Rev. L. Althouse
January 22, 2006
Background Scripture: 1 Timothy 4.
Devotional Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:6-11.
At the time 1 Timothy was written, the churches were threatened by Gnosticism, a religious movement in early Christian times that emphasized salvation by gnosis, knowing or understanding the essential secrets or mysteries. In short: We understand the mysteries of God, but you do not!
Some tried to be followers of Jesus and Gnostics at the same time. But Paul and others struggled against Gnosticism and officially drove it from the faith, although unofficially there are still some Gnostic ideas held unaware by Christians. They believe that, by their understanding of Christian doctrines, they have a truth that others do not.
In the early church, Gnostics tried to persuade Christians against marriage and eating certain foods (4:3). Their influence is also reflected also in the “godless and silly myths” against which the writer of 1 Timothy warns his readers (4:7).
The ‘evil world’?
Gnostics taught that the world was created not by God, but by an evil Demiurge. Thus, the material world, including the human body, they taught, is composed of evil matter. Christians, they said, must attempt to detach themselves as much as possible from the body and the material world. Some Christians today unwittingly take much the same view.
So the answer of 1 Timothy 4 is applicable to our own religious concerns today: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving; for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” (vs. 4,5)
This is a startling and dramatic testimony to the goodness of God’s creation. It is the use to which we put what he gives us that makes the difference between good and evil.
That doesn’t mean that we cannot misuse and abuse God’s good creation. The natural world can be shamefully exploited. The human body can be degraded. We can see, then, why 1 Timothy is so concerned about Christians guarding against “deceitful doctrines and spirits and doctrines of demons …” (v. 1)
We must not assume, however, that the writer of 1 Timothy is concerned about doctrines per se.
He does not teach, “Train yourself in correct theology.” No, he says we are to focus our lives on “godliness,” which is more about how we live than how we think.
It means that we should reflect the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Timothy is exhorted to “set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (v. 12)
He is to be intentional about growing in his Christian witness and that is true of us. Godliness is not delivered with the morning paper, we must seek it, not as an occasional treat, but a steady diet.
We train in godliness, not to earn our way into God’s grace - which we cannot do - but to be living examples of the gospel truth.
“Practice these duties, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress... for by so doing you will save both yourself and others.” We are called to be Christ’s examples.
Published in the January 18, 2006 issue of Farm World.