given him some team mission experience, then had sent him to look after the church of believers at Ephesus. This was a very challenging call or assignment.
We also do well to note that these events were during the pioneering and establishing days of the Early Church. Many of the teachings were still by word of mouth, as the New Testament was not yet fully written and brought together.
The apostles and others who knew about Jesus and the Gospel taught the people. Others learnt from them and passed it on.
The eleven Apostles had known Jesus in person on earth, had received his teaching, has seen Him when he was risen resurrection from the dead, following His crucifixion.
The Gospels were being written, but not yet available to the churches, but occasionally an Apostolic Letter or Epistle would be sent to a church, or to a minister. Or a general letter written.
We are so very blessed by having a full Bible, including the New Testament.
Not only did the embryonic Early Church not yet have the New Testament as a handbook, but also there was much hostility to the Early Church, -by some religious folk, some pagans, by ruling Rome, and by other parties.
On Saturday several of us enjoyed a Strawberry Tea at Norman’s. Delightful. Good food, good company and fellowship.
No persecution at this event, but maybe some of the birds would have liked to pillage our food. Timothy’s lot was not a picnic.
~ He had a tough assignment, but it was also a much privileged responsibility.
An opportunity to serve the Lord, even if in tough scenarios, is still a great honour.
There is some describing some of the challenges faced by Timothy and the Early Church found in Paul’s two letters to him, personally, and beyond this in the Ephesians Epistle, each of which gives details of challenges on many fronts for Timothy and the church at Ephesus. Plus further descriptions in other parts of the New Testament. Examples are dealing with relationships; disrespectfulness; false teaching; vying for positons; gossiping and unkindness. Also there was pagan and Roman opposition; compromise with worldliness, and the danger of being fooled by subtle and unhelpful philosophies. And so forth. Also opposition from the powers of darkness.
[We find some of these challenging aspects for Christendom in our country, alas. Although, thank the Lord, there remains the faithful remnant of true disciples, too.]
~ So come on, Timothy, says Paul. Pastor the church. Live a life which has a good confession.
A verse in Hebrews 13:23 mentions Timothy. Verses 20-25 say this: “20Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 22And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words. 23Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you. 24Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you. 25Grace be with you all. Amen.”~ So at some point in his service pastor Timothy must have been persecuted. ~ Have you or I ever suffered for righteousness sake? We may have, a little.
We know others have, at home but especially abroad, and sometimes greatly. Wise Paul sought to equip Timothy by teaching and guiding, praying and encouraging. All this, as noted earlier, in a spirit of fatherly plus brotherly love. ~ Do we encourage one another with a loving, supportive spirit? ~ Do we forgive, and do we check for the beam in our own eye if we notice a speck in someone else’s?
Timothy was told to correct, teach and/or nourish people, according to their response.
IN TODAY’S PASSAGE OF 1 TIMOTHY 6:3–21
We see warnings against error, warnings against greed, such as using or giving an appearance of godliness to acquire material gain or benefit. A warning against the love of money for money’s sake.
~ Are we sometimes or often caught up with materialism too much?
Later there are instructions to the rich to be humble, and generously to do good.
More cautions against vain babblers and the intellectually puffed-up, against Gnosticism and the danger of straying from the faith rather than receiving it.
Very firmly Paul enjoins Timothy is told to guard the faith. Yes, guard the faith!
(Do we stand up for truth, and for Jesus?]
But may I in this last part briefly address the subject of
A GOOD CONFESSION (1 Timothy 6:11–12)
(A) FLEE – PURSUE
Let us for a moment ponder instructions on Christian or Biblical living.
(Take the Decalogue, the Ten commandments.
Some are “Thou shalts” Most are “Thou shalt nots.”
So, for example, how about “Thou shalt not kill”?
Does this mean one should or could still hate, abuse, mistreat? Or is there another side to this. If not feeling malice and hatred, or even not killing although feeling vengeful, does not this also mean we should be patient, nurturing, be kind, or at least forbearing? Is this part of what Jesus meant when he said that there are two great commandments, *Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbour as yourself? On these hang all the law and the prophets.” (See Matthew 22:37-40.)
There often seems to be two sides or various aspects concerning certain matters.
Thus we note that Timothy was told to flee error, but also told to pursue truth!
Another example? Being loving to someone also means one is not being hateful.
Or, being generous in kindness means one is not being grudging or stingy in giving.
Thus good life choices, based on good instructions, can enhance character, good conduct, and our “witnessing a good confession” -- if done as to the Lord. “Flee error, pursue righteousness, goodness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.”
~ Do we flee error and pursue truth, or does this sometimes get topsy-turvy?
Beware! If we are not fleeing from error, error will catch us out. To our spiritual loss. If we are not pursuing righteousness, what are we pursuing, then? Ungodliness will catch us out.
~ As Christians or Seekers after God, are we pursuing the right things?
(B) FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH
Have you enjoyed watching some of the competitiveness in the Olympic Games?
The Greek word in our text is to “agonize”, to fight. This term was used in both military and athletic endeavours, to describe the concentration, discipline and extreme effort needed to win. The Greeks were into athletics, were they not, plus being involved in various conflicts over the years.
~ Like Timothy was commanded so to do, let us fight, or continue to fight, the good fight of faith.
(C) CALLED BY GOD. SO LAY HOLD ON ETERNAL LIFE
Our passage says, “Lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called.”
Is not this calling of God such a wonderful blessing.
The true believer has eternal life flooding through his or her spiritual veins now. In this awaiting-future-glory life, lay hold of this. Live like this. As one person has so well put it, “Live, act as a believer who has a promise and an eternal hope. Live as a devout Christian should.” So lay hold of eternal life, by living today as inheritors of the promise of eternal life. To the extent we are helped to do this, how good for us, our families and churches, and for society.
To the extent we fail to do this really is not good for us, or others, in these regards.
TIMOTHY CONFESSED IN THE PRESENCE OF WITNESSES
Timothy is commended for his good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
(The Apostle Paul also cites Christ Jesus is given as an example of witnessing a good confession when being tried by Pontius Pilate. Jesus is our supreme example.)
TIMOTHY WAS COMMANDED TO KEEP THIS GOOD CONFESSION (1 Timothy 6:13–15A)
Paul did not equivocate, nor encourage anyone to vacillate, to blow hot and cold.
He was not into compromise; half-heartedness; dodging the issue; lukewarmness. But rather he said “Fight the good fight. Witness a good confession.”
~ Are we half-hearted at times, or do we by God’s grace really seek to fight the good fight of faith, and witness a good confession? It can be tough. But worthwhile!
“Keep this commandment without spot, and be blameless until the coming of Christ” This enjoinder is a command, with the Apostle passing on God’s instructions to Christians then, and for future Christians to follow.
But we must remember that this calling and command to witness a good confession of our faith in Christ Jesus, and our desire to serve and please Him, although at times being in a seemingly hostile or indifferent society, and experiencing tough scenarios, is also a wonderful privilege, only granted to true believers.
As a prayer puts it, to serve and live for Him is perfect freedom.
We conclude now with Paul giving Timothy, and now to us …
A GLORIOUS COMMUNICATION (1 Timothy 6:15B)
“The Lord Jesus Christ…( in His glory) … He who is the blessed and only Potentate, The King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone hath immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom e honour and everlasting power. Amen.”
This glorious Christ Jesus is the One who calls us to salvation and to witness a good confession.
~ Could there be a better Caller upon our lives than our Saviour and Lord?
~ Could there be a better Master to serve?
~ Could there be a greater privilege than witnessing a good confession for Him? He died and rose again for us. Well, could there be a greater privilege? No, no, no!
~ And do we wish to please our Redeemer and Lord? By God’s grace, may we always say, yes, yes, yes!
Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
May we be helped by the Holy Spirit to witness a good confession.
As the hymn writer, often quoted by my late grandfather, put it,
“So may our lives and acts express The holy gospel we profess.”
May our faith and lives help to declare, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.”