Last week I surveyed 1 Timothy 1–2 for how Paul weaves the gospel into his first letter to Timothy. This week is a brief look at the gospel in 1 Timothy 3–4.
1 Timothy 3
Paul addresses a number of topics in 1 Timothy 2–3 that involved how to worship when the church is gathered as a whole (cf. 3:14–15). In 1 Timothy 3, overseers (a.k.a., pastors, elders) are to be “able to teach,” and deacons are to “hold to the mystery of the faith” (3:9). At the least, the content to be upheld and taught includes the gospel. It assumes a greater knowledge of truth as well.
Of particular note is 1 Timothy 3:16. Paul quotes a fragment of an early church hymn that gives five statements that chronologically run through the life of Christ and ends with a sixth that emphasizes how we know Christ today. (Others may understand this structure differently.)
“Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.”
The first five lines (beginning with “He was…”) speak directly to or imply Christ’s (1) incarnation (cf. John 1:14), (2) resurrection (cf. Rom 1:4), (3) ascension (cf. Heb 1:6), (4) proclamation by the church (cf. Acts 1:8), and (5) reception by the nations (cf. Rom 16:25–26). Line 6 closes with a focus on Christ as the Son of God who ascended to heaven and is due all glory for what we see in the first five lines (cf. Heb 2:9). All of this is summarized as “the mystery of godliness.”
1 Timothy 4
Paul reminds Timothy to uphold the faith as a whole, a faith which includes the gospel (4:6). He was to do so as motivated by a hope in the Father who saves all who believe (4:10). Timothy’s perseverance in these matters was essential to the outworking of his own salvation and the salvation of those who listened to his preaching and teaching (4:15–16).
One thought we could take from 1 Timothy 3–4 is that these two chapters bring out the connection between belief and practice. Paul calls the gospel themystery of godliness (3:16). Timothy was to watch his teaching and life for the sake of his own salvation and others (4:15–16). May God help us all to know the gospel, to live the gospel, and realize that our perseverance therein is not only for our own salvation, but also plays a role in the salvation of others.
Next week I’ll close with a look at 1 Timothy 5–6.
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.