JohnSWilson3 Blog

“…the law does not apply for those who are innocent…”
July 28, 2014, 1:24 pm
Filed under: R - First Letter to Timothy

This section of the letter to Timothy seems to hearken back to Paul’s letter to the Galatians. After Paul describes the overarching goal of love for the ecclesia, which enables the working of God in His people, he then, in this same sentence clarifies the main issue or the bottom line of these “certain persons.” They have wandered from the focus of love to a focus on law in their gatherings. Their “teaching differently” emphasizes the law over selfless sacrificial love. “They desire,” they want “to be teachers of the law, not understanding either what things they say nor concerning what things they emphatically assert.” (1)
Paul has dealt with this terrible teaching with an emphasis of law over grace before with the gatherings in Galatia. They had the same problem. For most of his letter to the Galatians Paul spoke about this issue. It is interesting how Paul’s first letter and his last letters over a span of at least a couple decades would deal with this same issue. It perhaps bespeaks to our times, the movement of some gatherings that swerve out of line of God’s purpose to focusing on matters of the law. Paul is not at a loss for words when it comes to legalism in the Galatian gatherings, or for any other ecclesia for that matter, then or now.

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all.” Logically Paul says: if it is a different good news, then it cannot be good news. “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let that person be cursed!” “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?…Are you so foolish?” (2)

In typical fashion Paul describes the different teaching of these brothers and sisters in Ephesus who think they are “law teachers” as “babble.” It is meaningless and empty of life. It is unhealthy for the body of Christ. If you are predisposed to details, to following rules over and above relationships then legalism can be something you will need to deal with in your life, it has been the case in mine. I could see Paul right now, rolling his eyes with what is going on, thinking to himself: “How many times do I need to go over this, do I really have to repeat myself to every ecclesia?” Yep, you do. For Paul it is part of his testimony. And again he takes a bit of time in the front part of his letter describing his testimony again to Timothy (as if Timothy had not heard it before already) but writing it down for the record so to speak giving historical merit for the apostolic helper. I’ll go into that in a later blog.

In this first letter to Timothy Paul does not go into the details of the usefulness of the Old Testament like he does with the Galatians. Timothy has heard Paul’s teaching on legalism already, quite a few times but he does say “we know now that the law is good if anyone uses it lawfully, knowing this, the law does not apply for the innocent.” (3) Paul understood the law in context for those who are in Christ. In Christ we are innocent. Christ gives new meaning to how we understand the law and why the law is good. Before Christ we were under a curse, but because of what Jesus did on the cross, that curse has been removed. The Old Testament law showed to every man and women that they could not stand approved or innocent before God. Even when Christ came during His earthly ministry He showed this to be true. In and of ourselves, in our flesh, we are not innocent, we are guilty. Our conscious tells us this. But in Christ we are no longer condemned but stand innocent before the Lord. We are considered innocent of every sin, everything that was against God. Paul told the Galatians that the reason for the law was to lead us to Christ. The law was to show we could not do it but needed Christ to do it for us.

The law is for those who live by the flesh. Not just the Old Testament law, but in general the laws of other cultures as well. The law was put into effect to help curb the entropy of the fall, the downward spiraling effect that the flesh causes. The depth by which a person who lives by the flesh who lowers themselves to such selfish levels can be horrendous, and its affect on human and spiritual relationships catastrophic. It is a curse. So in this regard the law is good.

But I think Paul’s meaning regarding why “the law is good if anyone uses it lawfully” implies using it. How do we, who are innocent before the Lord, use the law lawfully? What is the usefulness of the law for those who are innocent? The law of the Old Testament is good if anyone uses it like it was meant to be used. The first thought that comes to mind is what Jesus said in Luke’s gospel (an apprentice of Paul by the way):

To the disciples “going to a village called Emmaus” Luke says that Jesus “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets…explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” These disciples told each other after Jesus left: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” And later when these disciples returned to Jerusalem with the other disciples Jesus appeared and He said “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” (4) In other words “all the Scriptures.” Even today the Jewish people break all the Scriptures into these same three parts. (5) And interestingly Luke mentions that “he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

The law of the Old Testament shows two things, it was meant to help control the flesh and second show the grace and mercy of God in Christ through types and shadows and stories. This requires the mind to be opened by Christ in us. If we come to the Bible without Christ in view and without His help then we will begin to wander away from what Jesus says it was intended to be used for: it was “written about me.”

(1) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 613.
(2) Galatians 1:6-7, 9; 3:1, 3.
(3) Marshall, 613.
(4) Luke 24: 27, 32, 44-45.
(5) The Jewish Bible is called the Tanakh. It includes the three parts of Torah (the five books of Moses), Nevi’im (the Prophets), and Kethuvim (the Writings). Tanakh: A New Translation of The Holy Scriptures, According to the Traditional Hebrew Text; The Jewish Publication Society, 1985.

“now the end of the charge is love…”
July 17, 2014, 1:34 pm
Filed under: R - First Letter to Timothy

Paul described to Timothy and in his previous letter to the ecclesia in Ephesus that there is “a stewardship of God in faith.” The brothers and sisters in Ephesus know how to live by Christ; Paul was in Ephesus for years helping them live by Christ. They know Paul. Later while In Rome he wrote perhaps his most encouraging and enlightening seminal work in his letter to this ecclesia! But there are “certain” brothers and sisters over the years in this ecclesia who have wandered from Christ’s life, the world had captured their focus, teaching differently and debating one another in the body due to paying attention to those things that seem important in their world’s culture.

God’s eternal purpose, His stewardship, is to live, to work through a body, His ecclesia as she lives by faith together. That is essentially what the letter to the Ephesians was all about (and every letter in the New Testament). What does this look like among the brothers and sisters? Sacrificial selfless love. Love bleeds through every book and letter of Scripture! In every letter Paul deals with the many issues that confront the gatherings of God’s people but in every single letter the goal was love. Christ’s love. Love is the outcome or the goal, the end result of what Paul is charging or trying to get across these “certain persons!” It is “love out of a clean heart and good conscience and unfeigned faith.” (1)

When Christ Jesus is “the Lord of us” then His Spirit will give life through our spirits. And as He lives through our spirits He will always manifest sacrificial selfless love, “agape,” through our soul and body. This love comes from within our spirit and manifests itself outwardly through our soul and body. This love is none other than Christ Himself! Christ resides in His people in their spirits by His Spirit. He has cleansed us from within, our hearts, our will. He has cleansed our conscience and we are no longer condemned. (2) He has cleansed our understanding and mindset of this world and we no longer “lie to get by,” but live in the reality of the truth of who we are in Christ and live by faith, a faith that is sincere and genuine and without hypocrisy. But in reality it is Christ Himself who is the clean One, the good One and the genuine One! Christ in us is what makes our hearts clean, our consciences good, and our faith genuine!

Given this understanding of how God works in His people, Paul states that these brothers and sisters who are teaching differently than this, creating worldly debates in the gatherings are wandering from God’s purpose for His body. The word “missing aim” means to wander, to get off target or swerve out of line. (3) If you are driving down the road in a car in heavy traffic and swerve out of line the consequences can be devastating, even deadly. My son is currently learning how to drive, about to get his driver’s license. Let me say that it is a scary feeling to see my son swerve in the other line of traffic! I didn’t just sit there and do nothing but quickly let him know what he was doing so he could make his correction. I didn’t grab the wheel and fix the problem, he did it. So to in the body of Christ.

We must help each other hear Christ and follow Him, even if it means making corrections. Part of the problem in the ecclesias is how to make corrections. Too often it is done outside the context of relationships and done without respect. Let us hear Christ first. Corrections are always based on relationships. Perhaps Jesus gave us the answer: “between you and them alone,” if that doesn’t work “take with you one or two more” believers as a witness, and if that doesn’t work “tell it to the ecclesia.” (4) Timothy is told not to tell the gathering in Ephesus, but “certain persons.” Whether the “certain persons” like what Paul says or not does not matter, they must bear in mind that swerving out of line of God’s purpose in the gatherings is deadly to the life of the body. If we are going forward in the Lord we will have to deal with our fleshly issues that we are blind to. Those who correct us, even that not done in love, is meant to help us see our blind spots, and as we confess it and realize the delusion of it, we see how Christ is our reality, even in this that we were blind to, and He becomes our cleanser and we move forward anew with “a clean heart and good conscience and a genuine faith” having experienced Christ and His body anew and in a real way drawing the body closer together in Christ. The Father loves the Son in us and only wants to see His Son expressed by His Spirit.

The goal, the conclusion, the end result of this charge by Christ in Paul is selfless “love out of a clean heart and good conscience and a genuine faith.” This is the overarching goal for this first letter to Timothy.

(1) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 613.

(2) T. Austin-Sparks, “What Is Man?” T. Austin-Sparks in his seminal work “What is Man?” describes how our spirit has “three faculties” of “conscience, communion and intuition” and states that “the main value” of the spirit is “spiritual apprehension.” In this first letter to Timothy as well as in his other letters, including his joint letter to Hebrews, you can see how Paul always goes back to learning to hear and follow Christ’s life together from our spirits. His letter to Timothy is no exception. This is Paul’s overarching thought for every letter he has ever written, under the inspiration of the Spirit. It is how God’s eternal purpose is accomplished, by His Spirit living in, to and through us to the praise and glory of God.


(4) Matthew 18:15-17.