Ministry work isn’t easy. Any committed church volunteer who’s experienced the ins and outs of serving broken people in varying aspects would say so, especially those who are working in the church full time. If there’s one thing sinners are exceptional at, it’s sinning, and sometimes we, sinners saved by grace, hurt each other, even those in the leadership. But by the grace of God, He didn’t only provide Jesus as our focal point of such service, but through the Apostle Paul, He has provided us with an epistle that deals with our responsibilities in the church as well as each other, and that is Paul’s first letter to Timothy.
After a bit of a hard journey from Israel to Moab and then back in the book of Ruth, we find ourselves in Ephesus again, where we study another one of Paul’s letters to this church. Written at around 62-66 A.D., although this was clearly a letter that was supposed to be read publicly, this was first personally addressed to Timothy, someone Paul considers his “true son in the faith.” It is the more instructional letter of the two addressed to this young pastor, that he may know how to guide and lead this church. The Ephesian church, at this time, had misapplied certain Jewish practices and borrowed some others from false teachings during this day. They’ve also had a hard time dealing with one another. Through this letter, Paul dealt with that concern, and in doing so, he gives us an upright picture of the different roles in the church and how each member must treat each other.
As soon as Paul introduces himself, he calls out the problem immediately, charging Timothy to stay in Ephesus so that he would command certain people to stop teaching wrong doctrine. This is pretty much the main reason why Paul wrote this letter in the first place. They have been misusing the Jewish Law and have been using it as a basis of salvation. With love being the aim of this command, it is essential that Timothy would persevere in his service. Those who don’t persevere will be shipwrecked. The letter continues with a charge that everyone, even those in political authority be prayed for. Our God is one, therefore all authority will ultimately submit to Him. Prayer isn’t something only leaders must do, but every believer has this responsibility.
Paul then instructs how women must conduct themselves. He continues by presenting the qualifications of overseers and deacons in the church. It’s not a position just anybody can take part in, although it is a noble task. Out of the list that is given, only one has to do with skill while the rest deal with one’s character. Paul, knowing full well that his disciple Timothy is very qualified himself, urges him to persevere and set himself as an example even though he is younger compared to the members in the Ephesian church he is leading and to be devoted in the public reading and sound teaching of Scripture, commanding him not to neglect his gift.
After talking about a leader’s responsibility to the church, Paul shifts by showing the church its responsibility to its leaders and each other, giving double honor to those leading the congregation spiritually. I think it’s pretty clear at this point that the church is a body that has a responsibility to each other as a family filled with love that glorifies the Lord. Towards the end of this letter, Paul gives an additional warning towards greed which was the source of their problems, urging those who were blessed with much to be generous so that they would not fall into the same temptation. Timothy is then encouraged to continue to contend for the faith and persevere, guarding the sound teaching of God’s Word.
As an active member privileged to be serving in certain aspects in this church, I find that our study of this letter is very timely for us as a church since we are, as I write, working on identifying the committed members through our Covenant Class. Not only did it strengthen my convictions against false teachings all the more, but it gave me a better insight on my responsibility to my brethren and my leaders, especially the pastors. I understand more now that my pastors and elders have just as much spiritual need as I do, only that they have a higher calling, therefore I have to keep them in prayer at all times and in check in case the need arises. We’re all grace-drenched people saved by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. This letter is just a beacon that leads us to practical application of the love that He has shown and given us, and praise God these truths will ever be relevant so long as the church exists.
In conclusion of this study, we’re a bunch of sinners serving sinners. It gets sticky. But like porcupines sticking closely by one another in the dead of winter to keep each other warm despite the risk of pain from each others’ quills, we too must face the fact that our service to God through the church runs deeper than just our weekly routines. We have been privileged with a leadership that does not take the teaching of the Word of God lightly, but works to provide sound teaching, as opposed to the very people Paul warned Timothy about in several of his letters. However, our responsibility to love and encourage one another in the church as a family must not be taken lightly either. Most of the lessons we covered dealt with character. Ministry work isn’t easy. It’s the outflow of our fellowship with and love for God as He gifts us with talents and abilities. However, all of this must be done in truth and in love. As Jesus Christ said, “And by this they will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another,” and, “whoever wants to be the greatest among you must be the servant of all.”
Now, to Him be all glory, honor and praise forever and ever, Amen.