Sunday, June 12, 2011

1 Timothy: It's All About Grace, Not Rules!

We set up rules for our children to protect and teach them, but we want to have a loving relationship with them rather than a legalistic, command-and-control relationship. Sometimes we are happy to have them do as we say no matter the reason, but mostly we want them to do what we ask because they love and respect us as parents and as people. When our kids are in their 30s and 40s, we don't want them to come and visit us twice a year, just to stay in the will.

God's desire for us in much the same. He is not first, and foremost a “rule maker,” although he has given us rules to obey (the Law). He would much rather we love and respect him and as a result, do the things that please him. He doesn't want us to come to church once a week just to keep our place in Heaven.

The letters to Timothy and Titus are known as the pastoral letters because in them Paul is offering advice to two young pastors on how to lead their churches. I think the messages Paul gives are also useful for us to hear as parents and friends as well.

In 1 Timothy 1:3–11, Paul warns Timothy about those in the church at Ephesus who were preaching a false message of the Law. They wanted people to believe that God required everyone to follow a long list of rules. Many of the rules were ones they had made up themselves. Paul wants Timothy to make sure the people know the truth about God. How very true this is for us today as well. We are quick to make up rules for others to follow if they want to be "in the group." In the end, the rules serve only to destroy the very thing we thought we were trying to protect.

Paul then goes on in 1 Timothy 1:12–20 to talk about his own relationship with God and the Law. Paul had nothing to boast about in terms of his “credentials” as a Christian. He was anything but what most people would consider a model of a believer. He sums up the reason for telling Timothy all this in verses 15-16,

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life." 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NIV)
This is good news for all of us! If God can save Paul, then he can save anyone...including me. It is good that God is not a rule maker, because if he were, I wouldn't have a chance.