- TIMOTHY, PASTOR AND CONFESSOR January 24, 2021
1 TIMOTHY 6:11-16
11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus.
Our world, it’s in turmoil—we know this. Neighbor against neighbor, political conflict, social media conversations backing people into corners, unapproved voices cancelled, marriage of man and woman under attack, family denigrated, and whatever else we want to add.
What’s the church given to do?
We know Christians are not given to protest by attacking businesses and burning down buildings, by trespassing property and yelling at people. But when we see the weak and vulnerable not protected from those who bring violence, when we see natural law under daily attack, what is the Church of Jesus Christ given to do? Start our own political party or what?
Maybe we can appreciate meeting young pastor Timothy.
Paul placed Timothy as pastor to the Church in Ephesus at a time when the world was under the thumb of Nero.
Nero was an effective politician. He had raised taxes significantly to fund massive government projects, he had neutralized his opposition so that they have no legitimate political voice, and in master political strokes, he set the classes against each other so that he could take advantage of the conflict.
Nero’s an effective politician. At least until he wasn’t, at which point he died, possibly suicide. Government had never been bigger and more invasive, and had never been less interested in protecting the institutions of natural law, such as marriage and family, property and wealth, not to mention the lives of the innocent, than it was under Nero. Abortion of children, they had it. Unnatural marriage of same-sex, Nero instituted it—he himself took part in it in an episode we should probably not even mention from the pulpit.
And the pastor in Ephesus? Young Timothy. Ephesus was a major city in the Roman Empire (in the area we today think of as Turkey). She had trade and textile manufacturing, technology and one of the largest libraries in the world. She was under the authority of Nero, of course, and in the midst of all this, was this church in Ephesus and her pastor, young Timothy.
What is Timothy to do? How is the Church to thrive in a society that doesn’t even know to respect natural law? A society that can’t even speak rightly of what it means to be man or woman, and has lost all sense of family? How is the is Church to live in a society driven by multiple philosophies and government approved worship, and ignorant of the Gospel of Christ?
The Apostle Paul gives Timothy his commission. 1 Timothy 6:13:
I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things.
This is the way Paul describes his commissioning of young pastor Timothy.
It’s a charge or commission. Like a commission into a military office or an authorization to assume an office in government. Paul is not just giving advice or suggestions to a young pastor needing encouragement, he’s placing Timothy into an office and giving him a charge.
And by looking at what that charge is, that authorization to young pastor Timothy, we will see what the Lord sets pastors to do and also what the Lord sets us to do as Church.
It starts in the introduction of Paul’s letter, chapter 1:
Remain in Ephesus,
Paul writes to Timothy,
so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrines.
[1 Timothy 1:3]
That is, the first charge to a pastor is to teach the doctrine, and only the doctrine, given by Jesus to the Apostles.
What is that doctrine? Paul further spells it out in the next paragraph. 1 Timothy 1:15:
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
Surely young pastor Timothy was tempted—who wouldn’t be—to use the pulpit to preach about better tax policy or the need to replace Nero or better government programs.
But Timothy was not given that charge. He was put in place to proclaim
Christ Jesus [who] came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
This charge I entrust to you, Paul writes to Timothy. And what was that charge? In chapter two, Paul continues,
I urge [you] first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
Paul charged Timothy to make intercessions to the Lord for all people and for kings and all in authority. Did Timothy not know that this charge for the church to pray for all in authority included Nero—Nero who killed his own mother, who practiced homosexual marriage, who did not protect the vulnerable, including the child still in the womb? Yes, the church is given to pray also for Nero.
How are we, as Church, given to pray for a Nero?
We might say, we pray for Nero even over against Nero. That is, where Nero destroys the family by promoting unnatural marriage, we pray all the more fervently that for the well-being of all Nero would uphold God’s orders of creation.
Where Nero does not protect the innocent, not even those still in the womb, we pray all the more fervently to the Lord of life that Nero would uphold life and extol the value of every person.
Where Nero uses his courts and army to trample on and oppress the weak, we pray all the more fervently that Nero would rightly use the sword to protect the innocent and bring justice to the evildoer.
We make this extraordinary intercession to
God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.
[1 Timothy 2:4]
So coming to the end of his letter to young pastor Timothy, Paul closes with,
I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
[1 Timothy 6:14]
The commandment to keep unstained is the command spoken by Jesus to his Apostles to make disciples of all nations by baptizing into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and by teaching all the things commanded unto them.
That is, the Apostles, and then the pastors whom they appoint are to continue teaching of Baptism’s cleansing for every person, young and old, no sinner left out, and to continue teaching of the Lord who comes to his people in his Body and Blood for the forgiveness of all sin, and to continue proclaiming the Gospel of Christ Jesus who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Keep this command from Jesus unstained, Paul says to the pastor. Don’t add to it, don’t subtract.
That’s the commandment the pastor is to be clear about and keep unstained, and it is the commission to the church. We are given the charge to continue praying for all those in authority, and when we see them opposing God’s good gifts of life and natural marriage and family and home, we pray all the more fervently for our Lord’s gifts. And when we see them oppressing and being intolerant of those who uphold natural law for the benefit of all, we pray to our Lord all the more fervently for his gifts.
And we continue in the charge our Lord gives us, for he loves all and desires all people to be saved.
Which means, for the Church, it’s about the cross, it’s about the forgiveness of sins, it’s about the mercy of the God of life. That’s the clarity the Lord gives his church about our purpose in this sinful world.
The Large Catechism puts it like this:
Everything in the Christian Church is ordered toward this, that we shall daily receive in the Church nothing but the forgiveness of sins through the Word and Sacraments, to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live here. So even though we have sins, the grace of the Holy Spirit does not allow them to harm us. For we are in the Christian Church, where there is nothing but continuous, uninterrupted forgiveness of sin. This is because God forgives us and because we forgive, bear with, and help one another.
In the Name of Jesus.