Timothy: Taking Over In Ephesus

Dr. Peterson is Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology at Regent College, Vancouver BC. This article is from The Unnecessary Pastor by Eugene Peterson and Marva Dawn. It appears by permission.

Timothy enters into a congregational mess with the mandate to straighten it out. He inherits both the legacy (left by Paul) and the problems for which others were responsible (among whom were Hymenaeus and Alexander). Like the tohu wabohu of Genesis 1:2, pastoral vocation doesn't begin with a clean slate.

Congregational mess provides a particularly perilous condition for convincing us that we are necessary. Others have messed up, done it badly, behaved irresponsibly, and we are called in to make a difference. The very fact that we are called in must mean that we are competent in comparison to the incompetence of others, that we are capable.

We are flattered, of course. We've been noticed. "We need you," they say. "Get us out of this. We've read your résumé, called your references, heard you preach — rescue us."

And with those words, "we need you … rescue us …," we become necessary pastors. Eventually, we become chained to the agenda set before us, a slave to the conditions we've entered into. The dimensions of our world shift from God's large and free salvation to the cramped conditions of what others need that through combinations of sin and incompetence have been left behind.

There's a neurotic aspect to this. It's like a person who gets caught up in a flood and, while being swept along by a torrent, grabs on to a branch and holds on for dear life. It takes days for the flood to recede. Meanwhile, the person holds on to the branch — saved, rescued, alive. Eventually, the flood waters are gone and the poor soul is still holding on to the branch. People come by and say, "Come on down." But the person replies, "No way. I'm saved. This is where I found salvation; this is what saved me. I'm not going to leave this saved place." A successful attempt to save life has been held on beyond necessity. And pastors do this constantly. They enter messed-up situations, fix them, and keep on with the same conditions year after year after year. "This is how I got saved and saved others…."

This way of life accepts the conditions of sin as the conditions in which we'll work. Now, of course, we always work in sin conditions, but they don't define our world. They just provide the material for our world, for our gospel. The mess and need of congregations are not conditions that constrict us. They didn't constrict Timothy.

The Mess in Ephesus

Ephesus is the showcase church of the New Testament. It was a missionary church established by the eloquent and learned Jewish preacher Apollos (Acts 18:24). Paul stopped by to visit this fledgling Christian community in the course of his second missionary journey, met with the tiny congregation (there were only twelve of them), and guided them into receiving the Holy Spirit. He then stayed on for three months, using the synagogue as his center for preaching and teaching on "the kingdom of God" (19:8). That three-month visit, following the dramatic encounters with the seven sons of Sceva and the mob scene incited by Demetrius over the matter of the goddess Artemis, extended to three years. Three years Paul was in Ephesus, forming a Christian congregation.

Later, the name Ephesus was attached to a letter that reflects the healthiest, most mature of all of Paul's writing on the Christian life. All the other Pauline letters were provoked by something that went wrong, either wrong thinking or bad behaviour, but the dominant mood of Ephesians isn't human problems, it's God's glory. After all the problems have been straightened out in the churches, Paul is free simply to write out the gospel the way it is. Ephesians is the result. It represents the best of which we are capable in the Christian life, calling us to a mature wholeness. "Ephesian," for many of us, marks the church at its best, most complete, healthy, and holy.

I have used Ephesians in the course that I teach on spiritual formation, which I called "Soulcraft." A year or so ago, when I taught this course, one person told me that he had been taking courses at Regent College for twenty years, and that this was the fourteenth time, all from different professors, that he had had a course on Ephesians. He remarked that Ephesians must somehow be the characteristic text of Regent College itself.

The Ephesian church didn't start out trouble-free, but at some point it seems to have become what we might call the perfect church. There was plenty of groundwork that went before that: supplementing Apollos's Holy Spirit-deficient teaching; getting thrown out of the synagogue; dealing with the avaricious and entrepreneurial seven sons of Sceva; surviving the Demetrius-incited mob over the Artemis issue. But, eventually, there seems to have been a quiet and mature wholeness to that congregation, which we see in the prayers and affection and leave-taking in Paul's farewell visit with the Ephesian elders at Miletus.

At one point in St. Luke's story of the church at Ephesus, he wrote, "So the word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily" (Acts 19:20). That sums it up.

This is the Ephesus to which Timothy is sent; but he is sent here not to enjoy a cushy post in ministry — Ephesus has become a mess. Good churches can go bad. Surprisingly, sinners show up. Wonderful beginnings can end up in terrible catastrophes. Not only can they, they do. Ephesus, the poster church, did.

Most of us, no matter how wonderful a place we enter into, are going to find ourselves in the middle of a mess sooner or later. For the Christian faith is always lived out in the conditions of the world; try as we may, we cannot isolate our Christian lives from the world in which we make our living. And this culture seeps into the church, just as it seeped into the Ephesian church. (The distressing thing is when we invite it in.)

We don't know the exact nature of what went wrong with the Ephesian church — nothing is spelled out exactly. What is clear is that the religion of the culture had invaded the gospel of Jesus Christ and was threatening to destroy it. Paul's two letters to Timothy give us glimpses of what was happening.

Paul tells Timothy to deal with "certain persons" who are obsessed with "religion" but apparently want nothing to do with God. Here is a sampling of phrases that describe the "religious" activities of these people:

  • putting high value on myths and endless genealogies which promote speculations (1 Timothy 1:4);
  • engaging in vain discussion (1:6);
  • giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons (4:1);
  • being guided by the hypocrisy of liars (4:2);
  • forbidding marriage and enjoining abstinence from foods (4:3);
  • majoring in godless and silly myths (4:7);
  • having a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words (6:4);
  • imagining that godliness is a means of gain (6:5);
  • participating in godless chatter (2 Timothy 2:16);
  • holding that the resurrection is past already (2:18);
  • starting stupid, senseless controversies (2:23);
  • and wandering into myths (4:4).

We don't know with any precision what the "godless chatter" was in Ephesus. Scholars make learned guesses. It was no doubt a form of gnosticism, which essentially creates an elite body of insiders who cultivate a higher form of religion that despises common people, common things, and anything that has to do with a commitment to a moral life. Jesus, of course, would be far too common for people like this. The "godless chatter," whatever its actual content, would be shaped by the culture and not by the cross of Jesus.

What is most apparent about these phrases is that they refer to a lot of talk — speculations, controversies, and chatter. There is one reference to behaviour (about marriage and diet) and one to an item of doctrine (resurrection), but mostly we are dealing with religious talk. These people loved to talk about religion. T. H. White's description of the older Guinevere, who had become a nun after the death of Arthur, could easily describe these Ephesian teachers: "She became a wonderful theologian, but cared nothing about God."

And this is what we are faced with continuously. This culture seeps into the church through the pores of our congregations: a religion without commitment, spirituality without content, aspiration and talk and longing, fulfillment and needs, but not much concern about God.

Diana of Ephesus and of Now

We have recently had a remarkable experience in our world of this old Ephesian stuff. At the end of August 1997 and for weeks following, the attention of the whole world, quite literally the whole world, was captured by the death of Princess Diana. I was in Ireland and Scotland at the time and got the entire drama served up to me blow by blow. I must confess that I knew next to nothing about Diana at the time, can't ever remember seeing a picture of her, and knew nothing of her trials with the royal family. But in three weeks, I got a crash course in Diana religion — for the thing that struck me most forcibly was that it was a course in religion. This was a totally religious event. There were political implications and family dynamics, but mostly, overwhelmingly, it was religious. Diana was treated with the veneration and adoration of a goddess. At her death, the world fell down and worshiped.

As I observed all of this, and reflected on it in conversation with friends, I realized that Diana was the perfect goddess for a world religion that didn't want anything to do with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but was desperate to worship someone or something that would provide a sense of beauty and transcendence to their lives. It turned out that Princess Diana was absolutely perfect for the role. This supposedly godless world of ours is not godless at all — the capacity for worship is as strong as in any religious fundamentalist camp meeting. At her death, the world worshiped her.

At first, I noticed the parallels to the ancient Canaanite sex/fertility goddesses Astarte and Asherah. She was a perfect fit for the role: that fragile beauty, tinged with sadness; that poignant innocence, with suggestive hints and guesses of slightly corrupt sexuality in the shadows. Her popular identification with the poor and the oppressed, her photo with Mother Teresa of Calcutta, her compassion for people with AIDS, her campaign against the land mines that had destroyed the bodies of so many children, and her own victimization by the heartless royal family and rejection by her husband. She summed up the spiritual aspirations of a sexually indulgent culture that was at the same time filled with misunderstanding and loss and hurt and rejection.

Every day for a week in Edinburgh I watched long lines of men and women and children carrying bouquets of flowers, placing them on appointed shrines throughout the city — silent and weeping, unutterably moved by the death of their goddess. All week long, I read the meditations, religious meditations, on Diana in the daily newspapers. And then one day, I remembered that the Roman name for Artemis was Diana, Diana of the Ephesians. Now, Diana the sex goddess, who provided the mythology and set the moral tone to the city, was back — the fertility goddess of the ancient world taking over the imaginations of the modern world. I'm not suggesting that the Diana cult of Ephesus and the Diana cult that we all witnessed since September 1997 have the same content, but the effect is the same. The Ephesian Diana cult was a pastiche of stories and superstitions and systems of thought endemic to the ancient east that served the religious needs of the city. (Much of it is accountable in general under what we in broad terms label gnosticism.) The recent Diana cult is also a pastiche of stories and longings and public relations that serve the religious needs of an astounding number of people who are nominally Christians and Jews, Buddhists and Muslims. Her death brought out into the open just how worldwide her influence extended, the untold millions who worshiped at the shrine of Diana.

Diana evoked the best of people — but it is the best of what they want for themselves, not of what God wants. She offered "good" without morality and transcendence without any God but herself. Diana epitomizes our world religion of today.

When Timothy was sent into Ephesus, it was to counter the effects of the Artemis/Diana religious substructure in the culture. We don't have to know exactly what it was he was dealing with — ultimately, he was dealing with religion that served the needs of people on their terms, their longings for completion, their hunger for meaning, their thirst for beauty and significance, and their impatience with a God who required anything of them.

But the gospel that Jesus brought and that Paul preached is not first of all about us; it is about God. It is about the God who created us and wills to save us; the Jesus who gave himself for us and wants us to deny ourselves and follow him wherever he leads us, including the cross; and the Holy Spirit who descends upon us in order to reproduce the resurrection in our ordinary lives. None of this involves fulfilling our needs as we define them. Our needs are sin-needs — the need to get our own way, to be self-important, to be in control of our own lives. The wonderful Ephesian church that had begun so robustly, with such a sense of new life, discovering the revealed truth in the Scriptures and the presence of God in their lives by the Holy Spirit — this Christ-centered, Holy Spirit-created church was dissipating in a religious stew pot of hyped-up feelings and novel combinations of ideas, discussion groups, and interest gatherings.

Do you see how contemporary this is? Do you see how easily this can happen? Do you see how often it happens? Do you see how it is almost inevitable, that if it hasn't happened in your congregation yet, it will before too long? Do you see why, the moment he found out what was going on, Paul sent Timothy to do something about it? Do you see that you might have the same task set before you?

Diana/Artemis worship is in the air: it is on television, in the magazines, in church pulpits, and in school classrooms; it dominates business marketing, the entertainment industry, recreational addictions, and political arenas. Leaders acquire a following by evoking longings in us that are unfulfilled, and then either explicitly claiming or implicitly suggesting that their program or automobile or lifestyle or church can make us complete. Diana religion. Diana worship.

When the church finds itself overwhelmed by the culture, what is it to do? What was Timothy to do?

What Timothy Did

Conventional wisdom tells us that when the problem is large, the strategy must be large. We have to think globally; we need to acquire a "vision" that is adequate to the dimensions of the trouble. But that isn't what happens here. If we look for it, we're disappointed. Timothy isn't charged to refute or expose the Diana spirituality of Ephesus. Paul simply tells him to avoid it. He has bigger fish to fry: he is to teach and to pray.

The overriding concern in the Pastoral Epistles is in "healthy" or "sound" teaching. Eight times in all in these three letters we find concern for the "health" of teaching or words.

Sometimes "teaching" is translated as "doctrine" and so we get the impression that orthodoxy is at issue. But this isn't quite right. For Timothy is given a mandate to teach in a way that brings health to people. Words in Ephesus have gotten sick; the "godless chatter" in Ephesus is infecting the souls of people with disease. It is important not to see Timothy as a defender of orthodoxy, as someone who argues for the truth of the gospel. He is a teacher responsible for speaking in such a way that people get healthy again.

Let me digress here: if you have any desire or aptitude toward teaching, embrace the life of pastor. The vocation of pastor is the best of all contexts in which to teach. But it is a particular kind of teaching, the kind referred to here as "sound teaching." Frances Young translates the phrase as "healthy teaching" or "healthy words." Eight times the word is used to define the kind of teaching and speaking that is going to be at the centre of the work of reforming the Ephesian church.

I give them to you here in the translation of the Revised Standard Version, followed by some brief comments and my translation in The Message.

1 Timothy 1:10
The first instance of the phrase "healthy teaching" or "sound doctrine" is in 1 Timothy 1:10. Timothy is instructed to "remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine" (1:3). Paul goes on to describe what results from the "different doctrine": fourteen instances of ways of life, acts, behaviours (1:9-10). Wrong thinking leads to wrong living. He contrasts this catalogue of bad, sick living with "sound doctrine, in accordance with the glorious gospel of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted" (1:10-11).

This sound doctrine is contrasted to those "who defy all authority, riding roughshod over God, life, sex, truth, whatever! They are contemptuous of this great Message I've been put in charge of by this great God."

1 Timothy 6:3
"If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing…."

Words are important. Words and living are the heads and tails of the same coin. When words are wrong — diseased — they cause illness; they infect the soul. Sound, healthy words equal godly living.

"These are the things I want you to teach and preach. If you have leaders there who teach otherwise, who refuse the solid words of our Master Jesus and this godly instruction, tag them for what they are: ignorant windbags who infect the air with germs of envy, controversy, bad-mouthing, suspicious rumours."

2 Timothy 1:13
"Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus."

Sound words are not information about God but a path to walk in by faith and love. Words and living are part of the same thing, not different realms of existence.

"So keep at your work, this faith and love rooted in Christ, exactly as I set it out for you. It's as sound as the day you first heard it from me. Guard this precious thing placed in your custody by the Holy Spirit who works in us."

2 Timothy 4:3
"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 likings. . . ."

Sound teaching obviously is not comforting and soothing; it is not background music to create a spiritual mood to keep your blood pressure in check. It's solid food. It's not what sounds nice but what's healthy.

"You're going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food — catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. . . ."

(The next four citations are from Titus, substantiating what has already been given to Timothy and extending it into a new context.)

Titus 1:9
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."

This verse occurs in a passage that sets out what is required of an elder in the churches in Crete. Not only pastors are responsible for using words in a sound and healthy way; all leaders must have healthy doctrine so as not to lead in the wrong direction.

"It's important that a church leader … have a good grip on the Message, knowing how to use the truth to either spur people on in knowledge or stop them in their tracks if they oppose it."

Titus 1:13
"This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith."

"Stop that diseased talk of Jewish make-believe and made-up rules so they can recover a robust faith."

Titus 2:1
"But as for you, teach what befits sound doctrine."

"Your job is to speak out on the things that make for solid doctrine."

Titus 2:2
"Bid the older men be temperate, serious, sensible, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness."

This cluster of characteristics describes a person's life, not just his thoughts or beliefs. This is obvious, but it loses its obviousness in a Diana culture: teaching has to do with living, not with information gathering.

"Guide the older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance."

These eight uses of the word "sound" or "solid" or "healthy" or "sane" or "robust" begin to give us the hang of what Timothy is about as he enters this Ephesian disorder and confusion. The phrase "sound words" or "sound doctrine," as J.N.D. Kelly puts it, "expresses [Paul's] conviction that a morally disordered life is, as it were, diseased and stands in need of treatment … whereas a life based on the teaching of the Gospel is clean and healthy."1

The Greek word for "sound" is hygiein, from which we get hygiene. The main thing that Timothy is to do in Ephesus in order to clean up the mess is to teach sound words, sound truth, healthy thinking and believing. Verbal hygiene. Healthy gospel.

Scientia and Sapientia

Is this enough? Can words make a difference, especially in a society that is already saturated with words? They are not enough if we are obsessed with making a difference, convinced that we are necessary to the gospel enterprise. Words don't make anything happen….

But words do matter. The way we speak and use words matters. Nothing a pastor does is more important than the way she or he uses words. However, words are devalued today in the church's ministry. We have made them marginal to images and programs and have reduced them to slogans and posters. Instead of using words carefully and accurately, we amplify them, thinking that we will convince by decibels.

Kathleen Norris in her book The Cloister Walk tells the story of the time she heard the poet Diane Glancy astound a group of pastors, mostly Protestant. Norris writes:

    She began her poetry reading by saying that she loved Christianity because it was a blood religion. People gasped in shock; I was overjoyed, thinking, Hit 'em, Diane; hit 'em where they live. One man later told me that Diane's language had led him to believe that she was some kind of fundamentalist, an impression that was rudely shattered when she read a marvellous poem about angels speaking to her through the carburetor of an old car as she drove down a rural highway at night. Diane told the clergy that she appreciated the relation of the Christian religion to words. "The creation came into being when God spoke," she said, reminding us of Paul's belief that "faith comes through hearing." Diane saw this regard for words as connected not only to writing but to living. "You build a world in what you say," she said. "Words — as I speak or write them — make a path on which I walk."2

But not all people use words that way. There is a great chasm in our Western world in the way words are used. It is an old split, but it has gotten worse century by century. It is the split between words that describe the world and reality from as much distance as possible through generalities and abstractions, and words that express the world and reality by entering it, participating in it by metaphor and command. Describing words can be set under the Latin term scientia, expressing words under the term sapientia — or in English, science and wisdom. Science is information stored in the head that can be used impersonally; wisdom is intelligence that comes from the heart, which can only be lived personally in relationships.

It is absolutely critical that we discern the distinction between these two ways of knowing, for if we don't we will treat matters of the gospel wrongly and therefore lead people wrongly. All knowledge, both science and wisdom, has content to it. But science characteristically depersonalizes knowledge in order to make it more exact, precise, objective, manageable. Wisdom, on the other hand, personalizes knowledge in order to live intensely, faithfully, healthily. For science, an item of knowledge is the same in any place or time for any kind of person. For wisdom, an item of knowledge is custom-made; timing, placing, fitting into the uniqueness of a person is essential. "Two plus two equals four" means exactly the same thing for a five-year-old kindergartner and a fifty-year-old Nobel Prize-winning economist. "I love you" means something different every time it is said, depending on who says it, the tone in which it is said, the circumstances surrounding the statement, and the person to whom the statement is addressed.

"Two plus two equals four" is science — generic fact.

"I love you" is wisdom — lived truth.

The "sound words" that Paul writes about are all sapientia, wisdom-lived words. What the Ephesians were engaged in was scientia, "godless chatter." This is an important distinction to make because we are taught in school from childhood to speak in scientia but not in sapientia.

I belabor this a bit because we pastors, setting ourselves under the guidance of the pastoral letters, are told over and over again of the importance of teaching, and that we are the teachers. Frances Young points out this heavy emphasis here:

    Didaskalia, the Greek word for "teaching," occurs fifteen times in these three little letters, over against six in the whole of the rest of the [New Testament] NT. The urgency that church leaders (officials) be didaktikoi, "apt for teaching," appears twice and nowhere else in the NT. Uniquely, too, Paul is twice described as a didaskalos, or "teacher," alongside the usual apostolos. The noun didache and the verb didasko, in both simple and compound forms, punctuate the text, but their frequency elsewhere in the NT makes their use less dramatically striking. Other associated words for advising, exhorting, directing, commanding, etc. permeate the letters.3

Teaching is at the centre of leadership work in the Christian community. Every piece of the gospel is to be lived, so we must keep on teaching. But what kind of teaching? Wisdom teaching, not science teaching; teaching people how to live, not teaching people how to pass exams.

We have two parallel institutions in which teaching takes place: schools and churches. Schools are primarily dedicated to the acquisition of information that we can use impersonally and objectively. Churches are primarily dedicated to first understanding and then internalizing the revelation of God so that we can live in obedience and love, in adoration and prayer. Unfortunately, we live in a time when churches have taken on the ethos of the school in regards to teaching and learning. But when we do that, we abandon our proper work. If we think that by cramming theological or ethical or biblical information into people's heads we are helping them live better to the glory of God, we are badly mistaken. Getting the right information is the smallest part in the curriculum of wisdom. Living rightly and robustly in faith, hope, and love is what we are about. And that means, of course, that all our words must be lived words. What we say and the way we live are part of the same grammar. We teach as much when we are silent as when we are talking. We teach as effectively when we are praying as when we are lecturing.

And now I want to say something quite directly personal to you who are pastors. If you want to be a teacher, know that being a pastor in a church provides the best possible conditions for such work. And being a professor in a school is perhaps the worst place to be.

I put it this way because I fairly frequently have conversations with pastors who tell me that they feel they would like to, in their phrase, "go into teaching." What they mean by that is to get themselves a graduate degree and get a position as a professor in a school. I want to be careful about this, because being a professor in a school is honourable and can be Christ-honouring work. Professors are essential to the human community. The work of research, separating error from truth, getting things straight, training minds to think accurately — all this is terribly important. But it also takes place in conditions that treat knowledge as information, as something to be used. If you want to teach wisdom, you find yourself going against the stream constantly. Educational organizations and bureaucracies have no interest in how you live, or even if you do live. The primary ethical concerns of a school have to do with not stealing books from the library, not cheating on your exams, and not plagiarizing in your papers.

In saying this I am not putting down schools. I am, after all, a professor at Regent College and love what this school does. Schools, given the conditions of our times, are necessary. But I also must tell you that I was a much better teacher as a pastor in a congregation than I am as a professor in a school. Virtually everything I have taught at Regent, I taught first, and probably better, to my congregation.

In preparing for a recent Summer School course, I was looking through a folder of accumulated notes and realized that I first taught it in 1968 to an adult class consisting of three women: Jennifer, a widow of about sixty years of age, with an eighth-grade schooling, whose primary occupations were keeping a brood of chickens and a goat she was very fond of and watching the soaps on television; Penny, about fifty-five, an army wife who treated her retired military husband and her teenage son and daughter as items of furniture in her antiseptic house, dusting them off and placing them in positions that would

show them off to her best advantage, and then getting upset when they didn't stay where she put them — she was, as you can imagine, in a perpetual state of upset; and Brenda, married, mother of two teenage sons, a timid, shy, introverted hypochondriac who read her frequently updated diagnoses and prescriptions from about a dozen doctors as horoscopes — the scriptures by which she lived. (Ironically, she lived the longest of the three.)

Looking back, I could not have picked a more ideal student body for my teaching. As I taught my fledgling course in spiritual formation, using Ephesians as my text, I soon learned the difference between information and wisdom, and that wisdom was all that mattered to these three women. It was slow work, but gospel words have power in them. These women learned with their lives. The three women are now dead. I sometimes wonder if they are amused as they see me teach this course in which they were the charter students, to bright and gifted students from all over the world who pay high fees to be in the class. They paid by putting a dollar or two in the Sunday offering.

In a sentence, all wisdom is acquired relationally, in the context of family and friends, work and neighbourhood, under the conditions of sin and forgiveness, within the complex stories that the Holy Spirit has been writing and continues to write of our lives.

Paul tells Timothy: "continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it …"(2 Timothy 3:14). From whom — that is the only way to get wisdom — from whom — a person. And so what better place to teach persons personally than in a congregation where you have access to everything that makes up their personhood — their families, their work, the weather, their neighbourhood, their sins, their stories — and over a period of years, sometimes decades. In a school, you get them for a short period of time in a setting that excludes most of what makes them who they are, their uniqueness, their multifaceted lives. In a church, you get them in the setting where their main business is living, up to their arm-pits in life.

I can't think of a better or more important place to be a teacher, a wisdom teacher, which is the only kind of teaching I am interested in, than in a church. Timothy in Ephesus. You in your congregation.

As Paul put it: "If you put these instructions before the brethren, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the good doctrine which you have followed" (1 Timothy 4:6).

Truth matters: simple, clear, lived.


  1. J.N.D Kelly, A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1963), p. 50.
  2. Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk (New York: Riverhead Books, 1996), p. 154.
  3. Frances Young, The Theology of the Pastoral Epistles (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 75.