Monday, March 23, 2009

Providence, creeds, gnosticism, gratitude, and youth

From last week's Sunday School lesson, a few nuggets from I Timothy 3:14-4:16...

1.) It's a small thing, but from I Timothy 3:14-15, it's cool that Paul's delay in visiting Timothy led to the book of I Timothy. Often, the distractions and delays of life are meant for some greater Providence.

2.) I Timothy 3:16 is probably a quote of an early creed &/or hymn. Aside from my early years (half Catholic schooling and some time in mainline Protestant churches), my Christian background has been in a-creedal settings. Creeds can be a useful a-biblical tool. They are indispensable in any context where access to the Word is limited.

3.) Paul confronts "false teachers" and exhorts Timothy to confront where necessary and defend the Gospel and his flock. In this context, the false teachings stemmed from one form of Gnosticism and resulted in rules related to food and sex-- two basic drives which can be perverted, but are at the heart of who we are as physical/spiritual beings and point to the goodness of God's creation. So too today-- from various legalisms within the Church to the ascetic call of various secular religions (e.g, environmentalism).

4.) An antidote to such gnosticism is a proper focus on God's creation, His greatness, and our gratitude. As Matthew Henry put it: "We must not refuse the gift of God's bounty, nor be scrupulous in making differences where God has made none."

5.) Finally, there's the terrific/classic I Timothy 4:12. We can only speculate in our inferences about the cause of the problems here: was it Timothy's insecurity or some older, ornery people in his flock? In any case, one can sum up the verse by saying that Timothy should not let them look down on him and he should have a life where people look up to him.


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