“The Identity of the Church” 1 Timothy 1:12-17


The Household of God

1 Timothy 1:12-17


John Dillinger, Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Lester Joseph Gillis (also known as “Baby Face” Nelson), & Alvin Karpis. 

What do they all have in common? They are the only 4 individuals in history given the designation “Public Enemy No. 1” by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That title was created by the Director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover and was first applied to John Dillinger in 1934. When Dillinger was killed, the title passed to Floyd. “Baby Face” Nelson inherited the title when Floyd was killed, and so on until Karpis, the last to hold the infamous title, was captured on May 1st, 1936.

Public Enemy Number One was retired when the FBI created their Top 10 Most Wanted List, but to this day, the term is synonymous with the most hardened criminals in American history. It signifies someone who stooped to the lowest rungs of human behavior imaginable, someone virtually irredeemable, worthy of being executed on sight.

Which leads me to ask a question: is there anyone so bad they are beyond of redemption; anyone so degraded, there is no hope for them? And, who in human history holds the title of Public Enemy Number One? The worst of the worst? 

I imagine that, for most of us, Adolf Hitler comes to mind; or perhaps Joseph Stalin. World War II still looms large in our memory. History buffs in the room might name Vlad III, known as The Impaler, or perhaps Timur, the Mongol Emperor who is believed to have killed 5% of the world’s population during his reign.

Well, in the passage we are studying today, the Apostle Paul tells us who the worst of the worst is. He names the Public Enemy Number One. This individual wasn’t a king or emperor. He wasn’t even a warrior. Technically, this person never murdered anyone, though he certainly made threats of murder.

In fact, this person that Paul names was incredibly religious. He kept the 10 Commandments. He memorized great portions of the Hebrew Scriptures. He gave to the poor, prayed constantly, observed the Sabbath, and honored his father and mother.

Who is this person that Paul labels as Public Enemy Number One? It is, himself, of course. 


If you have a copy of the Scriptures begin turning to 1 Timothy 1.

You’ll remember that Paul wrote this letter as he was preparing for his fourth and final missionary journey. He’s heading to Spain, so he assigned Timothy, his disciple, to remain with the church at Ephesus.

The letter began with a charge to Timothy to not allow anyone to teach speculative and distracting doctrines. Later in the letter we’ll see Paul warn Timothy about some specific trouble-makers by name. 

In other words, Timothy was left in Ephesus, not to float down the stream, but to swim against the current. The difficulty of Timothy’s assignment is compounded by the fact that the false teachers are most likely elders within the church, not critics on the outside. When you read Paul’s words in Acts 20 you realize Paul suspected a few elders to go sideways.

So, here’s Timothy. A younger man. He doesn’t have the experience or the resume of Paul, assigned to instruct the church and challenge false teachers in Ephesus—some of which are likely elders who are older than him and have more influence. This won’t be easy. In fact, Timothy will likely doubt whether anything can be done to change these false teachers.

And that’s exactly why Paul stops dead in the center of his charge to Timothy to take a diversion. He reminds Timothy, in these 6 verses of the story of his own conversion—from being a stubborn, hard-hearted man, to loving and even building up the church for the sake of Jesus.

The headline of this passage, is that if Jesus is strong enough to transform a man like Paul, the chief of sinners, then there is hope for Timothy’s assignment as well.

So, let’s read 1 Timothy 1:12-17


12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.


Notice that Paul begins and ends this section with praise to God. Verse 12:

12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord,

Verse 17:

17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

All of Paul’s testimony is bound be thanksgiving and adoration. Paul knows he was made right with God by God’s grace in Christ. He knows that his commission as an apostle wasn’t earned, it was gifted. So all of his conversion story is wrapped in praise and gratitude.

He tells us in verse 12 that Jesus is the one who put him to service. He says that Christ anointed him. It reminds us of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9. Saul, as he was known among the Jews, was arresting Christians and having some of them stoned to death. 

He was on his way to the city of Damascus to raise a persecution there when he was confronted by the resurrected Christ on the road, blinded, and subsequently healed and was converted to faith in Christ.

Again we’re reminded that this was all of sheer grace. Paul says this took place: 

13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.

  • “Blasphemer” – He had denied the risen Christ.
  • “a persecutor” – Because Paul denied Christ, he persecuted Christ’s church. You can go back to Acts and read about how the young man, Saul, threatened the church and imprisoned Christians.
  • “insolent opponent” it’s a tricky word to translate—but the root word is the word from which we get hubris. In other words, Paul says, “I was filled with self-confidence to the point of insolence.”

Eugene Peterson paraphrases Paul here by saying:

The only credentials I brought to it were invective and witch hunts and arrogance.

Thankfully, God didn’t treat God according to Paul’s sins, but according to the riches of his grace:

But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Friend’s it’s a reminder those who sin in ignorance are just as guilty as those who sin presumptuously and with a high hand.

When I was being interviewed for the office of Pastor here I remember David Grose who was on the search team meeting with me to discuss the role. At the end of our conversation he mention he’d looked up my traffic record and had seen that one time I was going 60 miles an hour in a 35 zone.

First, I realized that David somehow knows everything about everybody. But second, I explained to him that was coming home from dinner w a college professor on a highway I had never been on. The speed limit going up a hill was 55 MPH and just over the crest it changed to 35 miles an hour. 

I was pulled over, and even though I was ignorant of the speed limit, I was over it. I was guilty, and the officer wrote me a ticket.

Friend, you don’t have to know all of God’s commands to be guilty of breaking them. You won’t be able to plead ignorance on the day of judgment.

Christian, there are plenty of sins you are currently ignorant of. Sin blinds us. Sin doesn’t want to be found out. This is why it’s imperative for us to constantly read God’s Word—so we can tune our heart and behaviors to the notes of his law. The more we read and meditate on the Word of God, the more our eyes are adjusted to see sin for what it truly is.

Thankfully, for Paul and for us, God’s mercy is available to both high handed sinners and ignorant sinners alike. Paul says God’s grace overflowed in Christ. Some translations read “grace was poured out.” The image is that of hot water and soap being thrown on a dirty floor, washing away the grime.

15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

This verse is the dead center of the passage, thematically. It’s the focal point. It’s likely that Paul is quoting a common catechism statement the early church used to shape the minds of new Christians.

So, when you converted, you were taught this trustworthy saying: “Christ Jesus came into the word to save sinners.”

And then Paul adds this little clause: of whom I am the foremost.

If you’re reading the KJV Paul says, “I’m the chief of sinners.” Some translations say, “The worst of sinners.” The Greek word there is the word protos, and it means, “the first.” 

So, Paul is saying, when it comes to sinners, I’m the first, or I’m at the head of the line. Of all the sinners in the world, I’m the worst. We’ll come back to that.

16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

Why was Paul saved? He was saved to be an example. God saved the worst sinner to prove that he can save anyone. His grace can reach anyone. God saves sinners to show how patient he is.

Finally, in verse 17, Paul offers this declaration of praise:

17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Amen! I love that. He ends with an Amen. It sounds like the end of the letter, then Paul picks back up his charge to Timothy.

I want you to see that Paul sharing his story isn’t a tangent. He wasn’t pulled by accident on to a different track. Paul intentionally inserts the story of his own miraculous, grace-filled, supernatural experience of mercy right here for some very important reasons:


God Can Save Anyone

First, God can save anyone. There is not a single person on the face of the planet that is beyond the reach of God’s grace. When we think we’ve found someone who is too far gone, too lost in their sin to ever find redemption, Paul shouts at us: “Look at me. I’m the chief of sinners, and God rescued me.”

Now, when people hear Paul say this about himself they think one of two things: either Paul’s putting on a religious show, or he really believes this and that’s morbid and unhelpful.

Let me explain: some people hear Paul say, “I’m the worst sinner who ever lived,” and they think, “Ok, I’ve heard this before. This is just religious, pious, showboating. Paul knows he’s not the worst guy out there, but he’s trying to be humble.”

Others hear this about Paul calling himself the worst of sinners and they recoil because it contradicts our modern sensibilities. We live in a culture that says, “People are basically good. What people really need is self-esteem. They need to think better of themselves and embrace themselves, and anyone who tells them they’re wrong is wrong.”

But listen—Paul really believed this about himself—this isn’t pious showboating—and he wants us to see that instead of harming us, this kind of self-designation—to see yourself as the worst of sinners—is actually the first step to true life and joy.

First, Paul really thought this about himself. He isn’t grandstanding. 

In Ephesians 3:8, another letter by Paul he says that God’s grace was given to him… “those I am the very least of all the saints.”

And in 1 Corinthians 15:9 Paul says that Christ appear to him, as to one untimely born, for I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle.

Now listen… three times in three different letters Paul makes basically the same claim. This isn’t grandstanding, this isn’t pious faux humility. Paul had thought this out and really considered himself the chief of sinners.

Second, even though this strikes against our modern sensibilities, Paul’s showing us the way to true joy and peace. It doesn’t come by telling ourselves how good we are. True joy and peace only come as we own up to our sin and need of God’s mercy.

You say, “Does that mean we should all walk around self-flagellating, and wallowing in our guilt?” No, but it does mean that we’ll never find joy until we’re honest. We’ll never find rest and peace and pardon until we confess.

Albert Camus was a French intellectual and playwright. And after WWII he was invited to lecture at Columbia University. His title of his lecture was The Human Crisis. He was trying to look at all of the evil and bloodshed, all the absence of humanity during the War and figure out, “How did all of this happen?” And he realized that even though there were some particularly evil leaders, men like Hitler, Moussolini & Stalin, you couldn’t assign sole responsibility of all that happened on a few individuals. And here’s what he said:

“It is too easy in this matter to simply accuse Hitler and to say, “Since the beast is dead, it’s venom is gone.” We know perfectly well that the venom is not gone, that each of us carries it in our own hearts.”[1]

Now, did Camus mean that all of us have done what Hitler did? No. He’s saying that given the right circumstances, the potential to be a Hitler lives in us all. He’s saying you can’t explain the evil and suffering of this world by pinning it to one or two people. 

You see, in a sense, we’re all the chief of sinners. And if you say you aren’t… if you say you have no sin, then you are deceiving yourself.

Friend, have you been honest with yourself? Have you owned up to your own faults, your own failures, your own sins? If you will humble yourself and uncover all your sins to God, in his mercy, he will cover all your sins in Christ.

Paul was a blasphemer, a persecutor of the church, and he received mercy—overflowing! There is no one beyond God’s reach. 

Christian—is there a family member who doesn’t know Christ? Who doesn’t walk with him in love and obedience? Have you begun to lose hope for their salvation? 

They are not too far gone for Jesus to bring them back. Though their sins are red as crimson—Jesus can wash them white as snow.

Do not grow weary in praying for them. Do not grow weary in doing good to them, in being patient with them. Endure! Pray! Wait on the Lord. 

Pray that holy conviction will fall on them. Pray God will make them restless until they rest in the arms of the risen Christ. 

God can save anyone! Paul is exhibit A.

This passage also teaches us that:

We Must Learn Patience With One Another

In verse 16 Paul writes:

16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

Jesus shows his patience to the world by saving sinners. When God saved Paul, people stopped and stared. Their jaws hit the floor. The man who held the coats of those who stoned the martyr Stephen was now preaching and planting churches. 

And now Timothy is faced with some difficult personalities. And as much as Timothy, in his flesh, would love to run over those who present opposition—the truth is that God desired to redeem some of them—and Timothy would need to wait patiently. He would stand firm on his principles, he wouldn’t alter his teaching—but he could not lead the church as an over-bearing ham-fisted boss. 

Friend—how patient our God is. How longsuffering he was to Paul. He constantly threatened the church. God had a thousand reasons to pour down judgement—but instead he overflowed with grace.

And the same is true with you and me. As we live together as members of LWBC, we’ll find plenty of reasons to judge, criticize, and even condemn. And while there are sins that must be confronted—confessed—and corrected—along the way we’ll find a thousand ways to show the same patience to one another that Jesus showed to us.

I wonder how patient you are with your brothers and sisters here? When someone says something that rubs you the wrong way—do you choose to believe the best about them or the worst? Are you quick to overlook small offenses, or do you fan small sparks into large flames?

By God’s grace our church has a mixture of Christians who have followed Christ for decades, and others for weeks. Those of you who came to Christ years ago—are you walking patiently with those who are new to the faith? Are you praying for them, considering how difficult it is to follow Christ in this world today?

How patient are you with your family members? Oftentimes we show greater patience with people we don’t know than we do our own spouses, children, or even friends. 

Spurgeon once said we’ll never grow weary of waiting on God if we remember how long and how graciously he once waited on us.

And as God has been to us, so we ought to be with one another. Friend—the pathway of patience is remembering the patience of your heavenly Father.

What patience would wait as we constantly roam?

What Father so tender is calling us home?

He welcomes the weakest, the vilest the poor.

Our sins they are many his mercy is more.

Finally… this passage teaches us to:


Look back at verse 15:

15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners

Friends—don’t over complicate your explanation of the Gospel. Paul was able to whittle it down to 9 words. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Yes… there’s a lot to learn in the Bible. Yes there are plenty of doctrines into which you can dive deep.

But the gospel itself is quite simple. God is holy. We are sinful. Christ Jesus came to save sinners by living obediently and dying as our substitute. We receive God’s pardon by confessing our sin and putting our faith in Christ.

When John and Charles Wesley began the Weslyan movement at Oxford they were scholars—professors of the university. They had all kinds of knowledge. They formed groups of people to study the Bible and pray. They were going deep—but one by one they realized that they didn’t have a true relationship with the risen Christ.

William Holland, one of their friends, was converted as Charles Wesley was reading from Luther’s commentary on Galatians to the group. Here’s how he records his own conversion:

“Mr. Charles Wesley read the Preface aloud. At the words, ‘What, have we then nothing to do? No! nothing but only accept of Him, “Who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption”‘, there came such a power over me as I cannot well describe; my great burden fell off in an instant; my heart was so filled with peace and love that I burst into tears. I almost thought I saw our Savior! My companions, perceiving me so affected, fell on their knees and prayed. When I afterwards went into the street, I could scarcely feel the ground I trod upon.”

Do you see how simple this was? I realized that the only thing I needed was to accept Christ who God had given to me as wisdom righteousness and redemption. No works could save me—only receiving the offer of Christ.

Phil Thompson, one of my best friends and a man who served this church for years used to say to me all the time: Jonathan—it’s simple… And it is. It’s simple.

Parents & Sunday School Teachers—teach the gospel to your children in 9 words: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

Explain the gospel to your classes simply. And teachers—tell kids they need to confess their sin and trust Jesus—but don’t pressure them. Tell children that our sins can be forgiven when we confess and believe in Jesus. Then watch—wait patiently—let the Holy Spirit draw them in his time. Listen—if they belong to Jesus—they can’t get away from him!!!

When your neighbor asks you about your faith—don’t over complicate the basic message of Christ—“I believe that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and that without him I’d never find God.” Then let them ask questions. Ask them what they think about that. They don’t need a master class on Leviticus to trust in Jesus.

Somehow, when the Father sent the Son into the world, the infinite Son of God was able to become a finite human. And in the same way—the message of all that God is doing to redeem fallen creation can be summed up in 9 words: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

Friend—we are not born in a state of probation. We don’t get a 70-year trial with God to prove our worthiness. If you are saved, you are saved, and if you are not then you are lost. You are forgiven, or else you are condemned already. 

If you would know whether Christ came to save you, you only need one qualification—are you a sinner? The text does not say that Jesus came to save those who are trying hard. The text does not say that God helps those who help themselves. The text gives one qualification—that you be a sinner. And if you will confess tha1       t you are a sinner in need of a savior, then you are a candidate for saving grace.

The only way to be saved is to be disconnected from all your self-hope and self-confidence and to throw yourself completely upon Christ. And if you do—grace will overflow from the King of the ages.

A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,

On Christ’s kind arms I fall.

Be thou my strength and righteousness,

My Jesus and my all.

Pray with me.

[1] Albert Camus, “The Human Crisis” (Columbia U 1946)

“The Doctrine of the Church” 1 Timothy 1:3-11


The Household of God

1 Timothy 1:3-11


As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. 

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. 


If a man with a broken arm and a woman having a heart attack both walk into the emergency room at the same time which one gets treated first? Obviously, the person with the life-threatening emergency gets preferential treatment. This method for assigning urgency to patients based on their conditions is called triage. 

It’s the assignment of degrees of urgency and importance to wounds or illness to decide which order patients ought to be seen.

Modern triage was developed by doctors during the Napoleonic Wars. They realized that in a battlefield of 200 casualties… some are likely to live regardless of what care they receive; others are unlikely to live regardless of the care they receive; and for some—immediate care can make the difference between life and death.

In other words, all medical issues matter—but they do not all matter equally. Some are critical and urgent—and it’s imperative that battlefield medics are able to quickly identify which wounds qualify for instant action.

The same can be said of doctrine, or the established truths that the church teaches. All doctrine matters—but some doctrines matter most. To put it another way, some doctrines are a matter of eternal life and death. Less important are those doctrines that mean the difference between Baptist and Anglican. And even less important than that are the doctrines that debate the end times.

Just like we prioritize heart attacks over broken arms, the church must learn to prioritize and focus on those doctrines which are most crucial to our mission, or love for others, and our obedience to Christ.


The Apostle Paul had established churches throughout the Roman empire in 3 successive missionary journeys. At the end of the third mission trip he was arrested and he appealed to Caesar. After being released from prison in Rome he prepared for his 4th missionary journey—a trip that would take him all the way to Spain.

He would be leaving behind the familiar—Jerusalem and the Apostles; the churches he planted and spent years instructing. This trip would take him to the edge of the map—and therefore—he left younger ministers, Timothy in Ephesus & Titus in Crete, to encourage and instruct those churches. 

Paul understood how much these churches needed strong, mature, and balanced leaders. In fact, when Paul left the church in Ephesus at the end of his 3rd missionary journey, he gathered the Elders of that church together and gave them this warning in Acts 20:28:

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

When Paul gets to Spain, he won’t be able to keep tabs on the church in Ephesus. Letters will take months to get to him. He needs someone he can trust to make sure the church remains faithful and steadfast in the work of the gospel. So, he writes these words to Timothy, beginning in chapter 1:3

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine

And if you turn over quickly to 3:14… Paul writes…

14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

That’s actually the title I chose for the sermon series: The Household of God. How are we to conduct ourselves? How are we to live as the church? 

Paul’s first instruction to Timothy is to confront false teachers in Ephesus. “Charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.” Timothy is to teach what accords with what Paul calls “sound doctrine.” His teaching ought to produce soundness, or health within the church… and in this passage Paul actually gives us three signs of church health. They aren’t the only signs of church health—but they are crucial. 

What are the three healthy results of a focus on sound doctrine? They are:




So, first, let’s see that…Sound Doctrine Produces:


A focus on sound doctrine gets the church on mission.

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.

Notice the firmness of Paul’s words: I urge you… charge them not to teach any different doctrine. Those words: any different doctrine are actually one word in the Greek—and it’s a word that means teaching something that deviated from the standard.

Here’s what that means: in the earliest years of the church there was an established standard of teaching for the church. There was a rule of faith that pastor and Christan’s were not to wander from. This core set of teachings didn’t develop over centuries—but over months and years—within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses of Christ.

As you read the New Testament you realize there are complex and organized norms in place immediately. For instance:

1. In Acts 15 James is a moderator in the church.

2. A record was kept of members being added. (Acts 2)

3. Sunday becomes the regular day of corporate worship. (Heb. 10:25, 1Corinthians 16:2, Acts 20:7)

4. The church met both in homes and publicly suggesting a high degree of coordination.

5. They held regular called prayer meetings (Acts 2.42, 12.5)

6. They held regular called observances of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2.42, 46)

7. They exercised church discipline, sometimes by vote from the membership (1 Cor. 5:4, 2 Cor. 2:6)

8. They collected and dispersed money for both the poor and mission efforts.

9. Paul commanded all things be done in decency and order. This presupposes a structure by which order could be measured. (1 Cor. 14.40)

10. Deacons have a simple beginning recorded in Acts 6. The office is more fully developed by the time Paul writes 1 Timothy.

11. And, most importantly, there is a hierarchy of doctrines that ought to be taught:

1 Corinthians 15:3

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

The false teachers in Ephesus, presumably elders in the church who turned out to be immature in the faith, are teaching myths and genealogies which promote speculation. We don’t know the exact content of those teachings. It sounds like they were focusing on obscure details in OT genealogies. But regardless of the content of the teaching… we see the result: speculations. Guessing, theories & conjectures. They weren’t teaching the clear major doctrines of the Scriptures. They were consumed with obscurities.

Instead, the teaching of the church ought to focus the church on what Paul calls “the stewardship from God that is by faith.” 

That word stewardship is a word Paul uses several times in his letter to refer to the work of proclaiming Christ to non-believers and planting churches. It’s a synonym Paul uses for mission work.

Sound doctrine gets the church on mission. It focuses on the main storyline of the Bible and doesn’t get lost in subplots. My dad used to tell me, “Son, don’t minor on the majors, and major on the minors.”

The major story line of the Bible is that the Holy God, who will judge sinners, is also a God of mercy who has provided a way for sinners to be cleansed. He sent his only Son to live a holy life and receive the punishment for our sin in his death. And now, he is sending his church into all the world as his messengers of grace.

Does the Bible contain more truths than that? Of course! Should we study those other truths? Yes! Should we become so focused on the details that we lose the big picture? No.

Friends, we have a stewardship. God, as the master, has given to the church, as his servants, a weighty task. We are to preach the gospel to every creature. We are to teach the nations obedience to everything Christ has commanded. This is the Great Commission. In fact, it’s this month’s memory verse in our children’s ministry.

If you are a teacher at LWBC, let me exhort you—your teaching ought to direct people towards the mission of God to save sinners in Christ. It ought not divert people into endless speculations. You have a stewardship, and you will give account to the master. 

A pastor in another church called me and told me of a young lady in his church who recently trusted Christ and was baptized. Within one week another Christian in the church gave her a book explaining why women ought to wear head coverings. He asked me what he ought to do.

I said you need to ask her for the book and toss it, and you need to have a loving but firm conversation with the church member who gave her the book explaining why it was inappropriate.

Why? Because here was a new believer who needs to learn to read her Bible, pray, and worship getting sucked into a speculative obscure topic by an immature Christian.

Friends—there is nothing wrong at all with a lively debate on the end times. There is something tragically misguided about a church, or a pastor, or a Christian who only wants to talk about their theories on the end times.

Beware pastors who have a new book out on the end times every year. Beware Christians who are only interested in speculative theology. Beware churches that elevate minor doctrines into major prominence, while ignoring the headline of the Bible: that God is on mission to save sinners in Christ.

Sound Doctrine Produces a Missional Mindset.

Sound Doctrine Produces:


A focus on sound doctrine produces a transformational love. Or, put negatively: a lack of love is a sign of bad doctrine.

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 

As one commentator put it: this is a major point of contact between Paul and Jesus, as Jesus said of the commands to love God and neighbor, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”

Paul uses the word “charge” again. What’s the aim of doctrine? What’s the aim of our teaching? To produce love. But not just any love—this is the kind of love that only comes from a gospel-transformed life. The kind of love that is shaped by the gospels itself.

First, he says this love results from a pure heart. 

When we hear the words pure heart we may be tempted to imagine someone like Snow White. An innocent girl with perfect complexion who sings to birds and never says a cross word.

That’s not the type of person Paul is describing. Pure heart means someone who, though they be dreadfully sinful, has been cleansed and made pure through Christ.

Look down a few verses at Paul’s own description of himself in verse 13:

13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

To have a pure heart means that your sins have been pardoned in Christ.

Second he says this love results from a good conscience.

I hate to go back to animated movies, but again, we may be tempted to relate our conscience to a talking cricket named Jiminy. Or maybe you think of conscience like the old Looney Tunes episodes when an angel and demon would appear on a character’s shoulders. One enticing him, the other tempting him.

Biblically speaking, conscience is your own internal consciousness of what is right and what is wrong. It is also an internal gauge making you aware of your own guilt or innocence.

And in this case, Paul is saying a good conscience is one that is clear—one that has been cleared by God. You’re no longer worried that your sins will condemn you. You’re free because God has forgiven you.

Third, this love results from sincere faith.

Elsewhere Paul says we are saved BY grace through FAITH in Christ. Our faith does not save us—faith is the instrument by which we take hold of Christ who saves us.

Let me put it more simply: how do you receive a pure heart? How do you get a clear conscience? You’ll never do it through your own efforts. You will only receive it by faith in what Jesus Christ has done.

And listen… when you understand that you are saved through faith in Christ any not by your own moral striving… you begin to relate to other people differently. Sound doctrine produces transformed love for others:

When you realize you have no claim on God, you stop boasting. When you believe that you’re saved by grace, you lose every reason to feel superior to anyone. When you know that you’ve only earned hell… you can look at everything else as a gift, and therefore live more generously. When your conscience is free from guilt you can stop making comparisons to make yourself appear better than you are.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

Notice, Paul did not say that if I have not love, I am less. He said, if I have not love, I am nothing.

Friend, if the doctrines you are focused on are not making you more gracious, sympathetic, patient, longsuffering, joyous, and faithful… then your doctrine is a clanging cymbal.

Brennan Manning said this:

The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift. All that is good is ours, not by right, but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. While there is much we may have earned—our degree, our salary, our home and garden… and a good night’s sleep—all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift. “If we but turn to God,” said St. Augustine, “that itself is a gift of God.” My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.

So, sound doctrine gets the church on mission…

It produces transformed love.


Sound Doctrine Produces:


A focus on sound doctrine teaches us to obey God with the right motivations. Look at verse 6:

Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,

By swerving from sound doctrine, the church swerves from missions and love and heads straight into vain and profitless discussion.

desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

Now let me ask a question: is it wrong to want to teach God’s word?  No. That’s a good desire. But when Paul says they desired to be teachers of the law—he isn’t talking about a good desire to help people know the Old Testament. He’s saying these teachers desired to be treated like Rabbis—they wanted to the respect and the attention that the Rabbinic teachers of the law received.

The problem was that they didn’t understand how the law operated—and Paul, like a good teacher, takes a rabbit trail to explain to us how the law is to function. And, to be clear, when we refer to the law here we’re referring primarily to the commands God gave in the Old Testament through Moses. Verse 8:

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane,

Why do we need speed limits? Because some people, we won’t name names, have a lead foot on the accelerator. Why do we need boundaries and borders? Because there are trespassers.

Paul says that God gave the law to Moses not so that we could justify ourselves through our own moral excellence. No! The law was given to show us our own moral failures. The law was given to make us aware of God’s holy standard and our inability to meet it.

Who is the law for? It’s…

for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 

Let me summarize what Paul is saying here: the law is for all of us, for all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard. Whether you’re guilty of murder, or perjury… sexual immorality or lying, enslaving someone or stealing from the office.

For centuries, the church has taught that the law serves three purposes—or can be used in 3 ways:

First, there is the restraining use of the law—the law restrains evil in the world. The threat of punishment restrains evil doers.

Second, there is the condemning use of the law—the law reveals our sin and need.

Third, there is the sanctifying use—the law instructs Christians in how to love and serve one another as we obey God.

In this passage, Paul is illustrating the second use: The law levels us all as guilty—it condemns us. As Martin Luther said:

The law… is a mighty “hammer” to crush the self-righteousness of human beings. For “it shows them their sin, so that by the recognition of sin they may be humbled, frightened, and worn down, and so may long for grace and for the Blessed Offspring [Christ].”

Proper teaching of the law of Moses ought to lead you to an awareness of your guilt and your need of Christ. The goal of that list isn’t to point out any one sin in particular as especially offensive, but rather to point out that all have fallen into sin and all need redemption that can only be found in Christ.

When we teach on the law and sin, we do so as an entry point for the gospel of grace. 

Gresham Machen once wrote:

What I need first of all is not exhortation but a gospel, not directions for saving myself but knowledge of how God has saved me. Have you any good news for me? That is the question that I ask of you. I know your exhortations will not help me. But if anything has been done to save me, will you not tell me the facts?

The good news of the gospel is that Jesus died 

for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 

Friends, he even died for self-righteous Christians. 

The doctrine that we need most desperately isn’t doctrine that puffs us up… instead we need doctrine that humbles us, points us to Christ, causes us to love others and ultimately— sends us out to the unreached of the world with the grace and mercy of God.

“Introducing 1 Timothy” 1 Timothy 1:1-2


The Household of God

Sermons from 1 Timothy

1 Timothy 1:1-2


Today we are beginning a sermon series through Paul’s first letter to a young man named Timothy. Each week I’ll stand here and pick up were the text left off last time. We’re going to slow the pace a little for this series. We’ll be in 1 Timothy for about 17 weeks. 

If you’re relatively new to LWBC, let me explain how the teaching works here. Sunday morning worship is dedicated to what we call expositional preaching. We preach systematically through the Bible. And we vary the pace. Sometimes we preach through books a chapter a week, sometimes a few verses a week. The word, expositional, speaks to the fact that we’re trying to expose the meaning the original author of the text intended. 

So, each week, I don’t come up with an idea that I think I ought to preach. Instead, I begin with the Scriptures. I go to the next text in the book we are in to see what it says. And then I commit to preaching whatever it says as authoritative for us.

Why do we do it that way? I’m glad you asked.

1. Preaching through a Book of the Bible will help you learn to read it for yourself. If you will commit to being here and making the worship gathering each week a priority in your life you will grow in your own ability to read and study and relish God’s Word, that you won’t get if I just jump around from text to text. You need to be a self-feeder. I’m telling you that as a your pastor. You are responsible for your spiritual growth. I am responsible, and this church is responsible to give you tools to help you, not to spoon feed you.

2. The second reason we’re preaching through books is because it gives me great confidence.God’s Word is authoritative, my word isn’t. So expositional preaching says—the authority in this church is with the Word of God.

3. It forces the preacher to preach delicate texts. If you don’t preach through the books of the Bible you can choose to avoid tough passages in the Bible. For instance, this study one of the topics we’ll address is whether or not women are to teach men within the church. You’ll have to come in later weeks when we get there.

4. In preaching these delicate texts, we’re cultivating humility. We don’t stand over the texts as arbiters of what is true. This means that while the Word of God will comfort us, it will also challenge us.  

5. It allows the church to systematically hear the whole counsel of God’s Word preached. What Lake Wylie Baptist needs, what I need, what you need is to bring all of the Word of God to bear on our life. We need the totality of this book to weigh on us.

When Lake Wylie Baptist called me to preach in May of 2016, the search team was clear: their conviction was to call a pastor who would preach the Word without compromise.

And it is my conviction to do the same. I pray that you will stay with us for the years to come, as we faithfully open this Word every week, trust what it says, allow it to break us open and build us up and I can’t wait to see what that kind of faithfulness of the course of 30 years brings to our church and our city.

So, let’s begin. First let’s introduce Paul the author and Timothy, the recipient. Look back at verse 1:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,

Who was Paul?

If you’re new to church you’ve probably heard preachers quote people by their first name in the pulpit often.

  • Matthew says,
  • John says,
  • Paul says,
  • Peter says,

And, if you’ve visited multiple churches you may even wonder how the same 5 guys end up at every single church. Well, it’s because these are names of some of the authors of the Scriptures.

Paul, was a first century apostle and one of the authors of the New Testament. Most of his letters are written to churches he helped plant, but he also wrote letters to his assistants in his mission to spread the gospel to the entire world. So, go ahead and put on your history cap for a moment and let me give you an over view of his life. By the way the notes for this sermon will be made available online after this service so don’t feel like you have to get this all down. There won’t be an exam at the end of the sermon. 

Birth and Early Life: 

Born in Tarsus of Cilicia (Acts 9:11) likely in the first decade of the first century. He was a member of the Israelite tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5). His birth name was Saul after the first king over Israel. Paul was his Roman name. So, although he was Jewish by birth Paul was also a Roman citizen; a benefit likely purchased by his parents at the cost of more than a year’s wages.  

Training as a Pharisee:

Acts 22:3 tells us that Paul learned Judaism at “the feet of Gamaliel” who was the most influential Rabbi of his day. As a young man Paul viciously persecuted Christians, having them imprisoned and even put to death. In fact, in Acts 9:1 we’re told that he was “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord.”

Conversion from Judaism to Christianity:

While on his way to persecute Christians in the town of Damascus Paul encountered the risen Christ and became a Christian himself (Acts 9). Immediately, Paul is taken in and cared for by the very Christians he was going to persecute. After spending a few years ministering to various groups, Paul and Barnabas we commission by the church of Antioch as missionaries. Paul would spend the rest of his life planting churches in Asia Minor and Macedonia (modern day Turkey and Greece, respectively). 

If you have one of those Bibles with maps in the back, one of those maps will show you Paul’s missionary journeys. Starting from Antioch and Jerusalem, Paul makes successively larger loops through the ancient world. Ultimately his goal is to get the gospel all the way to Spain.

Apostle to the Gentiles and Author of Scripture: 

You’ll notice in verse 1that Paul referred to himself as an “apostle”. The Greek word apostolos means, “Sent one.” Someone who is sent with a message. And, in the New Testament, the word almost always refers to someone Jesus hand picked for a ministry. Someone who saw Jesus personally and to whom was given the task of bearing the gospel message. And that’s what Paul did.

Most of the time, when Paul went into a new city to preach he would begin with the Jewish synagogue, explaining that Jesus is the Messiah promised in the Scriptures.

It’s during these missionary journeys that Paul writes: Galatians, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Corinthians, & Romans.

Roman Imprisonment and Death:

After completing his 3rd missionary journey, Paul causes an uproar in the city of Jerusalem, and Roman authorities imprison Paul and he’s interrogated by several authorities before Paul appeals his case to Caesar (Acts 21). 

While Paul is in prison in Rome, he writes four more letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, & Philemon.

The book of Acts was written by Luke who was a travelling companion of Paul’s and Acts ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome waiting for his appeal to Caesar.

It appears that Paul was eventually release from this imprisonment and he began preparing for his fourth missionary journey to Spain, but before heading west, Paul travelled east to finish establishing two of his disciples: Timothy in Ephesus, and Titus in Crete. He writes them each a letter then heads to Spain.

At some point in the trip, Paul is arrested an reimprisoned. He then writes a second letter to Timothy in which Paul expects to be martyred for the faith.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. 

Church tradition tells us that Paul was beheaded under the reign of Emperor Nero around A.D. 67. And even though Paul died without earthly dignity, he entered into a heavenly reward. 

He was engaged in the same mission in which we are engaged: to get the gospel of Jesus Christ, to the ends of the earth. To preach that gospel to every creature. To make disciples and baptize them and plant churches. And we do all of that so that God will be glorified, so that his name will be known and loved in all the earth.

So, that’s Paul. Who is Timothy? Look at verse 2:

To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 

A Christian Family

Chronologically, the first mention of Timothy is in Acts 16:1. We’re told that Timothy was the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer. His father was Greek and not a believer. In 1 Timothy 1:5 Paul says:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

Then in 3:14 Paul says:

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

So, Timothy was a native of a town called Lystra. He had a godly mom and a godly grandmother who taught him the Bible. Not everyone is blessed with that kind of family heritage—but Timothy was. Can we thank God for just a moment for that kind of legacy?

And friend, if that’s not your story—if you didn’t grow up learning about the God who made you and has mercy on you from your parents and grandparents—listen—that can be the story of your grandchildren. 

On the foundation of that teaching, Timothy was likely converted to Christianity during Paul’s first missionary journey to Lystra. In fact, Paul often refers to Timothy as his child in the ministry.

In 1 Corinthians 4:17 Paul writes:

16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ (1 Cor. 4:17)

Disciple of Paul

Paul had trained Timothy in gospel ministry so that even when Paul couldn’t go to Corinth himself, he could send Timothy and trust that it was as good as if he was there himself.

Do you have anyone you can look to and call, “my child in the faith”? You don’t have to be an apostle to do that. You don’t have to teach someone systematic theology to do that.

All you need is to care about those God places in your path. Point them to the Scriptures. Encourage them in the faith. Pray for them and with them.

When Paul was in his first Roman imprisonment, he sent Timothy to Philippi with another letter. Listen to these words:

19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you.20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. (Philippians 2:20-22)

And now, as Paul prepares for his final missionary journey to Spain, he leaves Titus on the island of Crete, and he leaves Timothy in the city of Ephesus. Look at 1 Timothy 1:3

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine

You’ll remember that Paul spent 3 years of his life helping establish the church in Ephesus. When he departed from that church he stood with the Elders of the church on the shore and wept with them because he loved them so much. And now, as he seeks to establish new churches among unreached peoples, he hands off the baton to Timothy.

A New Generation of Pastors

Paul would write to Timothy one more time. In the letter of 2 Timothy it becomes clear that Paul has been arrested and imprisoned again. Only, this time, he knows he won’t be released. We read those words earlier.

In 2 Timothy, Paul gives this exhortation to Timothy:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Paul isn’t complaining about his arrest. He isn’t concerned about his own life. The only thing he cares about is that the church continues to grow and expand into all the world, and he knows the role Timothy must play in that expansion. It’s the same role you and I play. It’s the same role that Lois and Eunice played. 

We are called by the risen Christ to teach the nations faith in Christ and obedience to Christ. Until he returns, we are to go!

And how will we do it? What will give us the strength and endurance to accomplish so great a mission?

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

The end of verse 2. How did Paul transform from bloodthirsty man who murdered Christians into a man who established the church? He received the grace mercy and peace of God the Father and Jesus Christ.

How did Timothy grow into a great missionary and pastor? The grace mercy and peace of God.

The church is built—by pastors and grandmothers, by missionaries and plumbers, by Sunday school teachers and church members—because though we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory—yet in Christ we are redeemed, forgiven, and made new. 

At the cross, God did not count our sins against us. Instead, the Lord Jesus received our condemnation so that we could be pardoned and cleansed.

Let’s tell that messaged to our children and grandchildren. Let’s preach that message to Lake Wylie and the nations.

Pray with me.