This is to follow up my advice to you as you remain in Ephesus, which I gave you before I went on to Macedonia, that you would instruct certain persons not to teach otherwise nor to pay attention to myths and interminable genealogies which give rise to ongoing disputes rather than to the godly housekeeping that faith requires. Now the purpose of this instruction (from you to them) is love from a pure heart, a clear conscience and a faith without any pretence, from which some, misdirected, have by senseless gibberish turned aside, wishing to be teachers of the right path, they understand neither what they are saying nor the consequences of what they so confidently assert. - I Timothy 1:3-7 (transliteration by Bruce C Wearne).

St Timothy

Timothy, depicted in this work by Edward Burne-Jones as a young man in a window at St Nicholas Church in Halewood, UK, was the recipient of Paul's letter. PICTURE:  Rodhullandemu (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

"Paul is encouraging Timothy to avoid disputations generated by those who focus upon myths and genealogies; but the instruction in this letter comes to confirm and endorse the teaching Paul has already handed to him, the teaching that Timothy is now commissioned to pass on."

Paul spells out the purpose of his letter. It is a reminder, a follow-up to what he has already advised Timothy about those who are presuming to teach by focusing upon stories and genealogies in ways that simply give rise to uncertainty and disputation.

Now, if Paul had already instructed Timothy in this way, why then, in this letter need he go into detail about these instructions? Why not simply say: “This is to follow my instructions to you at Ephesus, the instructions about proper teaching of the law!” ?

This, albeit indirectly, but still assuredly, confirms that Paul was aware that his letter, and not only its content, had a potential to assist Timothy and give him “back up” in his situation. Others would be reading this too.

His letter is to strengthen Timothy's stand against those presuming to be “teachers of the law (Torah) who understand neither what they are saying nor do they reckon with the consequences of what they are teaching". If Timothy stood in need of extra support to oppose the nonsensical legalism, this is it.

Of course, it is a personal communication but it is also couched in a way that gives Timothy ammunition, ground on which to stand against the presumptuous persons who have been ill- taught and whose teaching is merely a destabilising distraction. Paul calls their teaching of Torah nothing but senseless gibberish.

Of course, Paul is encouraging Timothy to avoid disputations generated by those who focus upon myths and genealogies; but the instruction in this letter comes to confirm and endorse the teaching Paul has already handed to him, the teaching that Timothy is now commissioned to pass on.

“Is that all?” one might ask, when the Good News is delivered. “Nothing more?” This is faith; this is the pious housekeeping rule of the Family of God. This is the public policy for citizens in God's Kingdom; this is the way of stewardship in the fields of the Lord's harvest. And the reason, Paul says, is that life in its entirety, including the issuing of these instructions, is summed up in these terms: love coming from a pure heart; going about our daily round with a clear perspective not weighed down by guilty “if onlys” and an open, transparent faith that leaves it up to the Lord to tie up all the loose ends.