Paul’s letters to Timothy contain sound advice for those in positions of responsibility among believers. True believers always need to look to the future: solving problems effectively is not achieved through emergency stop gap measures; the council in Jerusalem (Acts 15) shows how things should be done.
God revealed to Paul that “the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods …” (1 Timothy 4:1-3). Timothy had many things to try to correct at Ephesus and needed to anticipate problems the spirit’s guidance foretold.
Problems like these have been evident among believers down the centuries and some are evident today. The reference to ‘forbidding marriage’ brought to mind the unnatural and unscriptural practice of the Catholic Church requiring its priests to be celibate. It is evident that their alleged first Pope, Peter, was married (Matthew 8:14)! It is now clear what celibacy has led to in some cases. Paul and Barnabas did not marry (1 Corinthians 9:5,6) but this was their personal decision in giving their all in the service of Christ.
Timothy is advised to “train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (verses 7,8). This implies that the degree of godliness we attain now will be reflected in responsibilities in the life to come as some of Jesus’ parables indicate (Luke 19:17-19). A psalmist wrote, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God …” (84:10).
Timothy is to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity … devote yourself to the public reading of scripture …” (verses 12,13). None would have had their own Bibles so public reading was very important. Paul emphasizes: “Practice these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and the teaching. Persist in this …” (verses 15,16).
In the “race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1) let us “persist in this” – for the race is not over until the finishing line is reached – and how tragic it will be to “have run in vain” (Philippians 2:16).