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Paul's First Epistle to Timothy, Part 6: Exercise for Piety
We have already discussed the first five verses of 1 Timothy chapter 4 at length in the last segment of our presentation of this epistle, in Part 5 of this series, which was subtitled Rome Pagan and Catholic. Because much time has elapsed since we made that presentation, and because as we proceed here in verse 6 we see that Paul refers back to what he had said in those first five verses, we will read those verses once again and summarize a few of the statements we had made concerning them.
In the opening verses of 1 Timothy chapter 4 Paul wrote: “1 Now the Spirit specifically states that in the latter times some will withdraw from the faith, cleaving to wandering spirits and teachings of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, their own consciences having been branded with iron, 3 forbidding to marry, to abstain from foods, things which Yahweh has established for participation with gratitude for those with faith and knowledge of the truth.”
Discussing these statements in Rome Pagan and Catholic, we cited many of the earliest surviving Christian writers to establish the fact that these heresies began to manifest themselves amongst the Christian assemblies as early as the second century of the Christian era. We also hope to have established that these heresies were brought into Christianity to one degree or another from the ancient pagan sects, and that the Roman Catholic Church had adopted these various pagan practices as the institution itself was developing. It continues to cleave to them unto this very day. So the Roman Church forbid its priests to marry, and for many generations it has attracted the basest sort of men into its numbers, and, in turn, it is these base men who have guided Church policy for many centuries.
We also explained that Christ Himself had made similar, but more general, warnings in the Gospels, especially in what is known as the Olivet Discourse which is recorded in Matthew chapter 24, Mark chapter 13 and Luke chapter 21. There, among other things, He said “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” So Paul is most likely referring to Christ as the Spirit here, and this is verified in part in the epistle of Jude where that apostle wrote “17 But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18 How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.”
In regard to this we also explained that phrases such as “the last time” or “latter times” are Hebraisms which simply refer to the future, which is evident in places such as Genesis 49:1 and Hebrews chapter 1 where Paul wrote that Yahweh “2 Has in these last days spoken unto us by his Son”, and also in 1 John chapter 2 where John had written “18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” However it is also apparent that the apostles did not know just how long this “last time” was actually going to last.
Neither does the fulfillment of Paul’s words here infer that the institution of the Roman Catholic Church over the Christian assemblies of Europe was ever legitimate (or Godly) in the first place. The Church was an institution for our collective punishment, as we may see in Daniel chapter 7 or Revelation chapter 13. However for many centuries its leadership was the de facto ecclesiastical leadership in Europe, legitimate – or Godly – or not, and the example of leadership which they made in the name of Christ is entirely contrary to the Christian Gospel. Where Paul says that these men would be “forbidding to marry, to abstain from foods, things which Yahweh has established for participation with gratitude for those with faith and knowledge of the truth”, he is merely saying that they would depart from the laws of Yahweh and impose their own laws. The Church has indeed codified many things which are contrary to God’s law, which Paul alludes to here, such as the demands that people abstain from particular foods at diverse times, such as requiring an abstention from meat during Lent rather than abstaining from leaven during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, things which Christ may have said are “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men”, as it is recorded that He had told the Pharisees in Matthew chapter 15 and in Mark chapter 7.
But in our opinion, the most significant part of Paul’s statements here is where, writing this letter to Timothy as he departs from Ephesus in 56 AD, he says that “in the latter times some will withdraw from the faith”. With this we had asked, how was he even confident that there would be so many within the faith in the latter times that the withdrawal of some should even be significant? As Paul wrote these words, the world was overwhelmingly pagan, and paganism was enforced by the State. This is evident in the words of a pair of Roman men recorded in Acts chapter 16, who complained about the teachings of Paul in Philippi and Luke records that they “20... brought them [Paul and Silas] to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Judaeans, do exceedingly trouble our city, 21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.” In such an overwhelmingly pagan world, it would not even be of consequence if some withdrew from the faith.
The hurdles which Christianity would have to overcome to become the dominant religious paradigm in ancient society are also illustrated where Paul visited and preached in Athens later that same year, and it is recorded in Acts chapter 17 that “17 Therefore disputed he [Paul] in the synagogue with the Judaeans, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. 18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.” (The Epicureans and Stoics were sects which held beliefs that were nevertheless considered to be within the acceptable bounds of State-enforced Roman paganism, much like the Baptists and Pentecostals of today teach a powerless and watered-down version of Christianity which is acceptable to the American empire, and which is also enforced by the State.) A little later in the chapter, when Paul was about to make a defense of Christianity at the Areopagus, we read “For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.” Then after Paul made his defense, Luke wrote “32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. 33 So Paul departed from among them.” They mocked, even though stories of resurrection from the dead were extant in their own pagan literature.
Eventually, Paul was arrested for his heresy and sent to Rome. Following his arrest, the records of Luke in the closing chapters of the Book of Acts indicate that he lived until no later than 62 or perhaps 63 AD, where he was apparently executed in the time of the emperor Nero. However only fifty years after the death of Paul we see that in some places in the empire, Christianity had already spread to the point where it had threatened the survival of the State-sponsored and State-enforced paganism. In 111 A.D. the emperor Trajan sent Pliny the Younger to Bithynia to extinguish the Christian heresy. Pliny wrote several reports back to the emperor, and the exchange of letters is preserved to us unto this day. In one such letter Pliny had written in summary of the growth of the Christian heresy and said: “For many of all ages, all classes, and both sexes already are brought into danger, and shall be [in future]. And not only the cities; the contagion of this superstition is spread throughout the villages and the countryside; but it appears to me possible to stop it and put it right. Certainly the temples which were once deserted are beginning to be crowded, and the long interrupted sacred rites are being revived, while food from the sacrifices is selling, for which up to now a buyer was hardly to be found.”
So the temples and pagan rites had been disregarded, but when Pliny wrote they were being used once again, because Pliny had the power of the State behind him, and he was torturing Christians into disclaiming their faith, or executing them if they refused to disclaim it. Therefore we see that only eighty years after the Passion of the Christ, there was such a voluntary acceptance of Christianity among the Greeks and Romans of Bithynia, that the pagan temples and rites had fallen almost completely idle.
The voluntary acceptance of a new religion by such a large segment of the people is not something that happens often or without enticement. But what was the reward for accepting Christianity, outside of persecution? Without a plethora of witnesses to the Gospel, the spread of the new creed would not have been possible. But even more importantly, the Christianity which Paul and the other apostles had taught was indeed grounded in the ancient history and the customs of the people to whom they brought the Gospel, and without the appropriate cultural and historical background, the new creed would never have been accepted. An examination of ancient history clearly does show that Paul was bringing the Gospel to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”, but Christians today do not understand that because for fear of the Jews, such ancient history is no longer properly taught. It has not been properly taught since the days of Paul of Tarsus.
[On a contemporary note, our Christian predicament today is much like it was when Paul was executed. But we also can overcome by upholding the truth and appealing to people on those same traditional cultural grounds upon which the original apostles of Christ had stood.]
In spite of the many early persecutions of Christians, Christianity could not be oppressed. So after three centuries of failure, finally Rome relented and accepted the new creed. But as a result, Christianity was quickly corrupted into a form which the empire could tolerate, a form which accommodated the professional priesthood. The final product was the corrupt Roman Catholic Church, and now all of the splinter organizations that have been spawned from that Church. None of the modern Churches are truly Christian, and therefore the tyranny licenses their operation. True Christianity survives, however, while we also struggle to be heard.
In the subsequent verses of this chapter, Paul then continues with a reason for his opening statements where he said: “4 Because every establishment of Yahweh is good, and nothing to be rejected, being received with gratitude. 5 For it is sanctified through word of Yahweh and intercession.” And here we have properly translated the Greek words κτίζω and κτίσμα as establish and establishment. Here Paul informs us that the things which Yahweh established for such purposes are explained in the law, and they are the establishments to which Paul refers here. The proof of that is where he wrote that “it is sanctified through word of Yahweh and intercession.” Intercession being requested through prayer, prayer is important, but prayer alone is not sufficient for sanctification. The Word of Yahweh is in the law, so both the law of Yahweh and prayer for intercession are required for sanctification. If something is excluded by the law of Yahweh, it cannot be sanctified, and one should not pray for it in vain. Swine and shellfish are examples of such things which are not among the establishments in the law. Things not sanctioned in the law cannot be sanctified at all. Fornication, or race-mixing, is not among the establishments in the law, which insists that a man’s wife be “kind after kind”, “flesh of his flesh” and “bone of his bone”. Intercession may bring us forgiveness for our sins, but our sin is still sin and a failure to repent results in punishment. Instead, as we hope to illustrate here in the balance of this chapter, Christians must exercise themselves for piety by keeping the law.
Now we shall proceed with 1 Timothy chapter 4, where Paul makes a conclusion and tells his younger fellow-worker that:
6 Presenting these things to the brethren you will be a good minister of Christ Yahshua, being reared in the words of the faith and the good teaching in which you have closely followed.
Here Paul refers not only to the things which he has said in the opening verses of this chapter, for there were no chapter divisions in the original epistle. Rather, by “these things” he refers to everything which he has said thus far in this epistle. Paul expects Timothy to teach all of the things he has written here to the assemblies in Ephesus, where Paul had left him as he departed for Makedonia. As he told Timothy at the very beginning of this epistle, “Just as I, traveling into Makedonia, had summoned you to remain in Ephesos that you should command some not to teach errors...”, here we see that Paul desired for Timothy to teach those same Ephesians all of these other things, which includes what he had said about the nature of God and Christ, the role of women in the community, leadership credentials for bishops and ministers, and the mysteries of the faith and of godliness – which should certainly no longer be mysteries to Christians because Paul had explained them and expected Timothy to teach them. Now Paul continues with an admonition which is often abused:
7 But dismiss those profane and old wives’ tales, and exercise yourself for piety.
Here the King James Version ignores the definite article which in the Greek manuscripts precedes the clause that is translated here as “profane and old wives’ tales”. Many other translations put a period after the clause, as if the exhortation to exercise for piety is somehow unrelated to the command to avoid certain tales. Commentators often take this verse or its segments entirely out of context, and assign their own “old wives’ tales” to Paul’s intentions. Indeed, the presence of the definite article indicates that Paul was referring to certain “profane and old wives’ tales”, and therefore the article is translated here as those. As Joseph Thayer wrote in his Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament on page 434 under the entry for the definite article, ὁ [ὁ, II., f.], “The Greeks employ the article, where we abstain from its use, before nouns denoting things that pertain to him who is the subject of the discourse” [emphasis mine – WRF]. So by using the definite article here, Paul refers to whatever is the subject of his discourse, which is the “wandering spirits and teachings of demons” that he had described here. In the ninth edition of their Greek-English Lexicon, Liddell & Scott supply similar examples where the definite article is used to refer to persons or things which had already been referred to explicitly, in the first part of their definition of the definite article, which shows that it was frequently employed as a Demonstrative Pronoun, and is often translated as that or those.
So we would assert that the certain old wives tales’ to which Paul refers as those, using the definite article, are a further reference to those things which he has already described earlier in the chapter as being the teachings of wandering spirits and demons, which cause men to do things such as forbidding to marry and to abstain from foods. In other words, Paul’s “old wives’ tales” are the beliefs of the pagan religions as opposed to the Word of God, as we have already shown that such things were introduced into the Christian assemblies from the ancient pagan religious cults.
We must also note that both of the verbs of this clause are in the Imperative mood, so if we were to make a more emphatic translation, Paul tells Timothy that he must dismiss such tales, and he must exercise himself for piety. Stressing the imperatives, the verse may be read “But you must dismiss those profane and old wives’ tales, and you must exercise yourself for piety.”
Now Paul uses a sort of solemn pun employing the word γυμνάζω (Strong’s # 1128), which is the source of our words gymnastics and gymnasium, and which is literally “to train naked, [to] train in gymnastic exercise: [and] generally, to train, [or to] exercise”, according to Liddell & Scott. The word is derived from the Greek word γυμνός (Strong’s # 1131), which means naked. Of course, one does not have to be naked to exercise oneself for piety, so in that sense the word is used allegorically. Now Paul uses it again in a comparison in the verse which follows:
8 Bodily exercise is for little advantage, but piety is for every advantage, having a promise of life for the present and for the future.
In his second epistle, Peter uses the term γυμνάζω of the wicked, the cursed children, who are naturally “exercised with covetous practices”. But in Acts 24:16 Paul declares, using the same verb: “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.” Likewise, in chapter 5 of his epistle to the Hebrews he says that “strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” In that passage, meat is an allegory for the strong truths of the Scriptures. Paul describes such exercise for piety again in his first epistle to the Corinthians, in chapter 9 where he says: “25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” So evidently, Paul’s exercise for piety trained his body to be subject to the laws of Yahweh.
The Greeks admired men who spent long hours training in the gymnasiums, perfecting the shape of their bodies and the size and tone of their muscles, attaining to endurance and physical strength. This went well beyond the mere desire to stay fit, and itself becomes a form of idolatry, when one devotes all of one’s idle time to beauty and physical perfection. Then age and sickness, or some physical trial, can take it all away in a brief time, and one’s beauty and strength fade as the flower of grass. As the apostle Peter tells us in his first epistle, where he is in turn citing Isaiah chapter 40: “24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you.”
The word of Yahweh enduring forever, Paul’s admonition to men is not to seek physical perfection, but rather to perfect the eternal spirit by exercising oneself for piety through training one’s body for subjection to the law of Yahweh. Bodily exercise does profit, but it profits little. A man who is trained for piety is trained for eternity, as Paul says here that “piety is for every advantage, having a promise of life for the present and for the future.”
The 4th Book of Maccabees was an early and ostensibly Christian work which extolled pre-Christian martyrs who lived in the days of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Seleucid king who antagonized and persecuted law-keeping Judaeans in the middle of the second century before Christ. According to accounts in the historical 2 Maccabees, in chapters 6 and 7, the high priest Eleazar, and then a woman with seven sons, were all put to death rather than violate the precepts of their faith by eating swine’s flesh. The moral of the story is that an exercise for piety trains men to overcome the trials of this world in favor of obedience to God. All nine people lose their lives, but they never lose their virtue, and for that they were seen as overcomers of the carnal world. To illustrate this, here we shall read the 13th chapter of 4 Maccabees:
4 Maccabees 13:1 If then, the seven brethren despised troubles even unto death, it is confessed on all sides that righteous reasoning is absolute master over the passions. 2 For just as if, had they as slaves to the passions eaten of the unholy, we should have said that they had been conquered by them; 3 now it is not so: but by means of the reasoning which is praised by God, they mastered their passions. 4 And it is impossible to overlook the leadership of reflection: for it gained the victory over both passions and troubles. 5 How, then, can we avoid according to these men mastery of passion through right reasoning, since they drew not back from the pains of fire? 6 For just as by means of towers projecting in front of harbours men break the threatening waves, and thus assure a still course to vessels entering port, 7 so that seven-towered right-reasoning of the young men, securing the harbour of religion [or piety, we will remark on this below], conquered the intemperance of passions.
8 For having arranged a holy choir of piety, they encouraged one another, saying, 9 Brothers, may we die brotherly for the law. Let us imitate the three young men in Assyria who despised the equally afflicting furnace [referring to an account in Daniel]. 10 Let us not be cowards in the manifestation of piety. 11 And one said, Courage, brother; and another, Nobly endure. 12 And another, Remember of what stock ye are; and by the hand of what father Isaac endured to be slain for the sake of piety. 13 And one and all, looking on each other serene and confident, said, Let us sacrifice with all our heart our souls to God who gave them, and employ our bodies for the keeping of the law. 14 Let us not fear him who thinketh he killeth; 15 for great is the trial of soul and danger of eternal torment laid up for those who transgress the commandment of God. 16 Let us arm ourselves, therefore, in the abnegation of the divine reasoning [not to renounce divine reasoning, but to renounce what the divine reasoning which is in the law compels us to renounce]. 17 If we suffer thus, Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob will receive us, and all the fathers will commend us.
18 And as each one of the brethren was haled away, the rest exclaimed, Disgrace us not, O brother, nor falsify those who died before you. 19 Now you are not ignorant of the charm of brotherhood, which the Divine and all wise Providence hath imparted through fathers to children, and hath engendered through the mother's womb. 20 In which these brothers having remained an equal time, and having been formed for the same period, and been increased by the same blood, and having been perfected through the same principle of life, 21 and having been brought forth at equal intervals, and having sucked milk from the same fountains, hence their brotherly souls are reared up lovingly together; 22 and increase the more powerfully by reason of this simultaneous rearing, and by daily intercourse, and by other education, and exercise in the law of God. [This is the exercise for piety.]
23 Brotherly love being thus sympathetically constituted, the seven brethren had a more sympathetic mutual harmony. 24 For being educated in the same law, and practising the same virtues, and reared up in a just course of life, they increased this harmony with each other. 25 For a like ardour for what is right and honourable increased their fellow-feeling towards each other. 26 For it acting along with religion [piety], made their brotherly feeling more desirable to them. 27 And yet, although nature and intercourse and virtuous morals increased their brotherly love those who were left endured to behold their brethren, who were ill used for their religion [piety], tortured even unto death.
First we must note that the word religion in these verses is an unfortunate translation by Brenton. The word εὐσεβεία is properly piety, and it is the same word which we translate as piety in verses 7 and 8 here in 1 Timothy chapter 4, where the King James Version has godliness.
So here in 4 Maccabees we see the expression of several precepts which we also see in similar language in the letters of Paul, of John, and in the Gospel: not to fear those who may kill the body, but to fear Yahweh God and keep His law, and to exercise oneself in piety by exercising oneself to keep that law. The end of that exercise results not only in the expression of true piety, but in the expression of true brotherly love which is found in a mutual agreement with and keeping of the law, of which the final product is absolute harmony amongst brethren. Finally, through these things may Christians overcome all trials.
These trials of Eleazar and the woman with the seven brothers are not unique, and neither are the attitudes expressed, as they are also witnessed in the Book of Daniel, for instance in the trial of Daniel and his companions in the furnace which was referred to here in this chapter of 4 Maccabees, or when Daniel was given over to be eaten by lions, and on each occasion he prevailed through obedience to Yahweh. Many similar trials are found in the life and Psalms of David, and David also prevailed through faith, through magnifying and contemplating the law, and through seeking the will of his God.
So piety does not come from rituals, piety does not come from baptisms, and piety does not come from attendance in some organized State-approved Church. Rather, true piety comes in the willingness to keep the laws of Yahweh our God, and training our bodies to be subject to those laws.
Now Paul concludes by saying:
9 Trustworthy is this saying, and worthy of all acceptance.
This statement and similar ones appear in Paul’s letters only in the epistles written to Timothy and Titus (1 Timothy 1:15, 3:1, 4:9, 2 Timothy 2:11, Titus 3:8). As we had commented when encountering it earlier in this epistle, it is sometimes difficult whether by saying this Paul means to refer to what has already been written, or to what follows. Here we esteem it to be referring to what follows, where he continues and says:
10 For this we toil and we struggle [D, 0241, and the MT have “suffer reproach,” the reading which we see in the King James Version; the text follows א, A, and C], because we have trusted in Yahweh who lives, who is Savior of all most believing men.
Ostensibly speaking of the men of the οἰκουμένη, to those of the family of the faith (Galatians 6:10) who were promised salvation throughout the Old Testament (Isaiah 43:3, 45:15, Jeremiah 14:8, Acts 5:31, 13:23, 26:6-7), Paul made a similar statement in Titus chapter 2: “11 For the delivering favor of Yahweh has been displayed to all men, 12 teaching us that, rejecting impiety and the lusts of this Society, discreetly and righteously and piously we should live in this present age, 13 expecting the blessed hope and manifestation of the honor of the Great Yahweh, even our Savior Yahshua Christ, 14 who gave Himself over in behalf of us, in order that He would redeem us from all lawlessness, and may purify for Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” We would conclude that all most believing men are the men of the house of Israel most likely to keep the laws of Yahweh, and through that they should find find preservation in this life as well as that which is to come.
So, as Paul declared to Titus, we become purified by keeping the law, the purpose of Christ was to redeem us from lawlessness, and here he explains that we must exercise ourselves for piety by training our bodies to keep the law, which in turn distinguishes us as the children of God, as His peculiar people. We may already be children of Yahweh genetically, as our first father Adam was the son of Yahweh in spite of his sin (Luke 3:31), but Yahweh desires for us to act as His children should act, as Christ admonishes us and says “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
Furthermore, we demonstrate our love for one another by keeping the law, and by that we also demonstrate our love for God. In Joshua chapter 22 there is an admonition to “take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Likewise we read in the first epistle of John that “If one should say that ‘I love Yahweh’ and hates his brother, he is a liar! For he not loving his brother whom he has seen, he is not able to love Yahweh whom he has not seen. And we have this commandment from Him, that he loving Yahweh also loves his brother. Each believing that Yahshua is the Christ has been born from of Yahweh, and each loving He who engendered loves he having been engendered by Him. By this we know that we should love the children of Yahweh, when we would love Yahweh and we would keep His commandments. For this is the love of Yahweh, that we should keep His commandments: and His commandments are not burdensome!” So we learn from John what we also saw in 4 Maccabees, that love for one’s brother is expressed through keeping the laws of Yahweh our God.
Paul admonishes Timothy once again and says:
11 You transmit and teach these things.
And once again, Paul expects Timothy to teach these things to the Ephesians, while also overcoming other hurdles he may have in Ephesus, where he says:
12 Let no man despise your youth, but you must be a model of those believing in word, in conduct, in love, in faith, [the MT interpolates “in spirit” here; the text follows א, A, C, D, and I] in chastity.
Being a youth in this sense does not necessarily mean that Timothy was under the customary age for a man who would serve in a capacity as priest or in service to the congregation, which was thirty years, which is evident in Numbers chapter 4. In fact, Paul himself was referred to as a “young man”, a νεανίας (Strong’s # 3494), in Acts chapter 7. However the rulers of the temple in Jerusalem still saw him to be fit for the administration of persecuting the heretical sect of Christians in Damascus and beyond. But even being a young man in his thirties, Timothy may still be despised as a teacher by the elder and supposedly more learned men found ruling in the synagogues at Ephesus and elsewhere. Here Paul advises Timothy to overcome any possible criticisms by being a model example in his conduct. Paul expects that Timothy will be successful in this endeavor as he exhorts him further:
13 Until I come, you attend to the reading, the exhortation, the teaching;
As we have discussed at length in earlier portions of this presentation and in our commentary on the epistle to Titus, here Paul had written to Timothy from Makedonia in 56 AD, expecting the apostle to remain in Ephesus until the time when Paul could return there. But even with this strong admonition, and for some unknown reason, Timothy did not remain in Ephesus. Instead, he is found with Paul just a few months later, when Paul was with both Timothy and Titus in Nicopolis in Epirus in Greece, where he spent the winter of 56-57 AD, and during which he wrote the second epistle to the Corinthians. No mention is made in 2 Corinthians or in any of Paul’s later epistles explaining why Timothy may have departed from Ephesus contrary to Paul’s telling him to remain there only a short time before. We can only imagine that Timothy must have been compelled to leave for one serious reason or another. From the time that he is found with Paul in Nicopolis, Timothy remained with him as he travelled through Achaea and Makedonia and returned to the Troad, which we see in the opening verses of Acts chapter 20. Then as the group gathered in the Troad had travelled to Palestine, they stopped in Miletus and summoned the elders of the assemblies of Ephesus to meet them there, where Paul then addressed them as it is recorded later in Acts chapter 20. Ostensibly, as we demonstrated in our commentary on Hebrews chapter 13, Timothy then remained with Paul and was arrested with him in Jerusalem in 57 AD, but as Paul had announced in that epistle to the Hebrews, Timothy was released before Paul was sent to Rome.
Here, after encouraging him to continue teaching in Ephesus, Paul continues to offer him even greater encouragement, where he says:
14 do not have neglect for the favor within you, which was given to you through the interpretation of Scripture along with the laying on of hands of the council of elders.
So the ministry of the Gospel was granted to Timothy “through the interpretation of Scripture” as well as by the laying on of hands of the council of elders. The Codex Sinaiticus (א) has only “of an elder”, rather than “of the council of elders.” The latter must have happened some time during Paul’s travels with Timothy as they are described in Acts chapters 16 and 17, although the concise nature of the accounts makes it difficult to determine exactly. But for the ministry to be granted to Timothy “through the interpretation of Scripture”, Paul must be alluding to those prophecies concerning the spread of the Gospel through the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”, as Timothy’s father was a Greek.
Speaking of the scattered children of Israel in Isaiah chapter 43, in a Messianic prophecy the Word of Yahweh says: “5 Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; 6 I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; 7 Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. 8 Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears. 9 Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? [This is important, because it shows that the ancient history of Israel is important and the people who are subjects of the Messianic prophecy are the same.] let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth. 10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. [The ancient children of Israel are the witnesses and they are also the purpose of the testimony, it is only they who must believe and only they who are saved.] 11 I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. 12 I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.”
In another Messianic prophecy, which Christ Himself had cited concerning His Own purpose in Luke chapter 4, we read concerning the scattered children of Israel in Isaiah chapter 42: “6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Nations; 7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” And in yet another prophecy of the Gospel of Christ we read in Isaiah chapter 52: “4 For thus saith the Lord GOD, My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.” This is an allusion to the captivities of Israel, and most of Israel was “lost” after the Assyrian captivity, and they were among the scattered Israelites whom Christ had come to reconcile. Later on it is explained in Ezekiel chapter 34 that “6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them…. 11 For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.” So in that chapter of Ezekiel we see that the same sheep scattered in ancient times were the sheep which Yahweh God intends to gather in Christ.
Now continuing with that same chapter 52 of Isaiah, the prophet continues in reference to the “lost sheep of the House of Israel” and says: “5 Now therefore, what have I here, saith the LORD, that my people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the LORD; and my name continually every day is blasphemed. 6 Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I. 7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! 8 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.” So here we see an explicit prophecy explaining that the purpose of the Gospel of Christ was to reconcile the people who had been taken away to Yahweh their God, and in Matthew chapter 15 Christ Himself professes that He came only for those people. The portion of this prophecy which is pertinent to Timothy is where it says, speaking to the scattered Israelites, that their watchmen shall lift up their voices, etc. Timothy was one of the first of those watchmen.
Then later on in yet another Messianic prophecy we read in Zechariah chapter 8: “21 And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also. 22 Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. 23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a [Judahite, or Judaean], saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.” This was fulfilled, at least in part, as Paul of Tarsus, a Judaean, found disciples to take up the ministry among the nations of scattered children of Israel. Timothy was certainly one of those disciples, who attached himself to Paul and went from one city to another. Paul found him in Lycaonia, and here he is in Ephesus.
In these same scattered children of Israel, we see the fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi 1:11 with the spread of the Christian Gospel: “11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the [Nations]; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the [Nations], saith the LORD of hosts.” These scattered nations of Israel are the “distant nations” to which Paul was sent, as he professed in Acts chapter 22:21, and the Jews wanted to kill him for it.
Paul had also told the Corinthians that their fathers were baptized with Moses in the cloud and the sea, meaning that they too were descendants of the ancient Israelites, in 1 Corinthians chapter 10. Timothy, being of a Greek father, very likely also would have been one of those descendants. Therefore Timothy was one of the first individuals to fulfill the prophecy in Zechariah chapter 8, where the Gospel, meant for the blind and the prisoners – which are descriptions of ancient Israel in captivity – was to be accepted and spread abroad by men from those scattered nations of Israel who would cling to the Judaean guided by God, a description fully applicable to Paul of Tarsus. The ten men in Zechariah 8:22 are representative of the ten tribes of the northern House of Israel. In John chapter 20 we read: “27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Timothy was among those who did not see, and yet believed, as well as being one of the “lost sheep” called out of blindness and prison to be a watchmen, and enter into the Glory of the Light of Yahweh.
So Paul offers him one final admonishment:
15 You attend to these things. You must live by them, that your progress in that is evident to all [the MT has “among all”; the text follows א, A, C, and D].
The Greek phrase ἐν τούτοις ἴσθι is literally “you must be in them”, but here it is rendered idiomatically as “you must live by them”. Paul is telling Timothy that he must live by all of the precepts which have been outlined thus far in this epistle, and especially in the exercise of his body for piety by subjecting himself to the law. Living in this manner, his righteousness would be manifest to all, and doing that his teaching would have efficacy amongst men. That is how Christians become the light shining on the proverbial hill.
This we read in the 43rd Psalm: “Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man. 2 For thou art the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? 3 O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. 4 Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God. 5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”
Now Paul admonishes Timothy one last time in reference to the teaching:
16 Be committed to yourself and to the teaching. Abide in them. For doing this you will preserve both yourself and those listening to you.
As the apostle James also professed, in chapter 5 of his lone epistle: “20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” Converting a sinner from the error of his way means to admonish the sinner according to the law and encourage him to keep the law – to exercise himself for piety by subjecting his body to the law of Yahweh. As we recently said in part 16 of our presentation of Clifton Emahiser’s Special Notices to All Who Deny Two-Seedline:
This is what it means to be a Christian soldier. Putting on the armor of God we put away the deeds of the flesh, overcoming in the struggle with our fleshly lusts and carnal desires, and only then are we fit for Yahweh in the battle against His enemies. As we have stated, the war which is prophesied in Genesis 3:15 is confirmed in the Revelation in chapters 12 and 20.
To overcome our enemies, first we must overcome the lusts of our flesh, and we do that by exercising our bodies for piety, which is to conform ourselves to the laws of Yahweh our God. Without such piety, in spite of any degree of physical exercise, we will only see defeat at the hands of our enemies.