Day 330 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue First Timothy.
1 Timothy 3 – Paul turns his attention to the character of overseers. The overseers’ personalities will generally become the personality of the congregation. Paul wants a church that radiates the gospel to a dark world.
The contours of Paul’s directives to the overseers in Ephesus (where Timothy is) include the overseer’s reputation, marriage, self-mastery, ministry, temperance, temperament, money, family, maturity, and reputation. These graces cultivate a godly symmetry in the lives of overseers and the church as a whole. Consequently, the gospel is adorned beautifully before a lost world.
The reasoning that applies to overseers applies to deacons as well. Once more, the spiritual trajectories of leaders’ lives are of paramount importance in regard to the furtherance of the gospel. Such godliness is always the result of the Gospel of grace, which is the only power that can transform the human heart.
Paul’s mounting call to godly conduct culminates in what is the key text of 1 Timothy. The description of the church here pulses with vitality: “household” is metaphorical for “family”. At the head of the family is the “living God.” The church is the place where God most clearly manifests His living presence. The living church family upholds the truth that God has revealed through Jesus. How is this done? By conduct in the household of God that is consistent with, and springs from, the Gospel of Jesus Christ—“the mystery of godliness.”
Whenever Paul uses the word “mystery,” he is referring to Jesus as the revelation of the plan of salvation that had been hidden up to that point. The phrase “the mystery of godliness” means more than the objective theological content of the gospel. In context, it points to the pattern of life drawn forth from the Gospel. Ultimately, it points to Jesus as the essence and source of all godly conduct.
So the call to godly conduct is not a challenge to pursue a self-generated “bootstrap” godliness. Rather, it is a call to live out the incredible realities of the Gospel. In Jesus’ incarnation, death, and resurrection, the mystery of godliness was displayed before the universe. And by virtue of Jesus’ saving grace, all those who believe in Him have been united to Him so that they share in His godliness.
His godly record becomes ours by grace, and in thankful response, we also begin to live out personally the godliness Jesus embodied. Paul’s call to godliness is thus both gospel-generated and gospel-sustained. If you have Jesus, you possess and are possessed by the very “mystery of godliness.” And you can live out this mystery!
How does this truth free you to allow the Gospel to be expressed through your life?
1 Timothy 4 – Having just presented Jesus as the source and center of godliness, Paul goes after those who attempt to add to the Gospel. Paul calls such teaching the “teachings of demons.” Our standing with God is based on Jesus’ self-sacrifice, not ours.
Paul was not, however, opposed to spiritual discipline for the purpose of godliness. In fact, he commands it, not to gain grace but to enjoy the blessings it offers now and in the life to come. Paul further emphasizes the command’s importance by adding, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance.”
To some ears, the command to “train [or discipline] yourself for godliness” may smack of legalism. But the difference is profound. Legalism imagines, “I will do this thing to gain merit, or standing before God,” while godly training says, “I will do this because I love God and want to glorify Him.” Remember that this same Paul who commands spiritual discipline passionately opposed legalism and cursed it as no Gospel at all (Galatians 1:6–8). Significantly, Paul had earlier told the Corinthians that it was grace that energized his Gospel work (1 Corinthians 15:10), thus combining grace and hard work. The apostle’s incredibly hard-working, disciplined life was all of grace!
Paul’s command to “train yourself for godliness” is not self-generated works-righteousness because it is Jesus, “the mystery of godliness,” who indwells and compels all true spiritual discipline. The entire command drips with grace. Paul then reminds the church in verse 10 that godliness is crucial to the spread of the Gospel. “For to this end [a life disciplined for godliness] we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God.”
Paul’s call to Jesus-centered, gospel-centric, godly conduct—for the sake of the church and a lost world—then flows into chapters 5 and 6 with specific pastoral directives to various groups in the Ephesian church.
How does this help you see the difference between legalism and the godliness that comes from the Gospel?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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