1 Timothy 1:3-7, 12-20: February 3—The truth of the Gospel
Jan 27, 2013

Wiley Richards is a retired professor of theology and philosophy at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
Of all the programs in the local church, I believe the outreach program is the hardest to sustain. Initial enthusiasm seems to lag, the number showing up begins to drop away, and the faithful few just quit coming. Soul-winning visitation fares even worse. Attending soul-winning clinics is not effective in the long term. Alas, such is not the case. One reason people do not engage in Gospel presentation is the fear that they might offend the unsaved person. Related to that is not knowing how to draw the net to get a commitment. I have found that using a witnessing tract effectively overcomes that hurdle. In the meanwhile this fresh emphasis may warm our hearts.

When sharing God’s plan of salvation with an unsaved person, be careful to avoid belief disputes (vv. 3-4). In some respects, differing opinions about religious beliefs are as rampant today as they were in New Testament days, as Paul warned Timothy, then leading the church in Ephesus. We know from reading the epistles that the Judaizers, Jews who tried to force Christian beliefs into the mold of Judaism, seemed to crop up in the new churches. Some insisted that Gentiles ought to be circumcised, for example. Others taught that family backgrounds, tracing ancestors back to one of the twelve Jewish tribes were necessary. In many churches, believers could squabble over questions about church discipline and eating meat brought in the market place. Today, we have competing doctrines put out by the Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as Mormon beliefs loosely tied to biblical doctrines. I have had some people ask where Cain got his wife. When such issues come up, say something like this: “Well, that is an important question, but for now let’s focus on what the Bible says about how to be saved.”

Closely connected with the preceding relates to letting the encounter lose its purpose (vv. 5-7). It’s easy for people to lapse into a rigid legalistic interpretation of the law and miss its inner dimension. Lust, for example, goes beyond its physical application and lays open the thoughts embedded in the mind or soul. Love for another, the “charity” of the KJV, has to be rooted in a pure heart and genuine concern for others. A love which does not leave one with a clear conscience has missed the meaning of true love for others. Anyone attempting to use the law of love to justify an immoral act becomes nothing more instructive than a piece of metal scrapping along an iron fence, making a jangling sound (v. 6). That so-called “teacher” suffers from delusion, imparting no meaningful knowledge.

In a witnessing encounter do not hesitate to share your personal testimony (vv. 12-14). The unsaved person wants assurance that Jesus offers a life-changing experience. If you received Christ when you were a child, emphasize the kind of life He brings about, such as a stable family, God-honoring children, and the assurance that if you die unexpectedly you have the assurance of being escorted to glory by an angel.

Paul set an example for us. He recounted his life of blaspheming the Name of Jesus, persecuting Christians, and causing harm generally. He even called himself the chief of sinners (v. 15). Since Jesus has already saved the most vicious of sinners, Paul, no other sinner is too far gone to be beyond God’s saving grace. We must never doubt our Lord’s love for the ungodly, loving them enough to die for them.

We must add that those sharing their faith must be grounded in biblical doctrine (vv. 18-20). Paul reminded Timothy that much prayer preceded his being ordained to the pastoral ministry (v. 18). He must minister with a clear conscience, not using the work for personal gain. Being settled in the faith is a necessity in a world of competing religions, all vying for the loyalty of the unwary. To cite one example, the so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses go from door to door trying to enlist anyone interested in Bible study. To deal with them, you must be spiritually grounded in the doctrines of the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, and his atoning death. More than one unthinking Christian has wavered in the face of that subtle attack on basic fundamentals of the faith.

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