Thursday, September 26, 2013

1 Timothy 1: Too Mature To Be Mentored In The Spirit?

Everyone needs someone they answer to for their spiritual condition. All of us need someone of greater maturity to help us along in our growing process. We never arrive. There is never a place you get to when you can relax and say "I am here". The moment we stop increasing we start decreasing. Growth is not an option; it is a must, and growth is not a matter of age but of relationship. Maturity is not according to the years spent but relationship developed.

The purpose of Paul's letters to Timothy was to continue the process that started when Paul invited Timothy to join him and Silas on their mission journey. Timothy was not invited as a minister but as a chore boy, a servant. He was invited to come to prepare their meals, wash their clothes and whatever else needed to be done so these men would be freed from the common tasks, allowing them to concentrate on their purpose. However, Timothy was not destined to remain in such a position.

Paul became Timothy's mentor, training him in the Lord and Spirit. Paul first encountered Timothy in Derbe, which we read of in Acts 16. Timothy was highly thought of by everyone around as they spoke well of him to Paul, and it was Paul's desire for Timothy to come on their adventure:

Paul and Silas went back to Derbe and Lystra, where there was a follower named Timothy. His mother was also a follower. She was Jewish, and his father was Greek. The Lord’s followers in Lystra and Iconium said good things about Timothy, and Paul wanted him to go with them. (Acts 16:1-3)

Here we find something that demonstrated the character of Timothy. Paul always went to the synagogue of the towns he visited but Timothy was half Greek and had never been circumcised. Paul knew that circumcision had no place in the new covenant with Jesus as the Spirit circumcised the heart instead of the body, but Paul also understood the people to whom he ministered. Timothy would need to be circumcised for the sake of this ministry. At his age, circumcision would be very painful and would take days from which to recover. But Timothy submitted himself to it.

Timothy became like a son to Paul as they spent months together, with Timothy serving and Paul instructing and training. It is because of this relationship that Paul addressed his letter:

Timothy, because of our faith, you are like a son to me. I pray that God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind and merciful to you. May they bless you with peace! (1 Timothy 1:2)

At the time of writing this letter to Timothy, Paul was no longer writing to someone who had the task of washing his clothes. He was writing to a man, a minister of the gospel, someone who had matured into spiritual leadership. All the way along, from town to town, Timothy was faithful to his tasks, and to his faithful submission to the instruction of his mentor. It was only in Macedonia that Paul started to entrust him with actual ministry:

Right away the followers sent Paul down to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea. Some men went with Paul as far as Athens, and then returned with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible. (Acts 17:14-15)

Paul was forced to leave the church before it was established. Why leave Timothy unless it was to allow him to work with Silas in finishing the establishment of the church?

Even in the world the importance of mentoring was understood. Now we live in an age of privilege and people expect the top job because they have a degree in the theory of operations. Few are willing to start as a servant and grow into responsibility. But in the Church, the Body of Christ, it is still essential.

We are watching more and more ministers who have yet to mature, making stupid decisions that damage the Church; to say there is no hell and everyone will be saved regardless; to say that atheists will be in heaven if they are true to their convictions; to say that homosexuality is blessed by God, because spiritual awareness of these matters is an evolution of revelation; to say that "church sucks", to water down the importance of corporate worship and instruction, to "dumbify" the Church can only comes from a place of great immaturity. Such ministers either lack a mentor or need a better one. The Word continues to be the revelation of God and all things in the Kingdom submit to this Word. Even the Spirit does not depart from the Word.

There is a structure that God has put in place for the Body. At the top we have the Apostles and Prophets. We have evangelists, pastors and teachers. There is a teaching and mentoring that comes from the top down. God's design, not man's.  Jesus told us to go and make disciples, not church members. We are part of the growth of the body, of the maturing process. We cannot miss the importance of Paul's revelation in Ephesians 4:

Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers, so that his people would learn to serve and his body would grow strong. This will continue until we are united by our faith and by our understanding of the Son of God. Then we will be mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

It is a process and maturity is the goal. Right after this Paul writes:

We must stop acting like children. (Ephesians 4:14)

Are you submitted to someone who is of greater spiritual maturity than you? Are you growing, moving toward the goal of being just like Jesus? Are you willing to become whatever it is that the Father has decided you will be?

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