Three Trustworthy Sayings – 1 Timothy

Congratulations to everybody who has stayed the course and finished reading through the entire New Testament with The Whole Story! And we finish our sermons in this series with 1 Timothy. One thing which leaps off the page as you read this letter by the apostle Paul are the three times where he uses a particular phrase: Here is a trustworthy saying. Most people agree that Paul didn’t make these sayings up. They think he was actually quoting “trustworthy sayings” which were in circulation in the early church and indeed were at the heart of the faith of the first Christians in the days before the New Testament was written. Three Trustworthy Sayings from 1 Timothy.
1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners
Jesus mission was to save people. And since all have sinned and fallen short of God, we ALL need Jesus to save us. There hasn’t been a single human being born apart from Jesus Christ Himself who has NOT needed saving! But Paul was always acutely aware that the mercy of God had stretched down to save not only sinners in general but him in particular – the chief of sinners!
1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
We should never lose sight of the fact that Jesus came to save sinners – and that includes you and me! Even you and me! The whole of our lives should be motivated by gratitude to God that he loves not only sinners in general, but me in particular. We sometimes use prayers of confession to remind us that we are sinners – like the prayer from the Anglican book of Common Prayer which goes like this.
“ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father,
We have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep:
We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts: We have offended against your holy laws: We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But You, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders”
I heard about one man who whenever he prayed that prayer would say under his breath, “I am an offender but I’m not miserable.” We live in a selfish age, and we are often absorbed in ourselves. We offer a prayer of confession like this and are tempted to evaluate the prayer against our own assumptions about ourselves and about God. But prayers like this help us to turn away from self and turn towards Christ. Without Him we will never be anything other than ‘miserable offenders’. If we forget that we are lost forever without God’s mercy and forgiveness, then we are indeed lost forever.
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And this saying has something else to say to us. Because it reminds us that although we are all sinners, Paul reminds us that Christ came to save even the worst of sinners. We all need saving, and God saves even us, but there may be people who are even worse than us and they need saving too!
1 Timothy 1:12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Paul the blasphemer and persecutor of the church – he needed saving and God saved him. God cares about SINNERS. We sometimes think that heaven is going to be full of the kind of people we think we are like. Genuine, kind, gentle respectable people who God is happy to welcome into His Kingdom. This saying reminds us that as well as people like us, heaven will be just as full of real sinners.
1 Corinthians 7:9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
God cares about all people – not just nice people like we think we are.
Parable of the lost sheep = LUKE157 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Matthew 9:9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
There are many many sinners in North Springfield. Hard people. Rebellious people. Violent and adulterous people. Drunkards and swindlers. Maybe some who have run as far away from God as the apostle Paul had. There are many such people in North Springfield – but very few in church in North Springfield. Because we have not taken the gospel to such people yet. They may cross our paths – although we may spend most of our lives hoping they won’t. But these are the sinners Christ came to die for – just as much as Christ came to die for us. These are the sinners who are lost without Christ. And Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
So on to Paul’s second trustworthy saying. And it raises some questions.
4:9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10 (and for this we labour and strive), that
we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe.
Did Paul believe that everybody would be saved? In what sense is God the Saviour of all people? There are other verses as well in 1 Timothy which might imply that all would be saved.
2 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. 7
Paul says here that Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all men. God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. That is what God wants. That is God’s wish. Indeed if God were to command it, then that would be what would happen. If God were to command it, then everybody WOULD be saved. But there are so many places elsewhere in the Bible which teach us that God has not so commanded. Instead it is clear that salvation is God’s gift which is available to all and offered to all – but not accepted by all. Even elsewhere in Paul’s letters it is indisputable that God’s gift of salvation has to be received by personal faith in Jesus Christ, e.g. in Romans 1.
Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Paul spells this out in Romans 10
Romans 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Those who are saved are those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and believe that Christ is risen from the dead. It those who call upon the name of the Lord who are saved – and only those.
There is certainly a superficial contrast between what it says about salvation here in 1 Timothy and what the rest of Paul’s letters say. Some people see that difference as proof that Paul himself did not write 1 Timothy. Other people think that because the letters to Timothy were written at the end of Paul’s life that maybe Paul mellowed as the years went by and even changed his mind about who would be saved. I disagree with those ideas. I think Paul himself wrote 1Timothy. And I think Paul still believed what he always believed- that only those who believe in Christ will be saved. Why else would Paul be so concerned to defend the truth of the gospel? Why would Paul have endured so much opposition and suffering for the sake of the gospel, if he believed it actually didn’t matter and that everybody would be saved anyway? But what then does Paul mean when he writes,
we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe.
God is potentially the Saviour of all men. He is in actuality only the saviour of those who believe. Which is why we need to proclaim the gospel of salvation boldly – and especially to the worst of sinners!
So here we have two trustworthy sayings, worthy of full acceptance.
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners
we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe.
And Paul has a third trustworthy saying to remind Timothy of. What do you think it will be about? A saying about the righteousness and faithfulness of God perhaps? Or the resurrection of Jesus? Or the call to holy living? Or to love one another? These are all themes Paul majors on in many places. But no, his third trustworthy saying is quite unexpected – although its theme is surely an important reason why the pastoral letters of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus are included in the Canon of Scripture.
3:1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.
Paul talks later about Deacons who would be the lay leaders in churches. But he begins by talking about “episcopoi”, the word which different traditions translate as Bishops or Ministers, those who are set apart by the church for full-time Christian service. Later in chapter 5 he talks about Elders who are certainly those who are set apart to work in the church and supported by the church.
5:17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”

And about these Ministers or Bishops or Elders, Paul passes on this trustworthy saying.
3:1 If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.
Paul spells out that tasks of the ministers or priests are preaching and teaching and directing the church. But the qualifications for the task of overseer, Minister or Elder, have very little to do with skills and everything to do with character.
3:2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
The character of an Elder or Minister is all-important! Prince Charles once described his duties as Prince of Wales like this. “More than anything else, it is a way of life. It’s more than a job. It’s a complete, 24-hour-a-day business, really.” And the same would be true of the work of a Minister. In fact the only skill required of Ministers is the ability to teach, to pass on the faith to others.
Paul’s own ministry, and that of the other apostles, was to teach.
2:7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.
And teaching is to be the heart of Timothy’s ministry too.
4:11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
Teaching is the one core responsibility of all Ministers and Elders. Preaching the gospel so that sinners can be saved and defending the faith. And so here is Paul’s third trustworthy saying.
3:1 If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.
The church in our generation has discovered the importance of body ministry – the priesthood of all believers – every Christian playing their part. But we should not forget that it has been the ordained ministry or priesthood which has proclaimed the gospel and guided the church over two thousand years. The responsibilities of a minister are many and varied. Directing the church. Pastoral care. Supporting volunteers. In these days running the church as a small business. But the heart of the Minister’s calling is to preach the gospel and teach the eternal truth of God. And in this confused post-modern world, that preaching and teaching is more important than ever.
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners
we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe.
If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.

1:17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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