The text for this lesson is 1 Timothy 4:6–16; 2 Timothy 1:1–7.
- God strengthens faith through the Lord’s Supper and empowers me to live as His child.
- Law: Because of sin, I often deny Jesus by my words and actions and fail to live as His forgiven child.
- Gospel: God forgives my sins for Jesus’ sake, strengthens my faith through His Word and Sacraments, and helps me live as His forgiven child, serving Him as I serve my neighbor.
By the work of the Holy Spirit, Paul’s missionary efforts produced results. By the end of his third missionary journey, there were a number of Christian congregations in the area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. One of them was located at the city of Ephesus in modern-day Turkey. Around AD 60, Paul was taken as a prisoner to Rome, spending the winter on the island of Malta after the ship carrying him and other prisoners was shipwrecked. He was in Rome under house arrest for two years. After he was released from prison in Rome, Paul had further journeys, which we know about from his epistles. During this time, Paul wrote letters to his student Timothy, asking him to oversee and care for the brothers and sisters in Ephesus.
Christianity in Ephesus existed in a vacuum. There were plenty of competing religions vying for the attention and support of the local population. Greek culture supported its own pantheon of false gods. Ephesus also included worshipers of Roman gods, Judaism, and various philosophical systems.
In order that Timothy would protect himself as well as those in his spiritual care, Paul charged his young friend to vehemently avoid false teachings. Drawing on his own experience with other congregations, Paul well realized how quickly and quietly false theology and philosophies can creep into a body of believers. Many of the Christians in Ephesus were recent converts. As such, they were especially vulnerable to temptation to return to their religion of origin and succumb to pressure from family, friends, and even local governing authorities like the Romans and Jewish leaders in the temple.
Timothy must not only avoid false teachings but also shun sinful behavior and immerse himself in the regular study of Scripture. In this manner, the Holy Spirit could educate and edify Timothy to become the leader Paul knew he could be.
Thanks be to God that He requires nothing of sinners with regard to salvation! God created us, the Son redeemed us, and the Holy Spirit creates faith through which we receive forgiveness and everlasting life. As recipients of these precious gifts, Christians are charged to embrace the new life God has given His children and make regular use of the Means of Grace: the Word and Sacraments. Through these means, God keeps us close in faith and empowers us to live a godly life in this world.
As with Timothy, Christians are warned to avoid false teaching. Only through regular Bible study can we be sensitive to biblical truth and notice the lies that are often cleverly sewn into religions and philosophies that only appear true. Additionally, we make regular use of the Sacraments: remembering our Baptism and partaking in the Lord’s Supper. Through these, the Holy Spirit fortifies us against the wiles of the world, the devil, and our own sinful nature.
God calls His children to shun sinful behavior first and foremost because it is disobedient and wicked. Additionally, our Lord understands the attraction of sinful behavior and how quickly we can become accustomed to it. In other words, iniquity that at first may disturb us will become increasingly comfortable and familiar the more we practice it. For this reason, we quickly repent, confess our sins, and receive God’s forgiveness for the sake of Christ.
Paul’s goal is that Timothy would grow in faith and one day spend eternity in heaven. God’s goal is the same for His children. He promises that what He began in our Baptism, He will complete through the work of His Holy Spirit though the Word and Sacraments.