SAINT PAUL Part X SAINT PAUL WRITES FROM MACEDONIA II
This is one of St Paul’s shortest Epistles. He is writing in AD65. St James had been executed by Ananias three years earlier and in the previous year Rome had been destroyed by fire and the Emperor Nero had been persecuting the Catholics, in an endeavour to fix the blame on them. The infant Church was under external attack, but internally she was also under attack from false teachers. St Paul had left the Church in Ephesus under the care of the young man Timothy – his “beloved son in the Faith” (1 Tim. 1:2).
He recalls that when he left Timothy in charge in A.D 64 he had given him the task of correcting those propagating false teachings and useless speculations.
He humbly acknowledges his past persecution of the Church and thanks God for being given his role as Christ’s minister – “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the chief” (1 Tim. 1:15). St Paul has, he says, given the same vocation of ministry to Timothy, and he refers to prophecies once made concerning Timothy. He contrasts Timothy’s faith and good conscience with Hymeneus and Alexander who have been delivered up to Satan for blasphemy.
St Paul urges Timothy to lead the Church in Ephesus in supplications, prayers and thanksgivings for all men, for kings and for all in high positions “ that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all piety and worthy behaviour” (1 Tim. 2: 1-2). Clearly he has the horrors of the persecution under Nero in mind.
St Paul reflects on the very basis of his life’s work: “For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, Himself man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, bearing witness in his own time. To this I have been appointed a preacher and an apostle (I tell the truth, I do not lay), a teacher to the Gentiles in faith and truth’. (1 Tim. 2: 5-7
He firmly sets before Timothy his concept of what is appropriate for women in the church. They should dress modestly and simply without excessive ornament and expense. They should not speak or teach in the church. This brief section of the text concludes with the phrase most often translated “Yet women will be saved by child-bearing”. Quite apart from sending legions of feminists into paroxysms of rage, this false translation is a theological nonsense – what of all the saintly virgins throughout the Church’s long history? No – as the late Monsignor Ronald Knox’s accurate translation shows: “Yet woman shall find her salvation in the Child-bearing…”
The Greek definite article refers to one unique Child-bearing, the birth of Our Lord at Bethlehem”. (Mons. Ronald Cox “It Is Paul Who Writes” P.463) finally we see what St Paul truly wrote.
St Paul goes on to list the qualities of a good Bishop : blamelessness, married but once, reserved, prudent, of good conduct, hospitable, a teacher, no drinker or brawler, moderate not quarrelsome or avaricious. He must rule his own household well. He should not be a new convert lest pride overtake him. And he must have a good reputation outside the Church.
He then lists the requirements for Deacons whose responsibility in the early Church was principally ministering to the poor and the needy through charitable works. The requirements are not greatly dissimilar to those for Bishops in spirit, though less exacting in detail.
St Paul gives the rationale for his letter: he hopes to come to Ephesus soon but, if he is delayed, he wants Timothy to have sound advice on how to conduct himself in his weighty position. Interestingly he reveals that the Holy Spirit has made it clear that in future times some will leave the Faith to follow false teachers, forbid marriage, and require abstinence from certain foods. St Paul reminds Timothy that all that God has made is good and not to be so falsely rejected.
He urges on Timothy authentic piety – “…avoid foolish fables and old wives’ tales and train thyself in godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). He directs him to let no man despise his youth – we must remember here that in the ancient world authority went hand in hand with maturity – the young Timothy could expect some resistance to his Episcopal appointment.
St Paul urges Timothy not to neglect the grace infused in him by his ordination and to be an example to the faithful in speech, conduct, charity and chastity and to be diligent in reading, exhortation and teaching..
He lays out a careful plan of respect for older men, older women and younger women – to be treated as fathers, brothers, mothers and sisters respectively. He urges him to honour widows but stresses that they are primarily the responsibility of their families.
Where there is no family and the widow is less than sixty years old and of good and pious reputation, she may be accepted as the responsibility of the Church. He suggests that younger widows should re-marry so that they avoid becoming mere gossipers and busy-bodies.
St Paul praises priests (presbyters) who rule well and are active in preaching and teaching. Complaints against priests should only be entertained where they are supported by two or three witnesses. When they sin they are to be rebuked in front of all. He charges Timothy to act impartially in these matters before God the Father and Christ Jesus and the elect angels. He urges Timothy to remain chaste and urges him to cease drinking only water and to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake and for his frequent infirmities.
He urges Timothy to exhort slaves to treat their masters with honour and not to presume upon masters who are believers. He makes it clear that in this, his purpose is to ensure that “the name of the Lord and His Teaching be not blasphemed”.
Few things could give Roman society greater anxiety than anything which seemed to encourage the disaffection/discontent of slaves. Any attempt to do so or any appearance of doing so, would lead to swift and ruthless suppression. St Paul had little time for “rights language” in the name of which so much evil is done to-day (the “RIGHT” to choose – used to justify the abortion super holocaust).What matters to him is personal fidelity to Christ and the eternal salvation of souls. Strict personal rights must await the further development of the Kingdom – but first things first.
He warns against false teachings and against the pursuit of wealth. The former lead to the loss of godliness and bring about envies, quarrels, blasphemies and base suspicions and the latter often stray from the faith and fall prey to temptation.” For we brought nothing into the world, and certainly we can take nothing out...” (1 Tim. 6: 7).
He rousingly exhorts Timothy to the pursuit of justice, godliness, faith, charity, patience and mildness until the coming of the Lord “… the Blessed and only Sovereign, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; who alone has immortality and dwells in light inaccessible, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be everlasting dominion. Amen.” (1 Tim. 6: 15-16). He urges him to exhort the rich not to be proud but to become truly rich in good works in order that they might secure eternal life.
St Paul concludes “O Timothy...” to guard what has been entrusted to him and to avoid the profane novelties of speech used by false teachers, noting that some of their users had fallen away from the Faith.
This is the letter of a busy, faith filled man burning with fatherly love for his Ephesians and for his young co-worker in whose hands he has left them.
In typical St Paul style the ideas tumble forth always hitting the mark precisely and always serving faithfully the Lord Jesus Christ who claimed the undying loyalty of St Paul on the road to Damascus all those years and miles ago.
COPYRIGHT. This article first appeared in the March, 2009 issue of FOUNDATION.