Last year my church read through the New Testament together. As I look back on a year in the New Testament, one week that stands out in my mind is the week we read 1 Timothy 1-5 (we finished off 1 Timothy 6 the following week we moved into 2 Timothy). As I re-read this short book, I found myself thinking that any modern reader of 1 Timothy would have to make a decision. That decision is this – will I listen to and accept the wisdom of God as revealed in 1 Timothy, or will I embrace the wisdom of the world? No one will be able to do both. Consider the following points of tension between the wisdom of 1 Timothy and the wisdom of the world.
The wisdom of our age has eliminated the entire category of sin and demanded that no one has the right to tell another person how to believe or how to live. However, 1 Timothy 1:8-11 tells us the gospel of Jesus Christ simply is not compatible with recognized, celebrated, unrepentant sin.
The wisdom of our age tells us that any person’s idea of God is as good as any other person’s idea of God. However, 1 Timothy 2:1-7 says there is only one God only one mediator between God and human beings. That mediator is the Lord Jesus Christ. Additionally, 1 Timothy 4:1-5 says that false, anti-gospel teaching might actually be inspired by demonic beings.
The wisdom of our age tells us that men and women are both cultural constructs and interchangeable categories of being. If you don’t like your “sex-assigned-at-birth” (aka, your biological sex), the world says you can change that medically and legally to align with your perceived gender identity. However, 1 Timothy 2:8-15 says that God designed men and women differently, calling only qualified men to lead the church and gifting only women with the responsibility of bearing children.
The wisdom of our age tells us that leadership in the local church ought to look like leadership in the world – that is, competency in the marketplace, enough charisma to be a celebrity, and creativity in how a church operates. However, 1 Timothy 3:1-13 says the qualifications for leadership in the local church center on character rather than competency or celebrity. Furthermore, 1 Timothy 4:11-16 tells us that pastors are not at liberty to be inventive or creative when it comes to the worship of the local church.
The wisdom of our age tells us that the church exists to meet the needs the people in its community. However, 1 Timothy 5:1-16 puts limits on the benevolence ministry of the church, reminding us that the church’s primary calling is not caring for the poor, but making disciples.
The wisdom of our age tells us that money is supreme, and, work is, at best, the necessary evil we must endure to get money. However, 1 Timothy 6:1-10 tells us that God values all work, however menial the task. These verses also warn us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
The wisdom of our age tells us that churches had better get with the times on social issues, and we are warned that churches that refuse to get with the cultural program will be left in the dustbin of history. However, 1 Timothy 6:20 says the truth of the gospel has been entrusted to the church, and that truth will never change.
Christians, pastors, and churches have a choice. You can find joy in the wisdom of God revealed in the Bible, or you can embrace the wisdom of this world, but you can’t do both.