|Volume 25 Number 3 March 2023
“Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13 NKJV). “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13 ESV).
Paul wrote 1 Timothy to his “child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2) around A.D. 63-66. He wrote this letter to him from Philippi, as Timothy was left to continue the work of preaching the Gospel in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3) and to charge certain ones not to teach any different doctrine than what had been revealed by inspiration. This is why Paul used the imperative mood, the language of command, to Timothy in devoting himself to the public reading of Scripture. Only the inspired Word of God reveals the truth of the Gospel, then as well as now, and enables one to stand firm in the faith that it produces (Romans 10:17). Much like what Jude wrote to his readers, we are to “…contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3 NKJV). It was necessary, then, for Timothy to continue to exhort the brethren there to continue in the Word.
It is also interesting, in passing along this instruction to Timothy, that Paul chose the term “devote” in regard to the reading of Scripture to the congregation assembled together (public reading). The Greek term is prosecho, which literally means “to hold the mind or the ear toward someone to pay attention.” As a nautical term, it meant to hold a ship in a direction, to sail towards. It meant to hold one’s course toward a place. In the New Testament it was used only figuratively. The idea was to apply oneself, to give or devote oneself to something. The writer of Hebrews used the same term when he warned his readers, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1).
We live in a day and an age when truth has been altered – downgraded – to one’s feelings, and Scripture is assigned to more of an insignificant stature compared to how one feels. Yet, Paul understood the only way to please God was to know His will and then to do His will. Even our Lord had an exalted view of the Word of God. Instead of His feelings being the basis of His earthly ministry, Jesus told the Jews, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30 ESV). He told His disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). How can we keep His commandments if we don’t know what they are? The writer of Hebrews told his readers, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).
It is no wonder that Paul, as he wrote Timothy again, this time shortly before his demise, used the imperative, “Preach the word…” (2 Timothy 4:2). The apostle Peter also used the imperative in writing to his readers when he penned, “…grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (2 Peter 3:18). Without Scripture, and the knowledge it imparts of the will of God, where would one be other than lost? As Jesus told those of His day, “…Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28).
What role will Scripture play in your life? Will you give attention to the reading of Scripture? Will it fill your heart and mind? Will you give it expression in your life, in all you say and do? If not, where will you be without it?
The second and third chapters of the book of Revelation feature short letters addressed to seven cities (churches) in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). All of them were offered encouragement as they faced the various trials that come with daily life but also the extreme challenges that particular time period presented. Of the seven, however, five were also told they had some problems that needed to be addressed, or else. Or else, what? What does that mean? Simply put, if these churches did not fix their particular problems, they were going to have to answer to Jesus in a manner of judgment; in other words, they would fall from grace. This is why it is so important that we look out for one another and encourage each other as we travel the road of life on our way to the other side. There are many detours that can be taken and many different obstacles in our paths. However, don’t give up, and don’t get sidetracked. If you find yourself fighting a particular problem, fix it!