In this issue of the Easterly, we are going to look at 1st and 2nd Timothy. In looking at the books which I have not yet covered in these Bible readings, I discovered that I have never done 1 Timothy (although we did have some readings by James Philip on that book in 2014, when I was on study leave in Cambridge). I did offer five short readings on 2 Timothy to fill a few days at the end of May 2011 when we were reading 2 Samuel but we didn’t look at the book in any depth. We are going to look at these books in detail, sometimes focussing on a single verse, or a couple of verses.
Sunday 1st July
1 Timothy 1:1
At the very beginning of this letter to a young man called Timothy, Paul identifies himself and gives his qualifications for writing. He says that he is an ‘apostle’ acting under the command of God. He knows Timothy very well but he was writing in his capacity as an apostle. An apostle is someone who is ‘sent’, a person who is an ambassador or an envoy. In other words, Paul is not just writing an encouraging letter to Timothy as a friend, he is writing a message on behalf of the one who sent him. This is what makes the letter more than just the kind of communication that anyone might write. It has its origins in God. This letter, then, is not just the words of Paul but it is also the Word of God.
Pray for the Minister as he takes both services in church today and pray for Donald MacVicar as he takes the service at Raigmore.
Monday 2nd July
1 Timothy 1:1
We noted yesterday that Paul was an apostle, sent by God. Today we notice the way Paul speaks of God. He says that he was sent by the command of ‘God our Saviour’. This is the language Mary used when she spoke about God in Luke 1:47. It reminds us that human beings are lost sinners who need salvation and that God himself has provided that way of salvation. Paul also speaks here about ‘Christ Jesus our hope’. In Ephesians 2:12, Paul describes those who are separated from Christ as being ‘without hope and without God in the world’. The only hope we have as Christians comes through Jesus Christ. If we are ‘in Christ’ then we have hope of full salvation.
Give thanks that Jack Macdonald has been accepted as a candidate for the ministry of the Church of Scotland.
Tuesday 3rd July
1 Timothy 1:2
The letter is addressed to Timothy, whom Paul describes as ‘my true son in the faith’. Timothy was from Lystra and it may be that Timothy was converted when Paul went to Lystra on his first missionary journey (Acts 14). What we do know is that in Acts 16:1 Timothy is described as a ‘disciple’ and he joined Paul on his travels. For the rest of the Acts of the Apostles, Timothy is very involved in Paul’s missionary work and clearly was a trusted companion and evangelist. In 1 Corinthians 4:17 Paul tells the Corinthians that he was ‘sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord’. Now Paul writes this letter to Timothy and begins with a blessing or ‘benediction’. Grace, mercy and peace are words which summarise the Gospel.
Pray for our former Probationers and their families: Ross Macaskill, Scott McRoberts and Dougie Wolf. Ask God to bless them in the work of the gospel.
Wednesday 4th July
1 Timothy 1:3-4
In Ephesus, where Timothy was based, there were false doctrines being taught. Timothy is urged to command these false teachers to stop spreading their teaching. There was also a fascination with myths and genealogies. Paul makes it clear that such things do not advance God’s work, which springs from faith and not speculation. There is evidence to suggest that a heresy called ‘Gnosticism’ (from the Greek word for ‘knowledge’) was being taught in Ephesus. Among other things, they argued that the spirit was good and the flesh was evil. This led to a denial that Jesus was God incarnate, because a spiritual being could never contaminate himself by taking flesh.
Pray for Christine Macdonald in Zambia, awaiting a much-needed transplant operation. Pray that a donor will become available.
Thursday 5th July
1 Timothy 1:3-4
The danger of false doctrine is something that will appear again and again in these Pastoral Epistles but we should note that this is still a serious danger to the church today. As Christians we believe that truth is important and so solid teaching and sound doctrine are important. When the truth is twisted or denied or watered down, then the church is damaged. The church has always taught that our doctrine is to be drawn from the Scriptures, which have been ‘breathed out’ by God. Whenever an individual teaches something which is contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture, we are on the road to false doctrine and even heresy. We must be on our guard.
Pray for the graduation at Highland Theological College today, asking that the graduates will be led by God to the next stage in their ministries.
Friday 6th July
1 Timothy 1:5-7
Paul goes on to explain why Timothy is to ‘command’ people not to teach false doctrines. He says that the ‘goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith’. Those teaching false doctrine were disturbing the church and leading it astray. True believers who love God and love his Word are not at all like these heretics. Instead they are men and women of faith. They have pure hearts and good consciences. In other words, you can often tell the difference between orthodox believers and heretics by their character as much as by their teaching.
Pray for Open Doors today, remembering Bob Matheson and his team. Pray that some will come in and hear the gospel for the first time.
Saturday 7th July
1 Timothy 1:5-7
Paul now gives a clear description of those who were teaching false doctrines. Notice they have ‘wandered away’ from those things which mark out a true Christian: love, faith, purity of heart and conscience. Instead they engage in ‘meaningless talk’. Paul’s conclusion is that they don’t know what they are talking about even although they make bold claims. There are many today of a similar stamp. Ignoring both the Scriptures and two thousand years of Christian teaching and practice, they confidently affirm views which are false and heretical. We must point out such errors when we see them, even if they have come from ‘leading churchmen’ or ‘scholars’. The simple believer with Bible in hand can resist heresy, by the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
Pray for the Elders of the congregation, in their leadership, their pastoral care and their general oversight of the congregation.
Sunday 8th July
1 Timothy 1:8-11
Paul directs Timothy to the law, given by Moses and at the heart of the Jewish religion. He says that the law is good ‘if one uses it properly’. Much the same is found in Romans 7, where Paul affirms that the law is a good gift from God and that the reason why we break the law is our sin. The law is intended to show us our sin and to teach us how to live before God. The law speaks most powerfully to those who live sinful lives, showing them their true condition before God and calling them to repent of their sin. It points out the heresies of those who teach whatever is ‘contrary to sound doctrine’. The Holy Spirit uses God’s law to bring people to a recognition of their true condition and so leads them to seek salvation.
Pray for the Minister as he takes morning and evening services today. Pray too for Iain Macdonald as he takes the Raigmore service.
Monday 9th July
1 Timothy 1:8-11
In reading this passage about the law we must be careful not to miss the important statement in verse 11. Paul speaks of ‘the glorious gospel of the blessed God’ which had been entrusted to him as an evangelist and missionary. The gospel is indeed ‘glorious’ and should fill our hearts with joy and delight. It is good news of salvation, assuring us that, by faith in Jesus Christ, all our sins can be forgiven and we can be accepted into God’s family. It is also good news concerning new birth and new life and the gift of the Holy Spirit. This gospel message is glorious in that it offers a complete life-transforming message. No wonder that Paul is delighted to have been entrusted with responsibility to tell this good news. As Christians, we must also share the good news of this glorious gospel.
Pray for Fraser and Dawn Jackson in South Africa. Pray for Fraser as he tries to reconstruct all his work after a burglary in which computers were stolen.
Tuesday 10th July
1 Timothy 1:12-14
Paul expresses his gratitude to God that he was appointed to serve, despite his previous life. After all, he had persecuted the Christian church and supported those who murdered Stephen (he held the coats). If we ask how a man like that could become such a powerful witness to Jesus Christ, we must look at four words used in these verses. The first word is ‘mercy’. God is merciful and showed mercy to Paul. The second word is ‘grace’, meaning ‘undeserved favour’ and explained in Ephesians 2:8-9: ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no-one can boast’. The third word is ‘faith’, the means or instrument by which we come to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. The fourth word is ‘love’, which describes God’s character and explains why he pardons and accepts us.
Pray for all those who provide various kinds of service to our church, whether flower arranging, cleaning, repairs and maintenance, serving on a duty team or any of the other important tasks.
Wednesday 11th July
1 Timothy 1:15-17
The first verse of today’s reading is one of the most important statements in the whole Bible. It tells us why the eternal Son of God came to this earth. He did so in order to save sinners. This was a costly decision which brought much suffering and demonstrated humility and self-sacrifice, as described in Philippians 2:5-11. It was done for sinners, so that we might be save. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21: ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’. When we think about the Son of God leaving the glory that he had with the Father, in order to suffer and to die on a cross for us, we should be ashamed of our sin and turn to God in faith and repentance.
Pray for our organist Jim Fraser, for the Music Group and for the Multimedia Team who do so much to enrich and enhance our worship.
Thursday 12th July
1 Timothy 1:15-17
Paul has a full and clear recognition of his own sin and a real appreciation of what Christ has done to deal with that sin. He knows that he deserved God’s judgement because of the way he persecuted the Christian church but instead he discovered mercy. The fundamental problem with every human being is sin. There is the sin that we inherited because we are born as part of a fallen human race and there is the sin which we commit ourselves. That sin leaves us separated from God and unable to live as we should. Like Paul, we must seek the mercy of God. That mercy is to be found through Jesus Christ. As Paul says here, if we believe on Christ we receive eternal life.
Pray for our secretary Sheila Murray in all the work she does for the church.
Friday 13th July
1 Timothy 1:18-20
In these verses, in the light of his own experience and testimony and in the light of the truth that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, Paul gives Timothy some instructions. He instructs Timothy to continue to fight the good fight and to hold on to the faith. This is important for us too. We must fight the good fight and we must hold on to the faith. In other words, it is important to finish well and not only to begin well. Paul gives examples of two men who failed in this matter of holding on to the faith. Instead, they had ‘made shipwreck of their faith’. They had started well but had not kept the faith and had abandoned their previous commitment to Christ. Are we holding fast?
Pray for the housebound in the congregation and those in care homes. Ask that God would give them all that they need and especially that he would strengthen their faith and encourage them in Christ.
Saturday 14th July
1 Timothy 1:18-20
Paul says of Hymenaeus and Alexander that he had ‘handed them over to Satan’. What does that mean? The same expression is used in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (read). In both cases, the offender is to be handed over to Satan. This probably refers to excommunication. The idea is that outside the Church is the sphere of Satan. Notice, however, this handing over to Satan was for a purpose. In 1 Timothy 1:20, it is so that these men ‘be taught not to blaspheme’ and in 1 Corinthians 5:5, it is ‘so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord’. In other words, to hand the offender over to Satan was in order that he might be saved. Paul expected the offender to be among the Lord’s people on the last Day. This means that the purpose of Church discipline is restoration.
Pray for the churches in Indonesia, after some churches were bombed. Pray too for calm in the period leading up to a Presidential election.
Sunday 15th July
1 Timothy 2:1-4
The first two verses of this passage are concerned with prayer. Some background information is helpful here. By and large, the church was not accepted by first century society and there was a great deal of misunderstanding. Some believed that Christians were a group dedicated to political ends, others accused them of cannibalism (because they ate the body of Christ and drank his blood). Some just said they were Jewish heretics or a sect. There was also some persecution. Their attitude towards those in authority must have been difficult in the midst of this persecution and in the light of all these false accusations. Despite this, Paul urges Timothy to pray ‘for everyone’. We must not confine ourselves to praying for Christians.
Pray for the Minister as he takes both services in church today and for Ian Challinor as he takes the Raigmore service.
Monday 16th July
1 Timothy 2:1-4
Having said that prayer is to be made for everyone, Paul now begins to be more specific. He urges that prayers are made for kings and for all those who are in positions of authority. Given the teaching in Romans 13 about being subject to the governing authorities, this is precisely what we should expect. It also reminds us of Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:17: ‘Render to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’. Do we pray for those in government and in other positions of authority? Paul goes on to say that the reason for our prayers is so that, ‘we may lead a quiet and peaceable life’. This is the fruit of good government and hence the expected fruit of our prayers. Paul also says, ‘This is good and it is acceptable in the eyes of God our Saviour.’ We do not simply pray for those in authority because of the benefits which come to us but because it is pleasing to God.
Pray for the young people of our congregation who are about to leave home to go to university or to work. Ask that God would watch over them, keep them close to himself and sustain their faith.
Tuesday 17th July
1 Timothy 2:5-7
In verse 5 we have one of the most important statements concerning our relationship with God. We are separated from God because of our sin and we need a Mediator. Here we are told that God has provided such a person, ‘the man Christ Jesus’. Christians have often been accused of arrogance by saying that there is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ, but that is what this passage teaches. As a Mediator, he speaks God’s Word to us and he represents us before God. For this to happen, our sins had to be dealt with and so, as Paul says here, he gave himself as a ransom. The debt is cleared, the price has been paid and we can now come before God, redeemed, cleansed and forgiven.
Pray for the leaders of the Sunday School and the Ark Sunday Club as they enjoy a break over the school holidays and pray for those who do Children’s Church during that period.
Wednesday 18th July
1 Timothy 2:8
In verse 8 we read this: ‘I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing’. Having said earlier in the passage that prayers must be made for all men, and given the theological basis for this, Paul now goes on to discuss who should make these prayers and how it should be done. Paul is not primarily making a point about posture, ‘lift up holy hands in prayer’ because there are many ways described in Scripture in which people can pray. Sometimes people stand, sometimes they bow their heads, sometimes they kneel, and sometimes they fall down with their faces on the ground. They key point is that they should pray and that there should be no arguments or divisions among them. There is nothing more damaging to the prayer life of a congregation than anger, division and quarrelling. If you can’t get along together, you can’t pray together.
Pray for the two Prayer Meetings today, asking that God might hear our prayers for the church at home and overseas and that more people will come to pray with us.
Thursday 19th July
1 Timothy 2:9-15
Notice, it is the men who are to teach in public worship. The women are not called to this, as Paul says in verses 11-12, ‘A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent’. Paul, in verses 13-14, makes it clear that his decision was neither cultural nor time-conditioned, but was based on a past event, at the time of the creation of man and woman. In other words, Paul says that women are forbidden to teach or to have authority over men because of what happened in the Garden of Eden. By basing his prohibition on a past event, which by definition cannot be reversed, Paul is saying that the prohibition itself is irreversible. This is not about status, or superiority or privilege, it is about recognising different callings. In Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female but God has given men and women different parts to play in the life of the church.
Pray for the Church of Scotland, that it might be reformed and renewed by the Holy Spirit.
Friday 20th July
1 Timothy 3:1-7
The passage is about elders and effectively constitutes a job description. When we come to appoint elders what should we be looking for? What are the characteristics, qualities and gifts that ought to be seen in every elder? The list of characteristics in these verses is very clear and we should always adhere to them when appointing elders. If, however, we want to know the ‘function’ of the elders, then we must also consider 1 Peter 5:1-4. In that passage we are told that elders are to be ‘shepherds’ (elders are responsible for the pastoral care of the flock); ‘overseers’ (elders are to exercise spiritual leadership and authority); and ‘examples’ (elders must be held in respect not only because of their status but because of the quality of their lives). Summing up, the elder is a spiritual leader who exercises pastoral care and oversight in a congregation and whose life is an example to follow.
Pray for Covenant Fellowship Scotland, as it works for the reformation and renewal of the Church of Scotland and for Eric Smith, its Director.
Saturday 21st July
1 Timothy 3:8-13
Yesterday, we saw what Paul said about elders and today we look at his teaching on deacons. Paul speaks of the qualifications to serve as a deacon. The Greek word which is translated as ‘deacon’ simply means ‘servant’. It is clear from the New Testament that there were many who served in this way. There are several points to note from this list of qualifications. First, the deaconate, like the eldership requires spiritual qualities. The deacon must be a spiritual person. Second, the deacon’s life outside the church must be in accordance with this high calling. In business, in the family and in daily life, the deacon must be worthy of respect. Third, the deacon must understand and ‘keep hold of’ the truths of the Christian faith. You will notice that serving as a deacon also brings spiritual benefits to the one who serves: ‘Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus’.
Pray for the Deacons of the church. As they deal with property and financial matters, ask that God will grant them wisdom and discernment.
Sunday 22nd July
1 Timothy 3:14-15
In these verses, Paul is concerned that things should be done properly in the church. Paul says much the same in 1 Corinthians 14. He wants things in the church to be done in a decent and orderly manner. Sometimes our Presbyterian structures seem a bit slow and complex but they are designed for good order. In these verses, however, there is something much more than just a desire for good order in the church. We have a very important statement about the nature of the church. It is ‘the pillar and foundation of the truth’. God has revealed his truth to human beings, through Christ and through the Scriptures, but it is the church which is to be the guardian of that truth. One of the primary duties of the church is to preserve and teach the truth received from God. When the church fails in this important task, the whole church is damaged.
Pray for the Minister as he takes both services in church today and for Bill Flett as he takes the Raigmore service.
Monday 23rd July
1 Timothy 3:16
Having spoken of the church, Paul now turns to speak of the Lord himself. In this one verse, Paul takes us to the very heart of who Jesus is. He ‘appeared in a body’ or, as the older translations have it, ‘was manifest in the flesh’. The Son of God took flesh and lived among us, as John says. This is the mystery of godliness, something which our minds cannot fully grasp. He was then ‘vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory’. To put it another way, the Lord who took human flesh completed his journey and returned to glory. Just to meditate on this verse for a short time helps us to see the magnitude of what was involved in our salvation.
Pray for the Presbytery of Inverness and especially for those churches which are currently vacant and seeking a new Minister.
Tuesday 24th July
1 Timothy 4:1-5
There were some false teachers troubling the church, trying to persuade people to follow man-made rules which did not come from God. These false teachers have abandoned the faith in Christ which they once held. They are apostates, no longer believing what they once believed. I have known people who professed faith in Christ but who later abandoned those beliefs. Very often, such people become the most significant enemies of true Christianity. Paul is making the point that there is a spiritual battle going on and the forces of evil are arrayed against God. Instead of following the leading of the Holy Spirit, these false teachers follow other spirits, even demons. Instead of being filled with God’s Spirit, they are possessed by and controlled by evil spirits. This idea of a battle between spiritual powers should not surprise us (see what Paul says in Ephesians 6:12).
Pray for the work of Gideons and ask that they will have access to many schools, colleges and universities in this coming session, as they distribute the Scriptures.
Wednesday 25th July
1 Timothy 4:1-5
The false teachers were trying to impose upon Christians a regime of control, as we see in verses 3-5. Christians were told not to marry and they were told that there were foods that they must not eat. In other words, these false teachers were trying to impose an outward discipline which was not required by God. Those who do this kind of thing can seem very spiritual. They can give the impression that they follow a very strict regime and that those who fail to follow their instructions are less spiritual, and even misguided. We see this most often in the cults, where a strict regime is imposed on the members of the cult by the leaders. They are not free to make their own decisions, everything is determined for them. Again, this can seem very spiritual. The leaders of the cults like to portray themselves as super-spiritual and often teach that, unless people follow their ways, salvation is impossible. Paul refuses to accept this. Instead he says that ‘everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer’.
Pray for those in the congregation who are sick, at home or in hospital. Pray that God would bring healing. Pray too for those who have been bereaved.
Thursday 26th July
1 Timothy 4:6-8
Over against the false teachers, Paul calls Timothy to be a true teacher, someone who receives truth from God and leads accordingly. The false teachers were making up their own rules and leading in their own, human way. Timothy, on the other hand, was to teach only what God gave him to teach. As Paul says, outward discipline can be of some use. It is useful and important to keep our bodily appetites in check and to try to keep our bodies fit and healthy. True discipline, however, is not only concerned with outward things but with inward things. The false teachers imposed a spiritual discipline which was outward, not marrying, refraining from certain foods and so on but true discipline is different. It is about godliness. Above all, godliness is about the way in which the Holy Spirit enables us to live holy lives.
Pray for the Kids’ Club in church today and tomorrow. Pray that, as a replacement for the normal Holiday Club, it would be a success.
Friday 27th July
1 Timothy 4:9-10
Paul reminds Timothy that, as Christians, they have put their hope in the living God, the Saviour. This idea that God is the Saviour is also found in Paul’s letter to Titus. In Titus 3:3, Paul reminds Titus what they were like before they became Christians. He then speaks of the great change which has taken place. In saying this, he gives all the credit to God. In describing what God has done, Paul writes in Titus 3:5 that he ‘saved us.’ This is emphasised by the name given to God here. He is described as ‘God our Saviour.’ Then, just in case anyone should imagine that salvation is some kind of reward for good behaviour, Paul underlines the fact that God saved us ‘not because of righteous things we had done but because of his mercy’. In other words, salvation is, from beginning to end, a work of God the Saviour.
Pray for all the children who come to the Kids’ Club and pray for the team, led by Kirsty MacVicar. Ask that the message would get through to the children.
Saturday 28th July
1 Timothy 4:11-14
Paul tells Timothy that no-one should look down on him because of his age. Indeed, he should set an example to others in the way he lived. Paul reminds Timothy that he had received from God the gifts necessary for ministry when he was set apart by the church. He also makes it very clear what Timothy’s ministry should look like. Among other things, he is told to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture. The public reading of Scripture is very important. There was a time when the Word of God was publicly read and highly valued. Unfortunately, many people today do not value the Word of God. At best, it is treated casually or with a distant respect. When we turn to the Bible, it must be in an attitude of worship because this is no ordinary book. We do not come to it as we do to other literature, rather we come on bended knee, because in coming to the Bible we are coming before God himself, who, by his Holy Spirit, caused it to be written.
Pray for God’s blessing on the worship and witness of our congregation. Ask that he would help us to look to the future with confidence, as we prepare a Mission Plan for our new, expanded parish.
Sunday 29th July
1 Timothy 4:15-16
These verses are concerned with Timothy’s life and doctrine. Timothy’s life had to be in accord with his Christian faith and his doctrine had to be in accord with what he had been taught. This expression ‘life and doctrine’, used in verse 16, forms part of the assessment of a minister in our Presbyterian system. Just before an induction service takes place, the Clerk of Presbytery goes into the congregation and asks if anyone has any objection to the life or doctrine of the minister who is about to be inducted. Like Timothy, those who lead the church today are supposed to be orthodox in their doctrinal convictions. They are also expected to live faithful, godly lives. It is, of course, not just ministers who should be clear in their convictions and godly in their living. That applies to every believer.
Pray for the Minister as he takes the morning service and the Raigmore service and pray for Donald MacVicar as he takes the evening service.
Monday 30th July
1 Timothy 5:1-8
Paul begins in verses 1-2 by laying down the principle of respect. Then he goes on to deal with care for the poor. In the days when there was no social care provided by the State, the church cared for believers who had fallen on hard times. In the earliest period of the church it was recognised that there was a Christian duty to care for those in need and for the poor. You will remember that Paul organised collections from the churches to help those who were in greatest need. More specifically, Paul speaks of the need to care for widows. He says in verses 5-7 that the church should be particularly concerned with Christian widows who were in real need. These would be widows who had no family to care for them. Paul stresses that those who did have families should be cared for by the family.
Pray for the work of Scripture Union Scotland and for the summer camps and holidays. Pray that many will come to know Christ through this important work.
Tuesday 31st July
1 Timothy 5:9-16
It is clear that there was to be a specific list held by the church of those widows who were to receive help in the distribution of food and there were certain qualifications for being added to this list, which Paul gives us in verses 9-10. The younger widows were not to be put on such a list. Instead, they were to be encouraged to marry and to have a family, as we see in verses 11-15. From verse 12 we might suggest that widows who were placed on the church’s list to receive care, had to take a pledge to remain unmarried. Hence the reason why younger widows were not to be put on the list lest they break ‘their first pledge’. In Africa and Asia there is still a strong sense of responsibility for the family and indeed great respect is paid to the older members of the family, who are cared for within the wider family group. In our western countries, we have lost this to some extent.
Pray for persecuted Christians in various parts of the world and pray for those who seek to support and help them. Ask that God will give them strength to endure.