The letter of 1 Timothy is really a very practical letter addressing for us what life in the local church should look like. I've titled my study of 1 Timothy "Church 101" because it's so practical and so basic. You might be tempted to look at the pastoral Epistles as letters that the pastor might find pertinent to himself but not so the rest of us. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In writing a series of instructions and commands in a personal letter to Timothy – Paul reveals many basics of what the church should look like, what it should do, and how it's people should act towards leadership and towards one another. And the final closing of the letter "Grace be with you" is plural indicating clearly enough that Paul intended for this personal letter to Timothy to be publicly read in the entire church.
So when we come to the second verse and discover the greeting to Timothy, don't skip past it and miss the blessing. The simple introduction is significant in that it introduces to us the knowledge that God never demands that we meet him half way- he comes running towards us. He doesn't require us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, He lifts us out of the pit. When Paul writes this letter to Timothy under the guidance of God's Spirit, he offers to Timothy exactly what he needs. Just as God does for Timothy, God meets you and I right where we are, right at our point of need – for He is a loving Father.
Paul writes then in the second Verse:
"To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." (1 Timothy 1:2 NASB95)
The introduction brings to mind the special relationship between a Spiritual father and Son. Some of which is understood by looking quickly through what the scriptures say elsewhere about Timothy.
Paul and Timothy had been through thick and thin. Apparently on Paul's first missionary journey (Acts 13-14) Timothy was one of the converts in the region. On the Second missionary journey Paul (re)encounters Timothy in either Derbe or Lystra. All of the other believers spoke very highly of Timothy and that was enough for Paul, he asked Timothy to join him. However, in a move that appears odd for Paul, Timothy undergoes circumcision "Because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek." Apparently the Jews would have held great offense at a "half-breed" and Paul and Timothy both sought to smooth the way for the gospel's transmission. (Because it was well-known that Timothy's father was a Greek, so that the young man's influence among the Jews would be reduced to almost zero unless something were done to bring out clearly his own devotion to the sacred writings of the covenant people, he was, accordingly, circumcised (Acts 16:3).1
The Character of Timothy therefore comes out as a man who was willing to do anything to keep the gospel palatable to the people around him. Note that palatable does not mean watered down – it means tearing down even the opportunity to build a fence, even at great personal cost.
From This point forward Paul and Timothy are virtually inseperable. Anytime there was a dangerous or sensitive job – if Paul couldn't go himself, he sent Timothy. Paul sent him To Corinth, Berea, Thessalonica and Ephesus. Each time Timothy returned to Paul they would together sit down and write letters to the churches. Many of Paul's letter include Timothy in the Salutation.2
Timothy's history shows that he was a capable teacher and guide well suited to the unique problems that arise in Ephesus. The problems in Ephesus are symptomatic of an established church unlike so many of the problems in other NT churches which are problems of immaturity – the Ephesian problems seem to center around issues like power struggles and an over developed sense of independence. Timothy's faith was not only sincere but strong and sure and his worth in ministry was inestimable.
Being young — yet by no means inexperienced — and serving not as a pastor but as an apostolic delegate3 Timothy had been called to do what he did so often, stand in the gap – to repair and build up a church seemingly overshadowed by Satan's grip in the city of Ephesus. Because Paul knew him, and because God knows Him – Paul issues a blessing that helps to brace Timothy what he needs the most for the task ahead.
Grace, Mercy and Peace…
The threefold greeting is particular in that it describes for us what Timothy's needs were. These are the very same needs we all have need of as we attempt to be servants of Christ. In fact the more you serve God, and the closer you grow to Him the more you will realize how you must continually lean on these three gifts from God. So let's look at them briefly.
Grace is Paul's clarion call throughout the new testament, he mentions grace far more often than the rest of the New Testament writers. Simply defined grace is getting what we don't deserve. In Paul's thought that always amounted to a one word summary of God's redemptive work in us through Christ Jesus, namely: salvation.4 For, as it says in Ephesians 2:8 "we are saved by Grace Through Faith…" Oftimes I have heard Christians repeat that verse sideways as if we were saved by Faith through Grace. But the distinction is important. And let me tell you, as one who has been tried in Satan's fire – there is nothing so dear to me as God's gracious offering to me of free salvation.
I don't deserve it, you don't deserve it, but in the heat of serving God – the devil likes to come in and whisper the most vile lies imaginable in an attempt to derail your ministry. But God is gracious. And I want to encourage you this morning, if you are struggling with being accepted by God, or if you are struggling with feelings of inferiority or guilt or shame that holds you down to a past you wish you had never experienced – let me tell you, God is gracious and he extends his grace to you.
You don't have to struggle underneath a load of Guilt or shame. You don't have to continually struggle underneath a load of rules and regulations that you feel you have to keep in order to get saved or stay saved. Jesus said, "Come to me all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest."5
This morning I invite you to rest in the grace of God. And I invite you to revel in the absence of struggling with God as well – that is, I invite you into his peace.
Peace is more than the product of endless navel gazing from the lotus position, or the absence of noise and distraction. That's the world's sense of peace – the quieting of external turmoil or the self-quieting of the souls internal struggles. But search for the stories of men kept in solitary confinement for even markedly brief periods with nothing to hear but their own breath and nothing to see but the dim light under their cell door in the midst of otherwise pitch darkness and you'll soon discern that the absence of external turmoil is not all that comforting.
No, the peace of the Bible, the peace that Christ leaves with us, the peace that Paul here offers to Timothy as a blessing is of a greater more incomparable sort: peace with God. The gospel of Peace in all of Paul's letters is centered around the concept that we were once at war with God as law-breakers; and being at war with God we were under His condemnation. But in Christ we move from antagonistic warriors to sons both loving and being loved — fully accepted by the grace of Jesus Christ.
It is this new relationship of loving acceptance rather than strained animosity that ultimately yields the subjective feeling of peace – not the other way around. Peace starts with God and then filters into our souls.
This morning I offer you peace. Salvation in Jesus Christ is a free gift and I'm here to pass it on to you. If you're at all uncertain that you have peace with God – the complete remission of your sins, than this morning I offer you peace in the name of Jesus Christ the Son-Of-God. His death is your pathway to peace. If you will accept his death as the payment for your sin – and if you will humble yourself in front of God and seek his face and his forgiveness, you will receive it – and you will be at peace with God.
Finally, Paul offers to Timothy something new: Mercy.
If you walk through Paul's letters in the New Testament you get a whirlwind of very similar opening "blessings" In fact all except for these two Timothy letters merely grant "grace and Peace".
I have to believe that Paul's departure from the normal by adding Mercy to the mix has much to do with his very special relationship with Timothy and his personal knowledge of Timothy's struggles. Timothy, like all of us needed grace and peace – I can't think of one believer I know (self included) that doesn't need to be particularly aware of grace directed towards us, and certainly in the midst of the daily struggles we face we can use the reminder of our peace with God. but there is something significant in the fact that Paul offers him "mercy" in addition to the blessing of grace and peace.
Timothy may have been fighting feelings of condemnation. Later in book two Paul will mention Timothy's tears (1:4) in the context of fear.
I wonder if Timothy was fighting off the feeling of God's rejection – particularly as he was battling in Ephesus a town fraught throughout with Spiritual warfare. One of Satan's schemes has often been to attempt to paralyze a believer by getting him to question his relationship with God. Maybe this is why Paul in his love for Timothy and his intimate knowledge of Timothy's heart – offers him mercy in addition to Grace and peace.
Or more likely he was facing external condemnation from those who opposed him – the very men Paul sent Timothy to Oppose. Either reason serves to explain Paul's sudden addition of this third "blessing". God gives what we we truly need. Whatever the real reason was, we can be assured that Timothy needed Mercy. If your heart towards God is faithful and you need grace – You shall receive it. If your heart towards God is faithful and you need mercy — you shall receive it.
Mercy in its simplest definition is "not getting what we deserve." It is an undeserved kindness extended to someone in need. Perhaps Timothy was aware of his own failures. Most godly people give thought to their lack of perfection and it drives them closer to the cross of Christ and its redemption in Christ's blood.
This is not just for Timothy. Remember this letter is written to Timothy, but is intended to be read in the church, so the divine offer of Grace, Mercy and Peace extends past Timothy to the entire body of believers in the region of Ephesus, including — might I add — the very people with whom Timothy was having trouble.
That's what the gospel of Jesus Christ does. The good news of salvation doesn't condemn people who might be sinners – it offers them a shot at starting over with redemption. Paul didn't write this letter to smack the transgressors in a verbal tirade, he wrote for their redemption. Redemption is always the desire of a Christian when he's at odds with others.
We see that in Philippians 3:15b "…if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;" He doesn't want to kill his opponents, he wants to redeem them. No, the blessing of the gospel offers forgiveness, restoration and redemption to everyone who will repent and believe in Christ Jesus. The character of someone who themselves is a true child of God ought also therefore to be one of forgiveness (peace) , mercy, and grace.
Moreover, just as in the prior verse the issue was not so much that Paul had been commanded to be an apostle but rather the issue was centered there upon the fact that none less than God himself had commanded Paul to be an apostle — so too here the blessing may be important but the origin of the blessing takes on greater import.
The blessing itself is not from Paul, but through Paul as God's spokesman the blessing comes directly from "God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord."
As in the prior verse Paul's Christology bubbles to the surface. The greeting comes conjointly from God and Christ thus in Paul's mind clearly demonstrating his belief in the full deity of Christ; the only Son-of-God the Father.
To you who are loved by God and called according to His Purpose; To you who hear my voice or see my words written on the page; to you who are willing to let these blessings impact and change your lives; to all of you – grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
1William, and Simon J. Kistemaker. Vol. 4, New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles. Accompanying biblical text is author's translation. New Testament Commentary, Page 35. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001.
2Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians and Philemon (Phi 1:1; Col 1:1, 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1; Phm 1:1
3WBC46 Page lvii
4CREF Mounce, William D. Vol. 46, Word Biblical Commentary : Pastoral Epistles. Word Biblical Commentary, Page 10. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002.
5 Matthew 11:28