“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope,
To Timothy my true son in the faith:
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (1 Timothy 1:1-2 NIV)
“It is not good for the man to be alone. ” (Genesis 2:18 NIV)
So spoke the Lord God in his Garden Paradise.
Though all his needs were met Adam still lacked companionship. Friendship. Community. Another human being to share his life with.
We are made for others.
Called to community.
Drawn to friendship.
We aren’t meant to be alone in the world.
We need other people in our lives.
We need friends. Friends who are able to love us at our worst, rebuke us in our folly, and shower us with grace in our weakness.
Friends who, in word and deed, bring us back to the gospel.
Like Adam in the Garden of Eden we can survive on our own but only together with others can we ever hope to thrive.
Through this letter we are able to glimpse into the gospel saturated friendship between Paul and his young protégé Timothy. Already, within these first two verses, Paul is directing his friend, one he calls “my true son in the faith”, to gaze upon the glory of the gospel. To bask in its beauty. To marvel at its majesty.
Paul wrote to Timothy because things were not going well in Ephesus. A dangerous heresy had infiltrated the church through a number of false teachers and many were being lured away from the gospel. While we don’t know the specifics of what was being taught it is clear that the false teachers were drawing upon various sources, religious and pagan, in order to distract the Christians in Ephesus from trusting in Jesus and living in joyful obedience to the call he had placed upon their lives.
God our Saviour and Father, Christ Jesus our Hope and Lord
Paul portrays to Timothy a compelling vision of the first two members of the Trinity; contrasting yet complementary.
The Greco-Roman world of the first century was a bleak place. The gods were fickle and the Fates fickler still. All that was yours could be ripped from your feeble grasp in an instant for no discernible reason by powerful and volatile deities who were above the toil of humanity. Complaining would only turn their apathy to outright wrath. All you could do was adopt a still upper lip and try to appease the gods. As for Fate, it had no favourites; you got the life you were assigned and that was that.
Into this world Paul paints a picture of a God who is powerful to save yet who also loves his children as a Father.
By definition gods had to be powerful but loving, that’s new!
Today we are more comfortable with a loving God. We struggle with an all powerful and all loving God because we see the two as somewhat incompatible. Surely one has to limit the other because God can’t be all powerful and all loving? If he was then there wouldn’t be any evil or suffering in the world. However, is it possible that an all powerful God knows something we don’t, and in allowing evil and suffering to continue for a time is actually accomplishing something far more loving that we are capable of imagining?
Paul goes on to qualify his characterisation of God by showing the same to be true of Jesus who is both our Hope and our Lord. We cannot have him as one without the other. If we want the certainty of the Kingdom he has promised then we must necessarily submit to him as our King.
The truth of the matter is that we often want God as our Father and Jesus as our Hope so our lives can be successful and existentially fulfilling but we are reticent to have them as our Saviour and Lord who invade our lives, making drastic changes, convicting us of our sin, and calling us to obey them in all things. Not only is that messy but it’s terribly difficult. It would really get in the way of life as we like it. However, when we submit to God as both our Saviour and Father, and Jesus as both our Hope and Lord rather than ruining the life we want it produces an even better life than we previously imagined could exist.
The Givers of Grace, Mercy and Peace
This new life is created by God’s grace, mercy and peace.
Our attitudes are transformed as we receive God’s grace to us in Jesus, embrace his mercy towards us because of Jesus, and rest in the peace he has purchased for us though Jesus.
All of God’s gifts to us are the result of his greatest Gift: Christ Jesus.
It is only through Jesus we are able to receive God’s grace.
It is only through Jesus we are able to embrace God’s mercy.
It is only through Jesus we are able to rest in God’s peace.
It is only through Jesus we are able enter into this relationship with God that is at the same time deeply intimate and personal but also humbly submissive.
Cultivating Gospel Saturated Friendships
This new life and relationship created by God’s grace, mercy and peace through Jesus is sustained through Gospel Saturated Friendships.
Like Timothy we need a Paul to remind us of the gospel: of God’s grace, mercy and peace towards us in Jesus.
We are tragically forgetful creatures who need constant reminders of who our Powerful and Loving God is and all he has done for us through Jesus. We need friends who will tell and retell the gospel story. And we need to be friends who tell and retell the gospel story. But we can only do this by first being a friend, to do this we need to put the time and effort into cultivating friendships in which we have earned the right to speak into the lives of others. To do so is a privilege and an honour but one that doesn’t come without a price. Such friendships require a constant in-pouring of grace and love, especially when it comes to correction or rebuke. Such grace and love are what give us the credibility to be able to correct and rebuke our friends when it is our duty to do so for their good and that of the gospel.
However, before we can pour grace and love into others we must first have grace and love poured into us by imbibing the gospel through reading Scripture, prayer, and corporate worship. Only then will we have grace and love to pour into others. By God’s grace, mercy and peace through Christ Jesus let’s devote ourselves to knowing and loving God more deeply and humbly through the Scriptures, in prayer, and in worship together with our church family for his glory, our good and the joy of our friends so we are able to pour God’s grace and love into their lives as it overflows from our own.