Teaching I Timothy 3

Not long ago I was in a class where the teacher (a very dedicated Christian) read the first seven verses of I Timothy 3 and immediately began talking about elders and the Eldership. The entire class period was spent in an exchange of opinions about elders and the Eldership, yet neither word (term) is found in the chapter! How in the name of common sense can one discuss I Timothy 3 and talk about something not once mentioned therein? How? What does I Timothy 3 say about elders or the Eldership? Not one word! This simple fact never seemed to dawn on the teacher or the class. This is a vivid example of how we so often fail to "handle accurately" the word of God. We read into the text what is not there. We would really expose a Baptist or Methodist for misusing God's word in this fashion. But it is o.k. for us! After all, we are the Lord's one and only true Church institution!

In I Timothy 3:1-7, Paul discusses the work of bishoping or seeing after the "church (ecclesia) of God" the disciples. Tending the lambs, feeding (teaching) the flock is a very important responsibility. The subject under consideration is the work of caring for, seeing after, "taking care of" the sheep and lambs of Jesus Christ. One who undertakes this work needs to do so in harmony with the instructions Paul gives about his -- the one tending the lambs -- life, his way of doing it, so as to set the right example as indicated by his family relationships, his conduct, his teaching, his example before the sheep.

The reason is that one who engages in leading the flock of God "must be above reproach" in his example and work, since he is God's steward. The sheep belong to the Lord, not to the one serving them by seeing after them. Titus makes this point very clear. He says that those elders who undertake to shepherd the sheep must do such work so as to be "above reproach" (Titus 1:6t

When we study the Bible, we should study the text to see what it says. What we call I Timothy is a letter written by Paul to Timothy. Its primary application or benefit was for Timothy. Therefore, we should seek to find out what Paul told Timothy. Examine the text. What did it mean to Timothy? After we discover its meaning and application to Timothy, then we can seek to learn what meaning or application it has for us today. Remember, it was not written to you. Nor was any other New Testament gospel or epistle. But they were all written (and preserved ) for you and for all of us today. If we propose to study the New Testament text to determine what it means, then let's drop all of our opinions, prejudices, and views at least long enough to find the primary meaning. We make the assumption that the text means what we think! So we, like most others, read it with our pre-conceived ideas before our face.

Let's be careful and remember that we are dealing with God's word which is the aroma of death to death, and to the other from life to life. How do you read it? --C.A.H.