I have been studying through the Pastoral Epistles this summer… reading through each book over and over… I plan on doing this until Christmas time… so by that time I will probably have read them all end-to-end nearly 50-60 times. Probably more.
As I study, I am not only reading each book but also translating each book which calls for a much more meticulous approach. I translate each section (breaking them up by thoughts, i.e. 1:1-2; 1:3-7; 1:8-11, and so on), and then diagram it and BibleArc it. After doing both of these steps I then create an outline. Once this is completed, I generally have a good grasp of the flow of the text and how things are functioning and therefore focus even closer by the use of “meditation” (no, not emptying my mind… rather filling it.). This entails spending much time contemplating the purpose and meaning of each and every word. While doing this I often move between thoughts and prayer seamlessly. [I also, after reading through my commentaries and cleaning up my translation, print out the passage and read it over and over and mark it up quite a bit, this generally helps me to see even more connections.]
During this period of meditation I began to notice something from the beginning command that Paul gives to Timothy in 1 Timothy that I had previously glossed over.
Paul commands Timothy to remain in Ephesus.
So what? What’s the big deal with that?
Well lets think about it for a moment. Ephesus at this time is not in a healthy state. The church that is. It is struggling with some sort of unclear heresy that is semi-Jewish and undeveloped. It is tearing the church apart, just as Paul prophesied in Acts 20:25-35.
That seems to be a pretty good reason to leave a church right? Heresy? I don’t think anyone would fault Timothy for leaving that church. But what does Paul tell him? Remain.
Stop for a moment and think about your own situation. How often are you quick to quit on a church? The music is weak you say. The preaching just isn’t my style. There is no one my age. I don’t like all those hypsters. Okay… maybe you are more committed than that and would never leave for those reasons… Well, what about not preaching the Bible but rather mere opinions and hobbyhorses? What about unbiblical church leadership and structure? What about incorrect understandings of baptism? Etc. You get the point. What would you do? Quit? Or Remain. And not just remain with a heavy heart that shows anyone and everyone within 50 miles that you can’t wait to leave… but really… Remain.
So why does Paul ask Timothy to stay longer with an unhealthy church like Ephesus? Well it can’t be for the sake of Timothy’s own spiritual appetite… hoping to grow under the *wonderful* teaching… because that in itself is heretical, full of law based justification and sanctification.
So what is the reason then? Answer: Verse 3 and 4a… “Command certain men to not teach differently, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies…”
Paul doesn’t want Timothy to quit. He wants him to actually help guide the church back toward healthy doctrine… healthy doctrine that leads to true godliness. To true love. To true and correct understandings of God.
This is not the easy way out. This is not the popular way out. This is not the obvious way out. This is the hard, painful, frustrating way. This is the God-honoring way.
Don’t quit. Remain! Be faithful. And be apart of the change. Rebuke (gently yet sharply 2 Tim 2:23/Titus 1:9) the different teaching. Train them in the healthy teaching of God.
This will not be easy. This will not be quick. But why else do you think Paul tells Timothy to ready himself for suffering so often (2 Timothy)?
To be very clear: This is not for the faint of heart. This is not for the young Christian. Remember: Timothy was an elder at this church. He had invested there for a period of time. This is *not* a call for those who are unsure of their doctrine to remain in an unhealthy church. This *is* a call to the mature Christian to remain and be a catalyst for change.
Here are two other articles regarding “leaving a church” that could prove useful:
For you Greek sharks out there, the word Paul uses for “remain” is προσμένω. The root of that being μένω, which is used in the ever-popular John 15 “remain/abide” passage from Jesus. But I don’t want to draw too much from that because often times drawing comparisons based on word etymology is inherently flawed and leads to many exegetical fallacies.