Apostates Among Us (Timothy 3)


(READ 1 Timothy 1:4-20)  When I was a young Christian, I met some well-meaning older Christians who wanted to me everything I should or shouldn’t be doing as a Christian.  They felt they knew God’s will for me in every situation.  They told me how I should dress, talk and act.  What I was to read, watch, listen to or do was all decided for me.  The better I followed their demands, the more I was accepted by their group.  Failure to do what they believed was right resulted in disapproval and rejection.  When I conformed to their expectations, I started to believe that I was better than other Christians who didn’t do so.

My motive for what I did was fear of criticism by them and by God.  I was trying to impress them and God.  The result was self-centeredness and pride.  Fortunately, God showed me the truth of His grace and set me free from that bondage.  The same thing was happening in Ephesus so Paul urged Timothy to correct those who were putting people into bondage.

Paul warns Timothy about those who ‘major on minors’ (1:4).  He has even stronger words for “apostates,” those who once believed and followed the truth but now have turned from it (1:6).  They didn’t leave the church or Christianity, but stayed within to spread their lies and legalism (1:8).  He explains that the purpose of the law is not to earn salvation or impress God, but to point out sin in our lives (1:19-10).  He reminds Timothy that the message of salvation is “good news” (in Greek “gospel”).  Legalism is bad news but grace is good news (1:11).

Then Paul uses himself as proof against the false teachers and teachings (1:12-14).  He is an example of God’s grace, for without grace he would be nothing.  He kept all the laws but that only brought him guilt and condemnation.  He couldn’t do anything to earn or keep his salvation.  Despite his sin, God showed Paul grace by granting him salvation and appointing him to minister for God.

Paul is so grateful for God’s mercy shown to him that he bursts out in praise to Jesus (1:15-17).  Since he was the worst of sinners, God’s grace in his life shows God’s patience and love for the people He has created.  We must thank God for His love and patience to us as well.  We should praise Him along with Paul: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.  Amen” I1:17).

The false teachers like Hymenaeus and Alexander are not like Paul.  They turn from God’s truth and influence others to do the same.  Paul is ever grateful for God’s grace in his life (1:19-20).  Paul has been fighting the good fight (1:18) but they have not.  This is a not-so-subtle warning to Timothy to faithfully serve like Paul instead of falling by the wayside like Hymenaeus and Alexander.

Paul summed up his feelings in 1:15-16: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.  But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His immense patience as an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life.”

Can you say these words of Paul’s?  Read over them, saying them to God. 

God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but He does want us to be faithfully living for Him and “fighting the good fight.”  Are you trying your best to do so?