Summary: FIFTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST SEPTEMBER 16, 2001 1Timothy 1: 12-17 Title: “All Christians have a mission.”


Title: “All Christians have a mission.”

Most scholars believe that, after Paul’s death, one or more of his disciples wrote the Pastoral Epistles 1Timothy, 2Timothy and Titus. They reflect a situation described by some as “early theology of the Christian church.” By that time the church has been around for a while. The first generation of Christians has had children and grandchildren and passed on the faith to them. At least, where the Church has been established for a while the challenges have changed. Settled down somewhat, the communities are more concerned with the long haul and less concerned with the imminent Second Coming of Christ. They are more organized, functions are delineated, sacraments are more or less regularized, and internal matters, along with personal spiritual growth, have become more prominent. At least, in 1Timothy and Titus there is more space devoted to church offices bishops, presbyters, deacons and widows, than one would find in the letters of the historical Paul. Paul has become more myth than man and is honored as an example of sanctity, to be emulated and imitated, more than as a preacher to be listened to and thereby moved to conversion. For the most part, the conversions have taken place a long time ago. Now the challenge is perseverance and avoidance of false doctrines. Faith has now become the “deposit of faith,” a body of doctrines, even though faith as a personal relationship with the Lord is still central to its meaning. In the Pastoral Epistles Paul is claimed to be saying things he never would have said in his earthly lifetime. His successors use his name and teach in his place and name, much as Moses’ successors have done throughout the ages, much as the Twelve Apostles’ successors have done. The authors are not so much putting words in Paul’s mouth as they are applying his words to new situations, putting Paul’s words, if you will, in their mouths and speaking with the same authority as he. Thus, though we would prefer that ancient writers use our standards of reporting and attribution, we should not be too put off by pseudonymous writing, a practice quite common in the ancient world, not meant to deceive but to achieve respect and recognition. The Pastoral Epistles take the position “This is what Paul would say if he were alive.” Neither should we be put off if the details of his journeys as stated in the Pastoral Epistles are not exactly consistent with what we find in Acts or in Paul’s authentic letters for that matter. What God wants to reveal to us matters more than the human or literary vehicle used to convey the message.

In verse twelve, I am grateful to him who has strengthened me: In verse eleven, Paul is said to have been entrusted with the, preaching of the, gospel. He constantly went back to that starting point in his life, his conversion from persecuting Christians and his commission to preach. Constant reflection produces growing and expanding awareness of what Christ has done and is doing for him. That produces a state of constant gratitude. Paul recognizes that his powers, his effectiveness and his personal salvation are all from Christ. The historical Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter seven verse twenty-five, said as much when referring to his opinion regarding virgins. He considers himself as “one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.” “Trustworthy” there and here translates Greek pistos, which as a noun can also mean “believer.”

In appointing me to the ministry: That the Lord would forgive him his sins was one thing. That he would trust him and entrust him with anything, let alone the ministry he was doing, was quite another, a marvel really.

In verse thirteen, I was once a blasphemer…a persecutor and an arrogant man: Paul never forgot his sin and never wanted anyone else to forget it either. If remembering it, forgiving is not forgetting, made him grateful, reminding others of it would strengthen their confidence that the Lord could do the same for them.

I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief: “Ignorance” is a Lucan theme and the Pastoral Epistles are very “Luke-friendly.” Luke attributes what the people did to Jesus as a result of ignorance. It is not, however, the ignorance of not knowing at all, the inculpable kind. It is the ignorance of arrogance a hubris Paul just admitted to, choosing or preferring to ignore the data, especially lest it require a change in one’s personal life. Despite Paul’s “ignorance,” Christ called him and calls everyone, no matter his or her present spiritual condition.

In verse fourteen, the grace of our Lord has been abundant: “Lord” refers primarily to Christ without excluding inclusive reference to God as Father. “Lord” was a term originally reserved for God, in religious speech, but Christians used it for Christ to indicate his equality and identity with God. “Grace” is the same word used in verse twelve, “grateful” or “thanks,” Greek charis. This Greek word becomes in Latin c[h]aritas, “charity,” the Latin word for Christian love. Paul would know this since Latin-speaking Romans and their military and civil servants were everywhere in the Empire. “Abundant” is really “super-abundant” in the Greek. The historical Paul was fond of hyperbolizing language to describe God’s grace.

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