I’ve just received this letter!
It’s from my “father.” Well, Paul is my spiritual father.
For quite a few years now, he’s been my mentor!
You see, I’m quite young for this job that I’m doing here in Ephesus.
(Maybe some of you have been here?)
My name is TIMOTHY!
I’m the guy “in charge” of the Church here!
Well, I shouldn’t really say “in charge,” because the set-up is actually “run” by the members: they do all the practical thgs. I just preach and teach and “care for” the people — you know, love them and pray for them and encourage them! All the thgs, a “bishop” is really meant to do!
And Paul does something like that for me! — he’s an “apostle” (big stuff, that!), but he’s also a very supportive friend to me!
Anyway — this letter! It seems to have come from Rome. Apparently, Paul is back in prison again! It’s worse this time, I believe! Not just “house arrest,” but a proper prison (chains and all that sort of thing!). Not a nice situation at all — often ill-treated and nearly always cold, lonely, and bored! I think they call it the Mamertine Prison: it’s notorious in Rome! You might call it a real “hell-hole” — a proper dungeon! (cf. Ken Bigley in Iraq …)
Before I tell you about this letter, I’d better fill you in a bit more about Paul and me. You probably know more about Paul already than you do about me — he’s FAMOUS!
So, me? I had a good spiritual background! I remember old Grandma Lois telling me stories from the Bible (I think you call it the OT). She was a godly old soul, and she had time to talk to me a lot about God. Mum was always busy about the house, but she had a very deep and real faith too! Actually, I owe a lot to my Mum (Eunice): she prayed a lot and she was always “there for me.” I think my spiritual life really began in my childhood and youth! Dad didn’t have much time for religion at all, though!
God usually lays foundations in anyone’s life long before they really get to know him! I’m sure Mother must have prayed for me (and for Dad!) every day!
But, it was when Paul came to Lystra (where we lived) that my faith really came alive and I began to understand what it means to know God in Jesus Christ! I had been trying to follow Jesus during my teenage years, but I didn’t think I was much of a disciple!
Paul must have thought I “had potential,” however, because I was asked to tag along with him and Silas for the rest of that missionary journey!
We went to all sorts of interesting places, preaching Jesus in synagogues, public halls, and in the open air. Sometimes, it was OK, but at other times it was really rough and tough — Philippi was bad: Paul and Silas were put in prison there (ref. Jailer and his family …), but I kept a low profile! I can’t remember now why I didn’t end up in jail too!
Eventually, we came here to Ephesus! Preaching the gospel here caused quite a “to do!” Really stirred the place up! AND, there was a fair-old “charismatic” to-do! All sorts of people were receiving the Holy Spirit! There was speaking in tongues and prophecy. Miracles of healing took place often; public confession and repentance as well — that was scary stuff! So was the burning of books of spells and other witchcraft paraphernalia! That caused a real “shamozzle” with the people who were into that sort of thing! Somebody worked out that all the books were thought so valuable, that, if you were to put a price on them, they’d be worth as much as someone might earn in 137 years! Well, nobody even lives that long, so they must have been priceless! But, you and I know they were all just trash anyway — and better burnt to ashes!
To cap it all, we had a riot on our hands one day! The gospel was changing so many lives that the trade in little silver “idols” was evidently suffering what some people might call “an economic downturn!” Poor “Diana of the Ephesians” (their so-called “god”) was losing her popularity — big time!”
The city clerk eventually managed to put a stop to the rioting. We said good-bye to the Christians and moved on to Macedonia. I seem to remember that I kept thinking, as we travelled, about how the gospel has public and political implications and isn’t just about individuals “turning to the Lord.”
But that was all some years ago. What’s church life like here now? HARD! I find it a struggle most of the time! I don’t think I’m alone either! I heard at the “clergy conference” the other day that some people are actually afraid that the Church as a whole is on the way out! Certainly, as someone said, “from a human point-of-view, Xty is trembling on the verge of annihilation.” Those were his exact words! Maybe we need to make some changes?! More comfortable chairs perhaps? A new liturgy maybe? Or, perhaps our message has lost its appeal? Need to make it more “acceptable,” do you think?
Anyway, about Paul! I had a letter last year too! Or, it might have been a couple of years ago. I’ve been pretty busy and haven’t seen it recently. Must be somewhere I suppose. The vestry gets pretty cluttered with so many different people messing about with parchments and scrolls in there! But, I did read it out to the congregation at the time — much more interesting than all those “notices” they sometimes have to put up with! They certainly got his point: well quite a lot of points actually! Mostly to do with sorting ourselves out as a church! Especially, dealing with the spiritual threats and false teaching that had wormed their way in! Gnostics … Jewish bigots … (cf. 1 Tim 1: 3-11).
What’s he got to say this time? Oh well, it’s shorter than the last one anyway! Dear old Paul; bless him!
Actually, he is VERY dear to me!
When we last saw each other, I cried as we parted — real tears! I honestly thought I might not see him again. It looks as though I may be right too.
I had a quick look through this letter before I came today, and he seems to fear the worst! Well, he doesn’t put it like that! Death is by no means the end for him! Or, for me! Or, for you! Paul says something about the Lord “bringing (him) safely to his heavenly kingdom.”
Isn’t that wonderful for us who know Jesus, just like Paul does?!
(Not that I had any kind of Damascus Road experience! Maybe you didn’t either.) I just know it all “fell into place” for me when Paul came to Lystra: I suppose that was my “Alpha Course” really. Now I’m on “Delta,” I think — still a long way for me to go!
Good old Paul seems to be writing to encourage me again! He really has a passion for the gospel — and he prays for me a lot. I’m really grateful for THAT! It’s wonderful to know that people are praying for you when you are a preacher and teacher of the gospel! Gives you confidence and helps you to work harder too.
I see he’s been reminiscing again. Maybe, it’s his advancing years!
But, I think that’s why he so often begins his letters with thankfulness to God for sth. or other — usually for his goodness and faithfulness in some way or other! This time, it’s about me! My spiritual inheritance and my own personal faith — “sincere faith,” he calls it. He’s right: it is “sincere” and it gets firmer every day: “I know whom I have believed!”
I do get weary, though, with all the preaching I have to do: I sometimes wonder if God really did call me to this — I am young for the job, I’m pretty reserved by nature, and I’m certainly not a physically impressive specimen of humanity!
I guess the “fire in my belly” does burn a bit low at times.
No wonder, then, that Paul says “fan the flame!” That’s surely a word from the Lord!
Oh, and, “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power… and love… and self-discipline!” Get a grip, Timothy! Remember, it was GOD who commissioned you when Paul laid hands on you at your “ordination.” He does use the most unlikely people, doesn’t he? Even me! Even you?
My great friend and mentor Paul doesn’t just encourage when he writes his letters to people like me.
He gives his orders too! — No messing about: this is what you need to do, young Timothy!
1, 2, 3, 4 — no flannel, just unequivocal instructions!
Some people complain about Paul, but I like his approach — straight talking, and very much to the point! You know just where you are!
So, here they are:- 1, 2, 3, 4
1. “Do not be ashamed …” (v. 8)
: “to testify to our Lord” — preaching the gospel! What
a gospel we have! He loves to keep on “re-
telling” it — he does it again here!
Listen … (vv. 9,10 q.v.)
: “or of me, his prisoner”
Would I? No! I respect and love him for it! He’s almost proud of his chains, and so am I!
2. “Join with me in suffering for the gospel …” (v. 8)
: I don’t know whether I could stand prison, but I have already discovered that preaching the gospel always seems to bring suffering for the faithful preacher — mostly emotional and spiritual hurt. Some people can be very cruel — really put the knife in!
3. “Keep the pattern of sound teaching …” (v. 13)
: “what you heard from me” — it’s Paul’s stuff that is to continue to be my model! I’ve to keep on preaching the one message — no deviation, distortion or dilution of the gospel. Some people have gone down the wrong road here: they’ve made Paul very sad! And, they’ve even deserted Jesus and gone with the world’s ways — Demas apparently has done just that! Who would ever have thought it of someone like him? He was really committed not so long ago. (Must remember to pray for him!)
4. “Guard the good deposit …” (v. 14)
: he wants me to protect the gospel — that’s a tall order! Me? Timorous Tim? That’s a job that needs real guts and strength!
Oh, but he says, “with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us!” That’ll do for me!
And, I see he says earlier that “God is able to guard what he has entrusted to us.”
Actually, it’s a bit “smudged” here, but I’m sure what he means is that the gospel will never be “lost” — it’s God himself who guarantees to preserve it! We have to preach it and be faithful to the gospel and never let it go — but the Lord still has his hands on it! Just as well, I say!
Bless you, Paul. You’ve done it again! Called us back to our spiritual roots! If they do kill you soon, nobody can say you weren’t full of love and care for the gospel, for the name of Jesus and for his people — right to the very end! Thanks! I’ll keep reading you letter in my prayer-time!