1 Timothy 1:2

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

To Timothy, a true son in the faith:
, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Timothy 1:2

Paul, after having identified himself and his commission, now identifies the main recipient of the letter, Timothy. As noted, based on the apostolic identification of himself, something Timothy was perfectly aware of, the letter was certainly intended to be for more than just Timothy though. He was to have it available for any and all to see and read. It is an epistle of church doctrine as much as it is a personal letter.

However, it is still a personal letter, written “To Timothy, a true son in the faith.” The word translated here as “true,” is the Greek work gnésios. It literally means, “born in wedlock.” Thus it means “legitimate,” or “genuine.” However, it came to carry an affectionate or endearing sense. Therefore, Paul’s words are not only identifying Timothy as a true Christian, but as a true son of his because of their like-faith in Christ. The bonds were as strong as if Timothy was Paul’s own legitimate offspring. As Paul personally took Timothy under his wings, and as Timothy stayed with Paul while so many others departed, the bond was all the stronger.

In Acts 16:3, Paul even circumcised Timothy in order to ensure that the Jews would be more responsive to the message of Christ. It was not a means of making Timothy acceptable for salvation, but a means of ensuring that Timothy would be properly accepted by those Jews who needed to hear the gospel message of Christ. In circumcising him, it would eliminate pre-judgments about Timothy’s status. In other words, it was a helpful tool for evangelism. In his letter to the Philippians, he noted his full trust in Timothy –

But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.”  Philippians 2:19-22

Next, after having identified himself and his recipient, he adds in his customary greeting, but with one addition, “Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.” Here, and in his other two pastoral epistles (2 Timothy and Titus), he adds in the word “mercy.” It is variously speculated on why he adds in “mercy” to this salutation, but many commentators tie it in with Paul’s advancing age and the realization of his soon departure. For example, the Pulpit Commentary says, “It seems in St. Paul to connect itself with that deeper sense of the need and of the enjoyment of mercy which went with his deepening sense of sin as he drew towards his end.”

However, the letter is written to Timothy. Thus the words apply to him, not to Paul. Paul petitions for “mercy” in his pastorals because he knew it is a job which requires a great deal of mercy from God. It is a delicate, complicated, often frustrating, always tiring, and very sensitive job. Where those under a pastor often feel it necessary to heap trouble on him, mercy is all-the-more necessary from the other direction. Without this endowment from God, the job will quickly lay low the pastor of strongest faith and resolve.

Therefore, Paul petitions for these things – grace, mercy, and peace to be bestowed upon his beloved son in the faith. And the petition is “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Here in this verse, he changes the title of God of verse 1 from “Savior” to “Father.” This then is in line with the petition for grace, mercy, and peace. As a father would grant such things to his own son, so Paul knows that God will grant such things to His sons in the faith, a faith which is grounded in Christ Jesus. And as God is the Father of Jesus, the petition for grace, mercy, and peace will naturally flow from Jesus to the Father’s other true children as well. Paul’s salutation is a full example of a complete understanding of the workings of God towards His ministers who are also His sons by adoption.

Life application: Paul’s addition of mercy to the blessings upon Timothy (and thus all pastors) is only as necessary as the congregation he leads is willing to understand the nature of the job, and the ability of the pastor to effectively handle that job. It is estimated that in America alone, 600 pastors a week leave the pulpit due to the pressures of the job. The more mercy the congregation bestows upon their pastor, the less will be needed from above. In regards to the pastor, show a little mercy when he shows his humanity. After all, he is only human.

Lord God, for those of us who attend church, we have a pastor who leads that church. Do we look to his position as we would of any leader, showing respect and courtesy? Or do we take unnecessary advantage of his time? Are we praying for our pastor? Are we merciful to him when he slips and shows his humanity (oh my!)? Help us to pray for grace, mercy, and peace to be upon him as he leads the church we attend. Amen.

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