Given the number of subjects and the directions Paul provides, it’s challenging to sum up 1-2 Timothy in just a few highlights.
A quick glance through the letters includes:
- Instructions on how to do church and Paul’s concern for image and character of the church;
- The importance of prayer and doing the will of God;
- Instructions for elders and deacons (which we can easily apply in our lives and walk with Christ);
- Riches and dealing with wealth; and
- How to deal with false teachers.
Yet six times in these letters we see the word “trustworthy”—and four of those times it’s attached to a “trustworthy saying,” which represent simple and important truths that we should remember.
Trustworthy Statement No. 1: Salvation
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”
— 1 Timothy 1:15
It’s no surprise that Paul’s trustworthy statements start here—with the fact that Christ came into this world to save sinners. That was Jesus’ purpose. That’s why He left Heaven. And this is what Paul mentions again and again throughout 1-2 Timothy. Reminders of this truth are everywhere in his writing because all else flows from this point.
Along with showing Christ’s love in coming to earth to save us, this statement sets the basis of our relationship with God, our understanding of ourselves and our relationship with others. The deeper our relationship with God, the more we meditate on the cross and what Jesus did for us, the more aware we become of our own depravity.
We need to remember that if we don’t think ourselves as the worst sinner we can imagine, then we will not have the humility to love others as Jesus has loved us. There’s no gradient for sin—sin is sin, though we may sometimes fool ourselves to thinking my sin isn’t as bad as someone else’s. Yet, we have all fallen short.
And it starts here when we’re telling people about Jesus, too. Our witnessing—at least our initial witnessing—doesn’t start with discussing post-tribulation, pre-tribulation, the Greek and Hebrew roots of words. It starts with fallen man. With a broken relationship with God. With God’s love, in the form of Jesus, coming to teach and then to take our punishment on the cross so we can be reconciled to God.
- If you haven’t confessed your sins and accepted Christ, what’s stopping you—and how can the men here help you?
- If you have accepted Christ, what remains unconfessed? Do you think you’re hiding something from God—or hiding from God, as Adam tried to do in the garden after he and Eve ate of the tree?
Trustworthy Statement No. 2: Noble Task
“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.”
— 1 Timothy 3:1
If you aren’t an overseer—or elder or deacon—you might be tempted to end here and move on, simply taking this statement at face value. Yet, if we continue reading verses 2-7, we see a long list of characteristics that must be present in overseers because it’s such an important role, including:
- Must be above reproach;
- Faithful to his wife;
- Able to teach;
- Not a lover of money;
- Must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect; and
- Must also have a good reputation with outsiders.
Though we aren’t all called to become an elder or church leader, shouldn’t we all want to strive to be qualified as an elder? Wouldn’t we all be better people, better Christians, better servants if we have these qualities in our life and we exhibit these characteristics? Wouldn’t the world take notice and wonder, what make him so different? He’s so calm when his kids act up. We don’t see eye to eye on things, but he’s respectful. That marriage may not be perfect, but I’ve never see a husband and wife more committed to one another.
We all have the responsibility to grow closer and deeper with God, who shapes us as we move to our own noble tasks that God has planned for us.
- Where is your desire? Your aspiration? Is it focused in earthly things or godly things?
- Have you prayed about where you can serve the church—or is church a place where you come to be served?
- What steps are you taking to learn how to shepherd, oversee or lead?
Trustworthy Statement No. 3: Godliness
“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.”
—1 Timothy 4:8-9
We all know the value of physical training—of exercise—to our bodies, but it’s only a temporary value. The effects will only be seen and felt while we are alive and walking on this earth.
Spiritual training, though—becoming more godly—benefits us in this world and the next.
Yet spiritual development and physical development have some similarities. With each, growth only comes when you put in the work and proper feeding. To achieve physical fitness, we must exercise and eat right. To achieve spiritual fitness we must exercise our minds in studying scripture, exert our knees in prayer and feed ourselves with the word and relationships.
As we take a look at the verse, we see the world godliness. This isn’t just a word meaning to be in the likeness of God or being like God. This word refers to a reverence for God and His character and laws. It’s a careful observance of the laws of God and the performance of religious duties, based on our love and reverence for the divine character and commands. It refers to Christian obedience. It speaks to the attitude of our hearts and the actions of our lives. Our principle of loving him.
And this godliness helps us, as the verse says, in this life and the next. When we surrender our lives to God, we experience on earth what God wants us to experience—we’re better stewards of our money; we have better relationships; we learn to love what God loves and feel the pain that God feels; we experience a joy that only God can provide; and we avoid those things God wants us to avoid.
Not that we experience a perfect life or a life free of troubles. Even in our readings in Timothy, we see Paul inviting Timothy to join with him in suffering for the gospel. But we experience a life transformed and a life secured in Jesus.
- What are you pursuing—what the world is offering or what God is offering?
- How devoted are you to God? How reverent are you? Do you acknowledge Him in all your ways?
Trustworthy Statement No. 4: Faithful
“Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
— 2 Timothy 2:11-13
Here we have the idea of dying to ourselves—dying to the way we want to live our lives, dying to the desires we have—and living a new life based on God’s word. And notice the reasoning: God isn’t asking us to die to ourselves just as a whim—there’s a promise: We will live with him.
When it comes to enduring, if we hold fast to God and His word, we can make it through this life—and in the end, we will reign with Him. Again, there’s a command—to endure—and the result: We will reign with him. Yet, we’re not enduring just for the sake of enduring—and we’re not enduring just so we can receive something. We endure as a sign of our faith.
If we remain faithful to our spiritual convictions and endure with Christ, then we will one day reign with Him in glory.
While the promises for dying to ourselves and enduring are positive, there’s also a promise of what happens if we don’t follow God. If we decide to do our own thing and disown Him, God will honor that—but there will be consequences. Not because He doesn’t love us, but because it’s His nature. He is always there to forgive, and provide mercy and grace—He is never changing.
- How does the promise of reigning with Christ encourage you to persevere?
- How is God’s faithfulness displayed in your life?
Bonus—Trustworthy Statement No. 5: Grace
Paul’s last—and longest—trustworthy statement can be found in Titus 3:3-8:
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”
We live in a very competitive world—especially in Silicon Valley. We’re constantly being judged on our performance. There’s a culture of constantly striving to do more to earn some reward—a bigger paycheck; a promotion; a better school for our kids; taking a company public; whatever it might be. It’s all about our works. And we can be easily tempted to have that same thinking when it comes to God and earning our good standing.
Yet, here, Paul is telling us the opposite. Our salvation isn’t based on anything we’ve done or any works we’ve performed. It’s based on God’s mercy and what Christ did on the cross. God didn’t save us because we measured up to some standard that He set. We remember He did set a standard in the 10 Commandments, but we see how keeping the rules didn’t work out so well.
He saved us by His mercy because of His love, not because we deserved it. And because there was no way for us to reconcile ourselves.
But while we didn’t earn salvation through our good works, we are saved to do good works—not because we’re trying to earn something, but out of love and thanks to God—to glorify Him—for what He’s done. Accepting the Word is one thing—the next is letting it transform our lives and living out that faith.
- What works are you involved in that show your faith, your thanks and that glorify God—or are you trying to earn God’s good graces by doing more?
- How are you showing mercy and love? Is it based on the other person’s performance—whether at work or at home?
- So with these trustworthy statements, we need to ask: Where am I placing my trust?
We should all trust these statements to live in such a way that we reflect the qualities of a spiritual leader; that we are spiritually fit and the word is transforming us; that we endure; and that we remain faithful in our walk—that we will be trustworthy with the gospel in our own lives and in our witnessing to others