In Paul’s letter known as 1 Timothy, we find the story of a father and a son. They are not related by biological birth, but by spiritual upbringing. Timothy is a young man, whose mother and grandmother were instrumental to his coming to Jesus, and being born again by the Holy Spirit. But it was through the laying on of the hands of the Apostle Paul, and his personal investment in this young man, that Timothy has fanned into flame his belief in Jesus, and ministry for Jesus. Thus, Paul is his spiritual father.
As such, Paul has decided to launch him into ministry in the city of Ephesus, and within the church Paul had planted there. You remember Ephesus from our time together in Acts? It is the place where Paul had proclaimed Jesus so powerfully, and the Spirit had moved so decidedly, that the local trade in idol sales for the goddess, Diana of Artemis, had suffered. This did not make idol makers and salesmen happy. Not at all. People are never pleased with you when you attack their idols, when you tear down what they worship. And the Ephesians thus felt that not only their economy, but their cultural beliefs, were in danger—which they were! Such is the power of Jesus.
So in an attempt to fight back (for Satan always fights back), they started a riot and dragged the leaders they could get their hands on into the city’s theatre, where thousands upon thousands cried out with one voice of confession, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!!” for about two hours. The leaders of the church put Paul in hiding, and after things settled down, he left town. (you can read the whole story in Acts 19)
And Paul hasn’t been there since.
So—we find in this story a church under great external pressure from idol-worshipping citizens who feel threatened by this new religion. And not only that, but the church is under internal attack by teachers who misunderstand the Scriptures, and are undercutting the teaching of the apostles, and Jesus, and the content of the good news.
Friends, this is what Paul is sending his spiritual son into. This is what Timothy is parachuting into, as a young pastor. That church, in that city and cultural context. And Paul is no dummy, he understands the challenges. And he certainly wants to be there to help. But until he can, he now writes this letter, and I think his goal in doing so can be summed up in just two words: Conduct and Confession.
I invite you now to watch or listen to my sermon from Paul’s first letter to his spiritual son, Timothy. And if you’d like some additional resources on this book, head on over to the Bible Project page for this part of the Whole Story.
May God use his Word to inspire you to help just one other person move one step closer to Jesus.
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