When You Are Ready to Toss in the Towel
(1 Timothy 1:1-20)
Richard Leslie Parrott, Ph.D.
As with all the letters of Paul, we have only one side of the conversation. We don’t have the letter from Timothy to Paul, pouring out his complaints and concerns about the Church in Ephesus. What ever Timothy’s letter said, we know that Paul’s first word to Timothy (following the greeting) was “I urge you. . . stay there in Ephesus. . .” (vs. 3).
It is hard to “stay there in Ephesus” when there is crisis and cruelty on every side.
- The Ephesians were facing severe difficulty; this is why Paul sent Timothy.
- The situation had not improved; perhaps the problems had increased.
- Timothy was ready to toss in the towel; he needed genuine encouragement.
The purpose of Paul’s letter was to urge and empower Timothy to stay the course, confront the problems, and mature the leadership of the church.
In the opening chapter of the letter, Paul gives Timothy four ways of thinking gaining perspective and power over his crisis ridden church:
1-Rely on love as your guiding motive (1:1-7). Paul restates Timothy’s challenge – face up to lies and falsehood. Everyone faces falsehood. It comes in the form of personal gossip, twisted Bible teaching, and outright lies. Paul’s challenge was to face up to it with the right purpose and motive; “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (vs. 5).
2-Respond in a way that validates the Gospel (1:8-11). In the middle of a “Hugh Mess,” you are surrounded by sin in attitude and action, attacking in every form and from every side. Human sin is still the root problem. When surrounded by sinful behavior, demonstrate “the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God (vs. 10-11).
3-Remember that God can transform lives (1:12-17). Paul reminds Timothy that God has changed his life, transforming him from a violent man into a member of the service of Jesus Christ. Perhaps Timothy needed to remember that in the midst of the crisis God could change him: “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus (vs. 14).
4-Renew your commitment to fulfill your calling in the midst of the battle (1:18-20). Paul calls Timothy his “son,” and everyone in crisis needs a spiritual family of support. He reminds Timothy of his call from God; he tells him that the battle is dangerous; and, he reminds him that there are evil people, even in a church. To fulfill your commitment in a place and at a time like that, hold “on to faith and a good conscience” (vs. 19).
You may be right and ready to “throw in the towel.” Timothy was ready. However, Paul urged him to press on!